30. Januar 2012

Henker, Lumpenhändler und eine Lady, die den Blues singt: Liz Green im Klangverführer-Interview

Filed under: Klangblog — Schlagwörter: , , — VSz | Klangverführer @ 15:54

Eigentlich sollte dieses Interview samt Konzert schon im Dezember stattfinden. Dann aber zog sich die Künstlerin eine unangenehme Ohrenentzündung zu und der Berliner Promotermin wurde verschoben. Beim nächsten Versuch gestaltete sich das Ganze noch komplizierter, da die Interviewanfrage zwar relativ kurzfristig kam, mit dem genauen Termin aber erst am Vorabend des Ereignisses herausrückte. Das ganze Hin udn Her hat mir aber endlich die Frage beantwortet, die mich schon lange umtreibt: Weshalb es kaum weibliche Musikkritiker gibt: Weil sich Spontanaktionen meist nicht mit der im Vorfeld minuziös abzustimmenden Planung von Kinderbetreuung verbinden lassen. Wer da keine engelsgeduldigen Großeltern oder eine trotz eigener kleiner Familie unendlich flexible Kopfhörerhundetagesmutter hat, kann solche Interviews schlicht nicht führen. Und, ganz ehrlich: Würde ich nicht glauben, dass Liz Green mit
O, Devotion! jetzt schon die Platte des Jahres abgeliefert hätte, die von nichts, was da in 2012 noch kommen mag, getoppt werden kann, dann wäre auch ich ob des ganzen Planungsunsicherheitsdurcheinanders nicht hier. Aber Greens Platte ist nun einmal schlicht umwerfend, und ich bin gespannt auf die Frau, deren Familie auf eine lange Ahnenreihe von Henkern und Lumpenhändlern zurückblickt, wodurch sich, möchte man der Legende Glauben schenken, ihr Hang zum Makaber-Abseitigen erklären könnte.

Die Neo Folk/Blues-Sängerin traf ich unmittelbar vor ihrem Auftritt im Roten Salon am Sonnabend in Berlin.


Your current album is called “O, Devotion!”. So of course I first would like to know, what does devotion mean to you?

Oh well … Some people think that it’s religious devotion, but it’s not. Forget that. Devotion is just a word and it means the kind of dedication and love of something … for me. You know, if you devote yourself to something sometimes it can be frustrating. You can get angry. That’s that.

A lot of people would say that „O, Devotion!“ is Singer/Songwriter or Indie Pop, but I personally sense that it is rather a Blues album. How would you describe your style of music?

Well, if it is genre, it’s probably more Blues than anything else. That’s what I was listening to when I started to write music, so that’s the obvious first influence. But I would say that I would always consider myself Pop. Because I want to reach as many people as possible. I want them to hear it, regardless whether they’re into Indie music or Dance music or whatever music they are into. You know, my brother is a really big Drum&Bass fan. And when he heard my music he was like, oh, this sounds really good, it’s really cool. And I was just like, oh, but you like Drum&Bass! And he said, yeah, but this is kinda good! So I call it Pop, because Pop is the one genre that lets other genres kind of fall in together.

I believe two or three of the songs of your album were already recorded some years ago, for example „Midnight Blues“ or „Bad Medicine“, but it’s only now that the album appeared. What took you so long to finish it?

I don’t know. I’ve been telling people that I went to Mexico to find Alpacas and make jumpers. Mainly because I don’t want to answer the question. I don’t know how it happened … You know, the idea was ensuring … It was that kind of everything started happing before I thought it could be a possibility. It was always that my life decided that I was gonna be a musician before I even thought of it. I mean, I do want to be a musician. But it took a little bit of time to write some more songs and kind of let the song become what I want it to be.

Well, I think read in one of your previous interviews that you said it was also such a difference between playing live and then go to the studio with its sterile atmosphere and all the microphones pointing at you …

Yeah, I think when I recorded the first time it was always unexpected. I’ve never done it before. And it was my friend who had a tiny little record label – he then became my manager, a nice progression – and he said, hey, come to my house, we’ll record a song. And I think I was a bit drunken, so I was like, hey, yeah, let’s record a song, and so it was done. When I first heard it I was like, uah, it’s horrible! But he thought it was brilliant. For me, it just didn’t sound like it sounded in my head. And this album … it took me a while to work out what I have to do to make it sound like that. Plus, I thought that I was gonna make an album, and if I only was to make one album I wanted to make something that had a little of … well, a kind of that someone will be able to pick it up in a hundred years from now, listen to it and think that, oh, this still sounds good! You know, that’s what I’ve been listening to lately, to some songs which were made in 1912, and now it’s 2012 and they still sound good.

