Anna Westin Told Me: The Mind Behind LEV

The second album is always an exciting challenge. It’s the moment to show that your music goes behind a proof of concept and that lightning can indeed strike the same place twice. For Anna Westin, Folk-pop singer-songwriter, this very challenge lies ahead with her forthcoming LP ‘LEV’ nearing the horizon. We got chatting to the woman herself to find out more…

STM: When was the last time you discovered an artist through word of mouth?

That is generally how I hear about people. I think the latest was Sibylle Baier, from my vocal coach Hughie Gavin

STM: How useful is the tool of ‘word of mouth’ when an artist is just starting their career? 

I think it is hugely helpful, because it is already riding off of a foundation of trust, which brings credibility to what the person is saying. If you know someone, and you trust their musical taste, then you’re probably more likely to check out what they are backing because of who they are and what they have liked before. It isn’t just random advertising. It’s building out of a network of relationship. 

STM: What were your first ‘tools of promotion’ when you first started in music?

Friends, word of mouth. A haphazard instagram campaign. 

STM: What made you choose the path of music?          

Because I love it – because it makes sense of experience, and I can’t ’not’ do it. It’s just been natural to how I communicate with life. 

STM: What do you think the industry would look like without streaming platforms like Spotify?

I think it could be a good thing – slowing things down, making people more conscious of choosing to look for music, savouring a specific album rather than rushing through playlists. And there’s the issues of payment for artists. I wonder what it would look like, whether it would return to more physical -based experiences where word of mouth and actual copies of records become the point of contact with the world, or gigging is seen as the entry point in. I need to think about that a bit more, as it sounds quite refreshing!  But Spotify has also enabled me to have access to lots of voices that I probably wouldn’t have had, so there’s that… 

STM: How excited are you to take the new material out on the road? 

Very. It feels like a long time coming. 

STM: If you had to describe the new record to someone who could not hear using only images which images would you show them?

A heart, I think, as the album means heart in Hebrew. But it is more of a whole sense of being human, the integrated connections of emotion and soul and thought and how they all connect to love, to loss. So maybe I would also show them sea, which is where I wrote most of the songs, and an eye, because I have been thinking about the saying of having a ’good eye’ which is connected to seeing the world with love. 

STM: How did the songwriting process for LEV begin?

I think it started with the first song, a few years back. At first it was just a collection of songs. It was only later that the more recent songs brought it into a whole concept for an album. So, probably sitting in my new flat in margate, wondering whether I should have moved to a town I didn’t know by the sea, excited about the possibility of what was next, mourning an old love. I remember distinctly – the flat, with one sofa, before the furniture was bought – the cold blast of sea air, the sense of anticipation, and making sense of a few dreams that I kept having. That’s where Bright Burning Mess started, and where the album emerged essentially. And Margate, and then New Brunswick Canada, became the cradle contexts for it – the folk scene in Margate was hugely influential in going back to what songwriting looks like as storytelling. 

Then when the songs were written, my producers Imogen and Ellie helped make sense of the structure as a whole, filled in bits that were missing, coaxed the songs out further. 

Connect with Anna down below!

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Izakman Told Me: The Mind Behind ‘Cyber Love’

Described as a ‘vintage sci-fi fairy-tale infused adventure’, forward-thinking rocker Izakman’s latest LP ‘Cyber Love’ is truly something to behold. With an emphasis on psychedelic literature at its core, frontman/songwriter Itamar Isaak manages to conjure an entire world of his own through sounds that are deftly balanced between melancholy and wonder; we got chatting to the man himself to jump down the rabbit hole…

STM: When was the last time you discovered an artist through word of mouth?

Quite recently, actually! I met a friend at the dog park while taking my dog out, and he told me to watch “Inside” by Bo Burnham. It’s a musical documentary by a comedian who brilliantly combines music with comedy—I have been putting the songs on repeat ever since.

STM: How useful is the tool of ‘word of mouth’ when an artist is just starting their career?

That’s the way my friends and I all started. It starts as something you do with and for your friends, and as time goes by, your community grows and you try to expand.

STM: What were your first ‘tools of promotion’ when you first started in music?

