Having recently released their latest album ‘Freaktown’ on the always magnificent Inner Ear Records, A Victim Of Society, are by all means one of the greatest hopes of Greek alternative scene. Vagelis, Fotis & Padelis were kind enough to answer Last Day Deaf’s questions, which we hope you’ll find intriguing enough to read. Last thing, make sure you catch them live, and do not forget that on August 24th are opening for Black Lips!
Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s talk about the genesis of your project. What was the trigger for you to be a musician and start a band? What attracted to each other?
Vagelis: First of all thanks for having us! The trigger to be a musician for us happened at different time-periods for each one, but I guess we all have in common that moment in puberty when we realized that we don’t only enjoy listening to music; you need to know what happens in the background. At that point, we were all doomed, in a good way, to find the instrument that magnetized each one of us and start seeing music for what it is; a way to live our lives.
Which are your earliest music-related childhood memories? Do you remember when and where you started to get passionate about music and your early beloved inspirations?
Fotis: The earliest music-related childhood memory is my mother singing over songs on the radio. I don’t remember a specific song or melody, I just remember thinking that she has a great voice. I got really into music the first time Ι got my hands on a cassette mixtape that my brother had, and didn’t let me listen to. And the song that did the trick was ‘Immigrant Song’ by Led Zeppelin.
What’s your relationship with your hometown Athens? Is it an unconditional love? Which impact and influence had and still has on your art?
Vagelis: Athens is a relatively big city with almost 4 million people living here. It’s a love and hate thing. I think we have managed to escape from the cultural background that comes from the 80s and wants us to be introverted, reserved and intolerant. We are part of the first generation genuinely affected by the internet and by a more universal way of thinking. That’s why our music has more influences from American and European bands than the Greek culture. But, our generation has the disadvantage of being considered by everyone else as an outsider, someone who tries to live the life of a “foreigner” and we are mostly treated with skepticism that sometimes turns to hostility. This creates aggressiveness in our music that I think is very obvious and powerful over us, as musicians.
Usually arts, during turbulent and dreary historical times, find an unlikely and changeling impetus of creativity and rebirth. Is it exactly what’s happening in Greece at the moment? What are your favourite current Greek bands and artists?
Padelis: It seems to be that way. In Athens, a rebirth is happening, but I think it’s a slow process. There is still a lot to leave behind until we can say that this bloom in arts can have an effect in our lives. Musically, Athens has a lot to offer with bands that have a very wide range of music styles. Some of our favorites right now are Devamp Javu, Rita Mosss and Kid Flicks.
Even if your sound is a mix of influences, youʼve been cast into the psych genre, what does the word ‘psychedelic’ mean to you and what were your formative psychedelic experiences?
Fotis: ‘‘Psychedelic’’ music has a wide range of styles, and the popularity of bands that use the term in the past few years, has affected the meaning of the term. For us, any kind of music can be ‘‘psychedelic’’, it’s more of a state of mind for the artist, rather than a music genre. Our formative experiences are based more on the music than the use of psychedelic substances. From Jefferson Airplane to Zomby, it’s a long and beautiful psychedelic trip!
How does the writing and recording process evolve? Is it the capturing of improvisation or is it more structured? Do the new tracks often find their proper shape and form while playing them live before being recorded?
Vagelis: Each time we have recorded our music it was different. At the beginning, everything was recorded in the most diy way possible, in a bedroom, and playing live was something we discovered along the way. After our first EP, we had settled in a way to play music live, and improvised our way to the studio to record our first LP, ‘Distractions’. This time, ‘Freaktown’ was written in the studio, then performed live, then rewritten in the studio, and after another round on the stage, it was recorded with the intention of capturing the live feeling of the band and the songs. We just hope that next time, we can find a new way of doing everything!
I believe that your name was inspired by an early 90’s George Grosz painting of the same name; an artist, member of the Dada movement, who fiercely challenged the bourgeois values and miseries of his society. Like some psych bands like Gnod, The Black Angels, your interest for social and political issues seem to be clear from the start. Can you talk about it and how do these social commentaries affect the lyrics of the new album?
Padelis: The interest we have on these issues did not affect us so much in our lyrics, but more on our music. The aggressiveness of the guitars and the drums, the fast transitions and the looped sections in the songs with big outbursts in every song, accompanied by the vocals that operate more like an instrument than a narrative, are all small pieces in the dada music painting we try to “paint” every time. ‘Freaktown’ is the result of the society we live in. The force of this LP is our comment on what is happening right now in Greece, but also all around the world.
In 2015 Pantelis joined the band; was this a necessity or it just happened? What extra input did he bring to the band aside from his drumming?
Fotis: It was a necessity, but we hadn’t realized it at the moment. After the first year together, we saw what he brought into the group musically. Aside from the drumming, he helped us communicate better, and turned us into something more than a band, he turned us into something like a weird family.
As I said before many different musical elements are strikingly mixed in your sound : hard rock, darkwave, post punk and even electronica. How do you think your sound has progressed and evolved over the years? Do you already have any sensations, hints about further possible developments?
Vagelis: We started as a guitar duo, plus some shitty looped samples in the background. I guess that’s the darkwave period you mentioned before.. Anyway, having spent some time in the studio, we tried a lot of different ways to make the best out of our guitar sounds and the pre-recorded section. That’s the ‘Distractions’ period. Of course then Pantelis joined the band and the whole sound followed a more naturalistic approach, that works hand in hand with the electronic elements we had before. As for future developments, we are going to explore the balance of the natural elements in our music and the sounds that come from machines.
Can you give us some indication of the story behind these songs and how this album took shape over time? Is there an all-encompassing thread or building feeling that holds together the new songs? Why did you use the Greek language just for ‘Amnesia’ lyrics?
Padelis: The ideas that in the end would become these tracks came from the feelings, the talks and the way we were watching the world around us at the time. Each of us added elements that formed a common idea that we all believed and wanted to express somehow. That’s the main pylon supporting the tracks of ‘Freaktown’. As for the lyrics of ‘Amnesia’, choosing our native language was a natural thing, we didn’t force it.
In the summer you’re going to support Black Lips in Athens and to play in some Festivals. What’s your favourite part about playing live? What are your highlights so far?
Vagelis: There is a strange feeling when you’re a playing a gig, it doesn’t matter how many people will be there, but it feels like having an out-of-body experience. We are free in a way. We scream things and even do things that we wouldn’t do away from the stage. So I guess that’s the best part about playing live, we can lose control. One time that got out of hand, was the time we opened for The Black Angels, back at 2013 at Fuzz Club. They were such a big influence at the time and we are glad that we met them and shared the stage.
What kind of music are you listening to and what are your favourite bands/artists at the moment?
Fotis: We try to be open minded about the kind of music we listen to. We always listen to bands that lead the way in our music scene like Moon Duo and Parquet Courts, but we all listen to different kinds of music in our own time. Anything from Hip-hop to electronic and dance music and we can never escape the blues.
Many thanks for being our welcomed guests, just the last question: What are your next plans and if is there anything you want to accomplish in the near future?
Vagelis: The next thing will be to perform ‘Freaktown’ live as much as possible. We will perform live at some of our favorite festivals that take place in Greek islands and at the end of the summer we will open for the Black Lips show in Athens. There are a lot of things that we have in mind for the future, but we don’t know what will actually happen. One thing we are definitely going to try is our first attempt to record the soundtrack of a short film! The future is unpredictable but we are open to every idea that comes in our way, so beware!
Photo credits: Freddie F.