EGO / AHIMSA
Fun fact: This song is the first in which I knowingly used wrong grammar in the lyrics and felt hilariously funny allowing myself to do so. My lyrics develop in very different ways. Sometimes (many times actually) I start by singing some spontaneous gibberish on top of an early instrumental to feel out a potential structure. Usually melodies come rather quickly and a bunch of words stick in my mind and inspire the further lyrics. It feels a little bit like pouring a mixed box of legos on the floor and then picking out what I need. Also, I was a mad sucker for legos as a child so this workflow comes rather naturally to me.
In the past I tended to take my own music too seriously. I was oftentimes unsatisfied with production and songwriting and my whole workflow suffered from that. Writing and producing Ego/Ahimsa, while a pretty serious song about battling your ego in order to become a nicer person – completely resolved that issue and reminded me that I am really allowed to do what-ever-the-frack-I-want with my music however-the-frick-I-like. So relieving…
The result is an absolute anti-hit of a way too long song (in my mind at least). Its arrangement is bulky, the instrumentation hypercomplex and still it’s so much fun to listen to. And it was mad fun making it. And that’s what it’s all about in the end, right?
SHAPING MY SHADOWS
Do you people know the Instagram drum legend @brodysimpsondrums? No? Well, then you should definitely check him out asap! He is an amazingly creative drummer and producer, specialised in the making of insanely tasteful grooves. I met him by way of a beautiful coincidence in Australia when I visited the band Karnivool, shortly after working with them in 2014. Brody and I clicked immediately on a personal level and stayed close friends ever since. He also played drums on Levitation on my first album Everything All The Time Forever.
Some time in late June 2021 he did it again and posted two grooves I just could not ignore, knowing most of those never make their way into actual music and just stay on Instagram forever. So I texted him right away and claimed those grooves. Soon after, a first and very promising sketch of Shaping My Shadows assumed form in Ableton Live.
Reviewing this whole process makes me feel very grateful that I didn’t meet my original album production deadline in June 2021. Because if I would have, this wonderful song might not exist today.
The whole concept of SYNTAX is originally an experiment in collaboration. My first album was more or less a solo endeavour with a bunch of guest appearances here and there. For album two, I really wanted to know: how would my music sound if I didn’t make it all alone but instead opened up the process and generously shared the creative space with other people?
Gleb Lasarew is a Nuremberg based electronic artist and procuder that I’ve known for a while know. He interned at my recording studio Ghost City Recordings a couple of years ago and we stayed friends ever since. He makes amazing ambient sounds and I wanted to invite him and his modular rack over for a long time anyways.
So we made a date but both didn’t feel very well mentally when the time came. We secretly both wanted to cancel, based upon a mutually felt short-term-anxiety-I’d-rather-stay-at-home feeling. But luckily we pulled through and summoned Identified into this world. A song I’d really much rather have on the album than not in this world at all.
“It’s no surprise though that the whole vibe of the song reflects the situation we were both in, although unknown to each other. When we found out later that we felt the same – of course – we had a big laugh about it and now we’re just happy that everything happened the way it happened.”
The idea for this song is really, really old. The earliest sketch I found is an Ableton Live set from the year 2014. Way before my first album came to be. How exactly did that idea survive all that time? I really don’t know but i’m more than happy that it did and that it became the song it is today!
When I first thought about making a second Like Lovers album I started by scanning for ideas in some old folders. That can be really fun and sometimes I just hit something that has the power to get a creative process moving.
The big “unlock” moment for this song came with the french lyrics in the second verse though. I have a french background and been wanting to do this forever so I was really happy to get Hélène Ruzic and Benjamin Racine from the Nancy band -ii- on board for this track. Hélène sung the lyrics and Benjamin did some additional producing on the track and it turned out gorgeous I think.
If you have a heart for dark music, are a fan of Julie Christmas, Battle Of Mice, Cult Of Luna etc. you should definitely listen to My Flesh of -ii-. Best you listen to the whole Extinction album – it’s quite a trip!
