They say that “art should have no boundaries, no red lines”. One of the finest examples of this statement is musician/singer Sofia Sarri, whose solo debut album was released by Inner Ear Records last month. An excellent voice, a vivid appearance and above all an exceptional musicianship combining the traditional (Creatan lyra) with indie and electronica with avant-garde. The following interview is an ideal introduction to the uniquely beautiful universe of the artist….
Hi Sofia and welcome to lastdaydeaf.com! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers? When and how did your involvement with music start? Any mentor?
Hello lastdaydeaf.com! Well, I started singing in a metal band in Crete, where I grew up, when I was 16 years old and decided that this would be the right thing to do in life: sing and play music. After moving to Athens, a couple years later, I got involved with the local indie scene and joined several bands and music projects such as the post-rock/trip-hop band Night On Earth.
After the pioneering band Night On Earth, you decided to go solo. First, is Night On Earth gone for good? What led you decide go on solo “paths”?
Night On Earth was around for about six to seven years and released two albums. We were all evolving as musicians while being in the band and gradually started making different choices and following different paths in both life and music. We never really discussed about ending the band, I suppose it sort of faded away out of our lives. After being a band member in different projects, having each time to adjust my creativity to match the needs of the music, I suppose I got a bit tired of it and since songs had been piling up for a couple of years now without presenting them to the world I decided to form my solo project and do something about it. I am not an one woman show. I work with a team of amazingly talented musicians and artists who are greatly responsible for the outcome of ‘Euphoria’ but I still get to choose who will be involved with the project and under what circumstances. I tend to be a very discreet band leader because the musicians I work with are much better in what they are doing and how they do it than I am. I try to drag them into my little world and allow them to play around and have fun under my surveillance.
Your debut album ‘Euphoria’ (Inner Ear Records, January 2017) is a fine mixture of ‘‘avant rock with a pinch of Scandinavian black metal, urban ambient, dark-hop’’. How did this ‘‘controversial’’ and immensely interesting combination come about?
I suppose this is just what comes spontaneously out of my head. I have always been very interested in different and possibly distant kinds of music and I never really got to understand the borders between them. I grew up listening to bands like Tool and the Nine Inch Nails as a textbook 90’s teenager and got fascinated with the “dark” and “edgy” side of music both in metal and electronica but I also listened to a lot of folk and traditional music because of the environment I grew up. While training as a vocalist, I experimented with different genres to learn and practise as much as possible. For example, I do appreciate and respect Oum Kalsoum, Aretha Franklin and Diamanda Galas (among lots of other vocalists) or Meshuggah, Brian Eno and Erik Satie (yes, I do have regular sessions with a shrink, no worries…)
You are also framed by other musicians related to the project. Would you like to tell us a few words about them and their contribution to ‘Euphoria’?
I am a huge fan of my band and my people, I can spend hours talking about them and I feel blessed for having them in my life and my album. The main band is consisted by:
Costas Stergiou arranger in charge and co-producer, also responsible for the beats’ programming and the keys on the album. A multi-talented and borderline equally lunatic as myself, dear friend, who has been by my side through out the entire process, encouraging me and helping me out as much as giving me a hell of a life. He is arranging, producing and playing for numerous projects in both Greece and the UK such as Misuse, Gravitysays_i, Patrick Campbell, Lyons… etc
Mihalis Vrettas on the violin and the magical effected string soundscapes. A pioneer of the Greek music indie scene, one of the best violin players around and an outstanding vocalist in disguise. His band, Underwater Chess, just released their second album ‘Seriality’. Make sure to check it out and listen for yourself.
Petros Lamprides on the electric bass and the double bass. A true beast in both the lower frequencies and the analogue world. Apart from being involved in various music projects (ex-Night On Earth as well), from Baroque Ensembles to Folk and Blues bands, he is also the co-designer of the Murmurx Pedals of “dreadbox effects and synthesizers” and has a passion for manipulating sound. And building stuff. And practicing infamous, dark rituals. And archery. And redheads. Oh well you get the picture…
Giorgos Kontogiannis on the best played Cretan lyra on songs with double bass drumming ever, among other things. A master of his kind, one of the most respected Greek musicians around with an outstanding talent to adapt in all kinds of arrangements and styles by only using this very unique folk instrument. He is also from the mountains of Crete and that’s pretty cool.
Vaggelis Paraskevaidis on the vibraphone and percussion. The jazz nerd of the band with possibly the best sense of humor around and certainly the most imaginative vibraphone playing. He is currently working of his first solo album, composing his very complex, little masterpieces. He can also form the sign of the pentagram with his mallets and that was very highlighted on my job description.
