Lolasister Interview

For those of us who graduated high school in the ‘90s or went off to college around then, the name David Foster Wallace should sound fairly familiar. The man was a brilliant writer, a restless mind, a turbulent spirit and an all around tragic figure – a sort of Kurt Cobain of the literary world. Like Kurt, he loved plaid shirts, pretty much always looked unhealthy and disheveled, had a complicated love life, yet somehow managed to distill high art from the flotsam of pop culture. And like his analog in the music world, he also ended his own life prematurely.

David Foster Wallace’s most known work is a novel called Infinite Jest. The book is as thick as a brick and just as heavy! The standard English edition you usually find on the market is a thousand and seventy nine pages long. The thing is full of footnotes, it’s verbose, and it’s populated with off-the-wall characters and really bizarre scenarios (plot is not really what this book is about).

If you’ve ever indulged in any mind-altering substance, then you will understand when I say: there’s a life and a state of consciousness before and after reading Infinite Jest. Word to the wise: D. F. Wallace’s prose is not for everybody!

The debut EP from Swiss quintet Lolasister is also not for everybody, but I’ll explain that later. What it is though, is a 5-song tribute to Infinite Jest. Would David approve? I don’t know. I know that he loved music and even wrote a bit about hip-hop. I’m pretty sure though that this indie folk sound would be a nice match for his sartorial preferences. I mean the man looked like a grunge hippie.

Now what about the link between his writing and Lolasister’s music?  Well, both of them definitely require a lot of work. You need to live with them, attune your mind to their particular use of language (verbal and in Lolasister’s case sonic, as well), and only then will you get to the hidden universe behind the seemingly impenetrable facade.

Not everyone has time for this! Especially not those accustomed to bite-sized content delivered via mainstream press and social media channels. But for those willing to crack the code, I pretty much guarantee them something of a personal renewal/epiphany. And isn’t that what great work is really about?

We asked Leoni Altherr to choose three songs from the EP and tell us about how they came to be.  See what she had to say below:

A Colored Image Of The Sun is a song written by Luzius Schuler, the “keys” player in the band. I had the title in my mind long before we played it with the band. I think it appeared in a dream or daydream. As it really matched the melody, it was a good image to begin the lyrics with.

I thought of a lazy morning, staying at home and seeing lots of things that throw me back to a certain time and a certain person. A guy I adored for his unique mind, who introduced me to French philosophy and so much music which is still among some of my favorites.

At first, we had some difficulties to make it sound more like the other songs. This one – unlike the others – has a clear, catchy melody and seems very bright to me. We broke with it by adding an interlude with an archaic groove and plenty of space, followed by an orbital melody that still somehow reminds me of the Futurama theme.

Before recording the overdubs I thought: If I had to choose two instrumentalist playing the same instrument, whom I both adore for their musical personality and soul – which instrument would it be? It’s not that I wanted two trumpets; I wanted Nicola Habegger and Sonja Ott to play on our album and I’m very happy that they added their spirit to our music.”

Infinite Jest obviously is an homage to the magnum opus of the same name by David Foster Wallace. I wrote it when I spent a month in my friend’s flat and atelier in Biennne, Switzerland. These were extremely hot days; it was July. I felt miserable, and feeling miserable in July is heavier even than being miserable in the winter.

I had planned to work on my music and write plenty of new songs, but instead I read Infinite Jest and thought about bodies in general. Because my own felt terrible and because in the book there’s Mario who does not feel his body at all, but is such a kind and nice guy. This finally gave me some strength and inspiration to write a song. It’s the only song I wrote during this month.”

Birds On Wires is a very old song compared to the others. It used to sound completely different; a weird song for voice and guitar. However, the band liked it and wanted to play it, and during a rehearsal at Benu’s place (he lives on a farm hidden between hills of the Swiss Jura) we changed it a lot to a tango-esque, rattling, happy and sad song.

For the third verse, we added lots of percussion played on Luzi’s prepared grand piano and tons of toys. We made it sound a bit rougher like this, just like some songs by Tom Waits. The lyrics are about two birds sitting on a wire, getting fat and lazy until the wire bends under their weight and touches the ground: Boom! Also, it’s kind of about the man-made apocalypse and the amusement one would do right before it: a cheerful destruction.

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