Interview: I Heart Sharks

I Heart Sharks - Photo by Christoph Mack

I Heart Sharks - Photo by Christoph Mack

It’s true that I Heart Sharks is a band with synthesizers, but thankfully, the Berlin-based trio isn’t just another synthesizer band.

Because, for many, the image of synthesizers immediately conjures up ideas of synthetic beats and programmed soundscapes served on a plate of click tracks.

I Heart Sharks though, is adamant about keeping its distance from the tendency to let electronics control music, instead making live shows about producing and controlling the music in real time.

The band consists of vocalist Pierre Bee, guitarist Simon Wangemann and drummer Georg Steinmaier – all three of whom naturally also play synthesizer in varying quantities.

Bee insists that the live aspect of the electronically-infused sound – something for which the band has been lauded – isn’t because of the desire to be edgy or cool, but because it’s the most practical option for making the kind of music they want to make.

“I mean there are two reasons,” he said. “One is we want to sound like a band, not a DJ. And the second one [is]…we’re really scared of, like, using computers and stuff onstage, or playback, or whatever, because I think, like, there, more things can go wrong.”

He laughs as he says this, demonstrating an at-ease-ness with himself and the music, and an ability to not take himself too seriously. And it makes sense, because Bee himself is a bit of a dichotomy: he sports a self-proclaimed “stupid haircut,” can appropriately wax poetic in at least three languages, and speaks in a British accent that sounds proper, but for the constant interjection of “like” and “really” every tenth word.

“We just basically do the live stuff because we have complete control over everything on stage, so there’s a lot less that can fuck up really, when we’re playing,” he said. “[Plus] it’s so much cooler if you get to watch a band, and you can like, see where the sound’s coming from.”

The approach to playing live doesn’t vary much from the approach to songwriting either, Bee said. In fact the live dynamic is something the band naturally adheres to when creating new music.

“We write all of [our songs] live. Like, we never really sat in a studio and wrote a song, like, sitting down or whatever. They were all just kind of live ideas,” he said. “[We go out to clubs and] listen to music and like, come up with ideas…and then just go into practice rooms and just try out different things with beats and different melodies on the top. So all the stuff we wrote we all just wrote together, kind of…just fucking around really. It was really easy.”

The straightforward simplicity surrounding the entire process seems to work in the band’s favor: in a few short years, I Heart Sharks has received a slew of attention, which is considerable, especially since the first album has not even been released. Funding, however, is underway, thanks in large part to PledgeMusic, which has allowed the band to raise money in exchange for providing unique goods or services – such as original lyric sheets, house party concerts and postcards from tour – to fans.

“You need to find somewhere to get the money from to release [an album],” Bee said, explaining why the band opted to raise money in such a way.

He also noted that this is one of the downsides of being a musician and wanting to produce art.

“You slowly start to realize how important money is,” he added.

Listening to him speak these words, anyone would immediately understand how difficult it is for the guys to feel limited by monetary constraints. Yet at the same time, they get to decide every aspect of what they do, and that control is of the utmost importance to them.

To date, the pledge drive has provided the band with enough funds to record and release its debut album (tentatively speaking, the digital copy drops at the end of September and the physical copy will be available at the end of October), and the pressing and promotional costs are two of the most expensive parts.

Yet having to worry about money – as well as a handful of other things – are something Bee and the other two take in stride, particularly because they see it as being key to finding continual inspiration.

“The years where you suffer are actually the best ones in your life,” Bee said, paraphrasing French modernist Marcel Proust. “Not being perfectly happy is a really good place to be in when you want to write something.”

And another important songwriting aspect for Bee is also to stay grounded.

“[It’s difficult] not losing your head, like not trying to think you’re the best or whatever. I think it’s important to have self belief, but it’s also really important to like, sober up from when you come back from playing concerts or whatever, and you spend some time on your own, and you’re not around people who really like, like your music or whatever,” he said. “I think it’s quite important to just feel normal again for a little bit. Otherwise you just start getting dragged into this thing where you think everything you do is great, when it’s not.”

Contained in these words is a show of maturity that seems to extend beyond Bee’s 20-some-odd years, but the truth is that being in a band has caused all three members to grow up in some ways.

“I think we definitely have changed, as everything does…I wouldn’t want to say that we’ve gotten more mature or anything, or the music is now…more serious or whatever,” he said. “Now, I think we all have found somewhere where we really feel comfortable making the music that we do. We really want to make music that’s, you know, danceable but, you know, you can listen to it at home and it’s still got substance and integrity.”

Bee also said he particularly enjoys when he can share that with fans; when audience members take the time to learn lyrics to the music, he finds he is impressed and inspired.

“I really like people singing our songs at concerts, he said, pausing, before continuing excitedly. “Or listening to a song after we recorded it and spent, like, weeks in the studio…it’s like, when you finally get it right and you can listen to it for days, and like, really be like, ‘yes yes, this is it.’”

I Heart Sharks plays tonight at Rubys Tuesday im Waschhaus in Potsdam. The show begins at 21.00. Catch them again on Sept. 2 when they perform a DJ set at Kesselhaus.

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