Interviews

Veröffentlicht am 4.10.2021 | von Emely Triebwasser

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CHARITY CHILDREN – Interview

Foto-© Pia Henkel

Mittlerweile sind sie Ex-Liebhaber, die immer noch musikalisch zusammen “funktionieren”. Charity Children, alias Chloë Lewer und Elliott McKee bringen am 08. Oktober mit Almost Young ihr letztes gemeinsames Album heraus.

Auch wenn das in Berlin lebende und aus Neuseeland stammende Paar seine private Trennung mit einem Genrewechsel vom Indie-Folk hin zum eklektischen Alt-Pop feiert, bekommen wir wie gewohnt die geballte Ladung Songwriting zu hören! Privater denn je und mit der Endlichkeit ihrer Bandgeschichte im Nacken, haben Chloë und Elliott das wahrscheinlich beste Album ihrer gemeinsamen Karriere geschaffen. Wir haben mit den beiden über ihr drittes und letztes Album gesprochen und natürlich darüber, wie es ist mit dem/der Ex-Partner/in gemeinsam an einem Projekt zu arbeiten.

Hey Guys! How are you today and how have the last few months have been for you?
Elliott: I just got back from Italy about a week ago and that was really healthy for me, because I haven’t left Berlin in 18 months. I was starting to really not enjoy Berlin for a while, so getting out of here was really good and I’ve got a renewed love for the city (laughs). But I’m about to leave again to go to New Zealand for winter, because I can’t do a full winter here in Berlin (laughs). But other than that, it’s been going well! We’ve been making a lot of videos for the album recently, that was kind of in the main focus.
Chloë: Yes, it’s just has been a lot of videos, promotion and interviews for the album, so its been quite a full on time but it was really exciting, so I can’t complain too much! As Elliott said, for the first year of the pandemic, we were unable to get out of Berlin. So for the last few months it’s been nice to be fully vaccinated and to get a little bit of fresh air. But were really excited, the album is coming out in one week today, that’s pretty crazy, because we started working on this album about three years ago. It always takes so long to have these things coming out. It’s gonna be our final album together, which is a big thing, but we’re really looking forward to the next chapter and getting our work out there finally!

As you just said, your album will be out in a week, how excited are you, especially since the last album was released five years ago? Do you have any expectations towards it?
Elliott: No, I think the reason why we’re excited, is because we don’t have any expectations, right Chloë?
Chloë: Zero! (Laughs)
Elliot: I think, making this album was such an important thing for us to do, in so many ways. Wether or not it’s received well, it still had to be done!
Chloë: I think, for us it was something, that we really needed to do, personally. We thought that our last record would be our last record, because we broke up at the time of release, which was really dramatic. Then we slowly started to get back together as friends and we started making music together again, so this was our healing and our therapy together. It also helped to overcome a lot of other things in life at that time, so for us it was very much a therapeutic process and if that resonated with other people, that’s the bonus! But for us, this is something we really needed to do, we needed to end the project in a more wholesome, healthy and happy way. I think, a lot of bands end in some kind of dramatic way, we wanted to celebrate our friendship and the new love for each, instead of ending in drama.
Elliott: I think, we‘re excited too, because the way we made the album, has been the most pleasant and lovely process that we’ve worked in. It just came together in such a sweet way. Musically speaking, this album is our favorite as well, which is a nice way to end! This album really represents where we’re at and where we are growing towards.
Chloë: And I guess, we also don’t have any expectations, because we’re also completely independent. We don’t have a label, we don’t have a manager, we don’t have a publisher. We had these things for our last two records, so for us this is total freedom and it‘s amazing to do our own thing, because we love to do it! It’s really nice, to not feel expectations, because they can be really hard to live up to.
Elliott: Expectations can be a really dangerous thing. Especially expectations from outside, like Chloë said, in a label, management, publisher kind of structure. It can get too heavy, you can feel trapped and it puts a lot of pressure on you and when there is a lot of pressure on a project, oftentimes it’s not healthy for. We just felt free and we knew, that we did it for the right reasons.

