Interview with Northwest

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YS: You’re in Russia for the first time. So how does it feel?

Ignacio: It feels very interesting
Mariuca: Yeah, very exciting!
Ignacio: We are really fans of Russian culture. We love Russian music, especially classical. I think it’s kind of the influence. It’s not really easy to cut influence in Northwest, but, you know, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov and even … Not only in terms of classical, but also contemporary music. It’s somewhere behind Northwest. Also we love Russian literature, I think it’s kind of an influence too. Well, Mariuca is the lyricist, so…
Mariuca: I haven’t read as much of Russian literature as you, I’ve read Dostoevsky. Yeah, I think it’s there. Russia is a very exciting country to visit for us.
Ignacio: Yeah, and when we were planning the tour, and they offered an opportunity to come to Russia.. On the one hand, it is complicated because you have to get visa. Also, we are touring by car all the time. It’s very easy to go as far as to Latvia from England by car. Russia is remote. But we never hesitated about it, we were really interested to go. Also when we started this project, we thought that, regardless of success, if we can tour in the meantime, that’s worth it, regardless of the business thing. We both really wanted to go to Russia and to Japan, so now we finally made it to Russia. And when you tour, you get to know people, and when you talk to them, you get to know more of the place.
Mariuca: It’s good to meet local people, living real life and not a touristic stereotype.
Ignacio: And they are interested in music, so you have something in common, it’s easier to contact

YS: Like a level above language and cultural walls?

Mariuca: Exactly.
That’s the point.

YS:So you already have 6 singles out. Are you planning an EP or an LP? And if so, which of these songs will make their way to the album?

Ignacio: Yes, that’s what we’re doing now. We have a double album, well, more like two albums.
Mariuca: We want it released, hopefully this year. Yes, two albums, one Black and one White. And in whole it will be like a superalbum, I guess. Like a trip between the first one and the second one. Right now, on this tour we’re selling the download link for the first one. It’s planned to be released probably in June or September. Since we’re completely independent and don’t get help of any kind from a label. It is very difficult for us to plan music releases. First it should be released in a digital form and this year we hope to get our first digital releases too. With an artwork, a little book with photographs and visual art, poetry, lyrics, “pieces of Northwest”. It’s really ambitious!

YS: Could you tell me about the stylistic concept for these two records?

Ignacio: Yeah, it’s interesting. Actually, yes, some released songs will be there on albums and some new others. It’s all recorded now, almost done, just a couple of things left to do. That first album, the black one, stylistically will be dealing more with electronic soundscapes and beats.
Mariuca: It’s going to be more dark..
Ignacio: That’s the idea. In concept, I think it works as a darker side of Northwest. If you listen to the songs like Dimaryp, it’s like psychedelic ambient in a darker way. The second one, the white one, would be brighter somehow, with more analog instruments..
Mariuca: More string arrangements..
Ignacio: Yeah, more strings, double bass, real drums. And both are in the same style and within the same idea, but I think they contrast each other.
Mariuca: Our aesthetics is surrounded by black and white photography. Our photographer, who happens to be my brother, develops his own film, which is also black and white, and it’s really beautiful to us. We worked a lot with that kind of aesthetics, it’s also in our videos, some of which we have directed by ourselves. It all makes sense to us. Northwest is also two worlds. On the one hand we want it to be very experimental and use modern technology as much as we can, on the other hand, we are very influenced by, say, classical music.
Ignacio: Yeah, we’ve recorded so much material, that it doesn’t fit into one album (laughs). I think it’s one of the consequences of DIY, you can’t release everything on the go, you need to plan, you need to prepare. Maybe if we had a label that could help us release the records, we could just go record it, mix it, master it, and then like ‘let’s do it’. But we do it on ourselves, we have to plan. It makes more sense to do this whole prepared big release, than going with physical records. And I think that’s more interesting and ambitious.
Mariuca: Yes, and more special for us.

