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Review + Q&A: Anona- Anona EP (2022, Sound Effect Records)

Welcome to another episode of music-book pairing. In this chapter I will try to link Anona’s free thinking Canterbury indie rock with the bestselling young adult novel series Mrs Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. The novel is full of mystery, (time) travels, children with weird powers, and an altogether idea that it is ok to be strange. I can’t shake of the feeling that Anona has embraced that same idea as well.

This self-titled EP by Anona is all kinds of strange, but beautiful as well. There is a mysterious edge to it, but a childlike naivete and lightless as well. There is some time traveling going on, past 60s Canterbury folk for example (the flute plays an important role), and dark smokey jazz combos from the 30s. And then there is the band that consists of all kinds of weird kids with special powers of their own, nine of them in total.

Both the novelist Ransom Riggs and the singer songwriter Ella Russel are story tellers. They take you, the spectator, by the hand and lead you just around the corner to a place that you would have never imagined on your own. Whether it is the story of The Boy And The Lion, or the story of Jacob Portman finding out his secret heritage, you will be sucked in and hanging on to every word…

So I had to dive into this Anona phenomenon. Who are they? Or who is she? Let’s find out. Bristol, UK resident Ella Russel takes us by the hand while she leads us on a tour through here life…

How are you? How has the pandemic period and its aftermath been for you as a musician?

Ah the big questions. Well, the cold has finally arrived here which brings mixed feelings. I love the winter storms and island weather, the winter skies are really crazy over the sea here, but the damp and darkness affects me after a while. The pandemic brought an end to some projects and a beginning to new ones. It definitely felt like life bookmarked a new era when it began, there was no choice. We finished recording the bulk of Anona two weeks before the first lockdown and then I worked on it throughout, so the EP kind of feels like a time capsule now. The pandemic of course has been a challenge, but I can also be a bit of a hermit and having so much time to work on my own things was kind of incredible. I only got back into playing shows this year, with my other band The New Eves. It has felt really powerful and we don’t take anything for granted. I love them. 

Can you introduce yourself, is it just you or are there more people in Anona?

I’m Ella Russell, a musician and a painter living in Brighton, UK. Anona is my first solo project, but it features 9 of my friends & incredible musicians. Their names are Lau Zanin, Toma Sapir, Adam Campbell, George Lloyd-Owen, Todd Cowell, Freddie Willat, Isobel Jones and Hugo Ellis. Anona’s lineup will be constantly evolving around the music I write, but I’m hoping lot’s of these guys stick around. 

What can you tell me about your musical background(s)?

I’ve always been very affected by music, and if you had asked me what I wanted to do when I was a child I would have said “an artist and a singer”, which is pretty much what I do now, except I have learnt some instruments along the way. I play the flute, guitar, drums and a little piano, all a bit unconventionally. I recently had my trombone debut! It was funny, I had painted myself green for halloween and looked like this tiny goblin playing the trombone.

I’m completely self taught and started playing in bands when I was about 19, learning everything as I went along. I started composing this EP when I was 21 and it was my first time writing music in full, doing everything myself. It began as a challenge to myself to see what I was capable of and ended up opening a whole inner world. 

The most recent projects I have been involved with are The New Eves, Wax Machine and I did some recording with The Ancient Infinity Orchestra this summer, who are about to drop an incredible album.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

At the moment it’s different everyday! Which is how I like it, I strangely find lack of routine very inspiring. Like today I was sewing someone’s curtains and last week I was recording poetry for the BBC – though it’s definitely not always as exciting as that. Often I will be rehearsing and playing music with people in the evenings and when I have spare time I will be painting in my little studio. It’s quite a turbulent way to live, to be patching things together week by week, but I’m only 24 and just about have the energy to deal with the uncertainty my lifestyle brings. For now the adventures outweigh it all, I get to travel around a lot.

What is the best thing about your new EP?

That’s a hard question. Everything? That it’s finally being released? That it was so fun to make? That someone took the time to turn it into vinyl?

For me it was especially a pleasure to meet cellist George Lloyd-Owen. They were the only person that I didn’t know before making Anona, and we had such an instant creative connection. I can’t read music so I would just sing to them and they would translate it and make it a thousand times better. They blow my mind everytime we play together. I have long had the ambition to make music for strings and meeting them has made it feel possible.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

I live in Brighton UK, which is where I was born and also where some of my ancestors are from. It’s by the sea which I love and is only a 45 minute train ride to London. It’s a small city but it’s got a big music scene and is ideal for meeting musicians, they are literally everywhere… though I have been spectacularly shit at going to shows recently. I’m lucky to have a life full of musicians, artists and like minded people, it feels abundant in that way and our community is strong, we are always collaborating and everyone helps each other out. A downside to Brighton is you don’t really get paid much for shows, or anything creative. Rents are going up and soon it will be too expensive to live here.

I have actually been waiting for the time to leave Brighton and city life for a while now, but things keep happening. The times i’ve felt most alive have always been outside of cities, probably on a mountain somewhere. But my family are still nearby and it will always be a home for me.

What are your favorite contemporary bands and albums right now?

Some of the best shows I’ve seen this year were by Abel Selaocoe, Modern Woman, Junior Brother, Bingo Fury and Broadside Hacks. Last year I saw Johnny Greenwood perform some of his soundtracks at a festival and it was probably one of the best hours of my life. My friend Ozzy is secretly a genius composer and his group Ancient Infinity Orchestra are going to be releasing an incredible album with Gondwana next year. I have a lot of friends releasing beautiful things at the moment; Daisy Rickman, Wax Machine and Platypus Complex are definitely ones to watch. 

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

For me it’s a very private process, it can take a long time and often feels like I’m unveiling something, like helping a flower to bloom. The music really has it’s own spirit. When I was writing this EP I was living in a garden cabin and would lock myself in there for hours at a time experimenting with different instruments and building a relationship with the sounds that wanted to come through. I had to muster a lot of faith to actually show it to people and conduct them, it was a great learning process. This whole project was created in gardens, for recording I found another garden cabin that had a piano and Lau (producer) and I built a little studio in there. Everyone learnt the material whilst we were recording, so what you hear on the record was incredibly fresh, it has a youthful spirit to it. It was really fun 

What is “the dream” when it comes to being an artist?

I think having enough to eat, a roof over your head and time to create. The pleasures are very simple really, but quite hard to sustain in this world.  

Tell me something nobody would have guessed about you?

Hmm… I’m really into Star Wars? And I’m terrible at reading clocks.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Go outside and look at the sky, then listen to Anona.

The single ‘Ruby Mountain’ is out on Thursday 24th and the vinyl is being released the next day on the 25th. The only way for people to listen to the full EP is by getting the vinyl, until the whole thing is released online in January. A bit unusual, but it’s the way it’s happened 🙂

Review + Q&A: River Flows Reverse- The Homing Bird’s Trace (2022, Psychedelic Source Records)

For the true explorer, the exploring is the greatest treasure, not the finding.

It’s why I love to keep myself involved in contemporary music, and try to challenge myself again and again in finding sounds that challenge my brains into wrapping themselves around it. You can imagine the joy I got when discovering Hungary’s River Flows Reverse, albeit somewhat late (this is their second album, after the great and much praised self-titled album that was released last year) . Even better still, through the release of The Homing Bird’s Trace I discovered the project’s home Psychedelic Source Records, and an archive of jams and affiliated bands that would tickle my explorer’s spider senses for many miles.

Exploring is what River Flows Reverse does themselves as well. Exploring misty fields, dreamy conjurations, and ever flowing ambient jams. Stylistically we find ourselves at the ambient, triphop/chill out side of the psychedelic rock spectrum. Songs are allowed to stretch themselves up to ten minutes, or come and go in much shorter time, depending on the way the muse of inspiration presents itself. Beautiful warm production value, and great contributions by various guest musicians enriching the overall sound with their trumpets, zithers, sitar, and slide guitar do the rest. The Homing Bird’s Trace has become a warm blanket I gladly pull over myself to escape the outside world as it gradually becomes colder and darker. You can decide whether you want to completely disappear into it, or just want to walk around in their world every now and then.

