Dungeon synth-punks Lassie bring a winning combination of excitement, wit, punchiness, fun and escapism on their latest full-length album BEHOLD. The band are at the tail end of a European tour. Gimmie caught up with them to chat about the album and their record’s launch in a medieval village, playing with the Osees, music they love (including Australian bands we love too – CIVIC, Pinch Points, Gee Tee, R.M.F.C.) and more. We first spoke to Lassie a couple of years ago. They’re one of our favourite German punk bands.
How have you been? What’s been happening in your world lately?
MARI: Oi Bianca! Thanks – been alright, the usual insanity of our quasi-dystopian here and now, I had Covid two times but feel alright generally. We just returned from a festival in the south of France called Montesqiou – it’s a small festival in a medieval village there’s a hill where D’Artagnan’s mother was born. A ideal setting for us. Organized by very nice people and the whole village, old and young are pulling it off together. We saw great shows by Pogy & les Kefars and Powerplant! It was also the first time we toured by train.
KATHI: I am OK. Lots of different projects I started during lockdown were due now, so I’m actually a bit overworked, creatively speaking, but I go on holidays soon.
SHREDDY: It’s Autumn now, which is actually my favorite season, but it’s cold and I wish I could go on holidays too.
TEUN: I’ve been traveling a lot this year: a full-fledged European tour with my other band Lemongrab, the France trip with Lassie as well as visits to many other countries. It’s been exciting but a lot of fucked up stuff happened in the last months so I’m really happy to be back in Berlin for the moment. I just moved to a new place, and I’m excited for new beginnings. Something that includes less traveling and less partying hopefully, and, at risk of sounding like a total twat, a bit more financial security.
FRITZ: Busy busy! Not enough time for what really matters and that often is playing music and coming up with new ideas. Other than that I’m still pulling the strings here and there, setting up DIY shows in Leipzig and releasing tapes of friends via my little tape label Universum Bacteria [ubac].
What’s something you’ve been listening to a lot?
TEUN: Sun Cousto, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, the sounds of my new dishwasher, BBC fucking 4.
SHREDDY: ‘Access’ by RMFC, Dorothy Ashby, Kate Bush, Michele Mercure, Peace De Résistance, Podium, Taqbir, Joy Division, Linda Smith. Also I’ve been really into ‘Caprisongs’ by FKA Twigs lately, she’s such a great artist!
MARI: Exxon – Diesel Tape, Cex Crime, Natoxie & TKD – Applaudissement, Imaginary, Worlds Podcast, Alvilda – Negatif, Nikki and the Corvettes, Pinch points, Powerplant, Crime of Passing, SICK THOUGHT’s new singles , Skin Deep – Football Violence, Famous Mammals, Decoder Ring Podcast, You’re Wrong About podcast, Mark Mothersbough – Midnight Muzak, Violenta & URIN , Alt NYC 88 Soundtrack, The End – People talk, Graveturner, Cuero, Soup Activists and Coins paraléles.
KATHI Random Dungeon Synth (old and new), Phantasia, Plantasia, Peace de Resistance, Poison Ruin, Taqbir, Warthog, NTS radio Feelings playlist, Hex Dispensers, Straw Man Army, Linda Perhacs.
FRITZ: Oog Bogo, Poison Ruin, ATOL ATOL ATOL (my new favorite band from Wrocław/Poland), Bili Rubin (SPAM: just released his new cassette on UBAC), Peace de Résistance, Plastics, Giulio Ersamus, Gee Tee (Rock Phone 7”), Famous Mammals, Duster, Acetone.
In June Lassie released a new album. The name suggests that the listener is about to experience something remarkable or impressive with the album; where did the title come from?
SHREDDY: It’s that phrase sometimes used in medieval-themed and/or fantasy movies.
When there is something about to happen and a knight or a wizard shouts “BEHOOOOLD!”. We used that phrase like a running gag in daily life. I think the title wasn’t necessarily supposed to point out something impressive with the album. We just thought it would be funny to name it like that, because it sounds really epic!
MARI: Well the listener is wrong – just kidding – ya BEHOLD comes from a long running gag between our friends who like us love to talk nonsense in medieval english or german or what we think that might sound like. (I am pointing the mace at you governor and leader of the water people Warberg!). Some of us also have a soft spot for sci fi and fantasy, especially pen and paper RPGs and magic so there is def. a connection.
