What's going on with Sofia and Crispin? Adapting to quieter forms of expression, revelations on approaches to mediums such as photography and prose and course, their thoughts on new material are presented here in this interview with John Clay. Starsha Lee return with a live rendition of 'Plausible Hate', a new track off the 'Damnatio Memoriae' EP, and it's about time fans old and new discovered just where the talented twosome are at.
'I have no idea if I'm ever going to try to publish my writings. I still have this romantic idea that the less people know about me, the more I enjoy the secret.' - Sofia Martins Gray
'I like Plausible Hate well enough, but to me, the rhythm of it is actually quite straightforward.' - Crispin Gray
Plausible Hate is performed live acoustically because you wanted to give the lyrics more prominence. How long have you wanted to perform a song like this, and can you mention a few artists who you admire that - like you - normally express themselves with noise/distortion?
Sofia: Hello John! Yes, I wanted the lyrics to be more noticeable, but I'm not sure I managed to do that. This was the very first time I did an acoustic version, and apart from my voice being a bit tired, I was still in loud mode, if that makes sense. It's like when you usually photograph and change to video, for example. I normally think in still images, so moving images can be a bit difficult to get into sometimes. Singing with an acoustic guitar requires a different perception of your voice; you instantly pay more attention to another vocal texture. It was a strange session, I must say.
I'm going to refer to these bands in a past tense, as I don't listen to rock music often these days. I was a big fan of Skinny Puppy; they are very sensitive to animal rights. I love their performances. Also, of course, Body Count. I didn't listen to their last album called Carnivore for obvious reasons. I really like Ice T, but that title makes me not want to listen to it. Apart from that, the two first Body Count albums are great! Proper cool stuff! I must add that when, very occasionally, I need a rock n roll fix, these are the two bands I mainly go to.
What are you listening to at the moment, and also, do you believe that a title of a piece of art can be offensive in and of itself? 'Carnivore' need not be a celebration of meat-eating, right? That being said, there is the co-opting of such a construct as an accessory to the ego of an artist, most of the time a male one subconsciously implementing toxic patriarchal ideology. We could go on about the use of cars and women in music, for example. Keen to know your thoughts.
Sofia: As is no surprise, many things are ethically wrong in this world. Each person reacts to them as they will. Let's not forget that right and wrong are concepts that create disagreement. According to Wittgenstein, Art is an open concept, so that creates even more of a multitude of interpretations by comparison to geometrical concepts.
I listen a lot to Messiaen's organ pieces; I love organ music. With the internet, we can access music more easily, so I don't have to rely on carrying CDs around anymore. I listen to Messiaen's works a lot, and I'm a big fan of Olivier Latry's organ playing.
I still listen to the 'post-punk' era sometimes, and strangely I don't feel it's rock n roll. At least not the classic rock n roll. One of my favourite bands is called And Also The Trees. They're a mix between a Pre-Raphaelite painting and poetry in music. Listening to them, we can feel how sounds can become colours, how senses can get mixed up. I love all their albums.
Another band that I totally adore is Dead Can Dance. Her vocal range goes from witchcraft to pure spirit. I believe many entities occupy her voice. She's unbelievable. Her vocal performance in a song called "Sacrifice" makes me cry every time I listen to it. And, of course, no surprises here; I listen to Diamanda Galas regularly.
You address your emotional states with Haiku like lyrics. Have you always written this way, and now we're on the subject, would you consider an experimental move toward longer monologues?
Sofia: I have this peculiar connection with words in short phrasing. The other day I was having the strange pleasure of writing about a word, a Portuguese word for attic. The sound of that word makes me see everything in a narrative, its people, its smells, everything. I don't know how to explain it. That's why I always say it's better not to explain because it preserves the meaning better.
Not sure if I mentioned it yet, but I'm coming out of a huge writer's block. I'm not a writer, by the way, but I do write, and in the past, I published poems in small magazines. I'm never alone when I'm monologuing; there's a lot of people happening during my monologues.
But because writing became hard for me in recent years, I created monologues in Butoh performances. To me, it's the same; it only changes how one translates it. Anyway, yes, I thought about putting monologues in lyrics in a more obvious way. However, one must be patient with processes and not force what is natural.
What you say about process is interesting in that I often gravitate toward artists with the mindset and longview often associated with sculptors. Yet, they play/sing and perform in mediums which are dictated by immediacy. What do you think of such a dichotomy?
