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Drab City

[Asia Nevolja]


Drab City's ‘Good Songs For Bad People’ was the soundtrack of an overnight adventure, full of exciting, insidious characters and a variety of sounds, moods and frequencies. Describing it as a dizzying experience was the best way I could find to compliment this great release, when I included it in my favorite 2020 albums. This 32-minute sophisticated DIY compilation includes unusually distorted sounds, downtempo aesthetics and melodies that are sometimes wrapped in a trip-hop beat and other times in a bedroom pop beat. 

The album of the American group from Los Angeles, Asia Nevolja and Christopher Greenspan, is indeed one of the most modern and outstanding music albums that came out last year. I should not have tried to classify it in a music category since it was created by artists who did not intend to make money out of it, as they're telling us during our conversation. Their songs, as they say, “really convey this feeling of depth and raw emotion, we never make music for the sake of it. It always has to come from a pure heart...”. So it would not be easy for an artist who thinks this way to get trapped into forms and genres. 

I have to admit that I have been looking forward to Asia's answers with a great deal of interest, since the way they deal with social media shows that, although they acknowledge the dominance of the internet in our lives, they still claim that: "We’re trying to bring Drab City into the real world, into the physical world, and the conscious world of the people who care for us”. So, on the occasion of our question about their self-organised Patreon profile going against sponsored advertising and social media exclusion, they reveal their revolutionary way of thinking. Having always lived outside of any social structure ("..we both developed a very specific way of living outside social structures"), they insist on going on like that, truly existing for their listeners. 

Asia also told us about her childhood, when she was the ‘different one’ among her group of friends. She used her bullying experience in a creative way, writing music or painting, which she still does up to this day, as you can see in the works below. The great news for us who loved their sound is their new album release coming up in 2021, which according to them, is going to be many levels above the one that came up last year, including sounds and features that no one else uses today. So what do you think ? We can't wait ! 

Check our conversation with Asia and Chris below...

 

Good Songs For Bad People (out 12/6/2020)

 

The Basement: Hello Asia ! First of all, thank you for giving us this joy talking with you. Amazing 1st album "Good Songs for Bad People". Please, introduce yourself to us.

Hi, thanks for having us! I’m glad you like our debut :)

 

The Basement: Where do You and Christopher come from? Tell us more about how you first got into music.

I don’t usually speak too much about where I’m from, given it took me a long time to accept that I don’t really belong to any specific culture. News articles introducing us as coming from a specific place would be misguiding, because we both developed a very specific way of living outside social structures.   

 

The Basement: Are You a self-taught musician? 

Yes I am, and so is Chris.

 

The Basement: How did you meet Christopher and formed Drab City? Who's idea was it?

We often get asked this question and to be honest, there are a few stories like that, that we are very protective of for some reason. I’m not sure why, but it’s very intimate, very dear to my heart and I’m not sure I want the internet to have it. But if we meet in Athens one day maybe we will share it with you :) Drab City was pretty much born from the moment we met, it’s a feeling, an attitude towards life, a way of seeing. It only took us a while to put a name on it, but we eventually did. We started making music together pretty much when we met. 

 

The Basement: When did you start writing the songs of "Good Songs for Bad People"? Tell us more about the process of production and the central idea. 

The songs were written over a period of 2 years I would say. We had a few songs done and started sending them out to a handful of labels we really loved and thought would like us back. Once we signed to Bella Union, we just started beating out song after song and producing everything pretty quickly. We are both very unproductive people, we always dread recording music or working on something, lots of it is just badly managed depression really. But then we have moments when we pull ourselves together, when it feels right, and magical things just come out of us.

I think our songs really convey this feeling of depth and raw emotion, we never make music for the sake of it. It always has to come from a pure heart, if we wanted to make money we would have chosen a different life, like working at a bank or something.

 

The Basement: How did you reach Bella Union?

We literally just wrote them an email with the few songs we had and Simon got back to us a few hours later. It was amazing tbh, a real milestone in our life.

 

The Basement: Tell us more about your paintings, they're so interesting. How did you get involved with this? 

