In days of uncertainty for British underground music, Yassassin – with their blend of punk impetuousness, 60s garage and flawless outfits – are one the best live bands around.
I meet the London all-girl band in a Brighton Youth Centre dressing room, turned into a backstage for Acid Box Kemptown Massacre Alternative Escape festival – one of the main parallel events to The Great Escape, Europe’s leading festival for new music.
With its indoor basketball court and walls covered in graffiti, BYC looks like the scenario from a 90s American teen-friendly TV series or MTV movie. You’d expect Beastie Boys to take the stage or the Fresh Prince of Bel Air to rap some lines, but also Yassassin are something quite unique for England.
Their sound is a mix of 00s guitar indie, 70s British punk and 60s US garage à-la Velvet Underground with a political and social-conscious vein flowing through them, but without falling into the contemporary clichés of Slaves or Cabbage.
Yassassin’s multi-cultural background – bass player Raissa is Italian, guitarist Moa is Swedish – is undoubtedly a reason for such an open and hard-to-define music genre. The five girls have all brought in their own music tastes, styles and experiences.
They all agree each of them has influenced the band’s sound regardless what they are listening to.
Raissa says: “We don’t say ‘Oh, we have to play this, we have to play that.’”
“We don’t have any limits, we are open to any ideas,” adds singer Anna.
In times when feminism is getting more and more relevant, setting up an all-girl band could seem a choice made on purpose to convey a certain message. Yassassin explain their aim is far from this, although caring for women and social issues.
Anna says: “That just happened. It just happened to be all girls.”
Raissa adds: “It’s good, though, because you can go out together and it’s good fun.”
Moa may look quite on stage with her guitar and black latex skirt, but she takes the backstage by storm. She says: It’s not patronising against men, but that’s good we’re all girls. We’re not conflicting with each other. We let everyone grow within the band. We grow together.”
Everyone is very serious at this point, then a couple of reverberating burps by another band member bring the room back to laughter and the girls start joking on Moa’s serious assertions.
Yassassin get very well together and that is something you can see on stage. Their sound is compact, direct and punchy with no frivolousness. They could turn the quietest room into a moshpit with drinks spilled all over the place.
Finally some energetic but classy indie-rock with no grumpy posers in beanies standing still and sipping canned crafted IPA.
Yassassin’s tremendous stage performance is also to be attributed to their outfits. Looking retro-chic with a mixture of flared trousers, latex, glitter and 60s/70s-like dresses, Yassassin look as out of an Alessandro Michele-designed Gucci collection for Urban Outfitters.
In times of dressed-down bands is good to see acts caring about their stage attire. Ruth explains the show has to be considered as 50% ears and 50% eyes, making look something important.
Raissa says: “The look is something in exposure and can be related to artists’ look or to a very good looking guitar.”
Yassassin have been recently awarded with PRS Flash funds that will enable the band to press their first EP – which has already been recorded. It will follow the debut 7” single Social Politics/Pretty Face (Flying Vinyl), also available on DIY hand numbered CDs.
DIY ethics is another fascinating side of Yassassin who have found a great balance between retro inspirations and attitude and modern indie sounds.
Catch Yassassin touring this summer and you won’t regret it.
Find more about Yassassin on their Facebook page.