Euro Sounds Volume 6: Three more European artists to discover! Ft. Interview w/ Selah Sue
Avra & Ida Long
Collaborations are a mainstay in the Pop and Rap worlds. Most of the biggest artists wouldn't even consider releasing an album without featuring a famous friend. Yet, this isn't anywhere near as common in the more guitar led scene. Although features can sometimes be a cheap way to reach a bigger audience, they can also provide a creative melting pot that allows two or more artists to experiment and simultaneously influence each other resulting in a beautifully blended sound that neither could have created on their own. More often than not, in the Indie world, it has been a success with The Last Shadow Puppets and LUMP being just two of my favourites that collaborated to produce something special and unique. Next in line are Swedish artists Avra and Ida Long who have teamed up recently on a string of singles.
Ida Long is an Indie-Pop singer-songwriter who draws inspiration from the likes of Florence & The Machine and prides herself on the emotive impact of her music. Meanwhile, Avra leans more on the electronic side of things with a background in the Techno and House scene where he is one half of the duo Monotik. Their work so far had predominantly felt like it was an Avra track with Ida Long lending her versatile vocal palette to relatively closed off Dance grooves. That is until their most recent release 'I'm Off With You' which has seen quite a sonic shift for the pair - yet it is a shift that has lended itself perfectly to my ears.
'I'm Off With You' swaps hypnotic night-time beats for a thumping 80s Indie Pop sound. The tone of the drums is continuously dense with the pounding electronic tom sounds and the sporadic percussive claps. Rather than dancing on top of the beat as is often the case with these kind of collaborations Ida's vocals almost provide an extra element to the rhythm, working as one with Avra, stabbing left and right between the beat with her high-toned vocal melody. Like their previous tracks it is somewhat repetitive in order to get you stuck firmly inside their groove. However, it is brighter and more energetic than their previous offerings due to the insanely catchy 80s synth melody that completely steals the show. It is unapologetically retro yet refreshingly euphoric and could have been lifted straight off a Blossoms track. It adds a great flavour and pulls together a song that perfectly demonstrates the collaborative power of two talented Swedish artists.
Selah Sue (INTERVIEW)
"I want the attention, I feel sad when I don’t get the like. But also I look down on it".
Platinum selling Belgian singer-songwriter Selah Sue has been at the head of the European pop game for over 10 years now. However, it has been 6 years since her last full record. She has taken time to become a mother and work on other aspects of her life other than music. Yet, with her talent we all knew that she wouldn't stay away forever. She has returned as bright, bold and brilliant as ever with her 'Bedroom' EP last year and two singles in 2021 that are gearing up for her next album release due in early 2022. We caught up with the soulful songstress to find out how she has changed in her 5 year hiatus and what we can expect from this new record.
Firstly, how would you describe your sound for people that are new to Selah Sue?
"That’s really a difficult one, because it forces you to pick out a genre or a style. When I sing or create I do it so naturally and I do it with the tools I have or the vibe I have at that moment. It’s difficult to put it in a certain space, so I wait for other people to tell me. I get told it’s a bit soul, it’s a bit pop, it’s a bit hip hop, it’s a bit electronic. And I love all of these genres so I want to do it all! I think my vocal sound is pretty soulful, I listened to a lot of soul music when I was younger, so I tend to choose more jazzy soulful melodies. But in terms of music, I think it is interesting to explore many different kinds of styles".
You have left a lot of time between your last record - do you feel this has allowed you to develop more than if you had attempted to release another album a year or two after?
"I think so yes. I became a mother and I wanted to take time, because I know those first years in a child’s life are really important. And the fact was I was able to take time, because my first record had been a big success so financially, I had space. But also I was tired of it, honestly. I had been on the road and recording for 10 years, on the road around the world for so long. I was tired of the ‘business’ especially, I wanted to take time off and then I was pregnant. After the birth of my first son I wanted to take a long break. I knew it would be hard after I’d been gone for so long, to come back. But the life and the health of my children took first place, and because I took that time off my kids are now really ready for their momma to live her best life again".
How do you feel you have changed personally and musically since your debut album?
