Interview with Sofa Surfers

Sofa Surfers will perform on Friday 22nd of June at Strelecky Islands on Ceska sporitelna Exit Stage at 20:45. Here is the interview about the new album, solo projects, visual art and their show on United Islands Ceske sporitelny fetsival. Enjoy the reading!

You are to bring out new album in September. However, the only information we know about it are the release date and some photo shots from the studio. Let’s try to introduce it to listeners in few sentences.

We worked on it for one and a half year in several living rooms, basements and studios in Vienna, Mödling and Linz. The idea was to gather in a studio in an Austrian province to write songs together. Away from our homes and families we could focus on the songwriting process and develop main themes for the album. Working in a day light environment led to a more colorful sound design. We incorporated more vintage synth sounds and also bit reduced sample technique crossed with a very controlled way of instrumental playing.

Have you already chosen a title for your new album? If you do have, can you tell me what led you to choose this title?

The new album will be called SUPERLUMINAL. Its part of the lyrics of one song and expresses the general positive and atmosphere of the working process.

Sofa Surfers have been evolving with every record – from dub and electronic adventure to the music sounding almost like alternative rock. Will you follow this direction with your new record?

 The result of our new production is a slightly psychodelic urban electronic soul music with an indie band feeling.  Think of a summery of Sofa Surfers previous sound experiences, add a little new vocal spice (Jonny Sass is an additional new singer, who works together with singer/dancer Mani Obeya on lyrics and vocal lines.) and cool it down with a little more electronic sound design then our last 2 albums.

You cooperated with other artists quite often in the past. Can we expect any other collaboration now? If so, can you tell us who are you cooperating with and why did you decide to cooperate with these artists?

It is more interesting for us to create a great band chemistry with 2 dedicated singers.

Will you play songs from the new record at the nearest shows already? For example at United Islands festival, which takes place in the end of June?

United Island festival has asked us for a special electronic dance set, which is always fun to do even if we grew out of the club game. Expect a “djset-like” dub groove extravaganza with the power of our instruments and electronic environment.

Your live shows are usually accompanied by significant visual screenings. Some people say (for example my favorite artist Ben Frost) that musicians decides for projection only because of the doubt, that their music can’t stand by itself. So what is the purpose of projections in your shows?

Having formed the group in the mid nineties, we were heavily influenced by club culture and since at that time some of our friends have studied visual arts, it was clear that we worked together on several audio/visual concepts before even releasing anything as Sofa Surfers. Because we all played in bands before forming the Sofa Surfers, we wanted to do something that corresponds with other art forms. We love other ways of artistic expression and it is a blessing to be able to blend different art forms together into one special experience.

In the beginning of our work we separated arts and pop/club culture projects. Over the years it all blurred together. In the early Zeros we also used the video to display the vocalists we featured on our album, that couldn’t come with us on tour. We synced them and had them singing and rapping to the live band. Maybe it is a problem that eventually the band gests bored doing things that have worked fine for too long. After our Singer Mani Obeya entered the group in 2005, the visual screenings underlined his lyrics and the meanings of the songs and displayed the aestetics of the album.

So taking the prejudice of your friend it is all about your own personal experiences or ignorance towards other art forms.

Your projections include not only images, but also visualized lyrics. Do you consider it all to be just fragments of one big thing?  Or do you think otherwise about the video? Do you want to say or indicate anything different with it? 

We try to create a visual concept for every album. Since we play old and new songs in the live shows the video screenings give the songs what they need. But there should be an overall concept more or less.

When you write new songs, do you already think about their visualization? Do you intend to continue with projections even in the future? How?

Timo Novotny is our visual partner within the band, he either is there when we work on music or he gets the files, so there will be always the wish to fill a room with sound and light waves. He already worked on 2 full length documentaries, where we try to work for his ideas, so it is a big giving and taking in our central and extended collective.

Lyrics of your last record Blindside are full of some uncertain concerns and discomposure. It does not really matter whether the issues are personal, whether it deals with situations of everyday life or politics, the discomposure is still there. Is there anything you would like to point out? Are you trying to make people think about it? Or is the only intention to correspond with music at first place?

Having worked with rappers and crooners in the late nineties and early zeros, we wanted to work with a singer with a more poetic approach. To put it nicely, if you don’t like them, we don’t care. For us they represent a far more personal quality than blunt phrases and our experience shows that people connect emotionally far more to them.

If you are trying to point out something, what actually are your current concerns? More precisely, what does your lyrics actually reflects?

Emotional alienation of man in a fully commercialized world.

Almost every single one of you also makes his solo stuff. Is it hard to coordinate all your activities with a band?

Playing together for an even longer time than Sofa Surfers have been in function, we see the solo projects as assets to our band. It helps us to stay in motion.

Even though you got closer to alternative rock last time, you still mix lots of elements of different genres – rhythmic of dub and its strong bass line, disturbing almost post-rock guitar, soul voice of Mani Obeya. Kurt Andersen in one of his articles for Vanity Fair broadly says (and he is not the only one) that everything has already been recorded and cultural industry just repeats itself in some cycles. Do you think that combination and giving new context to older stuff is the way to be original today?

I see that element as a much broader phenomenon in art and culture. You could call it postmodernism, if that wording wouldn´t have already tagged as being overcome in art debates.

In our case it is simply the individual experiences over time as popculture workers. Imagine a cook, that has found a certain set of herbs, which he likes to mix in several meals. It is called style even if it´s just a mixture. We hope our style mixture is a good blend of our individual backgrounds and creates a certain band sound that connects with our listeners depending on the context (movie, theatre, exibition, live concert…)

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