Interview: Andrea SCHROEDER / Intervju z Andrejo Schroeder

Andrea Schroeder Andrea Schroeder came to my attention with her new, second album Where The Wild Oceans End. First of all I noticed the color of her voice, velvetly warm, pleasurable excited, captured into carefully aranged melodies. Her lyrics are skillfully wovened with more than empatetic group of musicians, into inticingly mixture of sound melodies, into constant, elegant rhythm, where no-one stand out, but at the same time, every musicians is important. Especially elegant is the sound of the violin player Catherine Graindorge, than there is the rhythm of the drummer Chris Hughs, bass lines of Dave Allen and the author of most of the music is Jesper Lehkmuhl. Precious is Chris Eckman, this time he's the producer and master behind the mixing board.
As today we can count Where the Wild Oceans End as one of the eternally beautiful, classic album. That's one of the reasons I wanted to talk to the singer and lyricists Andrea Schroeder. Here is our interview conducted via e_mail in May 2014.

Where the Wild Oceans Ends is your second album. I can say it is more mature, more complex than first one. How are you satisfied with your work on it?
I am happy how the album ended up, we had a wonderful time recording it and I love the way Chris Eckman mixed it.

The very first thing listener captured on the album is your very, very special, warm, kind a melancholic voice, with this light german accent... you know... a voice that reminds me on Dagmar Krause... How do you »care« for your voice?
I cared a lot for my voice when I started singing in a classical way and then further through Gospel, Pop and Jazz exercises. But these years I care less, which means I let the muscles do their learned job, but try to let the voice more free to develop it in a natural way back to its own force. It’s a never ending process.

My mouth is dry/of unspoken words/And my hands so tired of writing... You wrote most of the lyrics for the album and I want to know how do you write them... what is your approach to the songwriting?
Lyrics come as they like to, I write the poetry down and it sometimes becomes a song. It is a more unconscious way of writing lyrics, I let them happen. I think all our experiences and inspirations and emotions are saved inside. Someday they decide to arrive, in sometimes for myself, astounding ways. The lyrics always give room for own interpretations, I never want to explain to much. So the listener can find her/his very own meaning and story in it. Poems shall get a live on their own, far away from the writer. It is always fascinating how everyone is interpreting the song according to their emotional needs. It makes me glad and thankful.

Jesper Lehmkuhl and the rest in the band are yours faithfull musicians, they are all wonderfull musicians... I like the drumming part of Chris Hughes a lot, and violin of Catherine Graindorge... How did you meet them? Can you tell us a bit more of the beginning of this cooperation?
I met Jesper through former myspace years when I just had demo songs online, and the first time we met personally we started immediately to write songs together. It was the perfect addition to what I thought the music should be. And he has a long experience in arrangements, which is very helpful and inspiring. We came from Copenhagen to Berlin end of 2011 and were searching for a band to play the debut album ‚Blackbird‘ live. Through Chris Eckman and Hugo Race we got the suggestion for Dave Allen (bass), he is the perfect counter part to Jespers guitar. Daves bass lines give the songs the heartbeat and the strong and steady ground to grow on. And Dave brought Chris Hughes (drums), who completed the picture in the rhythm section with his very own way of a playing percussive and expressionistic drum style. One day I saw a video of Catherine Graindorge (violin) and was amazed of what I saw and heard. We asked her to join our debut release concert and it was perfect. Since then we prepared songs together as a band and recorded ‚Where The Wild Oceans End‘. So it became an organic band record. We played a lot of concerts together before and after the recordings, we are still growing all the time more and more together in an own sound.

