< SWITCH ME >
Message to Bears is a one man band from Bristol, UK with music that can make you sentimental and dreamy, or just happy and at peace. Jerome Alexander, the talented multi-instrumentalist behind Message to Bears, just released his latest album "Folding Leaves". Read on to find out why messages from strangers can be important for song writing and, of course, where you can see a Message to Bears gig soon.
E&M: Your latest album was just released. What was the most exciting part of the creation of this record?
JA: The most exciting part for me was probably whenever a new track came out of nowhere after a period of writer's block, or when I tried one simple new idea (sometimes by accident) that completely changed a song for the better.
E&M: Being a one man band, I imagine it takes a while to put together and conceptualise the different audio tracks that go into a song. Do you have a clear idea of the outcome when you sit down at the start?
Can music have a national identity? If so, then maybe the 'Danish' style would be best captured by the slightly sinister, yet beautiful melodies of the Copenhagen-based duo Leap Over Light. Whether it's because they're Scandinavian or just very talented musicians - Leap Over Light are a great European band, and they've created a special sound which you must check out! Find out more about them in E&M's interview with singer Julie Aagaard.
E&M: How did the band come together?
J.A.: Lennart and I have known each other forever. We started back in the day in a really, really bad high school band. After that, we worked together for quite some years as a songwriter team - but always on different projects. We surfed around in a lot of different musical styles. But two years ago we decided that it was about time that we too do our own thing. So we did!
E&M: Do you ever get in fights because you don't agree on which direction to take with a song?
Time to introduce a band that does not fit into any category and yet is often compared to bands as great as Radiohead or Muse! Gazpacho from Oslo, Norway have created a fascinatingly unique sound and use lots of unconventional instruments. The perfect band for rock fans who are looking for more than the many all too similar indie albums. Read on to find out what the six guys from the band think about making music with childhood friends and which European country has the most dance-crazy audiences.
E&M: The band was formed by childhood friends. What does it mean to make music with people you've been so close to?
Gazpacho: It means we can be ourselves in the writing process. It also means that after 6 studio albums (and we've just finished the 7th) we quickly understand each others' tastes when writing music. It's easy to say 'this won't work' or 'this person won't like this riff' in the process of creation, so we can quickly get to a point where we discover a gem (for Gazpacho purposes) as we understand each other completely, even without talking. It's like having a family. That's why we can write a studio album in a weekend (as we have done with the newest album).
E&M: You've already played plenty of gigs all over Europe. How do tours inspire your music?
Following on from the Wired in special review by Heart editor Marta, I thought it'd be great to interview the guys from the Barcelona-based band Manel this week. If you wondered how Kenneth Branagh has inspired their songwriting or how artists deal with the empty feeling when you start a new album from scratch, read on!
E&M: You are already very successful in Spain. How do you plan to conquer the rest of Europe?
Manel: Well, we are not really planning to conquer anything. Actually, we never did. Four years ago, when our first album came out, we hadn't planned or expected that it was going to be this succesful. We were happy because we liked those twelve songs and that was all... Now, if we play in Europe and somebody wants to see us, it's amazing, but we don't have a master plan.
E&M: Your two albums have very interesting titles (translated to English "Europe's best Professors" and "10 Miles to See a Good Armour"). Can you explain how you came up with them and what they mean?
Have you ever wondered what life in Sofia, Bulgaria is like? Or rather, what the feel of the city is? Thanks to Velislav Ivanov there's now a unique way for experiencing just that. When you listen to 'The Eye of the Beholder', a musical tribute to this fascinating city and his latest album, you can imagine wandering the streets at night, breathing in the city life. Velislav sings in Bulgarian, but fear not - when you download the free album from his website you'll also get an English translation of the beautiful lyrics. The music can be melancholic or dreamy, it explores and describes many different sides of the city and I can promise it will get you hooked and ready to plan your next trip to Sofia!
E&M: You're a one man band. In what situations do you decide to sit down and make music?
VI: It's not a conscious decision, really. At any single moment when I have ideas, inspiration, time, and the necessary equipment it just comes naturally to me. Making music all by myself basically means that I take care of everything, from the conception of the melody to the final mastering of the song, and that process is incredibly time-consuming. I may actually write a song in minutes when I sit at the piano, but it takes dozens of hours until it reaches the state in which you hear it.
E&M: Do you ever miss getting inspiration from other band members?
I’m really excited to introduce a band from my hometown Cologne, Germany for this week's music for the weekend! Beeline is a band who seem to never get tired of reinventing their sound. You just have to love the mix of guitar and drum alongside computer generated effects. Despite all band members being busy working, studying or travelling the world, they've somehow managed to get out a couple of fun new songs and an amazingly artistic new video that you shouldn’t miss out on! Read on to find out where these guys find inspiration for their songs and what the echo of the snow means to them.FLEXOR & EXTENSOR by beeline
E&M: "Beeline" means 'the most direct route'. Does that somehow describe your sound?
