Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Interview with Escarlatina Obsessiva

Escarlatina Obsessiva is Karolina (bass and vocals) and Zaf (guitars, programming and keyboards). Based out of São Thomé das Letras in Brazil, they have released four albums--Chants of Lethe (2007), Blossomy Parks (2008), Pandemic(2009) and Endemic (2010)--with a fifth one on the way. They have also collaborated with Alien S Pagan (The Cemetary Girlz) on The Dead Jivaro, a project which brought forth the Tsantsa EP in 2011. Karolina and Zaf were kind enough to take a break from the recording sessions for their new album to answer some questions about their music, the Woodgothic Festival, and their uncompromising DIY attitude.

AKITD: Prior to the formation of Escarlatina Obsessiva, what sort of creative
or music-related work were the two of you involved in?

EO: Well..ever since we (Karolina and Zaf) met, a long time ago, we used
to play acoustic and instrumental stuff together, with bass and
acoustic guitar, and we also used to record some things on old tapes,
although, unfortunately, nothing from that time has survived.  I
remember some tunes, and they were part of the process of the rising
of our sonority. So, we weren't involved in any project different from
Escarlatina, because this elementary formation has remained the same 
since that beginning. There has only been an increase in the quantity of 
sonorous elements, plus the natural acquiring of musical experience in
practice, over the years.

AKITD: How did Escarlatina Obsessiva come together as a musical project, and
how did you decide on the name of the band?

EO: Because of those "experiences" we used to make at home, one day there
was an opportunity of a gig in our hometown. We played 7 songs, including 
some covers. Karolina didn't sing yet, but that was the beginning: that put in
practice what we were doing at home. At that time, we needed a name,
and a concept. The creation of the name was very spontaneous; we
started from the idea of the name of an illness, inspired by the band
Malaria! Then came the idea of the conjunction of the two essential
kinds of illness: the one of the body, and the one of the soul. And
this opened a large range to be explored in the symbolism we used
expressing our ideas. After the name had been established, we started
composing songs for Chants of Lethe, for the first time with the help of
electronic elements.

AKITD: One of the most distinguishing things about Escarlatina Obsessiva is
the power of Karolina's voice. Karolina, had you had any vocal
training prior to the band, and how comfortable were you with assuming
the role of vocalist? Was it difficult at first to play bass and sing
at the same time?

EO: No, I didn't have any vocal training. I felt very comfortable assuming
the vocals...In fact, I didn't know I could sing, but one day, in
2007, Zaf said I had a beautiful voice (speaking) and that I could try
to sing (we were without a real vocalist at this time), and I said: No
way, you're crazy! (haha), but one day I decided to give it a try...So I
closed all the windows and doors, and asked Zaf to go to the bathroom and
stay there for a while (heheh)...Then I put on Ziggy Stardust(Bauhaus
version) and started...It was a bit out of tune in the beginning, it was
maybe weird, but I worked hard and I can't imagine my life without
singing anymore...I became addicted to song...
It was a bit difficult, in the beginning, to play the bass and sing at
the same time, but despite this difficulty, I realized that I could do
the two things together.

AKITD: "Chants of Lethe" is an amazing debut work, immediately recognizable
as Gothic and dark, but without sounding derivative of any one band in
particular. I also like the title: Lethe being the river that the dead
had to drink from in Hades in order to forget their previous lives and
move on to a radically new one. Did the album serve that purpose for
you, in that you now had transitioned into a new life as musicians?
What was composing the album like?

EO: Surely this relationship happens! Really Chants of Lethe was a
remarkable spot in our lives, since it turned us into something
different from what we were before. And this impact is usually
stronger on the first album. But this was not the idea that gave shape
to the title. We explored the theme of oblivion in different
aspects, like a subtle line trespassing and "almost linking" the

AKITD: Do the two of you share lyric and music writing duties in the band, or
do each of you concentrate on separate areas?

EO: We share some ideas, but generally Zaf writes the lyrics. And we're
free in the musical aspect: both of us create melodies on any kind of
instrument. Only the drums are  designed solely by Zaf.

AKITD: How was "Chants of Lethe" received by the music community when it came
out? Did you tour or play out in support of it? What were these early
shows like?

EO: It was very well received and we played some great gigs on tour at the
time of Chants of Lethe! I remember 2 great gigs at Sao Paulo (Via
Underground) and with Dive from Belgium. It was our gloomiest album,
and we had great reception from the audience during those gigs.

AKITD: For me, "Blossomy Parks" is a a modern post-punk/Goth masterpiece.
Every song has an interesting twist or surprise to it. How was the
composing of this album different from "Chants of Lethe"?