The brass section plays a major role on your album which seems kind of unusual for non-Dixieland, non-Balkan recordings. Why did you opt for the brass sound?

Well, I played music in Manchester, and if you play music in Manchester you get to meet everybody who plays music there. So the double bass player and the saxophone player on the album – we’re just friends. We started jamming together, and when I was about to go off to the tour in Europe I asked them to come with me …

So you are trying to say that the instrumentation on your album happened by chance? If your friend had been a piano player it would have been different?

Yes, might be. So they will be here tonight, the double bass, the saxophone and the trombone …

… and you will play the mouth trumpet? I heard you are a very talented mouth trumpet player …

Yes, because my trumpet player moved to Malaysia! Like, I didn’t know where he was because I haven’t been dealing with him for a couple of weeks. Two weeks ago, I had dinner with him, and two weeks later I was like, Perry, the album is coming out and I need you on the tour. And he was like, Liz, I moved to Malaysia. And I was, okayyyy … how long is that for? and then he said, I live there. So I had got to learn mouth trumpet!

Well, apart from the uncommon instrumentation it’s first and foremost your voice that catches the listener immediately and awakes long-forgotten layers of the musical memory of humanity … How come you sound like from another time?

Well, I don’t know. It is just what came out. That is what I sing like. I mean I think female singers have become quite … (sings in a breathing voice) ohh-ahhh …. Which is fine cuz some of it is brilliant, but I’m not like that! I’m a bit of … (shouts out loud) …ahhhh! And a lot of people whom I really admire, people like Judy Garland or Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald, they soud like that, too.

Critics compare you to each of them …

Yeah, it’s weird, but I think it could be much much worse!

And I think they are perfectly right! When I heard the first beats of „Hey Joe“ it was really like listening to a long-forgotten Billie Holiday recording. I mean, the sound was more modern, of course, there were no scratches or whatever in it, but still …

Wow, what a great compliment!

So you say it is just the way you sound by nature …

Yeah, because I don’t use a special vocal technique or something … I mean, I was in the school choir when I was eleven, but that’s that. I didn’t really sing much. I used to sing in the house when nobody was in – and you can’t hear yourself. So I do remember all the records I sang along to, above all Ella Fitzgerald records, maybe it’s natural that this brought me this kind of inflections – but that’s the music that I like! So that’s just how my voice comes out and I find … me and my friend George in Britain … when the music really hits us it can be any kind of music sung by anyone, but when it really hits you it hits you right there (points to her heart). And that’s the music I enjoy. I think you probably have to sing from there in order to convey that power.

One of the songs of your album is called “Rag and Bone”. The press release states that you descend from a family that includes executioners as well as rag and bone men. Is this true – and if so, could this be a possible explanation for your fascination with macabre stories?

Well, it’s storytelling really – and rag and bone men are actually really common in Britain. It’s just that the name sounds quite macabre. Actually, a rag and bone man is just like not a shop man. In the old days, they used to ride in horsing cars along the streets. And in Liverpool this is what we found out when doing a family tree. So my ancestors used to ride in horsing cars along the streets in Liverpool and yell out, “Any old iron? Any old clothes?”, and they would put this stuff in the waggon and sell it to other people. So that’s a rag and bone man, quite a normal, honorable profession. Executioners … (laughs)

Oh, I was just asking it because the press release opens with it.

Yeah, I know. I mean, it could be a story …

Apart from the myth around your person, there’s a bunch of strange figures who populate the spiritual cosmos of your album, for example half-man-half-bird Joe and his wife Oko, there’s shadow play, there are masks … Where do these figures and things come from?

My imagination! I think imagination is sometimes much more reliant than music for the moment. Because a lot of music seems to be quite confessional, you know … (sings) … “I did this and then he did that, and then I loved him but now he doesn’t love me, oh oh, the pain” … Which is fine. Because I do like music that is like that, but I can’t tell that kind of story. It’s difficult. So I have to build up stories that have characters to be able to express the different thoughts of human experience or emotion.