TEUN: Some of us, that is to say you haha.
Again, we love Shreddy’s artwork! What can you tell us about it?
SHREDDY: Thank you so much!! It’s the first time I did the artwork for a LP and I was very happy to do it. The font from the cover is the same one that has been used for ‘Bat Out of Hell’ by Meat Loaf.
MARI: I can tell you that I do also love it to death and that she is always way too shy about it. So I am gonna do a lil advertising for her newest strike of genius ( don’t know if you can use this German expression in English lol) A zine called PATCHES (semi-autobio) and generally about how FLINTAS feel on and off stage in this band, scene and I guess in general – correct me if I am wrong. There is also a soundtrack and spoken dialogues by Kathi that complete this piece.
KATHI: Yeah, that was a really cool and intense project! and Shreddy’s drawings are supercool as always. For the cover its the same, all the tiny details are just perfetto
What were the best and worst bits of making the LP?
SHREDDY: Covid started when we wrote the first songs for the album. I think that’s why the process felt kind of slow and some of the “new” songs already seemed like weirdly “old”, because we couldn’t practice together for some time, or play live etc.
For me the recording was lots of fun. We could experiment with sounds or developing parts that didn’t seem finished before. This was super refreshing and really nice!
MARI: It was amazing to work with our friend Tobi Lill in Berlin, he was very patient and didn’t produce or intervene much only in the right moments he would be like “nah don’t do that it’s stupid” – which I think is a quality that most recording engineers lack – the ability to step back and let the madness play out. The worst was how long it was taking lol – I caught Covid in-between so the whole thing happened over 3 sessions of 4- 5 days, from which during the second I was quarantined in a hotel room in Berlin, we luckily had the money to pay for one night and traveled back to Leipzig the next day. Also the nature of the building and its neighbors we recorded in is worth a lil story but maybe someone else wants to describe that lol.
KATHI: It’s a huge building, and there are people practicing, living or partying (or all at once) so its smelly and noisy around the clock. and there is also a cute dog. So it was a bit hard to chill when we had breaks during the recordings. Constant Bass equals Constant Pain (btw also the title of a cool album by New Project 666 from Hamburg, Shreddy also did their cover)
TEUN: Yes that building is mad. It’s got a lot of good bands in it but also a lot of junkies and sometimes when you go to the bathroom some wino’s passed out on the floor and everything smells of piss. Tobi has created a little paradise in there however, he’s got a lot of beautiful shiny equipment and a nice couch that I slept on more than once. We bought loads of food and beer from the supermarket and practically spent many 12-hour days in there working, waiting, joking, partying, and shredding.
FRITZ: All in all an amazing experience to record in entirely new surroundings. I didn’t know Tobi before and also really admired his patience, never felt any pressure. A trained ear might really sense some acid techno frequencies underlaying the entire album. I have learned to accept them during my stay at this madhouse.
How would you describe your life when making the album?
MARI: Frustrated yet eager.
TEUN: My new dishwasher.
FRITZ: Drunk on love.
What kinds of things were inspiring you when writing the new collection of songs?
SHREDDY: The Internet, Blade Runner, modern life of spiders and humans.
I think the lyrics of ‘Hurricane’ are inspired by ‘Cross the Breeze’ by Sonic Youth, because it was my favorite song at the time I wrote them.
MARI: Tobi’s KILLING JOKE obsession inspired some of the lyrics of ‘ZYCHOKILLER’.
The inability of saying “no” and therefore getting swamped in deadlines and things to do.
The passing of my uncle. General shit state of society we are living in. “It was capitalism all along!” (quoting You’re wrong’s Sarah Marshall here). Powerpop. The works of Ursula K. le Guin, Octavia Butler, Phillip K. Dick. ‘1 4 the Road’ is about a creep I hitchhiked with on the way to the call center I worked at a long time ago – he at some point got a paranoid boost, switched lanes and shouted “I can kill you all”. Civic. German conspiracy honks who were demonstrating against Covid measures and ‘celebrities’ making money off hopping onto that.
What lyric do you most love on the record?
