The Trouble Notes
I have been talking with the Berlin-based band…
The Trouble Notes - and asking about their latest single, Lose Your Ties. The album of the same name was released yesterday and it shows, from the off, what a force they are! I ask the guys about the songs on the album and what comes next for them; whether there are going to be any tour dates on the horizon – and whether they will come over to the U.K.
They discuss their favourite music and great memories from their careers; why London is not as foreign as you might think (to them); how important the stage is to The Trouble Notes; any advice they would give new artists emerging – they recommend some cool artists to investigate in closer detail.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey! Actually, it’s been a pretty busy week for us. We have our album release next week (16th February) - as well as the first concerts of our release tour, which starts in Hamburg! Needless to say, we’ve been in the rehearsal room a lot preparing - and we’re on our promo game. It’s been a lot of work, but it is an exciting time for us!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Yes, so. We are a trio consisting of Bennet Cerven on Violin, Oliver Maguire on Percussion and Florian Eisenschmidt on Guitar. Our music is incredibly hard for us to define because we try to bend genres and fuse cultural traditions with our music. When we have to, we call it ‘music for travel’ - because we spend nine-ten months per year on the road traveling and touring.
Each of our songs is meant to be a kind of cultural bridge that we’ve written during our time on the road - mixing the musical style of the different places we visit and creating a kind of soundtrack to our journey.
Lose Your Ties is the new single. What is the story behind the song?
Lose Your Ties is a pretty personal song for us because it is literally meant to be the story of our origins. I (Bennet) used to work at a firm on Wall Street in N.Y.C.; wearing a neck-tie every day and feeling completely unfulfilled with what I was doing. This song is about the very moment that I decided to up and quit, take my violin and a bag of clothes; board a flight and start this journey. We all found one another along the way: each of us ‘losing our ties’ to whatever held us back from pursuing our passions. The track is about the transformation from the moment you first hear that little voice in your head telling you to uproot yourself and change your life - to the final act of taking the risk and embracing your newly forged path.
That is really one of the main messages behind our music: realising that many of the obstacles that we face have been put there by ourselves. Often, at times, we are the very people that hold ourselves back…
It is taken from the album of the same name. Can you reveal the stories and inspirations that go into the record?
If Lose Your Ties is the story of the origin: the other songs are each a kind of soundtrack to the experiences we had in our first years together. There are eleven songs on the album - and each song has a story and particular mix of style that makes it unique.
Barquisimeto, for example, is about our experience traveling to Venezuela in 2016. In the months leading up to our departure from Europe; the Venezuelan economy was seriously faltering and security warnings were being issued to everyone wanting to travel there. Crime was spiking, people were experiencing massive supply shortages and, at a distance, Venezuela seemed like a very ugly place to visit. But, upon our arrival, everything began to change. We were welcomed with open arms by people eager to connect with us and share their culture and beautiful homeland with us. We wrote the song, specifically, to trace the emotions we felt: from the fear of the unknown to the good-natured vibes of our Venezuelan family.
Is there a particular song from the album that stands out as being especially memorable?
Perhaps the most successful song of ours until this point has been Grand Masquerade - also included on the record. The song was the one we played on the streets of Strasbourg that went mega-viral, amassing something like seventy-five-million views worldwide! But, it’s the story behind that song that we feel resonates with so many people. We believe that at some point in your life, you are forced to mask something about yourself from others. Be it political views, sexual orientation or religious beliefs; there is something that you feel others should not know.
The song is about the decision we make on whether or not to remove the mask and reveal what we are hiding - or walk around forever in a kind of masked conformity.
Lose Your Ties follows the hugely successful E.P., Soundtracks from the Streets. Were you surprised by its success and how many people latched onto it?
Soundtracks from the Street was made as a kind of ‘street album’ that we could bring with us to sell while we were busking and playing street music around Europe. Obviously, we had sold a lot of copies in the street - but it was last fall when some of our videos went viral that it shot up the charts, peaking at number-five in the U.S.A. (and in the Latin and World Music charts!). It was a very pleasant surprise for us - and something we are truly thankful to a lot of new fans who saw its purchase as a way of supporting us.
Now; we need to repeat that whole process with Lose Your Ties.
What is the music scene like in Berlin? Is it a great place to make/perform music?
Berlin has been our base for the past four years and has certainly had its influence on our music. As far as musical cities go, it’s a complicated scene. The city is obviously extremely famous for its Electronic music scene and offers some of the very best in the Jazz and Classical music world. But, much like other large cultural cities, the music market is a bit over-saturated. There are many great venues here and talent from all over the world comes to perform - so the people of the city are spoiled with good music.