The Ballad of Joe and Oko: Liz Green plays the part of half-man-half-bird Joe, Berlin, January 28, 2012


Direkt nach dem Interview ging es auch schon mit Supporterin Hannah Miller los, die, wenn sie nicht zwischen Cello und Gitarre mäandernd für Liz Green die Show eröffnet, Sängerin bei den Moulettes ist, denen der Ruf als „uncategorisable quintet“ vorauseilt. Und auch Miller solo ist im positiven Sinne Genre-sprengend; da wird das Cello schon mal zum gezupften Jazz-Bass – googlen Sie mal „Hannah Miller sings the Blues“, denn das kann diese Lady aus Brighton mindestens ebenso gut wie der Main Act des Abends. Eine klare Trennung zwischen Vor- und Hauptprogramm gibt es hier ohnehin nicht, da spielt der Green’sche Saxophonist schon mal ein Duett mit Miller, die ihrerseits bei dem Set von Liz Green das eine oder andere Stück am Cello begleitet. Man ist eben befreundet und unter sich. „Verdammte Hippies“, versucht sich Bassplayerman an der Parodie reaktionären Kommentatorenguts angesichts der flatterärmeligen, Schal tragenden und auf halb-kaputten Instrumenten spielenden Musiker. Ob Hippie oder nicht – ein lustiger Haufen sind die durch viele Zwischenrufe beim Set des jeweils anderen auffallenden Brightoner allemal; und das Wort „offen“ würde dem feucht-fröhlichen Umgang der Clique mit Hochprozentigem nur schwer gerecht. Der Rum jedenfalls könnte eine Erklärung für die live dann doch ziemlich schwiemeligen Bläser-Arrangements sein, die sich auf der Platte so wohltuend im Hintergrund halten. Aber sehen Sie selbst:

18. Januar 2012

Low-fi, mellowtone sounds: First Aid Kit on the heroes of bygone days and why sibling harmonies are so special

Filed under: Klangblog — Schlagwörter: — VSz | Klangverführer @ 11:32

Nachdem Klangverführer @ fairaudio schon längst wieder aktiv ist, wird es Zeit, auch den Klangblog selbst aus dem Neujahrsschlaf zu wecken. Und was könnte dazu besser geeignet sein als ein Interview mit den als kommende Folk-Sensation gefeierten Schwestern Johanna und Klara Söderberg, die aktuell als First Aid Kit mit ihrer zweiten CD The Lion’s Roar aufhorchen lassen – natürlich auch Victoriah’s Music, wo die Album-Rezension vorige Woche erschienen ist.

Die charmanten Schwedinnen traf ich diesen Montag im nicht minder charmanten Berliner Hotel The Circus zum Klangverführer-Interview.

Klangverführer: When I listen to your records and look at your pictures,
I cannot help a feeling of nostalgia. Would you have rather lived in the old times?

Johanna: No. I mean, it’s hard to say because we haven’t been there so we don’t know how it was, and I think we’re probably romanticizing and idealizing a lot of it, you know, it wasn’t all happy days – but the music they created back in the days was amazing. I think we try to do something like this with our music, but when it comes to living I think it’s better now. That doesn’t automatically make the music better, unfortunately.

Klara: Yes and I think we like the fact that the kind of music that we make, folk and country inspired music, could be popular. In the Sixties, artists like Joni Mitchell could top the charts, and that’s the thing we really like and wish we could sort of be … it could be the same today. In that sort of way we could look back, indeed, I think.

Well, I in fact do experience that folk music is popular again, these days. Currently so many young musicians seem to make a kind of music that sounds like the soundtrack of their parents‘ youth! What do you think makes this kind of music so suitable for our times?

I think it’s a matter of timelessness. It is always relevant! Today, it might be a reaction towards the trends of electronic music, and I think it’s the pure voices and the most simple, pure forms that affect people. You know, that’s what Folk music does: the vocals, the harmonies are so beautiful, so well done, and people always long for a human voice! Being confronted with so much technology, people tend to look back at the earlier times and think they were easier – or maybe even more real.

