The wonderful thing about music is that it always, always has the ability to surprise you. John Peel’s famous mantra for life was “I just want to hear something I haven’t head before” and we here at Sun 13 agree wholeheartedly with this.
So it was a weeks ago when we received an email with the subject line of ‘Happy Friyay! Is it wine time yet?’ As it was indeed wine time, we read on to find links to Athens-based Irene Skylakaki‘s 4th album, Souvenir. As we were drinking, we thought that a musical accompaniment would go down well with our Malbec, so we decided to have a listen.
As you can imagine, we get a lot of these kind of emails and, with the best will in the world, we are simply unable to listen to everything we receive. We do try though and, sometimes, we get rewarded.
This was such a time. Skylakaki produces an otherworldly music that has one foot in folk roots and another in lush dream pop. Her songs are, at first glance, simple enough but repeated listens reveal the layers and a very human heart to the centre.
Skylakaki‘s says of her new album “A few years ago, I met Andres Mesa who was working at the studio of Phil Manzanera as a sound engineer at the time. He was familiar with my music and we started recording songs without a specific plan – sometimes this spontaneity creates a unique creative freedom which was the case in this collaboration.
The recordings of the demos took place at Phil Manzanera’s Gallery studio which was the most precious experience. Andres’s fresh outlook on production was a driving power in the creation of the album.
We had a lot of musicians and friends contributing their talent over the years and the album lacks homogeneity in sound but is connected through a deeper cause: recording individual songs that we are happy with irrespective of their style.
During the lockdown, I had to leave London and come back to Athens, so I worked on a few songs remotely with Scottish musician, friend, and producer, Iain Gordon Smith. This was also a different experience and I’m really happy with the outcome.
Overall while this is my fourth album, it feels more like my first one, as my involvement in every little detail was much deeper. I believe it’s a good music ‘photograph’ of where I stand at the moment and I’m excited to share it”
Days later, with the wine long gone, we return to Souvenir and again soon fall for its many charms.
So, suitably smitten, we asked Irene 13 Questions, in the hope we might find out something more about our new musical crush.
Read on to find out more about looking at the stars, lockdown reboots and Gollum mode.
1. What are you doing and how is that working out?
“I’m writing a lot of music and it is definitely helping me manage my stress levels!”
2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“I guess in the same way as all of us have… Some days are better than others and I try to retain my optimism. Adaptability is not one of my strongest traits and I find changes hard to grasp, so the first lockdown was a shock to my system.
The second lockdown feels more familiar, this new reality is not as strange and novel, but sometimes I just miss all the things that I used to take for granted pre-Covid. It’s definitely a period of self-reflection and a ‘reboot’ for me in many ways, creatively too. I have more time to observe and improve – there’s no rush. This is one of the few things I’m really enjoying at the moment.”
3. What do you miss most about pre-lockdown times?
“I definitely miss rehearsing with my band and performing. And I miss the freedom of choice. I’m relatively anti-social and I generally enjoy being at home in ‘Gollum mode’, but I enjoy it the most when I have the choice to be out and I still choose to be at home. Now that I don’t have the choice, I don’t even like it as much!”
4. Recommend one band or album that you think we should check out.
“Band/artist: The Japanese House
Album: Marika Hackman – Covers”
5. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
“The other day I didn’t feel like walking my dog, but the second we were out it felt Great.”
6. What’s your guilty listening pleasure?
“I love Justin Bieber, I think his ‘Purpose’ album is brilliant!”
7. Can you cook?
“I can and I’m decent at it, but offered the choice I prefer doing the washing up.”
8. Tell us a secret.
“Life’s a bitch and then you die.”
9. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
“The one with my friend Lola.”
10. When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
“Last night I was tickled by my young friend Emilia.”
11. What is your favourite view?
“Looking at the stars from the middle of the sea.”
12. When did you last shout at the TV?
“In 2008 when I stopped watching the TV.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“Thank you for having me. Good luck to everyone in these strange times.”