Location: Dusseldorf, Germany
Words: Dimitris Mavrokefalidis – Photos: amusicmap.com
Listening while writing:
Grandbrothers is a piano/electronic duo formed in Dusseldorf by Swiss Lukas Vogel and German Erol Sarp. During a break of their summer tour and at a period when they prepare their new songs, we talked to Erol Sarp about rock n roll moments, their plans but also the most awkward moments they have experienced with the fans.
The first question that comes up to my mind is if you could be brothers in real life who would be the most protective one and who the most care-free?
I guess Lukas would be the older, protective, bossy kind of brother. I would be the younger, sillier, sweet one.
Who was really the “godfather” of the band’s name? Whose idea was it?
A friend of us had the idea. At some point we noticed that we would have to come up with a name for this whole project. We wanted something that included the word piano or gave a hint on what we were doing. We had some really terrible names – which I won’t tell you – and luckily this friend had the idea and we fancied it a lot and ended up being Grandbrothers.
Tell us a few things about the new release, the one, with the “Bloodflow” remixes?
Yes, there’s an EP with some of our current favourite producers who we asked to do a remix of our song “Bloodflow“. We really loved the outcome and are pretty happy about it and it seems that people like them as well. There’s remixes of Christian Löffler, Lone, Aera and Braintwaltzera on vinyl and digitally there’s also one of our label mate Sir Was.
Do you feel that “Open” continues a story that was perfectly told in your first album “Dilation”?
It continues the story of our approach with the grand piano and we picked up where we left with “Dilation“. We have been searching for new sounds and have been using a lot more effects, so in our eyes we have developed our sound and we have also developed as musicians and composers.
It is true that your songs / melodies can evoke memories and more significantly emotions. But when it comes to talk about the background of each piece, I m wondering if there is actually a story that you think of and want to deliver through each song? If I asked you what inspired you to make “Bloodflow” what would you say?
Well… so far we didn’t really have something specific in mind when we were writing songs. It’s rather that we sit in our studio and jam, so I would say that it’s an intuitive process. Sometimes we talk about different emotions we want to transport within our music, but then it’s more about a certain mood, not a real story.
Apart from your successful tour, you have been a support act for Bonobo set. How does it feel? Can you describe the moments when it happened…
There were three phases: First when we heard that there’s a chance that we could support Bonobo. That was really exciting and we were talking about it all the time. ‚What if that really happens…that would be so amazing‘. Then there was the confirmation. You can imagine that we totally freaked out. And then we finally got to meet the guys and played in front of audiences, that we usually don’t. Everyone was so supportive and nice and I think we made some real friends there. And the shows went pretty well. We didn’t know how the people would react to our music and in the end it went better than we could hope for.
At a festival in Sicily in Summer 2016, there were about 3000 people, the biggest audience we had played so far, and there was complete silence for about two minutes, because … well, the computer didn’t work. You can imagine, that it felt like slowly dying…
During the last months you have performed on many European cities. Among them: Braga – Portugal, Linz –Austria, Berlin – Germany, Brussels-Belgium, Warsaw- Poland, Munich-Germany, Zurich- Switzerland, London etc. If I would to ask you which top 3 venues stand out and why which ones would you choose?
That’s a good one. Zurich is always special, because Lukas is from there and all his friends and family shows up… London is always special, because… well it’s London. Same goes for Paris. The show in Wiesbaden we played really stood out, because it was in a really old, amazingly beautiful church and for whatever reason the people went completely crazy from the first song on. That’s four already… The cool thing is that we get so see so many cities and meet so many cool people and we are very thankful for that.
How important is for you to play to a place that can make your music sound more atmospheric? I have been in the first one of the two performances that you gave at the St. Paul Anglican Church in Athens and the feeling was truly mesmerizing…
We try to play in classical or more atmospheric venues as well as in clubs. That keeps the whole touring thing interesting and we have to adapt to the situation each night. Good thing is, that that way we don’t get into routines. And both worlds have their advantages: In churches or theatres everyone is focused on the music and it’s often really quiet. In clubs it’s often not that quiet, but people move and dance around and we feel the energy.
After this performance you went out to meet and greet the audience that had come for you. Is it something that you really tend to do in all of your concerts?
