June 17,2021

Episode 9

From vibrant avant-folk music out of Cyprus to an immersive dub blast from Brasil

Picture by Marta Witkowska
Picture by Marta Witkowska

In Episode 9 of TSIR – an adventurous and inspiring global journey for music lovers, we celebrate vibrant avant-folk music from Cyprus and discover hypnotic takamba music from Northern Mali. We also enjoy experimental shamanic ritual doom metal from Indonesia, go wild with an energetic surf rock – psychedelic belly dance music by a Persian-French multi-instrumentalist and get blown away by a powerful dub odyssey from Brasil.

Featured Artist: Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan

Charlie Romijn aka Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan from Bristol, England is the featured artist of this months episode. She has just released her debut solo album "EDEIDA", which offers a wonderful collection of songs that share the interplay between light and darkness or fragility and violence as central themes.

She contacted me a while ago and introduced me to her album, and I loved it so much that I invited her to become this month´s featured artist.

Can you tell us a bit about your musical background – I understand you are one part of the band Thought Forms, how, where, and when did you start with music, and how did you develop your artistic voice?

I started having classical guitar lessons at primary school, when I was about 8 years old, as my dad had just bought a guitar himself and was learning to play. I did that for a little while before giving up, until I discovered bands like Nirvana aged 12 and got my first electric guitar.

 I started my first band when I was 14 with some schoolfriends. We were called ‘Poor Eric’ and we played a lot of Hole covers as well as writing some pretty fast, raucous rock songs with a lot of sass and screaming. I started getting into “weirder” stuff though and the band imploded due to musical differences. A year later, when I was 17, Thought Forms started!

I’d heard through a mutual friend that Deej (Thought Forms other guitarist) was into really cool music and made experimental films, so jumped at the chance to have a jam with him. We connected instantly and spent the rest of that summer (2004) making music together, we started gigging pretty much straight away and we’ve been together ever since.

That was really where I started to fully develop my artistic voice, I think - the total freedom of playing with somebody who you’re completely in sync with... You start to feel like you’re levitating and what comes out is real, you’re not overthinking it or worrying about what anyone else is thinking. Doing, is the only way forward. It was very pure.

Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan - EDEIDA

As Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan´s „EDEIDA“ is your first full solo album - can you share with us how the album came together and how is it to create and decide all things by yourself? And actually, what does the project name mean?

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long, long time… Some of the songs on this album, (such as “I Took”, “Passager” and “Old God’s Tongue”) I started playing live way back in 2009! Others, I’ve collected along the way… I had always put off making an album because I really felt that these songs I was writing needed to be recorded properly for me to do them justice and that just wasn’t possible for many years. 

The reason it came together at this point time is really because my husband Jim owns a recording studio here in Bristol (J & J Studio) and when we went into lockdown, the studio was empty and I had absolutely no reason not to get in there and make this long fragmented dream into a cohesive reality at last. 

I don’t know why some songs over the years become Thought Forms songs and some are Silver Stairs songs, but there’s a very clear distinction in my head when the songs come to me. 

The name Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan is the title of a poem by Richard Brautigan (one of my favourite writers) and my grandmothers were named Marion Ede and Marian Ida respectively - I liked the combination of their middle names, EDEIDA… it feels magical and protective and the album’s title song is about them. 

Studio shot from EDEIDA sessions - photo by Jim Barr

I have chosen the song „Pylon“ for this episode. Can you tell us what the song is about and how it came together?

Pylon is one of the most recent songs I wrote for the album - I performed it live for the first time at The Old England here in Bristol and afterwards, a friend came up and told me it was “wonderfully bitter”. I suppose that’s true. It’s a song about putting somebody into a truly terrible, life-changing situation and then just abandoning them, leaving them for dead in a spiral of god fearing irrational paranoia. I sing, play guitar and drums on this track, Jim is on bass but it really came together when I asked my friend Suvi to contribute - she added the awesome lap-steel slide guitar stuff you can hear and I think it totally pulled everything together. The final touch was inviting my Thought Forms bandmate Deej to add some of his trademark screams and sauce in the end section.  

Live shot from 2017 - photo by Daryl Feehely

On quite a few songs, your way of singing and your voice reminded me of great female artists such as Jarboe. What were your musical influences on this album? 

That’s a tricky question because the songs were written over such a massive timeframe! But during the recording process, the one artist who stuck in my mind as a sonic influence was Carla Bozulich; I love her sound and the raw, unselfconscious emotion.

Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan - Golden

We talked about a possible future show in Innsbruck. Can you let us know what we expect from you as a live act? Will it be more like a solo show or a full band approach?

Up until very recently, Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan was a purely solo live effort - me with my guitar and pedal boards, sometimes adding in snatches of violin, bowed biscuit tins, looped percussion… 

I’ve always gotten exceptionally nervous about playing solo gigs; with Thought Forms it’s so easy, we have a weird almost psychic connection and so onstage I always feel totally held and even when chaos threatens to break we seem to pull it together. Doing solo shows seemed to be more stress than it was worth, the weeks leading up to it spent obsessing over perfection (though I know that this perfectionism is unnecessary and counterproductive and that I create my own anxieties).

In February 2020 I had a gig booked playing some of the songs that are on this album, so I invited my husband Jim to play double bass with me and it was a totally different experience - I really enjoyed it.  I am planning to get a full band together to play the songs from EDEIDA, but I really like the fact that I have the option there to break or expand the songs to suit my mood.

Live shot from 2017 - photo by Daryl Feehely

Can you share with us three artists/albums that you listen to or that have inspired you lately?

One of my favourite Bristol artists who I’ve only gotten to know quite recently (and saw live for the first time last week!) is Qariaq. She plays baritone guitar, kalimba and sings. 
This is her EP “Lumber Limbs”

Landslide Purist 
Landslide Purist are another Bristol band - Sean Talbot, Robin Alleander and Sam Wisternoff (Sam used to make music as “SJ Esau” and is a really talented videomaker too). Their album “True Correction For A Bright Future” (released during the March ‘21 lockdown) is beautifully acerbic and acerbically beautiful. 

Penfriend is Laura Kidd, previously making music under the name “She Makes War”. She’s one of my best friends and is without a doubt one of the most inspiring people I know, she’s so incredibly creative and driven and makes me feel like anything is possible. She also makes me laugh a lot. Her first album under the Penfriend moniker just came out and it’s called “Exotic Monsters”. This is my current favourite song from the album.