MARI: “I wanna breathe your whistling lightness – your moonlit eyelid – is pounding frightless”~ ‘HURRICANE’
TEUN: I love the lyrics to ‘Frowning Term’ and how it’s a play on the CAPTCHA test, as well as on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. They are like an elegant philosophical joke that flows very nicely along with the tune. Very DEVO: are you human? Bravo guys!
KATHI: BBF, ’cause its so much more than meets the eye or ear. It’s about friendship.
FRITZ: Puh…where do I start? Well, answering to this on my laptop after just clicking through pixilated images after logging in somewhere again and again and again, it always strikes me how ‘FROWNING TERM’ is brightening my boring office hours. I really liked our high speed demo version of that song as well, which we released through our friend Jonas’ label Turbo Discos.
SHREDDY: “It makes no difference what you choose to be – even if it’s something real cool like a wizard” ~ ‘MULTIVERSE’
How did you approach songwriting this time? How similar are your approaches to making music?
MARI: We started by doing 4-track home recordings during lockdown – sending them around so each party would contribute their parts – recording them at home or in the rehearsal space. This was the starting point, from which the recordings went through a lot of stages and also the songs changed quite a bit – you can hear this process pretty well when listening to the 3 released versions of Temporary Cemetery (Flennen compilation version is the roughest most demo-ish but it’s so cool I love it personally – then you have the single version which is still recorded by Lassie alone but mainly digital – and then you have the 16-track studio version on the album recorded with Tobi).
TEUN: This remote way of recording didn’t really work for me. I’d record the drums in Berlin and it felt strange, the others not being there. In the end we ended up not using these tracks at all. The band can be more than the sum of its parts, provided that we actually have a sense of togetherness. So I think it’s good that we changed our mind and recorded the album being in the same room physically. Although the recordings on it aren’t live, we used a lot of ghost tracks, where someone else would play along and you’d hear them in the headphones so that it didn’t feel like you’re playing in a vacuum.
What’s your favorite song on the album and what’s it about?
MARI: ‘Zychokiller’ is my fav, and it’s not really about anything specific – but that is also what I like about it – the lyrics where kind of made up on the spot before singing – just phrases with a certain feeling – so anyone can project, at least that’s what I am hoping. But for me if I’d to pin it down – it’s about these teens who grow up together outside of society kind of, falling in love, coming of age, developing in different directions, being frustrated by their ‘scene’ and betrayed by their kind and ideals and also gender dynamics, how teachers are always bastards, and revenge haha. Kind of a gory Ghost World scenario.
KATHI: Phew, I can’t really say. I like ‘Spiderweb’ cause it’s about spiders and I think that’s cool. And sounds cool.
TEUN: I like a lot of them but I also think ‘Spiderweb’ is my favorite. It’s a funny, cute lyric that fits the slight horror/fantasy theme of the record, but this contrasts with the fact that the song is aggressive and a bit over the top at the end – which I really like, it could be the soundtrack to a thousand knights galloping down a mountain. I think a lot of what we did on the album is a bit over the top, and to me that’s not a bad thing; everything’s densely packed with *stuff*, and that makes it sound very bombastic which ties in well with the album name.
SHREDDY: It’s hard to say, I think I like a lot of songs for totally different reasons.
‘Modern World’ and ‘Multiverse’ are very cool, they are also fun to play live. Hurricane too, because we switch instruments there. ‘Spiderweb’ is about a spider who is going out at night and she puts on her going-out shoes and going-out gloves and stuff like that.
FRITZ: No downsides in my opinion. I love the album in its entirety, how everything melts together and how we decided not to fill it up with too much extras this time. It’s such a punch in the face!
You had a record release party for BEHOLD and encouraged everyone to dress in medieval costume; who had the idea for this? Who had the best costume and what did it look like?
MARI: Honestly, I don’t remember who or how we came up with that idea – but the medieval theme has been a long running gag between us – me and ‘others’ love to use medieval speech sometimes and it was just natural that it would evolve into sth like this at some point haha. Also I grew up playing fantasy pen and paper RPGs and LARP a lot, so this is kind of a natural development. I’ll send you some pictures of the best costumes!
KATHI: Yeah actually there were a lot more great costumes than i imagined, I felt underdressed haha. There were even self-made Lassie shields.
