After a cathartic confrontation with a wall of sound that this nomadic and dare I say, enigmatic sludge duo created inside the concert hall of YCC Abrašević, we managed to get a few minutes with Gazelle Amber Valentine who kindly told us more about touring, borders they cross over, art and politics…
You’ve been in Bosnia and Herzegovina earlier, this is your first show in Mostar. How is the current tour going?
It’s great! We’re always on tour, this year we’ve been on tour since January, but we’ve been in Europe since the beginning of August. Now we’re in the later part of the tour and we’re happy to be here. We like this region very much so we’ve been kind of looking forward to it ever since August. Now we’re here and the weather is nice, we are really enjoying being here!
How do things go with your constant touring, you’ve been on tour for almost 25 years…
Yes. Not constant touring, though. In the beginning we did live in a town, in a house like normal people (laughter) in 1990s. Since the year 1999 is when we began to really tour constantly, all year long, but before that we had sort of began as all bands do – a weekend at a time, regionally. Then you build it up to couple of weeks and then for us it built to couple of months and then it became four, five, six months… And we have no job when we get back home. (laughter) We had to give this everything or drop it, you know…
How do you observe issues in United States regarding your nomadic lifestyle mostly driving you far outside?
That’s a really big question! I’ll try to do a good answer. You know, we’re always seeing every place that we are in, including our own country, on two levels. One is the way that we are experienced with the people that we meet and situations we encounter, and that’s something about the culture and about individual people and you have a lot of positivity there often, i think, and sometimes some real terrible people that you have to deal with, but then there’s the history and the current political situation in every place that you go and for us as people who want to see the world be a good place and a place where everyone is safe no matter who they are, where they came from, what they believe, that people shouldn’t be victims of violence, and so for us we see in every place including our own country the violence that has been done and is being done and it’s something that we want to speak about in our music in a way that we hope informs, educates people that may not have known these things happened, for example the district of dystopia album, some of the things we wrote about on that are fairly well-known, some of the other ones were things we had not known until much later, more recently in our lives. You don’t learn it in school because it’s not positive and the part of our history that maybe is shameful, well definitely shameful, but maybe that’s why they don’t teach you, and I think that it’s important that people should not forget these things that have been done that were wrong and that victims need to be honoured, and so that’s one of the reasons we make these albums about this stuff.
You’re much interested in historical themes. How well do you get acquianted with areas you’re playing in?
It’s interesting, because, really when I think about it, the concert experiences are never so different. That’s something beautiful about music. That we all feel it in kind of similar ways and responses can be very similar, no matter where you are and what language is, or the rest of the culture. I think music is something that exists in a different emotional place that doesn’t require any other understanding between people so as far as the concerts they’re pretty much the same everywhere we go and that’s not a bad thing, it’s very nice. We try to learn something every day and even the places that we play in, we try to ask what was this building before if it’s old, you know, what happened here on this place that where we’re gonna play music tonight, it’s meaningful to us. Unfortunately, we can’t know everything (laughs) because our minds can only hold so much and we don’t have as much time as we would like to enjoy to just being tourists. I mean, we’re here with the mission and we have to have the time and schedule to keep and stuff so we don’t get to explore as much as someone would if they were just travelling or doing a travel show. A travel show maybe – that would be a way to learn a lot more history. The more that we go to every place that we see, the more interested I think we become about their history and so I find myself, I hoard a lot of books that I don’t have time to read, but I dream of reading them and they’re about, like, every place in the world, because if I’ve been to some place, I want to still always know more about it, and if I haven’t been, then I want to know about it too. I really want every piece of knowledge that I can have.
Let me try dig some about your philosophical, political and artistic approach to borders. Since you cross so many of them both physically as well as culturally, besides, your genre remains as elusive as ever…
I think borders are a way that you can define yourself, and maybe sometimes that’s okay, but I think too often they’re a way that you shut yourself off from every other great experience that you can have. Definitely in music. I think for a fan, it’s not as bad to have some borders, maybe you really only like certain style of music and that’s okay, but for an artist it’s something that I can’t understand. Being able to confine yourself to only one style of music, one type of song, some bands do it very well and all of their songs and records are good and they always maintain the same sound, but for me it’s that there’s so much to do. I feel the same as with our crossing borders and trying to tour everywhere that you can. It’s like being ravenous for making music as many ways as we can and trying to do something we haven’t done before and challenge ourselves, and you know, tell a story in a way that’s not so predictable, maybe with physical borders I think they cause so many problems and it’s kind of ridiculous when you start to think about what they actually are, because we invented them and people die because of that, you know. These things that we invented for no real reason.
So, you’re always on the road, playing music you truly like, speaking of things you care about, your very own artwork, your very own record label recently… Seems like a full autonomy. Is it a dream come true?
Actually, someone asked me a similar question recently and I’ll have to give the same answer. It’s never finished, it’s like we always want to do something more. As I was just saying, to challenge ourselves to build something bigger with our art, and also in our life. To have the capacity to make even more make our show even better make our albums even better this for us is what drives us to still be here after so many years, so the dream is… unfortunately i guess it never comes true when you have this kind of drive to always be improving. You’re always chasing it and maybe that’s part of the reward skind that you jave because i think if you decide you’re finished, then you really are finished. You lose your passion about the work that you’re doing and it doesn’t matter what type of job, you know, or what kind of dream, if you decide that you reached that point and that you can’t go any higher, and its almost like your life is over, so I’m okay with that not happening for us.
Any new material coming soon? Leak on concepts?
We have been working on one and I can’t tell you exactly when it’s going to be released. It’s hard for us to finish albums, because we’re touring so much, and that’s to take the focus away from touring. It’s difficult sometimes with the timing to plan for recording and everything, but there will be another album. As for concept, I can’t tell you yet, we don’t like to tell that until it’s time to release the album because that way, if there’s some delay, and we decide that we’re not even going to put that album out, and that we’re going to do another one instead, it’s not a disappointment.
Amber, thank you so much, killer show, looking forward seeing you again!
Thank you very much! It was really a pleasure to play here. Your venue was really great and everyone here is so nice. We had a wonderful time. Happy it was good for you also!