Sarah P, one half of Keep Shelly in Athens, talks to us about the group’s origins, what ‘home’ means to her and how she feels about the current situation in Greece.
Though the western world’s media focus has shifted, the mention of Greece will still conjure thoughts of malcontent and decadence in the minds of those whose only insight into the country is what they see on television or on the Internet. For the citizens of Greece, it is their unpleasant, ever-present reality. Yet, amongst the dark, brooding clouds, certain beacons of light are piercing. One in particular is that of Keep Shelly in Athens, a duo that exudes pleasantry with their sultry electronic sounds – and they seek to instil hope in their community.
“Ambassadors we are, we like to think that we are,” opines Sarah P, the duo’s singer and lyricist. “Greece is not just a mess in financial terms, in social terms, oh no… it’s not just that. There is an artistic core that started making its presence strong, since the economic crisis egg cracked. We are part of that core. And the fact that we get the chance to travel around, for the third time in less than two years, it’s something special.” Such journeys have taken Keep Shelly in Athens as far afield as the US and Canada, and in 2014 their tour hits the UK – all locations where affection for dream pop is prevalent much more-so than in their home country.
It’s an almost direct contrast to the duo’s name, and the new album’s title of ‘At Home’ – but there is more to the meaning of the word ‘home’ to Sarah.“To me, ‘home’ is about safety. I might feel ‘at home’ in my friend’s company, walking down the street. I mostly miss that ‘home’, the company.” Quizzed on the homely themes that pervade her material, she explains that “We talk about the things we know well. Home is something we know well. In the record, there is a weird homesickness. It weighs between the “I’m missing my home” and the “I’m missing the road” feeling. ‘Back To Kresnas Street’ is about a mother talking to her son asking him to never forget who he is, but to open up his wings and shine on.” The album presents a clear distinction between the physical and spiritual home, adopting a slightly different approach to the duo’s earlier work. It deals with actual, specific memories as opposed to the carved-from-imagination process of yore. “This album is about a love that blossoms and then withers,” says Sarah. “It’s about people who come and go faster than the light travels, home and whatever that means to anyone. To me it is like an album with photographs.”
As far as origins, KSiA formed as recently as 2010, and they’ve certainly come a long way since then. Initially signed by Gorilla vs. Bear‘s label Forest Family Records, with whom they released their debut EP, Sarah relays to us her admiration for online music publications: “Blogs, nowadays, are so influential; they suggest, they introduce, they inspire. Thanks to the blogosphere, Keep Shelly in Athens is now able to travel around and release records. When there are hundreds of new bands and new songs coming out every single day, it makes you feel grateful to be featured in great blog sites, who respect the artists and give them space to present who they are.”
There is a principle we both share: that we only make songs that we would listen to. We make the music that we love. Love has nothing to do with conflicts, right?
Conceived in the same year, Cascine would go on to sign Keep Shelly in Athens to their already esteemed roster, including other electronic up and comers such as Shine 2009, Selebrities and Chad Valley, KSiA’s tourmates. “Cascine is a family. It is always nice to know that you enter somewhere that you will feel well respected and supported. When people who love what they are doing unite, I think great things can happen. I can see that on the horizon. It couldn’t have been better for our first “baby”, At Home.”
Keep Shelly also find themselves in the rare position of being a duo, in a world where solo artists and four-or-five-pieces reign – but it works for them. “We both [myself and producer RPR] trust and appreciate each other in our fields. It’s the way we’ve worked from the very start of the band. When we travel around we are a four-piece, with the addition of a guitarist and a drummer. We didn’t want just a karaoke live show. We wanted Keep Shelly to sound more powerful, more energetic and in some way different to the studio recordings.”
The sky may well be the limit for the young couplet, yet they still remain grounded by their principles. It’s the sort of ire that will surely aid in the western perception of contemporary Greek culture — to hear such determinedly affable music coming from the troubled nation, alongside the other great releases of the year from their compatriots, inspires hope where all else is desolate.
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