600 shows, 22 countries, 3 years of non-stop touring across a changing continent. A show in Lisbon close to a demonstration turning into a riot. Side rooms full of smoke and stacked money in Italy. Meeting Ukrainian fans with a foreboding of an upcoming war. And a married Greek/German couple in the thick of it.
Eleni Zafiriadou and Daniel Benjamin aka SEΛ + ΛIR found themselves in the right place at the right time. While touring their debut “My Heart’s Sick Chord” both recognised the significance of these scenes they found for an album about Europe reflected in the eyes of young people across the continent.
Instantly they started writing new songs on the road: morning by morning in countless showers, night after night in scary hotel rooms in nameless cities and during months of driving. Due to a lack of recording equipment and music theory a big idea occurred: How about composing an album completely in your mind?
Using the brain as a natural filter: only unique and catchy ideas survive the night.
Combined with their relationship to Europe and Eleni’s personal history it became the story of a family that hadn’t had a home for generations. The story of a journey from Asia Minor to Greece, Germany and back across Europe: “My family was used to this. Since my grandmother was expelled from Anatolia in 1922 my ancestors did travel. Being refugees, migrant workers, or musicians. Homelessness is a part of us and one reason why I can’t stay at the same place for a long time.”, Eleni tells after a 3 years lasting tour.
“Travelling Europe and getting close to all of its different faces while you recognise yourself in it causes a strange tension. The same way the darkness of the past fights the light of the future, these experiences evoke a positive anxiety to the next album. We had to ask ourselves: Can we really do this?”, Daniel sums up.
After winning several awards, selling thousands of records and selling out shows this is a legitimate question.
But if you look back at pop music and its ideas in the beginning the answer has to be: definitely! Pop music used to be dangerous and thrilling, disturbing and rebellious. That’s the main difference between pop and Schlager music. Even if these days might be over SEΛ + ΛIR are not willing to give up this raw spirit. They show that pop music can still be surprising.
Nowadays as so much music is staged and brought to market as art, even the lyrics of Evropi seem to be rebellious: Simple stories about three women of the diaspora. Stories about life, love, peace and understanding.
SEΛ + ΛIR define their songs as “Ghost Pop”: A mixture of long-lost Mediterranean melodies and exotic instruments telling a story of their own. Influenced by Pontic music and Rembetiko, traditional Greek intruments like the Lyra or the Bouzouki are used and already the opener “We All Have To Leave Someday” leads to an adventurous musical journey.
Daniel and Eleni experiment with Byzantine singing and the rhythmic and emotional freedom of an age-old music tradition captured by Elenis spaced out voice in “Flowers From The Distance”.
SEA + AIR love playing with extremes and sexual stereotyping. Daniel’s falsetto voice and Eleni’s androgynous singing confuse the listener, leaving it unclear who’s singing the lead on “Mercy Looks Good On You” and “HaHaHaHaHa”.
The orchestral „Lady Evropi“ is a forseeing vision to the situation in Greece describing its dividing relationship to Europe.
SEA + AIR make the grade to compose an amazing and individual album about continental Europe that fits no genres. Despite the refusal to try to suit everybody and to be governed too much by Anglo-American influences Evropi still manages to reach the international pop audience with its catchy radio songs like “Should I Care” or “Peace Begins At Home”. Evropi will be released September 4th on Glitterhouse Records.