European tours, exciting lineups, festivals, award-winning collaborators and, above all, living and working everyday on what you love, your music. That would seem a dream for a garage/fuzzy/psych rock duo from a country in crisis. But The Noise Figures are proven more than dreamers. We asked George Nikas and Stamos Bamparis how they did it and how high are determined to reach.
Hi, guys, and thank you for taking the time to talk and, most of all, share your experiences from your music journey till now with me. And since we began with a journey, we would like you to describe us your lives for the past two years.
Thank you for hosting us! It’s true that during the last years we spent most of our time as a band on the road, from Crete to Komotini and from Romania to Spain, so we can say that this has been the busiest and most exciting —or you can even call it adventurous—period of our lives as musicians.
Someone would say that all these began with you debut album with Inner Ear Records. But, in my humble opinion, the first step towards success came with your first releases and your collaboration with Sillyboy. I would really like to learn about the early years. How did you meet? How did you form and how did you choose your sound?
We met many years ago through live shows, while playing with other bands. A jamming session was all it took to let us decide to keep a compact two-piece section. Sillyboy is a good friend and with Kyrios K.; they provided their studio and their production wisdom. We recorded four tracks in a couple of hot summer days. ‘Turn Off The Lights’ was the first one. At first, everything was just kind of an experiment on the heavy bluesy rock n’ roll sound, which took many forms, while working with Gou on our debut album and Alex on ‘Aphelion’.
From ‘The Noise Figures’ LP till the ‘Aphelion’, you had the opportunity to explore your sound and way of recording. What led you to using a tape machine? I suspect that it had much to do with learning about history and experimenting in forms that musicians you esteem used.
It was an easy decision. We just needed to create the warm, saturated sound from the 70s. So we chose the proper drums, amps and of course the tape recorder. You can use digital means to get it, but it will never reach the same quality level. And of course it sounds as it should on the vinyl version.
So, technically speaking, how did you record ‘Aphelion’? Describe us all the hard parts of the process.
The hardest thing when you are recording your material using a reel tape machine is that you have to play all the basis of the songs live. You can’t add many overdubs because the more layers you add the weakest, thinnest and noisiest an outcome you get. So we had to be very accurate on every single recording. The whole album has been finished in only one week with Alex Bolpasis sitting on the producer’s chair.
After all this effort, was the European tour a depressurization or an outcome of the oldschool ways? Maybe, since you recorded with a vintage esthetic, you should also travel the same way?
If you take a good look at our tour van you will have no doubt that this is exactly what we do! It’s a crappy Ford, it even broke down a couple of times, so the truth is that when it’s 10.000 kilometers around Europe there’s no such thing as vintage wheels.
How many people were in the van? Did the tour bond you more? Did it create chaos and tension? How did you manage to overcome any troubles that arose and what would you do different?
Touring can be very exhausting sometimes. You have to wake up early, drive long distances, unload, set up the gear and the merch on stage, do the soundcheck, eat as fast as you can, perform and load again. You have to discipline yourself and stick to the program to get through the whole tour. We are very lucky to have the best possible team with us, which consists of Nikos Triantafyllou, our sound engineer, and JJ Pallis, our booker and tour manager. We are all close friends so any difficulty just vanishes with a lot of humor.
I can imagine that the whole experience was amazing but what was the best part of the trip? What you will keep as a feeling and as an image and what will you use in your future work?
It was the kids in Karlsruhe singing along, the guys in Serres stagediving, the crazy Basques dancing. It was all about the connection with the people through music.
Talking about the future, feel free to share your future plans with us. In few days you will participate in a new well-promising festival that takes place in Athens, the Release Athens Festival, and actually you will play with some of my favorite artists, PJ Harvey and Slowdive. How do you feel about it? What will we listen to?
Release Athens Festival is debuting this June in Athens with an amazing line-up. We are sure it’s only the beginning. It’s also a big honor to be invited to share the stage with artists who we have been listening to since our teenage years and who have had a big influence on us. Just come a bit earlier and we promise you won’t regret it.
What are your plans for after the Release Athens Festival?
We have some festivals for the summer. Fougarock Festival in Nafplio on the 18th June, Up Festival in Amorgos on 14th July, and Fegaros Festival in Cyprus on 30th July. After that, we are just going to take some time alone in the studio working on new material.
Since you’ve sensed the atmosphere all around Europe, do you feel that there is a promising future for indie music? Big festivals are coming out, small record labels make massive productions, less known artists have the opportunity to meet the old and famous. Is it time for happy (or not) thoughts over the musical globalization?
Why not? When positive thinking is combined with creativity and hard work, everything is possible!
Before we say goodbye I would really like to talk a little bit about the cover art of ‘Aphelion‘. Bob Studio won a graphic design award for it in the Greek Graphic Design & Illustration Awards 2016 and confirmed that, apart from music, the visual arts are also essential for musicians to communicate and make a statement. What is your view regarding the use of a powerful image along with music into communicating your message? How important do you think it is and will this be central to your future releases?
That’s a really good point. Music has always had a close connection to graphic design and photography. Think Andy Warhol’s “Banana” or the ‘Abbey Road‘ cover photo. Especially when we are talking about vinyl, the 30X30 L.P., you are always happy owning a fine piece of art. Bob Studio did an amazing job on both our first and second albums and they totally deserved this award.
Let’s end this interview with a small psychological test: They say that we can see our future through our past. I would like you to pick a moment from your common past that changed everything. Share it with us and dress it with a song. Who is performing the song and what does the stage they are performing it on look like?
It’s always better to think about the future. We are definitely going to make new memories. One of them will take place on 7th June: the stage is big, the song is ‘The Wheel’ and PJ Harvey is performing it.