Your current single is called Emmylou, which refers to Country & Folk singer Emmylou Harris. In the same song you also mention heroes like Johnny Cash or June Carter. How would you explain your personal fascination with the popular music of bygone days?

Well, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, June Carter and Johnny Cash are very special because they harmonize together and they were couples – kind of. Well, Johnny Cash and June Carter were married and Gram and Emmylou weren’t, but … Wen you listen to their music it’s hard not to imagine that they were more but just friends. You can sort of hear … love. And we just think that they all were fantastic songwriters and musicians, and the song is about wanting to share that kind of connection with somebody and sing with them, because we believe that singing with someone is such a special thing and it’s so intimate! The song is to say that even if we can’t be together like Emmylou and Gram, we can sing together.

Kind of an homage to duet singing?

Yeah, kind of!

But it’s also an homage to your heroes, isn’t it? You even shot the video of Emmylou on the birthday of your idol Gram Parsons …

Johanna: Yes, we shot it in Joshua Tree, which is Gram Parsons’ favorite place. But the date was chance … or destiny, maybe. (laughs)

Klara: We had planned to make the video and then we realized when we got there, oh, it’s Gram’s birthday, that was pretty special.

Your first EP Drunken Trees contained a cover of the Tiger Mountain Peasant Song by the Fleet Foxes, who by critics are compared to the psychedelic bands of the Sixties and Seventies, like The Byrds …How came you decided to do a Fleet Foxes cover?

Johanna: Well, we saw them live in Gothenburg in Sweden at a festival called “Way out West” and it was a very … almost like a religious experience. They were at the beginning of their career and they were so overwhelmed by the positive response they got from the audience, and the show was just incredible, we loved their first record, it was our favorite, we listened to it all the time that summer! And so we just wanted to give them something back for that experience we had at the show; and so we went out in the forest with my digital camera … we never thought at any moment that anyone would actually watch it!

But actually, your version of the Tiger Mountain Peasant Song became highly popular on YouTube in 2008. Would you say that social media became a kind of catalyst for your musical career?

Oh yeah, definitely! I mean, the video brought us an international audience. It’s pretty crazy because it’s something we did for fun!

When your debut album The Big Black & the Blue appeared in 2010, your MySpace tagline stated that you “aim for the hearts, not the charts”. Will this approach remain valid with the release of your first American-recorded album?

Of course we also care for the charts, because we try to make a living out of our music, but music is so important to us that we’ll continue making music regardless if somebody listens or not, that’s not the point in it. For us, music is like a therapy – we listen to music to get through hard times and we create music also to get through hard times, so if other people … if we can reach someone’s heart with our music, that’s kind of the reason why we do this! So I think the claim is still true.

Your current album, The Lion’s Roar, is the first one you have worked on with a producer. How did Mike Mogis affect the sound of your music or your musical approach in general?

Well, I think without Mike Mogis our music wouldn’t sound like it does in the first place because he produced the Bright Eyes records that influenced us so much. So it goes way back – he’s part of our first record even though he didn’t produce it! But we worked a lot on making the arrangements a little bigger and he really got what we were trying to say with our lyrics, the kind of emotion we aimed at. He just sort of made them more apparent or dramatic, maybe, which is something that we wanted to do. The sound we aimed for but not overpowering it. The focus is on the harmony and the lyrics to get the message through. When we did our first album, we were kind of limited because we recorded it at home. We didn’t actually even have the space for a string quartet or the like. Now that these limitations disappeared, we could make clearer on this record what kind of music we like and what has influenced us.

Haven’t you been afraid that your music would lose its home-made charm due to the bigger production?

Not really, because for us it was never important that we had a certain homemade charm or a low-fi appeal. Our current sound is something we aimed for. We just wanna make honest music, and we were aiming for having a better sound. I think that there’s a charm to the first record because it sounds home-made, but at the same time you don’t really get how our voices sound. A lot of people who saw us live said to us, “oh, this is how you sound” and they preferred our live shows because they were actually better than our CD. And therefore it’s really great having worked with Mike because he’s such a master of making vocals sound great and stand out. Besides, I don’t think our new album is polished because we used a lot of low-fi, mellowtone sounds, it’s not like the standard production, it’s not perfect! And our vocals are pretty much untouched, we didn’t use Autotune or anything like that. It’s more or less us singing in a room and then more and more instruments in. We used different equipment, but it’s still very much just us singing about our personal experiences and feelings.