Yes, we love to talk to the people and hear from them, what their stories are, why they came, what they think, what they feel and we love answering question about our setup.
We didn’t really have something specific in mind when we were writing songs. It’s rather that we sit in our studio and jam, so I would say that it’s an intuitive process. Sometimes we talk about different emotions we want to transport within our music, but then it’s more about a certain mood, not a real story.
Can you share with us a funny incident / story from your tour, something that happened and probably made you laugh, or change the way you look at some things?
There have been some really awkward situations on stage, when the computer didn’t work for example. In these moments we couldn’t really laugh, but we can laugh about them now. We played this concert at a festival in Sicily in Summer 2016, there were about 3000 people, the biggest audience we had played so far, and there was complete silence for about two minutes, because … well, the computer didn’t work. You can imagine, that it felt like slowly dying… But these moments helped us take away our nervousness. Meanwhile we’ve been through so much, that we are definitely more calm nowadays.
Does it happen often to have awkward incidents with your fans?
We had this one concert, where we were playing at a festival for classical music. After the concert an older guy approached me and said that he left the room after five minutes and stayed outside until the end just to tell us how boring we are. I couldn’t really react, because he immediately left.
What was the most rock ’n’ roll thing that you have ever done during the tour?
We had a day off in Paris and we were at the hotel watching the finale of the Europa League. I still can’t tell why I did this, but when Atletico Madrid scored the first goal, in a moment of joy I was smashing my bottle of beer against the wall. Unfortunately we were in Lukas’ room and since then I’m kind of forbidden to enter his room.
Why did you decide to combine jazz piano with synthesizers? What led you to build your own unique instrument ?
The most important thing is, that we don’t use any synthesizers. Every sound you can hear comes from the piano. That was one of the first rules we had, that still counts today. We wanted to combine our strengths and in my case it was playing the piano in a jazz-oriented, improvised way and Lukas ability to program and use the computer in a musical way.
Can you describe us how does it work? A basic explanation of how the Grandbrothers set up works?
Sure! There’s three elements: Me playing the piano, which is the easiest one to explain. Then there’s the little electromagnetic hammers that we developed and built, which Lukas can control from the computer. They hit the strings and they hit the body of the piano, thus creating percussive sounds. And we use so called Live Sampling. Lukas is recording every sound that comes out of the piano and adds some effects like reverb or distortion, cuts them in half, plays them backwards, slower or faster. Especially these sounds Lukas creates sometimes makes it sound like that we use synthesizers or samplers, but we don’t. Some people don’t believe that we’re only using the piano as a sound source, but I can assure you we do!
After the concert an older guy approached me and said that he left the room after five minutes and stayed outside until the end just to tell us how boring we are. I couldn’t really react, because he immediately left.
How did Grandbrothers get started what were your original goals? When did you get familiar with music and technology?
During our studies I called Lukas and asked him if he would be interested in making music. We both didn’t have a band at that time and liked the idea of starting something together, because we have been friends for a long time before. From the beginning it was pretty clear and obvious that we would do something with a grand piano, because that was the instrument we both knew from our childhood on. So music has always been playing an important role in our lives. And computers and a general interest in technology have always accompanied us, although I have to admit that Lukas is a little bit more into it…
What can we expect to hear from you in the following months?
We have just started working on new songs, and if we’re quick enough we might try some of them out during the following concerts. And then, hopefully next year, we will be releasing the next album.
Please can you share your current top 3 of music/albums/LPs?
The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build A Home , Jon Hopkins – Singularity, Metallica – S&M.
I m really curious to know if you have any music “guilty pleasures” …
Does Metallica already count? Sometimes I still listen to them… secretly. And I’m starting to really dig Billy Joel. But he’s a genius. So that wouldn’t really count as a guilty pleasure I guess… and Phil Collins.
Which is the first gig you went to?
Megadeth in Bochum, Germany.
The song that changed your life.
The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build A Home.
The song that makes you dance.
Genesis – I Can’t Dance.
The first song you fell in love with.
Metallica – Orion .
Which is your biggest fear?
I used to be really afraid of dogs. It has gotten better…
If you were to break up from the love of your life which song (can be one of yours) would dedicate to this moment?
Anything by Tom Waits.