Let’s talk about your new album “Letters to Maro ” will be released in few days….is there a link/something that connects all the lyrics of the album?
Irini Alexia: Yes, there are a couple of themes that form the backbone of what Letters To Maro is about.
The strongest and most prevalent one is probably the theme of contemporary city life.
You can hear undertones of burnout and loneliness; in a way you could say the album explores the effects of a certain loss of healthy human connections – from mild nostalgia to moments of pure insanity.
As a case in point and “inspiration location”, we chose Japan. Japanese culture also provides some fascinating counterpoints to the disenchantments of modern life, like their ghost stories and horror tradition that survived seamlessly into the 21st century and is as effective as ever.
And then there’s Haruki Murakami – his magic realism inspired a lot of the themes on the album.
Are you ever scared of revealing, aspects of your personal experience, to strangers through your music?
Irini: Hm, scared is not quite the right word…writing lyrics can indeed be incredibly personal, especially when you draw from concrete experiences in your own life.
But not all lyrics are autobiographic – sometimes you might write from a place of imagination.
Either way: for me, music is very much about connecting with strangers. For that to happen, you have to take a risk and put yourself out there, your emotions, your views, your way of dreaming up stories and scenarios.
There is a thrill in that – maybe that’s the right word.
What has your journey in the music industry been like up to now?
Nerissa Schwarz: Exciting, rewarding, frustrating, encouraging, difficult – all at the same time!
I think it’s amazing and encouraging that we have built an international fanbase in times when there is so much music out there and so much noise in the social media that it’s really hard to get people’s attention.
And our audience still seems to grow with each album. We’ve had such an enthusiastic response to “Letters to Maro” so far, and we’re really grateful for that.
What makes the journey difficult sometimes is that our music is obviously hard to pigeonhole, even more so as we like to change our sound from album to album. It’s probably easier if you are, for example, a metal band with a clearly defined target audience.
What was the soundtrack to your childhood?
Nerissa: I’d have to choose between Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and “Faith” by The Cure. I was a massive fan of both bands as a teenager, and I still am. Very cheerful stuff, isn’t it?
But I also loved The Police, for instance, as well as some folk and classical music.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Nerissa: That was actually a CD by The Police which I bought when I was 14. A greatest hits collection, I must admit, though I bought all their albums afterwards.
What is your favorite song (not written by you) lyrically speaking?
Irini: That’s hard! I think there are different genres of lyrics, much like there are different styles of music, and picking a favourite song for its lyrics is like picking a favourite piece of clothing – it really depends on the weather and where you’re going.
I love cryptic lyrics with beautiful imagery like in Iron & Wine’s “Innocent Bones” or Andrew Bird’s “Fitz and the Dizzy Spells”, or but also whimsical stuff like “New Ceremony” by Dry The River or “Id Incinerator” by The Color Bars.
That said, I am also a sucker for fast-paced, clever and punchy words with a message, like you find them in urban music – I’m a big Residente/Calle 13 fan for that reason.
That’s way more than one already – I’ll stop here.
What inspired “Neon” ?
Irini: The words for Neon were inspired by Haruki Murakami’s novel “After Dark” – quite obviously when you listen to the lyrics. In the book, the author follows a couple of protagonists through a night in Tokyo.
The dark changes a place, different people are out, different things happen, the vibe is different. It’s exciting, but not necessarily safe or wholesome. At night, big cities take on this raunchy type of backlit beauty.
That’s what neon is a homage to.
Do you remember the day you wrote “electricity”?
Irini: I remember very well the day I decided on what the lyrics would be about. I was listening to the instrumental version of Electricity on the way home from band rehearsal, and the pulsating intro set it apart from the other songs.
It felt like electricity.
Themes like the TV set that switches itself on at night in Murakami’s After Dark came to mind, and the premise of Japanese horror culture that ghosts might be able to manipulate our electric devices.
As I moved these ideas around in my head, a giant row of overhead power lines came into view. That sealed it.
What inspired the song “Izanami”?
Irini: Izanami was the first song on the album that I wrote the words to. I had just watched the film Orfeu Negro – a 1950s movie that tells the Greek mythological story of Orpheus and Eurydice set in a favela of Rio de Janeiro.
I dug a bit deeper into that story and found some striking similarities to a Japanese myth, namely that of Izanami, who dies as a young woman (just like Eurydice), and whose husband Izanagi travels to the underworld to bring her back to life (like Orpheus).
In both stories, the rescue mission looks promising at first, but gets blighted by the one thing the hero was explicitly told not to do: to turn around and look at his woman.
Isn’t that remarkable? It’s almost like it really happened, and the different cultures just embellished the story differently here and there over the centuries. I guess you have to be a bit of a nerd to get excited by stuff like that – but there’s no shame in my game!
What is the best show you ever played?
Nerissa: It’s really difficult to tell because we have played so many exciting festivals and venues in different countries, and with different line-ups, too. Regarding the venue, playing Night of the Prog, a big festival in Germany with thousands of visitors, was an amazing experience, of course.
But when it comes to the show itself, my favourite would be the one we played very recently, the release concert for “Letters to Maro”.
This is because for the first time, not just our albums, but also our live shows have become very cinematic.
We had some beautiful projections and also some stunning performance art by Irini, who is a perfect fit for the band – not only because of her voice, but also because of her talent for telling stories through her singing.
What are your plans for 2018?
Nerissa: We are going to play live as much as possible.
We have a couple of upcoming gigs and I look forward to all of them.
But the one I look forward to most is playing the Summer’s End Progressive Rock festival in the UK for the second time, in October this year.