It is a safe place, it breathes “do what you want”. For an explorer like me, it’s pure bliss.

I talked with Bence Ambrus, who is not just the guitarist of River Flows Reverse, but also initiator of their “open source” record label Psychedelic Source, and musician in many of their swarm of releases, all of whom can be downloaded for next to nothing on their Bandcamp page. The result is a very interesting conversation with this very powerful underground psychedelic contributor…

Nice to do this interview with you! How are you these days?

I’m ok, thank you Jasper. My life has changed a lot since my daughter was born. Before I did not really care about my health, I traveled a lot, without money etc…

First of all: can you introduce yourself, your music, and your label?

Im Bence Ambrus from Hungary, the founder of Psychedelic Source Records, which grew from Lemurian Folk Songs‘ jam sessions. When we recorded the first jams and gigs, we didn’t have too much equipment. After from the first fan supports we could get mics and cables, other recorder stuff.

How has the past pandemic period been for you as a musician? Did you see upsides next to the downsides?

Honestly I liked it. Empty streets, no people, no work.  I had little savings that I spent soon. This was the time when we were in the studio up all nights because we couldn’t get home because of the lockdown. I also spent all days in our garden, people came, we jammed in the little house. In these times we recorded Slow Psychedelic Speedrock with Satorinaut , Melted Lights of Pilot Voyager in the forest house. And also When River Flows Reverse.

What can you tell me about the recording session for River Flows Reverse’s “The Homing Bird’s Trace”?

It Started with the drums in the studio. After that together with Tibor we picked about 40 minutes of drumming, and I recorded some guitar and bass improvisations. Then we decided where to sing, and the people started to come to the house for join the experiment.

Can you tell me what made you start the label?

Honestly I didn’t start a label. Psychedelic Source is more like a band releasing jam sessions and giving them to the people for free, sometimes in different names. Really confusing I know. As a vinyl releasing label it started in Greece, when Dimitris asked me about releasing vinyl. Diviner Blues Sessions and When River Flows Reverse. After we discussed everything, we founded Twisted Flowers as releasing label, and our first two vinyl albums were born within a few months. The following year we released Maro by Lemurian Folk Songs. Nepaal‘s Black Batik was then released on other labels, like Cardinal Fuzz, Acid Test and Tonzonen.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I just woke up at 5am to finish this interview with you. I’m going to work here in the village to the carpenter workroom, where I’m an employee in a small company. Around 6pm I will get home, play with the baby until she falls asleep, then I speak with my wife and we open a beer, but I will fall asleep too.

Where do you live and how does it affect your art and music?

Before, I lived in the forest, but now I moved to the village because the kid needs heat and water. I don’t know if it effects to the music or not. I built a nice little studio where we can record anything, beginners quality. I got some guitars, sitar, banjo here, but at the moment they are little dusty.

Of all your projects, which is your favorite?

I love Melted Lights by Pilot Voyager, but I don’t play on that album; they are Tibor, Ákos, and Krisztina (from River Flows Reverse) this was their first collab . Diviner Blues Sessions is one of my favourites too, and the old formations like Lemurian Folk Songs and Satorinaut. Honestly I love Pilot Voyager, but River Flows Reverse is the project that is really “mine”.

What is your musical background? And how did you gain your musical network?

I have played in local bands since 2007, in a crust punk band, in a prog pop metal band, in a grunge band, in a sludge band, just for fun. Even if we played some gigs, we never accessed any success. I studied some jazz-bass for a few years when I was a kid, but I’m not a jazzist. To gain a musical network there was Krisztina’s voice in Lemurian Folk Songs when we released Maro, that was the first breakthrough. Maro is now released on vinyl finally, I feel that we closed a circle now.

What is the secret behind jamming and improvising in your music?

Leaving the ego on the public transport, and find the right drummer.

What is something that people should stop doing in your opinion?

Propaganda short video watching and this current form of education. It is crazy here in birdshitty Hungary, the people are fed with complete lies through propaganda. The public really believes (80% of us) that we are better then other countries, that we will be great again etc.. Also this war propaganda, the people don’t realize that there is a disgusting massacre in the neighbourhood, and that Russia is going to destroy the earth. Its crazy, with my wife we are thinking about moving back to Spain with the baby every day. Or just somewhere far from this nightmare state.

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?

First of all, sleep longer and smile more. Then go to our merch page and order vinyls, share our jams. Seriously haha.

Review + Q&A: Bazooka- Κ​ά​π​ο​υ Α​λ​λ​ο​ύ (2022, Inner Ear Records)

Ok I’ll be honest here my fellow weirdos, I am not sure if I would have written about Bazooka if they hadn’t sung all their songs in Greek. The fact that they do, a language that is completely “Greek” to me (pun intended), gives their alternative psych power pop rock an outlandish twist that makes it just weird enough to twist my knobs.

Because as it stands right now, the songs on Κ​ά​π​ο​υ Α​λ​λ​ο​ύ (Kapou Allou) have a mystical element to them, ephemeral even, putting them in the same ranks as Kikagaku Moyo (Japan), Upupayama (Italy), or Circle (Finland). Meaning; I do not understand a single word they are singing, and so I am left with the sounds of the words and their meanings or mine completely to imagine. There is an element of folklore in there as well, with Bazooka transporting you straight into their country, their culture, and the listener being instantly completely emerged.

The music is fine too you know; a pinch of Queens Of The Stone Age, a spoonful of Foo Fighters, a dash of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, all topped with a spicy Greek Tzatziki sauce. I just can’t help thinking what I would have thought of it had they sung in English. It does not matter anyways, because Bazooka does not. And Κ​ά​π​ο​υ Α​λ​λ​ο​ύ is a very interesting album for people like me that like to go on holiday in their own heads very now and again.

I hit the band up for a chat, and was happy to find out they were perfectly willing and able to do so in English! Here’s their story:

Hey Bazooka! How is everything on your side of the globe?

Hi there! Things are pretty rough on our side of the globe. There’s a war going on that affects us all. Everyday life is getting harder and harder with prices in essential goods skyrocketing day by day. Immigrants drοwning in the sea has become an everyday reality. There’s a threat of war hovering in the air. Far right wing parties are threatening democracy all over Europe.

For us and our everyday life the way out of this misery is to remain focused on what we love, be creative and support one another. And there are many people in Greece doing exactly that. Generally speaking a change needs to be done worldwide before its too late. For once more the interests of a few greedy people are imposed violently to nations and because of this, things are looking ready to explode at any moment.

So for a start we could stop voting for parties which are a threat to humanity.    

Can you kindly introduce your band to the Weirdo Shrine audience?

Bazooka consists of:

Xanthos Papanikolaou: Vocals, lead guitar, synth, organ

Aris Rammos: Bass

John Vulgaris: Drums, percussion, backing vocals

Vassilis Tzelepis: Guitar, backing vocals

Penny Liaromati: The fifth member of the band who helps us artistically and organisationally.

Dimitris Kyriakopoulos: Live member of the band who plays synth, organ, percussion and does backing vocals.

What are your musical backgrounds?

Most of us started playing music as teenagers. We got inspired to start a band and grab an instrument from bands like Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Wipers, Melvins and many other classic rock stuff. Some of us had parents that listened a lot to rock music and other genres also like jazz, blues and classical music and that was a huge influence too. In those years, when we started playing music and formed our first school bands we were living in our hometown Volos. Volos, a nice and quiet coastal town in central Greece played a big role in our young minds and hearts with its few options and little to offer to a teenager. That made us dream of a different life. It wasn’t only that we wanted to play music. We took it seriously and we wanted to make records and tour around the world like the bands we liked to listen.

Generally our main influences are derived from rock music and it’s sub genres throughout it’s history. From 50s rock and roll and 60s psychedelic rock and British Invasion to 70s krautrock and progressive bands throughout punk and post punk. Of course we listen to other genres of music also but these are the main influences of the band.

Where do you live, and how would you say that influences your music?