EO: Some songs on Blossomy are songs from Chants of Lethe that didn't go
onto that album because they didn't get ready in time.  These songs
are: Suburban Dogs, The Lovelorn Halls, Appendix and Show Me Your
Flesh. I think it bestows a little nuance upon the album and makes it
more heterogeneous. On Blossomy Parks there's a visible transition in
the elements, and I would say, if  labels had any value, that it shows
a way from old school gothic to post-punk.
The composing of the other songs has a clear change of direction, which
can be seen comparing tracks such as Suburban Dogs and Appendix
with The Death of the Bishop or Blossomy Parks.  I like that album
because of its innocence in openly and shamelessly showing in its body
its natural process of development.

AKITD: There seems to be a tight and reciprocal relationship between the
albums "Pandemic" and "Endemic"--they seem to trace a journey from
outside to inside. Can you talk a little bit about the concept behind
these albums?

EO: There's also a link between Endemic and Pandemic, not only in the
theme, but in the aspect of composition of the songs. Initially,
Pandemic was going to be a double album, with an A side and a B side... 
We decided, after composing the songs on the A side, that we would
release it first, and only then we would start composing the B-Side,
gloomier, heavier and denser. But the B-Side's songs came in one week, and
with so cohesive an aspect that we noticed it had a different nature from
the A-Side, despite there being a clear link between the two albums:
they were made to be only one body, but spontaneously, they separated
themselves: they weren't Siamese, as we desired, but only twins. Each
of them had its own body and personality. And surely, if we had
titled the A-side as "Pandemic"--as a symbol of the totality, or a
"higher evil"-- it seemed obvious to us that its reverse needed 
to be smaller, and more subjective and egoistic. It would need
to be about the "smaller evil", the "local one", that one that feeds
and is the cause of the other, the bigger one, the "global one". And,
at the end, the son had finally justified the father's existence. So there
was a natural closing of a circle, and everything was done. As with the
name of the band, we had found another way to artistically express the 
totality in its elements, and the elements in their totality. So, in Chants 
of Lethe, there's a line, but this time, it changes its diameter, its thickness,
its colors, from one album to another. Both of them talk about the same things, 
but at different levels.

AKITD: These last two albums were both released on Zorch Factory records. How
did Escarlatina Obsessiva become involved with Zorch, and has that
label helped you to reach a larger audience?

EO: I really don't remember how we got involved, haha! It seems like we
knew about them since always, genetically! :) Perhaps it was our friend
Alien S Pagan who told us about Zorch... I don't know for sure.  But
it's great to work with Manu Zorch, and we really believe his effort in helping
to share the work of independent bands from several parts of the world is 
very important. Lots of people know us from his site, and have downloaded our 
albums, which would have been difficult to make happen without his efforts.  Surely our next album will soon also be on Zorch Factory!

AKITD: Both of you are heavily involved with the WOODGOTHIC Festival that's
held in Brazil. Can you explain what the festival is and how you came
to be involved with it? What would you like to see happen with
WOODGOTHIC in the future?

EO: Woodgothic is our personal madness and addiction. It was born from
the wish to play in a big venue in our town São Thomé das Letras,
associated with a cool movement of new underground bands starting to
play in Brazil. At that time, in 2008, at the first edition, we had
big support from a great old man, big friend of ours, who helped us in
everything to make it happen. Then, we had several Brazilian bands
from almost all regions of the country. After that, things started to
get constituted, and we planned the second edition. But, during its
production, that friend of ours--Juan da Montanha--passed away,
unfortunately. From that time on, we have kept this dream alive, as it
was his, and is also our desire.
We think the Festival is really important because of its ability to unite
and focus the Brazilian underground scene, and also as a vehicle
for divulging Brazilian bands. We had also some international
attractions at the last editions, such as our dearest  friend
Bettina Koster, and also Alien S Pagan, with whom we formed the band
The Dead Jivaro. We also had Martin Bowes with Attrition, Los
Carniceros del Norte, and also Espejos Muertos.
At the 4th edition, which we've just started to organize, we're receiving great
support from the Brazilian bands, helping us to make everything happen.
And this is also very cool, because it shows we're really all together
involved in the construction of the actual independent underground
scene of our country. And our wish is just that the Festival helps new
bands to get involved in all this, sharing the stages with older
bands, and that the occasion to play at the Festival can be useful
for all of them. And that new bands make new songs to play, because of
the occasion of a bigger gig: it's an incentive! It's important that
the bands have an environment where they can have an incentive to
produce, and produce more, and more...
And we also dream to bring TSOL (with Jack Grisham) and New Model Army

AKITD: In addition to yourselves, Brazil is home to many great contemporary
Goth/deathrock bands (Scarlet Leaves, Plastique Noir, The Knutz--just
to name a few). How big is the Goth community in Brazil? People
involved with the Brazilian goth scene seem to really support one
another's endeavors--do you feel that to be true? Who are some bands
you wish more people knew about?

