Dialogues From The Underground

Remaining steadfast to their beliefs when it comes to song writing and underground music, Reptilians From Andromeda show their form with latest album Dialogues For Monkeys.

The coffee is brewing in the background along with mid-80’s indie misfits Felt and their seminal long player ‘Forever Breathes The Lonely Word’ that’s spinning at a low volume. Without any specific reason as to why this album was set to play on the Famous Last Words (FLW) player this morning, it suddenly dawns that much has to do with change at the moment. Change in the political sphere. Change in the current climate of music (Try and find anything that is remotely close to Felt right now and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that doesn’t have ‘game show’ plastered all over it). Change in the world of the music press as the NME closes its doors on its printed version of its publication and charts a new(ish) path digitally. And finally, the main reason why we’re here, changes in the world of post-punk and garage trash rock merchants Reptilians From Andromeda (RFA).

With residency taken up in Istanbul, Turkey, and this being a second visit from this music paper, the band that brought the rather excellent EP ‘Sonic Rabbit Hole’ that was filled with post-punk, garage and industrial rhythms where vocals sounded detached one moment only to sound far more prickly the next (‘We Are Who We Are’ being a prime example), Reptilians From Andromeda (RFA) has been busy as far as making the changes in their camp since our last meeting, and one they’re keen to explain to FLW.

“We have a new drummer in the band and we recruited a synth player as well. Now we have a new line up with Orkun Bagatur on drums and Mert Akgül on synths,” comments RFA vocalist Aybike. “We have recorded an EP with the old line up after ‘Sonic Rabbit Hole’, but we didn’t release it. We buried the recording. The reason for this was that we wanted to record something new, something fresh with the new line up.”

A brave move indeed to bury one’s creative works, but a wise decision considering the fuller and greater flexibility of sound stemming from RFA’s new album ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ (more of which later). Such changes can either make or break a band, but when it comes to RFA the former category certainly applies as various critics have WARMED to their latest creative offering. Furthermore, the self-imposed changes made by RFA are to be applauded as they reveal a band willing to progress rather than laying stagnant as ‘Sonic Rabbit Hole: The Sequel’ would have been an easy option for the band to pursue. If you want to see your creativity soar to greater heights, then change certainly has to be embraced and then followed by action, something of which RFA fully supported when writing and recording their latest recorded output.

“The new recruits – Mert and Orkun – got involved very quickly with the band,” jumps in guitarist and bassist Tolga Özbey concerning the changes in the RFA camp. “Firstly, we asked for him [Mert] as a drummer but he said, ‘I don’t want to play drums any more, but I can play synth’. We didn’t think we wanted to have a synth player in the band, but we loved him so much, and the fact that Mert is a highly gifted musician, we decided to accept his offer. He added different elements to our sound. I’ve known Orkun for about twenty years. We’ve really wanted to make music together in the past, so I was really happy to see him in the band. A great drummer and a great friend! Both Mert and Orkun gave much energy when creating the music for this album [‘Dialogues For Monkeys’]. For example, it wasn’t just our sound simply changing, but it received more dynamics as well.”

With RFA adding more details to their overall sound, which Tolga and Aybike fully acknowledge is due to the changes they’ve implemented in their approaches to song writing, but also the new additions to the RFA line-up have certainly made an impact as well. Therefore, with the new band members in place, it would be interesting to establish their reactions in terms of how they view the RFA sound, in addition to the opinions of Aybike and Tolga considering the recent number of changes in the band.

“I would describe our sound as dark and charming,” says Mert. “I would also say heavy and almost quantized, drum machine-like beats blended with overdriven guitar riffs and out-of-world vocals.”

“It’s hard to describe,” Orkun considers. “But I can say that we try to keep away from a polished sound on the record. We like the live sound we produce on stage when it comes to our own productions. We believe that we can reflect the energy of the band more in that way because the [live] feel is everything! But the most important point of our latest album’s sound is our hero, mixing and mastering engineer who crafted that final unique sound for us, Fran Ashcroft!”

