Strangers from a familiar past – An Interview with Yota
Returning with a fresh new album titled ‘Stranger on Film’, Yota has been sending some smooth, sparkly vibes throughout the scene with her catchy NuDisco-infused Synthwave tunes. Aided by producers from both her home country of Sweden and France, where she is currently based, Yota
Returning with a fresh new album titled ‘Stranger on Film’, Yota has been sending some smooth, sparkly vibes throughout the scene with her catchy NuDisco-infused Synthwave tunes. Aided by producers from both her home country of Sweden and France, where she is currently based, Yota combines pure synth-pop bliss and with slick electronic beat production, resulting in a solid record capturing the very soul of eighties nostalgia. We caught up with the artist in order to learn a little more about her background as well as her latest full-length release.
First off, how did you start playing music?
I used to take some piano lessons as a child but I wasn’t motivated to learn all those music notes so I made my own notes by typing like A1, A2 etc on small pieces of paper and scotched them on each piano key and tried to write some songs after that. One could say I was a bit rebellious by doing that my way, but I was probably just being lazy and tried to find a shortcut. That didn’t lead very far, so it wasn’t until many years later that I actually started to even consider music as something that I should do. My father was a Greek singer and he used to perform in parties, weddings and such. He was incredibly talented, so hearing him sing might have affected me on a subconscious level.
I understood that I should consider taking singing to the next level in my early or mid 20’s, when I was going to art school in Stockholm and one of my good friends heard me going all in, singing along to Al Green in the car. I overdid the falsetto I believe, but she told me right there that this is what I have to do. My friend had been working as a manager for American soul artists and for Brazilian samba artists. She was about 30 years older than me but we were very good friends. I listened to her and trusted her opinion. I had plenty of friends in the music business during that time and I started a band called Metamorphosis with a friend of mine. I was recording the vocals in a program called Sawplus.
One night I met a guy, Peter Sahlin, in Stockholm who had a band called Plastico and he said that I should send my demo to Håkan Lidbo. I did which led to Håkan calling me. I went to meet him and signed with Container Publishing and Misty Music. Signing with them was a real turning point for me and I started to focus on songwriting on another level. After that, I thought that art will be something that I’d pursue later on in life instead, which I still think I will do.
What were your first ideas you had for this project before you started writing any music?
Usually, the ideas grow and come alive after I receive some music from the producers I’m working with. If I don’t have a track in stock that inspires me, so to say, then I usually work on vocal melody ideas in Logic and send them over to one of them (producers). This project for NRW is a quite dreamy creation. Emotions are my inspiration and sometimes I loop a favourite part of a song (any song that I like) and sing over it just to get the ideas flowing. My topics are formed after the emotion so the feeling is the ruler or the boss, and the idea will kindly have to follow after that 🙂 The ideas for this album were quite a lot about contrasts like tough and soft, warm and cold, serious and playful.
As someone originally from Sweden who now lives in Paris, how would you compare France’s approach to music to Sweden’s approach to music?
Wow! This question is huge and depends on genres etc and could be discussed for hours but I’ll keep it short.
My impression is that in France the respect for the past is huge and music is no exception. The knowledge about artists that were known a long time ago is still kept alive by those who dig deep and take music quite seriously. Of course, this does not go for all and is also accurate in Sweden (respect for the skilled and serious musicians in Sweden) but somehow, I feel that the nostalgia is more apparent here in France – at least this is my impression, build on the people I meet over here. On the other hand, I’ve lived here since 2007 so I might be too disconnected from the Swedish music scene by now. In Sweden, I feel that the business keeps an eye on what’s going on outside in the world inspiration-wise, while in France it sometimes feels like the inspiration stays within the borders, but now I’m generalising so I better stop here to not upset anyone 😉
Your latest album is called Strangers On Film. Who does the title refer to? Who are these Strangers? Why this title?
When I received the instrumental from Douze (Arnault Esteve) I opened it in Logic and started to go with the flow and the mood. I pictured an outdoor club in front of me. There was a big screen playing a movie and there were a lot of people. The view was of someone watching the scene. Imagine a decadent place with music that gets hold of you in a way that it becomes what you feel. Then, further along, I had the idea of that electric connection between two people in the middle of this crowd, the kind that burns your stomach or something. The mood is tense and a bit exaggerated with the lyrics but that’s the mood I was aiming for in a way. I recorded the title track in 20 mins because it just felt right. The strangers are random people with good taste in music and some kind of wild side.
What can you say about the concepts behind this record?
