interview – keep shelly in athens

i’ve been watching grecian duo keep shelly in athens like a hawk for quite some time now, eagerly waiting their debut full-length at home and eating it up upon its release.  things got even more exciting when frontwoman sarah p. agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions via email.  she shed some light on the incredibly simple ethos of the band, as well as some insight into the bevy of emotions found across at home and her impression of the recent turmoil in greece.  check out the transcript below.

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keep shelly in athens got a lot of early exposure online, especially on sites over here like gorilla vs. bear.  now that you’ve been working with a record label not attached the the blogosphere, do you notice any changes in how you approach making music and its dissemination?

not at all.  we are always the same two who are making music.  of course, we feel that we have evolved our sound in comparison to the early stuff, and i think that is best for every band – to unfold and develop.  definitely the support of our label it is really important.  we have got a really nice team around us that is helping a lot, that is true, but that did not bring any changes in our songwriting.

the intimacy created on at home is quite remarkable, especially for a duo operating within a genre largely defined by solo acts.  what’s your approach to songwriting?

we make the music that we love.  that is from where it all starts in the first place.  whenever we sit down to write songs, we do not know what we will come up in the end.  the idea it is to express yourself, no matter what.  is not that keep shelly in athens are musicians who studied in colleges about music; we are empirical musicians, driven by our instincts.  that is probably why our music is kind of layered and most of the times sounds a little weird, blending together all those influences we have.

 

as i mentioned in my review of at home, the songs at the beginning of the album decidedly upbeat in comparison to some of the downtempo explorations later on.  was this shift in mood consciously sparked by anything?

the whole album has this roller coaster mood.  you get high, then you know you’ll get down.  no matter what, it happens.  it is the atmosphere we wanted to build; it is that feeling we were exploring; it is all about emotions.  when you are experiencing something intensely, you have already made sure you’ll feel its opposite.  you cannot help it.

have the recent political and social events in greece impacted your work at all?

we might be spotlighted all the time by the media, but spotlights fade out and we are the only ones left around, experiencing the harsh results of this crisis, socially and politically.  with a flimsy society, not a stable foundation, greece at the moment seems to have a quicksand under her feet.  this affects the whole lifestyle, and definitely our work.  both at the creative process and at the “how to make that happen” question.

and remember, it is not just greece.  it is not just greece who appears as the black ship.

“flyway,” for example, is about all this.  the personal strife of every single person, who has to run after it all, to compete, to reach the other ones who are quicker than he is.  he might have lost his faith, he might feel weak, but he still has to fight, or else he will be left behind.  and that is not a good deal, not a good deal at all.

speaking of greece, that’s not a country you hear a lot of music coming out of, at least on an international level.  what’s the inside scoop on the athens music scene?

greek artists seem to be quite inventive lately, they seem to want to be heard outside the country.  this crisis of ours – financial, social, political – has changed our minds and we raised our voices somehow, we were determined that we will stand up tall.  it is true that greek artists are more active than ever, and we team up.  recently, i wrote lyrics and sang for the plastic flowers, a band you should definitely check out.

 

what are you listening to as of late that constitutes more of a guilty pleasure than anything else?

i have no guilty pleasures, to be honest.  i am listening to it all; if i like something, i do not feel ashamed about liking it.  that’s a principle in my life.  it always depends on the mood you are in.

i see that you’ve got a good-sized north american tour slated for october.  what aspect of touring are you looking forward to the most?

we have been missing touring around.  it has been a while since we have last been on the road.  plus, what changed this time is that we have the support of our label, cascine.  rearrangements, new team, new songs, probably new people coming to our shows.  probably, hopefully.  it will be a new experience for everybody.  so i cannot wait for it all; i want to experience and enjoy every single moment.

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you’ll be able to check out keep shelly in athens next month when they hit north america for a string of tour dates; the full list is here.  at home is a fantastic record that you should definitely spin sometime if you haven’t yet gotten the chance, and a band this prolific is bound to churn out something really good again in the near future.  i can’t wait.

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keep shelly in athens – at home

grecian duo keep shelly in athens perhaps represent the gold standard of electronic bands that are able to make meaningful pop music in a post-chillwave era.  after forming in 2010 and releasing a string of eps and singles through forest family, the vinyl imprint of gorilla vs. bear, the two hopped on cascine records to cut their debut full-length, which is far more dark and atmospheric than i had expected.

it’s important to talk about “oostende,” the second single off of at home and one of my favorite tracks from this summer, but it’s pointless to dwell on it.  anyone searching for chillwave replications will quickly find out that this song is a misnomer; at the very best, “oostende” is a reference point for faithful listeners, reiterating what keep shelly in athens have built up to this point but using it to jump off into the next realm of musical exploration.  the subsequent three tracks send the duo descending into the downtempo realm, arriving on “madmen love” and “stay away,” a pair of songs that are just plain heavy.  sarah p’s vocals are as ethereal as one would have come to expect, but the production is notably more dense than earlier, hazy tracks like “recollection.”

keep shelly in athens continue to flirt with these two permutations of electronic music so expertly that sharp left turns, like the brief, gritty “knife” catch both active and passive listeners by surprise, but the duo is simply at their best on dreamy, downtempo numbers like “sails.”  a simple synth pad coupled with precise drum hits floats underneath the texture for most of the album’s deep cut, before giving way to a gorgeous cacophony that details the band’s paramount understanding of how chaos and harmony should complement one another.

at home is one of the few albums i’ve heard this year that absolutely demands the listener’s full attention.  while the songs lack measurable pop hooks, they make up for it with sheer intensity and sharp attention to detail.  i’d be remiss if i didn’t recommend this record.

7.8/10