We live in Athens, Greece. Athens has all the positives and negatives of a big city. It never gets dull really but it can drive you crazy some times with all it’s traffic and noise. Athens it’s the city we live so it effect us in a profound way with its scenery, its people and its sometimes hard every day life. The city life though is something mostly reflected in our lyrics and less in our music.

What does an average day look like for a Bazooka member?

Aside of the band we are doing other stuff also. So when are not touring, rehearsing or recording some of us are DJing, others are working as sound engineers or play music with other projects and one of us works at a coffee/bar place.

What does it look like when you are writing music?

Most of the times I write the songs in a form of a demo and then all together we labor on them and refine them in the studio. The end result is a team work where each member of Bazooka gives their own character to the songs. There have also been a few times that songs started from jamming together. The writing process for the tracks on our new album took place during the pandemic in the bedroom studio I have in my house. When I had around 25 songs done, Penny Liaromati who also helped us with the production and arrangements in many of those songs, and who was responsible for the new album’s concept sonically and visually, chose 10 songs out of the 25 aiming for a cohesive and pleasant listening experience from start to finish. At the same time we started rehearsing those songs in the studio in order to perfect them where it was needed and get them ready for the actual recording of the album.

Where do you gather your inspiration?

From everyday life, from hopes and disappointments, from literature, poetry, painting and art forms in general, from history, from nature, from emotions and thoughts and from music of course.

What is “the dream” for Bazooka as a band?

The dream is to continue to make records, play live shows and convert as many people as possible to our music. Amen.

What are you most looking forward to in the immediate future?

We are looking forward to touring in Europe again next spring. Our last scheduled tour in Europe was cancelled due to the pandemic so we are pretty thirsty for our next one. We also hope to do a US tour again.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview?

Go and listen to our new album ΚΑΠΟΥ ΑΛΛΟΥ (Kapou Allou) which literally means somewhere elsewhere or somewhere else.

It’s available in all physical and digital forms via Inner Ear Records and of course you can stream it on the usual platforms.

Review + Q&A: Bhopal’s Flowers- Joy Of The 4th (2022, Sound Effect Records)

Ok, so Montreal’s Bhopal’s Flowers is another psychedelic indie rock band leaning heavy on the sitar for atmosphere, but wait! Don’t walk away yet, there is a little bit more to it that might meet the eyes and ears at first. Quite different from every Brian Jonestown Massacre clone out there Bhopal’s brings their psych with a delightfully fresh and positive outlook, corresponding with the baby booklet artwork.

And then again, when you really look at that album cover you’ll see exactly what this band is about. There is a deeper connection with hindustani pop culture hidden there, references to ancient mythology, and the joy of newborn life (singer Lionel Pezzano recently became a father). The music is multi layered and harder to pigeonhole than -again- a first glance might tell. There are pure pop songs, dramatic choirs, hazy psych janglers, atmospheric jams, and a subtle influence of “French” pop music that pops up every now and then. Enough to enjoy for open minded music fans therefore. Just don’t be fooled by first impressions. Let’s be honest though, you are reading Weirdo Shrine, you must be ready to walk a little further to take a peak at what is around that corner…

I connected with Lionel Pezzano over the internet, and we luckily we hit it off quite well! We get some new insights about the band, their home town Montreal, and the ephemeral inspiration when making music.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Bhopal’s Flowers?

I’m fine, thank you. I really love this time of the year, when fall and winter are spreading their mystic vibes in our lives, meanwhile turning down our daily scenery to a lovely painting.

The pandemic has affected Bhopal’s Flowers regarding our live team, as our former drummer, Jeremy Thoma, has left Canada for good at the very first stage of the pandemic. As many shows were planned and never booked back, it has affected our shows and touring development. Now that I am a bit more free as Joy Of The 4th has been released, I’ll try to focus a bit more on the live aspect of Bhopal’s Flowers music. I’ve always been a lonely boy, so the Covid effect has totally emphasized this tendency to enjoy loneliness, in my personal and music life.  

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

Bhopal’s Flowers was born in France in 2013, with Jeremy Thoma on drums (I used to play with his father actually, who was introduced to me by my uncle, ”Cap”, my musical mentor), Eric Steiger on guitar, Lorenzo Vespa on drums, Marlène B. on keyboards. The line up has changed when Jeremy and I moved to Canada, we hired Blandine on backing vocals / percussions and Jonathan St Laurent on bass. Since Jeremy has left Canada, he has been replaced by Sergio d’Isanto (from ”Bye Parula”), and Antoine Marquet (who drives ”Antoine Aspirine”) on guitar / keyboard.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

I’ve been learning the guitar at the age of 11 with a country musician, Jo Luthringer, supervised by my uncle, who taught me an eclectic repertoire. I quickly composed my own music and drove a band entitled ”Friends Of P.” from 1997 to 2006. We used to play  new-wave indie rock, between Radiohead and The Cure. I then studied classical music, meanwhile composing electro rock and Indo-Persian electronica for a while. I went deep into Persian classical music (on the târ and the sétâr) and Hindustani classical music (on the sitar).

Just before leaving France to Canada, I started a trio named Youngstown, a country band with the classical rock structure (as Nirvana or The Police) guitar / bass/  drums. We developed a very unique sound due to our influences and the fact that we were very few on stage in contrary to usual country formation with fiddle, pedal steel, two guitars etc …

On the side, Album after album, I developed the skills of a music engineer and later, at the Mandragore studio in Montréal, 5 years as an employee, and nowadays as a happy partner.

During all this time, I never stopped composing and recording my own music, but many albums were never released for multiple reasons. A dozen albums, produced and recorded are sleeping on my desktop, waiting to be released one of these days.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

I am teaching music during the daytime, and recording music at the studio during the night time, which leaves very few spots for sleeping and getting rest. In the middle of these two activities, I am having fun with my little 21 months boy, and practicing the sitar, which requires a lot of discipline.  I try to read as much as I can, sometimes on the lunch break, sometimes at night, mainly anthroposophic readings by Rudolf Steiner. During the weekends, I can focus deeply on hindustani music, as the ragas we learn are linked with a specific daytime, I grab the opportunity to practice ragas that I don’t have the chance to play during the busy week (mostly early morning & mid afternoon ragas). My life is fulfilled with music and all my daily thoughts are heading to this art, wether they are philosophal or practical.

What is the story about the band name? Did the Bhopal disaster play a role in choosing it?

It is indeed related with the Bhopal disaster. I didn’t know about it when I was young. I was 20,  when I concretized my interest into hindustani music. At that time, my music was a bit much happier than when I was younger, but still with a melancholic spleen at its bottom. Bhopal’s Flowers reflected to me this tendency, beauty that grows on the pain.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

I live in Montreal since 2016. Before that, I used to live in the East of France, a province called Alsace (the most beautiful !! haha). I am sorry for that boring answer but I have no idea about musician’s environment as I am not connected to this community. I know some people, some musicians, but we’re not very close. That is not a will from me to be disconnected to the musicians community, just a simple fact. The fact that I have a regular job on the side, keeps my away from musicians who generally have more free time to hangout together during the daytime. But artistic life is very developed here in Montreal.

What is your main aim with your music, is it complete artistic expression, or an escape from the every day world? (or something else ;))

Both I think ! The every day world is an illusion, the real world is made out of vibration and spirit. I try to reach the invisible through music. It then hits the material world, and gives me back everything I have: my wife, my family, my friends, my job, my skills, all of this happen because of my music effort. Regarding my bank account or my popularity, it looks like I am not making music for fame or money, and it is fine like this, even though it is tough to deal with my daily job and artistic ambitions. To me, music is a permanent quest and and perpetual enjoyment.

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

For Bhopal’s Flowers, I always compose with a 12 strings guitar, or with the sitar. It can be a riff on the 12 strings, as well as an harmonic chord progression that hits my mind. Once I get one of these elements, I goes pretty fast in general. I then spend more time to hire a drummer to play the parts I programmed and mixing properly the whole stuff. When I compose on the sitar, I try to find a good melody or concept from a specific raga (as raga are based on scales). Believe me or not, I compose a lot of songs meanwhile teaching music to my students: when you play very simple things and really pay attention to the beauty of simplicity, you have a much better accurate vision of beauty then when you play loud at 140 bpm.

