PHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Bernardi
I am spending a lot of my time in Germany…
PHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Bernardi
it appears – and with good reason. There are some great artists playing in the country that, between them, are doing something very different and exciting. HOPE are a fascinating and enigmatic band whose music, right now, is part of their ‘dark phase’. I ask the guys about the new track, Kingdom, and how they all got together; what we can expect from the approaching eponymous album – and the artists that have connected hardest with them.
HOPE talk to me about the music scene around the Berlin area and how much of their music is based in symbolism; whether they are coming to the U.K. and what lies ahead for the band.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Thank you; very good.
This week has been (a lot) about getting going - talking to our agent about the release tour; to our label about spreading the word. After being busy with the making of the record for such a long time; this outlook (on carrying it) into the world is pretty exciting and fresh.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
We are HOPE, from Berlin.
Christine Börsch-Supan: Vocals; Phillip Staffa: Guitar; Martin Knorz: Synths; Fabian Hönes: Drums. We named and formed Hope in 2014 - after five years of playing together.
Tell me about your new track, Kingdom. What does the song represent and was there a specific influence behind it?
It talks about an absurd struggle...
A struggle between super-elevation and submission: hardness and discipline versus powerlessness. There is a lot of energy in that struggle. When we wrote the song, we wanted to make that energy palpable.
We felt like writing a song that is physical and powerful - allowing this anxiety – but, also, allowing the power and freedom when you let your energy go wild.
What was it like filming the video? Is there symbolism in the piece or was it inspired by any particular filmmaker?
We filmed the video in a huge subterranean hall, a former cooling area of a Malthouse, for ten hours straight - temperature round about freezing-point. Super-imposing and super-raw at the same time; emphasising these aspects of the song even more than we had thought before the shoot.
For us, it's not about symbolism but about finding a visual metaphor for what the song expresses - and playing with its extremes.
PHOTO CREDIT: Oliver Beige
I know HOPE are in their ‘dark phase’. Everything is draped in that blackness. Is there an emotional catalyst for this decision?
Strangely enough, after we decided to name the band HOPE, the music subsequently became darker and darker.
I understood that ‘hope’ has everything to do with acknowledging darkness; your own darknesses. The word itself already implies a struggle…and a path; the path of going towards light. As I mentioned before, there is a lot of energy in struggle; a lot of vividness and power. Liberating this energy and power is definitely a catalyst for us.
There is a self-titled album arriving. Given the band’s name; it seems like it is an ironic title! Would it be fair to see there is quite a lot of intensity on the record?
In my understanding of hope, it's not irony - but the only consequent thing to do.
For sure, this involves intensity and I think intensity is what each one of us is looking for in making music. It's also a lot about making the music physical: throwing your whole self; your whole body into it. The non-existence of intensity never worked for us in music – we dropped all songs that turned out to be only scratching the surface.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sascha Krautz
What can you reveal about the songs and themes that will be covered on the album?
I think each of the songs is a world in its own: going from very fragile to very brachial.
The album deals with this exact ambiguity; an ambiguity which I think lies within every human being - and is the struggle of every human being. At the core, we all are brutal and loving; we want to be touched and refuse to be touched - are loud, quiet; full of despair and hope at the same time.
How did HOPE get together? Where about in Germany are you based?
We met in the Bavarian provinces – studying Jazz music. After Conservatory, we settled in Berlin and Leipzig.
What is the music scene like where you are? Is it quite active and diverse?
I thoroughly love Berlin.
It’s a great place to be - to be yourself, especially; to live; to make music. Of course, the city is buzzing with stuff and music from all kind of scenes - genres and places all over the world. We don’t really consider us part of a particular scene, though, and I couldn’t say that Berlin, or the music scene here, itself had a direct impact on our music.
But, it had (impact) on our lives and our minds, for sure – and so it has an impact, in the end again, on our art.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sascha Krautz
Is it quite difficult bringing your music to the stage? What do you change between the studio and the stage – or it is quite a natural transition?
Basically; we don't change anything between studio and stage.
We recorded the album live because it felt like the most natural thing to do. We always defined ourselves by playing together: craving that moment of making music. Actually, the recording process and working with Olaf Opal, pushed us and the music even further - and made us realise what the songs demand.
This, again, bounced back on our live playing afterward – I think we play way more free, daring and resourceful since recording the album.
Are there any particular bands or artists that have inspired your sound/direction?
We do obsessively listen to Busta Rhymes in the band van at the moment...
But, on the larger scale, each of us has his/her very own musical histories and influences. Some, we share - Jazz, obviously but also Hip-Hop, Techno; Classical music - some we introduced to each other.
We adore Marina Abramovic, Sleaford Mods and John Cage alike for doing their art. I think all of these strands are within us and have influenced the music – (sort of) a pool of experiences to draw from.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dominik Wagner
Do you have any tour dates planned? Any intentions on coming to the U.K.?
We will be touring the Baltic states and Poland in October, and then, a longer run through Germany and Europe when the album is released.
Yes; we are definitely hoping to come to the U.K. along the way.
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
Check out Gewalt (from Berlin) - very thick, very brute.
Friends of Gas (from Munich) are seriously great.
Also; check out White Wine (from Leipzig).
IN THIS PHOTO: Freinds of Gas
If you each had to select the album that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
At the moment, for me: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Makes me cry and makes me fly.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland
It opened Phillip’s eyes and ears quite some years ago to the unrestricted and raw powers of music.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dominik Wagner
In the same sense; Fabian absorbed Tool - Ænima
Martin would choose ArvoPärt – Fratres - for its minimalistic reduction to the essential. But Pärt, at the same time, creates music that is touching and reaches out to you.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Be true to yourself. Do something unique. Commit yourself.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Bon Iver - The Wolves (Act I & II)
Sleaford Mods - I Can Tell
Arvo Pärt – Fratres
Gewalt – So geht die Geschichte