The past few days have been a hurricane of emotions and activity. My partner and I released a new EP on January 1st called, “Broken Pieces”. The work that goes into an EP and its release always surprises me. And at the end of that exhaustion is the nervous moment when you release your children out into the cold world for judgement. To use a tired cliche, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Well a day after the release, our rollercoaster took a nasty turn and we made the hard decision to ‘un-release’ the newest single and video. It’s been a rough few days.
Amid the whirlwind however, the administrator of Anto’s German Support page on Facebook, Franzi Trebert, did an interview with both Anto and I about our writing process. I wanted to post it in the hopes that my fellow writers might find it interesting.
So the obvious question first, where is “Trampled”? The song was in the original release of the EP but the song and video both disappeared. What happenened?
Anto:Well, that’s a really sad question to answer. We found out after we released it that there were too many similarities in the lyrics to another song, so we decided to hold it back out of respect for our work and because we want you to trust in what we create.
Christine: That was such a hard decision. I remember very clearly the nights we worked on those lyrics. Other people also listened to the song once it was recorded but none of us picked up on the similarities. I know these things happen all the time but it was difficult because we are proud of every song we decide to release. So much went into the song and the video, we are very sad to pull them back.
How do the ideas for videos arise? Are they developed while writing the song or after?
Anto:I picture a lot of possible “video scenes” exactly at the same time when I start composing a song because I picture how the atmosphere should be and which kind of emotions it should give. I’m actually very visual while I write. I always try to mix pictures with melodies like I am “watching” a movie while I’m composing.
What was your writing process for “Broken Pieces”? Did you work on the music first and then came up with the lyrics or did you write the words first and then come up with the music?
Anto: The writing process actually really varies. It depends on the song, for example the melody for “Back In Time” was created first and then came the lyrics, but I wrote the music for “Broken Pieces Of Beauty” and “So Fly” after reading words Chris wrote. In both those songs I suddenly felt inspired and the music was born.
Christine:Both “Back in Time” and “Trampled” were songs that Anto started writing first. He had the music and themes and some ideas for lyrics already. He had a clear vision for both songs. The best part of the process for me though is the preparation we do before he goes into the studio. For “Broken Pieces” we sat for a whole day and night going through every song, line by line, word by word, deciding together how it should be sung, if the words are exactly how we want them, rewriting, figuring out the best tone, deconstructing every song down to the syllables. I love it – but Anto doesn’t enjoy it quite as much as I do.
Anto: No, no I love those days. They are beautiful.
Your writing process in general: How is it working? Are both of you writing down different topics and then you bring it together for example?
Anto:Well, it’s really strange how the writing process happens. Sometimes it’s a song that needs to be studied and then written down, other times it’s like a sudden thunder that hits me or Chris, and we just write what inspires us in that moment. Sometimes it comes from me first, sometimes it comes from her first. I will tell you a secret: I used to find my best inspiration in the moment while I am not awake but I’m not sleeping..that moment that we usually can’t remember during the day. Those moments and my dreams make a huge impact in my writing process.
Christine:It’s amazing – he wakes up ‘hearing’ songs in his head! He jokes a lot about having his head in the clouds and that’s why – he’s distracted by the music in his head. 🙂 The songs that come easiest for us are the ones that start with lyrics. It’s immensely easier for me and he loves letting the words carry him away when they first hit him. “So fly” was a note I wrote him one morning and I think by that night already he’d written such beautiful music for it. I love those moments! And we both love those songs the deepest.
Anto: They always have strong passion because they are born of real moments in our lives.
How long are you working on a song more or less?
Anto:I think that if I could say that in general it’s something like a couple days for each song, but as I told you before it’s definitely not a sure rule.
Christine: With songs like “So Fly” or “I Believe” it can be a matter of hours and then there are other songs that take us months. Quite often the ones that take months don’t make it to the recording studio though.
Who had the idea to write a song for Brandon? Was it Chris? The lyrics are great by the way.
Anto:The idea to write it for Bran came from me because he really inspired me deeply and I found pieces of my younger me through his eyes. Chris expressed my feelings and what I had in my mind in a way that I really couldn’t ask for something better. I just love that song!
Christine: Thank you! That was such a hard song to write because it was so emotional for me. We started by talking for a long time about what we wanted to say. We don’t usually have that conversation because we know each other so deeply – but since he was singing to Brandon, every word needed to come from both of us. I also used a beautiful letter that Anto wrote to Bran on one of his birthdays as inspiration. We really wanted to write a song that would let him feel empowered but also feel our love. I assumed the vocals would be harder, more aggressive, but I think this song is powerful because you can hear the tenderness in Anto’s voice as he’s telling him to fight. That’s a hard balance to find in the tone but Anto did it. 🙂
In the songs many instruments (like the violin) are heard. How have they been recorded? Were they in the studio with you so you could “work” with them?
Anto: I couldn’t use a real violinist to record the songs but that’s one of my dreams. I can’t wait to have a whole symphony play my music! For now I compose the melody for the violin and then I use computer software to reproduce its exact sound. (Yeah, the miracles of technology!)
Christine: It’s amazing to hear him compose! He knows exactly what he wants – even if I’m convinced the rest of the world can’t tell the difference between one drum and the next. He’s very exact in the instruments and sounds he uses.
Anto: People’s hearts know the difference in how the music makes them feel.
Were there situations when you didn`t know how to go on with a song? Were you ever stuck at some point?
Anto: I will be honest, with this EP I really didn’t get stuck once! I just had the main picture in my mind and I made it, making it the best I could.
Christine: I did! But I think that’s the difference in writing lyrics and writing music. He hears complete songs in his head so once he’s inspired it’s just a matter of getting what’s in his head out for the rest of us to hear. With lyrics I’m putting together words like puzzle pieces that have to match his metrics and melody and tone and emotion… much harder!
Anto: (laughs) It is easier to write when the lyrics come first but you have to follow where inspiration takes you.
Chris: That’s just another way for you to say you like driving me crazy!
Anto: Maybe… 🙂
Some of the songs are about sad topics like someone mistreating you or someone leaving a person, while the others give hope. Were there specific stories behind them (if you want to talk about that..) or were those just topics that were on your mind?
Christine: Every song is very personal to us. We don’t design songs to be commercial or to hit a particular audience. The way I write lyrics is completely different from the way I write fiction for example. Our songs aren’t about characters; they’re about us. We’re always asking each other, “do you feel this deeply?” If either of us answers ‘no’, then we don’t use it.
If you had to describe the EP with only a few words, what would it be?
Anto: I think I would describe it saying, “you can love it or hate it, but it won’t leave you indifferent”.