And how did this collaboration with Mike Mogis come into being?

Well, Monster of Folk (that is Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis, author’s note) played in Stockholm, and we had our first album out by that time. So we went there and gave it to them. You know, they were our idols, and one year later they showed up at a show we had in Austin, Texas, and told us that they loved the album. And after the show we heard Mike Mogis saying that he wanted to produce our new album, so a few months later we were in Omaha recording.

Sounds like a fairytale …

Yeah, it is!

Your EP Drunken Trees as well as your album debut The Big Black & the Blue was produced by your father, who is a well-known musician in Sweden (e.g., he played with the rock band “Lolita Pop”). Has it always been clear to you that you wanted to be in your father’s business, too?

We always dreamed of being singers. But we always thought that it would be just a dream. I don’t think we ever really thought about it that our das has been in a band. He wasn’t playing anymore, it wasn’t like a big deal or anything. I think, unconsciously we were aware of it and thought that this is something that we could do, too – it was a possibility. We didn’t feel like this was so far away, so that’s how it influenced us.

So you didn’t get any musical education within your family and haven’t been pushed into music …

Johanna: Our parents were always very supportive, but they were never pushy. They gave us musical education in the form of good music playing all the time. And our dad taught Klara her first chords on the guitar …

Klara: Yeah, but this really came from us. With the guitar, it was, that I said I wanna learn to play the guitar, it really came out of nowhere when I started listening to Bright Eyes and Folk music, but my parents never thought that I would have wanted to play any instrument until I suddenly came up saying, “I wanna learn guitar”. So I asked my dad, can you show me some chords, I wanna play this song, and how to play a C-chord, so he was definitely important, but it was always … from us.

Then how came you recognized that you harmonize so well?

Johanna: The first time we sang harmonies was on a song Klara has written called “Tangerine”, and I started singing on the demo. But I think it took a while, until maybe a year later that people started talking about our voices and we realized that sibling harmonies are something special. We gradually had become better and better and now we kind of realize it’s so special because singing with your sibling is just like singing with yourself! Especially if you compare it to singing with someone else you’re not related to. We collaborated with other artists and had to adapt to their kind of voices, it’s a totally different deal! We have so much for granted if we sing together, like naturally, it just works. It’s really easy; we never have to think about it.

Are there any moments on your record when you can’t tell who is who?

Klara: Yeah, we heard people saying that! And I think especially when we listen back to us talking we really can’t tell. Sometimes it’s like: “Is that me or is that you?”, and that’s really spooky!

Johanna: And on this album we change voices, so I sing lead sometimes …

Klara: … and that confuses people! Of course, I am aware of what I’m singing, but for other people who don’t really know … I think they wouldn’t notice. Which is kind of fun – I like that when they don’t really know who is singing what. Like the Louvin Brothers in the Sixties, they sang close harmony and changed all the time – and I can’t tell who is Charles and who is Ira. I think it’s awesome! And we’d love to do that more, too.

Sounds like big fun! Well, I have one last question. During my research for the interview I came across an older photograph that pictures the two of you with a cat. Since my dog is an essential element of my music writing, I wondered about the story behind the picture.

Oh, this is our cat, Nisse. That’s the most common cat name in Sweden, it’s really boring, it’s like a version of Niels for Santa Claus‘ Tomte, Santa’s little helper … Look at his ears in this picture: He’s not really happy, he’s annoyed. He’s a very fat cat and he wakes us up every morning at five and wants us to feed him, but he’s adorable! I always forget about it when we are touring, it’s not really like “oh, I miss my cat”, but when I come home and see him I’m always so excited and you can see that he is excited that we are home, too. He sits in the window like … He’s the best!

