Guest Blog: SONA

Our latest guest blog feature comes from Sona, an Armenian DIY musician based in South East London. In conjunction with the recent release of her Pity Party record, Sona writes here about her experiences living in London as a foreigner and the impact that has had on her music….

 

24th June 2016. The day Brexit was announced. Britain divided into two, with hate crimes soaring within the first few days. And, tragically, my 20th birthday. A heaviness plagued the air, infecting the otherwise sweet summery breeze and smell of various lemon-flavoured drinks. Two years later, I began to truly realise how these events, and other experiences I had since moving to London, had affected me.

There are so many layers to being Armenian or an immigrant – I don’t want to declare anything I’m about as whole or concrete, and my experience won’t be the same as someone else’s. The fact that I pass as white gave me a degree of privilege from the discriminatory crimes resulting from Brexit, but I was still subconsciously ashamed of being Armenian in public. An irrational yet rational fear of being undermined, scrutinised, and my ancient language being mocked explicitly or behind my back. I came from an unapologetic and loud Armenian household, to somewhere, where self-expression and emotions were regarded as uncomfortable or only available when intoxicated – somewhere where docility was praised.

Being foreign isn’t new to me – I grew up in Prague -, but in a cosmopolitan city like London, my otherness was pushed to new levels. London is so diverse, yet so segregated at the same time, and the narrative around culture or race is still taboo. It was hard to find people who actively wanted to engage with my culture/foreignness and weren’t uncomfortable around it, which consequently made me fixate on what it meant to me. I started writing and recording music that reflected my culture shock.

Months later, as I scrambled for ideas for a university project, I realised I could merge what I love doing, which was recording music, with academia. What attracted me to DIY recording was its availability and portability. It’s evolution over time with DAWs and modern interfaces allowed me to craft all layers from scratch and witness their progress. Digitisation meant I could delete and restart and work at any pace. I found the basis of my analysis – the effect of current DIY recording technology on songwriting. As I researched, a time obscured in my memory by fruitless trips to the library and endless bagels, I came across “The Temporary Autonomous Zone” by Hakim Bey, a piece of writing about DIY culture that resonated with me. Bey claimed that the act of creative self-expression by minorities created a temporary autonomous zone; a literal or metaphorical space “like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it”.

Soon, these songs became a coping mechanism against the disillusionment and isolation I felt whilst living as an immigrant in the UK. In my bedroom in Deptford, I was creating my own temporary autonomous zone, where instead of the British government and Queensbray estate agents, I was in charge. Whether consciously or subconsciously, minorities are constantly trying to create safe spaces for themselves in the virtual, in public spaces, or simply within their homes. Therefore, I chose to keep each recording imperfection – to document that space within the interstitial, to transport the listener to my most vulnerable and intimate space. I experimented with temporality, with the shortness of the songs, as a response to the fast-paced listening and recording culture of our time – our processes are non-linear, fractured, and immediate, transcending any notion of form or time. It was also an homage to the small everyday moments of my life that had their roots in my otherness. I felt strangely liberated by my self-imposed time and volume limits and it was my small rebellion of self-expression that I didn’t feel confident vocalising in real life.

In April 2018, after decades of extreme corruption and unspeakable crimes by the government, Armenia underwent a peaceful political revolution, overturning the previously authoritarian regime. Watching these events unfold from somewhere, where Armenia is either associated with the Kardashians or completely unheard of, was excruciating. I wanted to release this project to transcend us from popular discourse and contribute to my culture the best way I knew how. In a way, I regret sharing this as I feel that the beauty of music lies in our own personal connections. To say my whole project is about my cultural identity would be false – it was just the backdrop to what I was writing about. I invite personal connections, but I hope this gives my audience, whoever they are, some insight into what it represents to me.

Huge thanks to Sona for writing for us. You can check out her music via Bandcamp.

WATCH: Amaal – ‘Coming and Going’

Amaal is Somali-Canadian artist Amaal Nuux who has returned to music following much time spent on her activist work as the Goodwill Ambassador for Somalia Women and Children. In her music, she draws influence from both her personal life experiences and her travels.

