Q: This song is awesome, it gives me a 70s/80s psychedelic rock vibe to it, which I love. What was your creative process in making “Nothing2”?
Strange Souvenirs: We had a simple arrangement and the main melodic elements (verse & chorus) in a brooding, very dark electronic synth-based demo that was sketched out during lockdown. As we began arranging it in the studio we felt that we should try taking it into an entirely different direction. Initially we wanted to do a really quick, simple, bare bones stripped-down version of Nothing2 and not go too deep down the studio rabbit hole again. But of course we ended up going down that rabbit hole and digging a bunch of new holes while we were down there. That track has well over 300 channels. Which is quite a lot when you consider that every instrument was recorded with just one or two mics to give the whole thing a kind of lo-fi feel. We wanted to be very far away from the super clean & sanitized vibe that a lot of contemporary pop production has.
Q: How did your band members initially come together?
Strange Souvenirs: My brother Thomas and I have been playing together in different bands for a long time. After an extended hiatus we both kicked things off again in Berlin as Strange Souvenirs in 2019. In Berlin we met our producer Cameron James Laing, who has helped us immensely and co-written a handful of tracks with us. There’s always been a special musical and emotional rapport between Tom and I on account of being brothers… The creative collaborative chemistry between us two and Cameron, the shared penchant for pushing things into strange, less charted and obvious territory, has really helped to take things to another level.
Q: The track begins with a melancholy instrumental, with keyboards and an acoustic guitar, along with your vocals, but as the track continues, it builds up to feel more upbeat. Can you take me through your production and writing process?
Strange Souvenirs: We started off with a very minimalistic version of the song and then we just “decided to run away with the circus” – and turned it into this gigantic melancholy mini-musical. We kept the original tempo and the main synth hooks but started replacing the drum loops with real drums and adding more and more layers of real instruments. Almost every new element we added connected beautifully. It was pretty amazing how it all fell into place. You can channel and collect the signals that the universe sends out and arrange them in a captivating way. From writing new song sections, vocal phrases & lyrics in the middle of the night between sessions, spontaneously adding that ominous choir section in the outro, the freakout drum fills, the sweeping orchestral arrangement. It just worked out. But there were good bits of ideas floating around in the demo that sparked bigger better ideas in the studio.
Q: The track blends elements of different genres, and the outcome is a very unique and awesome sound. How would you describe the music you typically create?
Strange Souvenirs: Our album which is coming out in October 2021 is called “Spontaneous Mutation” and that describes how we’ve been working on these tracks. Only about 1/3 of the album sounds similar to the initial demos ( i.e Facts & The Cleaner). Nearly everything else has morphed, twisted or shape-shifted into something strange & new … sometimes light years away from the demo vibe. In the broadest sense we try to write pop-music that has a genre-bending unpredictable chaotic melancholy edge to it. It’s not as immediately accessible sometimes, but that’s a creative tradeoff we’re happy to make. Delicate, danceable & disorienting, that’s the spectrum in a nutshell. We don’t really know what the outcome is going to be when we go into the studio, which can be both thrilling and a bit nerve-wracking 🙂
Q: If you could only listen to 3 albums for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Strange Souvenirs: That’s a tough question :)
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Arcade Fire – Funeral
The Cure – Disintegration
Radiohead – OK Computer
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – B.R.M.C
Q: How is the music scene in Berlin?
Strange Souvenirs: The music scene in Berlin is astounding & vibrant. International and culturally diverse. Overwhelming in a good way. There are so many different interesting people from all over the world doing so many different things here. It’s been great getting to know and working with lots of different great artists & musicians in the process. Cameron’s studio “The Famous Gold Watch” is a one of a kind sonic sanctuary with a lot of charismatic and capable people always going in and out. So a handful of cool people contributed and helped transform “Nothing2” into this strange beast.
Q: What has been one of the most significant moments of your musical journey so far?
Strange Souvenirs: After a long period of uncertainty where it was unclear if we would ever be able to move forward, pick up the pieces and build something new – every session, song and emotional connection that we’re creating is a triumph in its own right. It’s really good fun and there’s a lot still to come!
Interviewed by Melissa Cusano