Arts & Entertainment
2 min

People You Know are independent

Just don't call them 'indie'

Iman Kassam and Amy Bessada, of People You Know. Credit: Jorge Antonio Vallejos

With their knees touching, perched on the edge of a couch, the two members of People You Know cut each other off, finish each other’s sentences, elbow one another and laugh. A lot.

Over the course of a ranging two-hour interview with Amy Bessada and Iman Kassam, conducted in Kassam’s living room, one thing becomes clear: the two aren’t just bandmates — they’re friends.

“We usually settle our disputes with a head nod or a game of rock, paper, scissors,” Bessada says.

In their day jobs, they couldn’t be more different. Kassam works in media; Bessada works as a cocktail waitress. Both dream of being full-time musicians.

They met in Toronto’s gay village three years ago. Kassam, a freelance drummer, was impressed by Bessada at an open-mic night. The two chatted, jammed and eventually formed People You Know. That much they agree on. As for the origin of the band’s name, that’s contested.

“People You Know was a band name that I always liked. I think it sounds kind of catchy when somebody asks you, ‘Hey, have you heard of People You Know?’” Bessada says.

“I thought it was a cool name because for a really long time it was the people we knew that came to our concerts,” says Kassam. “It was a big-up to our community of friends who were so supportive.”

 A duo looking for a third, People You Know is a three-piece band whose bass lines are played by freelance musicians.

Self-described “rock-pop with a big Brit-rock influence” that “gets you into it right away,” People You Know is independent. Just don’t call them indie.

“‘Indie’ is so overused that it’s meaningless now. But we’re actually independent from a music label,” says Bessada. “[Indie is] not a genre. That’s a state of business.”

“Our business is independent from a record label. And our style of music is sort of depressing and ambiguous but makes you want to dance and love life at the same time,” says Kassam.

A crush on a girl as a teen led Bessada to write songs and learn guitar — and every Dashboard Confessional song she could.

“Amy writes completely from the heart, completely from experiences that have happened to her: things that she’s felt, things that she’s imagined. It’s always directly connected to her. She’s a lyrical genius,” Kassam says.

And live? Take the YouTube video for “Virginia Gold.” Bessada plays the guitar super fast. Kassam joins her, sticks flying. Bessada moves all over the stage, head bobbing up and down, her hair covering her face. It’s not just the crowd that’s having fun.

“That’s what you can expect from us at Pride. A really good, tight, 20-minute set, and then afterwards, friends,” says Bessada.