Our Mike Dimitriou is goddamn right: Everything Hélène de Thoury aka Hante. is involved with is high quality. As long as she decided to put all her passion and enthusiasm and start her new label, Synth Religion, with the debut full length ‘Everywhere I go Is Silence’ by the German trio Box And The Twins, it means that their music is pure gold. On the other hand, the band‘s two self-released EP‘s, with their sublime dreamy dark-pop skillfully crafted from melancholic guitars and gloomy electronic patterns, were clear indications of their potential.
Let’s have a close look at the beautiful people from Box And The Twins (MARC //// guitar, voices. Genius; MIKE //// bass, voices. Witchcraft.; BOX //// machines, voices ).
-The Dark Side Of Cologne-
Please help our readers better understand the band’s origins, the early influences and inspirations and how did you come up with your name…
Box: The actual idea of starting a band was a crazy one, born in a drunken night. Mike and I had played in band before, but all of us were very passionate about music.
Mike: I was Djing a lot at indie & new wave parties, and sometimes got a bit annoyed of requested songs that I didn´t want to play, so one time I said to girl something like “do me a favour and request a song by the Cocteau Twins instead”, and she was like “who are the coctail twins?” and I thought “what a brilliant bandname”.
Box: That is the reason why we put out our first EP under that name under this name, because Mike insisted on it. (Laughs)
Mike: Yes, but the first EP already had quite an impact which I never expected, so after a while, with all the reviews of course picking up the pun and always comparing us to the mighty Scottish band it suddenly didn´t feel like a brilliant idea anymore.
Box: Yes, and some people thought we were a tribute band… a lot of confusion, so we decided to change it with the second EP.
Mike: And with Box becoming more the center of every aspect in this project, it just felt natural to name the band after her and to keep the twins as homage and reference.
Marc: Our musical influences are very different. I think that has a very important effect on our sound. We are an odd bunch of people – Box and me have been a couple before the band, now she is engaged to Mike. It was all more about the friendship in the band than sharing a same musical background.
Do you remember when and where you started to get passionate about music? What type of music were you exposed to as children? How is your attraction born for ‘the dark side of the moon’, for the ‘spleen’?
Mike: My passion for music started very early, I have a cousin, or more like a big brother, who was 4 years older and really had a sense for good music. So, by the age of ten, he had already introduced me to bands like U2, Depeche Mode or The Cure. So I was very lucky.
And of course, when we got older, we got further down that road, discovering Joy Division, Bauhaus, Nick Cave, I was really goth in my teen days. I always used music as a medium to escape reality, so I was naturally drawn to the deeper and darker stuff.
Marc: I started listening to music when I was a young teenager, 13 or 14. Listened mainly to soundtracks and Film music. Somehow I didn´t want to be a fan of any band, like most of my friends were. Probably, some early teenage rebellions of mine. (Laughs). During my childhood I remember some songs I really liked, Europe´s ‘The Final Countdown’, Depeche Mode, or Jean Michel Jarre´s ‘Oxygen’. I really loved that.
Box: All synth stuff, Marc. Strange you picked up the guitar…I grew up listening to my parents´ The Beatles records. Just love them. In my teenage years, I went to a lot of techno raves with my brother. So, not a dark side at all…
Mike: But your heart always was pitch black… (everyone laughs)
When I think of Cologne, the Kompakt label (I knew people on pilgrimage just for them), the Cathedral and the carnival spring to mind. Is there a little alternative scene around a club or record shop and any short of community between artists?
Box: In fact, Kompakt parties were also the first reasons for me to visit Cologne, went there with my brother in three hour car rides…so much for the pilgrimage.
Mike: Yes, Kompakt is huge, we still like it now- especially the ambient stuff- but to me it seems to be some strange kind of cult. One Kompakt artist, Markus Guentner, did an amazing ambient noise remix of our song ‘Birds’. We still have to release it.
Of course there is some kind of scene in Cologne, a lot of bands, and we have a loose and very friendly contact. But everything is not really happening at one special place.
Marc: I am the only one in the band who was born in Cologne, it’s my hometown. And I am the only one celebrating carnival and supporting the cologne football team. (everybody laughs)
Box: But we all love the cathedral!
These should be exciting times for the group, your debut full length was released early November. The former Phosphor and Minuit Machine Parisian synth ace Hélène De Thoury aka Hante., a very dear artist around lastdaydeaf.com, took on the production helm. How did you meet her and what was her contribution in terms of energy and creativity?
Mike: Some years ago I was not only Djing, but also promoting concerts. We had this special shoegaze/wave night called “Temptation Club”, and before the disco started, we always had a band playing. Phosphor were the act of our opening night, and the band stayed at our place.
Box: We really got along, and really liked each other right from the beginning. So Hélène returned several times with her other projects, always staying at our place, and we really became friends. We decided to do something together, so I visited her in Paris and we wrote the song ‘Burning’ for the second Hante. EP.
Mike: Hélène did do an amazing job – she really put some energy into this project- not only with an amazing production, but also in believing in our music. We are the first act who will release on her label Synth Religion, besides her own stuff- we feel quite honoured to be a part of something new. Working with her gave us quite a confidence boost.
After two self-produced ‘bedroom recording’ EPs, how has the impact been of recording, mixing, mastering and producing in a proper modern studio (Hante.’s Synth Religion), on the development of your dark atmospheric ethereal sound?
