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Hidden By Ivy - Interview

Interview with: Andrzej Turaj, Rafał Tomaszczuk
Conducted by: T.V.

From Poland comes a new perfect example how to make music melancholic, gloomy, emotional, artsy, atmospheric and flowing as hell, more than anything you've maybe heard before. The band, actually a duo, which consists of two well known artists in the Polish dark scene, instrumentalist Andrzej Turaj, known better from the extraordinary goth/indie rock band God's Own Medicine, and vocalist Rafał Tomaszczuk from Agonised By Love. The two formed Hidden By Ivy in 2014 and in the beginning of 2015 released their first EP named To Abandon, which settled deep into hearts of all lovers of melancholic rock who heard it. Now Hidden By Ivy are out with their debut album Acedia (read a review over HERE), a blistering attack for your senses, one of the most emotional, yet dark and highly artistic musical releases I heard in the last couple of years. With a delicate manner the two musicians offered a perfect mix of various genres, from post rock, new wave, ambient, pop and even jazz. They say it's ghost rock,... I say it's more than that, it's a sonic beauty. Both members, Andrzej Turaj and Rafał Tomaszczuk were kind enough and answered to my curious questions about their debut album, their inspirations, future plans and much more.

T.V.: First of all congratulations for your great debut album! It's hard to believe that you made such a work of art just in one year...
Andrzej: Thank you! The recording of this album took nine months. It went very quickly and smoothly, we came across a special moment - there was no lack of inspiration. We are also surprised by the pace and quality of recorded songs.
T.V.: Tell me more about the creation of Acedia, how the compositional, recording and productional process went?
Andrzej: The case is apparently somewhat complicated - Rafał and I have never met - the whole record process was made without our direct meeting. We live on opposite sides of Poland and to record this album we had to use support of technology and the internet. In short - the demo songs were prepared by me. Rafał wrote the lyrics and in his studio he recorded vocals. The vocals were returning to my studio where I began working on arrangements and the final shape of songs. It required thousands of e-mails and phone calls. The next step was proffesional mix and mastering of tracks - with the help of Mariusz Pietka and his MP Studio - we have achieved the desired effect.
T.V.: That's even more surprising, I almost can't believe that you never meet between the process of creation of this album and still you achived so very flowing sound with certain pathos. Is there on the album anything that you would do it differently now, when you look back on everything?
Rafał: Probably that kind of thinking will come soon. At that moment I wouldn't change many things. I’m really proud of what we have done. It's uplifting and bode well for the future.
Andrzej: ... maybe I would delete some moments too evocative of Pink Floyd. Of course, I'm kidding. Time will judge...
T.V.: I find the artwork on the album pretty symbolic. Who designed it and what's the meaning behind it?
Rafał: The symbolism is obvious: forest tells about how we feel lost when something happens in our lives, chest gives shelter or hideout but also loneliness caused by the possession of secrets. Water purifies, allows the oblivion. However, we didn't think about the symbols when we decided to use these photos. The photos chosen us in some way. They were made more than 10 years ago by my wife's friend and we were having photo prints at home all this time. I always felt that I want these pictures to illustrate my music, my work. For my wife it was a pretext to renew contact with her old friend and to do something together. After all, we noticed that all the elements: music, lyrics, artwork tell the same story, because each of us experienced the loss of a loved one or is yet to come.
T.V.: In January you released the debut EP named To Abandon and except for the track "Searching" you used the rest of the songs on the debut album. Why have you decided to put those two songs also on the album and I'm not sure but are maybe in any way reworked?
Andrzej: These songs are part of the whole recording sessions for Acedia, they are an integral part of it. They were too good to pass up. "Searching" is a cover of a song by Pieter Nooten of his famous album Sleeps With The Fishes - we are probably the only band in the world who has recorded a cover of this song.
T.V.: You both came from a different musical background, yet some things similar to your band Andrzej, God's Own Medicine, are heard in there. But what was the major reason and as well the inspiration for forming Hidden By Ivy and making such a melancholic sound?
Andrzej: There were no plans or arrangements. We initially wanted to record only one common song - but our friendship and mutual inspiration were so stimulating that ended up on the big album - 10 songs - nearly 60 minutes of music, which stems from our shared musical influences - 4AD, 80s - dark rock, art pop, ambient, new wave, shoegaze but also today's atmosphere - that all there is. Acedia draws on the best traditions of atmospheric play - the structure is perhaps a bit old school - but it sounds modern and as you have noticed very melancholic. So, it came out with us in a very natural way.