Benji: Rather the contrary actually. To pursue a direct route means to have a determined goal right from the beginning. Yet all the songs we write start with an initial idea that dynamically evolves within a quite long and mazy process.
E&M: How did the band come together?
Finally, I get to introduce a fantastic new band from Spain. Thanks to E&M reader Hannes Brandt I came across the Barcelona based group OLIVEMOON – a band you have to check out if you’re into folky, beautiful music and ready to dream yourself to lovely places in nature. From sound collages to melodies that will get stuck in your head for hours, this band has its very own way of experimenting with sounds and melodies. Give them a listen and read on to find out what they think about creating album concepts, experimenting with unusual instruments, and, of course, living in Europe.
E&M: From your lyrics I take it nature is an important source of inspiration for your band.
OM: We often find ourselves missing the words to adequately illustrate the emotions we encounter in life. By drawing metaphors from nature, its scenery and its grandeur, we can provoke the senses in a way that is accessible to all. We use nature as a tool to convey our feelings and their intensity.
E&M: I usually ask bands about their favorite city in Europe, but I'd be interested what you guys think the most beautiful spot in European nature is?
Now here's a band for all the hard rock fans out there! Ghandi's Gunn is a stoner rock band from Genoa, Italy that just got their first album out with an independent record label last year. They have a truly developed, dark sound and play some powerful riffs. Their stage experience combined with their singer's extraordinary voice definitely makes this band special and definitely worth checking out! Read E&M's interview with all the band members and find out what they think about Genoa's music scene, stoner rock, and EU politics.
E&M: So, what's the lifestyle of an Italian stoner rock band like?
Hobo: It's the lifestyle of someone who is somewhere between living for the music and struggling to survive for all the rest.
E&M: Is there a big rock scene in Genoa?
Maso: We are in good company, but it’s not easy to gain visibility and in our town there are bands who deserve something more, like Vanessa van Basten, Stalker, 2Novembre, PEK …. Unfortunately in Italy there is not a strong rock culture and commercial, melodic pop is what people like the most.
E&M: I saw that you've already been playing with bands from all over the world. What was that like, how did you meet them?
For weeks now, I’ve been reporting about great new bands from all across Europe. This was possible, of course, only because I was always able to access their profiles online and contact them. So, recently I couldn’t help but wonder how much the internet has changed how we experience music and whether that means fans can get in touch with their favorite bands more directly. Parker Higgins is a Community Manager at SoundCloud and told me about a few fun ways you can get involved in the music scene and meet up with musicians you love.
E&M: Most start-up companies are based in the U.S. these days. How did Soundcloud come about?
PH: I wasn't there when it was founded, but the legend goes that the two founders, Alex Ljung and Eric Wahlforss, were frustrated with the options for sending large audio files around. When you're a sound creator, that's important. Whether you're trying to get a backing track to a vocalist or a raw track to get mastered, you want to send a big file somehow. At the same time, they realised that such a platform would be great for anybody who's making and recording sound, which is a group that's growing as we carry around sophisticated recording devices in our phones and laptops and tablets all the time. Eric and Alex lived in Sweden then, but wanted SoundCloud to start in Berlin. This city is one of the hubs of a growing European start-up movement, the city is well known for supporting creative people from all over the world, and the music and arts scene is really reflected in the way SoundCloud looks and works.
E&M: We report about musicians all the time. But I'm also wondering what possibilities there are for fans to get involved in the music scene...
I know this isn't really the first band from Brighton I'm reporting about and definitely not the first British rock band. But all the rock and blues fans need to check them out: If you’re into dirty guitar riffs and a bluesy sound, Ice Black Birds is your band. They already have a bunch of highly acclaimed singles out there and are either working hard in the studio or touring the world for concerts, they certainly always living the rock’n roll lifestyle. For all the other fun things the guys are up to, check their blog and make sure to watch out for their very first record which is coming out soon!
E&M: Tell us a bit about your trip to NYC and Austin, Texas in March. Did you ever have a moment where you felt particularly European?
IBB: Yeah, it was very different in a really good way. The culture is great and the country is so vast you really feel like you’re on an adventure. There was one culture shock incident where we were in a very busy deli in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to get some food and Sam brought the impatient queue to a standstill when innocently spotting and asking for a "pain au chocolat" to which the clerk and whole queue went blank to the elusive choice, in their haste and confusion the clerk pulled out numerous pastry based confectionary for Sam to give a simple yes/no answer, after going through all the possibilities eventually sourced the request. To which Sam confirmed the choice and already feeling guilty and embarrassed for holding up twenty people, the Clerk responded "Oh, you mean a ‘chocolate croissant’!'" and a woman in the queue piped, "He ALREADY pointed at that!" of course being corrected about the correct name is a bit of a shock! And a mistake made by their part towards a European food, yes, makes you feel particularly European.
E&M: Your tour around Europe this year was very successful. Do you still remember your very first concert together as a band?