Girls of an age

PEDIGREE is a term some bands definitely hold up to. Learning from Punk and slowly but safely building their own musical identity, Leifert is one such example, a complete breath of fresh air, standing on their own feet, and steering away from the rather spoiled and somewhat stagnant “indie” scene, that is sadly no more.

Coming from Rijeka, which enjoys its deserved everlasting legend of a Rock city, the sound and the look of Leifert draw inevitable comparisons – but not in terms of copycat crimes, more by honest inspiration and most importantly, when saying “I compare Leifert to…”, it means a true compliment to the girls. Introducing Petra and Gia – the two current members of the group – who continue to work on Leifert’s sound and deliver impressive music. At the moment, their first proper studio album is on the rise so here’s a message to all of you listeners out there – TAKE NOTICE!

At first, they appeared under a different name altogether and were originally a trio – called “Larve”. The word perfectly encompassed the raw energy of the group’s early, equally excellent material – which is now sadly left laying forgotten in the archives. Petra (the remaining constant from the original line-up) along with Dunja (who left earlier on) and Vida (who left Leifert prior to this interview) delivered only a few recordings, each of them a gem – “Bubimir”, “List” and “Razum” – along with two, somewhat transitional and far more experimental (master)pieces, “Splur” and the 16-minute frenzy of “Tuberkuloza”. Dark, disturbing and learning from their own musical growth at the time, Larve demonstrated how impressively they moved forward in order to find their true sound. The five recordings can be traced via occasional blogs for personal introduction to the group’s amazing early work.While “Larve” had a significant meaning, line-up changes very quickly caused the group to search for a new name. “Leifert” sounded confusing at first, almost like a desperate modification of the original name, in order to move away from Larve’s tempestuous proto-Punk beginnings. Soon it was revealed, Leifert is the actual family name that sounds indefinite – or better, neutral enough to make a suitable reference. While personally, I still cannot relate to this very name, I do greet the girls for their attitude and truly great music that they’re up to. Recently, several new songs were presented – “ena u godinama” (loosely translated as “A Woman In Ages”), plus “Ptice” (“The Birds”), “»eta” (“The Squad”) and “Jegulja”(“Eels”) – each demonstrating Leifert’s sense of perfection, making the anticipation for the debut album even more unbearable. The album will be produced by Bojan BanoviÊ of Diskurz. Welcome Leifert and may the force be with you.

SD: Is Rijeka an inspiring city to form a band in – or does the main trigger of taking things into your own hands lie somewhere else? Petra: It is a very inspiring city, in my opinion it has a positive, weird vibe. It’s truly a city which floats, as described by a friend of mine. In this city one cannot stand still, whether it’s about going out or working, for if you don’t “flow”, you become a worm, and the thrill is gone. The moment you stop “flowing”, that’s not it anymore. You aren’t as fresh as the flowing Rijeka, you become a smelly pond, murky and green. I definitely think that the great industry of the past left a certain active spirit in this city. However, I also believe that people are deluding themselves by saying “Rijeka is a rock city”, and think they’re something special if they have a band and come from Rijeka. In a way, they’ve started taking these things for granted, as this is the general mindset they tend to have, and so time passes and they find themselves releasing a debut album after existing for ten years. Screw that kind of work and that sort of people. These are perfect examples of stagnant, non-flowing people, who rot and turn into a swamp, a pond, a black hole.

SD: What sort of sound does Leifert aim for? Petra: Some sort of electro – although, I don’t like to categorize music by genre, especially my own music, because I make what I like and what sounds good to me. I do what I feel like doing and I do it the way I feel. The same principle applies to the music I listen to, I listen to whatever sounds nice to me and describes my feelings at that moment. So I find it a bit primitive when someone says they listen to pop. It’s such a broad term, for me it’s stupid to categorize anything as pop. To me Simple Minds are one thing, and Talk Talk are another. They have a common link between them – but I wouldn’t call it a “pop” link, I’d call it freedom. I can hear in their music that they did exactly what they felt and thought, and they created their music in alignment with their principles and their lives. This is why I also like the Pet Shop Boys, who called contemporary music “ego music”, as today’s performers – I won’t call them musicians, they’re merely performers – don’t create music because they are this music, but to fill their own egos and become important and famous. “Me, me, me, me – yes, yes, yes, yes; You, you, you, you – no, no, no, no”, this whole story is exactly what the Pet Shop Boys sing about in this song.