That means you have to work twice as hard to get people to come to your concerts: a challenge that we took head-on…
IN THIS PHOTO: Opal Ocean/PHOTO CREDIT: Kathleen Mary Lee
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Ollie: I have (really) been listening to a lot to Opal Ocean. They’re a guitar duo from Australia.
Florian: Kallidad (from Australia) is also a killer band. They are a dope mix of Spanish guitar and Heavy Metal style. Plus, easily some of the nicest dudes we have met while on the road.
Bennet: There is also Yatao - a duo here in Berlin that brings the hang drum to the next level. I'd definitely recommend Time for T., as well, great friends and incredible musicians. Their music is kind of tropical-Indie-Rock.
If you each had to choose the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Bennet: For me, it is Rodrigo y Gabriela’s 11:11
They were a massive inspiration to me - and part of the reason that I left my old career and came to Europe. In a way, I was following in their footsteps. That was the record that I had on-repeat in the months before I made the big change!
Oliver: Fugees - The Score
It was the first album I really loved when I was a wee lad. Lauryn Hill’s vocals and memorable raps: it brings me the feeling of the 1990s each time I hear it.
What gigs are forthcoming? Where can we see you play?
The 2018 tour season kicks off this month! We’re pretty much planning to be touring the whole year. In February, we’re in Germany; followed by March in France. Then, in April-May, we split between France, Italy and Germany. This summer is already filling up with festivals - and we are hoping to get some U.K. dates in their in June/July and then, in October-November, we’re making our way across the pond and touring the U.S.A.
Will you be coming to the U.K.? Have you performed over here at all?
A little-known fact at this point is that Ollie and I (Bennet) actually met in his native London. For our first few months together, we lived together in West London and performed all over the city. At least once per year, we make our way back to London and perform a couple of concerts; usually once in the West and once in the East. The city has always been good to us and it remains a kind of ‘hometown’ for us - and is dear to our hearts. We have done a small tour of the U.K. in the past - but it’s a country that we are eager to explore much more. The tour schedule is really filling up for the year but it looks like we’re going to get over to the U.K. in the summer.
The exact dates are still in the air.
Is live performance something you all love? Do you feel most alive there?
We are definitely a live band. There is a kind of energy that we emit, feeding off the crowd: that makes our live shows a real experience for everyone in the room. That definitely comes from all the years of busking. In order to be a good street musician, you have to be a very strong performer - to make your presence felt, transmit energy and captivate an audience. Over time, it’s something we have become very good at and we love doing it. That’s probably another reason people connect with us so much on stage: because we genuinely have fun and get lost in the moment.
What do you all hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
We suppose you could say that 2017 was a bit of a ‘break-out’ year for us because of all the videos that went viral and online success that we’ve had. But, somehow, we have a feeling that 2018 is going to be our biggest year to date. Our focus is going to be on the stage show - since people still often see us as a ‘street band’. That’s not to say that we do not still want to stay in the streets from time to time: we LOVE busking and it’s a huge part of our identity. However, we have aspirations of bringing the songs and vibrations of the different streets that we have played on to the bigger stage. This is a goal for 2018: to build a killer stage show where the audience can transport themselves to different parts of the world with each song – all together from the same room!
Bennet: Aside from our musical goals; I’m involved in a few working projects that will help make life a bit easier for the independent artists. We’re focusing on some Blockchain solutions to help decentralise the industry and give the individual artists a bit more control over their work.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Ollie: Definitely performing in front of my family in London! Every time we go back to London, my whole family comes out and supports and, for me, that is just bliss.
Their support lights a fire for me.
Bennet: It’s very difficult to pick just one: we have had the opportunity to play in so many beautiful and historical places. I think, for me, the dream was always to travel; so when I have had the opportunity to perform in packed squares in the shadows of some of the most beautiful buildings in our history, it is a special experience. There’s a particular memory in Verona that often sticks in my mind. We were playing at the base of an ancient Roman gate on a Saturday evening with a huge crowd of people in front of us (and watching from their windows). Afterwards, so many people came to us and remarked what a magical moment it was.
We’ve had numerous moments like that - and I cherish every single one of them.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I think one of the things that we want to be known for in the music world is being one of the hardest-working groups around. We do nearly everything independently: we financed our album, booked our tours; travelled…everything. It was all a huge risk, but we believed so strongly in our music and enjoy playing so much, that the challenges can all be overcome. A lot of young artists today write a few good songs; send out some demos and expect labels and bookers to come and help them get them in front of a crowd.
We feel you have to create your opportunities, get out into the streets and go play. Connect with people. Inspire and be inspired. We all have our own way in this world: find yours and do everything you can to bring yourself where you need to go. Once you’ve found your own path, the rest will follow…
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Tamacun
Time for T – Long Day Home
Opal Ocean – Mexicana
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