Music has always been in Kasai's blood, starting when she was young. Her mum recently found a cassette of her singing gospel music while her brother played piano, and being an artist was always the goal. There was never really another path that she wanted to follow.
She's just released her new EP, Not That Normal Pt. 1, and it's a project that fans will find relatable. It captures the feeling of going through tough times and regaining your power after the emotional turmoil subsides.
We spoke to Kasai about the project, as well as her musical inspirations. The project includes production from Vegyn, who worked on Frank Ocean's Blonde, and superstars seem to be in Kasai's orbit. Kasai's dreamed of musical success for a long time, and it's starting to come to fruition.
Cool Accidents: You’ve just released your new EP, Not That Normal Pt.1 - can you tell us about what the project means to you, and what you think fans will take away from it?
Kasai: This project means the past to me. I can identify myself and it more clearly now that it’s not my present anymore. The concepts and the lyrics are what I want people to take away most. I really want fans to understand the stories of the songs and take away a sense of relatability, and for them not to feel like they're the only one who goes through certain experiences and emotions. I want them to feel reassured that their power can come back to them at any point when they lose themselves. I can feel that happening to me at the moment. Overall, I want everyone to just enjoy the music and hopefully like it.
We wanted to ask about your use of poetry to inspire your songwriting. What is it about poetry that helps you express your thoughts and turn them into music?
My songwriting is inspired by self-therapy and expression. I love poetry, figurative language and the use of metaphors, and having a sense of mystery weaved into the words. Poetry isn’t the only style of writing that inspires my songwriting. A lot of it can be very conversational and involves storytelling most of the time now. It's how I speak to my friends, or exactly how I hear my thoughts. Often, my songs are about something I want to voice without sugar coating and hiding things!
I love all kinds of different writing, but whatever feels like it will serve me and the song the most at the time, like most true to the expression and tone of the music, I’ll go with that. I’m impulsive when creating. I do the first thing that feels right. I want all the writing styles of myself and the ones that I love to be seen.
The project has a lo-fi aesthetic to it, and this is reflected in the video for Street Lights! What is it about that particular aesthetic that you think works really well for the new EP?
I think lo-fi looks sick. The DIY aesthetic feels really creative to me. Most of the visuals and music across the project are done by people I’m friends with and we just made do with what we had. Songs like Drunk Diary and What If We Tried Again? were written and recorded in homes. Street Lights' visual was shot and edited on iPhone during lockdown! I Don't Really Think About You No More is a one-take iPhone visual too.
I hope people who listen to this music or watch the visuals feel inspired by the fact that you can create with limitations or without crazy big budgets. I hope they don't feel pressure to come out like the big-time celebs that we really admire. There’s still a journey to what we do.
When you’re writing music, are there any artists whose story you’re inspired by, or any artists that you see sharing similarities with yourself and your musical journey?
I’m really glad you asked about the story aspect because I started thinking about that recently. I became much more inspired by Rihanna, SZA and Amy Winehouse's story in the last two years. A bit of Nina Simone too, when she speaks on no fear and her emotional legacy through the music.
Amy said in this documentary of hers that her music may not be hits, but it evokes emotion. She wrote about stories in her music that maybe others would have been scared to open up about. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of her and I don't listen to her music all the time, but the story and emotion in the writing really moves me. We both loved to be in love I think, even if it wasn’t good for us.
When I started to understand some of the experiences I’ve been through I started to become much more inspired by Rihanna, too. I felt like we have gone through similar things that made me look up to her as this powerful woman that can overcome anything.
Every time I hear Rihanna on a record, I can feel her happiness, her sadness, her anger. She gives us her truth and I can always feel that. She also lets us know she can’t be musically boxed and is so versatile!
SZA's story and journey really inspires me too, especially her process and journey up until CTRL. I think she too once used to be quite poetic but moved into a much more conversational way of delivering her lyrics. She still does both!
The producers for the EP, IzyBeats and Vegyn, have worked with some pretty big names. When it comes to choosing beats and production for a project, what are you looking for?
I’m such a music lover, so I’m drawn to working with those who I’m genuinely a fan of their talents even if it’s someone brand new without big credits, like working very closely with my friend Julien who’s across a lot of this first EP with myself! My process is quite different, and I’m very much involved in the production too on an exec or co-producer level. I build the production from scratch with the producer next to me so I can feed all of my ideas, It’s rare someone will send me a beat and I just record on it.
Vegyn's music is really popular in my circle of friends. I love his work on Frank Ocean's music, too, who is also one of my favourite artists. I had the honour of meeting Vegyn at a studio where he had offered to collab whilst he was working with another artist. He then emailed his drums and I programmed them in myself with my engineer the I way I wanted to hear them! I put a little filter on the beginning of the drum outro to ease it in.
I’m a huge fan of Koffee’s music and Izy has produced for her. Izy has amazing energy and work ethic. We do lots of studio sessions together... we have a little team/family going on where we have fun and just make music that we feel good about. He really listens and trusts my ideas in the studio and helps bring them to life.
Your parents are Anglo-Indian, and you’ve mentioned the importance of community to you. Growing up, how did your cultural background influence your experiences with music, and how does that translate into your songwriting today?
My parents being Anglo-Indian is why they would listen to a lot of “Western” music. They grew up in India so a lot of those artists they were brought up on were from all over the world but the majority of them were American. My mum is a Christian, and her bringing me up in church as a child definitely had a lot of influence too. There would be gospel music. Harmonies. Soulful voices. Even Christian R&B!
The title Not That Normal Pt.1 lends itself to a Pt.2 – have you already started thinking about/writing songs for the follow-up?
Yes! The songs are already written and recorded and ready for the follow-up.
Finally, what do the next 12 months hold in store for you?
More music. Live shows. Collaborations. Writing for others maybe! New experiences. Maybe love. Maybe not. Adventures once the world is completely back to normal. And just having fun!