I performed solo at Gagarin Club, an alternative music venue in Tel Aviv I have been closely connected with since they just started. I would warm up bands and join lineups whenever there was an event. In addition, I would help them out in renovating and designing flyers for different occasions. After naming myself Izakman, I started an artist page account and promoted my first single via Facebook like everyone nowadays.

STM: What made you choose the path of music?

Ever since I remember, music has been playing in my head. When I was ten, I studied piano from Miri Singer – a chamber musician. She enjoyed letting me improvise in her lessons, saying I don’t need to study composition since it came out of me naturally. My passion for music grew as I majored in arts in high school and later in animation school in Bezalel Academy for arts and design. Throughout my studies, I obsessively kept writing more and more songs and immediately after graduation created Izakman.

STM: What do you think the industry would look like without streaming platforms like Spotify?

I don’t know, but I assume it would be like before people started streaming; it would be based on album sales, whether physically or digitally.

STM: How would you describe the new album to someone that could not hear, using only images to describe the music?

A vintage sci-fi fairy-tale infused adventure –  a galactic voyage that blurs the distinction between reality and imagination, between cyberspace and outer space, between the past present and future. In other words, what The Beatles would have sounded like if they recorded music for Black Mirror.

STM: Do you have a general songwriting process or has it changed over time?

I don’t have a formula. It’s very intuitive. I sometimes start with a melody and sometimes with a sentence. Still, things begin to spark when I discover an image that leads to a narrative that excites me. My musical experience is also very visual.

STM: Do you have any immediate plans for touring of the new material at all?

I plan to contact festivals and producers, collaborate with more artists in shared events and grow a community. I’m still searching, and I hope promoting the new album will help me find the right connections.

STM: How do you think the pandemic has changed our idea of ‘communication’?

I think the term communication is becoming more and more associated with technology. The pandemic and the quarantines only increased our usage of phones and computers for interacting each other.

Cyber Love is available everywhere on 27/01/22

Connect with Izakman down below!

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Mitsune Told Me: The Mind’s Behind ‘Hazama’

Mitsune is something to truly feast your ears on. Teaching us to look beyond the sounds of the western curtain, the quintet bring traditional Japanese folk music and infuse it with the sounds of modern blues, jazz and rock in a culmination that truly broadens horizons. The band’s latest project, Hazama, is due to be unveiled in mid-February so we got chatting to two of the Tsugaru shamisen players, Youka and Tina, to find out more…

STM: When was the last time you discovered an artist through word of mouth?

Youka: Constantly! The most recent examples are Yuma Abe (Japan), Audrey Nuna (USA) and Juba, a sick UK/Nigerian DJ who lives in Berlin. I found out about all of these artists through friends.

STM: How useful is the tool of ‘word of mouth’ when an artist is just starting their career?

Tina: I think it’s a communication of high quality, since the recommendation is added, which gives it this extra kind of honouring. Especially when starting a career, this can be the hidden gem recommendation.

STM: What were your first ‘tools of promotion’ when you first started in music?

Tina: Facebook, Instagram, mailing lists, website and flyers.

STM: What do you think the industry would look like without streaming platforms like Spotify?

Youka: This might be controversial, but I think Spotify algorithms are responsible for the homogenisation of a lot of music. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of diverse music on streaming platforms – anyone can put their music out there without a label or distribution deal, and that’s a wonderful thing! But these days most listeners are discovering music via Spotify algorithmic playlists, and I think it can really get you stuck in a genre box. Unimaginative music that sounds like whatever is popular at the time gets rewarded. I think it’s even started to affect the way people make music, musicians catering for this.

Anyway, to answer your question – I think the music industry without streaming would be overall more refined, curated by tastemakers, with more emphasis on albums rather than singles. On the downside, it might be harder for emerging artists to get their hat in the ring.

STM: What did you learn about yourselves as people and as musicians from writing/recording Hazama?

Tina: I learned to appreciate the energy of working together based on deep respect for a person and their skills. And there were so many new musical influences, which was a sensory experience. Last but not least: vocals + tricky shamisen techniques at the same time were a great challenge.

STM: Where did the idea behind the band come from?

Tina: The love for the shamisen was what connected us all. This mutual passion made us reach out for each other. The different paths we came from gave us very unique perspectives to this instrument, and to music in general. We want to show that this supposedly ‘traditional’ instrument is very much alive and contemporary. It is exciting and vibrant.

STM: How important is it that we spread knowledge and awareness of these traditional Japanese folk music sounds to those unaware of them?

Tina: For a more diverse music scene, any music that promotes lesser known instruments and tunes should get attention. There is such a big range of instruments and musicians beyond the western curtain, which still dominates what is broadcast and who is booked.

STM: What is the group dynamic like between the five of you?

Youka: Our rehearsals are a lot of fun, lots of laughter. Mitsune started first as a shamisen trio, so Tina, Shiomi & I have known each other the longest in the band. We have a deep relationship that extends far beyond musical collaboration – it’s a sisterhood. We love each other very much and are an emotional support network for one another. Petros & Daigo, our percussionist & bassist, are both super fun, enthusiastic people who are amazing to be around. They are also incredible musicians, open-minded and willing to tackle anything. The band is essentially based on friendship, so there’s a lot of great energy flying around in our rehearsals and on stage. We try to have fun 🙂

Hazama is unleashed on the 18th of February 2022!

Connect with Mistune down below:

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Fynbos Told Me: The Mind Behind ‘The Only One’

Britpop may have faded away from the mainstream but no such adversity has stopped rising singer-songwriter star Fynbos. His new single, ‘The Only One’ is as heartfelt as it is indelible and we had the privilege to find out more about the man behind the moniker….

  1. When was the last time you discovered an artist through word of mouth?
My friends usually recommend music to me on a regular basis. To answer your question, not too long ago.

2.       How useful is the tool of ‘word of mouth’ when an artist is just starting their career?
Useful but it becomes such a crutch. Hoping and waiting for word of mouth to pick up.

3.       What were your first ‘tools of promotion’ when you first started in music?
Mainly trying to do gigs whilst handing out free CDs and myspace links (when that was still a thing). 

4.       What made you choose the path of music?

When I was introduced to bands like Travis and Coldplay, I really saw myself doing what they were doing. Making music that “spoke to people” and playing live in front of many people.

5.       What do you think the industry would look like without streaming platforms like Spotify?

Finding new music would be more of a challenge. But then again, people have always found ways to hear new music **Cough**Napster **cough** 

6.       Do you think your career and current music making abilities/style would be different had you not had that ten year interlude?

Maybe. You can never know what would have happened had I continued. I still have a back catalogue of tracks I wrote that I would have put out in some form, I guess. I think my music would have also evolved. 

7.       Are you ultimately grateful for it or is it not easy to feel that as much as you’d like? We’re all human after all!

Life takes you to unexpected places and the journey is always worth savouring. Without it, you will never be who you are today. That’s always been my mantra in life. Those 10 years allowed me to grow in other ways that may or may not have been possible if I continued on the initial path. The short answer is I’m grateful for the journey.

8.       What would you say to people who are potentially going through what you went through and feel like they haven’t ‘come out the other side’ yet?

It’s not going to be an easy ride. 

9.       We can feel it in your music, but what was that isolating and subsequent yearning experience for you, or was the song mainly rooted in your empathy and you cannot define a singular ‘experience’?

I describe my music as “heart on the sleeve” melancholia. Sometimes it’s from personal experience. Sometimes I write it like a story from another person’s perspective. Seeing stories unfold during the pandemic of people separated over long distances made me come up with songs like The Only One. 

10.   Did anyone or anything inspire you to start making music again or was it self-initiated?

My daughter told me about her experiences being bullied at school. I had previously written a song called Angel suit more than 11 years ago and I thought I should spend some time putting it out. This was really the spark I needed. From there on, It was a snowball for me. It was like falling in love all over again with writing and playing music. I realised how much I missed it.

11.   Have you still been playing over the past ten years, if just for pleasure? If so, why? Did it just feel fated or did you not mind not re-entering the professional sphere?

When I gave up on music, I was feeling burnt out and sold all my gear but kept one single guitar which rarely got a looking at. During the pandemic, I had some spare money so I thought I’d buy a new guitar which led me to spend more time playing this “new shiny toy”. That got me back into enjoying playing again. I started writing again (something I thought I’d never regain). 

For fans of Arcade Fire, The Divine Comedy, and The Flaming Lips, you can find ‘The Only One’ and Fynbos via the links below:

Linktree

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