POSTCARDS, Interview, 12.04.2023

POSTCARDS, Interview, 12.04.2023

Julia Sabra, Pascal Semerdjian, Marwan Tohme und Produzent Fadi Tabbal – Foto: Postcards privat

Postcards, das Dreampop-Trio aus Beirut, hat letztes Jahr ein Konzert im Tiefbunker in Feuerbach gespielt. Der Gig war ausverkauft, viele Interessenten kamen nicht mehr rein. (Wir haben berichtet) Jetzt steht eine neue Deutschland-Tour an und dieses Mal sind die drei am 29.04. in der deutlich größeren Manufaktur zu Gast. Mit neuen Songs vom demnächst erscheinenden Album. Anlass für uns, Julia Sabra ein paar Fragen zu stellen. Und gleich die erste Antwort war eine freudige Überraschung! Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Julia & Pascal!

Hi Julia, last week you finished recording your new album. Next month you will go on tour. How are you doing? What does your everyday life look like right now?

Hello! Things are pretty busy for us right now. We’re all involved in other music projects, so between recordings, live performances, finishing the album, tour rehearsals, it’s been hectic. But the good kind of hectic. Not to mention that Pascal (the drummer) and I got married last week. It was a quick 24h trip to Cyprus with Marwan and Fadi (of course!) and some family members, since civil wedding does not exist in Lebanon …

Your last album was powerful. It was strongly influenced by the difficult situation in Beirut, the pandemic that led to a sudden tour cancellation and the big explosion that hit you personally as well. I imagine it difficult to start with a new album after this one. What can we expect from your next album?

I think there’s generally a looser atmosphere on the next album. After everything we’ve been through, and especially that our first 3 albums really feel like the journey of our twenties, there’s some sort of letting go in this one. There’s a lot of live recording, more rawness in the music, more honesty in the lyrics. It seems like the more we grow the less we are concerned with covering things up – lyrically and musically. And there’s a sort of acceptance as well. Accepting the choices we made, the fact that we’re staying in Lebanon, and learning to live with the chaos, and embrace the people and the community that makes it all worth it.

A question you’ve probably heard many times: how can we imagine the music scene in Beirut? What role do you and your producer Fadi Tabbal play in this scene? Which bands and musicians from Beirut should we have on our radar?

It’s a very active scene, with so many talented people across all genres. We have a great experimental/ambient scene, lots of great hip-hop/rap, bands are harder to maintain but there’s still a handful doing great music. We ourselves are all part of different projects: the three of us recorded with our friend Mayssa Jallad for her first beautiful solo album (“Marjaa”), and Pascal and I play live with her. Marwan and Pascal are part of Sanam, a supergroup making experimental/free jazz oriental songs, with some great musicians (Sandy Chamoun, Farah Kaddour, Anthony Sahyoun, Antonio Hajj). Fadi and I also released our first album as a duo last year, called Snakeskin, it’s a dream pop/ambient/noise album which I’m very proud of. Pascal recorded drums with our friend Interbellum for his newly released album, and the three of us played live with him as his backing band.

There are so many more people doing great things but these are just off the top of my head!

What international exchange is there in the Lebanese music scene? Which international bands find their way to Beirut?

Unfortunately, barely anyone anymore. Even before the crisis, it was very rare – understandably so. But we’ve been very lucky to be able to open for Beirut (the band) when they performed in Lebanon in 2013. We’ve also had some great acts like Suuns, Josephine Foster, Richard Dawson, the Necks…

Does it actually bother you to always be asked about your origin? Are you maybe even tired of your „exotic status“ in the European music scene?

Yes and yes! It’s tiring because we’re expected to be one thing in the eyes of the West. Whereas the Arab world, and Lebanon, even Beirut itself, is so varied and so rich and complex. We’re just making music about how we feel, like everyone else around the world. But somehow we’re expected to make some big statement, because of where we come from. Like all artists, our lives are inherently part of the music, we can’t separate what we do from what we live.

Currently we observe a trend in Europe towards psychedelic „Middle East Sounds“. There seems to be an interest in this mix of western pop music and oriental melodies and instrumentation. Have you ever thought about incorporating local influences into your music? Or singing in your „mother tongues“ Arabic or French?

I wonder if anyone ever asks Scottish bands if they feel like they have to incorporate bagpipes in their music to be “true” to themselves…

I feel like this ties in with my last answer. What Europeans consider to be “Middle Eastern sounds” is actually very narrow. Each Middle Eastern country has its own history, its own rich and varied culture, Lebanon included. We are a product of our country, whether that fits with the Western narrative or not. I could go on for hours about the Lebanese identity crisis, the fact that we learn English or French in most schools (mother tongue is actually Arabic), the westernized middle/upper class, the kind of music, movies and books we were exposed to… We are fully aware that we are a minority here, part of a specific class who grew up in a specific way, but we are trying to express ourselves through music in the most genuine way we can, and that happens to be in English. This isn’t denial, or trying to copy a Western style. We feel like we’ve made it ours, and we use these tools to express ourselves as Lebanese people.

POSTCARDS, Interview, 12.04.2023

Foto: Armin Kübler

On your tour you play twelve concerts in two and a half weeks. Towards the end of the tour there seems to be a few off days. Are there already plans how you will recover there?

I think we’ll be staying in Lindau during our off days – not sure where exactly. We also have friends in Vienna who will be hosting us, which we’re really looking forward to. They’ve been generous enough to have us every time we play in Austria.
Plans would be: laundry, getting some much needed rest, drinking and cooking some good food!

Your concerts are also an emotional event for the audience. Where have you experienced the most intense concerts so far? In general, what does a perfect concert look like for you?

That’s definitely the best part of playing live, because the music is so personal and intense at times, and it feels like people are more and more willing to tap into that part of themselves (especially Europeans post-pandemic!). I’d say Beirut concerts are the most emotional, just because everyone here knows what we’re talking about, we’ve all lived the same things, it feels like it’s a group catharsis session.

But a perfect concert can be anywhere, whenever we feel that connection with the crowd.

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