The music of Age Eternal suggests the presence of other realms. Be The Enemy is the last album in a string of otherworldly releases, like a system of planets orbiting a celestial body. We set off to explore these far reaches and the more human elements of self-releasing an album and operating as a DIY artist in these strange times.
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Thomas: I wanted to start by asking about the artwork for Be The Enemy and why you decided to make a collage to accompany the vinyl rather than a conventional sleeve? I really like it, somehow makes the eyes feel more striking and the colours more vibrant and I wondered how all this imagery relates to the music itself.
Lissa: The idea for combining a collage with the vinyl developed because I wanted to create something very personal. I have a visual arts background and collaging is a technique that always resonated with me. I used it a lot in the last few years before I got more into music making and really like the idea of abstracting something pre-existing and transforming it into something new.
In my music I also follow a more abstract approach and for this release wanted to incorporate these two fields. I loved it when records had posters in them, so I thought: why not make something that people could also hang on their wall, if they like?
I did this release by myself without a label, so I was completely free to experiment and try out different things. The aspect of combining the vinyl with a handmade object was also very important. We live in a pretty fast-paced world these days where a lot of things are just consumed without really paying attention to their value and the energy that went into creating them. Often there's no connection to that anymore and I wanted to make something that could be a little antipole to that.
I don't want to say too much about the meaning of the imagery because I want people to see their own reflection in it. The images represent the state I was in while creating the music. I'm not a synesthete but I have a strong connection to colors and this music somehow felt really blue to me. All in all it is more about the feeling and spaces the images evoke, rather than their context. Actually it is the same with the sounds: In my music i want to create atmospheres that invite people to zone out of their everyday experience and perception of reality for a bit. I guess this is often referred to as escapism but I don't see it that way. To me it is more of an expansion. I want to sensitize the listener and open up the gates to other realms that co-exist with this physical
Thomas I very much like the idea of expansion over escapism. That's very interesting and I found Be The Enemy totally worked in that sense. It has a lilting, drifting, ebb and flow to it that transports in a way. Something I'm a big fan of in music in general, especially when on a train journey or wandering somewhere. Where do you envisage the listener hearing the music? Do you even envisage the listener at all?
Lissa: Yes, the reoccuring ebb and flow of sound is a very important element on
this record, very nice you are pointing that out! Repeating patterns is something I really like because it invites the mind into this other room. Pop music and techno music do this all the time actually and maybe that is why so many people dig it, it is pleasing on a far deeper level. Repetitive music is sometimes thought of as amateurish or not innovative. But I will always prefer to go for the feeling something evokes and the trance it puts me in rather than its complexity on an intellectual level.
I'd say that I dont picture a specific place for this music to be heard at. It is more about the inner spaces it takes you to and access to that can be found everywhere. When I make music I try to enter the spaces within me and channel their atmosphere into a form that can be brought back and shared with other people. That is how I envisage the listener, as someone I want to connect with.
Thomas: That's true what you say about pop and techno, I also find it very much with ambient music as well. The repetitions and circling nature kind of work to create this calm, steady base upon which every subtle flutter or whisper is enhanced. The song Alien Observer by Grouper has been a favourite of ours for as long as I can remember (of Rachel's in particular) and that's all built off this beautiful, repeating synth pattern. It's amazing, just the way that it holds and carries you.
My approach to music has never been particularly complex or intellectual I must say, I try not to focus too much on why I 'should' do something a certain way and explore a bit for myself. Do you have a background in music? Did you study it at all?
Lissa: Yes, it is definitely the same with ambient music. And probably with a lot of other musical styles as well. On the bottom we all search for something that makes us feel good or held or comfortable or however you want to call that feeling. Music that mirrors our human condition, the conditions of nature, can do that.
I didn't study music. In the first semester at university I picked it as a side subject but dropped out of it immediately because I couldn't handle harmony theory and that stuff. My brain just doesn't get it. I want to feel music and not think it, so thats how that ended for me. It is like you said, exploring is more fun than having "the rules" in mind all the time. Although sometimes it can be favourable to know a thing or two about these matters. From time to time I get a bit frustrated because I can't make things work a certain way with engineering or the arrangement, but that's just how it is. Trying to work with what I got now.
The only thing I'm trained at is singing, although that wasn't planned at all. I never wanted to be a singer but when I started recording by myself there needed to be vocals in it. I sucked at it and there was no one else to do it, so I started to take some lessons a few years ago. Initially I wanted to learn some basic things but now it has developed into something bigger. I found out that I really like classical singing and want to dive deeper into that.
Thomas: I feel like my brain works in a similar way in that regard! I started having piano lessons as a kid and when it came to my first music exam I just got up and walked out. Couldn’t handle the formal side of it somehow. Then I didn’t really revisit playing music at all until I bought myself a guitar a few years down the line. Only when I started going to more live shows that something sparked and re-ignited somewhat. You are in Hannover, right? What’s the scene like there for music and arts? I have only been briefly and never really had much of a chance to form an impression, but it seemed like a cool place and that there could be some interesting things happening.
Lissa: Yes, I live in Hannover. It is a very nice place, pretty much under the radar and that is what I like about it. It has a good balance of not too much distraction and still enough to do. Although it is not so big, there's a lot going on with art and music and people are trying to make things happen at small venues and gallerys. It has a nice mixture of different niches who are all fluent with each other. I was 16 when I moved there and got easily involved with setting up punk shows at a DIY place. There has been a good infrastructure for things like that and it was very nourishing to grow up in this atmosphere. Later I drifted towards more experimental music but the DIY spirit always stayed and I think that is the case for many people who are trying to do stuff here.
Thomas: That sounds great. It sometimes feels that in slightly smaller places the scenes can be really strong and interesting as there is more crossover between different styles and genres. Sometimes in big cities, where everybodies very specific musical taste is catered for more precisely, it doesn't feel like that happens as much somehow. Anyway, what does the future hold for you? I guess Be The Enemy came out at a very strange time... Do you plan on playing these songs live when it's possible again? Are you looking forward to that?
Lissa: Definitely. When there's less people, they have to stick together more and make compromises and beautiful things can come out of that!
The record came out at a very strange time indeed. It was pretty fucked up because I spent almost a year trying to translate the tracks into something that could work in a live setup without bringing a computer on stage. The day of the release show was the first day of lockdown in Germany and that was it. I don't want to complain because almost everyones plans have been crushed last year, and many of them to a far worse extent than mine.
But yes, I have never performed these songs in front of a real audience and now they feel very far away and from a completely different place. I have been focusing on new music instead and want to change direction a little bit. But when the time comes and concerts are possible again I will definitely play some of the tracks. And yes, I do look forward to that!! Playing live is always a very nerve-wracking experience for me but during these recent times I have realized that there is also much to love about it.