Text And Interview: Alec Coiro
Rémi Letournelle, former member of Fenster, answered questions about his new synth-driven band Slow Steve, which has just released its debut album Adventures. The new band retains some of Fensters surrealism, but adds a science fiction element, which comes across most literally in the song “The Giant Spider Crab from Japan,” but also comes through more subtly on songs like “Oscillation,” whose very title could be an ode to technicolor sci fi soundtracks. Rémi tells us all about his personified instruments, the intimate textures that flower from synths, and the quest for intricate detail, but he also makes cryptic allusion to an intriguing backstory. The group seems to either have its finger on or actually embody the cosmopolitan zeitgeist of the 2016 Berlin music scene, so read on and let the zeitgeist wash over you.
Can you tell us about some of the vintage synths you use? Or do you keep the identity of your synths a state secret?
Hmmm, no real secrets here, just some intense relationships with those machines. I do give them little nicknames, like Alfred, cause one looks like Batman’s butler, or Lilly cause she’s a sweet lilac, but that part is a bit private, indeed. I’m a lucky owner of the metaphysical triptych MS10/MS20/SQ10 from Korg. Nothing can stop your imagination when you start playing with those cuties! Then I own several Casios, a Roland jx3p, a Yamaha TX81Z and a few more.
For our debut album “Adventures”, that we released in May, we spent 5 days in the synth studio Worm/CEM in Rotterdam, recording sequences and synths lines all day. In that crazy studio, there is a SERGE synth and a ARP 2500. West and East Coast. 2 distinct styles. Those beauties are amazing. They surely gave a special color to the album. Lucky us to spent some time with those collection pieces.
The songs on the album seem conducive to both a chill, atmospheric feel and also dancier vibe. What sort of experience do you hope your listener has?
A little bit like the artwork cover of the album, the idea is that after several listens of the album, you still keep discovering some little details, synth sequences, vocal harmonies. It’s generally a quite full sound, and there are oftenly many layers or different textures within one short part. Some moods were planned and thought through. Others just came naturally during the recording. I’m not quite sure if it’ll be the same on the next album, but we had fun on that one, allowing ourselves to get the vibes wherever we felt like.
What’s the current mood in the Berlin music scene? How did you arrive there from France?
Well, there’s the techno/electronic scene, that’s for sure. A super rich scene, full of treasures. great clubs. But besides that, there are also plenty of great indie and pop and noise bands. The collective Flennen is one good example. They keep releasing cool things and promoting good events. There are so many good promoters, parties, and local bands/labels, that it’s impossible to get bored in that city…Which is one of the main reason why I moved to Berlin some years ago. If I want to drop a few names, I’d go for these ones: Cranky Booking, Shameless Limitless, What Difference Does It Make, Spaeti Palace. All the bands related to those people are great! I would say, the best way to get to know all those different scenes is to check the amazing fanzine The Chop. They’re doing a really good job at promoting the local scene.
Is there a backstory to the name “Slow Steve”? Is there an actual Steve?
There is a backstory and there isn’t one actual Steve, but many great Stevies.
Do you have any plans for show in the U.S.?
As a Frenchman coming from a small town, I want to say “yes! we’ll go to America soon!” I was lucky enough to tour the US a few times with my former band Fenster. We played some great gigs and the experience of touring there is quite unique. But as for Slow Steve, we take it as it comes. We’re going back to Genova in Italy in June and we really love it there. Fun friends and tasty focaccia!