DELTA / SAMADHI
Delta / Samadhi is actually the only song on the album that has just me playing and I really love the fact that it is like so and SYNTAX actually became this great, collaborative effort that I imagined it to be from the start.
I remember jangling around on the piano “for relaxation” one evening during a month-long album production with a local band. Somehow, this weird rhythm came to me and at first it really took me some time to fully understand it myself. Some days later – when I had a window to figure the song out a bit better – its final form came into existence extremely quickly. I think I didn’t invest more than 5 hours total in this song.
The lyrics came surprisingly easy, too. The words intuitively felt “right” so I kept going although I didn’t really understand what they meant to me until much later. Then I realized that Delta / Samadhi is a very important lyric for the album. It has lots of layers, but one that resonates deeply with me is a feeling that meaning and language can sometimes become disconnected from each other.
For example, when we as humans sometimes don’t mean what we say and beyond that, that we sometimes don’t understand how we don’t really know what we mean but instead just think that we know that we mean what we mean but accidentally communicate completely different things.
I know that’s a complicated sentence. But funnily enough, it illustrates my point perfectly.
In the beginning there was a title. And the title was “Codeswitch”. With the core theme of the album being language, communication and “the how” of those, my friend Hannes Hümmer (alias tenderpeaks) and I set out to make a song about code switching. For those who’ve never heard the term – “Codeswitching” describes (among other things) the changing of language parameters (words, idioms, tone, slang etc.) when communicating with different peers. Simply put: Whenever we use different different language with different people – we “switch code”.
The idea was to find a musical motive, keep that 100% the same and just have the sounds “codeswitch” through different vibes. In a way we kept to that original idea sonically, but the lyrics just didn’t want to move into that direction with us. So in the end the title changed and the song is now about the never ending cycle of your personality dying (just a little) and rebirthing via the realization of your own wants and desires.
The song kind of died and was reborn as well.
Incidentally, Hannes is one of my most long term collaborators on this album. He participated in the very first electronic stage setup of Like Lovers in the year 2014 and is one of the most creative musicians I know. You should certainly be on the lookout for future tenderpeaks releases and in the meantime please do check out his other project Skull Sized Kingdoms.
I know I speak a lot about collaboration in this diary but hey, that’s what the album is about. This song is actually the first ever real Like Lovers collab song intended for release. In that regard, the core idea of SYNTAX is way older than the title and the concrete project.
This song was originally only that weird noise sample at the beginning. I sent it to one of my closest friends, Paul Seidel and said: “This is my idea” (hahah not really but yeah kind of) – “can you make a song of this?”. Soon enough, he sent back a rough idea and arrangement for “Gravitation”.
After a lot of sending back and forth and a myriad little studio sessions, what grew of this was the idea to make two sibling songs. One for Like Lovers and another one for Paul’s solo project FERN. As we are both involved in each others music on stage it just made sense to us to also write music together whenever we can.
On that note – an excruciatingly amazing FERN album is on its way too. As I am typing this, the master of that record (which I produced) is just over a week old. But it’ll be some more time until it’s released. However, keep your eyes open for that Gravitation sibling with my voice and bass on it!
Yet another “rediscovered” song. This time from the depths of my phone memos. The main theme was just a procrastination piano thing I did when I prepared for a run of “small-setup-living-room-shows” I did ages ago.
One of the rare, real “love songs” in the Like Lovers cosmos. Fittingly outfitted with Elena Steri’s charming voice. It’s about not really knowing what a relationship is about and also about finding out what it is about and after that – dancing with joy about finding out what you found out.
Elena and I met while producing her EP Chaotic Energy which is an absolute musical gem you totally should check out. Yeah I know, lots of recommendations in this diary, haha. But seriously, please do check it out and also stay tuned for her debut album later this year.
