Interview with Briony Charvas – Bass, Vocals & Sarantis Charvas – Guitar & Vocals
Interview by Annalisa Orlando
Could you tell us a little about your music-making history? Have you been musical from an early age, or is it a passion you developed later on?
Sarantis has been making music for a long time – he has studied music in Greece and the UK which has given him an interesting perspective and approach to making music. He has been involved in both rock and electronic music projects. When we met I was playing a little bit of Cello with the band Sulis Noctis but I really wanted to play bass. I’ve always been inspired by female bass players from bands in the 80s and 90s. Sarantis agreed to teach me how to play and Amon Acid grew from there.
Is the songwriting process divided equally between you? What strengths and weakness do each of you have which complements each other well?.
Most of it starts from jams where we kind of have an idea what type of sound we want to create but sometimes we end up landing somewhere else entirely. Briony had only started to play the bass when we started so most of the ideas were coming from Sarantis but more and more gradually she has been writing a lot of the riffs too. We started Amon Acid as something for ourselves really just playing music at home but I think a combination of the intentional groove simplicity and repetition together with the drum machine use helped us create our sound.
Was this album a particularly easy piece of music to create or did you encounter difficulties?
Over the last couple of years, the way we create music has been a long term experiment – When we come up with an idea we play with the equipment we have available to try to realise it but sometimes we need to learn a new skill or invest in a piece of equipment. When we started out we were generating music with whatever we had at home, also quite a bit of software synths and sound generators, we even borrowed some signal generators from a physics lab. We eventually managed to have a live set up independent of software which is really important now we have a drummer, our next album has no drum machines. For Paradigm Shift we felt like we had started to master our experiments into something more solid. One of the songs was actually quite old, Alien King, which we recorded again but we definitely wanted to go into a darker direction with this album so it ended up much heavier. We were even listening to a lot of old school Memphis rap along with psychedelia and doom metal around that period so we knew what we were going for. We always write more than what we need for an album so we usually pick the best tracks out of our jams that fit nicely together and polish them in the final recording.
How have the current restrictions and pandemic influenced your music-making process? Are you missing being able to perform to a live audience?
The pandemic almost benefitted us in that it has changed the way we approach writing music. Since the lockdown, we realised that we can do everything online, started working with our drummer Smith who lives in Switzerland and it has had a profound impact on the way we write and create. However, we really miss getting on stage and also watching live gigs. Our social life really revolves around playing and watching live music, the last gig we went to was The Obessesed in 2019 and we can’t wait to get to some more shows.
Could you give us a piece of advice to those struggling to be creative in these turbulent times?
Use what you got, if you got good ideas use free software use whatever you can just create. That’s what we did, you can master the sound you re going for and then you ll know what to invest as well. We were using free drum machine plugins and dub sirens, to begin with even though we replaced them with hardware now we wouldn’t know what we really wanted in the beginning.
Where have you performed? What is your favourite venue? Do you have any upcoming shows?
So far we’ve only managed to play a couple of shows but our first gig was absolutely mind-blowing. We supported Acid Mother’s Temple at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. The venue is pretty legendary around here and the sound was amazing, the crowd were really up for the trip and it was an honour to support a band that has been such a massive inspiration to us. We are playing the HRH psych fest in Liverpool next April and we’re in the process of trying to organise a tour but we’re still in the early planning stage.
What is your favourite song to perform?
Our favourite song to perform so far has been kagome – it changes every time we play and it’s very close to our hearts, it’s a cover from the soundtrack of the film ‘Rebetiko’. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the opportunity to perform anything from Paradigm shift yet but we had a lot of fun playing live to record the video and live audio for Monarch.
Do you have an affinity with a particular era of music from the past, or do you combine influences from the present also?
We are massive music fans and have favourites from the 1920s to today. It’s interesting to watch how rock music has developed over the years and see how it has been influenced by different styles and see where those influences have led. We love finding bands that were really ahead of their time and also looking for common links between music all over the world. The Greek Rebetiko artists of the 30s were almost outlaws and comparable to the early blues artists in America ( Roza Eskenazi and Lucille Bogan would probably have had a lot in common) – the way blues developed into rock and roll and then arguably metal meant we felt like it would be interesting to try to combine those influences in our music.
If you could go back in time and collaborate with an artist from the past, who would you choose and why?
It’s so hard to choose just one but let’s say Hawkwind space ritual era. Going back to those days where gigs could turn into all-night jam sessions with everyone tripping out, it’s something we would have loved to experience first hand. It’s easy to have a romantic view of the past but that kind of atmosphere and freedom seems harder to find these days. We’d love to play a rock festival that really embraces the free party vibes.
Your music has a very heavy psychedelic vibe. Do you draw inspiration from true psychedelic experiences?
We have both dabbled in psychedelics in the past and it plays a big part in our approach to making music. When we jam together we focus a lot on repetition in the bass and rhythm – that allows Sarantis to build an atmosphere over it – varying the sounds and effects almost like dub. Sometimes we’ll jam the same riff for hours and it starts to feel like we’ve been on an epic trip. We really try to capture that feeling in the recordings.
There are some interesting easter-style elements in your songs. Does world music inspire you?
Definitely. We are heavily inspired by Greek music which is almost at the intersection between eastern and western styles – but we listen to music from everywhere. We try to incorporate different elements from the music we’ve discovered but without letting those elements take over and it turning into a bad rip off. We listen to a lot of Anatolian psychedelic rock which has been a big inspiration to us from the beginning. Sometimes we come across music that shifts your perception of how things should sound – recently we’ve been loving the percussion on Iraqui Choubi music.
Could you tell us a little about the themes and messages throughout your album?
The way we approach lyrics is to try to layer meanings in a surrealist way – to let the listener come up with their own narrative. We definitely have our own messages and meanings but part of the psychedelic experience is making sense of strange visions. We try to use the collective imagination that appears in psychedelic experiences to shape our own version of the narrative. Paradigm Shift is based on the change as the title suggests but in the end we do try to keep our sense of humour and not take things too seriously– Monarch, for example, is a love song.
There are a few songs that seem to explore the themes of space and aliens. Are you guys believers in other life in the universe?
Although we’re not even sure we were born on this planet we’re fairly cynical and agnostic, to be honest. We don’t rule it out, most likely there is but I m not sure they d need to bother with us. But we are definitely Sci-fi and Horror fans, mainly cinema and we have an interest in weird conspiracies, without necessarily believing in them.
There is quite a vintage aesthetic to your album covers and overall looks. What do you love about vintage style?
We really love old 60s and 70s films and were recently trying to figure out why modern takes on the same themes never really excite us as much aesthetically. It’s the same with music, we like dirty recordings and analogue sounds and try to recreate this in our recordings and artwork. Old film and analogue recordings were much warmer and in the end, it’s the imperfections that make things interesting. It seems like there is a trend towards digital perfection and most of the time it just feels really cold and boring to us.
There seems to be a strong sci-fi vibe running through the album. Are there any sci-fi influences in particular to note?
Where we come from the most respected and worshipped prophet is Phillip K. Dick – it’s interesting to see how his predictions play out on earth. His book the penultimate truth covers the current era and although some of the details are a little off the general ideas have come to pass. It definitely helps to reaffirm our belief in his wisdom.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
Keep on trippin’ and make art, creation is true magick!