Having spent the last twelve years in one of the most vivid cities of Europe, Evripidis Sabatis drops his new album ‘Futile Games In Space And Time’, a collection of stories, pop melodies and some sad, esoteric lyrics.
His personal tragedies are the inspiration and the fuel behind his emotional pop anthems included in this new, third album under the name Evripidis And His Tragedies, which you can find in all popular formats (CD, vinyl, combo, digital download), released by the Greek indie label Inner Ear Records.
The Greek-born, Barcelona located singer/songwriter speaks to Last Day Deaf about the album-making process, living and creating music in a city like Barcelona, the Catalan music scene and the inspiration behind his new bouquet of beautiful songs.
Your new album is called ‘Futile Games In Space And Time’ and, according to the press release, it’s about loss in many forms. What makes loss one of the greatest inspiration topics for a musician?
Loss makes things untouchable and ideal. Loss triggers nostalgia, the painful sentimentality for the past, especially for a period, a place or people with happy personal associations. Loss reminds us that our time is finite and that each moment is unique. Loss makes us want to create, live intensely, fall in love, change the world.
On the other hand, ‘Futile Games In Space And Time’ is a rather upbeat pop album. How difficult is it to maintain a balance between happy tunes and rather sad lyrics?
It comes rather naturally to me. I am a happy sad person, trying to find a silver lining in every cloud but also prone to fits of depression even when the situation is not exactly dramatic. In the end I usually find a balance instinctively. Keep in mind that most of my lyrics contain a healthy dose of humor and self sarcasm, my way of lightening up even the heaviest situations. The joie de vivre is in my DNA, I am naturally inclined to enjoy whatever life has to give me, but I am incapable of escaping from melancholia. I guess that’s the main reason I find solace in the arts and especially music.
Speaking of loss, what are your all-time favorite breakup albums?
John Grant’s two first albums, ‘Queen Of Denmark’ and ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ deal quite a lot with break up, and they are very painful to listen to sometimes, but also terribly real. His desperation and disappointment feel almost tangible. ABBA’s ‘The Visitors’ has a very mature feeling of a break up album a bit like an Ingmar Bergman movie, full of cries and whispers, half-drunk bottles of wine and kids sleeping upstairs unaware of the upcoming divorce, and this makes it a chilly experience. The fact that is made by those brilliant creators of pop hits is stunning. ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac is an extremely enjoyable pop album, albeit buzzing with bitterness, remorse, heartbreak. Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ is probably the most heartbreaking album of them all, not only because she describes her feelings in such a raw and honest way accompanied by delicious vintage soul music background, but because the aftermath proved that its creator never got over the pain and plunged head first into self destruction and eventually death.
This new album comes almost five years after ‘A Healthy Dose Of Pain’. What has happened during these years and which of these things can someone actually ‘hear’ in your new album?
The years between records have been difficult. There were a lot of unexpected hazards. Writing the songs for the album, having numerous musicians learn their parts little by little, dealing with two different producers (one terribly unreliable and the other terribly capricious, passive-aggressive and mean) who made the whole process extremely slow, trying to find the money to finance the project and seeing the budget doubling was nerve wrecking. In the meantime, I went through two different relationships, both of them quite intense, with their respective breakups, I did a lot of travelling trying to get away from my own shadow in vain, I indulged in a quite self-abusive lifestyle. I cannot say that these years were bleak and certainly they were not boring, but I felt lost and desperate very often, especially when the record, the only thing that I considered that had an everlasting worth in my existence, would get stuck and because one producer would disappear for a couple of months for example, all procedures would have to stop, leaving me hanging suspended over the void. A good thing that came out of all that turmoil and all this traveling is that I had the chance to meet a lot of people who eventually found their way in my record, playing instruments and singing, giving their particular touch in various songs. At the end of the day, this LP is a reflection of my life during these years, shattered and ever moving, but with a very solid goal, to finish ‘Futile Games In Space And Time’.
Your Facebook page is filled with beautiful photos of fans holding their unique, customized copy of ‘Futile Games In Space And Time’. It seems that you have created strong bonds with your audience. What were your fans’ first impressions of the new album?
Most people who listen to it seem to love it. I get the impression that among the three albums this is their favourite. They usually praise the variety of songwriting, the sound and the lyrics. I am quite happy with the result to be honest.