16. Januar 2012

Die Puder-Platte kommt – die neue Ausgabe von Victoriah’s Music ist schon da

Filed under: Klangblog — Schlagwörter: — VSz | Klangverführer @ 15:52

Nachdem die hungrige Meute seit letztem Sommer immer wieder mit Häppchen und Fitzelchen angefüttert wurde, kommt Ende dieser Woche – genaugenommen: am 20. Januar – endlich die komplette Platte des Hamburger Projekts Puder in die Läden. Ich bin ja schon länger verliebt – und wie das mit Verliebten so ist: Sie besorgen sich ihre Devotionalien auf allen erdenklichen Wegen. In diesem Falle war es einfach, denn ich habe die Puder-Macherin Catharina Boutari einfach über Facebook angeschrieben und so lange bekniet, bis sie sich nicht nur virtuell mit mir befreundete, sondern mir auch einen Layout-Mix des gleichnamiegn Songs schickte. Mit dem habe ich dann wirklich alles gemacht: Ich bin zu dem treibenden Rhythmus von Puder durch die Stadt gebiket, ich habe dazu in Mordsgeschwindigkeit fieseste Bügelwäschestapel plattgemacht und noch einiges andere mehr. Grund genug jedenfalls, Puder den Auftakt der ersten Ausgabe von Victoriah’s Music in diesem Jahr zu widmen:

„Dieses Jahr fängt gut an: Nämlich mit Veröffentlichung der Puder-Platte, hinter der sich die Hamburger Sängerin Catharina Boutari verbirgt. Weshalb mich das so freut? Nun, Puder hat mir gewissermaßen den letzten Sommer gerettet – und den Herbst gleich mit. Denn nicht nur das Projekt, sondern auch einer der vorab veröffentlichten Songs der Platte heißt Puder, und der, ja, der hatte mich gepackt, mit seinem atemlosen und ich steh nicht und ich dreh mich, und ich tanze, ich beweg mich, meine Hände, meine Träume, meine Haut ist ihre Beute, Funken fliegen, ich erliege und die Crowd vor mir macht aah!

Selbst in der auf lediglich zwei im Terzabstand harmonierende Gesangsstimmen mit Gitarrenbegleitung heruntergebrochene Version, die ich während eines Akustik-Gigs von Boutari und ihrer Pussy Empire-Labelkollegin Chantal de Freytas zu hören bekam, versprühte Puder immer noch die selbe unglaubliche Energie, die auch dem fertig produzierten Track innewohnt. Allein der Start in den als Opener des Puder-Albums dienenden Songs mit einer fetten Hammond wirkt als Initialzündung, die die ganze Platte hindurch wirkt. Puder brennt und glitzert, Puder packt zu und lässt nicht mehr los. Let’s Pop, ruft Puder, und der Hörer folgt willig.

Erst nachdem ich Puder kannte, sind mir die ungeheuer erfolgreichen Frida Gold mitsamt ihrem Song Komm zu mir nach Haus begegnet, und ich kann nicht umhin festzustellen, dass Puder die Energie, den Hedonismus und den Glamour des „discoisierten Indie-Pops“ der Hattingener schon längst hat – und noch dazu mit der raffiniertere Produktion aufwarten kann. […]“

Dass Puder trotz des im Vordergrund stehenden Imperativs „Tanz!“, der schon mehr Befehl als bloße Aufforderung ist, mehr als die urbane Hedonistin geben kann, lässt sich nicht nur am 20. nachhören, sondern schon jetzt lesen – wie immer auf fairaudio.de, Ihrem liebsten Online-HiFi-Magazin.

8. Januar 2012

Ein Album, das auszog, ins neue Jahr hinübergerettet zu werden

Filed under: Klangblog — Schlagwörter: , , — VSz | Klangverführer @ 12:21

„Es ist heutzutage nicht unüblich, dass Künstler (Promoter, Labels etc.) einen Song aus einem in naher Zukunft erscheinenden Album vorab zum Gratis-Download anbieten, gewissermaßen als Appetitmacher. So war es auch im Falle der brasilianischen Wahlberlinerin Dillon. Ich hörte ihren Song „Thirteen Thirtyfive“ und fing prompt an zu sabbern und zu denken: Mehr! Mehr davon!!

Mehr davon gibt es seit dem 18. November mit This Silence Kills, einem Album, das von Kollegen gern mit den Youth Novels (2008) von Lykke Li verglichen wird, wobei sie die Musikerin selbst als eine Mischung aus Lykke Li und CocoRosie beschreiben. […]“

Weiterlesen? Wie immer auf fairaudio.de, Ihrem liebsten Online-HiFi-Magazin.