There are times, especially for those who have been around for all the milestones of popular music, when the search for something new and undiscovered proves to be fruitless. During those periods the natural reaction is to return to the music of our youth because that was the best, wasn’t it? But for those who can appreciate new music as well as that which shaped our formative years, it can be frustrating. Discovering new music that doesn’t have instantly recognisable elements of much that has gone before is proving to be more difficult by the year.

‘Evropi’, the new album by Greek/German duo Sea + Air, was released by Glitterhouse Records in late summer, and was one of those albums which you’re instantly drawn to just by the image on the cover. In this instance it was just a black and while image of the duo, Eleni Zafiriadou and Daniel Benjamin, but it was striking and managed to convey that the music contained within was going to be interesting to say the least.

The dozen songs on ‘Evropi’ thankfully can’t easily be placed into one neat genre. The album covers a lot of ground musically; while there’s a definite European flavour to the soundscapes the duo create and the opening song, ‘We All Have to Leave Someday’ is the perfect primer to the chillingly beautiful music this duo make. They never let an idea outstay its welcome, and there is not one song on ‘Evropi’ where the feeling of ‘heard it all before’ creeps in. ‘Evropi’ is an album that should satisfy even the most demanding music lover on the lookout for something fresh and innovative.

While the album works as a collection of twelve separate songs, the lyric sheet informs the listener that ‘Evropi’ is the story of a family, Zacharo, her daughter-in-law and her great-granddaughter, “a family that didn’t have a home for generations and their journey from Asia Minor to Greece, Germany and back across Europe.” It is a captivating story. The lyrics are presented in chronological order (the songs are not, which actually makes the overall feel of the album more compelling, rather than having the expected opposite effect) and thhey are interspersed with short passages, which explain the story further. ‘Evropi’ truly is an album that stands alone. While pushing boundaries Eleni and Daniel have still managed to make each song accessible and created some beautiful music.

Fresh off a tour supporting Duke Special in the UK, Eleni and Daniel kindly found time to answer a few questions about how they started making music together and how ‘Evropi’ came to be.


PB: ‘Evropi’ is a very accomplished set of songs. How long have you been making music together and how did you start in music?

EZ: We started our first band Jumbo Jet in 1999. Daniel had seen me dancing at the local disco when we were teenagers. He wondered if I could sing and asked me right away. “Definitely not. But I can scream!” Even better, he thought, since he always wanted to be in a punk rock band. And I always wanted to make people laugh.

PB: Which instruments do you play on the album? There appear to be some weird and wonderful sounds scattered throughout, and were you formally trained?

EZ: We started recording 'Evropi' in Canada, where we played the songs live. Daniel was on the drums, our engineer played the bass and I played the piano and the guitar. Daniel played also the “exotic” instruments like the lyra or the bouzouki. He's a trained drummer. But on other instruments he's an autodidact like myself. My skills are limited. But with the limitation you are more likely to create your own style which was always more important to me than being technically perfect.

PB: How long did it take to write ‘Evropi’ once the seed for the album was sown?

EZ: The songs were written in our heads during our tour of Europe that lasted three years. When we came back home it took us another year to record and mix it.

PB: With regard to the writing process; how do you write together? Is one more inclined to contribute lyrics and the other music?

EZ: It depends. Everyone does everything. But in general I would say that Daniel is the composer. He's got an enormous output. I'm good at producing. We also like to play with fragments. One starts and the other finishes.

PB: Do you find that the lyrics dictate the overall sound and arrangements of certain songs? The feeling of loss and pain expressed in the dual vocals in a song such as ‘Pain is Just a Cloud’ is matched perfectly in the instrumentation and arrangement of that song.

DB: Well, music has always been more important to us than lyrics. So usually we add lyrics after a song has a certain feel. Which sometimes makes songs like 'Pain...' feel final.

PB: I have to mention ‘We Understand You’ as well; the feeling of hope and a better future in the lyrics is perfectly captured in the arrangement and instrumentation of the song. Who takes the credit for turning those lyrics into such an affecting piece of music?

DB: To be honest we had to struggle for a long time with those lyrics. We wanted to write a song that can make you laugh one day and cry the other. Good to see it worked!

PB: ‘Evropi’ is one of those albums that are always developing for the listener. Although on first listen it was obvious there was some theme running through the songs it wasn’t until later that, on reading your notes on every song, the connection was revealed to be much deeper that I thought. How close is the story behind the songs to you?

EZ: It is my family history. So actually it is pretty close. It's about homelessness which was always a big issue in our past.

PB: It’s mentioned in those notes that the album can be read it two ways and that the listener can even create their own take on it. That’s a very honest and true appraisal of ‘Evropi’. Was it an aim while writing that, although the story was set out, you shaped it so that lyrically it would connect to so many?

EZ: Yeah, I think it is important that people can identify with your lyrics or at least with parts of it.

DB: Usually when we write we move within our own cosmos for 90% of the time. Not caring at all about what others might feel or read into it. The last 10% of the way is when we consider opening the personal territory to the public. And then, of course, we have to even some stuff from too personal to more general so people can connect.

PB: Your press release states that you describe your sounds as "Ghost Po"’, so that must confirm that you also see the music you make as being quite unique and not neatly fitting into any one accepted genre. A good thing, I must add.

DB: Oh, thanks. Actually all the music we listen to creates its own genre. Even my all-time favourite non-classical artist U2 is very unique, even though thousands of copies scattered the view on that a lot.

I've never been interested in artificial music.

PN: You’ve toured extensively and visited dozens of countries. Do you feel your experiences of all these different cultures have helped shaped your sound?

DB: Totally! It was great to see that in all of the twenty-two European countries we toured the drive of the young people and the culture they live in is the same. Even though the colours are different they all want to move on. They all want to connect as Europe.

PB: At the time of writing you are touring the UK with Duke Special. Are you pleased with the tour so far?

EZ: The tour has been the best so far in the UK. One can only wish for an audience that Duke Special has - True music lovers who are willing to follow you no matter what strange ways you will follow in the future.

PB: For those unable to catch you live, do you play with a band and if so how many musicians are involved? It must be some task trying to reproduce the sound of ‘Evropi’ on stage.

EZ: It's just the two of us. That's why each of us plays up to five instruments at the same time. So failing is a big part of our live show. Enjoy and laugh.

PB: It would be interesting to learn what music/artists you listen to for inspiration or just for pleasure. It’s refreshing to hear artists who don’t wear their influences so obviously.

EZ: We're always interested in musicians who create their own cosmos such as Arvo Pärt, Prince, Kate Bush and DJ Shadow. And then there are bands you really like because of their exceptional live energy. Nirvana for example.

PB: Do you each have a favourite song from ‘Evropi’ that means maybe more than the others and one that you feel works particularly well live?

EZ: My favourite song is 'We All Have to Leave Someday'. It touches me in a very deep and spiritual way when we're performing it live.

DB: 'Lady Evropi' would be one of the songs that I wish I had written (and, oh, I did. Ha! Ha!). But I also really enjoy performing 'Should I Care' because it's such a simple pop tune that immediately connects with the audience.

PB: What is the next move now for Sea + Air? Will it involve more live shows or writing for the next album?

EZ: I think we seriously need to take a break from both. We have material for the next fifteen albums and I'm afraid we will be on tour or recording

PB: Thank you.












Related Links:

http://www.seaandair.net/
https://www.facebook.com/SeaandAir


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