EO: I think that, perhaps like in anywhere else, there are two scenes in
Brazil. There's a scene of dedicated artists who know what they're
doing, and an audience that really knows what they're listening to. And
there's that other blank mind scene, where the guys don't know what
they're doing there, and there's no difference if you say "Mainstream"
or "Underground", they won't understand anything anyway. This "second"
scene denigrates the image of the "first" one, and makes work harder for it.

We surely have lots of real contributors, dedicated promoters, a very
cool and interested audience that supports the really cool and true
events and bands. And we also have lots of cool bands, most of which
we already brought to play at Woodgothic Festival. So, the Woodgothic
Festival is also a cool vitrine for the underground Brazilian bands,
such as the ones you mentioned above.

AKITD: There are several music videos for Escarlatina Obsessiva songs that
the two of you have made. How do you decide on the visual concepts for
the videos--is it dictated by the lyrics, or the overall mood of the

EO: Generally, they're dictated by the theme and the mood of the song. We 
also explore a lot of cool locations that we have here in our hometown, and we 
think that the caves and grottoes, mountains and stones we have here speak to
some themes of ours with a very latent similitude of frequencies.

AKITD: How important is the DIY ethic to Escarlatina Obsessiva?

EO: This is the basis of all our production process. Since the beginning,
we always produced everything by ourselves. We can't imagine someone
else doing our jobs. We are totally aware of the limitations of this
way of acting, but, to be true, this is actually our only, and also
best, way to produce our work.

AKITD: Every compilation of Latin American or Brazilian "dark" music that
I've seen features an Escarlatina Obsessiva song, making the two of
you musical ambassadors from Latin America to the rest of the world.
Are you comfortable with that role?

EO: No, we don't think of ourselves in terms of that role. Perhaps this is a
consequence of the ideal which motivates us, and here we can talk about
a role. We believe that all strength lies in working together, and we just
make use of the logic that shows that it's better if you do something
with someone else, an equal, than if you do it only by yourself. If we wanted,
we could focus solely on promoting ourselves; but it's not only not fun, it's also 
not as strong as a shared act is. A gig with two bands is cooler and stronger
than a gig with only one. It's at least twice as fun! Our role is only to share
this ideal of the community strength, and the consequence may be an apparent embassy, but that is not our intention.

AKITD: What bands have influenced you the most? Are there any contemporary
acts that the two of you are particularly excited about?

EO: We have lots of influences, from classical to electronic. We go from
old school goth bands to post punk and punk legends, such as TSOL,
New Model Army, The Damned, Bad Brains, and lots of others... We like
good music, it doesn't matter the label on the bottle: we drink all of
them! And we also use to worship some gods, such as David Bowie, in
some particular ceremonies.

AKITD: A recent side-project for Escarlatina Obsessiva is a collaboration
with Alien S Pagan called The Dead Jivaro. The "Tsantsa" EP has a
dark-pop feel to it, like mid-era The Cure. What sort of experiments
do you get to do with this band that you can't with Escarlatina

EO: The changing of instruments is an example: Zaf also plays bass in The
Dead Jivaro, and this is something that, from the beginning, makes
sonorities different. Karolina plays bass only on the song Repeated Dream,
so, in live gigs, she is free to dance! The other difference is that we
(K and Z) don't compose in TDJ. We arrange and write lyrics to
melodies and ideas that Alien S Pagan sends to us; to start from zero
is very different than to arrange, so this sets TDJ apart from the
process of composition for EO. This is a really essential difference;
we're free to not compose, Alien is free to not arrange, and this
liberty and these changes alter the sonorities and bring something 
new to life.

AKITD: I know you are currently at work on a fifth album. What would you like to
see happen in the future for Escarlatina Obsessiva?

EO: Yes, indeed! We're recording our 5th album, and our plan is to keep
our music going, as long as we still breathe. We'll think about the
consequences when they come, if we're still alive then!

AKITD: Finally, do you have a message for your US fans?

EO: First, we'd like you to thank you for providing us a space to talk
about our jobs.
For the US fans:

SEE YOU SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                 Escarlatina Obsessiva's Facebook Page
                                              The Woodgothic Festival's Facebook Page
                                                  The Dead Jivaro's Facebook Page
                                                          Zorch Factory Records

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