Panagiotis Chountas co-producer, sound engineer and genius in microphone recording of the ‘‘In a Jam studios’’, located in Athens, Greece. He immediately shared my vision and allowed me, the band and my dog to roam around his studio for quite a long time, meticulously working on the engineering of ‘Euphoria’ creating a unique and perfectly matched sound for my songs. He also has the best and most well groomed beard in the band. Possibly even in the world. By far.
Christian Wright on the mastering of the album at Abbey Road Studios, UK. He is highly respected for his work on international releases for artists such as LCD Soundsystem, Radiohead, Mumford And Sons, Guillemots, Coldplay, Ben Howard, Franz Ferdinand, Tune-yards, Ariel Pink, Bryan Ferry…
Aias Kokkalis and Demosthenes Kouros of ‘‘Kanenas design”: on the album’s artwork and on every part of ‘Euphoria’s visual world. Currently nominated for the CSS Design Award for their work on the very project. Aias, an artist, web designer, piano player and genius in all kinds of areas of expertise and Demosthenes, an architect, web designer and artist teamed up to create a blast on everything they get their hands on. Including my face.
And last but not least:
Costis Christodoulou on the metal injected-piano possibly my favorite piano player around. The worldwide acclaimed drummer of death metal band, Nile, Giorgos Kollias making a hell of a guest appearance on the drums.
Gogo Xagara of the Athens State orchestra, on the harp.
Cretan lyra is one of the defining elements of your sound. Any special connection with Crete?
I was raised in Chania, Crete and grew up listening to the sounds of Cretan folk music around me even though I have to admit, I didn’t appreciate it much at that time. Later on, after being drawn in world music in general, I got back to my roots and got really hooked on it.
Spine-chilling ‘Cuckoo’ was the first song from ‘Euphoria’ that was gifted to us. The ethereal and avant along with your unique vocals lift the song to divine levels. What is this excellent song about, and how did you get inspired to write this?
Thanks! I wrote ‘Cuckoo’ under the influence of a great deal of anger. It was my way to cool down and be sarcastic about it. The Greek nazi party of Golden Dawn had just been elected as part of the parliament and I was really pissed about what we’ve become as a society. Blaming the weak and the ones in need instead of rising against the ones in power. So I wrote the lyrics and added that silly piano riff to mock the whole situation. “..the skies are on fire, all golden with power, I’m holding my breath with dignity”.
On 24th February you are about to perform live at Privatclub in Berlin. Congrats for this one! What should the audience expect for this live performance? Will there be a special audiovisual performance?
The entire band will join me. We will play ‘Euphoria’ and possibly some intriguing covers as well. It will be our first stop on European grounds so we are pretty excited about it. Join us to see and listen for yourselves!
In late 2016 you featured as guest vocalist in Greek progressive black metal Aenaon’s ‘Void’. Are you a fan of black metal? In addition, your performance reminded me of the excellent ex-Gathering singer Anneke van Giersbergen. Would you like to discuss about this?
I get to participate in some really interesting and diverse projects as a guest vocalist quite often and I am really honoured about it. On Aenaon’s ‘Void’ I was given a lot of artistic freedom to write the melody and adjust it to my own personality and that’s really something for me I have to say. ‘Hypsosophy’ is an outstanding album, gaining international acclaim and lots of die hard fans. I’m thrilled to be part of it and I really loved working with these guys. I have always been a fan of black metal, especially with an avant-garde pinch as Aenaon choose to play. I am fascinated by the Norwegian black metal scene and how it evolved throughout the years, like, for example, on Ulver’s breathtaking albums. As for Anneke, I really love her vocals especially in her early years but I think that most people tend to connect female non-operatic vocals on metal with Anneke anyway since she is truly the icon on this kind of music. I met her when I was fifteen and I was completely starstruck!
What are you going to do in order to support ‘Euphoria’? Any thoughts of a European tour?
The album’s first presentation took place in six d.o.g.s, Athens on the 3rd of February and I really couldn’t wait to play. We’ll play in Berlin on the 24th of February and hopefully more dates will follow asap. We have plans on touring Greece and Europe on spring.
Thank you for this one! Would you like to send a message, or if you prefer some word of advice for young people who begin to create music, or even other forms of art, in this dark (and economical hectic) era?
Thank you for your interest on my work! The only thing I would like to highlight as a form of advice for young people is to get out there and do what their heart and soul tells them to. No matter the consequences and what others think. Unite with the ones you trust and go for it all the way.
Photo credits: Thomas Arsenis (1st one), Kanenas Design (2nd one)