I started at 3 years old I think, I was always very concerned with visual things. I remember I started being obsessed with the colour yellow when I was 4, it was a very serious matter to me. I always had impulses to use a specific amount of certain colours in a painting, and they had to go certain places or else it would make me physically ill. I think I felt quickly that I was good at it so I became very passionate about it, in my own little world. I was very unpopular with other kids, mostly bullied and disliked for my weird looks, so I spend a lot of time on my own mostly analysing music, drawing and reading. When I got older, it became very clear that my main interests in life were music, art, philosophy and psychology. In high school I had an art teacher who was very impressed by my skills and sort of encouraged me to go on, but given I come from a working class family, becoming an artist was not an option. So I spent a good chunk of my life trying to make that money with mildly creative jobs, but now that I’m older and don’t give a shit, I just started to do what I felt like doing which was music and painting.



The Basement: Did you live in Paris? Give us more details about this experience. What art means for you? 

Yeah I lived in Paris for 10 years, it was dreadful. I was trying to make it out there with no money or support from my parents, and it really ruined me psychologically. But it was very eye opening, I learned a lot about life and things that matter to me. When I was younger, I just wanted to leave my shitty hometown and look for a better life, make it in the big city and hang out with like minded people. All people in my hometown cared for cars, babies and partying, and because I was already a social outcast and had different interests, I thought Paris was the place to be. Turns out the old dream of Paris is long gone, all there is left is a soul eating industry of professional elite imposters who have nothing to do with art or the art life I was looking for. I’m very thankful for the great few friendships I made there though.

 

The Basement: What is the Patreon profile you’ve opened ? What’s going on there?

We went through a lot during the pandemic, and social media started to feel shallow and unreal to us. We just wanted to find a way to tie people closer to us, kind of reestablish a connection to music that is getting lost on the internet. Everything just takes place on apps, people play their random playlist, save a random song and often don’t even know or care for the artist who made it, let alone support them in any way. People start following us but they won’t see our posts because those apps want us to pay sponsored ads to reach our own followers. The internet has become a real pile of shit for underground musicians, there is no soul, no community and no money to be made (unless you get lucky and pick up a commercial or movie licensing deal, but there are so little spots available for soooo many desperate artists). So we’re pretty much done with “building a following” and all the bullshit we used to think. What we’re after now, is using the only thing that is great about the internet which is, the access to the rest of the world, to like minded people who appreciate what we do and are ready to invest 5€/month in exchange for a community, a place without ads, new exclusive music, fan zines, behind the scenes videos etc. Right now I’m working on a free art book for our Patreons, which will contain 16 pages of artworks I am currently making, poems, stories and photos. The book will be signed and shipped to everybody’s home. We’re trying to bring Drab City into the real world, into the physical world, and the conscious world of the people who care for us.

 

The Basement: Do you have any "dream" collaboration for the future? 

We are very insular people. We like to do things on our own. I can’t think of any musicians we’d like to collaborate with, but maybe one day some video directors. It would also be nice, if we can ever afford it, to bring a band of musicians with us on tour. Live shows are so much more exciting with more people on the stage. 

 

The Basement: What about the new Drab City Album ? Can you give us any clue, date, name of the LP?

Name and date are not set yet, but we already have about 8 songs in the making. They are completely insane to be honest, Drab City x 1000000 turned up to the max. The pandemic has allowed us to listen to a looooot of music, practice a loooooot, watch a looooot of movies & documentaries, so the new tunes are inhibited by a huge amount of information that has inspired us over the last year. We had time to think about things we want to improve since our last record and have dug up a range of new sounds that nobody currently uses.

I usually feel very chill with what we usually make but I think we really hit the gold mine with this one.

 

The Basement: Give us five of your favorite albums of all time.

What we listen to is always changing, so it's hard to say what our all time favorites are. But lately we’ve been listening a lot to a song called “El Paso” sung by an American guy called Marty Robbins.  A record of songs from the French singer Jacqueline Taieb called  “The French Mademoiselle.” Scriabin’s B-flat minor polonaise. We like polonaises a lot in general. After Rossini retired from the public life of opera writing, he wrote a large body of music that he jokingly called “Péchés de Vieillesse” (sins of old age). It was mostly unpublished. It was meant just for his own amusement and to entertain his friends. Some of this was a group of short piano pieces he collected under the title “Quelques riens” (which means, “some nothings”…he was constantly mocking himself). For being nothing, they are very nice. 

 

The Basement: Thank you so very much Asia and Christopher, it was a pleasure talking with you. We can't wait for your next effort :)
 


* Check below Asia's beautiful art.

 

 

 

 

 

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