When approaching the end of the year, I tend to get my Nostradamus-on and feel somewhat prophetic. Previous insights have included the sense that I would drink an awful lot during 2009, the knowledge that eventually, the mere existence of The Saturday's would make me want to remove my own eyeballs and lastly the exact time and date of Michael Jackson's death. (That last part is not true). I am rarely wrong and therefore, I feel wholly confident and assured in the prediction I am about to make for 2010: Cold In Berlin are going to take over the world.
Be it my ungenerous nature, my innate snobbery or perhaps merely my aural impairment, but it is rare that I come across a 'new' band that genuinely excites me. A band that I can get creepy and fan-girl about. A band that gets better with each listen. Enter Cold In Berlin...
Previously Death Cigarettes, the band met as students in York and have been gigging in London for the past two years. They've been gathering steam and have recently garnered some great press and industry interest. Quite right too. Having just released double A-side Destruction/What Went Wrong on label 2076, I caught up with frontwoman Maya to find out more...
Thanks for talking to us Maya. Congratulations on the launch - What Went Wrong might just be my favourite song in the world at the moment.
M: Thank you. Most people (radio included) have preferred Destruction, but What Went Wrong is more 'me' I guess.
You were Death Cigarettes, you're now Cold in Berlin: a band's name is an integral part of their identity, especially after having garnered positive press, industry recognition and a solid following. How has the transition between names played out?
M: It has been weird. We have had so much positive response to the name change: it still feels a little strange. We were DC for a long time, but I don't think we lost any fans or anything. I think everyone was just a bit like 'well now they can get on making music'. No confusion over affiliation with a product (all be it a great and honest product) and so no confusion about whether we are endorsing cigarettes. Just good honest noise.
You've mentioned in a previous interview that Cold in Berlin feels more personal than Death Cigarettes: what's the story behind the new name?
M: DC feels so young now, we were very young when we started writing. I had been Maya 'Cigarettes' for long enough. We all felt a bit like that; like our music was different now, like we are different. Our response to life has always been through our music so it was just a natural part of growing up as a band together.
We weighed the positives with the negatives and got down to writing a list; we each brought a list to the group and we heartlessly voted yes or no. Any name with the full four votes, which wasn't many, were then on the final list; it was quite pragmatic but still hard to go through.
The actual name came from a story I had shared with Adam Foster from our label 2076 about a trip I had taken with Ad (the guitarist) to Berlin. We had been so skint and it was so cold. We were literally 'cold in Berlin'. It was one of the best breaks ever; the bleak frozen city as a back drop to our hungover days shuffling between museums and shops to stay warm. Budgeting how many coffee stops we could make until the venues opened and we could see a band and start dancing again. I have always had a quite romanticised view of cities with such an emotive history; Berlin, Prague etc. They seem full of art and music but quiet and modest, without any of the brashness you can find in London or New York.
Courtesy of WildBlanket photograpy.
Being one half of the songwriting team for The Backlash, I'm always interested in how other people write. Describe your songwriting process.
M: We write pretty much every song collaboratively. We all have very very different influences so we can always bring something different. I feel so lucky to be part of such an organic process. Sometimes if it feels good we can jam for hours, or weeks or months. When we have finally finished it might go into a set and we see how it feels live. Other times it comes very quickly and feels great so we just grab the moment and shove it in the set.
I'm also a vocalist, and often manage to really rag my voice: you go hell for leather when playing live. How do you keep your vox in shape?
M: I try to take care of my voice but I am quite lazy. I try not to eat much dairy and only have one or two (if I am really tired) cups of coffee a day. Plenty of chamomile tea, hot water with lemon and ginger so there is no milk and during the days I try and rest my voice as much as possible; but obviously you have to talk. I don't always get time to warm up- but if you look after your voice well or occasionally lose you voice, you should always warm up really. Also: steam. Hot, hot showers in a steamy bath room if there is not time for an actual 'steam', works pretty well. There are all kind of professional tips: how you stand, hold the mic etc. that can help but I often get carried away and forget them!
As the only lady in a band with boys, do you feel women are under-represented in the music industry? What importance, if any, does your gender play in your identity as a performer?
M: I think gender plays a massive part in every ones sense of self. The fact that I am a woman doesn't mean it has more or less of a role but maybe it means I am more aware of being 'different' as the music industry still seems to rely upon archaic gender stereotypes to sell music and make money.
Women aren't under-represented in the music industry or in most parts of culture; you can see our impact in literature, film, art and music. It is whether that representation of us is true or not that concerns me. I am not convinced that the playing field has been totally levelled. I am not convinced that I, as a woman, have had experiences that would let me say, honestly, I am proud of what a women can achieve when she plays by the rules. Fuck the rules.
I just want to make noise; real noise, not airbrushed, dressed up, made-up, 'feminine' noise but heartfelt, emotive, loud female lead noise. Noise that is as powerful and strong as any male noise, not prancy or fucking ladylike.