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How did your way of making music change over the past five years?
Chloë: Dramatically! (Laughs)
Elliott: When we moved to Berlin, we would’ve never called ourselves musicians. I was making films back home, Chloë had just finished acting school and when we came here, we had no intentions to play music at all. We kind of fell into it by accident, because we were playing on the streets. We recorded our first album in winter, when it was too cold to play on the streets and we basically had all these songs, that we’ve played thousands of times on the street and recorded them. We tried to work out, how we could represent what we already had. Whilst this time around, we produced a complete Studio album, we had never played any of these songs live before we recorded them. So all we had, was a bunch of melodies and lyrics and we tried to figure out, how we could turn this into music. That was really lovely! In the studio, we also felt completely free to explore, where these songs could go and the result is an album with lots of different styles and colors. So for us, this album was a big departure, from where we used to be. We also made six live-videos, that was a whole new challenge, because we were used to bring live-songs into the studio and now it was the other way around.
Chloë: Also, the first two albums were centered around the ukulele, it was the center piece of most of the songs. Elliott and me were very keen to depart from that, for this album, we wanted it to be centered around our favorite instrument, which is the piano. I think I can say that this is, on behalf of both of us, our favorite album, the one that we’re most proud of and the one that we want to listen to (laughs). We had a whole different process, while producing this. It was just me and Elliott and the two producers, we were the „core-four“, in the studio, they both play a lot of instruments as well, so we all played instruments and had a hand full of guests come in, to play on parts of the records. There is a lot of saxophone on the record, but also a choir of some girl friends of ours. We’re used to work with a lot of people, because we used to be on stage with, I think the most was thirteen members. But this time, it was also a lot of Elliott and me working alone, each of us brings in different ideas from time to time and we come together in the end. The majority of the album is written like that. We also wanted the album to be centered around the storytelling, the lyrics on this record are very important to us and we wanted them to be able to be heard very well.
Elliott: We’re in such a different place, than we were five years ago, when we made our last album. We were in a relationship back then, we are good friends now and we’ve grown and evolved in many different ways, in the last five years, independently of each other as well. This often leads to a change in musical terms, you always represent yourself through the music.
Chloë: Me and El also have very different music taste, so we’ve also gone on different musical journeys in these past five years. During this break, I started my solo project BOKEH, which is more electronic pop and I actually worked with the producer, who is also the producer of this record and another producer, who is also more into electronic music. This was also why I wanted to make this album with Elliott, because I wanted to go back to the basics of storytelling and writing songs.

Did COVID influence the album process in some way? You said that you started working on the album three years ago, so it probably collided with the pandemic, right?
Elliott: In terms of its recording, we finished it just before the pandemic began. The way it affected us is, that we postponed the release a little bit, just because otherwise making videos would’ve been a lot harder. We were quite lucky, that we already finished recording at the time the pandemic started, by that time it was going to the mixing and mastering, which can be done remotely pretty easily.
Chloë: Yes, the most difficult thing was, to plan the videos, since we couldn’t really be together. We had to delay it for a while and at the end it were only me, Elliott and a couple of friends.

You already mentioned, that your songs are quite storytelling – did most of the stuff you’re writing about actually happen to you, or are you also writing fictional lyrics?
Elliott: That’s a good question (laughs). Most of the stuff is from personal experience, right Chloë?
Chloë: I would say 99% (laughs). We had a radio interview the other day, where we had to talk about the back story behind every single song and I just realizes afterwards, that this is so brutally personal (laughs). As much as we maybe pretend, they’re all very much based on our real lifes. But I mean, much to contrary believes, its not an album about me and Elliott and our relationship to each other, most of the record is about other relationships had and other life experiences that we’ve had. I always say, it’s the musical of our lifes (laughs).
Elliott: It is probably our most personal album, in the sense, that every song relates to something, that has actually happen in either of our lifes. Whereas, isn’t he past records we were writing more abstract lyrics.
Chloë: We were sometimes writing quite more fictional in the last records.
Elliott: I never thought about that too much, but this ones definitely very personal. These songs are written to someone, wether they’re friends or they’re an lover or an ex lover, whilst the last albums had a little different narratives.

We’ve already talked about it a bit, but you two were dating once, how did that influence your way of working together?
Elliott: On this album or when we were together?

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Maybe both, especially how your work changed!
Chloë: Very much! When we were together, we very much influenced our lifes, as we said before, making music is very personal for us and it can be really hard to separate from that. We lived together, we had a dog, we shared a phone, we shared a bank account, we were very much intertwined, we moved countries together, we knew no one here, so we were really intwined and that began to be a very co-dependent, unhealthy relationship. We had a lot of external pressure, it just became too much and we had to separate that. It was hard to find space, individuality and healthiness, Elliott was my first big love, so you learn some things from that. You learn the things that you shouldn’t do again and we both learned that you should never work with your partner (laughs). I love you El, but I would never work with a partner again (laughs). I think it is very important, to have that separation and it was very healthy for us this time, to go to the studio and make our things and go back home afterwards, without bringing our work home with us. For us, it was the easiest album to make, because our friendship had become stronger and we learned about the good things on our relationship and dynamic. We didn’t have to care about the things, that we don’t like about each other, because we didn’t have to feel responsible for that anymore. It was a very different process, but definitely the most healthy one.
Elliott: Yes, looking back, the first four or five years in Berlin were very intense. Starting a band, with someone you moved to a whole other country with, is so intense! I have no regrets or anything like that, because, looking back, these were the golden days, I have so many beautiful memories from that time. But I really don’t know, how we did it for so long, because it’s just so much pressure on a single relationship, to have all these things with only one person. You lose yourselves in each other, you really do. When you’re young, you’re willing to do that, but in retrospective you see how unhealthy that can be. When the relationship fell apart, everything else also fell apart, because we did everything together. Suddenly you feel this emptiness. We started to be friends again, after some time apart and through this we were able to redefine our relationship and now we have a really deep friendship. Finally, when we decided to make this last album together, the pressure that I was talking about was just gone. There were still days when we annoyed each other, but nowhere near how it was a few years ago. Like Chloë said, we were able to leave the studio and go to our own apartments, take a deep breath and then we just didn’t feel the pressure anymore, whilst the old days, we got home from the studio, we would turn around and that person is still there, we just couldn’t separate work life and home life anymore.
Chloë: It had a different weight for us then, because we we wanted it to be marketed as „the Couple“, it became a lot about our personal lifes. People were like „Oh, there’s this super adorable couple, that plays music on the streets“ (laughs), but that built up a lot of expectations and pressure to be that perfect couple, that no one can be all the time. We were so young and experienced so much stuff for the first time and thinking, that we also had to be that, that was a lot of expectations on ourselves. We grew a lot afterwards, when we learned, that you can’t have everything from that one person. Now we can really embrace the things, that we love about each other.

