Anyone with affection for treasure of a particularly luminous dream-pop vintage will know about Joe Cassidy and his alias Butterfly Child. Having recorded three albums and a handful of EPs in the Nineties, in 2012 a brand new Butterfly Child single ‘No Longer Living In Your Shadow’ (with video) was released without any fanfare, as Cassidy wasn’t then sure of what he was shaping up for. This is now resolved, as the first Butterfly Child album in 18 years is almost here - and 'Holding On' is the first glimpse of the upcoming LP 'Futures'.
Futures refutes any fears that Cassidy couldn’t match past glories with an epic, radiant 54-minute journey invested with his usual melodic richness – both musical and vocal - and a more widescreen production, even though the record was recorded at Cassidy’s LA home. Sonically, the album lives somewhere between The Beach Boys and dreampop, but with a much more direct emotional impact, between bliss and melancholy. It combines new songs with unreleased older material, reaching as far back as Cassidy’s very first demos as a teenager, and lyrics inspired by relationships past and present, and where Cassidy is now, 24 years after Butterfly Child’s first release.
With time passing, Cassidy didn’t envisage a Butterfly Child renaissance any time soon. “I’ve been writing for film and documentaries and some commercials, and I don’t have a lot of spare time,” he explains. “It’s actually fun and extremely creative work, it can even be experimental and avant garde, or just knocking out a neo-folk song. And I thought I was getting a bit older, and I should retire Butterfly Child. But someone involved in the production of Warriors approached me in 2009. They'd heard a long track by The National and wanted me to compose something like it. The National track reminded me of something I’d recorded when I was 18 (that being No Longer Living In Your Shadow). Though the new track didn’t end up in the film, I felt inspired.”
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The next inspiration was Guy Sirman, who runs the London-based independent Dell'Orso label, who first encouraged Joe to consider releasing Butterfly Child rarities – “demos, Peel sessions, unreleased stuff, and then we moved on to a new record. I’m a bit of a workaholic, and I make it my duty to write at least one bit of music every day, so I have maybe 250 recordings here, and then I keep adding to it! Like ‘Still Learning To Crawl’ came out of nowhere and was finished in five hours. But ‘No Longer Living In Your Shadow’ was written in 1988 and ‘Sheets Of Whitewashed Sun’ was started in 1987 – some drums from the demo are on the finished track. ‘Our Delays’ started as a three-chord instrumental that we used to played live.
Throughout, Guy was a good foil for me, someone I could trust. He liked the slower, heartache kind of stuff, so once we got ‘No Longer Living In Your Shadow’ out as a single in 2012, we just followed that tone. It made sense to create a fluid body of work.”
In the early Nineties, a Butterfly Child demo had ended up with the celebrated noise/dream-pop adventurists A.R.Kane. The duo were signed to Rough Trade (UK) and Luaka Bop (US) but were starting their own label H! Ark. Cassidy recorded the Toothfairy EP (1991) and the Eucalyptus EP (1992) for H.ark! before he moved to Rough Trade himself for the Ghetto Speak EP and debut album Onomatopoeia (both 1993).
But Rough Trade’s collapse saw Butterfly Child move again, to Dedicated for the Beaujolais EP (1994) and The Honeymoon Suite album (1995). It was then Dedicated’s turn to implode. Cassidy – battling Britpop’s tide, “which I found woefully uninspiring” – was given a fortuitous way out by Chicago label Hitit!, which had licensed both Butterfly Child albums for the US, and invited Cassidy over to make use of studio space. “I just fell in love with Chicago,” he recalls. “I recorded eight tracks in a week, and then the label asked if I wanted to make an album. So I went back, and stayed for ten years! I’ve always gone where the chance to make music has been afforded to me.”
Cassidy’s muse – and wife – who inspired The Honeymoon Suite now inspired parts of the third Butterfly Child album, Soft Explosives (1998) after the pair separated. Seeking a new beginning, in 2001, he kickstarted Assassins, a side project with friends with a more Eighties dance bent. But again record company problems befell Cassidy: LA Reid, who signed the band to Arista, was fired), and it took the band three years to get their album (You Will Changed Us) back, which was released in 2006 on the Chemicals Kill label. But by that point, “the musical landscape had changed drastically, and the music industry was starting to collapse. I needed somewhere mellower to live and work.”
Hence the lush, sun-dappled climes of LA, which can be felt in the expansive folds and grooves of Futures, both on the softer, heartache-y side and pop-centric songs such as ‘A Shot In The Dark’ and ‘Holding On’. The latter has a fascinating genesis: Sirman sent a string loop to Cassidy, which reminded him of Dionne Warwick, though the eventual track was inspired by Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell. This being LA, Cassidy could call on his pals Justin, James and Christiaan, Webb’s three sons, to add backing vocals, while Campbell’s son Cal plays guitar and percussion.
The track also features drummer Matt Walker (he’s also on ‘Shot In The Dark’) and keyboardist Brian Liesegang. Other Futures guests are Ryan J Rapsys (Euphone, drums), Pendle Poucher (a Butterfly Child accomplice back in the Nineties, on ‘glitch’ guitar), Merritt Lear (another Butterfly Child accomplice, and Assassins co-singer, on violin and backing vocals) and Oliver Kraus (strings and horns on the exquisite finale ‘Beauty #2’). Assassins producer Stephen Hague (of Pet Shop Boys and New Order fame too) has done a remix of ‘A Shot In The Dark’ that will be released as the next Butterfly Child single.
Just as Futures gathers songs from past and present, so the lyrics follow suit. “A lot of songs are about past relationships – like most everyone, I’ve gone through happy and sad times, and you rebuild and move forward, toward the future, which is where the album title comes from. It’s like I’m looking for light at the end of the tunnel.”
Having waited 18 years, Cassidy might only wait another one for the next album: “I told Guy, I have a great Phil Spector-style pop record here! There’s little point in repeating myself.” There might be live shows in the interim, “but it’s not like I’m going to jump into a van and tour. I feel I need a string section to do it properly. We’ll see. But we’re making some videos. All I can do is hope that people out there are into slow heartache music, and will get it!”