Interview with GURR: “You can be belittled as a woman in the music industry”
The Berlin-based duo Gurr has been making music since 2012 already, but it was this year (2016) that things started happening for them. The full-length debut “In My Head” was a success, with many release shows in Germany, London, and Paris. Their unique blend of happy-go-lucky garage rock promises a future outside of their home country. They already have several international festival appearances lined-up, as well as tour dates in the UK and in the US. We met up with Andreya and Laura ahead of their sold out show at Berghain Kantine in Berlin to discuss recording analogue, which bands helped to shape their sound and their festival wishes.
Lola Who: This time last year you played at Tommy-Weisbecker-Haus, now you sold out Kantine. Meanwhile, you also opened up for Jimmy Eat World. Which kind of setting do you prefer?
Andreya: We like big stages, I think. It’s not that we don’t like smaller venues, they can be nice too, but we really enjoy being on a bigger stage.
Laura: I think it’s difficult now in the current setting when we have two female vocals and two guitars. Sometimes, when we play at smaller places they struggle to mix it right, especially with female voices, it’s harder to go through noise. That’s why it’s cool if there’s a good PA and everything is fine technically speaking, then we can deliver what people want to hear.
Lola Who: I read somewhere that it took you a longer time to make your full-length album in comparison to the “Furry Dream EP.” Was it a conscious decision that you made beforehand?
Laura: Actually, our decision was, “let’s do it as quick as possible because we have so little money.”
Andreya: I think it was as quick as possible, we were really efficient in the studio, I’d say. We never drank alcohol, for example, that’s something we were very determined on. It simply took longer because we didn’t want to compromise our sound. If we had a couple of more weeks we could’ve done even better, I still hear things that could be improved. We recorded analogue, and only did a maximum of five takes for every song that we did. If we would have had more time, maybe we would have done ten takes instead. But it’s something that people point out they like about the album—that they hear the analogue technique we used.
Lola Who: How long did it take in the end?
Laura: We had some issues in the beginning, but when we started again, it took us about a month. We had to go back and forth, we still had school and worked as well so we would meet in the afternoon or at night, three or four days a week. And then the mixing took some more time; we mixed for four or five days.
Lola Who: Did your creative process change with the recording of “In My Head”?
Laura: We worked analogue and with Mishka who was the sound engineer we could decide more, we had more control over the final sound. We were with him in the listening room, and he would go: “how do you want it?” and “for that you need to do this.” Because when you do analogue, you record the mix which means that you have to press buttons while the song is playing. We were all like: Now! Now! Laura, your turn!
Lola Who: Gurr was a trio at some point, you had a bassist, Jilian…
Andreya: Actually, most of the time we had people who played with us. When we started out we were two people but then we had Jilian for a long time, then we had Hanno, then Jil again, then Florian, but no one was ever really permanent. Eventually, we decided we keep it a two-piece because people were getting confused, with band pictures for example. It is quite a big step to say: We’re the two individuals on the images, and then we need people to play with us live, but it makes things easier.
Lola Who: Are they the live band only or did you have someone with you in the studio?
Laura: We had a bass player in the studio but the rest we did the two of us together.
Lola Who: What’s your background, musically speaking? Did you go to music school as kids, have you been in bands before?
Andreya: I was in the choir, I played flute in the music school until I was like fifteen or something. Then I had my first band, so Gurr is my second band. The first was more of a fun project I did when I was very young, and I’ve been involved in other musical projects, too.
Laura: I started playing the piano when I was six, my dad is a jazz pianist. Then I took drum lessons and I had a band in school and another band in my hometown. When I moved to Berlin, I met Andreya at the University. We were both new in Berlin and didn’t have any musical projects here, plus we like the same stuff, so we started playing together.
Lola Who: It seems that a vital part of Gurr is friendship, almost every article points out that you guys are friends. Is your friendship somehow special or how did it come about?
Andreya: I’ve noticed that too, it’s so funny.
Laura: Because other bands are not friends (laugh). I think it’s because people always ask us what is the album about. It reflects the things we talk about, like when you’re with your friends: “Oh my god, this guy, blah blah blah…” We then write a song about that guy. At some point, it kind of shifted to: “It’s about their friendship.” Because all the songs on the album are about what we do together.
Andreya: Sometimes when Laura is not there people tell me stuff that is in fact addressed to her, like we’ve become some kind of entity or something.
Lola Who: How is it to be a “girl band” in the music industry?
Andreya: I know that you can be belittled as a woman in the music industry, so I’m extra sensitive to it, and sometimes I react harshly to things that aren’t actually against me being a woman. And when they are it makes me extra angry. Sometimes when you play in places where there aren’t a lot of females in the music scene, people don’t understand that what they say is offensive.
Laura: We check with the guys in the band, tell them what happened, and if they say that happened to them as well, then we know it’s ok and we can be chill about it. But sometimes, they say they’ve never been told anything like that and then we know we were right, we weren’t overly sensitive. For example, we were asked in an interview if we played our instruments in the recording studio, which is a bit weird, no male band was ever asked that.
Lola Who: The music world and music press is still very much focused on the UK and US production, with Australian and Canadian acts sort of tagging along. How hard is it for a German band to get attention outside of the country?
Laura: We’re lucky, tomorrow we’re going to Paris, then we go to London. Our label and our booking agency support us in growing internationally. We’re going to the US next year, too. The German band Kadavar, for example, is touring mostly internationally now, but they are part of a specific psychedelic scene. With Gurr, we’re happy that we get to go outside of Germany. The German scene has a lot of place for German speaking bands which is cool, but not so much for us. I can’t see a German magazine doing a full feature on us because we have English lyrics. But with that, we can find broader audiences somewhere else. Germany showed us great support with the Berlin gig being sold out, which is super crazy. We also like to listen to bands that don’t only have German lyrics.
Lola Who: You’ll be playing at The Great Escape in Brighton, so that’s definitely a step in that direction. Do you have a festival you’d absolutely love to play at?
Laura: Because with Gurr, now I don’t think we’ll ever get holidays so I was thinking where could we go that would be like holidays. It’s in California, right? It’d be so cool to play at a beachy place. Primavera in Barcelona would be fun too.
Andreya: Or Pitchfork festival, just because they make really nice videos of the performances there.
Lola Who: How about SXSW?
Laura: We are playing it! Otherwise, we would’ve said that.
Lola Who: I was excited to read somewhere that Jeff The Brotherhood are among bands you like. What are you currently listening to?
Laura: At Reeperbahn Festival, we saw a band called Spring King. We were very impressed with them because. Similarly, we also saw Broncho and I think they both do a really good job at having a contemporary style. Not just repeating what has been done in the past but taking that and making it sound fresh. Those are two bands I really like at the moment.
Andreya: I like the Berlin singer Anika, she has this new band Exploded View. And I listen to a lot of Die Nerven right now.
Lola Who: Are you looking forward to going back to the US? You were both exchange students there when you first started Gurr…
Laura: We started before but the experience definitely helped us because most of the bands that shaped our sound come from the US, and we got to see them live… Like Mac DeMarco, Thee Oh Sees, Shannon and the Clams. Tweens I saw there too, they were awesome!
Lola Who: What else can we look forward from you in 2017? You’re playing at Lido in February.
Laura: Festivals! And we’re touring England, which is fucking insane! We’re going to the States as well. In Spring, we have a really long Germany tour. We will also play at Eurosonic Festival in the Netherlands in January.