A very gothy Swedish Summer with Holograph's Ines Soutschka
This is my first summer in the northern hemisphere, it’s weird. I was born in the summertime, but because I moved south when I was a behbee, my birthdays have always been in the winter. This year I finally experienced a summer birthday; at an age when birthdays are increasingly becoming things to sidle past, rather than celebrate. I guess what I’m trying to say is that summer, as experienced in the different hemispheres, is weird. But being weird is kinda what Holograph’s latest single ‘Swedish Summer’ is all about.
In June, prior to the release of 'Swedish Summer' I caught up with vocalist and synther, Ines, to get the low down on the latest release from Cape Town’s finest purveyors of gothy goodness. Ines is also an animator, graphic designer, business owner, record label behb, lead singer, Soundcloud rapper, chicken egg slapper and all round wonderful human being. We spoke about a lot of things, some of it was related to her band and their latest release.
While you're reading this here chinwag, why don't you stream the track:
Ines: Hold on, I just need to charge my vape.
[Ines asked me to keep this off the record, but I’d be a terrible interviewer if I removed this.]
That was embarrassing…
Ines: "Ines charges her vape, and everyone ends up unfollowing Holograph." Right, I’m ready.
[A few minutes of awkward silence then followed. Minutes stretched into hours as we just glared at each other. Eventually I broke the ice with an incredibly deft and amazing segue…]
So how’s life with this band?
What band?! [laughing]. Literally, the last time I saw my band mates was probably a year ago. We shot the video for ‘Swedish Summer’ in February and that was the last time that most, but not all of us, were in a room together.
And now you have some new members joining as well?
That’s right, Bergen and Calvin have departed for Europe so we’ve picked up two new/old friends in Joao (bass) and Mitch (drums)... It’s going to be interesting to see how the new members change the dynamic of the band as they come in.
"This band is very different to me, vs. the last band I was in..."
Is that something you’re worried about? The dynamic changing?
No, not necessarily. This band is very different to me, vs. the last band I was in (Julia Robert). In that band we were a very tight-knit group of four friends from the beginning. But in Holograph, I didn’t know Calvin (bassist) very well before he joined the band and over time we spent writing sessions together, he’d come over for braais and we‘d get to know each other ‘til eventually, we became really close friends.
I guess Holograph is much more about the finished product. It’s about a bunch of creative people coming together to produce something they care about. So in some ways, it’s a bit easier to remain objective about Holograph.
With that more collective and objective approach to the project, how does that play out when y’all are writing songs?
I’ve pretty much always been part of the writing process, well no, more on the fine-tuning process. In the early days of the project, during lockdown in 2020, Warren (guitars, vocals, squeaky toys, fiddles) and Des (guitar) began putting down the first few Holograph songs. Eventually, I asked them what they’re doing and they invited me to sit in their writing sessions and contribute.
Damn right you should contribute. No observers! Only participants.
Exactly! So from that point onward, it was a very ritualistic Thursday-evening-until-whatever-time in the morning thing. So I’ve always felt part of the writing process, but it’s not like I’m the decision maker on the music side of things. I am definitely more of a decision maker on the visuals, though. From a musical point of view, I feel as equal as a member as our new members that are joining us now. Warren, however, is the master of the music and him and Des are the ones who figure out the structure of the songs.
[after a slight pause]
Do you know if you can smoke a vape while it’s charging?
It wouldn’t be very punk to not smoke it.
I’m scared of electrics now.
Because I almost died in an electrical fire a few weekends ago. I don’t wanna inhale any more electric smoke.
I am just glad we’re not being dramatic about this.
It got real, the plug in the wall got all melty and shit. My friend's guesthouse almost burnt down.
"I wasn’t going to use these lyrics for a Holograph song"
Oh damn [laughs]. Remind me to never allow you into my apartment. But let’s get back on track here. I still have more questions about the writing process over at Holograph Inc. You and Warren take the lead vocals on different songs. Is it like a Kim Gordon/Thurston Moore/Lee Ranaldo thing where whoever’s singing has written the lyrics? Or is it all more collaborative?
I’d say there are definitely collabs with the songs I’m singing. Less so with the songs Warren sings on, just because of the process.
I would sit with them and they would ask me “do you wanna sing on this song” and I’d be like “oh fuck sure, I can try something”. So while they’d be playing around I’d write something down. Often, not everything would make sense, or would sound right or would have the right meaning so the three of us would collab and get the lyrics to where they needed to be. ‘Swedish Summer’, however, is the one that obviously was very much written 100% by me because it’s about something that I experienced. Some sort of true life poetry [laughs].
So hit me with the deeper meaning and background of this true life poetry jam.
I started writing these lyrics in 2020. In lockdown you don’t have much to do. You can’t go outside and you’re sitting in your room and you try stay busy. I was super busy with Cult Wife [her animation company], which was great, but I would often write down lyrics on a piece of paper.
I wasn’t going to use these lyrics for a Holograph song, they were just lyrics for me, but they kinda worked for that song and they became ‘Swedish Summer’. So it wasn’t this case of me sitting down and writing an ode to a time, it was more me writing down snippets and filling in the gaps.
Then what inspired all these snippets?
Do you know the band Easter? They have these great ways of singing random shit, like there’s this song called ‘Alien Babies’ and, she just sings strange stuff, like “I see mushrooms being born out of shrimp” [laughs]. Which I love - You should listen to that song, it’s great. But like I love that whole thing of just writing down things that are visual but don’t necessarily make sense.