What is “the dream” when it comes to being an artist?

As music doesn’t come from Earth but from the spiritual region of the Devachan, and is translated by musicians and composers for our physical world (even if they do it unconsciously). My dream is to write music that is the closest from the Devachan’s one. I always heard that Devachanic music could be represented by a giant gong, and that our Earthly music is just the shadow of its magnificence. My dream is that my music looks the closest as possible from the Devachanic one. It takes at least one life !

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

They should ask to themselves: ”Why can’t I remember the Devachanic music whereas my astral body and my self spend all their nights there, and that I have resided there between each reincarnation?”

Review + Q&A: Upupayãma- The Golden Pond (2022, Centripetal Records/Cardinal Fuzz Records)

It must be so wonderful to live in a quiet mountain village surrounded by nothing but beautiful nature, with life adjusting its pace to your inner clock, and to really have time to listen to it and reverberate that beauty into your music. It is what Alessio Ferrari does with his alter ego Upupayãma. On The Golden Pond, his second effort, he connects with his inner Eastern spirit once again to channel all that surrounding nature and stillness into nine brilliant psychedelic folk rock tracks.

Guided by his own invented language and a self-minded and brilliantly naive way of songwriting, The Golden Pond smooths out and continues the Japanese feel (Kikagaku Moyo fans take note!) of the debut album, and adds to it a unique layer that could have only come from where and how Ferrari lives. There are lots of folk instruments briefly popping up and fading out like flutes, sitars, and all kinds of percussion, but primarily it is bass, guitar, and drums that determine the flow.

Sometimes there is room for heavy fuzz, sometimes the rhythms invite for a wild dance, but most of the time it is serene listening music. Music to walk in forest to, music that draws you in, and invites you to look over the edge of that cliff over yonder to gasp at the wide views…

The beauty of The Golden Pond is that even if we might not always have time to go out and be in around nature and stillness like Ferrari, we can actually have his experience by partaking in his records. It is this extra experience that music can bring that makes it so incredibly valuable, and artists like Upupayãma a phenomenon to cherish deeply.

I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Upupayãma’s sole member and multi-instrumentalist Alessio Ferrari about his life, his whereabouts, and his influences. Sometimes the music gives you a certain vibe of a person, and it is cool to have that vibe fully affirmed when you connect…

How are you doing? How was living under covid restrictions for you?

Hi Jasper! First of all, thank you. I am fine, always in a hurry as today’s world dictates, but I am fine. During the strict lockdowns we had to go through, I must say that I ‘travelled’ a lot. Being forced to live only the horizontal part of our lives, I tried to explore the vertical part, that is, myself. I have climbed, I have descended and I have climbed again many times. This was to try to travel within myself and I must say that I have not spoken to myself so clearly for a long, long time. I also have to tell the truth, living in a very small village, I also allowed myself a walk in nature every now and then. Ultimately, I tried to make the best of that time, both musically and humanly, and I succeeded. 

Can you tell me about yourself and your musical background?

It’s a very trivial story: I started listening to music thanks to a tape of punk music from my brother, from there I wanted to learn to play some instruments, not so much to remake the songs I was listening to, but to write new ones. I have played in a few bands over the years, playing a bit of everything from punk to post rock, from the most brutal noise to indie rock. As for myself, I studied foreign languages and literature, English and Spanish, and I have a job I like to call ‘gypsy’, which gives me a certain autonomy and freedom. In short, pretty boring as a story ahahah. 

What does an average day look like for you? How do you mostly like to spend your free time beside making music?

I have a job, so let’s say I work Monday to Friday. Then in the evenings I often play, or when I’m not playing I watch a film, read a book, although I must say that I really enjoy walking in the evenings. Living in a small mountain village, in the evening you can hear many beautiful sounds such as the howling of roe deer, on a few rare occasions I have also heard the howling of wolves. Then you also happen to meet a fox, that’s very nice. But I spend most of my time playing. Then of course, I have to work to be able to afford to buy all the instruments and my trinkets ahahahah, in Italy whoever makes music is considered a layabout, it’s very difficult to make a living from music. 

I feel that where you live is important for your music, can you describe your living situation and how it would effect your music?

I live in a small village in the mountains near my home town of Parma. I live in this fairly large house in which, on the ground floor, there is a barn that I have turned into a recording studio/rehearsal room; it has a beautiful natural reverberation. I must say that yes, the choice to stay and live in a reality that is anything but comfortable is due to music. Earlier I talked about the sounds of animals, of nature in general, and certainly this is an element that influences my music, but even more than this the influence that the place where I live has on me and consequently on the music are the rhythms that I can give to my life. Let me explain: the place where I live gives me one of the greatest privileges you can have today, which is to decide your own pace. Do you want to go slow? You can do that. You want to speed up? Go for it. In recent years, living in the city didn’t give me this feeling, it rather gave me the feeling that the only choice was to go faster and faster. Sooner or later I will return to the city, but not now. 

How do you go to work on a song? Do you play all the instruments yourself?

Yes, even on this second album I played and recorded everything myself, apart from the drums on ‘Come here, Noriko’ which was played and recorded by Sheila Bosco, the great drummer of Dire Wolves (Just Exactly Perfect Sisters Band). My approach to the song has a lot to do with improvisation, as you can also tell by attending our live shows. However, I don’t have a precise methodology. Not having studied music, I do not have and do not claim to have a method, which I find advantageous with my project. So yes, a song can come from a bass line, one from a sound that popped into my head while walking, sometimes I improvise for hours with a looper, so I have to say that I don’t have a method and I’m really happy that I don’t.

I really love your artwork for the first album and also the new! Who made it and what was the inspiration?.

The cover of the first album was designed by Daniel Onufer, an extraordinary Seattle-based illustrator who, among other things, is the founder and runs Halfshell Records, a very interesting record label. The second cover was designed by Peter Grey Hurley. They are both wonderful in my opinion and both inspired by places I often daydream about, sometimes even while sleeping. Obviously I wanted, especially talking about the first album, that the cover also reminded me a bit of the places I live. I wanted the cover of the second album to be a little bit like the cover of the first album because I wanted it to close a discourse. Whereas in the first album I went on a journey, in the second album I stopped at a place and explored it far and wide. 

Album art for the first album

There is a certain “Japanese” feel to your music and concept, do you agree? Could you pinpoint where that comes from?

Yes, you are not wrong. I have always had a soft spot for Japan and its culture, it fascinates me so much. Only in the last few years, however, I’ve tried to get to know it better, going deeper into its culture and arts such as movies, literature and music, especially music. I find in many Japanese musicians a freedom that is unparalleled. I am thinking of Shinki Chen, Food Brain, The Flower Travellin’ Band, Acid Mothers Temple and of course Kikagaku Moyo. I could stay here and list hundreds of them. When I listen to their music I think ‘hear how they have fun? They don’t have any rules, they don’t put any brakes on their creativity’, they don’t jerk off and that’s what I try to do in my own small way, I try to let things happen, and not having an academic musical background helps me a lot. 

Can you tell me about your vocals and the lyrics? How do they form?

It is an invented language, a kind of grammelot, but with very precise rules, few, but very precise. So far only one song is sung in English, which would be White Oak, and it has only four verses.

You worked with Yui Kimjima before, which must have been pretty cool! Who did you work with this time, and how did you find the right record labels?

As for working with Yui Kimijima on the first album, it was all very naive. I wrote him an email convinced he would never reply, but instead after a few hours he replied enthusiastically with that little material I had sent him! It was beautiful. As for record labels, etc., let me say that my aspiration was this: ‘I put the album on Bandcamp, if fifteen people listen to it and three of those fifteen people like it, I have already realised the dream of my life. I also sent it to two or three labels without receiving a response. However, after a while I noticed that people started talking about it in some webzines, on social media etc. and from there Mike from Centripetal Force and Dave from Cardinal Fuzz wrote to me. Boom! From there I went crazy, two of my favourite labels wanted to release my album! 

What are your immediate future plans? And what is “the dream”?