With the rest of RFA describing their updated sound as “Witchy pulp punk” (We like this a lot! FLW) (Aybike), “A lo-fi noisy pop” (Tolga), and bassist Merve referring to it as, “Strong, energetic and loud,” the band’s dedication to their song writing and believing in what they feel is right by adhering to a lo-fi edge is definitely a part of the underground scene that the band continue to remain firm members of. Further evidence of RFA’s continued DIY approach to their music can be gleaned from latest album ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’, which reflects RFA’s DIY ethics by not adhering to any musical trends or influences and, as a result, sticking solely to a plan that is entirely of their own making and one often influenced by moods. In fact, the new album has been moved by changes (that word again) outside of the band’s circle where politics, for example, has played its role by causing a sense of discomfort as Tolga explains.

“Our idea of making music didn’t change, but we record all our EPs in a different mood, and this provides us with an experimental sound. We maintained it [approach to song writing] in relation to ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ because it has a distinctive raw sound. This was a result of the political conditions of a country in which we live, and one that is affecting us. Therefore, you can feel both anger and naivety in our new album.”

With the new album ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ well and truly in the can and currently under heavy promotion by RFA that has recently seen the band officially launch the album in their native Turkey, as well as taking various trips to other countries in Europe, it is safe to say that the quintet from Istanbul has produced an album that contains the previously mentioned added “dynamics” but also songs that are more considered in their approach (i.e. The steady crawl and straight from the crypt feel of wonderfully gloomy and quite creepy ‘Liar Liar’ is one example that immediately leaps out when listening to ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’). In other words, ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ is RFA’s most accomplished work to date, after a steady strew of EP releases, and an album that has been expertly mixed and mastered by Fran Ashcroft of legendary 70’s British new wave band The Monos!, who’s worked with Damon Albarn (Blur, The Gorillaz), Paul Cook (Sex Pistols), Dandy Warhols et al.

“In the past we recorded all of our material at our home studio,” Tolga begins to explain in response to FLWs’ interest in the band’s album ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’. “This time however, we recorded the drums at Istanbul Sound City Studios with our friend Koner Memili who knows our sound well. After that, I recorded my guitar parts, Merve’s bass and Aybike’s vocals, etc, at our home studio. Orkun and Mert recorded their additional parts at their homes, and basically I made a rough mix and sent it to Fran Ashcroft who remixed all of the tracks by himself. Fran made a magical mastering of it, and that made all of us so satisfied at the end. We did all of this during last autumn.”

How long did it take to write and record your latest album?

“We had three songs from our past albums and it took about five or six months [writing], but it took years for some inspiration,” Aybike admits. “The album process lasted three months in total, but it [recording] changes every time.”

RFA’s lead singer Aybike definitely commanded a front seat in terms of ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ as she was responsible for penning the lyrics to all of the songs lining the walls of the new album. Therefore, with such responsibilities when it comes to delivering the final results for RFA’s latest album, did the band encounter any difficulties when recording the new album?

“I didn’t have any difficulties when writing the songs,” responds Aybike and then adding, “but I had a little operation in my mouth as there was a coin-sized cyst in my jaw. There is still numbness in the jaw, so I have to work harder than usual on the recording.”

“Recording an album is basically solving problems,” admits Tolga. “I have experienced too many album recordings in my life, both as a player and as a producer. This time around, we were using experimental ways to record a unique album, and I was just happy that we know Fran Ashcroft as a friend and as a producer and one who gives great advice!”

FLW has decided to cherry-pick a few of the songs from ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ as we would like to establish a few details behind these new songs. Therefore, care to shed some light on the title track, ‘More Than A Coke’ and ‘Blue Moonlight’?

“As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the songs for ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’, which gave the name of the album, but the song refers to the removal of the theory of evolution from school science books. Actually, the lyrics are kind of a dialogue. For example, anti-evolution people say, ‘I am not a monkey, how do monkeys still exist?’ In fact, even when we were recording the demos, our producer Fran Ashcroft’s hit song was ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’. After all the recording was finished, he wanted us to use the song for the opening track. And so we knew that the album name had to be ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’. We trust his taste of music; he knows this sound from the 70s as he was the guitarist and vocalist of the legendary British new wave band The Monos!

“The song ‘More Than A Coke’ was our first song and it’s about girl who loves coke (The Jesus and Mary Chain used to leave it open for interpretation as well, FLW).’Blue Moonlight’ is a very sad song, but I’m happy now, so I can say it can be about the past. If I can offer a favourite song then that would be ‘Breath In (Breath Out)’.”

