Survibers! Thank you for agreeing to talk to us, how are you?
KATRINA: Thanks so much for having us Del! We are doing pretty well, excited to be making music again after a long COVID hiatus!
Congratulations on the release of “Leave It Right Here”, how does it feel?
KATRINA: So good! I think we’re all pretty happy at the reception the track has had. I mean we really didn’t expect it!
You are a collective with quite an interesting backstory how did it all begin for you?
Franny: When I was about 13-14, I used to attend the Royal Northern College of Music as Junior. My treat for enduring classical music for 6 hours every Saturday was to go to Sound Control after class in Salford – a big music shop in Manchester (I used to love going to the one in Tottenham Court Road – Wall to musical instruments! D.O.). It was here I befriended Aniff – probably going on to him every week about how I thought analogue sounded better and my love of vintage gear..for a while Aniff tried to interest me in software synths and modernise me into a world of digital, but it fell on deaf ears. I turned up one day with a Psion 3A which is a late 80’s personal digital assistant and pager, announcing that if he wished to contact me he could now fax or page. When he saw that thing, I think he ‘got’ that there was little hope, so next Saturday Aniff gifted me his old Atari STE and I began to get into Cubase and finally computerise (though in an old fashioned way). A clever thing to do really, because until that point I had a Fostex multitrack tape machine and was anti computers all-together.
Anything of the old school that came into the shop would go straight in the back room and Aniff would call me and me and tell me ‘A DX7 has come in, do you want it?’ to which I’d always reply yes. Anyway – we’ve remained close friends for a long time, and he is a lovely person.
Fast forward a few years – I wanted out of the UK and Cameron had got into power. I’d set my sights on the US, and at Berklee in Boston I met this young very talented and pretty singer in a jazz improvisation class called Katrina. I was impressed – we worked a lot together and co-wrote music spending most nights in studios. It was a University where you didn’t sleep, and it wasn’t for parties – it was for people who wanted to work and get somewhere in the music business. I guess we’re still ‘getting there’ wherever there is.
What did you listen to starting out?
Katrina: I was pretty much a top 40 girl growing up, you know whatever was on the radio. Being from Texas I also listened to A LOT of country. In my late teens I really got into the American song book and listened to singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Rufus Wainwright was also a permanently in my Honda Civic as well as Imogen Heap, Corinne Bailey Rae and Alison Krauss.
Franny: Jazz / Fusion from the likes of Michael Brecker which was the first gig I ever went to, Steely Dan, Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Jobim, but also 80’s pop music i.e. Nik Kershaw (who I think is a really under-rated songwriter), Thomas Dolby, Trevor Horn, The Police, Michael Jay and Scritti Politti. I have a strong foundation and love of harmony and counterpoint by J.S. Bach and more contemporary classical composers like Bela Bartok and Herbert Howells. My taste hasn’t changed much and I still have all of these on cassette and LP.
ANIFF: Jazz fusion, Afro Cuban, Hip Hop, Chicago house.
You’ve studied at Berklee College of music what was it like studying there?
K: Oh, haha! Well, on the first day in my apartment in Boston I sat on my bed, which was on the floor, and I had this sinking feeling about what I had just done. Did I really just move all the way across the country, on my own to attend this world renowned school? I mean what was I thinking?! I’m definitely a Taurus and we definitely hate change! However, when I got past the initial shock I had a great time. I definitely studied a lot, drank a lot of coffee, and immersed myself in writing and recording projects with other students. If you allow it, I don’t think you could ask for a more nurturing environment to experiment and discover who you are as a musician/artist.
F: I went to that school to get a phone book of great players, writers, engineers and to be around competition. It was great for that. I also did the boring stuff like ‘accountancy for musicians’ and legal classes where some people wore ties. I slept very little and was true to my vision of excellence in analogue sound and complexity in composition from both the jazz and classical idioms. It was the perfect school and presented many opportunities. It was also an expensive place to go – both Katrina and I were sponsored with scholarships in part, but for the rest of the time food/ living was an issue, certainly for me. I lived in a dodgy low-rent house in East Cambridge with a bunch of Mormons and a guy in the basement who trawled the harbour for scrap metal in his spare time. It was like that really!
What was the biggest lesson you learned?
K: Oh, I definitely think I’m still learning! Though it might seem cliché, the most important lesson I had to learn was to be true to yourself and that was definitely true as a singer. For years I was always trying to sound like someone else and it never felt natural. It helped that I started learning harmony and writing my own songs – my singing style just kind of developed in that way and I became more comfortable with performing and recording.
F: That there is an invisible barline in 4/4 between beats 2 and 3.
Your sound has an electronic vibe to it, how does a typical session begin for you?
K: We usually get together in person several times a year at our studio here in Slovenia. During lockdown it was impossible so we are really glad that we were able to do it again this past October. It’s quite an intensive week of coming up with a lot of small ideas that could potentially evolve into a song now or later down the road. It’s pretty freeform and we try to work fast… Franny or Aniff usually comes up with a drum program or beat. Then Franny feels around for a chord progression and whatever synth sounds he’s in the mood for! From here we have a mood/ possible groove.
Aniff sometimes programs the bands ancient MPC and argues with Franny that we need to be productive and there’s no time for the Atari. Aniff and I will improvise vocalisations over these little progressions recording with a room mic going down to tape or MD. If an idea won’t go away it goes on the proper mic and we will track it quickly. We also try to finish any songs that we’ve been working on together remotely which is what we are currently doing. We accumulate lots of these demos and move on quickly to the next one – maybe 8 in an afternoon. Then we filter and percolate.
You’ve been played in countries around the world, what was one location that was a big surprise for you?
Can we say all of them?! Haha, no, seriously I think the fact that there are radio stations/DJs all around the world who are championing new music is amazing and any time we hear that we’re airing somewhere we get really excited!
COVID had a major impact on the creative industry what kept you motivated?
K: How long have you got? It was such a crazy time, especially for Franny and me as we didn’t expect to spend nearly a year and half displaced and also away from our studio here in Slovenia. It’s a long story but because of multiple border closures we got stuck in the UK and had to move around A LOT… mostly around North Wales and though it wasn’t so bad being out in the country side, we didn’t have any recording equipment/instruments with us so it was pretty frustrating. I think the fact that we had some music out already helped keep our musical heads and also our daily talks over the phone with Aniff.
Did you pick up any new skills?
K: Just before the world turned upside down, we were about to release our first ever track as Survibers and we had 3 other songs finished and ready to go so I put my energy into marketing (or learning how to market) our music. It was quite the learning curve for me but I have had a lot of fun sharing our music with new people!
F: Hand washing thoroughly.
…and Aniff rebuilt his studio not having touched it for 20yrs!
What are you listening to at the moment?
Franny: Weather Report back catalogue (again), Amy Grant, and Lyle Mays’ final release Eberhard.
K: Whatever Franny has playing in the studio! And I really like the singer Aurora at the moment – she’s fantastic.
What are you looking forward to in 2022?
I think we’re really excited about the music we have lined up for release in the next year. Some of it is quite different from our previous tracks and Aniff is making more of a debut. Other than that, seeing people in the flesh more and getting back to some normalcy are some things we are looking forward to. Franny looks forward to one day soon buying a Prophet 5, and doing well on the markets.