I think that comes across pretty clearly in the lyrics...
Ja totally [pours whiskey]. Now that I think about it, definitely, the first verse, "your face is a rainbow / Your heart is like silk". I really like the first verse a lot, it has a deeper meaning. It definitely has a lot to do with Sweden.
I was in Sweden for 3 months, and everyone was so nice to me. It was the most amazing experience I had. It was like finding a new family and a home. Being in South Africa and being from Namibia, I still don’t 100% know if this is my home. I don’t have any family here in SA, but I have lots of family if that makes sense.
But being in Sweden for 3 months I felt like I was home, which is absolutely bizarre to me. And I think that was because of the people and how they just made it feel so right. So I guess the song is a huge homage but not in a like overly homage kind of way.
"Everything becoming really brooding. It was really cool to see."
Sweden’s always been kind of an interesting place for me. I don’t know much about it. ‘Swedish Summer’ immediately makes me think of a summer that’s not really a summer.
That was the thing, I arrived on the 1st of May and my friend picked me up and it was so cute, they came with balloons and cake, she loves summer. From the day I arrived, it was good weather. You’d go out into these little parks in the city and everyone was just taking their clothes off lying in their underwear because they just they were so psyched. Everyone is just like “YEEEEE” having the best time of their lives for those three months.
This is the time where you do so much, festivals, things, it’s jam-packed. In South Africa you have the most beautiful day of 18 degrees in the middle of winter. So we don’t have that relationship with summer as much. And it was a really cool experience to see that. Even going into the forest in the beginning of May and everything is bright green and beautiful and then at the end of July it was all deep dark forests. Everything becoming really brooding. It was really cool to see.
That image of the dark and brooding forest toward the end of summer is so powerful. It’s like all the trees and plants are overgrowing in summer to prepare for the winter shit show that’s coming.
Ja, that was the thing, I told my friend from Malmö “I love it here this is amazing, this is my new home.’ And my friend was like, ‘you know what? Come back in November.’ And I did, I went back to Malmö for a week in November, and it was horrible. It’s a seaside city and it this cold ocean wind blew and it was fucking freezing and dark. And I was like ‘OK I see what you mean [laughs]. Nooooooo thank you.’
At this point, Holograph’s “Master of Music”, Mr Warren Fisher enters the fray, fresh from a nap. He informs us that the power is going out in 30 minutes and that they’ve just been sent a grading for the music video for ‘Swedish Summer’.
The best segues are the unscripted ones. Let’s leave the sunny shores and brooding forests of Malmö and chat a bit about the video.
Ah ok, so the whole thing in the song is the chorus of “I want to Fika in the garden with you”. It’s this very traditional Swedish custom of cake and coffee with good company. It was drilled very much into me when I was there. People were always like “WE HAVE TO GO FIKA!!!”. And I always thought it was funny because in German “ficken” is having sex [laughs]. So I was like awwwww “so cute”.
The “cute as fuck” in the lyrics is that where that comes from?
Hmmmm, to be honest I don’t know! I think the ‘as fuck’ was almost a thing you said in 2020. It feels very much of that time. But yes, Sweden was cute as fuck. It’s almost stupid how cute it is. Everyone was just cute, but badass at the same time. It was the first time that I met a lot of women who weren’t wearing makeup and didn’t have perfect hair and wore whatever they wanted, and just were super nice, and friendly. They weren’t pretending to be cool.
And then that explains the reference to feminism at the end of Swedish Summer?
Feminism was everywhere when I was there in Sweden in 2016. It was a lot more spoken about, seeing illustrations of ballet dancers lifting her leg and she’s got her period, in all these shop windows. Armpit hair, everywhere. It was the first time I experienced so many people with armpit hair.
That was the great thing about Malmo, even Stockholm, I managed to be in a place that was perfect for me as a woman where I felt super comfortable.
This is what I was thinking about yesterday when I walked to the shop in Cape Town, I was wearing my warm clothes that I’d been wearing all day and put on my tekkies and I felt that walking around Woodstock like this, I’ll feel judged for looking like trash. But I know that in Europe if I walked around like this I’d look like a huge margin of people in Europe. There is like a little bit of a different approach to looking shitty in Europe. Like you don’t want to look nice. In South Africa you feel you have to be a little bit professional and made up and good… for people to respect you.
Wait, we were supposed to be talking about the video...
Haha yeah. Anyway, so that was the whole thing for the video: A fika gone wrong. Where you invite your friends but they all actually suck. Although I don’t know how much we pulled that off, but I guess it was just a wonderfully debaucherous cake scenario [laughs].
Taking a nice tea party and making it debauched sounds like a pretty South African approach to things. The spirit of fika got South Africanised.
Yes! It definitely all became very South African, a South African fika. The setting was an old Cape Dutch kitchen in Tulbagh. The cakes we bought are very typically South African. You know with heavy cream and yellow stuff in the middle, and the pink doughnuts, and coconut flakes all around and, you know… Very, very wonderfully colourful and gross [laughs].
The guys had to do a shot where they had to stuff those cakes into their mouths and it was hilarious [laughing]. Very sweet cakes… but it looked great.
Aight, let's wrap this up. The last question is going to be a multiple choice kind thing. Just like school.
[A hissing silence filled my headphones]
You still there?
But Ines was not there. Load shedding had struck. The interview was, and is, over.