SD: Does this constant branding of someone as a “Rijeka band” annoy you? Do you think a typical Rijeka band even exists, whether belonging to the older or the younger generation? Petra: As I said earlier, this whole “Rijeka is a rock city” business, screw people who think this is how it is. It’s about the people, not about the city. It’s true I don’t feel this sort of feeling in any other city, but perhaps it’s because I’m so used to it. I’m sure that’s it. If I moved to another city, I wouldn’t lose what I have inside me, as it doesn’t belong to the city, it’s about the people. You either have it or you don’t. I think that there’s a specific sound (not a band) to every country/city. Because of all the different surroundings. For example, the Slovenians had a lot of new wave/punk bands who all sounded similar – und, O! Kult, Via Ofenziva… here in the greater Rijeka area as well: Fiume is for example a typical Rijeka sound, as well as Strukturne Ptice, Idejni Nemiri… however, I wouldn’t say those are typical bands for a certain area, but rather beginnings of a specific musical direction, and not of a specific genre. This was later held back by newer bands who grew up listening to these old bands and picked up on their sound, some intentionally, some accidentally.

SD: It’s wonderful to hear a young band such as yours, with well thought-out lyrics in your mother tongue. How challenging is it to put together good song lyrics in Croatian, as opposed to the ever-popular English language to which most other bands gravitate toward? Petra: I’m really glad to hear such a nice compliment. I write best when the mood strikes me, I cannot write whenever I would like to. Inspiration is an odd thing, it comes unexpected. Lately, lyrics come to me in English much more than in Croatian. Somehow I’m beginning to find this language a bit dull. I can express myself better in English because it seems simpler. For now, though, it’s just a bunch of scrawled notes on paper, we’ll see what time will bring. Here in Croatia I definitely won’t be expressing myself in English. Lately I’ve been keeping myself busy with too many things which are neither music nor writing, it’s annoying. I suppose I should catch my breath a little. Perhaps something more unique comes my way. Sometimes it’s good to distance myself, because then I can come back refreshed and make something even weirder than before. Of course, one should nurture whatever one does in order to perfect it and advance it, but the things I do outside music and writing, also have to do with creativity and a lot of brainstorming and I believe it can only benefit me. All this correlates with each other, and I connect and use it all for Leifert, so it’s healthy.

SD: Officially, Leifert is a duo – Bojan from Diskurz is helping you as a producer. Have you thought about expanding your line-up in the future? Petra: No.  Gia: At the moment we have a different live concept, so it’s not necessary to expand the line-up. Oh, those people, they only bring tensions and problems, if we were to expand our line-up, we’d be taking a doberman to stand on the stage and bite the people who would cause trouble.  Petra: Yeah, that’s true.

SD: How important is the band’s image – both appearance and sound-wise? Can Leifert preserve their experimental tendencies, stay uncompromising, resist the dictatorship of the environment which expects “the game to be played by the rules”? Gia: To us, the image is as important as the music. It also creates an impression and some sort of definition to the music being heard, and the general feeling. Take, for example, Talk Talk – they didn’t really consider their image that important but they show a very strong personality with their music, and this is what we respect so much.  Petra: We’re not looking up to bands who have a great image so they look great and therefore we like them. The image is a part of the deal, but not an essential one. It differs from one person to another. The way I feel in sneakers is different from the way I feel in high-heeled boots. Just like I don’t feel the same if I eat mayonnaise or not. Sneakers aren’t for people, mayonnaise is garbage. Therefore, whatever I eat is the way I feel. I create for others as much as for myself. I don’t eat mayonnaise, not because I heard Madonna doesn’t eat it either, but because to me it’s shit. I understand what’s modern today and what’s interesting to the masses, and I don’t think I’m a part of something that Croatian masses would like. On the contrary, I’d feel unnatural. Not because I think of myself as “underground”, but because I simply think we aren’t shallow, and mostly because we live in this “state” which has a very meaningless existence. Here, the eyes which would look toward something new and unconventional are strongly shut.

SD: Which is the worst agreement you had to comply with as a band? Petra: Well, this one isn’t really an agreement, it all sounded fine and dandy but you can never know who you’re dealing with. So, I could tell you a wonderful anecdote. We were playing in a city where the organiser was getting high all day, along with his whole “organisation”. When we asked for food, noone cared enough to get up and take us to the place where we would have our promised meals. So we found it ourselves. Then the power went out and it was way past the arranged time for the sound check. Nobody even lifted a finger. They just sat there, smoking that weed, telling us it would be arranged. A few hours later, the power came back on. At the sound check, the sound engineer cursed at us because our keyboards had two outputs and he didn’t know how to connect it. I don’t even have to mention the sound quality we had that night. All this really tore us to shreds, and if you ask me, we played quite badly and listlessly. This wasn’t enough, though, as after the gig, when we should have been paid, whoever we asked for the money, sent us to a different person. So, we’re standing backstage, next to us is the organiser and the sound engineers, smoking weed, this other band is playing, while we are talking to ourselves. The organiser was so stoned that he laughed in our faces when we asked for our money because he wasn’t even aware of what we were saying. The sound engineers, who should probably stand by the mixing desk when someone plays, aren’t there but five meters away getting high with the organiser. One of the organisation people finally found someone in charge of the money after two hours and found out that that someone was at home, sleeping all this time. He managed to get there and we finally got this disgusting money which I wanted to shove up their asses.