We’re loving the video of her latest single ‘Coming and Going’. It is quite the silky lustrous number, taken from her upcoming debut EP set for release this summer. Speaking on the track’s inspiration, Amaal shared: “’Coming And Going’ was inspired by a relationship that had no defining status. I think a lot of us have been in situations where we should leave but it feels so good to stay.”

We cannot urge you enough to go check her out.

‘Coming and Going’ is out now. You can find more from Amaal on InstagramTwitterFacebook

Tash Walker
@maudeandtrevor

WATCH: YALI – ‘Why Do Flowers Mean Love?’

YALI is a 24 year old singer-songwriter, pianist and producer from Israel. Her experimental style combines influences from Classical music, Jazz, and Electro-pop.

Latest single ‘Why Do Flowers Mean Love?’ constructs and deconstructs the artist’s portrait; an audio-driven collage of effects, glitches, artifacts and distortions reflect on the YALI’s background story and feelings, while writing and recording the track. Of the track, YALI explains:

“The glitch itself is the effect nature brings back to the digital perfection, forcing small errors and imperfections on all streams of data around us. Its complete randomness and chaotic action makes each glitch unique when created and embeds within the final visual content we consume so regularly everywhere around us. Making the final stage of delivery to spectators “damaged” with no way to control or avoid it.”

Watch the new video for ‘Why Do Flowers Mean Love?’ here:

You can find out more about YALI through  Facebook and Instagram.

Music & Production by Yali Blankstein. Mix by Roy Avital. Add. production by Stav Tell. Mastering by Jordan Schultz. Video Production by Phenomena Labs. Video Director Tom Uziel. Video Art by Ronen Tanchum. Makeup by Denise Ayelen Kohon. Thanks to: Ilya Marcus, Amit Einy, Tomer Rousso, Oded Granot, Shuz.

 

Tash Walker
@maudeandtrevor

Introducing Interview: Pixel Grip

Already a known quantity in Chicago for their live shows and dance parties, Pixel Grip have now put out their first LP Heavy Handed. Energetic, dark synth-pop grooves with deep analog synth zones, in their words “menacing”. We had a quick chat with the trio to hear their thoughts on their hometown, moving away from the constraints of genre and the confidence of extended repetition.

Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about how Pixel Grip started?
R: Hi, thank you! The three of us went to the same high school and bonded over liking electronic music despite the uninspired atmosphere of our hometown. The three of us independently tried to pursue music with other bands and it took us a while to get in a room together, but now we’re inseparable.

You’re based in Chicago, unarguably the birthplace of house music – what’s the current scene like? Do you feel supported by other artists and the wider music community?
R: It’s true that Chicago is the birthplace of house and has a flourishing electronic music scene. I just still don’t know where we fit in. We kind of feel like outsiders here; we don’t really fit in with the dark wave or goth scene, we don’t fit in the club scene. We’ve just been playing our set on venue and festival stages and hoping people like it.

We are loving your track ‘Plastic Enemies’, which we’ve played on the radio show and love the video, can you tell us a bit more about the track?
R: ‘Plastic Enemies’ is a moody song with a powerful bass-line and heavenly chords. Me and Jon developed the structure of the song very quickly through improvisation, and Jon produced his heart out on the track. The lyrics are inspired by falling in love with a straight girl.

Your debut LP Heavy Handed feels like it draws from a number of musical genres – how would you describe the record?
R: I find myself less interested in the idea of “genre” more and more every day. Our goal in the creative process is to write a good song. A song with movement and power and expression. When we are working together we like to riff on energy that’s dark or funky – something that makes you bang your head or do stank face. There’s also songs on the album that pause from the dancing to reflect or emote.

What is your creative process like, do you work together or separately?
R:
We do both. Jon works really well on his own when he produces the tracks. When we are songwriting we try everything: generally, we create concepts through improvising with each other, but a few tracks on the album were produced around a crude demo I made by myself.

You’re known for your live shows and dance parties in Chicago – can you describe them for us?
J: Something we love about playing live is our ability to transform recorded material into something new and unpredictable. We get to use new instruments, unique sounds, stunts, anything really. We used to DJ more often in Chicago, but lately it has been more exciting to apply those mixing skills into a full band set. I think the biggest takeaway is the confidence of extended repetition.

Plans to come to the UK anytime soon?
J: Yes! Want to help us get some UK shows…?!