"Personally I think I am more stable and at peace with myself. I still have difficulties finding balance, but I know now what to do when I feel really sad. It’s something that is a big part of myself that I have to live with, being sensitive to mood swings and depressions. When I was younger, I didn’t really know what to do with it, I would stay in bed all day, cry and want to quit everything. Now, having kids forces you to get out of bed, but more so I know now these feelings will pass. When I was younger it felt like it would never end, that it was super black… now I know what to do, I play sport, I have my friends, therapist, I talk a lot, I take medications… that’s all part of my emotional stability. Musically I think I’m getting closer to who I am, it’s still a journey. Vocally I sing more challenging things, I use my voice much more as an instrument now, I sing many vocal layers and I’m involved in production a lot more. I’m much more invested now than I was in the beginning".
Her latest single 'Hurray' is the perfect reintroduction to her sound. She may be six years older, but she is sounding as fresh and modern as ever. Every element of the track, from the deep funky R&B beat to the deep piano keys, has an arrogance to it. They create a really slick groove for Selah Sue to do what she does best. Her vocals are always rich and filled with character yet this new track sees her deliver her most self assured vocal display to date, singing with a nonchalant swagger as if it comes as naturally as breathing. It is reminiscent of modern Pop icons such as Cardi B and gives the track a real fire.
Your latest single ‘Hurray’ explores two different sides to your personality. How did you create this contrast within the track and what other sides to your personality can we expect to see come out on the new album?
"Good question. Actually every song on the album is sung from the perspective of a different personality. It’s something based on a therapy called ‘Voice Dialogue’. The goal is to see all your different aspects, and to learn to love and respect them, not to fight it – which is what I’ve done for a lot of my life. I want to be more assertive, I want to be more self assured, try to accept who you are. So every song is written from a different personality. ‘Hurray’ is the attention seeker and the critic. I have to play that social media game, its horrible, it makes me fucking unhappy. But I have to play the game, I want the attention, I feel sad when I don’t get the like. But also I look down on it – that’s the critic. I think its ridiculous to want attention in that way, and I realise it doesn’t bring you happiness. That’s superficial confirmation. I have other songs on the album the Mother, the empathetic one, the Lover, the assertive one, the melancholic one… the style will be very eclectic".
The new singles such as ‘Free Fall’ seem to carry more angst than a lot of your previous songs - what made you want to write with this darker, more angsty tone?
"I just love darkness. The music I listen to is always dark electronic underground music. But – I want hits! – so hopefully there’s more upbeat moments on the album for the radio".
How do you feel the various locations you have grown up and worked in have impacted your style?
"I grew up in a very small village in Belgium, and I still live there with my family nearby. I’m not a big world explorer, in Paris and LA, my place is very suburban near the countryside. Also when I tour I don’t really create, I save my voice. So its interesting for me not to tour or travel because I am at my most creative in my house and my most pure music can come out
Do you feel there are different challenges when building a musical career being a European artist rather than from the UK or US?
"Its always been easier I think to do shows in Europe, I haven’t played much in the UK. In the US I was signed to Columbia records and they wanted me to live there, be based there to do promo every day, but I’m so home based I just want to be here to create…. I wouldn’t be against playing more shows there and growing my audience but I need to be where I feel my most balanced. And that is having my friends and family around".
Who are your favourite European artists right now?
"I think that Little Dragon is really cool!".
Russia's Saint Nomad are an Alt-pop band of brothers who have just landed with their sophomore album 'Nothing To Lose'. On first listen, the thing that strikes me with the new album is the range. Often their songs begin quite unassumingly before building to a really poignant and emotive finale. Tracks like 'Stay' become euphoric and powerful as they add more and more elements to result in a huge passionate ending.
However, the best example of this is the penultimate track 'Until The End Of Time'. It begins as an intimate acoustic number with sounds that aren't too dark or too happy, the guitar playing is just pleasant and at first you could be forgiven for thinking it is a little acoustic break before the album closer. However, as it progresses, the contrast between the playful whistles and vocal melody and the pretty brutal lyrics of "honey we're all gonna die" gives an early clue that there is more to this than meets the eye. It develops into a really heartwarming track about not caring what will happen to the world as long as they are together while it happens. As the dramatic electric guitar enters int the final minute the track is transformed into a soaring Queen esc ballad with the chorus of vocals creating what feels like the soundtrack to an uplifting adventure film. A hugely cinematic track that can't be ignored.
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