Guest Post: Interview with Vitesh Bava and Omar Al-Hashimi of Shepherds of Cassini

Guest author Alex from Prog Sphere has been kind enough to share his interview with progressive rock band Shepherds of Cassini with Crash And Ride Music.

In July, New Zealand’s Shepherds of Cassini released their sophomore studio effort titled “Helios Forsaken.” Drummer Omar Al-Hashimi and bassist Vitesh Bava discuss their beginnings in music, the new album, and more.

How did you first get into music – through school or your parents played music?

V:  I had a toy guitar and organ when I was young which I remember messing around with and working out how to play melodies. However it was a guitarist/musician friend of mine at high school who really got me interested in playing music. He influenced me towards picking up a guitar and giving it a go myself.

O: I never liked music until my early teens. When I was 11, I bought the Godzilla soundtrack from a music store. I bought the CD just because I liked the movie at the time. I listened to it once and I hated it. It was only when I was 13 years old that I decided to listen to it again and eventually liked one track. But that one track was enough to get me into music and drumming. No Shelter by Rage Against The Machine was on the album. The song blew me away. I loved the heaviness of it and that made me feel calm. It all started from there.

What do they think about the band – do they support you?

V:  My friend who influenced me, or parents? Either way, everyone thinks it’s great that I play in a band and supports it.

O: Both family and friends have been very supportive. The support really encouraged us to keep playing and making music.

What was the first instrument you picked up?

V:  As I mentioned above, apart from the toy instruments and instruments they make you play during school, acoustic guitar was the first instrument I intentionally picked up and made a dedicated effort to learn.

O: Drums.

How did Shepherds of Cassini get together initially as a unit?

V:  Omar and myself met through a music club at Auckland University and we played together in another band before Shepherds.  This band was coming to an end, so we decided to form a new project, around which time I met Felix through mutual friends.  I had previously met Brendan through the same music club Omar and myself were in, and asked if he was interested in having a jam, so we all got together and it all went from there.

What is your working relationship within the band like?

V:  Extremely positive I would say!

O: I agree and lots and lots of fun! I’m very lucky.

Do you identify as part of specific NZ scene or with an international scene of heavy music bands? Do you feel part of any community?

V:  I guess within New Zealand, we definitely fit into the underground music scene, within the darker/heavy corner.  It’s a pretty neat little community with awesome people.

O: There are a number of local acts that are part of this scene and we definitely feel at home when we play with them and when we attend their shows.

shepherds of cassini
Photo by Shepherds of Cassini

Your new album “Helios Forsaken” was self-released, just as your self-titled debut. Have you been in contact with any labels?

V:  Not particularly, mostly because we’re not sure who would be interested in signing a band like us.

O: At the time being no. But I am planning to contact a few labels and s wait for a response. To be honest, I don’t have my hopes up but there is no harm in trying. If anyone is interested then I’m sure a label would contact us. But also a lot of luck is involved.

What’s the touring like with Shepherds of Cassini? Do you play a lot in New Zealand and Australia?

V:  We play a lot within Auckland, about once a month on average.  Every now and then we play a show out of Auckland, such as Wellington.  We’ve yet to organize something for Australia, however I’m sure we’ll be able to make that happen soon given it’s just across a little bit of water.

O: Australia is our next target. Australia has a great music scene, especially in Melbourne. So I’m sure we will have an opportunity in the not too distant future to go tour Australia. We would love to get away from home and play our music on international stages.

Are there any plans to tour other continents?

V:  No concrete plans but the dream is definitely there.  Europe would be an amazing place to tour but given how far away it is, it would be difficult to make that happen anytime soon given how busy we are individually with day jobs and families.  One day though!

O: Touring Europe and any other continent would be a dream come true for me. Like Vitesh have said, we are busy with our individual lives. But the dream is still there and it is possible to tour once the stars are aligned for us.

You recently played at the Kosmogoniafest. How was the vibe?

V:  It was great to bring together a handful of bands from the same scene into the same night and place!  Normally a festival of local bands in Auckland would have a mix of other genres, so it was pretty cool to be able to focus a night into a vibe like this; will definitely be doing this again!

O: It was awesome!  The night went smoothly and everyone had lots of fun. I saw many familiar faces in the crowd. It’s really nice to see committed people following the underground scene. All the bands got into their performance because of the crowd. It was a great night.

What are five riffs you wish you had written?

V:   The first four riffs and the last one on the Days of Our Lives soundtrack.

O: Tripola by StOrk, Wake up by Rage Against The Machine, Lateralus by Tool, Garden of Light by Isis, The Glass Prison by Dream Theater.

If somebody flipped through your record collection what would be an unusual or unexpected record they would find?

V:  Windows 95.

O: Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science.

Fun fact: Auto-correct on my Mac keeps changing your name to Shepherds of Casino. How does it make you feel?

V:  Lucky.

O: Feel like taking a gamble.

Thanks Vitesh and Omar for taking some time to answer our questions!

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