Mike: The album is still bedroom recorded- sometimes hard to believe when you listen to Hélène’s huge production.
Box: Yes, we still have some kind of Lo-fi/DIY attitude, which will always be an important part of our work. Never cared much about high end gear stuff.
Your album is titled ‘Everywhere I Go Is Silence’, could you explain the meaning of it? Please, could you anticipate to our readers what they have to expect from it ?
Mike: Actually, that is a bit funny…it is the title of a song, which didn´t make it on the album…
Box: …But the title stuck and we knew that this has to be the name of it. Especially for me it has a deeper meaning… I suffer from Tinnitus, which sometimes is quite hard… I really liked the idea of a safe, calm inner place, something to return to, when the world is just noise.
How is your approach to the song composition? How is the songwriting process divided between you three? Do the musical ideas build the atmosphere for the lyrics at first or is it the other way around?
Marc: The process feels quite organic, very democratic.
Box: I just read a book about mindfulness, which said that it is a good thing to keep the spirit of an absolute beginner. It reminded me of the way we did that album – in some kind of playful freedom we didn´t want to set any aesthetic boundaries. That was sometimes quite exhausting because of the many different opinions and expectations, but it kept room for us to experiment as well.
Mike: The lyrics and the music were written separately, but somehow they came together quite naturally.
How much are your lyrics written from personal experience and how much draw from external sources?
Mike: Somehow I ended up writing the lyrics for this album, because I just really loved it. When I started, it felt as such a good way to express my inner thoughts.
Of course, I am always influenced by stuff I see or read. But a lot of it is also quite intuitive, coming from inside – they seem to deal with universal themes, but I think universal themes are always also very personal.
You founded your own DIY label Scary Door in order to release your first two EPs. Is it still up and running? Will you use it for your side projects, like Box Von Düe, or to help other bands?
Mike: Scary Door is resting for now, as we are fully concentrating on our Album release.
Box: But it sure won´t rest forever… I am doing a lot of different projects, working on a solo EP, and we will sure re-activate Scary Door when it´s time. Maybe we will release other bands on it as well some day?
Few weeks ago you’ve released a dreamy psychedelic video for the song ‘Pale Blue Dot’, a song inspired by a Carl Sagan statement. How other forms of art (literature, cinema, painting) influence directly or indirectly your artistic work?
Box: We are all very enthusiastic about escapist sci-fi space stuff. Especially “Star Trek”! (everyone laughs!)
Mike: I really love the idea of our music sounding like a blurred picture of Gerhard Richter, my favourite artist. He also made a stunning and otherworldly window for the Cologne cathedral, always worth a visit! (Everyone laughs)
Box: I am also a trained psychologist, so the fundamental human dynamics are always a source of inspiration to me.
Your track is featured on the “Dark Side Of…” compilation for the mighty Brazilian blog/label The Blog That Celebrates Itself. In the past you were also part of their tribute to The Smiths’ sampler covering ‘Half A Person’. You’ve recently been interviewed by the other just as great Oblique Musique Brazilian blog…Brazilians seem to have a soft spot for your music…maybe that melancholic feel…
Mike: Ha, ha, yeah, we learned that South America has a very vital wave and shoegaze scene. We get a lot of good response not only from Brazil, but also from a lot of South American countries. We dream of playing some shows there someday…
Box: And especially these people from The Blog That Celebrates Itself are very innovative and passionate music lovers. Amazing guys.
Last April you supported the 80’s cult legend Mark Burgess’ ChameleonsVox (I think with my dear Yves Altana too), like a dream come true I guess…
Mike: Oh yes, especially for me, as I am a HUGE Chameleons Fan.
For me that was a very special night to share the stage with them and had a chat in the backstage.
After the new album release, you’re going to undertake an extensive European tour. What’s your favourite part about playing live and can you remember your first gig as a band?
Marc: Oh, of course I remember… though it wasn´t my first time on stage- I had a band and gigs before- but I was nervous as hell. Always was, always will be. It is a kind of a love/hate relationship (laughs)!
Box: For me is always quite intense. I have the feeling that I show a lot of my true and inner self- I am not a very extroverted person, but to connect with the audience and to people through music, feels always very special.
Mike: I just love the experience of playing live. Our first show was with the Italian band Be Forest – we couldn´t have been luckier, these guys were really kind and supportive. I was very nervous at the beginning, but when I picked up the bass, I suddenly felt like I finally found the place where I belong. I really love being on stage.
Which artists/bands are on your current playlist? Any tips for our readers?
Marc: Blonde Redhead, The Boxer Rebellion, Metronomy & Lola Marsh.
Box: The new Nick Cave album is stunning….
Mike: Yeah, Nick Cave is unbelievable… I listen to a lot of The Cure (as always), but still really like the latest Radiohead album. Also, the new one by Black Marble, Esben & The Witch and Trentemøller are amazing records..
Many thanks for accepting our hosting you; just the last usual questions: Your hopes, plans and dreams for the future?
Box: More Love in the World!
Mike: … and besides that, I hope we will play a lot of shows and go to some places we have never been before.
Marc: Yes, that would be great. I also like the idea of a second album…
Box: And thanks for those exciting questions and also for having us!
Photo credits: Sebastian Bänsch (3rd one)