I am already working on a third record. It won’t really be an album, but more a collection of songs that are not as connected as in the first two records. And then of course playing as much as possible on the road. The dream…the dream… I have many, but if I had to choose one today I would choose playing in a nice festival. Very corny? 

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?

I would recommend watching, just to link to a few questions ago, Yasujirō Ozu’s ‘Banshun’, a beautiful 1949 film by the wonderful director that is Ozu. Also because it inspired a song featured in The Golden Pond

Review + Q&A: Opossum Sun Trail- Mojave/Klamath (2022, Echodelick Records)

We are out in the Mojave desert, a rocky and dry place with the characteristic Joshua Trees throwing their silhouettes on the barren grounds. Somewhere far out in that deserted area, away from the occasional tourist or drug weirdos, a trio of musicians is channeling their surroundings. Vibing on the pale desert floor, the stern rocks and the worn trees they play a music that could have only sprung here. This is Mojave, the first side of the new album by Opossum Sun Trail.

For you can hear the American-ness oozing out of Opossum Sun Trail, channeling Cash, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and more modern bands like Reverend Horton Heat or Woven Hand but there are a more ancient roots showing too. Somewhere in this weird hodgepodge of psychedelic rock ‘n roll styles there is a basis of profound respect for the earth, its environment, and its previous peoples as well. Without any trouble they drop their twang-y noise making to explore the mystical side of the desert, brooding, still, as if they are listening to the night and emulating the sounds it makes.

The second part of the album is called Klamath, and it was recorded in the Klamath mountains of California. It is a forest-y area, extremely rugged, and lowly populated. OST’s music reflects this environment as well, at times pushing their jams to mountain wall proportions, and at other times bringing it down to serene mountain lake reflection. Singer Nola’s voice shines on this side, in a beautiful shamanic lament.

It is a beautiful, interesting, and versatile journey that we are asked to join by Opossum Sun Trail. The songs never linger too long, and before you know it the band is showing you a completely different vista, in that way they made me think of a wilderness guide showing me all the cool places of his surroundings. I am a lover of nature and hiking, but OST does not require it, you can perfectly enjoy the journey in your most comfortable chair without leaving the house, and let them show you the beauty of Mojave and Klamath.

I talked to Michael Dieter about his band, how the record came into being and the trio’s musical background. This is what he said:

Hi guys, how are you these days? And how have you been during the pandemic?

We are doing well! Nola and I spent a lot of time boondocking in the desert in our 1999 Ford Econoline during the early part of the pandemic, and then eventually moved up north to the woods. Our drummer John spent this time in Los Angeles.

Can you introduce yourselves? What are your musical backgrounds?

My name is Dieter, I’ve spent a lot of time playing pretty diverse types of music and instruments including jazz, country, afro-beat, funk, psych, salsa, etc… I think we all are very eclectic which is why our music is probably so all over the place haha. John Daren Thomas was a percussion performance major in school and has also played in a diverse variety of projects. Nola has a lot of experience doing eastern european and afro-cuban acapella music as well as singing jazz before jumping on keys for this project. 

What can you tell me about the beginning of Opossum Sun Trail? How did you find each other and decide on the music?

It started as a home recording project in 2009 or so and I’d just kinda layer instruments and play everything. I quickly started to incorporate other musicians. I don’t think a live show happened until 2015, and that was also the first year we released any music. it wasn’t until this last record where we are playing live as a band on the recorded music with minimal overdubs. 

It seems to me that the music is very much influenced by your cultural background and the environment, right? The Mojave desert? What can you tell me about that? 

The music has always been influenced by desert type of vibes and of course Ennio Morricone and his western soundtracks are a huge influence. We are really drawn to the sparseness of that environment and I think that comes through in the tunes. 

The abbreviation OST makes one think of Original Sound Track, was that intentional? What is your relation to movies and soundtracks?

That OST thing was not intentional, but I wish it was! It’s a nice coincidence since the music is written with a cinematic approach. A lot of pieces are short. Texture is often a focus. We’d be thrilled to work with someone making a film someday and provide a soundtrack. 

What can you tell me of the album, or are they albums? They are two separate entities, right?

They are two sides of one album, about 20 minutes each. There are recurring motifs, chord structures and tonalities for each side. I think they could stand on their own but end up together for the sake of a vinyl release. The first side was written in the vast Mojave desert of southern California and the second side was written in the twisted Klamath mountains of northern California. We tried to let the depth and extremes of the landscapes inform the music. I’m not sure how well that came through but that was our intent.

Recording in the Mojave desert

Can you tell me any stories from writing and recording the album? You guys out there in nature? It’s very different from any other recordings I reckon 🙂

When we started writing, Nola and I were out in the Mojave Preserve boondocking like I said. This was early covid after returning from a Baja, Mexico road trip. We would isolate for a few weeks until we ran out of food and then drive a hundred miles each way for more supplies. During this time we’d work on writing music for the Mojave side. 

The Klamath side was written in rural northern California, a drastically different landscape, much more dense and dark. We ended up rehearsing both sides with the aid of solar panels in Death Valley in the spring of 2021. We picked up John and practiced with him for a few days in LA before heading up to record with Tim Green in Grass Valley, CA. Our friend Anthony Taibi, a former bandmate of mine in White Manna, added a few tasteful samples throughout the recording as well. 

What are your future plans? And how about your other bands and projects?

I’m headed back to the Mojave desert pretty soon where I work seasonally as a soil scientist. Nola and I are looking to eventually get a cool spot to set up for recording, maybe get a garden going. We just finished a tour, but hope to get some more short runs going in the near future. Nola and I also have a pared-down twangy, cosmic Americana duo project that we do shows with called Landers Drifters. John’s always up to random music things like drumming and drum tech gigs for all sorts of different LA projects. Plans are pretty loose at the moment but we have our goals!

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Go camping! 

OST

Review + Q&A: Staraya Derevnya- Boulder Blues (2022, Ramble Records)

Weird. The word has gotten a certain negative connotation about it over the years. Like standing out and being different from the group is a bad thing. Here at Weirdo Shrine we do not think so. We worship the weird. The dare devils. The genuine weirdos that proudly wear their weirdness on their sleeves. Relish it, push it, twist it and turn it, not resting until minds are boggled and skin is crawled. Boulder Blues is doing all that and more. This is some weird shit, and boy is it good.

There is little you can do to prepare you for what Staraya Derevnya has on offer for your ears. The international collective creates songs telling strange stories with vocals but without words. Well, not words that are found in any language any way. At times they are pure “dada”, kicking your shin anti art style. But once you are fully immersed and over their initial edginess there is a whole world of depth opening up, revealing truly undiscovered places. The German sound pioneers Can come to mind, the way they always went for the original groove, and put everything in its service, human vocals included. But if possible, band leader Gosha Shtasel’s vocals are even more unhinged and “free” than Damo Suzuki’s. He repeats his fantasy incantations to full on hypnotism, guiding the listener into a trance leading to nobody knows where…you’ll have to find out for yourself.

The music is a blend of anything the groove needs to get going, a bit of jazz, a bit of underground blues, some freakish folk, a touch of kraut…but never an imitation, always at most just an echo of something you ever heard before. True weirdness then. A thing to be cherished. I wish you all a very open third eye when you dig in. Don’t give up easily, and Staraya Derevnya will show you places you did not know existed.

Steraya Derevna

We talked to band leader Gosha Shtasel about his strange collective, because it really is worth ask questions about. Here is what he had to say…

How are you doing these days?

Just released a new record and played in Cafe Oto and Supernormal festival. Enjoyed every moment of it!

Can you introduce your band and tell me more about why you started it?

We went through various stages, being a live band, then a studio project, then a live band again. Over the years many people came and went, but I feel that the current lineup is truly like-minded. They also happen to be some of the kindest and most talented people I know.

Where are you from and how did it influence your music do you think?

I was born in Ukraine, grew up in Israel and moved to the UK in 2000. I would say it had hardly any influence on our music. 

I am sorry to say I could not really make much of the lyrics, which language are they in and what are you singing about?

