GEORGE CASSAVETES IN LONDON, FEBRUARY 2015. PHOTOS BY LILY BERTRAND-WEBB.
George Cassavetes, better known under the stage name Stay Bless, first surfaced in the blogosphere after collaborating with Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and Samantha Urbani on his track “Faded” in 2013. Since then, the London-based musician has been refining his guitar playing, working out of his in-home studio, recording and producing his own tracks. Although he has yet to release a full-length studio album, his sophomore EP, In Paradise, will be released March 10 via In Stereo Records. The four tracks explore both emotional and physical isolation, the space in which Cassavetes feels most comfortable.
Here, we are pleased to premiere “Everyday,” which begins with natural sounds—think running rivers and birds chirping—but quickly bleeds into minimal electronic production, reverbed vocals, and lyrics like “You do what you always do, everyday / It’s always the same / Playing with my heart everyday.” Prior to the EP release, learn more about Stay Bless below.
NAME: George Cassavetes
BASED: I’m in London. I was living in New York for a while because my dad’s American, but I’m living here now. I wanted to try [New York] for a bit and see how it was, but I quickly realized I would have to start again and make loads of new friends. It would’ve required me going out and leaving my house and socializing and all those things I’ve grown to not do as much of as I’ve gotten older. It all seemed a bit much, so I ran back to England.
ADOLESCENT SHELTER: Both my parents are accountants. I asked my dad once, “How come you don’t listen to that much music?” and he’s just like, “Well, in the ’70s and ’80s, I was an accountant so I didn’t listen to much music.” We had a lot of soundtracks, so we listened to the The Bodyguard soundtrack and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, it was quite a lot of Celine Dion, [Stoney &] Meatloaf.
TEENAGE REDEMPTION: The Strokes happened when I was about 13 or 14. They were the first band I got into culturally and that started me on the path of listening to music I wanted to listen to. I don’t wanna say it could’ve been anyone, but it was at an age where I was receptive to whatever was being pushed on me. I heard a track and then I went to a show. It was mixed in with growing up and going out, going to shows. They were cool and wrote great songs. I got into the White Stripes, lots of guitar music. My dad remarried and my stepmum was very into Luther Vandross and D’Angelo and Boyz II Men, so black music was kind of thrust upon me and I loved it. I was listening to a lot of R&B and that got me into rap, hip-hop. I had two mixes: I lived in England and had the very English, London-based thing with music, but then living with my stepmum and my dad [in New York] took me to a whole new world of music.
FILM TO MUSIC: I did film at school and was doing music videos. Through that I met a lot of different musicians and got into doing music videos, but realized you can’t wake up and do a video in your bedroom unless you just film yourself dancing around and stuff. I wanted to do something I could do without a team. I used the money I got from music videos to build a home studio. This was probably 2009. I did a lot of instrumental music, hip-hop-y stuff. I put some of that out under a different name through Rough Trade. Then I started doing Stay Bless about two years ago. I’ve been doing music now for about five years, but there’s still so much to learn craft-wise. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 11, but I’ve only progressed recently.
ROOTS OF THE SONGS: I still haven’t found a formula [for making music] and I’m glad. I like the idea that it can come out of anything. It can literally come out of watching a film, reading a book, being drunk, being stoned, walking. Because I have my studio in my house, I can roll out of bed and go straight into it; I can capture a stream of consciousness. I really think that’s important to my music, especially with the more intimate side of what I write. Pretty much always it will be a melody I have in my head and then I’ll put the melody down and vibe off that in terms of lyrics. I feel my way through the song. I try and write lyrics that way, as viscerally as I can. I try and capture my feelings and make them into words, instead of sitting and theoretically writing down lyrics. I mean, I do that later on down the line, but mostly I try and capture the raw feeling.
SILENCING THE NOISE: London is like New York or any other big city—it can be quite oppressive, especially because I live on a busy street. There’s a lot of noise all the time. I find I either channel that frustration into a song and it might be an angrier song, or I’ll go the other way and try and find an inner peace. Really, I do music as a mantra, a way of trying to make sense of what’s going on around me. Even if the song’s rubbish, I’ll still feel so much better afterwards because it feels like I’ve got something out of me.
SOLITARY MOMENTS: I met Dev [Hynes] about eight years ago at a friend’s birthday party. He was hiding in a bedroom, actually, with a guitar. He was wearing a Russian furry hat and I remember seeing him in there on his own. He’d always try to find a quiet room if we were at a busy party and I’m the same. I remember going in there, I didn’t know him, I saw him there playing guitar and I was into guitar, so I was like, “Yo,” and we got talking. He was friends with a couple of my friends, so we started hanging out more. The way he deals with the industry I really respect. In the end, he does what he wants to do. He doesn’t sacrifice what he’s trying to achieve for instant fame, notoriety, or money. He could tour the hell of certain things and he chooses not to. The way he approaches it I really respect.
COMFORT ON STAGE: Playing live is great. I don’t find it that easy to communicate with people in person all the time, like when I’m out. That’s the other reason I like making music: I feel more comfortable communicating in that way. I feel more comfortable on stage than I do if I’m watching someone on stage. I was at a friend’s show last night and had to leave early because I’m kind of agoraphobic, I guess. I can’t differentiate sounds. For example, if I’m in a club and someone’s talking to me I can’t hear. Everything is the same level for me; I can’t hear anyone, so I get very lonely. I feel quite alienated from all these people who seem to be having a really fun time and seem to be really loving life and loving being out at these places. I just don’t have that. I try not to go out that much anymore because it makes me feel more alienated than if I just stay at home.
FOR MORE ON STAY BLESS, VISIT HIS FACEBOOK.