THANKS to Charlene Soraia for speaking with me….
about her new track, Where’s My Tribe, and the story behind it. I ask her why she recorded the song in her South London flat and what we can expect from her upcoming album – she reveals what sort of music she grew up around and is inspired by.
Soraia tells me about her gig plans and whether she gets time to chill away from music; the advice she would give to artists coming through right now; which albums are most important to her – she ends the interview by selecting a beautiful track.
Hi, Charlene. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m fine, thank you. My week has been about as good as my week could possibly be, thanks…yours?
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure thing. My name’s Charlene Soraia. I’m English, Italian and Pakistani and I’ve been playing guitar since I was five. I’m self-taught and I like to do weird, fiddly and intricate things on guitar whilst singing melodies with slight abstraction, weird inflections and poetry of the subconscious psyche...
Where’s My Tribe is your new single. Is there a story behind the song?
It comes from a place of longing to belong. Lost. Separate. I don’t intentionally set about writing the music I write - it’s just whatever my subconscious is trying to make sense of at the time. I suppose, musically, I don’t really fit into any scene. I’m not folky enough to be part of the Folk scene; I don’t sing with that Indie vocal sound so I don’t belong there either but I don’t mind. I create because it’s my way of expressing/expelling that which I can’t bring the surface or speak about with normal words!
Is it true you recorded the song alone in your South London flat? Was there a reason behind that?!
I was actually just recording demos for the new album but, when I finally sent them to my label, the head (of my label) said he absolutely loved them and literally mastered the recordings as they were and then pressed them onto vinyl a couple weeks later. It’s my most honest record yet and, for that alone, I love it. It’s raw, real; not over-produced and pretty much untampered.
Half the songs are literally me and a guitar. I’m in front of a microphone at silly o’clock in the morning in my old flat...I tried re-recording a few bits with an actual producer but it lost that bittersweet knife-edge between pain and beauty and I’d rather have all the mistakes and background noises that are ‘incorrect’ than sacrifice the honesty. Someone said they could hear the kids in the school playground behind where I lived on one song - but I haven’t found it yet!
I believe there is an album due next year. What can we expect in terms of the themes and song influences?
The concept of ‘separatism’ and not feeling like you belong is an explored theme, which is ironic considering we’ve never been so connected with each other via technology! It’s been amazing to find out that I’m not the only one that feels this division between us all. There’s one song called The Journey which I wrote and recorded myself when I was seventeen (literally ten years before recording this album) and it’s strange to have finally come full-circle and (accidentally) made an album on my own. Maybe it’s ironic that the song is also called The Journey!?
I realised, whilst making the lyric videos for this album, that I’ve been coming to terms with my human experience for a lot longer than I had realised. So many full circles. I wish I could explain more but, alas, this is neither the time nor place. I’ll save it for another song…
In terms of musicians; what sort of stuff are you into? Who were you raised on?
I was raised on David Bowie, Bob Marley; The Police, Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac. I love them all (Bowie is my Patronus. Hey Potter fans! I’m a Slytherpuff) but I love King Crimson; early Prog-Rock and '60s Psyche music. However, my music isn’t a pastiche of these things at all. As for more modern stuff, I adore Lhasa de Sela; Stina Nordenstam, Daft Punk and everything that The Coral and Unknown Mortal Orchestra have ever released.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Making my first album, Moonchild, with Paul Stacey was pretty magical. All vintage equipment - and he’s a sh*t-hot musical, guitarist and mastermind!. His brother Jeremy played drums on that record too (and a little on my second album) but he’s now drumming for King Crimson...which obviously makes me fan-girl!
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
David Bowie - Space Odyssey
I always come back to this album. Most of Bowie’s music transports me to other worlds. I wish Letter to Hermione was written about me. So stunning. David Bowie is my saviour.
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
I was almost going to say Discipline just to be different but how can I compare anything Moonchild and I Talk to the Wind to anything else? The album cover used to frighten the crap out of me as a child but I’ve often found that the things I find most scary end up being the things I love the most in life!
Lhasa de Sela - Lhasa
I believe this was her last album before she died - and I also believe she knew she was dying during this album too. It’s just pure beauty and pain; sadness, realness and honesty…and I love it. I discovered her last Glastonbury when I saw the Russian theatre group BlackSkyWhite perform Lhasa’s song De cara a la pared in their show Llorana in the Astrolabe tent in the Circus field last year and that’s what got me hooked...thank you BlackSkyWhite and 2CB!
But to be honest, the entire back catalogues of all three of these artists are incredible - and most of the artists I mention here!
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Every time they release an album I can’t understand how I can love it more than their last one. I thought II was brilliant; then Multi-Love was pure genius. But, when Sex & Food came out I was travelling to Portugal and I felt like I was listening to a secret the world hadn’t clocked onto yet. I love them/him. Sonically, lyrically…everything. The colours they make; the musicianship. I love how they’ve developed over the years...yeah....I’ll shut up now!
As for a rider; red grapes, please (that’s not a euphemism for wine: I just really like red grapes!).
Can we see you tour soon? Where are you playing?
I’m opening for a guy called Benne in Germany in November! I’ll be in Leipzig, Hamburg; Hannover, Köln; München and Berlin. As for the U.K.; I have a few shows coming up in Plymouth, Calstock; Glastonbury and Totnes in October.
Do you get a particular thrill and buzz from performing live? Is the stage where you love being the most?!
I love being on tour. I feel most at home on tour. Having odd gigs here and there makes me really nervous, but I’m very good at travelling and long journeys and, yeah, I’d love to tour more. Please, universe, make it happen!!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
The word ‘artist’ is thrown around very loosely these days. Anyone can be an artist, a musician or a producer now - you only need a phone! The selfie generation can edit their own pictures and make H.D. videos with ease. They adopt Googled identities. They don’t need any advice. They’ve got filters and quotes they can retweet for the advice they wish others to believe of them.
I wish I could find self-acceptance with likes and the back-end stats of social media but I just don’t care for the facade of it all. I often tell myself the Internet isn’t a real place. I’d much rather spend my time looking at the stars whilst waiting for a new South Park season!
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Errrrrm...oh, god…new artists...do Blossoms count? They’re new-ish. I found them thanks to The Coral. I’m rubbish with new music. I wish people cared about making entire albums again. I prefer listening to an entire body of work but, sadly, we live in a time where everything is very throwaway. I miss having meaning to things.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I’m trying to unwind all the time. I like seeing nature. I like to be still with no noise so I can hear my thoughts. I like long journeys. I’ve been wandering wild and wide-eyed around lots of festivals this year (sadly, not playing them) but it’s nice just ‘to be’ sometimes. I had an incredible time tripping out to Shpongle in the Psychedelic Forest at Boomtown Chapter 11 on some of the best acid I’ve had in many years. The giant-luminous-jellyfish-tentacle-love flashbacks.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Lhasa de Sela - I’m Going In
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