SD: From the moment you revealed to the world your work called “Larve”, your songs resonated with straightforwardness and sharpness, offering a fine synthesis of real social darkness and a revolt of the youth which you use to oppose the everyday disappearing in this darkness – in the song “Ptice” there is an interesting phrase saying “a time of pastime”…but the impressive, gloomy tone of the song itself points to something completely different. What are your songs’ respective lyrics about? Is there a song in your newer repertoire that you could say you are especially proud of? Petra: Well, the material is very diverse, each songs stands for itself and can also speak of multiple things at once. “A time of pastime” can be a time of horror, a time of fear, and again – and truly – a time of pastime and a time, when you have time to think about what you are about to do, what you love. I give the listeners free choice to understand these songs however they may feel them at a certain moment. I don’t want to say something literal, so that it may seem it means only one thing and that’s it. I don’t know how to write lyrics like that. We have a new song which I like, yes. It’s called “Suton”.

SD: Speaking of live performances, it’s become somewhat of a must-have for bands to have their own video-projections. How does Leifert create/choose the video material? Do you incorporate these video sequences into the context of your songs? Petra: Yes, we choose the material so the song appears exactly how I just answered you about lyrics and writing. So, to each their own. The first projections we had were made by Ivan Kapović/Firma Mašinerija, they’re great! The newer ones I did myself, I used some video material depicting another interpretation of the songs, in a way.  Gia: We don’t want to burden people with set things, let them see for themselves what a certain song reminds them of, a certain verse, our image, our thing. I don’t like it when someone tries to impose their thing upon me, just as those bands who are extremely bothered by politics are pathetic. Politics won against them, because they got frustrated by it. Idiots. And Leifert’s lyrics are based on some life events which give you certain feelings, and who feels similarly – feels it, who doesn’t – let them worry further about money, politics, bribery, corruption, injustice. What we create is vital and we don’t impose anything.

SD: Does Leifert tend to make their live act more of an artistic performance and less of a standard gig? There’s also a mysterious static “frontman” appearing with you onstage. Who is he? Petra: I don’t know, I don’t know what I do during the set and what we look like, that’s for the audience to figure out. I just act while I’m onstage.  Gia: Yeah, Douglas was the band’s “mascot”, a head of a male puppet, who had no body, but a golden cloth. He was with us until the summer of 2012.

SD: Speaking of live acts, in your opinion, are art galleries more attractive – or different – than standard concert venues, and to what extent?  Petra: They aren’t more attractive, because all that seems to me like hopping on the “art” bandwagon where art doesn’t exist. Everything is something, nothing, easy, it’s coming, it’s not, cut the crap already. As far as I know, everyone is circling around and around, repeating the same things over and over again. I prefer concert venues because the organisation there follows a logical pattern. Whereas those alternative places for performing don’t seem to know anything, when it comes to organising a gig. This makes me angry. Everyone is confused.

SD: When you play live, does it make you happy? Does it disappoint you and how much? Petra: I cannot speak about the audience because I don’t even see them when I play. I’m not being arrogant, I just think that a band shouldn’t concern themselves too much about the audience – simply because since the very beginning the audience didn’t show much or give much to them. Every band, including the ones who achieved global fame, was at one point spat upon. So I don’t really take it personally, or professionally, although human primitivism can strike a hard blow every now and then. I think you’re strongest when people recognize and smell that you give yourself completely to whatever you are doing, that you are living it. I was never disappointed, as with each gig I play, I demand more from myself, so with each performance, I challenge myself a little more.

SD: We are expecting your debut album with bated breath, and with good reason. How long did it take to create the material, and was it because of your own perfectionism, or because the Larve/Leifert work had been falling on deaf ears until now? Petra: Larve’s work wasn’t really work, but a youthful introduction to making music. Leifert is like a beginning of work, and since we had our hands full after we changed the whole context of the band, releasing our stuff wasn’t among our priorities, simply because we didn’t feel we had enough material. So we preferred to keep working one more year, rather than releasing some meagre EP.  This didn’t make any sense to us, and we didn’t see pleasure in it anyway. We weren’t mature enough for something like that, either. The album was made from the end of 2011 to the end of summer 2012. The reason it took so long is the perfectionism my husband Bojan has during producing. He really brought so much shine, such a seal of quality to the album. I’m really, really pleased with what we made.

SD: If it’s not a secret, may we know the name of your forthcoming album? Petra: “Leifert”.

Interview conducted: 0.5
Proofreading/translation: Goran Gregor
Leifert are due releasing a debut album.
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Leifert portrait directed by Firma Mašinerija


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