Arcadian Child: an extended discussion, up close and personal

On 23 December 2018, Arcadian Child shared the stage of Savino Live with Ladderman, for the presentation of their album, Superfonica. Somewhere between their sound-check and their pre-gig dinner, they offered me some of their valuable time for an interview. However, shortly after I started discussing with Panagiotis, Andreas, Stathis and Christos, the interview transformed to a friendly, round conversation about the band, the album and the Cypriot music scene in general, and this is how I want to present it to you. Hence, here, the “dry” Q&A format that is so typical to interviews will be approached somewhat differently, in a way that will not lead to the separation of people and names. The voice of the four musicians will only appear separated where something is clearly personal. After all, this is exactly what their work is about… four different voices united in harmony to create the amalgam of music and ideas that comes together as the entity of Arcadian Child, which has something to say that deserves to be heard.

by Maria Kouvarou (Mouv)

Almost three months prior to our meeting, Arcadian Child had again appeared in Savino Live, greeted by a numerically restricted audience. Loads have happened between these two Savino appearances, including a successful tour, and the release of an album that was met with a positive international response, and for good reasons. This is a good enough stimulus for me to light up the conversation spark.

How do you feel about your return, having now been armed with new experiences and recognition?

Arcadian Child: Look, the truth is that there is quite a big chance that this experience of ours has not been known here, something that does not matter that much to us. We do what we do because this is what our body and soul wants. Not for the likes, nor for the reviews. Basically, we write music because this is our way to cope with reality. From that point onwards, yes, of course we want our music to be heard, but we want it to be heard by the right people, the ones who will understand our music. And here we mean the lyrics as well, since our songs constitute a concept album. Therefore, the lyrics have a very specific flow, a specific base, they start from a certain place and end up somewhere particularly. We want somebody who will hear and appreciate our songs as complete entities.

Unavoidably, then, we are led to the topic of Cypriot response...

Arcadian Child: The response will gradually come from Cyprus as well. It just needs some more time, as the popular styles are different here, and what we do does not follow the norm. But because it is real, the love will come as time passes by. After all, the percentage of the Cypriot audience who does listen to this kind of music is restricted. And a large part of this audience is united and well informed, fact that makes us happy... Simply, the wide masses obviously want to hear something that is easier, more easily digestible, trendier, and more familiar to them.

And still, the reception widens, since Arcadian Child have started playing on the Cypriot airwaves…

Arcadian Child: We heard it, we heard us, and we are very happy about it.

Here Panagiotis separates his position, noting that for various reasons he does not listen to the radio. Out of respect for their time I do not "push" him for more details. But I take advantage of this diversion in order to move the discussion to the conceptual character of their music that was mentioned earlier.

Talk to me about the writing of Superfonica.

Arcadian Child: Essentially, after Afterglow was completed in October 2017, there already existed material to be worked for Superfonica. Panagiotis writes the lyrics, along with an initial chord progression and we work on this “guide” all together. We are a band for long enough as to know how to work on our “raw material”. We go in the studio, do a lot of experimentation, and the pieces are shaped. Something that helped us for Superfornica, which we had not done when preparing Afterglow, is that we played our songs live prior to their recording, and so some parts that seemed to be not working were isolated and reworked until they reached their final format.

Here, Panagiotis explains more about how the songs of Superfonica were written...

... Afterglow was a rock collectiva. The lyrics had an intense social concern, which also exists in Superfonica, but they were somehow dispersed, since Afterglow as an album did not have a specific concept. Superfonica is conceptually united, very much affected by the seven universal laws of Hermes, in relation to what I see around me as a lyricist and how this raises questions, stimulates, or even fascinates me. Even the tracklist of the album has a particular sequence, as a story that needs to be completed and which is concluded with “The March”.

When I write the basic melody for a song, I always have the guys in my mind. What each of them does, what their style is, what they will bring in. We communicate a lot and we are quite tight. We rehearse every week, we have extensive experience in live performances, we have toured Greece now, having spent 7 wonderful days and nights. I mean, how to say it. Had I been in a different band, I would not have written these songs, and this is very clear.

And what is the difference between Superfonica and Afterglow in terms of approach, since they both deal with socio-political matters?

Panagiotis: They differ significantly. Maybe the songs that constitute Superfonica are a bit more personal. Afterglow was kind of narrative, in the sense that I described the stories that I saw, and not the ones I lived, if I can put it this way. Superfonica is a bit more personal when it comes to some songs, like “She Flows”, which nonetheless does not refer to a girl. I let the listener decide what/who is the she. It is easy to figure out if one follows it closely, if one reads the lyrics. And here we should point out that the lyrics of both albums are all on our bandcamp.

