Leipzig has been having the kind of rollercoaster decade that only economists and social scientists in lab jackets could have predicted. Things don’t really stay the same here, they evolve quickly: favourite hangouts open, close, and respawn; start-ups boom and bust and go digital; friends come for a spell, and then move on, and then you make new friends. Things might not be as cheap as they used to be around these parts, but maybe you’ll stick around anyway – if only to see what it’ll all be like when all this up and up action finally reaches some kind of destination.
If this sounds more intense than the reality of living here, which of course is quite chill and laid-back, just take a trip down your local Straße on Google Streetview and compare where things are now to what they were like before the boom started. The camera shots of my old neighbourhood in Volkmarsdorf are from 2008, back when gentrification was just a glimmer in the eyes of the city fathers.
Don’t count what has changed. Count what has stayed the same.
Demian – Your German has got better.
Jolanda – It has? Well, maybe a little.
Allow me to reintroduce Jolanda Moletta and Demian Endian. They are Italian lovers from the rollercoaster who were brought to Leipzig by the boom; two former residents who also moved to Volkmarsdorf to kick start their career in the arts; two musicians formally known to audiences as the brooding dark-folk She Owl duo.
They now live in Halle, but She Owl spent their own up and up years in a Ludwigstraße apartment just around the corner from the KuApo bar on Eisenbahnstraße – and this is the venue that they will play on Wednesday, 7 November.
I doubt there is a soul on Ludwigstraße today who hasn’t been a patron of Die KulturApotheke, a charmingly intimate venue with hovels and corners, and a late-night book shop, a DIY stage. However, Jolanda and Demian have never been before, let alone played there. In the few years since they left Volkmarsdorf, life has continued to evolve – just as She Owl also has.
Jolanda: We started the year on tour with Owl Eye Ring [She Owl’s other musical project], playing with Gus Ring and Julius [Österberg]. We recorded lots of video material from that tour, and it will take time to release that stuff. We have hours of material but not enough time to edit it! We also played a show in Paris with Cat Power, and that was a secret show.
Demian: It was a surprise for us, as much as it was for everyone.
Jolanda: We didn’t know that she would be playing. She was a last-minute addition to our show. We knew 3 days before the show that she was going to play.
Demian: I didn’t even know if I should call her Cat, or Mrs. Power.
Jolanda: And the venue was this weird club, designed by David Lynch. So imagine the atmosphere, everything super dark…
Demian: …literally three or four floors underground. There was a smell of petroleum in the air. No lights. Everything dark. We were wondering how they even clean that place. You couldn’t see anything. It was like being in Twin Peaks. Especially the third series.
I first came across She Owl back in February, in what was then my first assignment for the Leipzig Glocal. Jolanda and Demian play in another band, Owl Eye Ring, in which they play their She Owl songs with an expanded line-up. I found their discography heavy with haunting and spectral arrangements, primal percussion, and mournful calls two albums and two EPs deep.
Their most recent release, an EP called “Drifters”, was released in October 2016, and expanded the band’s range with fire and intensity. They toured it hard last year and played 33 dates across Czechia, Germany, Italy, and France; and then hit the road again with Owl Eye Ring.
Why are your touring “Drifters” again?
Jolanda: We’re going to release a video from “Drifters”. It will be a surprise, so we can’t say much now but that’s the reason why we want to tour and support this video. We’re really proud of it so you will see it in November.
For one of the tracks, or for all of the tracks?
Jolanda: The video is for the song “Glass”. It’s like a film, more than a normal video. The goal is to have more videos and make a film project inspired by the EP. If our fans like it, we will keep on going with it – so we hope they will like it.
Will it be released before or after the Leipzig show on the 7th November?
Jolanda: We still don’t have a precise release date, but we started a bit late. Not in time for the Leipzig show, I’m afraid.
Has the music developed since last year?
Demian: You’ll definitely see a different concert than last year.
Jolanda: It takes time to develop new songs, especially because there are only two people on stage, and we play everything: samples, loops. I play keyboards and drums, he plays guitar. There are so many things going on. Over the last year, I think we finally mastered all the songs properly. I think that people will see something really worth it this time. We finally have the knowledge that everything works now. We added some new stuff also: more samples, and some bigger sounds to make the atmosphere more powerful. Also we’ll hopefully be playing a couple of new songs that we are working on at the moment.
Does the way you relate to your songs change?
Jolanda: There are songs that when we fell out of love with them, we rearranged completely – and we find ourselves wishing we could go back in time and just re-record everything.
Demian: That’s just life.
We conduct this interview via Skype. Jolanda and Demian are in Halle, of course – but I am in my hometown of Glasgow, in Scotland, while I’m arranging a work visa for the next chapter of my life in China.
It has been 9 weeks since I left Leipzig, on the last warm day at the start of September. Ever since then, I’ve felt phantom growths of homesickness in the pit of my stomach when I think, and at the edge of my throat when I talk, and behind my eyes when I fall asleep.
As I listen to She Owl’s song “Glass” again, I’m taken back to that night in February when I first did. I was typing out my notes under a low light by the coal fire in Pizza Lab on Georg-Schwarz-Straße, a long time after I’d closed the doors for the night. Finding myself reminded of all the beautiful moments that happened during the 12 months I spent in Leipzig, the friends I found there last autumn who led me to stay, beautiful punctuation marks in that cold winter, and the definitive moments that have shaped me and the direction of my life ever since.
“…we find ourselves wishing we could go back in time and just re-record everything”
“That’s just life…”
I pause now, and rewind “Glass” several times to breathe in old memories that taste and smell like gold Marlboros. Flash cards of faces and streets are part submerged in the reverb of this music. I feel so much gratitude swelling through my heart.
I’ll be back one day.
What draws you to certain cities?
Jolanda: We play a lot of small cities and we try to go back to where our fans are. There are also some specific venues that we really love, like the one in Offenbach (Hafen 2), or Polyester Klub in Oldenburg.
Jolanda: Yeah, also Münster (Baracke); we’ve already played most of these places. There is a new venue in Berlin we’re going to play (Bei Ruth, Neukölln), that event is organised by a women collective called Bank On, so that’s going to be really interesting.
What makes you want to return?
Demian: German audiences. They are very silent and they wait for the last notes of the song before they clap, so it’s quite hard to know if they enjoy the concert or not until the very end, but then they come and talk to you! So we made lots of friends and fans and we try our best to go back and see them and play some songs for them, of course.
Jolanda: I say it’s both of those things together. There are people that we already know, who have known us for years, and new people all the time.
Demian: Speaking of that… the internet! The fans who listen to our songs on the internet and never have the chance to see you performing live. We recently found that in Mozambique, there was one guy listening to our song every day. I don’t know how he discovered us or why is he listening every day to our songs.
Jolanda: We have to ask him to write to us.
She Owl / KuApo / Wed, 7 November 2018, 8-10 pm / Facebook event
Cover shot: Jolanda Moletta and Demian Endian, She Owl. (Photo: Giorgio Violino)