Fun fact: While all the other songs feature real, performed and recorded drums, these here are typed into Ableton Live’s piano roll. This song is produced 95 percent “in the box” – there’s no real instruments apart from Elena’s and my voice and a bit of guitar, lazily recorded into a DI Box. As a music producer with more than a decade of experience I find that both astonishing and alarming.
THE ULTIMATE OPINION
This song was once called Raised To Incompletion, already hinting at what The Ultimate Opinion actually stands for in the context of this song. Which is what our primary caregivers decide to tell us in that time of our lives when we’re not yet ready to interpret what’s happening around us independently.
If we’re not lucky enough to have access to good mental health care we’re all prone to become “robots on a mission”, mindlessly repeating what we have learned as baby humans. I mean heck, we’re already lucky if we have access to the mere idea of this even happening. Because this is the only possible starting point of actually doing something about it. Being aware that it happens – like so many things these days, but let’s not even begin, okay?
This song of course stems from realising and learning this about myself. But I do really hope it can also serve as a reminder of how we are all a part of each other. What we tell people, how we deal with people, how we become who we are and what role we play in how others in turn become who they are are really powerful but often overlooked interconnections between us as individuals.
Be careful, people. Every word counts. Everything affects everything. Be good, be truthful, don’t (knowingly) cause unnecessary pain – not for you, and also not for others. Thank you very much.
SYNTAX / ANANDA
Remembering when we started working on this song in October 2020, I feel that this is really when the first feeling of “oh, this will become the new album now” kicked in. We cultivated this idea from a sketch that Jannis Scheurich (alias twelvegold) – a member of the Like Lovers live band – put together some time ago.
A lot of transformation happened since then and so it’s very fitting that this song is the first to be worked on, but on closing position on the album. Songs that provide titles to albums are always special. In this case, the whole idea behind the “slashed” titles is that we sometimes have to overcome one thing to attain another. The title Syntax / Ananda for example suggests that we firstly need to get our talking straight in order to be able to lead a life in bliss.
Big words of course here – don’t take it for absolute – but I think you get the gist. You’ll have to give something to get something. It’s always an exchange. Right?
Personally, I am extremely sensible to words and therefore have a rather extreme need for what I would describe as “linguistic empathy” (can we make that a thing?). On a personal level, i would be tempted to call the whole album “a cry for more linguistic empathy” because oh, am I thinking a lot about this. And maybe SYNTAX can take you there for a bit, too!
I should also mention that you definitely should check out Jannis solo project twelvegold as well. Last recommendation for now. That’s it. But that’s the deal. Lots of collabs – lots of recommendations to make. And I promise: if you’re only the littlest bit into Like Lovers you will not regret listening to the collaborators!
Releasing SYNTAX and then taking it down ten days later to me feels like a long, natural “breath” of music. It illustrates how nothing is forever and really everything moves in cycles. After experiencing the thing itself, now is the chance for us to experience the afterthought of it, to see what changed in ourselves after something that we cherished is gone.
Just like it’s super fun writing and producing music – the day surely comes where I have to let go of the process, accept it, and send the music out there for everybody to listen. One thing ends and another thing begins – and those events are actually causally connected. One thing actually has to end for another to even get the chance to begin.
Luckily, this ending is not forever as well. Just like in the creation of SYNTAX I’ll use this space to share with my collaborators, showing you their upcoming releases and further broadening the scope of the whole project. Of course, with time my songs and a lot more other things will gradually find their way back to you.
If you want to stay connected, follow me on Instagram or Facebook. Say hi. Talk to me! I’m always glad to be in touch. Also I should probably mention that you can preorder SYNTAX on vinyl anytime. We’ll ship it as soon as the current situation allows!
Thanks for your time and for your reading this. It’s very much appreciated!
Hopefully we’ll meet on a concert in the not too distant future.
The Like Lovers album Syntax is available for ten days from Feb 25 to March 6 via Listenrecords and will be released physically and permanently later this year.