And since Superfonica is a conceptually built album, is there a specific stream that connects all the songs?

Panagiotis: I can tell that they are all connected by the seven universal laws of Hermes. When i began writing Superfonica I said that this is my base, but only as a canvas. Clearly not as the colours.

But still, how did this inspiration, this connection, came about?

Panagiotis: Kybalion was handed to me by a friend. It is a very difficult book, very technical, and because alchemy is something very unfamiliar to me, I found it hard to follow. But I was fascinated by how a book that was written from unknown people at unknown depths of time finds application to the present. Lyric-wise it was a framework that inspired me and on which I wanted to work. The references to Hermes are not distinct. I have to point them out for one to identify, or they need to be spotted by somebody who has studied the seven laws extensively.

So would you say that Arcadian Child's inspiration is spontaneous or purposeful?

Arcadian Child: It is specific. There is a plan before an album is released, and this is true both for Afterglow and Superfonica. You could say that we know in advance where it will go. What will it serve, who will it refer to…and this is why the lyrics are indispensable to the music. They are not complementary, and neither they are additional.

Bearing in mind that it is hard for somebody to make a living out of music, it is obvious that you all have different jobs. Other than that, do you have any other activities that add up to your creativity?

To this they respond that their creativity is part of their lives, and that music has a central place in whatever they do. Panagiotis adds: I read books, something that helps me in songwriting as well. Last one I read was Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed, an exceptional book that treats music as the solution of the problem and not as part of the problem.

An odd question for you... if Superfonica had been a colour, which colour would it be?

Arcadian Child: A cosmic light blue. It would have been the cover. And here we should point out that the cover was designed by Spyros Sidiropoulos, frontman of Cyanna Mercury, who goes by the artistic name Iam Nothe (I am not he). We sent him the material and asked him to translate it visually. After some time he responded with a draft and we went absolutely crazy. The original photograph is a picture of him captured by his girlfriend with an iphone4 at Gazi, Athens, in front of a graffiti that depicted this labyrinth. After the processing, Spyros' original picture transformed to a genderless figure, the Arcadian Child, that comes out of this Super-Voice, the vortex that is represented by the labyrinth. What appears as the explosion are the references to universal Hermes.

And where does the Arcadian Child surface more powerfully? At the live, the recording studio or the rehearsal studio?

Arcadian Child: It depends on the day. There are days when you go crazy at the rehearsal and you have an amazing time. But OK, we have memorable experiences from live gigs. Vivid vibes and energy between us that is hard to forget. Especially after our latest shows in Greece... unbelievable experience.

But you can’t have one without the other. Studio is a very special experience because you get to discover yourself. You get an instant feed on what you play. Your mistakes, your weaknesses are all there. You hear if you play well, if you play not so well. Studio is also your identity to the people, this is what stays in time. A gig is momentary, unique, you play and it goes. What you write in the studio is your ID, it stays. And the trap is that mentally and spiritually you have to manage to be at the point you want to be when you record. And this is a big trap because you might not be, and still think that you are...

As far as lives are concerned, which is the appearance that mostly stands out for you?

As expected, here the voices met a separation. For Christos and Stathis, the answer was the gig at Temple, Athens. For Andreas it was Temple and Fengaros 2018. For Panagiotis it was hands down Fengaros 2018 and he explains: "As soon as we started, right at the first song, we had a huge technical problem with Stathis’ amplifier. But instead of this putting any of us down, especially Stathis, the technician came up, fixed it, and the live went on flawlessly. It is at moments like this when "you become a band". A notable mess up happens, and much more at a festival that you are in real anticipation to play, but you are not taken aback. This is why I distinguish this gig from Athens. In Athens it was indeed great, because we had people there who knew our songs, they were singing along...songs that had only been released a week ago".

And what is the biggest problem that you had to face as a band?

Arcadian Child: Money. Making a good record costs. It is not just recordings (although these cost as well). It is mixing, mastering, artwork. And the fact that, as said before, in Cyprus there is no broad response to the extent that will give us some feedback so we can proceed more easily, makes it even harder as a process.

We believe that with Superfonica the situation will become healthier and things will even out. We have already received numerous invitations for playing abroad, and we think that we will be able to raise some money so that the third album will be materialized more smoothly than the previous two, and with less pressure. Anyone who has a band can understand this...

Speaking of people in bands... what is your relationship with the Cypriot music scene? Do you consider it supportive?

