It was a fortuitous bit of late night listening that led me to discover Shepherds of Cassini. Having met bassist Vitesh Bava through a mutual friend I was finally checking out the link he’d sent me weeks earlier. It was after midnight, the lights were out, seemed the perfect time to squeeze one more track in.
The track was Eyelid, an intriguing slow burner that starts quietly, easing you in. After a couple of minutes I opened my eyes to check the screen. ‘What, 17 minutes long?’ Letting it play I proceeded to get lost in an endless landscape of sprawling desert rock.
“Yeah, it goes a few places…” says violinist Felix Lun.
Auckland-based Shepherds of Cassini are Vitesh (bass), Omar Hashemi (drums), Felix (violin) and Brendan Zwaan (guitar and vocals), a band formed from members of various bands who’ve all traded in grand soundscapes. As Vitesh and Omar’s band Pilgrims Pyre was winding up, and Felix had played the final farewell show with An Emerald City, the band’s formation was engineered by Vitesh getting them all together for some jam sessions, back in February.
They combine progressive rock with post rock and metal influences, along with psychedelic, atmospheric sound experimentation – as Felix calls it “sonic vomit”. A less appealing way of describing how all the pent up riffs and ideas from everyone just come spewing out.
“We don’t really know where to stop,” admits Vitesh.
Collective influences include Tool, Russian Circles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rage Against the Machine and Black Sabbath.
“I’m a bit of a closet metalhead, but basically it’s all Jakob’s fault. Because of them I’ve got a delay pedal that I pretty much never turn off,” says Felix.
There’s evidence of some classical training on Felix and Brendan’s part seeping in, in the cyclical freeform structure of the songs. Eyelid has a two minute intro before the big meaty riff kicks in, then it starts all over again round the eight minute mark.
“There was a phase where I was listening to heaps of Chopin and Rachmaninov. That sort of Romantic era… so I’m definitely a fan of large scale,” Brendan explains.
Plans are in place to record an album early next year, and 70 to 80 minutes of music (that’s six or seven songs) you’re sure to get your money’s worth. Finding a place to record is the next challenge.
“I’ve been quite intrigued by an idea Brendan bought up,” says Felix. “Apparently there’s some tunnels under Waiheke, built during the war, and he knows somebody who knows somebody that might be able to get us in there.”
“We just gotta find a sound guy who’s game,” adds Brendan.
If they do manage it, it’ll just be another way to push the boundaries of their musical landscape. These songs are definitely set to take you on a journey, if you choose to take the long way home.