By Nathan Pavolko
In the 90’s there was a surge of washed out shoegaze and dream pop bands in the UK that recorded beautiful tracks, lush with textures and tones, creating a new style of music all together. Once the media took notice, Britpop was formed as a more commercially viable approach to make it more accessible. Although many of these bands were swept under by the tide of Britpop, there was a handful who had escaped unscathed. Butterfly Child is one of those bands, releasing three full-length albums and multiple EP’s during their career. Led by singer-songwriter Joe Cassidy, the band drew attention with their sensual Irish dream pop that is both blissful and delicate.
Jumping from record label to record label due to the commercial demand, and cycling through various members, Cassidy found himself traveling to Chicago to escape from restrictions and record with the label Hitit! The Chicago based label had licensed Butterfly Child’s first two LP’s for the US and invited Cassidy to make use of their studio. Soon after the release of their third album, Soft Explosives (1998), the band had broken up to pursue individual aspirations. During this long hiatus, Cassidy was in a side project called Assassins which also had their own record company problems. Struggling to release their album, which finally dropped three years later, he felt times were changing for music and for him as well. Life as a musician is hard work and often doesn’t pay as much as you would like. So with Cassidy getting older he had decided he needed a much more mellow place to live and work.
Moving to Los Angeles in pursuit of a more stable job as a musician, he finds himself writing for various films, documentaries and some commercials. With the enormous amount of creative freedom his job has given him and the comfortability of the pace and life style of Los Angeles, Cassidy gets so inspired he begins writing more and more songs, culminating a gigantic back log of over 250 unreleased or unfinished songs, many dating as far back as 1987, and it’s continuously growing. Having such a back log of material, Guy Sirman of the London-based label Dell’Orso approached Cassidy about releasing a Butterfly Child rarities collection, filled with demos, peel sessions, and previously unreleased tracks. This didn’t take, but it did ignite a yearning to experiment with Butterfly Child again. So after building a relationship with Sirman and the label, together they released in 2012 a Butterfly Child single using an unfinished track recorded in 1988 titled, “No Longer Living in Your Shadow” complete with a music video. The single is a tragically elegant song, with Cassidy’s voice softly gliding over top a more cinematic song arrangement, bordering the thin line of ambient noise and an earthy dream pop ballad.
After the release of the single, fans were left in question as to whether the project was coming back in full swing or if it was just a tease. However over the past few years, with the time he can spare, Cassidy had been working on the fourth Butterfly Child LP Futures by himself. Despite recording, mixing, and producing the album himself with a few friends jumping in to record extra vocals or string and drum tracks, the album feels so much bigger than a home studio. For this record, Cassidy set out to purposefully restrict himself. He was attracted by the idea of keeping the equipment and production simple, so he wouldn’t get too carried away with all the new technology ready and available to him.
At a thrift store, he had found an old drum machine that was the same he had used on the first album Onomatopoeia, using familiar samples and sounds he captures a sense of nostalgia. With that being said there is also vast amount of growth within his song writing and production. Butterfly Child has always been somewhat romantic, yet with Futures there is something much deeper. There is history woven into his music. It’s like a long relationship that has gone through so much happiness and heartbreak, yet the bond is so strong that you overcome the hardships and end up loving that person even more. The song “Still Learning to Crawl” paints this picture so well with a pleasant piano melody playing over a light jazz drum beat. Cassidy crooning “At some // Point // Things gotta change for the best // Yeah this // Time // is gonna be different I swear”.
With Cassidy’s time away from the project, and years of growth and maturity as a song writer he brings back a once fragile sound that danced in the wind and turned it into a hardened and more focused resonance. Such as in the song “A Shot In The Dark” starting with a gentle acoustic strumming and enters into a stunning climb with electric guitars and pounding drums, creating an uplifting dash to a new beginning. However much heartbreak there is on this album, I feel there is an even greater amount of hopefulness and optimism. First listening to Futures, or even Butterfly Child for that matter, I found it hard to really get into their sound given my musical tastes. Yet, the more I listened the more I understood and appreciated the amount of effort put into it. Futures is an exceptionally deep record that has a lot of complex emotions embodied within it, a record definitely worth investing some time into.