Memory Lanes #6 – Synthgirl I-rena
Week two of Memory Lanes is coming to a close, and we’re finishing this week off with flying colors with the insightful words of Synthgirl I-rena from Lithuania. Pushing the boundaries of synth music by combining operatic art-pop and eighties retrofuturism 8 Vol.1 marked a
Week two of Memory Lanes is coming to a close, and we’re finishing this week off with flying colors with the insightful words of Synthgirl I-rena from Lithuania. Pushing the boundaries of synth music by combining operatic art-pop and eighties retrofuturism 8 Vol.1 marked a brilliant debut for an artist destined to confound and amaze your senses. With the inspiring words of our last interview still fresh in our minds, we were thrilled to find ourselves once again swept up by her thought-provoking takes on art, technology and human nature.
Hello Irena! What’ve you got to recommend to us today?
I’m going to go with a book that I started reading again this week. It was written a hundred years ago by a Russian writer called Yevgeny Zamyatin and it’s called We. It’s such a great book! He was the first to write on dystopian technocracies where the government takes charge of all aspects of the individual’s life. He talks about the conflicts that exist in the search for equality, the search for the common good, and the individual’s search for love. It’s a really cool read. In the book, everyone wears a uniform and people are given identification numbers instead of names. Buildings are made of glass so that the state can always watch you. There are rules for when people can kiss, when they can make love… It’s a really interesting read. You need to be emotionally strong to read it, especially if you’re feeling down during these times. It’s not the best book to be reading right now [Laughs]. If anything, it will make you feel the pressure of the system.
There’s something interesting in the fact that we find ourselves drawn to dystopian and apocalyptic fiction whenever we are faced with a similar crisis.
[Laugh] I think that our lives are so fast-paced and we’re so overstimulated that our restless minds search for something to hold on to whenever we find ourselves sitting back. Some of us look for meaning through meditation, some fantasize and speculate about the future, others are after emotional stimulation… Our current situation is definitely not normal, and we’re all looking for ways to deal with it.
I think that everyone in the artistic field is feeling a sense of duality in the world. There’s always a notion of choice involved in an artist’s work. There’s a path to choose. Following your heart and staying true to yourself might cost you money or the attention people are giving you. It can come at the cost of status. You can also choose to do something more popular, something widely recognized by society as a whole, something that can earn you more money at the cost of your ‘true self’. The system always catches up to us and confronts us with these choices, this inner-conflict. Should you work a lot and earn more at the expense of other aspects in your life? Or should you focus more on the people around you at the cost of a better paid position? You’re always confronted with these life choices.
Have you been working on new music since the lockdown?
Of course, there are also family affairs to take care of since kindergartens have closed down, but it’s definitely turning out to be an opportunity to create and push myself artistically. We all have time to do the things we’ve been meaning to do but simply didn’t have the time for. Personally, writing music has always been a slow process. I have a job, I have a family and a home, so these things take priority over the music.
The lockdown happened to suddenly and took some by surprise. We were practically forced to “slow down” overnight. It’s put a lot of us in a position where we’re able to reflect on things. Were you surprised by the way you reacted to this sudden shift?
We all sense that it’s not natural. Our minds weren’t prepared for this, and it’s an issue. If you’re not feeling good in the present moment, if you’re always dependent on stimulus and you’re feeling anxiety from this inactivity, you might need to do some searching and ask yourself why that’s the case, why you’re hiding behind this bloated routine. During the first week, I really felt the need to go somewhere, to do something, to meet people… After a while, I started questioning why that was the case. I eventually figured that it’s simply what I was used to. The system trains us to adopt these daily habits, even though we don’t actually need them. Making one post or ten posts on Facebook makes no difference. So just meditate and relax [Laugh]. I’m okay with my situation … for now,! [Laugh] I don’t know how it’ll affect our future though.
How did you first develop this in interest in Sci-Fi ? Your first album also carries a dystopian vibe.
I’ve had this fascination ever since I was a child. It came from the old Sci-Fi movies like Terminator and Blade Runner. I was really interested in seeing how people imagined the future. We’re speculating about things that have yet to come and extrapolating from science to visualize a possible future. At school, I was really into physics, astronomy and concrete sciences. After that, I got a Masters Degree in political science, which got me even more involved with these subjects. Political Science gets you thinking about the political philosophies of the past and the people who wrote about utopias and dystopias. It was very interesting and it allowed me to dig deeper into these topics. All of the political philosophers agree that some people can really see the future, see the whole system and determine where we’re heading. There have been so many amazing books on the subject, like Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, to name just a few examples.
Is there a reason why you’re more drawn towards dystopian fiction as opposed to more idealistic science fiction?
There’ve been a lot of people that have written about utopias and perfect worlds. I think the first person to do it was Thomas More with Utopia (published in 1516). He talked about a perfect world where everyone is sharing and helping one another, a world without money and whatnot. However, if you take a look at History, you see that we’re always hungry for power. There’s always a part of society that is trying to gain more power, which leads us to war. We have this idea of human progress where we keep moving forward through advancements in technology and knowledge. We’re always striving to go further, which is a beautiful idea, but this progress always comes with a risk. Things can go south. Things can develop so quickly that we may not be able to keep up with it.
Through my music and the visuals, I try to show that the human being is very intelligent and very adaptable. We’re capable of adapting to the conditions that are presented to us. Of course, there are exceptions to this: you could be freezing or starving… However, there is a huge spectrum of conditions in which we’re able to live in. I don’t know what the future has in store for us, but we’ll learn to live with whatever is waiting for us on the other side.
So it’s less about the oppressive context than it is about how we as humans are able to adapt and overcome.
How are your upcoming projects coming along? you started working on 8 Vol.2?
Actually few things have come up in my life that have changed my mindset. I want to release music under my own name now, Irena Upė. I’m not sure about the album name yet, but there will surely be a second album.
Does this mean you want to change things up stylistically as well? Does that mean you’re leaving the Synth element behind?
No. It will be a little bit different, though. It’ll probably be more experimental, vocal-wise. Maybe it’ll be more ambient or New-Age. It won’t be as rock-driven, but it will be the same. It will still be me [Laugh].
When can we expect to hear this new release?
I’m hoping everything will be ready by June. I want to have the full package ready. I want to have the Vinyls and CDs ready by the time the music hits Youtube and Spotify. That would be ideal. I’m learning to enjoy the process a bit more and I’m being helped out by a few people on this album. It’s great to be able to discuss the whole process and watch it grow. I’m hoping the album art will be just as great as the last one [Laugh]. I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans but I try not to push myself with the deadlines. With the last record, it almost felt like I had a label watching over my shoulder, telling me what to do. I was pushing myself a lot. This time, I’m simply going with the flow.
Be sure to catch up with Synthgirl I-rena on social media: