A blend of electronica beats, shoegaze fuzz, and interludes of ambience Elika offers insightful lyrics coupled with strong rhythms. Elika’s calming vocals feel like the warmth of a favorite shall comforting you amidst the restless stirrings of the day’s commotion.
This Brooklyn DIY duo is Evagelia Maravelias (vocals, synths, drums, illustration) and Brian Wenckebach (guitar, bass, synths, production). They recorded, mixed, and self-produced their second full length album, ‘Snuggle Bunnies,’ released in late 2010. Elika has opened for their friends Ulrich Schnauss at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC and Asobi Seksu at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Their multi-genre musings have been well received by audiences in the USA as well as the Canada, the UK, and Peru. Eva and Brian spoke to Resonance about genre trends, album symmetry, and the art of naming albums.
MC: ‘Snuggle Bunnies’ is your second full length album and I hear you are waiting to release another this autumn. How does this work differ from what you’ve released before and what you’re expecting to release soon?
Eva: Thematically the last album had an element of hope where this one comes from a defeated place.
Brian: The new album is vastly more complicated in every aspect: technicality, production, instrumentation, arrangement. It is less accessible than our previous work— less immediate. However, I think people will be surprised at how deep it is. It will definitely require multiple listens to wrap your head around it.
Brian: We’ve always had a fragmented approach to music, I think it’s the essence of our “multi-genreness.” We’ve taken inspiration from pretty much everything this time around.
Eva: I always seem to be obsessed with one musician or another while working on any given album, and it was Prince with this new one. I think as you get older you become less cognizant or caring of how you’re perceived which frees you up artistically.
MC: I’m learning that myself lately.
Back to the genre mix, I recently heard an opening California band with a similar electronica/shoegaze blend. Would you say these genres tend to be complimentary, or that current bands tend to be more experimental in mixing genre elements?
Brian: Electronica and shoegaze are styles that make sense together. There has been an explosion of samey sounding bands the last couple years. People tend to buy a bunch of guitar pedals and have their computer loop a corny beat and run with it, but it’s better than another JAMC clone.
Eva: It is the age of the “mash up” so to speak. Art, culture, and everyday life has become so fast and fragmented that it unconsciously gets reflected in the music.
MC: So, a little bit of both then.
Let’s talk about your approach to music. Your sound is comprised of textured guitars, bass, synths, programmed drums, and even field recordings. “All the People Mourning” comes to mind as a piece having many original sounds worked in. How do you venture into the song composing process?
Brian: All the tracks begin in different ways. Sometimes we start with piano or guitar. Other times we begin with bass or drums. It really is always different. “All the People Mourning” began as a pure guitar drone and developed from there.
MC: “The Darkside” is one of your softest, most listener friendly tunes. And yet, if I were simply reading the lyrics, I would peg the song for a much heavier genre. “Let them get frightened, let them lose their mind; release the darkside. Let them feel worthless, let them turn inside; release the darkside.” I’m thinking screamo here. How is it that Elika sounds so cheery on this track?
Brian: I think we’ve always incorporated elements of contrast and opposition.
Eva: Sometimes, I’ll write an aggressive or angry song but when I record the vocal it always detaches itself from the initial sentiment. It becomes something else which usually ends up more interesting anyway.
MC: Yes, contrast can better define things at times.
Elika is completely self-recorded and produced. Describe the experience of being in command of these aspects of the business. What are the benefits and challenges?
Eva: I think we have become spoiled being able to record whenever we want. It would be difficult to walk into a traditional studio and “turn it on” so to speak. Also, Brian is a huge eraser. He keeps just a few takes and erases everything else immediately. I can’t imagine paying for a studio and then have Brian erase everything at the end of the day!
Brian: The benefit is the amount of thought and time you can put into something since there are no restraints. The main challenge is usually we’d rather just lie around on the couch.
MC: Precisely. As your own master, you have the freedom to learn self-discipline.
Elika has had the privilege of touring the UK, USA, Canada, and Peru. What do you hope that listeners will receive from hearing your music, regardless of cultural differences?
Eva: I only hope that they feel it was worth coming out. Time is a precious thing.
MC: No one would argue that.
Hearing the title of this album, I immediately recall the scene from Wallace & Gromit’s Curse of The Ware Rabbit, where the bunnies are sucked into a vacuum and floating happily. Please tell me why the title ‘Snuggle Bunnies’?
Brian: All our other titles were so depressed sounding that we wanted to flip it, and nothing is cozier than snuggling bunnies.
MC: Well, you hit your mark there! I suppose after an album titled, ‘Trying Got Us Nowhere’ and an EP called, ‘There Was No Summer,’ there was a need for something cuddly.
I am fascinated at the symmetry of the album. If you could fold it in half, the beginning and ending set of songs nearly mirror each other, hinging around the club style “Seam.” I like how the album is bookended with uncertainty. “Summer” and “Tidal Wave” each present a personal insecurity. This is not a concept album, but if there were one motif, one running thread, what would you say it is?
Brian: I find comfort in symmetry so unconsciously I probably order and structure things to achieve balance. Eva’s illustrations also seem to reflect a sense of symmetry as well. Perhaps we find comfort in structure. Or… we’re both obsessive/compulsive and need help.
MC: Yes, there’s always that troubling alternative possibility, isn’t there?
What about the upcoming album? Is there a general theme for what’s next? And when can we expect its release?
Eva: Anger, sadness, love.
Brian: Terror and loss. It will be out this autumn on Saint Marie Records.
MC: Terror, love, and loss coming this fall. We’ll be looking forward to it then. Seriously though, I’m sure it will an intense journey worth taking.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Eva: Thank you for caring.
MC: Thank you for creating music worth caring about.
Hear ‘Snuggle Bunnies’ and other Elika albums here.