“Guitars felt like the enemy”
Hook + Loop have been making music together for almost eight years. September finally saw the release of their debut album of the same name and the band has had time to let the dust settle since then. Substance is Meaningless talked to the Julia, Thomas, Mari and Marlene about musical influences, why you can still make music without guitars and how difficult the Austrian music scene is.
What made you want to start making music? And how did you meet?
Julia: I have been playing the violin since I was 5 years old. Thomas and Mari and I grew up in the same small town, so we’ve known each other since we were little, although we weren’t really that close then. When I was about 15, Thomas and I had the same violin teacher and we became friends. As we listened to a lot of rock and pop music like Muse, Bright Eyes and Mando Diao, we wanted to play music like that ourselves. We started experimenting and playing cover songs in various arrangements, and eventually Thomas invited his neighbor, Mari, to join us on the piano. I knew that my boyfriend’s sister Marlene played drums, and though I didn’t know her well, I asked her to join us. That was a good decision!
How would you describe your music in ten words?
Julia: Emotions, imperfections, falling into new spheres together, catching each other.
Thomas: calm, violent, comforting, soothing, simple, complex, harsh, supporting, rough and delicate
Marlene: Ideally, when it’s live, you feel the emotions all over.
What are your musical influences?
Julia: Musicians I constantly listen to like Regina Spektor or Owen Pallett, but also those I listened to as a kid, such as K’s Choice and The Cranberries. In addition, I’m shaped by the classical music my family listened to and played at home, like Mozart, Bach, Schubert or Bartók.
Thomas: In the last couple of years I have been fascinated by music that allows the listener to zoom in on the temporal unfolding of sounds. I think that this is something that also happens in some of our songs, like for example in “inside”.
Marlene: Radiohead, because of the whole package (their eagerness to experiment, their attitude towards the music industry, their environmental consciousness, their music and the way they use the drums)
No guitar? Why?
Thomas: For me, I think this had something to do with jealousy, at least in the beginning. When we started to make music together I was for example really into Muse and was jealous of their guitars’ dirty and rough sounds, e.g. in Hysteria. So back then guitars felt like the enemy, who made my cello appear so tame and boring, when I knew it wasn’t. Covering songs by Apocalyptica helped me to convince myself that the cello has nothing to fear. In the meantime we have even had guest musicians on stage playing the guitar.
Mari: The other question which follows sometimes is “Do you play sheet music?”. We play classical instruments, where you have not just chords but many composed melodies. You have to hear the single notes to understand them. For me this makes us special and different alongside so many guitar bands.
Marlene: I have never seen the guitar as a necessary component of a band.
“Even for very dedicated musicians it is difficult here.”
Is it easy as a band in Austria? What do you think of the music scene in the country?
Julia: Having produced our first album this year and published it on our own label, I don’t find it easy as a band in Austria. Indie labels rarely have the resources to support unknown bands, and artists who sign at a major label often have to change who they are for their contract. Furthermore, public funding sponsors look for artists who are already successful, and even those funds are cut every year. Having said that, if you look for support you will find it – e.g. at the great guys at mica (Music Austria).
Thomas: I agree, mica was really helpful, and without them it would have been even harder than it already was.
Marlene: There is quite some room for improvement regarding the missing support for the music scene in Austria. Even for very dedicated musicians it is difficult here.
You brought out your debut album this year. Was it easy to record the album? How has it been received so far?
Mari: It was a lot of work and such a new terrain for us. Of course, playing our songs over and over again did work really well 🙂 But we were so lucky to get support from some friends who had the experience and also the equipment to create this album in a relaxed atmosphere. Definitely, the hardest and most confusing part was the bureaucratic stuff.
Thomas: We got a lot of really positive feedback, which not only made all the work that went into the album worthwhile, but also made me really proud of what we have accomplished.
Marlene: It was a lot of work; more than I had anticipated. But we really wanted to reward ourselves with an album after 8 years of band history.
Hook + Loop – What is the story behind the name?
Julia: Well, firstly you have to understand, that when the four of us get together, we talk a lot, often about funny or weird or fantastical things that are on our minds. Sometimes we even talk so much that we forget to rehearse! So one time we had this idea to fill a whole stage with “Klettverschluss” and put the other part to our soles. So when we’d walk or dance on stage it would make this wonderful sound: ratsch, ratsch. We didn’t know the English word for “Klettverschluss”, so we looked it up: hook and loop fastener. Thus, the new name was found.
What do you like to do when you’re not making music?
Julia: I studied German and international development, and now work in the field of migration. Apart from that I like to learn languages, I run and do yoga on a regular basis.
Mari: I studied Biology and Anthropology but am now living maybe the dream of some people: working in a chocolate factory 😉 Joking aside: believe it or not – I’m really looking forward to some snow to go snowboarding!
Marlene: I study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and I really enjoy it.
Thomas: When I am not working on my recently started PhD in cognitive science, I like to ride my bicycle unhurriedly, play all sorts of games and watch science fiction.
If you band was a season what would it be and why?
Julia: Autumn – colourful but with a melancholic touch 😉
Thomas: I agree 😉
Marlene: Me too.
“Sometimes we talk so much that we forget to rehearse!”
You chose to record the album in English, why was this? Why not German?
Julia: To me personally, words just come more easily in English. I guess one of the reasons for this is that most of the pop music I have ever listened to has been in English. Another reason might be that the foreign language creates a distance between me and the words. That way, I can write about intimate things while not getting too involved emotionally. I recently translated one of Marlene’s songs to Viennese dialect though, and I quite enjoyed that. So maybe future hook+loop songs will have Austrian lyrics – who knows 😉
Marlene: For me it’s also easier to write lyrics in English than in German, and although I hadn’t been aware of it, what Julia says about creating distance also applies to me.
4 albums you couldn’t live without are….
Julia: Regina Spektor – 11:11
Owen Pallett – In Conflict (since it’s his most recent album – I actually love all of them)
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper
Element of Crime – Romantik
Thomas: Dataplex – Ryoji Ikeda. Because it hurts
Joanna Newsom – Ys. Because it heals
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Because it’s like a whole universe of pain and relief
Paul Simon – Graceland. Because it’s incredibly smart and modest at the same time
Marlene: The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Katatonia – Dead End Kings
Florence+the Machine – Ceremonials
Radiohead – In Rainbows
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Any other gig dates planned?
Mari: At first: going on vacation 🙂 after a year of hard work and especially after so many weekends just rehearsing for our album release party it’s really good to have time just for oneself. But after that we want to plan some tour dates to promote our album – starting in the SUB in Wr. Neustadt on the 12th of December.
Marlene: We also already have a small gig planned in the B72 in Vienna, on January the 28th, 2015.
Find out more about the band on the following