YS:Some specific works by the artists who influenced you?

Mariuca: Kid A by Radiohead, i think we both agree on that.
Ignacio: Yes. There some influences from the records we both like or individual favourites. And some others are not so obvious, there somewhere at the back of our heads and somehow find their way. Sometimes it’s something we both agree on, and somethlimes it’s just something we’ve been listening to recently. But i think we both agree on Radiohead, specifically Kid A and Then Yorke solo projects. It’s really interesting how they managed to be experimental in an expressive way, but in a compositial approach. They’re doing songs, not something like Stockhausen. Contemporary music, classical music, electronica and pop fit into four minutes. That’s something to look up to.
Mariuca: And everything can potentially influence you. With artists, it can be not only their music, but also their career, their personal view. I like how Radiohead behaves in the world. There are some artists that are more than their music.
Ignacio: Some of our favourite artists are not all signature ones, but they switched from commercial music to something personal and really groundbreaking. Beatles and Radiohead could have made it just by doing the same thing, but they changed drastically and took many risks.
Mariuca: And some don’t neccesarily influence you in music field itself, but all the other things surrounding music. For example, Bjork is not my favourite musician. I love her music, her latest album is amazing, but it’s not my favourite. But i love how she managed to create this world of art and expression through music. Music is just a little part of Bjork. And I also love this kind of artists. A whole artist.
Ignacio: Yeah, I feel the same about Bjork. I like some songs, but i’m not a fan. It’s more interesting how she used everything, dance, performance, technology and video. And there are our favourite musicians like Robert Wyatt. Rock Bottom is my favourite album. It’s just how it makes me feel anytime i listen to it and all the story behind it, really dramatic. How he composed it all before that accident and recorded it afterwards. For example, Syd Barrett..

YS:You mean Madcap Laughs?

Mariuca:Yes, it’s also our favourite one!
Ignacio: And again, it’s something that you listen to and understand what he’s feeling all the time. It’s very expressive. And we would not like to pose this expressive intention behind our music, or else it’s just well-crafted and emotionless.

YS:What about your videos? How are they made?

Ignacio: When we started Northwest, i had had a long career as a musician and Mariuca, apart from being a musician, was professionaly making videos. So she was totally in charge of video and image, while i was more into production. But as the project evolved, we began to contribute to each other’s fields. So we did all first three videos on our own.
Mariuca: Same Old Sky was the first video that we didn’t do by ourselves. It was made by our friend Alvaro Santos. He’s a very talented filmmaker, living in Los Angeles. He’s really great. I think he’s going to be the next Malick. And I made Wind by myself.


Ignacio: She didn’t trust me with the camera. I asked if I could help but she was really into doing it herself, she didn’t trust me at all. And she did every single picture.
Mariuca: It’s all photograph, not a video, like a stop-motion thing. It was a lot of work. With a visual aspect of work, I tend to complicate myself a lot. Doing things simple is not for me.
Ignacio: I think in the beginning, we didn’t have a plan for this aesthetic world. We were just trying. For Reflection we took images from a motion picture.
Mariuca: That video was made from a documentary film called ‘Nanook’.
Ignacio: Yes, ‘Nanook of the North’, a 1920-s’ documentary. Then, Look at Me nowadays feels completely away from the concept we are dealing with now.

YS: It feels more like vaporwave.

Mariuca:Yeah, I think I was really into vaporwave scene then, so now you can see that. Now we started to become more Northwest.
Ignacio: We established a character, and it influenced the overall aesthetic and the visual part and the performance. It all started to make sense now.

YS:What is the process of writing a Northwest song? What comes first, what comes next?

