East London group Passenger Casanova, otherwise known as “PassCass”, bring together progressive rock, hip-hop and jazz for an unclassifiable but somehow familiar sound. With a busy month of gigs ahead and an EP in the works, we catch up with them ahead of their show this Saturday (3 March) as part of Roundhouse Rising Festival.
Roundhouse: What’s your creative process like?
Saif: Chaos, but super organic. We jam ideas until one grabs us. Like Thom will do a throwaway fill, and I’ll be like “play that again, and loop it”. Mandeep will add or take away a beat, note, or his dignity. Ryan will find some chords and add texture to turn the mess into a structured composition. Mandeep might write a hook or freestyle a rap verse for it. Composing with these guys feels like mining for gold, you just got to keep digging till you find something worth keeping.
Roundhouse: Why did you start making music?
Ryan: I got bored of playing football.
Mandeep: My mum used to play the sitar and my dad used to be in a Bhangra band, so music was always around me. I vividly recall how he’d drum Punjabi rhythms on his van’s dashboard when we drove to school. Music gradually went from being fun to being a way to foster personal growth, and now I’m totally lost if I’m not writing regularly. And football is really hard, man.
Saif: I got into rhythms and new genres through music games for a while.
Thom: That’s quite nerdy.
Saif: Yeah. Luckily there were enough people at our high school with lame enough musical tastes to form a jazz/prog band when we were about 15. It’s such a satisfying mix of creative emotional expression and logic-based formulaic stuff.
Roundhouse: What’s your earliest musical memory as a band?
Saif: Primordial PassCass consisted of Thom, Sam, our guitarist (who’s presently preoccupied with being an Oxford genius) and Mandeep performing a cover of ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd at our school concert. Thom sang lead vocals. His vocal credentials since then includes shouting the intro to ‘Territorial Pissings’ by Nirvana at an official A-Level assessment evening, and nothing more.
Mandeep: When we first got on stage, our teacher asked us what we’re called. We said “It’s subject to change” and he went “Great. I like it”. So that was our first band name. We decided to make it the title of our first EP. Our school’s music studio is the front cover.
Roundhouse: What’s your most traumatic musical memory?
Mandeep: We played a gig in London and brought in the entire audience. The promoter then tells us we need to pay for the drum kit to play, and our ticket money was suddenly gone. We decided to set up our own monthly night as a result. Ownership is crucial. Now all of our trauma is self-induced.
Roundhouse: Who are your key influences?
Saif: Kendrick Lamar is a big one for all of us at the moment. He’s pushing so many boundaries that it’s hard not to be moved. I’m all about anything psychedelic or progressive; bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Dillinger Escape Plan and Mastodon, but I’m also really getting into alternative rappers and electronic artists like BROCKHAMPTON and Mount Kimbie.
Thom: BadBadNotGood is obviously a big influence. I’m huge on progressive bands like King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Yes. I love modern jazz fusion too. Snarky Puppy and Hiatus Kaiyote broke me last year.
Ryan: Heavy metal and Heart 106.2.
Roundhouse: Where can we find your upcoming gigs and your released music?
Passenger Casanova: We’re recording our second EP at the moment. It’s gritty, dark hip-hop, prog and jazz fusion. SoundCloud for the first one. Best to follow our Facebook for upcoming gigs but they are:
3 March, 2pm – Roundhouse, Round Our Place.
9 March – King Tides EP launch near Barbican.
10 March – Sofar Sounds. The venue gets announced a few days before the gig.
30 March is the big daddy. It’s a night we host called The Prop Up on the last Friday of every month. A raw jam, 3 sick acts and then more jams till late. Free entry if you get up on stage to jam with us. We’re headlining in March and have quite a set lined up.