You’re both from New Zealand and now you’re based in Berlin, how did these two places influence your way of making music?
Chloë: To be honest, New Zealand didn’t influence us too much, because we actually didn’t really do music, before we came to Berlin. The whole thing, about making music really started out as a joke, we got a bottle of gin one night and Elliott had just started learning to play Ukulele, so we ended up singing three songs on the sidewalk of Hermannstraße (laughs). It was just the freedom of this, that thrilled us, New Zealand is such a small country, if you played on the streets there, your mum would see you and tell your auntie, who would tell it to your teacher, you’re quite trapped. So, that was the reason for leaving New Zealand as well, because we needed the feeling of anonymity. The early times, when we played on the streets, that was the freest I’ve ever felt, because literally nobody gives a shit (laughs).

Especially on Hermannstraße! There is so much happening, you wont even notice if some people played music!
Chloë: Yes, totally! It really started out as something great and carefree, it was an act of love and freedom and it evolved into something more serious, which has its positives and negatives. But we were super happy, that people liked it and that we were able to make a career out of it! It kind of happened accidentally, but it was a beautiful accident.
Elliott: The only reason, we felt confident, was because we felt completely anonymous, because we didn’t know a single person here. We haven’t really been into New Zealand music scene, although there is some great music being made there!
Chloë: Absolutely! There really is! When we first started making music, the intent was, to make people stop. So, due to that, on the first recorded versions of our songs, we were almost screaming (laughs), because that was what we were used to!
Elliott: The biggest influence on our music in the early days, was definitely the street! Because, the art of street music is to get them to stop and if we hadn’t been doing that we probably would’ve developed a whole different style.

Yes definitely! And also the approach, of first playing live and then going into the studio is very different from the „normal“ musicians, who record their songs first and play live, when the music is already released.
Elliott: Yes! That was actually the way we tested our music! If you play a song, that you’ve written a night before and there are standing three times as many people, who are listening, than usual, then you know that this song connects really good, for some reason. This time around, we wanted to do an album, that we want to listen to ourselves. I probably wont anyway, but maybe in a few years (laughs). But had I not been part of this album, I would really enjoy it, I think!

What are your further plans for the next few months, especially after the record has been released?
Chloë: A week or two, after the release, we’re releasing the next music video, which is one that Elliott has directed. Then we’re also gonna release some live video sessions and of course we’ll be doing interviews and giving away vinyls! We hope that people will come across our music and it feels good that it will be finally out there!
Elliott: And on a more personal level, Chloë is making another album, her solo album, do you want to tell something about that as well?
Chloë: Yes! I‘m right now working on my first full lengths studio album for my solo project, so I’m in production at the moment. I’m also self producing for the first time, which is really exciting! It’s gonna be the opposite of Charity Children, so if you like Charity Children, you might not like this (laughs). It’s super nice to explore other ways of making music. So I’m gonna be working on that and it will be finished in winter, hopefully!
Elliott: I haven’t been home to New Zealand for a couple of years and I was lucky enough to get the chance to get there, since it’s really hard to get in at the moment. So the week after we released the album, I’m going back to New Zealand and it’s the perfect time to go, because when it’s cold here, it’s warm there (laughs). I’m at a transition moment in my life right now, where I’m moving away from music and starting to get into film making again. As Chloë said, the music thing happened quite accidentally and I loved being part of it, but at least for a while I want to go back to what I wanted to do in the first place.

Die Fotos mit Charity Children von unserer Fotografin Pia Henkel sind in der bademeisterbar in Berlin entstanden!

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