I feel that there’s a lot of gathered emotions in a small place in this record. Gathered in a sense of things that I’m going through at this time in my life.
How did you meet your collaborators for this album?
I know Douze (Arnault Esteve) for many years now as he used to work with Kris Menace and came over with him to my place in Paris. Ever since we really connected and did plenty of tracks. He gave me the idea to do my first album “Knight in Shining Armour” where he wrote about 70 percent of the tracks. So, once I started working on new material, which later led to this release on NRW, it was natural to ask Douze if he had some nice tunes to send over. As always, I received plenty of nice tracks that I could work on. I’m very lucky to have him as a producer, he’s a real talent.
I know Stephane Lozac’h through my publishers in Stockholm and Paris. They connected us as I asked them if they had someone skilled in Paris I could work with when I had moved over here. They introduced me to Stephane and it turned out that he was kind of my neighbour, only living 2 blocks from me. We became good friends and it was only after years of friendship that we actively started to work on tracks together. I am very happy we did so because he’s very professional and skilled. He can tune into what I like and create a track after that.
Johan Emmoth and I go way back. I met him when I was still living in Sweden and I wrote tracks with him and John Andersson from Zoo Brazil and Laid. It was during the time when I was working with Håkan Lidbo, John Dahlbäck, Stonebridge etc. Me and Johan stayed in touch and started the project Mauvais Cliché together and our first release as MC was on Strictly Rhythm, a track called “Stop Watching Me”. Johan is a very close friend of mine. He is always ahead of his time. I think he has one foot in the future and I have yet not figured out why 🙂 He is one of a kind and very talented.
I know Laurent (Lifelike) for more than 12 years now. We have released some tracks together where I believe “Sunset” on the label Vulture is the best-known one, along with “Silicon Love” on Computer Science. As many people might agree, Laurent is basically brilliant but then again I’m quite biased here 😉
What is the main message you want people to take from your music?
What I want is that there are some people who can get something out of listening to my music, and preferably something positive of course, but this is not rocket science, so a good mood will do just fine. There are so many people liking different things out there but for the ones who get affected by similar tunes to me, then I’m happy if I can contribute something like a little natural high or a little dreamy break from reality or such.
Finishing off: can you name one of your favourite albums, movies and books?
I really like the Tears For Fears album called The Hurting. Overall it’s an album that has a lot of richness in the sense of content. With that said I’m not a fan of all tunes on the album but most of them are great, like the track “Start Of The Breakdown”. That is just amazing.
Some of my all time favourite tracks are “Heroes“ by Bowie, for me, this song is beyond brilliant. Prince’s “Purple Rain“ is pure bliss. I love some fabulous tunes by Earth, Wind and Fire. My favourite tune by Depeche Mode is a song called “In Your Room” which reminds me of my art school time in Sweden.
The track called “Isolated” by Trevor Something is amazing and the funny part is that only a month ago I discovered he was signed to NRW, just like me, whereas I’ve been listening to his songs since a while now.
“Love On A Real Train” by Tangerine Dream is everything one can ask for in a song if you ask me. If the song makes you feel and it makes you associate to things and your mind starts to spin, then it’s usually a good song. This tune just does it all time and time again.
The band Cigarettes After Sex are really amazing. They can be on repeat on a rainy day, and it rains a lot in Paris lately.
When it comes to movies I really like Rear Window by Hitchcock. The colours have that kind of shine, just like when the sun shines in your eyes and you need to put your sunglasses on. Then the silence when the camera kind of slides over the courtyard and the apartments, slowly like they never do these days. There is something with the light in this movie, really. There’s an awkward silence that can be heard in this movie. I can’t really put my finger on what it is but it intrigues me.
I like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest a lot but at the same time, it kind of depresses me to watch it. I really like Jack Nicholson and his acting style.
The Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind is a beautiful story that got a hold of me.
Regarding books, I’m not really a novel person. I mostly read about psychological theories or human behaviour. Right now I’m reading and listening to podcasts and interviews about the polyvagal theories in neuroscience and psychology and it is really fascinating. There is not only a fight or flight response in our primitive part of our brain once we detect or think we’re in danger, but there’s also a third one that is all about immobilization as a defence mechanism. Anyway, this is what I read about at the moment. 🙂
I also like to read about true stories of people who have gone through a lot, but at the same time, I would not be able to call any of these my favourite books as they tell stories that are very dark. Calling someone’s darkness my favourite just doesn’t feel right.
Our review of ‘Strangers of Film’ (By Andrew Zistler)
Be sure to check out Yota on her social media:
Strangers on Film on Bandcamp (NRW Records)