New EP Hearts Are Going Dark Is Out Now.
It kind of sounds like a dream. Being married to your musical soul mate and creating wonderful music together. That’s exactly what Norweigan trip hop duo TIC TIC have accomplished. The results are impressive. Intimate and delicate, and yet at times confrontational and stubborn, their music perfectly encapsulates marriage as somewhat like a microcosm of the world at large.
We sat down with them to discuss their process, world politics, and their love of analogue synths.
Overlbown: As a husband and wife duo, how does the songwriting process normally work?
Kai: I like how working on our music has become a nice “reward” for us. If we have a couple of spare hours in the evening, we can then treat ourselves to some quality time spent making music together. There is no clear division of tasks. We both do a bit of everything, and the process is always positive and uplifting. No bickering whatsoever!
Irene: We usually start out by deciding which kind of song we want to make. What mood and topic we would like to explore. Maybe we write some lyrics one evening and the next day we start making the music.
When we have a basic groove we like, we often work separately for a while. Making sounds, more rhythms and harmonies. We then listen to what we have and start to put things together. From there on the track goes through an evolution. Some sounds are being discarded and new ideas come to life. After we have a sketch to work with, we turn to the vocals and the structure of the song. We have a lot of the same preferences in sounds.
O: I’ve heard that you use no computers when recording. Instead you use modular synths, tabletops and grooveboxes to create your tracks. Why is this?
Kai: I tend to gravitate towards all sorts of technical details that can be very disruptive of the creative process. We decided to ditch the computer to improve our workflow, and it worked wonders. Less options meant less distractions. Everyone have their own way of working, but to us, playing hardware instruments we know intimately just feels better than a mouse and a computer screen.
I should mention that we have recently introduced a laptop to our setup to take advantage of some software synths that we then sample to our hardware. But we are reluctant to use that for recording or arranging. There is something that happens when we have to record a track in one go.
O: You’ve said that global politics, history and current world affairs are an inspiration to your music. In what way? For instance, how do they relate to your recent song ‘For Another Year’?
Kai: Some of the topics that inspire us are very difficult to express in a few lines of text. Particularly on controversial or sensitive issues. In those cases we often use the subject matter as a creative framework for that track. It will affect what sounds we use and the emotion we aim to invoke in the listener. But on some topics we feel comfortable spelling things out more clearly.
Irene: When writing ‘For another year’ we wanted to make a song where the lyrics were open for the listener’s interpretation. Not much politics or world affairs there I’m afraid. It is a song about how things are not always right or wrong, and how do you know when you are making the right choice?
O: Which other artists influence your work? How?
Irene: I admire Radiohead for their creativity, Portishead for their sincerity, Massive Attack for their sound and Susanne Sundfør for her synths and vocals. To mention just a few…
Kai: Yeah, I agree. I’d like to add Nine Inch Nails since that was what got me interested in electronic music, and Röyksopp for their amazing craftsmanship.
O: The artwork for your most recent EP Hearts are going dark is quite evocative. What drew you to the image?
Irene: The theme on the EP is quite gloomy. The refugee crisis, countries closing their borders, an aggressive political debate and fear spreading across Europe. We wanted an image that would show some light in the dark. A bright heart on a dark wall seemed to fit well in that context.
O: As you’ve stated that you’ve an interested in global affairs, what do you make of the rise of Donald Trump in America?
Kai: In my view, Trump is a symptom of a much bigger problem that isn’t uniquely american. For someone like Trump to rise to power, there has to be underlying frustrations in the population that can be exploited. Perhaps people seek simplicity in an increasingly complex world? Or perhaps people are simply fed up with the status quo and want someone to wreak havoc as some kind of political Godzilla? I really don’t know.
To fight what Trump represents, I believe we all need to pay more attention to the views of people that disagree with us. Thoughts and fears should be taken seriously, even when irrational. We on the left tend to label any unpleasant opinion as racism, bigotry or whatever to invalidate the opinion holder. We should fight bad ideas, not people.
O: What has been your proudest music related moment since Tic Tic began four years ago?
Irene: I think that must be after making the song “Puppets and toys” some years back. We had a great time making the song and were proud of the result, pushing it on our friends to make them listen to it. That was the moment when we decided that Tic Tic was something we wanted to pursue seriously.
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