What’s the rest of 2019 got in store for Pixel Grip?
J: Start writing the second album! Also, we hope to be on the road as much as possible, maybe even more than what’s possible.

Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other new/upcoming bands or artists you’d suggest we check out?
J:
Definitely check out Sports Boyfriend, Cameron Traxxx, and Ariel Zetina. Those are just a few of our favourite Chicago musicians.

Huge thanks to Pixel Grip for answering our questions! Heavy Handed, the debut LP from Pixel Grip, is out now.

Tash Walker
@maudeandtrevor

Introducing Interview: Pi Ja Ma

If you haven’t yet heard of Pi Ja Ma think dreamy Parisian alt-pop with a heavy helping of humour and sixties sparkle. Having racked up several million of streams from their debut EP, we caught up with Axel and Pauline to talk about their debut album Nice To Meet U, their gig at Rough Trade East and what motivates their records.

Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about how Pi Ja Ma started?
Axel: We met each other on the internet in 2015 – I saw a video on YouTube where Pauline was singing a cover of the velvet underground ‘Femme Fatale’. I tried to contact her via email and then we met. I played her some songs and we talked a lot about our lives and laughed and drank a lot of teas. We immediately connected. Then everything happened very fast; we’ve recorded a few songs that we loved and sent them to a small label called Bleepmachine, we decided to work together for our first EP Radio Girl to see what happened… Reactions were great so we started to play live, then we signed a licence deal with a bigger label (Cinq 7 / Wagram Music) to release the album Nice To Meet U.

As a visual and DIY artist can you tell us about the interaction of your illustrations and art with the music that you have created – do they lean on each other or do you find one takes the lead in the creative process?
Pauline:
Music and illustration make a beautiful couple – they are very different but are both an animal way to express yourself. I couldn’t choose between these two. Drawing was easier for me at first but then I began to sing, and it was also very natural doing that everyday. I like to think about the full project with music, drawings, videos etc…

Nice To Meet U album cover

You debut album Nice To Meet U came out last year to a great reception, with your music being described as “evolving fantasies and nostalgic daydreams, encouraging the listener to step back in time to the 1960s” – how would you describe the record?
Pauline:
It was very easy making this record with Axel. Just after we met, we spent a lot of time talking and making jokes. We were inspired by the same artists like The Beach Boys and Mac Demarco. We had a lot of fun, I hope it will be the same for the second album!
This record talk about simple topics like shitty love stories and feeling weird in your own family. It contains a lot of positive vibes and people tell me that it makes them happy so I feel like we’ve succeeded in what we set out to do!

We loved your tracks ‘Vertigo’ and ‘I Hate U’, which we’ve played on the radio show, and love the videos -can you tell us a bit more about the videos and how they link together?
Pauline:
Every time we finish a song, I have images in my head. I try to explain my story to a director and then we make the video together. I like to add drawings and animations to videos because it’s a part of me I can directly put in the reality of the images.
The story begins, I’m in the skin of a sad man who’s trying to let it go and act crazy in the street. He meets his double, a guy who represents a rock’n roll version of him. At the end of the video he’s back in his normal life, drinking whisky and watching TV, and then the second video begins and I’m in the skin of a vintage pop star who’s gonna go crazy in her way too. Both songs are talking about the same topic, which is difficult break ups and moments when you feel crazy and just want to “tout foutre en l’air”.

Can you tell us a bit more about the evolution of your music from your Radio Girl EP to Nice To Meet U?
Axel:
Well it was the same process for the EP and the album. I was recording songs at home, then I would send them to Pauline, and if she’d like it (which happened most of the time luckily) we started to talk about it and what we would like to talk about. At the beginning, I was writing the lyrics alone translating our discussion into lyrics, but more and more we started to write together. Production-wise we kept the same process that worked on the first EP, which is making most of the things at home, to keep our own sound. Apart from drums, and strings, everything was homemade. That’s what we like, to keep it simple.

Your music covers a variety of topics including gender, youth, isolation and failed love with a gentle intensity mixed together with humour – does that reflect your general outlook on life and response to cultural experiences and societal pressures?
Yes. That’s a pretty good sum up of our philosophy. It’s great feeling that people can understand that, just listening to our music.