There’s a mix of Russian and a made up language. It is more about loose associations and intonations than “a message” or “a meaning”. Therefore, I think listening to the music will give a much better understanding than a literal translation.

I have to say Boulder Blues is really something else, it is unlike anything I ever heard before. Sometimes the vocals and music are really quite out there, and made me think of a theatric production, perhaps a puppet play 😉 Do you have a theater background or do you recognize this influence?

Not me personally, although many of my friends are involved with theatre. We try not to pay much attention to genre boundaries and just do what feels right. Saying that, we try very hard (with various degrees of success) not to sound “melodramatic” or “theatrical”. 

Will there be visuals to accompany the music in the future? I think that would really fit!

For us, the music and visuals are interconnected. Like the two dimensions of what we do. It is less obvious when listening to the album, but becomes more apparent at the live shows. 

It made me think of Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits or Mike Patton at times, what music were you influenced by?

Everyone in the band has their own, very distinct influences, but since I do the mixing, mine are more obvious 🙂 

What happens when you create music? 

The recording is fast, usually quite intense and mostly improvised. The mixing/editing stage is a complete opposite – slow and meticulous. 

Label Report: Broken Clover Records

Mickey Darius of Broken Clover Records

Broken Clover Records is a new underground label run by Mickey Darius from San Francisco, California. Apart from its very cool and extremely diverse roster I was drawn to find out more about Broken Clover Records because of their policy. They strive to be very honest and clear about their relationship with their bands and pay 100% of the royalties up front. I was curious to find how Darius was doing with such a progressive way of running a business. It turned out a fascinating moment of getting to know one of the true originals in underground independent music today.

Hi Mickey! How are you doing these days? How was the pandemic for a small-ish label like Broken Clover?

These are 2 seemingly innocuous questions, but they have countless (complicated) answers, depending on the day/hour.  As long as we’re acknowledging that humans are treating each other and the planet worse than ever before (and potentially irreparably) and that’s our bar, then my day-to-day is OK.  I’ve got my hurdles (mostly financial and emotional), but with my little family and my music and work and soccer and the other joys I can find, I’m faring pretty well.  My pandemic experience, specifically relating to how BCR is doing, is hard to qualify.  We had only put out 3 releases before COVID hit and I was really just getting my sea legs.  The following 17 releases came once we’d embarked on this new reality, so I don’t really have a comparative frame of reference.  I can say that I think we’d have fared a little better if we’d been able to have release shows AND weren’t battling for attention…and by that I mean that we’ve been steadily fighting for column space from journalists, since there is not only a lot happening in the world, but also A LOT of music coming out.  We are then also fighting for social media space from fans, as everyone has so much more to process and share.  Beyond this, from what I hear, the journalistic competition is crazy fierce right now and everyone just wants to write about a safe/sure thing.  What we’re doing at BCR is certainly not safe or predictable, so it’s been hard to gain momentum.  All this said, because we’ve stuck to our guns and just do what we do, it seems that the tide is starting to slowly but organically turn.  It is also helpful when folks share our releases or posts through word of mouth, reviews or their social media channels.

Tell me something about yourself! What is your musical background for instance, and how did you get involved in music?

I have always been involved in music.  I don’t say that facetiously.  With both parents being musicians, our house was a noisy one since I was a baby.  Early photos show pianos and shakers and microphones and drums and harmonicas and anything else I could play on or sing along to.  The same went for my brother (Charles Darius), who is 5 years my junior.  The only difference was/is that he is wildly talented and can somehow seem to master instruments and scales he’s only just discovered.  Anyhow, from early bedroom recordings to school bands to organizing shows to DJing to starting my own bands to recording other bands to starting a label (where I am owner/operator) to starting a booking agency (where I am owner/agent) to managing a venue and a lot in between…I was called in to this music world and don’t know if I could really do anything else.  This is my happy place and this is the language I speak and this is where I feel I can do the most good.

I have to say I am very intrigued by the set up of your label; can you explain your vision when you started Broken Clover Records?

This is a hard question to answer, as there are myriad ways for me to answer.  In a nutshell, I saw things that I wished other labels would do/avoid and decided to try and lead by example.  Some of these things are around streaming, artist payment, promo, album-oriented music and the general care of curating a roster/catalog.

Can you take me back to the start? When did you start and how? What were some of the highlights/lows?

I wouldn’t be here, doing this (or anything), if I hadn’t stopped drinking 5 years ago.  As I was freshly navigating this new alcohol-free landscape, I was working with a therapist who had also become my friend.  It started very much as patient/client, but after connecting over a lifetime love of music, we slowly became pretty close friends.  At one point, it came up that he had a significant sum of money that he wanted to invest in a music project.  I’d long had the idea of running a label, but that was really just a way for me to think about artists I like and would love to meet/work with in any capacity.  I now had a very real way of making this half-baked dream a reality and after discussing things, it seemed that he was willing to bankroll a new label and let me drive…which I quickly realized I wouldn’t feel good about.  If I am steering the ship, I needed to feel free of shackles or responsibility to anyone other than the artists and fans and myself.  I quickly told him thanks but no thanks and then committed to BCR001 with my own savings.  

With each new artist relationship and release, there is a new high.  So much of this job is incredibly rewarding.  Even (and sometimes especially) the hard stuff.  My 3 biggest lows are…

1) Turning away cool/interesting projects due to financial concerns.

2) Having to deal with damaged shipments and a lack of responsibility from manufacturers/shippers.

3) A new album not landing/resonating with people in the way we’d hoped.

What is your opinion about how the music industry evolved until now? Are we heading in a good direction with streaming and wide accessibility of music to pretty much anyone?

Evolved vs. devolved?  I dunno.  I kinda see running a label in our fragile music ecosystem like child-rearing…I don’t know that there’s a right way to do it (if there is, I haven’t found it), but you know right away when something feels wrong.  Specifically regarding streaming, my opinions are strong/loud.  First, I want to be clear that I have zero issue with streaming.  I love streaming music and being able to share tracks and add to playlists and all of that.  What I do have a huge fucking problem with is everyone’s sense of entitlement to instant AND free AND across all platforms.  Because of this, we hold off on pushing content to the major streaming sites until 6 months after the release.  I actually had initially set it at 12 months and then flexed to 9 months and have again recently shifted to 6 months.  We do this so that buyers can have the excitement of showing the music to people and feel like their commitment to the music is reciprocated.  There’s a relationship there and I don’t want to cheapen it.  This is not at all to say that anyone else’s method is wrong or harmful.  I’m just running BCR in a way that I think is helpful to the industry and in a way that I think is respectful to the art and in a way that honors the customers who support.  

Who are the most inspirational artists around these days in your opinion?

Anyone who is making challenging music.  In order to get through all the uncertainty that we face daily now, everyone seems to be leaning in to the classics and things that they find familiar.  I get it.  With the world on fire again/still, we find comfort in those friendly faces/sounds.  I’ve definitely found myself returning to classics like Midnight Marauders (A Tribe Called Quest-red)and Physical Graffiti (Led Zep-red) and Against The Grain (Bad Religion-red) far more than normal.  That kind of music (and security) is very important right now, but the folks who are really inspiring me are the folks who are creating music that requires a little discomfort or disorientation.  They’re likely to lose listeners – listeners that are at a premium these days – but they feel so compelled to create that they can’t help it.  That’s powerful to me.

What kind of artists are you looking for when you scout new music?

The criteria is pretty simple.  Does the music move me?  Are the humans that make it horrible people?  If it’s a yes/no situation, then we’re in good shape and can figure out the rest.  Make music I’d want in my collection and give a shit about people other than yourself. 

What should bands do that would like to be on Broken Clover Records?

I will listen to anything sent to me and will reply to anyone who reaches out.  That said, it behooves you to wait until the thing you’re sending is ready to be listened to without a bunch of explanation…ie: here’s a demo, but the hi hats on #2 are gonna be gone and the bassline on #6 needs to be tweaked or whatever.  I shouldn’t need a map to decipher how to navigate your demo.  Beyond that, be straightforward with what you want from the relationship and make sure you’re prepared to do some basic self-promo.  If talking about yourself and asking folks to buy your stuff really feels that terrible, then maybe I’m not the label for you.  I abhor the current standard means of promo on social media channels, but I’m not seeing other effective ways to get people to listen/buy, since folks also don’t want to make physical flyers or do mailers or anything like that.  Look at things though the eyes of a label owner…what would you want to see/hear and how would you want it delivered?    