Ignacio: An interesting thing here is that every song has its own story. We’ve tried different combinations. There were songs that Mariuca wrote and handed to me in an almost complete form and i just produce them and add my arrangements and that’s it. For some others I write music and produce myself and hand it to her for lyrics. Some are more complicated and involve us both in constructing the song from the beginning. Different processes result in different outputs. Not all of our songs sounds the same. I think it’s mostly 50-50, but all combinations are possible. That’s not very humble of me, but i think it makes a rich spectrum. And concerning lyrics, it’s mostly Mariuca’s work.
Mariuca:You have participated in some.
Ignacio: Yeah, one percent.
Mariuca: Speaking about lyrics.. This album we’re going to release was being made throughout a year, so it was influenced by things that surrounded our lives. It’s England, its landscapes, a lot of winter. And, it wasn’t intended, but there are a lot of weather references. I was staring a lot into a window when i was writing. I think, weather is sometimes a metaphor for feelings. And I love winter, i think it’s the mostly reflective time of the year. I want to write in an open, metaphorical way as much as possible, to make lyrics open for each listener’s interpretation. It can be a soundtrack to whatever one feels. But there are some political things also, but I would not say it’s in songs we released by date. Though someone could have interpret songs in this way already.

YS:Your live performances seem to be very theatre-inspired. In this case, considering cinematography as a part of your aesthetic, a strange question — your favourite movie, stage plays or soundtracks?

Ignacio: In terms of live performances, i think, the hidden influence behind them is German Expressionism of 20s — it’s in the lighting, the character and video projections. And then, probably, any kind of cinema.
Mariuca: I guess, when we write, we imagine things. I imagine a movie, a video.
Ignacio: A funny moment was when we released a Dimaryp video, many people told us it looked like The Ring, which was completely unintentional.
Mariuca: That song sounds kinda scary, but also very romantic.
Ignacio: We’re also developing an interesting concept. Apart from releasing songs, we also release sketches of music and video. Those can be alternate versions of songs with images applied. So people can get the idea of this project by not only listening to music, but also watching those little clips. It’s something that surrounds the rain idea. It’s very cinematic. Now we release a video each day, recorded with a phone camera, quickly edited.
Mariuca: We’re calling it «pieces of Northwest». Those are pieces of our music, maybe solo instrumental parts, samples with shots of things we encounter during our tour.
Ignacio: Also, people can listen to different versions of songs, a capella tracks, instrumentals.
Mariuca: Nowadays musicians start like on autopilot. Like, I have to do a show, release a song, then an album. We were asking ourselves why we can’t do things differently. We can release sounds sketches, even make a movie. We don’t have a record label, so why do we have to release music in a traditional way? If i want to be innovative, we should be innovative in the way we communicate and distribute music.
Ignacio: Sometimes you find yourself complaining about how difficult things became with the rise of the internet. But thanks to the internet, you are free to do whatever you want. Maybe it’s only difficult when you stick to those traditional ways. Social media can be frustrating, but it has advantages too.
Mariuca: It’s a tool that you can use to do things your way.
Ignacio: We wanted to release this double LP, which is kinda of an old-fashioned thing to do. On vinyl, so it’s time-consuming and expensive. And then we thought, after all this work, trying to be innovative, why do we still do things people did forty years ago? We should at least try to do something else, something new.

YS: I was quite surprised that string arrangements and a live organ have place in your music — I always thought it to be very expensive. How did you manage to do this?

Ignacio: Some of those parts just happened by chance. For example, this organ was recorded in a church in England. This happened because we met a person, he learned that we were musicians and he offered us to use the organ to play at masses. We didn’t play at masses, but we were able to record the organ for a whole day. So, actually, the songs that use the organ, were specifically made to feature it. We were so inspired, we had to do something. And string arrangements are not so complicated as long as you have a couple of friends who play violin, and then you just need to dub the recordings and fill it a little bit with sample-based parts, you mix it and get an acceptable string arrangement for not much money. It takes time but it’s worth it. We have many strings in instrumentals which are yet to be released.

 — Russian version of the interview — 

Максим Алешин
Максим Алешин
Музыкальный критик.

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