Your album contains your first-ever recorded song in Greek (‘Ghost Town’) and it is a song about Athens. Is it really how you see Athens nowadays?
There are certain nights when I do see Athens as a ghost town and Greece as a lost cause. But then I often see the whole world as a terrible place and humanity as the worst thing that happened to the planet. Keep in mind that when I wrote the song, years ago, the economic crisis was quite new and that my impressions of the changes in the city were very violent. I left in 2004, when there was that false prosperity taking place, when lots of my friends were partying every day as if there was no tomorrow. Little by little a city that I remembered, in my typical nostalgic manner, as a “happy place”, had turned into a rather bleak place, inhabited by people with no hope. I do not want to generalize but it is inevitable. I saw my friends plunge into deep water. Probably it also has a lot to do with the fact that we are not in our twenties anymore but heading towards forty, and that life is getting harder anyway. In ‘Ghost Town’ I describe a city that is falling apart but where love is the ultimate antidote, a remedy, a thing to dream about. I also have to point out that this is not my first Greek song, on my debut I had a song called ‘Sunday Mornings In Athens’, also in Greek, that was the hidden track, and described me and my friends’ early dawnings after those long nights out in the late 90’s and early 00s.
What are your plans for promoting ‘Futile Games In Space And Time’? Are there any gigs planned?
I already did various gigs in Barcelona and Glasgow and now I am playing Madrid and Berlin this summer, in a Queer Music Festival called Yo! Sissy. I am especially happy about this one.
You live in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. What’s the biggest difference between Athens and Barcelona on a level of creativity? Would you propose to a new Greek musician to follow your steps and relocate to Barcelona?
I do not like to compare cities in this level. When I left Athens I found a chance to reinvent myself and had the chance to meet a lot of creative people in Barcelona, but this probably would have happened in Athens as well if I had stayed. It is true that the kind of music I make has more audience in Spain where the indie pop tradition still stays strong. I would not advise a Greek musician to move to Spain though unless they are prepared to sing in Spanish. English-speaking artists like me remain niche in the Spanish market. I do believe though that the quality of life is better in Barcelona than in Athens, in general. I am planning to stay there as long as I can. But certainly, to make an international career, you must be lucky above other things, no matter where you are from. I think that the importance of the location is overestimated.
In my opinion, what makes Barcelona’s scene so special is that the artists embrace the city’s culture and create something unique, Spanish (or Catalan) pop. On the contrary, most Greek bands are trying to be more international by singing in English. Do you think that this approach is adopted by them as an easier door to larger audiences outside Greece?
Many Spanish indie bands, instead of mimicking the Anglo-Saxon prototype, stick to their mother tongue thus creating a unique genre which is much loved. When it comes to music in Spanish, we have to keep in mind that it has a great potential to be international since it can be understood by millions of people throughout the whole world. On the other hand, only a few million people can understand Greek language. If you want to have any chance of international career you have to stick to English. But in a way, you probably fail to connect sufficiently with your own people, chasing pavements, hoping that you may have a chance in that vast ocean, while completely ignoring your little, familiar pool. I do not agree with this attitude anymore. In addition, I have the impression that artists who live in Greece and sing in English, often just stick to forms and clichés, using the language in a very inadequate way, writing lyrics that would sound almost embarrassing in Greek but who are passable in English, especially because no one really pays attention.
If I lived in Greece I would definitely have a music project in Greek, in parallel with Evripidis And His Tragedies. Actually I am preparing a whole record of Greek songs, I hope I am able to release it sooner than later.
This time of the year, Barcelona is about to host two of the biggest music festivals of the world, Primavera Sound and Sonar. What is the effect of such large events on the underground music life of the city?
Big festivals are surely fun and give people the chance to watch many interesting artists paying just one, very expensive, ticket. Unfortunately I feel that these festivals, although at first seem to promote underground music, in reality they harm the scene. Local artists often get ignored or get paid miserable amounts of money to play, usually very early or when some really big, important international groups are playing, thus having very little chances of real exposure and of finding a new, bigger public. I am not saying that I am against these festivals but for sure they do not feel local anymore, you do not get the impression that they have any intention to promote local culture, apart from very few and already popular or emerging artists.
Photo credits: Daniel Riera