SHREDDY: So cool!! ❤
FRITZ: The venue [“Recycling Museum”] was also the best spot to set up such a wacky themed party. Formerly some kind of a junk shop we were surrounded by all kinds of trash that shaped our stage fortress in the end.
Lassie recently played a show with the Osees and King Khan; what’s your recollections of the show?
SHREDDY: Thee Osees have two drum sets on stage.
MARI: The day after we had that medieval release party and naturally we invited them to come because King Khan also played in the city, there was big hectic and nobody really knew how to work that digital mixing desk which was new in that location ( recycling museum ) – at some point Leyton the sound-guy of King Khan showed up with their guitarist and offered to take over the live mixing – from then on it sounded really massive – very cool move!
KATHI: I feel more comfy on smaller stages.
TEUN: I remember going to the back stage fridge during the Osees set to get a beer but they were all gone; at this moment the Osees were doing a longer instrumental jam and John Dwyer barged in like a madman screaming for a beer and when there were none, he cursed King Khan loudly for having drank them all and slammed the fridge door before grabbing a soda and making his way back to the stage like an angry bear, pushing people to the side. Kinda freaky but also a bit understandable and funny.
FRITZ: (The) Osees brought me back a few years ago when I was digging Thee Oh Sees a lot. What was I doing in all those years?? Their show was insane. And incredibly loud! Lost track of time during their 5-hour set and zoomed out.
What’s been your scariest experience as a band?
MARI: Recently we played a festival in the south of France and went there by train to hang out in a bungalow with a pool (!!) before a bit – it was in this setting that Teun told us he wanted to quit the band for a bunch of personal reasons – I’d say the time since then was the scariest part of the band’s history so far. Because of the conflicts and uncertainties which come with a landslide decision like that.
TEUN: Yeah this is scary, in a real-world kind of way, not like Exek having their tour van roll down a cliff or anything spectacular like that. It’s scary because you build this thing over time and get to identify with it and with the others. You are a kind of powerful institution that defines you and which you represent when you go anywhere. However, to what point this is solely a good thing, no one can ever tell you. Are Lassie destined to play ‘Spiderweb’ and ‘Gimme A Break’ at the age of 81, like the Stones? I’m joking, but I am scared. I was scared of making the wrong choice and still am. You know, it’s hard for a lot of musicians and band people to talk about this kind of thing. I often feel like my bands and all my friends’ bands are doing great and we’re happy when we’re doing band stuff and we pretend that’s all there is, but in the meantime our everyday lives are going to shit; we’re broke as fuck and frustrated with society and we’re not getting any younger. Having said that, Lassie is probably the best thing that ever happened to me, and we still have a common goal. I’m not planning on leaving the stage with a whimper.
What ideas do you have for future work?
MARI: We booked a big tour to play the new album in October, it’s still uncertain if we are going to do it or not because of aforementioned reasons, so we are also not really big on ideas for the future. I think a lot of us need some time to find a better balance between the different lives we are living. Especially when it comes to financial and psychological safety, playing so many shows and doing everything that comes with that is often hindering when it comes to establishing your “other” daily life if you know what I mean. None of us have real jobs so a lot of times we either don’t have money or have to rely on the annoying Jobcenter options in Germany – that can wear you down pretty easily. But I don’t wanna sound too pessimistic here as well, we just have to figure out a lot of stuff for now.
KATHI: We decided to go on this tour together. And then we see from there. It’s pretty confusing, but a change always is a possibility. Right now i have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. I think I am gonna focus on university and my instrumental skills. And then we will find out what the future Beholds haha.
TEUN: I want to us to play a kick-ass tour. And to do it as a team.
SHREDDY: I have nothing to add : – )
FRITZ: Everything is said! This tour will be a blast!
Lastly, what do you hope listeners can learn about you from this record?
MARI: As always from Punk and R’N’R – that you can be whoever the fuck you wanna be and most likely you are not alone out there!
KATHI That it’s cool to try stuff and experiment. You don’t have to be perfect on an instrument or with your voice in order to use it for a song. You just have to like it.
SHREDDY: Yes, and have fun doing the stuff you like.
TEUN: I don’t have anything to add. Except that it’s OK to trust people over 30 sometimes.