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Photography by Guy Eppel

Cazals: On Their Past, Present and Future

Cazals talk to Dazed Digital about their new album and their early exposure on the East London music scene.

The indie rock band Cazals have a weathery, no-bull-sh*t exterior that defies their indie darling status. It comes from years of enduring copy-paste journalism and assorted e-lies, being the predicted next best thing, and from constant sleep deprivation.  Since lead singer Phil Bush has been best buds with Pete Doherty from when they were wee-things and guitarist Luca is mates with Drew McConnell from Babyshambles, it was not surprising that Cazals became associated with the post-Libertines scene in London along with The Rakes after they signed with 1234 Records in 2004. But they were labeled next big thing a few too many times to be able to simply shrug and move on when their label eventually “went dormant” afterwards. So they survived a dark, murky year or so of gigging until, in a strange mix of French-flavored fate, the slick Parisian label Kitsune signed them as the label’s first guitar band in 2007. Since then, Cazals have opened for Pyramid-riding electro-wizards Daft Punk and collaborated with wild man graffiti artist André Saraiva and Julien Delfaud on the pulsing, hook-heavy, dance rock album "What Of Our Future." In their live shows, they show tight musicianship and bold bravado that refutes earlier critics’ skepticism. They signed with The:Hours in America last year and have been busy touring around the globe.  Even Kanye West gave them a quick shout-out on his blog of all things cool in Kanye’s universe. It must feel good to be Cazals these days.

We grabbed a quick phone chat with the wiry, moustached lead singer Phil, after a photo shoot with the jet-lagged band in NYC’s uber-trendy bar-den Beatrice Inn, (which their buddy Andre co-owns). Here’s what Phil had to say about the Cazals’ past, present and future.

Dazed Digital: What do you think of the theory that great art comes from hunger and pain? Shear bollocks?
Phil Bush: Our (new) album “What of Our Future” definitely comes from both [hunger and pain]. The things that inspired me to write the songs are not all that nice. “Life Is Boring” is about me trying to inspire a friend of mine, who is so frightened to leave the burbs - too scared to even get on of the train. Things like that really wind me up. And I wrote “Both Sides” right after a breakup – a really nasty one. So yeah, the album came from hunger and pain…and lusting. But I guess lusting can kind of go with the hunger, can’t it?

DD: Were you always writing songs as a kid?
Phil Bush: I started writing lyrics when I was 11. I was in a band and no one wanted to try to write a melody or lyrics so I did. They were nonsense.

DD: What were your first lyrics?
Phil Bush: There’s one that Pete Doherty always sings back at me from 6 or 7 years ago “Moon moon/ Silver spoon / We are the Beatles on acid.”

DD: Had you done acid at 11?
Phil Bush: No, not for a couple years. But I read a good book on psychedelics when I was 10…

DD: What was the first band you heard that you wished you could sound like?
Phil Bush: The Wutang Tang or Run DMC. I was a rapper at 9.

DD: You were really a rapper? Would you ever go back?
Phil Bush: I’ve considered it. (Laugh) No, I am joking. Maybe a side guerilla project down the road. (Laugh)

DD: Right. What’s with the name Cazals? Sounds like a lanky animal related to a gazelle but it is evidently also the name of several communes in France. Coincidence?
Phil Bush: No our name is not from a commune. But there is a town in France called Cazal that makes champagne apparently.

DD: So you guys decided on that name because you like champagne?
Phil Bush: Well, I like most things with alcohol in it. (laugh) Basically, we just wanted to start with something, not an object, not a thing. That name is just ours. You know, like The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band from the early 70s; that’s not my favorite band, but it’s for sure my favorite band name.

DD: Has being signed to the electronic label Kitsune changed your rock sound?
Phil Bush: No, it didn’t change our sound. Usually record labels stick their sound in it but since we are the first band Kitsune ever did a proper album with – in terms of putting a band in a studio- they left us to our own devices.

DD: How does East London influence your music?
Phil Bush: I live in kind of a weird bubble of DJs and musician friends. But I don’t think that’s really reflective of East London - just more of a little clique of people. My friends and I don’t have any boundaries musically. It doesn’t matter who made it - Steve Miller band or some disco record or Haircut 100 whatever…if it’s a good tune, people will just drop it.

DD: How do you prefer to listen to music?
Phil Bush: In a bar with a drink in my hand.

DD: Is it the same when you write? Drink in hand?
Phil Bush: I’m usually not drunk when I write. (Pause) Well sometimes I am. (Pause) Anyway, I haven’t been sober long enough to have a proper perspective. (Laugh)  

DD: Is there a difference between The Cazals’ reputation internationally vs. in London?
Phil Bush: You are basically growing up in the eye of the fucking storm here in London. When we were doing our first gigs ever, we would write a song and go down the road and try it out at a pub and there would be these big heavy weight British journalists in there. It would be like our second gig so it was shit. Loads of people saw us when we were terrible.  When we first starting playing, we got labeled as a White-Chapel grunge garage band. And every so often, we’d get put into another box, re-branded as a new rock band. But now, we’ve punished it. We worked it. We know exactly what we are doing and what we sound like. Here in London, people have seen us progress.

DD: Biggest thing you learned from touring with Daft Punk?
Phil Bush: We want a lot more equipment; we want a lot more compressors…and we all want pyramids and names on the back of our jackets.

DD: Yes, let’s be honest - we all want to ride Daft Punk’s pyramid one day. What songs are on repeat on your ipod right now?
Phil Bush: Um. Alphaville - Big in Japan.
Camouflage- Love Is A Shield? It’s Early 80s Depeche Modey band.

DD: You DJ.  Are you a big vinyl collector? What is usually in your selections?
Phil Bush: I’ve collected records since I was a kid.  I think I could put my records into genres. I am definitely not a disco DJ. I am getting into Suicide. I’ll play Suicide, then Nigerian disco, and early 80s electronic synthy stuff like Ultravox before Midge Ure was in UltraVox, when John Fox was the lead singer. I love that stuff. “Hiroshima Mon Amour” is one of my favorite songs ever.