Do you remember your first gig... when was that and how different is Andrea now and were years ago?
My first gig with my own music, just 5 songs that time, was in the beginning of 2008 in Munich, at an exhibition of Günter Ludwig, a great painter and drawer. It was an exciting experience and fit very well with his art. The directly second gig which was the first real concert length was just a few months later in Fossombrone, Italy. It was amazing, in an old castle under the stars, with 500 people in the audience. It was like a summer dream, but my band and I that time were nervous as hell, because it was the first show out of the rehearsal room with a lot of new songs. So it all started out very lucky, I got an up cheering response from the audience and each time fresh energy and believe to continue my path. Since then the musical vision developed further, and I was very lucky to meet all those great musicians and people around the project to fulfill the dream. And I really love to play concerts, much more than recording. I need the secret communication with the listener and to guide them into landscapes they haven’t seen before. Our last concert of the tour was in Lido, Berlin, end of March 2014, and it was amazing how the Berlin audience welcomed us home. And now I hope many more concerts will come up for the future.

Who was your first and most important inspiration for doing music?
As a child I always sang for myself, I loved music. I got piano lessons, and when I didn’t feel good, it always gave me calmness to play. I started in the beginning of my 20s to make a pop project with a friend of mine, Roland Voss. But that somehow went out of focus through life issues. Many years later, in the beginning of my 30s I lost my voice for some months, and it was truly a horror thought that I could possibly never sing again. And when it luckily came back I realized that my life was passing by many years without concentrating on what I really always wanted to do, I started to take classical singing lessons, learned about the seriousness. I always wrote poetry, was interested in art, made photography and artworks. But music was able heal my soul since I remember.

What kind of music do you prefer in your youngest years? How important (if) was music for you?
Music was what kept me going. Music could touch my heart and took me away from reality. I liked many different kinds of music, but there must be something in it that goes deeper within. And I heard rock, pop, alternative, indie, chanson, theater music, opera, classical music and many more.

Is Berlin per se an inspiration? By the way Ghosts of Berlin is a wonderful song, it is a pure classic song. Paradox mix between pure beauty and the secret horror of the past... still... What do you mean?
Berlin is an inspiring place to be, many artists live or come here. Berlin has a strong history, which can’t be denied, you can’t escape from war holes between the houses. You can’t escape from reality here. The people here are very honest, they carry their heart on the tongue. The town is real, and at the same time unreal. And there is the imagination in every artists about how this town is and what it gets you to, that makes it very special. I am happy to live here, though it is also often very hard. You see so many people who are in need of help and wonder how that is possible amongst us. So you pass a lot of the tragedy, one alone can just make little changes. It is often very frustrating and I hope that humanity will become a higher aim in our society.

In the history of rock&roll they are many covers of this song, I like Nico version very, very much... She was a model once, like you... Does it bother you when someone compare you with her, for instance?
It is an honor to get compared, and of course it is needed for journalists to explain the music or the voice to a reader who never heard it before. So in that point I am very fine with it. But of course at the end of the day I like to be seen as myself and not a comparison, because I don’t do what I do because I try to be like someone else. In fact I try to find myself in what I am doing. But of course all the music we heard, the poems we read, the people we met and whatever happened in our lives is taking a little space in our soul and comes out in a new way.

Heroes is a song with such a strong statement, it is an eternal and everlasting song for the new generations... why did you choose it? And how is your approach to the covers in general?
Heroes is definitely one of the best songs ever made, I love it. And the idea came during our ‚Blackbird‘ release concert in Berlin when Lutz Mastmeyer from Glitterhouse heard our song Ghosts Of Berlin the first time live. He imagined me singing Heroes in German. It took a while until the thought grew, because it is dangerous to mess up such an incredible song that is also covered a million times. But I found my own way into his words, the story became my own. And with the band we developed a very own version of it. That was the only way to do it. The first times you can’t stop hearing David Bowie singing it in your head, but one moment he suddenly disappeared and lend it over. That was the moment the song was able to be made. You have to make a cover your very own creation, then it works, else it will always be just worse that the original. All great covers are moved to a different direction. One of my favorite cover songs is Johnny Cashs cover of ‚Hurt‘.