Do you have a tip for other small labels and people who’s like to start one?

Only do it if it moves you…ie: don’t get in to it for $.  There will be a lot of thankless days and the only thing that keeps the fire burning for me is feeling confident that I’m putting out a quality product and treating people well and putting my best foot forward.  Think about being a fan.  Make the thing that you’d want to buy.  Your output will be amazing if you’re doing what feels good to you and it’s who you are.  I can not talk about authenticity enough.  If it really means something to you, it’ll show.  Conversely, if you’re just going through the motions of what you think you should be doing or what you think people want, it’ll also show…and that is not a good look.

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?

1) Please visit the Broken Clover Records Bandcamp page and check out the roster/catalog.    

https://brokencloverrecords.bandcamp.com

2) After that, please follow our social channels…

https://www.facebook.com/brokencloverrecords

https://www.instagram.com/brokencloverrecords

If I’m being honest,  while the past few years have yielded great records for our catalog, our business has been dangerously slow.  In order to keep releasing the diverse international content that we’re now known for, we need to sell records…accolades don’t pay advances.  I hope that doesn’t sound snotty.  I am being real.  Our catalog is pretty vast and I would bet that even the most finicky or adventurous crate digger/downloader/streamer can find multiple titles that do something for them.    

3) Tell someone that you love ’em and pet an old dog and play your favorite record LOUD.

Want to hear more about Mickey Darius and Broken Clover Records? Listen to this episode of West of Twin Peaks Radio

Review + Q&A: Garden Of Worm- Endless Garden (2022, Nasoni Records/Pariah Child Records)

Garden Of Worm is a psychedelic rock trio from Tampere, Finland. Endless Garden is their third outing, and it is a real treat for those of you out there into folky, trippy, early 70s progressive rock. Take Name Of Lost Love for example, a song which could have easily been written by Wishbone Ash around their famous Argus album. Sure it’s more bass heavy and the old ‘Ash isn’t the only influence there, but it certainly has a similar vibe.

Another characteristic of Garden Of Worm is their unmistakable Scandinavian heritage. Earlier on I talked about a band like Norwegian born Needlepoint that tap from the same well, a well psychedelic rock heroes Motorpsycho and Dungen drink from too. Its a certain very addictive naivety that is firmly rooted in 70s nostalgia, but dares to look into the future as well. They know the type of jammy, progressive music they love, but they don’t shy away from adding their own elements to it. It keeps Endless Garden a fresh affair, and one that has a very high replay value.

It is an album that let’s you bask in its warm sound. The longer tracks like Autumn Song and Sleepy Trees particularly take you by the hand and lead you through this Endless Garden, wishing this garden would truly never end. Fans of engaging progressive psychedelic rock with a Scandinavian twist know what to do…


Gaden Of Worm (pic by S. Kujansuu)

Garden Of Worm are from (around) Tampere in Finland. It’s a town I have visited a long time ago, and I remember it fondly as cozy and cultural, with a good venue and good but very expensive beers. I also remember the people as very open and friendly, and the band’s main members Erno and Antti immediately confirm this image through their elaborate answers to my questions…

Hi guys, how is Garden Of Worm doing?

Erno: Bit like having woken up after a long sleep: well rested but confused. The new album is finally out, so what’s next, haha? 

How have you been the past pandemic period? What were the down- and upsides?

Erno: I haven’t had hard feelings personally with everything being closed. I’ve renovated our house in the countryside and had my first child, so there wouldn’t have been time for going to gigs etc. anyway. Of course it has been globally a good thing too that people have slowed and settled down, instead of traveling around the globe accelerating the climate change, although now it seems people are more than willing to get back to the “old normal”. I still hope there’s something that we’ve learned from this pandemic, but I’m not confident at all if it is enough. All that being said, I feel deeply sorry for all the people who have suffered from the covid disease. The loss of health, social contacts, job, or even life at worst, have shaken many lives fundamentally.

Antti: Hard to think of any actual upsides, to be honest. Even on a global scale with people traveling less by plane etc. I’m more pessimistic about that than Erno, I’m afraid. Overall the toll covid has had on people’s physical and mental health is just devastating. Covid didn’t have a huge effect on the recording sessions or other band activity though, as the album was mostly recorded before covid. Once the pandemic hit, it slowed down the process a bit but as we didn’t (and still don’t) plan to play gigs as a three-piece, we didn’t have to think about rehearsing for and potentially cancelling gigs etc.

You guys are from Tampere, Finland, right? I was there a long time ago, it’s a lovely town! How do you think being from there influenced your musicianship and being in this band?

Erno: In fact we all are originally from Kangasala, a neighboring town to Tampere. Well, it’s almost like a suburb of Tampere. Antti has moved back to Kangasala and I’ve relocated to Hämeenkyrö, another small town very near. Sami is still living in Tampere and our rehearsal place is there too. Having lived there for more than a third of my life I can agree, it is a lovely town. As a rather small town it has a small music and art scene that is active and quite communal with people supporting each other, so it has been a nice environment to do things. Of course the closeness of nature has been an important source of inspiration too.  

Antti: I think it’s safe to say our music would sound different if we were from another country but it’s hard to say if we would sound different if we were from, say, Helsinki. Like Erno said, the closeness of nature – as clichéd that sounds – has probably had an effect on us as people and, consequently, musicians. Perhaps a more direct source of influence can be traced back to the music we’ve listened to, and while the different phases we’ve gone through in that respect are many, personally I have quite a few bands that have been introduced to me by Sami and Erno many years ago, as we’ve been close friends for a long time. I still remember Erno namedropping bands like Tenhi and Ulver when we were in high school. Around the same time Sami lent me some Mercyful Fate albums. Just to give you some examples, although I’d say those three bands are more of an inspiration than a direct influence on me personally. It is that environment of influences that has probably had a bigger effect on me as an artist than the place where I physically live.

Your sound has evolved pretty much since your debut, can you take us along on that trip? How can you explain the changes? 

Erno: GOW started as a sort of side project that was supposed to play straight forward traditional doom metal. Quite soon it became our main band, and that’s when all the different influences started coming in. That’s already evident in the second session we had after the first demo: the resulting songs Verikivi and Keskikesän hautasaatto had a strong prog and folk rock flavor among the NWOBHM-styled gallop. Our debut full-length was still clearly a doom metal record, though a rather ambitious one, but since that it has been more vague. I think Endless Garden is free of any kind of genre shackles, even though our roots are still traceable there.

Antti: Like I said earlier, we knew each other well before GOW even started, so even though I joined the band in 2018, I kinda have this outsider perspective on how the band has evolved. To be honest, I’ve never been as much of a doomster as Erno and Sami, so when the guys started GOW with another dear friend Mikael, I remember thinking what the hell they were doing, ha! To me the early GOW material was a tad too puritanical in its doom metal approach, even though I understood the nature of the project at that time and found the material good. To be blunt, however, I much preferred the music Erno and Sami had made with their previous band Blueprint Human Being, as well as the music Mikael had made with his bands earlier. Fast forward almost 20 years and GOW, to me, is in a great place artistically where we can sort of do whatever we want and still count on there being this certain musical identity that is recognizable as GOW. In more concrete terms it’s Erno’s fingerprint that mostly makes GOW what it is, cos he’s always been the main songwriter in the band.

I really love the phrase “hands up you’re free”. Where does it come from? How did it come to you?

Erno: In fact it is “borrowed” from a Dutch band The Ex, a long time favorite of mine. On the GOW song it is in a different context. On the song of that name The Ex rails against the power of the capital. In GOW’s case it is more about personal politics – all the habits and routines, memories and nostalgia, prejudices, stubbornness etc, things that prevent us from moving on or making a change, often even if necessary. Of course it has a lot to do with politics in general as it eventually comes back to the set of values and norms that we cherish in our society. The phrase itself is a contortion of “hands up you’re arrested”, a phrase I learned already as a kid from some police series I watched on the TV. Freedom can be threatening, but it most certainly is a reason to raise up your hands in celebration.

What can you tell me more about the lyrics, is there an overarching theme?

Erno: Many of the lyrics that I’ve written deal with change, in one way or another. It’s not a premeditated theme, but that’s what I often find myself writing about. Some songs draw influence from old folklore and have this pastoral feeling. Antti and Sami have written some lyrics too. Even though we have different styles in writing I think all the texts fit well together.

Antti: Yeah I think the texts fit together very well even though there was no premeditated common theme for the lyrics. In addition to being written by three different people, the lyrics like the whole album came together in a span of about four years, so in that sense as well the lyrics come from various points of view and places. To me many of the lyrics on the album convey a feeling of hopelessness but of course you can always think “disaster is another chance”, as it says in one of the songs on the album.

How did the album Endless Garden come to life? It was a long time coming, right?

Erno: Very long time, indeed. Some of the songs started forming soon after our second full-length Idle Stones (2015) was released. We started jamming with the new ideas while our original drummer Mikael was still in the band, and even played some of the songs live. Then Antti came in as the second guitarist and the original drummer Mikael went out, so we had to rearrange everything. The songs took many twists and turns before we were ready to lay down the base tracks in the spring 2019. After that we took our time for overdubs and mixing. We did all that mostly by ourselves – Antti had a huge job mixing the album! 

Antti: I can only imagine the process feeling like a long time, because I only joined the band three years after Idle Stones and it still felt like a long time. After joining GOW in early 2018 we spent about fifteen months rearranging and rehearsing the songs. With Erno taking up the drumming duties we pretty much started from scratch. After we laid down the basic tracks (drums, bass, rhythm guitar) live at Easter 2019 the whole process slowed down significantly. I think there was a bit of a collective exhale at that time, like “we did it”, but with time we managed to record and mix everything. So in autumn 2021 everything was done and we were lucky enough to find Pariah Child and Nasoni Records to release the album.

At times I had a very nice old school feel while listening to the album, almost like I discovered a hidden album from the days of early Wishbone Ash, very early 70s. Do you find yourselves listening to a lot of old rock music like that, or is the familiarity pure coincidence?

Erno: Funny that you mention Wishbone Ash! It hasn’t been on a heavy rotation lately, but this brought to my mind that the song Name of Lost Love evolved from an old riff that we used to call “the Wishbone Ash riff”. You can’t recognize the original riff from it, but you can hear the influence. I personally listen a lot to old music – not only rock but also jazz, folk, experimental, so-called world music and what have you. I have an endless thirst for music that takes me to new places, and it all can have an influence on my writing, for sure.

What is the best thing about being in GoW, and what’s the worst?

Antti: Both artistically and personally, I love being in GOW. I really like what we managed to do with Endless Garden and look forward to what comes next. In my mind there are no restrictions to what we can do with GOW and at the same time I think we all have the utmost trust in each other’s artistic vision and taste taking GOW to new, interesting places. The only real downside I can think of is that we sometimes lack the drive to get things done, to tie loose ends etc. I’d go as far as to say we’re a bit lazy. That also means we take our time with each song and album, so it’s not like it only works to our disadvantage.

Erno: The best thing about GOW is that we can refine our artistic vision without any kind of external pressure. GOW has existed now for almost twenty years – we’re not in a hurry to go anywhere. We create music when we have the inspiration for it, and when not, we usually meet for a cup of coffee and chat. Our rehearsals consist mostly of drinking coffee anyway! And the worst thing… like Antti said, everything takes time, haha.

What are your immediate future goals? And what would be your ultimate goal for the band?

Antti: The ultimate goal is to make another album that we can enjoy and be proud of. An album that is different to Endless Garden but still sounds like GOW. And have someone release that album! That’s what we want to keep doing, no more no less. Immediate goals are to get back to rehearsing at least semi-regularly, which we haven’t done for quite a while now for various reasons.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after this interview?

Antti: I can ask for anything? If you can, make yourself a good cup of coffee or tea and listen to your favorite album or read a book you’ve lately been enjoying. Or go pick blueberries, that’s what I just did before answering this interview. Take an hour-long break from the treadmill of life.

Erno: That’s great advice. I’d like to add: Go and buy Endless Garden, LP, CD or both. It may as well be your next favorite album. Pariah Child and Nasoni Records did an amazing job for this album, they deserve to get their costs covered!

Interview with Galician psychedelic folk rock band Moura: When the ghosts of our ancestors are watching over us…

Of course I already spent some time with Galician psychfolk rockers Moura and their mesmerizing take on swirling 70s rock sung in their mother tongue, but I did feel that the rich and historical background they come from needed some more exploration. What makes Galicia stand out from the rest of the Spanish peninsula? Who were Moura influenced by musically? And what on earth are they singing about? Lead guitarist Hugo Santeiro was kind enough to assist me in answering these questions.

Hi Moura! How have you been the past pandemic years?
Hello there! We’ve been hiding, taking care of ourselves, working slowly on our latest album. Always living the present but thinking about future projects

How have you been keeping up both as people and as musicians?
We survived the best we could, without personal or work losses. Regarding Moura, we released the album just a few weeks after the pandemic hit our lives, so we were fully ready, with all instruments in the van, to go touring but everything stopped and we couldn’t play live anymore, like many other bands. Luckily, the album was a bestseller and managed to sell out the records with hardly playing live. Then, as a result of being confined at home for so long, many ideas came out and we started working on our second album.

Your new album Axexan, espreitan is out now, can you tell me about the difference in approach this time with regard to the previous S/T album?
I think there are mainly two clear differences between the two albums. This time, the songs are a bit shorter which allowed us to have more tracks. I mean, it is obviously an album of long songs inviting you to a non-stop journey. On the other hand, the new album is kind of conceptual, something which reflects on both music and lyrics.

I was told there are strong folk influences in your music, originating from your native Galicia in Spain? Can you explain how we can hear this and why this is important for Moura?
Historically, Galicia always had its on nationality, with its own language and a location which is geographically separated from the rest of Spain, but that’s a long story… but somehow this is implicit in our culture; and this is what we try to show everyone by singing in Galician and using an important number of traditional instrument from our homeland. We tried to mix it all with 70s rock music we grew up with.

What are the lyrics about globally?
The concept of the album revolves around the memories, the traditions, the spirits of those who are no longer here with us… Those memories remain hidden in a corner of our mind and emerge at certain moments of our lives. They “observe and watch over us” (Axexan, espreitan); getting us back to specific moments that seemed forgotten, making blurred the border between the world of the living and the dead ones.

What are some of your most important influences? And are there other “underground” Spanish acts you could recommend?

We all love King Crimson, the Canterbury scene, Kosmische musik, Fairport Convention, The Beatles, Pink Floyd… These are probably the biggest names, but we also listen to present bands such as Psicomagia, Cave, Dungen, Motorpsycho, Elephant9, Beak, Kikagaku Moyo… From Spain some of the artists I usually listen are Peña, Xosé Lois Romero & Aliboria, Za!, Atavismo, Acid Mess, Caldo, Rodrigo Cuevas

What are your personal musical backgrounds? And how did you end up forming a band like Moura?
We used to play in bands such as Lüger, Guerrera, Fogbound, Saharah, AliboriaMoura was formed bit by bit as we all knew each other from previous projects and I guess it was logical that we ended up working together on a new one. The band has gone through different members, rehearsal venues… it’s been a slow evolutionary process until what Moura is now in 2022, but it couldn’t be any other way, keeping in mind that we don’t know how to make 2-minute songs.

What is your long term ambition with Moura? And short term?
In short term we have several festivals in which we really want to play as Sonicblast in Portugal in where we’ll meet with many friends from other bands. In long term, the idea is to keep touring and taking our project to Europe and later on the US.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thank you very much for your time; we hope to see you at some point in one of our
concerts.

Moura, 2022