Sofia: I became aware of that through writing, actually. In performance, things do come together suddenly, although I don't forget the amount of time I took to domesticate the space of a stage. It's not only about the front.
Poetry, when I used to write it, was also spontaneous; it had barely any pause until it hit the paper. Again, it's the quality of the feeling. Not every feeling has the same urgency or duration; we can see that also in love. Aesthetic feelings are no different; what maintains them is our certainty. It's a peculiar agreement between us and a major spiritual force that we cannot describe. I really think that aesthetic feelings mimic eternity. If you hold yourself into them, you can feel forever—no need for a body.
Now, in writing narratives, I'm starting a new world from scratch, and often I take time to allow the characters to introduce themselves. I have this story I created nearly 16 years ago, and it took me years to understand that the two characters were on the passage from childhood to teenhood. I had an image, a sudden image of them with a song that I was listening to. Finally, it made sense, and this "sense-making" is the certainty that we need.
I have no idea if I'm ever going to try to publish my writings. I still have this romantic idea that the less people know about me, the more I enjoy the secret.
Would you ever consider writing from another person's point of view, or is your work dependent upon being autobiographical?
Sofia: I think if we try to write from another person's perspective, we will always end up being ourselves. Unfortunately, and fortunately, sometimes, identity is the place where all roads will lead to. I'm not trying to promote extreme individualism here. As you know, I'm always talking about universal messages in art. This is so complex that not only do I not have the answer, but I also don't know how to present it.
In Butoh performance or any other spiritual activity, we can navigate through many entities. The identity is fluid, but it doesn't mean it's nonexistent. I believe in metamorphosis, but metamorphosis is an unexplored extension of you. We explore extensions rather than other people.
In my case, I just can't help myself not thinking about other people, perceiving them. I have a school friend that died at nineteen. In recent years I passed through his house and saw the new painting, new cars, and the cruelty of time passing. Then I asked myself, where's Ricardo? That question created a story.
Always intriguing. Now, back to the music: Your new EP has many energetic moments, 'Plausible Hate' being one of the most subversive in regards to its rhythm, almost as though it was worked out in a jam. Is it possible to say that there will be more of this going forward? Keen to know Crispin's view on this as well.
Crispin: Yes, it's possible to say that there will be. I landed on this rhythm by accident, and Sofia liked it, so I went with it.
What inspired this direction, Crispin? Also, what new music have you been listening to?
Crispin: I like Plausible Hate well enough, but to me, the rhythm of it is actually quite straightforward. In fact, I sort of felt that I didn't really explore enough with it and just took the easy way out. We needed to get it done fast, so that was the inspiration. The last new-ish (I think it's already over a year old) I heard & liked was 'Monster' by EXO.
What kind of music or philosophies inspire you now that didn't catch your attention in past bands, Crispin?
Crispin: It's not so much music itself now (or any philosophies that might come with it) that has caught my attention, but rather the way in which it is produced and, ultimately, 'consumed'. I believe I understand the former part of that somewhat - and can just about compete. But the latter part, the 'consumed' bit, I'm still struggling to understand or get a feel for. I doubt I'm alone in this, though. I still don't feel I'm operating at full potential yet, but I'm still trying, still here and still interested.
What specific aspects of the consumption confuse you, and what keeps you engaged?
Crispin: Nothing specific. It's just a general feeling that I'm not quite there yet with the zeitgeist - so to speak. I may never understand it in a conscious way, or even necessarily need to, but rather just find myself within something that's working for me on some satisfying level; by satisfying, I mean achieving something that you feel is the culmination of you working at your best. Trying to create anything artistic (bad or good) still keeps me engaged, as it always has.
Finally, Sofia, for those who have yet to know, you have played bass but have sworn against doing so anymore. Can you detail what first inspired you to pick up the instrument, and would there be any circumstances where you might chance playing it again?
Sofia: My dad gave me a bass guitar when I was seventeen, and then I started to play it. At the time, I was into rock music, so it made sense. A few years after, I dropped it when I started my Philosophy degree as I dropped all my social life as well. It made sense.
I take it that there is zero chance of you playing that instrument again. You're a fascinating artist, and I'm sure we'll pick up on your reclusive nature in a future interview. Thank you so much for your time x
Sofia: Thank you so much, John! Xx
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