T.V.: There are a lot of different elements used in the music of Hidden By Ivy. How would you describe the sound in your own words?
Andrzej: The recordings do not limit ourselves to certain instruments - we used the sound of electric and acoustic guitars, a large amount of keyboards and percussions. Appears piano, mellotron, choirs, strings, orchestral - there are guests - a wonderful oriental Inga Habiba vocals in the song "Everything was" - children's choir in "Don't Go" and declamations of Małgorzata Masłowiecka in ending the album, sublime "My Sad Eyes". We pay extraordinary attention to melodies and arrangements - all these elements can be defined as a style of Hidden By Ivy. It grows out of tradition but is very expressive and fresh.
Rafał: With Hidden By Ivy we want to leave the nest of dark indie, while keeping it in high esteem and some gratitude. I am open to many species, I love new romantic, old 4AD, avant-garde This Mortal Coil, romanticism Talk Talk and David Sylvian. On the other hand, I am looking for and respect new artists such as the brilliant Chelsea Wolfe and Wild Beasts. I would describe our music as dreamy art pop or ghost rock because of the text layer.
T.V.: Ghost rock? I agree, a nice description of your music, but how did you come up with this term?
Rafał: I’m a fan of Piano Magic, I think they first came up with this term, our sound is maybe a little different but from the very beginning I felt a presence of ghosts during creation process of Acedia, I belive that some of them helped me a lot.
T.V.: Ok, I see. Now, tell me how did you come in touch with Inga Habiba who did a really stunning job on "Everything Was"? And is the use of such kind of oriental vocals in any way influenced by The Sisters Of Mercy who teamed up with Ofra Haza back then?
Andrzej: It was an impulse. We were looking for the female singer, who was able to give this song an oriental and dark atmosphere. Inga is an extremely talented singer, she performs with two Polish bands: Lorien and Habiarjan. We asked Inga about the possibility of the cooperation, sent part of the song, and in return received a sea of oriental vocals. She managed to evoke the atmosphere of Ofra Haza and Lisa Gerrad - definitely. "Everything Was" is one of the greatest moments on this album.
T.V.: But, beside all the names you've mentioned before I hear a lot of segments that must be influenced by Dead Can Dance and as well by the later era Pink Floyd, among others. How much do you agree with my remark?
Andrzej: Pink Floyd - probably not. Dead Can Dance - definitely yes. Brendan Perry is one of our favorite artists - a great feeling of music, extraordinary songs - a treasure in today's world of music. One of the last ones.
T.V.: No Pink Floyd? I'm surprised now, because I hear a lot of atmospheric segments that must have something in common with them... So, I suppose that you are a big fan of Dead Can Dance and I wonder which are the albums from their discography that influenced you the most?
Andrzej: If you compare us to Pink Floyd and you mean attention to the arrangement, melodies, sound, atmospheric segments - then yes. Many bands use in their sound characteristic elements of the Pink Floyd sound. Space guitars, ambient keyboards, distant sound of vocals, bass tones, strings and so on. But these are also characteristics of the bands from 4AD label. We have a legacy of the great respect for that label. Dead Can Dance is a different story. The work of this duo I know by heart, special esteem I have for the solo works of Brendan - his last solo album Ark is a work of genius.
T.V.: What's behind the title, Acedia, any deeper meaning? And what about the lyrics, what are the themes of lyrics and what inspired you when writing them?
Andrzej: Acedia - this phrase has many meanings and can be understood on many levels. This means both spiritual depression and anxiety. It also means the spiritual emptiness, a disease of the soul manifested by sadness and apathy. This term seemed to correspond well with the lyrics and the music.
Rafał: The lyrics... This is the result of internal development, another look at certain things, fear of loved ones, their loss. This album is basically about it. It talks about the fear of losing a loved one. It's about how it is - when that person leaves - it's about the feelings that are in man, about memories that hurt and that strengthen. For me - recent years are full of experience of losing loved ones. Unfortunately, to too much recently I had to say goodbye.
T.V.: So, judging from that the lyrics must be based on and talking about your personal experiences and feelings?
Rafał: Yes, most of them. It’s like exhibitionism of the soul, sometimes a little bit abstract but always honest.
T.V.: And I'm also curious about the name Hidden By Ivy. How did you came up with it and what does it represents?
Rafał: I wrote a poem about my childhood, about old house where I grown up, old places and forests where I was playing as a boy. I come back in my memories to all these moments and places very often and I feel like everything is existing but hidden behind the curtain of the past and will never be forgotten. I never used this poem to make a lyric for the song but Andy liked the term “hidden by ivy” which was included in one sentence and it was really a good choice.
T.V.: Like God's Own Medicine also Hidden By Ivy are signed with Alchera Visions. How much confortable and satisfied are you with this label?
Andrzej: This is not our first time. Rafał with Agonised By Love collaborated with the label Alchera Visions during two albums. God's Own Medicine debuted in that label with last year's album Drachma. Label owner - Marcin - is passionate about the music - he supports independent polish scene. This year, he supports Hidden By Ivy! We are very grateful to him.
T.V.: Will Hidden By Ivy ever perform live? If yes, then can you describe me how the live performance would look like? I can imagine some really stunning visuals accompanying your music...
Andrzej: So far we do not have plans for concerts, we concentrate on studio work.
T.V.: What about God's Own Medicine and Agonised By Love? Can we expect something new from those two bands of yours or are you now fully concetrated only on Hidden By Ivy?
Rafał: I found artistic release in Hidden By Ivy. My body and soul belongs only to this project, as long as we have this amazing agreement with Andy. I will try to be faithful to Hidden By Ivy. I start to think about new songs and imagine a new sound. Agonised By Love is definitely a close chapter.
Andrzej: I have plans to record a new God's Own Medicine album, but it's too early to declare when. The process of recording Acedia was very intense. Now it's a time for a short break.
T.V.: So, judging from Rafał's answer I believe that we can expect more to come from Hidden By Ivy! Tell me, what are now the plans? I know it's too early to ask, but when can we expect a new album or perhaps an EP?
Andrzej: In the late fall and winter we plan to start the recording sessions for the second Hidden By Ivy album - we are planning to invite guests for the next album and I can promise you that it will continue melancholic and gloomy atmosphere. Now our focus is on writing and recording new songs.
T.V.: Thank you for taking your time with this interview, but is there anything that you would like to say at the end?
Andrzej: We also thank You. We invite you to follow our profile on Facebook and YouTube - soon there will be much more surprising things...

Hidden By Ivy links: Official website, Facebook, Bandcamp