Arcadian Child: The truth is that we have been often disappointed by the behaviour of Cypriot fellow musicians. We have lived the «one should eat the other» behaviour, and we have experienced minimum support. The musicians that support us are very few. Four of them are sound checking as we speak (Ladderman).

Here, Christos says: When I came from Greece three and a half years ago, I was struck by how differently musicians treat other musicians here, and I remember pointing this out to my bandmates, that in Athens things are very different. There, we help each other. Then, we toured Greece with Sailor’s Daughter, a Greek band, and the difference in terms of the musician-to-musician approach between Athens and Cyprus was made clear then as well.

Panagiotis adds: I am not a musician. I was not raised with this network. I see things differently and I do not play politics. I saw, for example, a major change in the behaviour of people towards Arcadian Child when Arcadian Child was an unknown band from Limassol who wrote an album and did not appear anywhere, and towards Arcadian Child two years later. I have experienced behaviour dictated by complex and I am very sorry to say it. We are a very small community and such things should not have a place in our world. I see the difference with Greece. Spyros, for example. We met with Spyros when Cyanna Mercury were on top, he came in Cyprus to play with us and we are like brothers. He will not snob, he will not undermine. And, as Christos said, Sailor’s Daughter who we toured with, treated us perfectly, and they supported us.

Indeed, this is something that has been observed and noted by other musicians as well. Nonetheless, we are a family, with members who love music and musicians with honesty, and these are the ones with the greatest power in the end. But how about your music "diets"? Other than the usual suspects who we all know and admire, does the Arcadian Child listen to new music? New bands?

Panagiotis: Personally I do all the time. I bought about 30 vinyls this year, 28 of them being new albums (released in 2018) by new bands. From Greece I very much like The Steams, and Cyanna Mercury. From abroad the Idles, who in my opinion gave us the album of the year, a raw punk with awesome thematology – toxic masculinity, racism, social estrangement. Joy is an act of resistance is the album's title. Generally, as a band we ought to listen to new music.

Do you listen to the same music?

Arcadian Child: We listen to a bit of everything, mainly under the rock umbrella. But there is a lot to discover in various music genres. Hip hop, fusion... you cannot write music if you only follow a specific musical style as a listener. You are mono-dimensional. By the way this is something that plays a significant role for our song-writing. That we do not share the exact same listenings, and that each brings their own element to every piece we build.

And what is your advice to the new wave of young musicians that surfaces in our country?

Arcadian Child: To write their own music. Whatever you write that is yours, and is honest, will be beautiful. Also, stay out of the «cliques».

And what would you choose... fame or fortune?

Arcadian Child: Love from the people who appreciate our music and give us strength to carry on. We want to travel far with our music, so if we had to choose between the two, it would be fame. But fame that comes from the love of people. Money, on the other hand, is necessary for making things happen...

Is there somebody who you want to thank for supporting you?

Arcadian Child: They are all mentioned in detail on the back covers of the vinyl and the CD. Spyros Sidiropoulos for the artwork, our co-producer Andreas Trachonitis, Michaella Tsaggari for her amazing back vocals, our people, our families, our wives, who support us emotionally and spiritually. Our label in America... it is not a minor thing for a Cypriot band to be supported by a Californian label. They support us a lot, and we appreciate and love them for this, since they do it out of pure interest for our material. It does bring them enough money, obviously, and so they do it because they believe and like it... and more particularly Todd.

And, of course, we want to thank everyone who listens to our music. And the ones who will listen to it in the future, we thank in advance.

Also, Ladderman, for their tonight support, who when told that we play at Savino, they were totally up for sharing the stage with us, with their only demand being 4 CDs, 1 viyl and 4 T-shirts as... plunder (laughs).

Looking at the time, I realize that I kept them for longer than I should, considering their upcoming gig, and so I close the conversation with one last question, hoping that they are not mad at me for the delay. What should we expect from Arcadian Child in the near future and what is your greatest vision as a band?

Arcadian Child: Our greatest vision is to reach another continent with our music, and share our work with as many people as possible. When it comes to the near future... 2019 brings many gigs, some international festivals and most probably some local festivals as well. There are also plans for a big tour in October, now that we have became familiar with the process and we have cultivated a great love for the «road». And so we expect many gigs, much Superfonica, and maybe in 2020-21 we will also have material for a third album.

Here I turn off the recorder, thank them again for their time and let them go eat. In the meantime I rush home to get ready for coming back a while later to enjoy their live, knowing that I know something more about them. Now you know as well...

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