As the rest of the band throw in their favourites from the latest album consisting of ‘Burning Inside’ (Tolga), ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ (Merve), and double inclusion ‘Liar Liar’ from both Mert and Orkun, the whole package wouldn’t have been complete without another skill in RFA’s armoury and that being production duties, which is normally the responsibility of guitarist Tolga.

“Producing is always Tolga’s part in the band and has been from the beginning,” explains Aybike. “Someone in the band has to do it in order to protect the sound that we want as a band. But this time out, Fran Ashcroft was the producer. So we consulted him on every step to get the best sound that we desired for this album.”

“For our latest album, we made an international music recording with the help of the internet,” continues Tolga in reply to the production duties of the band’s album. “Basically, I decided to record all the music and vocals in Istanbul and ended up coordinating them by sending the tracks to Fran. Then he mixed them song by song and sent them back to us, which we listened to and provided feedback in terms of what we thought of the sound. At the end, he did an amazing mix, which protected the band’s soul in the recording.”

There was another outside source used in relation to the overall package that made up ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ and that was the album’s artwork as Aybike from RFA explains.

“We were so lucky to work with Darren Merinuk for ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ album cover. We knew his works from the comic ‘Rockin Bones’ that he made in the past. So we asked him to design our album art. Luckily he liked our music. We passed on our suggestions to him online. The end result is that we are very satisfied with the album cover as he produced great artwork for it.”

Interestingly, the album ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’ has been issued by a record label in the Czech Republic; namely Prof Sny Records. Therefore, with RFA based some considerable distance away in Istanbul, how exactly did this come to fruition considering the distance between the two countries?

“Özge (Prof Sny Records) is our friend,” replies Aybike. “We’re so lucky to have a record label like that. As you know our latest 7″ record ‘Doomsday’ was the first record that she [Özge] released. After that, she released too many great albums! You should check all of them out.”

With the decision to release RFA’s current album as a vinyl only release, and with Tolga admitting, “We are not thinking any singles or CD version for ‘Dialogues For Monkeys'”, the reason for this is perhaps due to the fact that the five-piece band has already started work on their next project!

“We have already begun to work on our new album,” explains Tolga. “We have some new ideas to make, and record the music with the full band and Fran Ashcroft once more. We’re currently having discussions on it now, and making demos and sending them to each other.”

After recent dates performing live in Belgium, alongside local natives and rock and roll band Unwanted Tattoo, and even more recently a succession of gigs and a festival date in March that continues into April 2018, RFA has a busy schedule at the moment with no signs of stopping.

“We’re set to play six gigs and a festival in Istanbul in March and April as mentioned,” says Tolga. “Then in May we’re going to Greece for two shows in Athens and Thessaloniki. We really want to go and play in the US, but I guess it won’t be happen till next autumn.”

With their present momentum well and truly behind them and in their favour, RFA look set for a very positive 2018 and one that should see these post-punk and trashy garage rockers achieve new levels of recognition and success. One thing for certain however, no matter the outcome for the rest of the promotional campaign for latest album ‘Dialogues For Monkeys’, RFA will continue to keep their feet planted firmly in reality and remain a band who believe deeply in creating their own musical direction by sticking to their DIY indie approach to song writing. Long may it continue!

(Photography courtesy of çağrı demircan)

FLW - From the Tapes

Reptilians From Andromeda offered a tale regrading a recent gig they played that involved a David Bowie song and the police! Read on…

(Aybike): “We were gonna play ‘’Rebel Rebel’’ by David Bowie during a gig one evening and I said, ‘Next song is my song really!’ Then, halfway through the song, some men came over and one of them told Tolga something. Obviously I couldn’t hear what was said, but I was thinking whilst I was singing that they must be David Bowie’s intergalactic copyright officers!”
(Tolga): “The guy was trying to tell me something, but we were too drunk and loud [that evening]! I made eye contact with him whilst he was still trying to say something. At the end, he shows his ID and it turns out that he was a police officer! The venue we’re playing in was on a police raid. They [police] stopped the music and took all of our ID’s without any reason. The audience ended up waiting whilst they searched our ID numbers by calling the local police centre. After a period of time, they finally went off, so we were left to finally resume playing on!”

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