The best part about writing about music is the opportunity to connect with musicians to understand more about their process and concepts. Like any interaction, they come with their nuances which ultimately determine how much resonance there will be. Artists or bands that make the interaction pleasant, entertaining and enlightening all at once are bound to be the most memorable. It’s a kind of self-awareness that doesn’t necessarily relate to humour, but rather to a holistically refreshing approach to answering questions which makes sense in the context of that particular artist or band. In the case of Hyroine, it definitely relates to humour, but again, in a way that makes sense for them.
Off the back of a mid-year tour to Berlin, the changing of their name from Heroine to Hyroine, a video for the live performance of their song ‘Clever Girl’ and a performance at Endless Daze Festival last month, we caught up with the Cape Town-based duo in connection with the release of their first official track and video ‘Fly Over Dubai’.
As of the beginning of 2016, the then-four-piece became two: Roxy Caroline and Yelen Wells. The process of writing as a duo was new to them, but began to make sense as they went along: “We figured that was the core of Hyroine’s vibe, just the two of us in this intimate chord, lyric, rhythm and melody-making process.” With the aid of friend Philip Kramer, they recorded their songs live with the intention of leaving a lot up to post-production in order to allow the songs space to grow into a more mature and pop-like form. “We wanted to play and experiment with our music in studio in ways that we couldn’t necessarily do live without buying a lot of gear. This was and remains very new to us, although by now we have some experience with production having worked alongside Alexander Pankiv-Greene [aka Gourmet], Philip Kramer, Josh Berry, Eden Leshem and Joseph Madar – the latter whom we met and played shows with in Berlin.”
Having recorded seven demos, Hyroine are looking to first complete two in order to form a more concrete conclusion about the sound that they wish to achieve. “We want to nurture each of these tracks and let people meet and get to know them as they are completed, after popping them out one by one (yes, like little babies).” Another reason for this process comes from a logistically more self-aware and strategic space: “We realised that it wasn’t important for us to wait until they were all ready to be released together. Instead, we decided that we would let our audience in on our process and thus introduce them as individual stories and artworks along with the videos. This process was prompted by a feeling that yet another EP or album released in South Africa would quite frankly not be listened to or given much thought beyond ‘Oh look, they did a thing.’ That is to say – the idea of singles seems to suit the current milieu.” This realisation and resulting decision marks a great parallel to the changing of their name from Heroine to Hyroine which, while representing a middle-finger to misogyny, also represents a change from being “garagey and careless” to more mature and confident in their artistic decisions.
Despite ‘Fly Over Dubai’ being Hyroine’s first official single, the video for ‘Clever Girl,’ released in September, launched the lo-fi handicam aesthetic which has been echoed in the latest visual offering. “The DOP’s name is Dekel Shula Adin, aka Daklis, and he plays bass guitar for Hush Moss [Berlin-based band that Hyroine befriended]. We wanted his signature handicam aesthetic for our video and he subsequently asked us if he could try to make something using his own footage from travels to Israel (his home country), Iceland and Portugal.” The theme of travel is at the core of the song: “A story about watching friends leave and go overseas; about people who follow the summer season; about lovers that leave with no backwards glance and about feeling guilty about having the privilege to travel. It is about emigration and it is about those left behind; the difficulty and conflict of staying or going.” This ebb-and-flow of contrasting consequences caused by travel is echoed in the video through the contrasting scenes of sunsets and birds in the sky to ice which seems to be melting and beaches strewn with dead fish. “This signifies the temporality of these treasured experiences and a pathos that is innate to the inevitability of leaving the places which were once your destination.”
There is also a commentary on the experience of seasons as people from the Southern Hemisphere who also consciously or subconsciously follow colonial narratives like Christmas, hence the lyric “Christmas in July.” The scene where characters are assembling a puzzle of Princess Diana captures this sentiment, especially once the camera zooms in on the puzzle box to reveal its title: “The Work Continues.” This spills over into the bridge where the lyrics “Sparkle Party / Glitterati / Neo-Nazi / Cocktail Party / Illuminati / Maserati” are whispered as they appear on the screen. “These are mere whispers and buzz-words which beckon the listener to create a story around them. Imagine, if you must, these phrases as a curtain-call of life after the fall of fascism, where there is celebration but also secrecy where old companies and brands continue to operate without moral consequence, where the rich stay rich and the plebeians still puzzle over conspiracies. cc: South Africa.”
The duality of the video is a common theme in Hyroine’s work and acts as a glimpse into their kind of alternate universe, where they construct surreal scenes in very ordinary environments. This also speaks to how the interpretation of conceptually driven music/art often breeds a myriad of different understandings and appreciations or controversies and disdain – all the while the artist’s intention may have been completely different. This is where interacting with artists becomes so valuable: being able to see the spaces between their artistic intentions and what your interpretation may have been.
Then again, Hyroine are also “entirely ok with not being 100% understood.”