You’re currently on tour and have just played both Rough Trade East and the Southbank Centre (two iconic London venues) – how were they?
Axel: Rough trade east was great! People were so kind with us, and the gig was fun. That place is amazing, it’s inspiring. I would love to work in that shop, I’m sure I would get many ideas from all the great music they play most of the time.
Pauline: I’m always very well surprised by the warm welcome English people give us everytime we come to England, it’s a great feeling when people can understand each one of your words, even the jokes between the songs. Even walking down the streets in London feels amazing, because of the open-minded way of life there. I mean, what people wear, the way they are smiling much more than French people, and how they organise more cultural activities in the heart of the city.

You’ve previously played London including The Moth Club in East London how have you found the reception this time?
Moth club was one of our first gigs, and we were quite shy back then, now we improvise much more and feel more confident and it makes the show greater!

What’s the rest of 2019 got in store for Pi Ja Ma?
As we’re touring, we’re thinking a lot about our second record. We get constantly inspired by what we see, who we meet, and what we’re listening to. We already have a few songs and can’t wait to do more.

Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other new/upcoming bands or artists you’d suggest we check out?
We love Halo Maud who’s a friend of ours, and who helped write a few lyrics on the album. Her music is great and she’s signed to a British label (Heavenly Records). You should check her out. Also, you should check Musique Chienne, Pauline’s latest crush is Creatures, who we saw at Old Blue Last just after our gig at Rough Trade East.

Nice To Meet U is out now.

Tash Walker
@maudeandtrevor

Track Of The Day: Zoey Lily – ‘I Wish I Had A Heart’

Following the release of last year’s 2thousand&8teen collection, London based alt-pop artist, and personal fave, Zoey Lily releases her latest single ‘I Wish I Had A Heart’.

Zoey explains that the track is about “feeling stuck in your own skin and being unable to deal with the outside world and everything that is expected from you in society, so you’d rather hide away and basically stop living so no one can judge you anymore.

The single is out now and we’ve got two tickets to give away for Zoey’s headline show at The Waiting Room on April 25th – to be in with a chance to win tweet us your favourite heart emoji and the word WIN to @getinherears.

Written and arranged by Zoey, and co-produced by Grace Carter’s drummer Toby Horton and mixed by James Kenosha.

Listen to ‘I Wish I Had A Heart’ below.

 

Tash Walker
@maudeandtrevor

Top 5 Playlist: ANNAVR

Berlin based avant-pop artist ANNAVR has just released her latest EP II: Vibration the second chapter of a three part trilogy series, which began back in the summer with I: Hallucination. This EP has been on repeat ever since it landed in our inboxes – an all encompassing, experimental, sonic soundscape that melts into your ears.

Hot off the back of this release we asked ANNAVR to put together her Top 5 Playlist for you all and what a Top 5 it is… Get listening, learning and loving.

Kelly Lee Owens – ‘More Than a Woman’ (Aaliyah cover)
It’s a shame, but I have to admit that I discovered Kelly Lee Owens’ work actually only through Spotify algorithms. Her name popped up in the ‘fans also like’ section on my artist page. I guess this is one of my favourite tracks from her, featuring the beyond beautiful voice of Aaliyah.

Lauren Auder – ‘these broken limbs again’
I can’t say that Lauren’s music influenced me (yet), as I just very recently discovered it – it reflects a certain musical wavelength that sounds and feels very familiar somehow.

Tirzah – ‘Gladly’
I don’t think it’s possible not to love this song. Also that Pitchfork quote: “‘Gladly’ is a warm embrace of a song that clocks in at a leisurely 65 bpm—incidentally, the resting heartbeat rate that indicates tip-top physical condition.”

Eartheater – ‘Peripheral’
The day I discovered Alexandra Drewchin’s music, I felt heavily relieved. At least for a moment. Which also happened with Dean Blunt for me. It’s like that rare moment when you experience someone making audible what partly goes on in your head, but you can’t even describe with words.

Dorian Concept – ‘Promises’
Oliver’s work always connected pretty much everything I look for in music. I was lucky to cross paths, with him in the role of a lecturer, at the Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp in Berlin 2017. His latest album was probably my favorite of 2018.

Listen to ‘Vitamins’ by ANNAVR below, and find out more via Instagram & Facebook.