There’s no quicker way of revealing I’m a gal-of-a-certain-age than to say Britpop band Cast soundtracked the glory years of my youth. Not only did they perform at both of my first proper festival experiences (V96 and Oasis at Knebworth, thanks for asking) but they inadvertently made me bawl like a baby when “Walkaway” was used for the BBC’s musical slow-mo montage after England got knocked out of that year’s Euro tournament.
They were indeed iconic – their album All Change spawned four hit singles, going on to become the fastest selling debut album in Polydor’s history. Of course, frontman and songwriter John Power had already enjoyed short-lived success as the bass player with The La’s, but it was upon switching to vocals and guitar to form Cast that he truly came into his own.
While the band put the finishing touches to their new album, John’s currently in the midst of an intimate solo UK headline tour. You can imagine I was delighted to catch up with him for an exclusive chat about set lists and supergroups – plus the heady summer of ’96, of course…
What can you tell us about the upcoming Cast album – what’s the vibe?
I thought: what would it be like to try and capture the same energy of a debut album but with all the experience of a band like ourselves, who’ve been on the road and recorded for all these years?
I kept getting this feeling of a space that existed somewhere between the end of The La’s and the beginning of Cast – a space I hadn’t really explored – so this record is that space. It’s got a vibe, it’s a kind of psychedelic pop album, with a rock ‘n’ roll, punky beat and a bouncing bass, jumping acoustics and some blistering electrics.
A lot of the songs are kicking but there’s also a melancholy underside to some of the tracks. I also played bass again after all these years. The last album I played bass on was The La’s.
Do you give a taster of the new Cast songs on your current solo tour? Or stick to the classics?
Yes, I’m playing the two opening tracks off the album on this tour: “Bluebird” is just amazing, it’s only one and a half minutes long but so beautiful. “First Smile Ever” is the last song I wrote for the album and has a very bitter sweet sentiment.
Of course I’m playing Cast classics too; solo folk songs like “Mariner” and even a couple of The La’s tunes. The set’s been going down a storm.
And how’s the tour going so far? Are you enjoying tapping into your more troubadour side?
I’m loving the troubadour vibe. Just myself and a guitar singing songs to an audience. Some nights we chat and talk about a song’s journey – all depends on the show really; there’s no script. I’ve found a looseness that allows the songs to dictate the evening.
I can’t hear ‘Walkaway’ without being transported back to the summer of ’96… do you ever feel nostalgic for those times?
I was away in America touring in the summer of ’96 when the nation was spellbound with the Euros, England getting knocked out and “Walkaway” having this momentous moment; the soundtrack to this national outpouring of football grief.
Do I feel nostalgic for the nineties? I think with time, like most things, the legends and myths grow – but it was certainly a great time to be in a band and to be a fan of music. There was also an optimism in the air after so long of Tory neglect, but you know, it’s all cycles and I wouldn’t want to spend my time looking back. We have to make today and tomorrow the place to be; the here and now has to be where it’s at.
What music do you find yourself listening to these days?
If you were sitting in mine , I’d probably have some Miles Davies or Ethiopian Jazz on; early blues, Captain Beefheart, Love’s Forever Changes, the Rolling Stones, Bowie, early Bob Marley and Peter Tosh or Ska. I’m aware of new music but I don’t feel I have to be an avid follower, I’m not one to have to know what the next hippest band is to stay cool!
So what would be your desert island album of choice?
One desert island Album?! Such a difficult question. Something that reminds me of home maybe. Impossible to answer; I’m going to say the White Album by the Beatles – it’s a double album, too.
And supergroup lineup?
I’ve always thought there’s a great album or project to be had with all the great singer songwriters from Liverpool. Everyone bring a couple of songs to record, duets and layered harmonies ,everyone singing on each others tracks. Record an album go out and tour it for a year then split it up and leave it at that.
In fact I once had a passing conversation with Ian Broudie and Mac about it years ago. You’ve got James Skelly, Dave McCabe and Mick Head who are all great singers and writers too. Swapping instruments on stage could be fun.
Dream five-a-side squad?
Can I go in goal or defence? I used to love a game of footy but I think my legs have gone. It’s like running in a dream; I just don’t seem to be moving but I’m running at full pelt.
Catch John Power playing live at the remaining dates below, concluding with a set at the Shiiine On Weekender. Buy tickets here. Cast’s first new album since 2017 will be released early next year.
20th – Leek, Foxlowe Arts Centre (SOLD OUT)
21st – Northwich, The Plaza
22nd – Hull, Social
26th – Sheffield, Sidney & Matilda
27th – Blackpool, Waterloo Music Bar
17th – London, Camden Assembly
18th – Portsmouth, Staggeringly Good Brewery (SOLD OUT)
19th – Minehead, Shiiine On Weekender