Until the end is also a beautiful love song... love is the answer sings John Lennon on Mind Games... Do you agree?
Love is the answer on everything, without love we die. That is also why it is so important to give love, even the not lovable ones need love the most.

Glitterhouse Records is your record company. How are you satisfied with them, how supportive they can be in these turbulent economics crises in Europe?
Glitterhouse Records is a great label, they love music and do it just for the music. They are very supportive towards their artists, and music will always find it’s way.

The internet offers many ways, many options, how the musicians can be connected to global listeners. What's your opinion about all that opportunities, while on the other side only fans would buy the record.
Without the Internet I probably wouldn’t have continued, without the start in myspace with demo songs and the immediate world connection and wide response. And I like the communication with friends and fans very much. I want to talk to the listeners, I love to hear what the songs means to them.

I would say that Chris Eckman did very recognizable production work on the album. How did you two collaborate, coordinate particulate ideas...
It’s great and very fruitful to work with Chris, and he is very supportive and helpful in any way. He gives the needed space to the vision of the artist, and gets the best out of every one. He has tons of experience, talent and knowledge of so many different areas of music making. And his advices always hit the right point, so in the studio situation I can lean back from responsibility and totally relay on him to get the situation to the best possible. Jesper and I compose the songs together, and together with the band we are working with the arrangements. Before we go into the studio we send Chris demo recordings to see if we are on a right path in the development and sometimes talk about general dynamics in the songs. Also it’s a kind of sorting out process of which songs we will take further into the recording session or which ones have to stay home and grow further. During the studio recordings Chris works with the best possible sound, comes up with suggestions and further ideas within the making. He is the one leading the recording session, but always true to the way we perform it. He doesn’t want to change songs or to put his stamp on it like many other producers work. After the recording part, he takes the songs into his studio in Ljubljana, where he makes the analogue mixes. We seldom have any changing wishes, because he hits perfectly the point where the songs were supposed to go. It is the perfect collaboration, because we are in a very close state of musically understanding towards each other since the day we started to be in contact. The work relationship is very much about trust and understanding. We have space for freedom in the personal approach, characters and visions of band and producing. And we became very good friends, Chris helped me many times with needed advice through all the years, even long before the debut album was recorded.

These week the third istallation of The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions will be released. You also contributed one song on it. I guess you are too young to had a chance to meet Jeffrey in person, so how did you get to his music and what was your reaction/opinion to it?
Some years ago I got introduced to the music of The Gun Club through a dear friend of mine from Paris - the artist and designer Laurent Rivelaygue, the band was his all-time favorite and I liked it a lot. And the strange world connection ring got closed at the end, because now he designed the booklet title for the actual project. But it all started after I posted the song Blackbird in Facebook in 2012, Cypress Grove heard it and asked, if I would like to join the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project‚ 'Axels & Sockets‘. And I was more than delighted to do so. We made a version of ‚Kisses For My President‘, the song that Jeffrey Lee wrote while being the president of the Blondie fan club. There is also a more true to the original and wilder version with Debbie Harry and Mick Harvey on the album, where she finally sings the song that he once wrote about her. My own interpretation is more going into the direction of an unfulfilled love, fulfilled in a dream. Jeffrey Lee wrote fantastic melodies and lyrics, it was very inspiring to work with his song. And I personally love all the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Session Project records and this new album is again amazing, with a duet of Iggy Pop and Nick Cave, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Hugo Race, Cypress Grove, Mick Harvey, Mark Lanegan and many more.

You had once a private gig in Slovenia. Is it possible to see you in Slovenia once more?
The last time we played in Ljubljana was at the end of our recording sessions for ‚Blackbird‘. Jesper and I played as a duo with guitar and indian harmonium, was a beautiful evening for us. And I hope we soon can come back with the whole band! Too long time ago since we walked across the Dragon Bridge.

(Rock Obrobje, May 2014)

Varja Velikonja