There is a lot of degrading and misogynistic sex in the music business right now. That pushes the people in the wrong direction, even making them somehow numb.”
You can’t deny that there is a certain lack of passion and love within many acts of today’s music industry. Images, styles and a certain attitude seem to be more important as the music. A really annoying disease that is spreading through pop – and recently also – indie culture. There is a lack of heart, honesty and focus on the music. Thank god there are bands like newcomers RHYE who seem to work against this unlovely trend.
Only one reason why their recently released debut album Woman brought them so much attention. The ten tender and soulful love songs create a very intimate feeling and the two musicians – Robin Hannibal and singer Mike Milosh – are not interested in stardom. They just want to make the world a little better with their songs. And it looks like success for the two shy musicians. The time is right for a little bit more love. And we had the pleasure to chat with Robin about his view on the industry, an explanation for the buzz, society’s problem with sexuality and why they definitely not own one single SADE record.
Congratulations on the record, Robin. Its absolutely beautiful. And it looks like there is not a single negative feedback on this – everybody seems to love you. How does this feel?
(laughs) Thank you, yeah, this really feels amazing. Especially because it’s the testament of the music. We haven’t thrown ourselves and our personalities in this so it was always basically about the music. It’s the people’s love for the music – and this is probably the greatest compliment that you can get as a musician and composer.
Both of you have been around the music industry for a while now. You are also part of indie-pop duo QUADRON, Mike is a solo artist. Do you have any explanation or theory on the success of album in terms of the buzz?
There are several things probably. There’s an element of personal growth and experience. We both think that we get better and better with every day that goes by. We learn so much about life, music and creating it in different ways. The other element might be that there is room for a lot of different music these days. Maybe there is also a gap of very sincere, honest and emotional music.
Yes, I would totally agree with this. It feels like the audience is longing for such sounds.
Yeah, I think people have missed that. And maybe we were just lucky to hit that nerve or come in at a time when the people were ready to listen to our music.
I would even go so far to say that RHYE is some sort of counter movement to most of the shallow, cynical pop – and also partly indie scene – at the moment. Would you agree?
Yes, although we didn’t really planned to make some sort of statement with this album about the music industry and everything. But we definitely weren’t influenced by what was going on. We created what we like, we didn’t care about the opinion of anyone. And people will and can always connect to these true emotions, I think. But you are right on the ‘shallow and cynical’ part. There is, in my assumption, definitely a lot of music today – and I don’t know each and every act – that is made for the wrong reason. Music that is made too quickly, that does not go into depth with the topic, theme or the actual music. So, in that case you say that we are the opposite to this ’cause we’ve made this ten songs without any pressure over the past three years.
RHYE: “None of us has ever been interested in becoming famous”
Speaking of counter reactions – was the whole ‘identity-hiding’-thing at the beginning an alternate movement to all these transparency tendencies and the information hunger of the industry?
We definitely thought about it as we saw it evolving around us and how it changed so much. Like you said – we’ve been in this industry for quite a while, making music for ten to fifteen years. So when we both started it was a very different way of how artists were presented to the world, same goes for the music. We come from a time where it was about wanting to create music and being judged on the music. That definitely changed while we’ve been in the industry. None of us has ever been interested in becoming famous – but a lot of people around us were.
So, there was a strategy.
Partly. From very early on we agreed that it wasn’t about how we look, what we were wearing, our dance moves or saying something controversal. (laughs) We just wanted the focus to be on the music not on our faces. We didn’t want the songs to be brand on us. But you could always find out who we were from very early on, like on iTunes, or whenever we uploaded some music. It was never really hard to find out who’s behind it. It’s just our faces we keep anonymous. And we never really said ‘no’ to press or interviews – we just don’t want to mix our personalities with the music. It’s also a reason why we chose universal themes like love – or our love for women especially. And not giving it a face makes it much more accessible for people. They can create their own fantasies and dreams about it. And like we both already mentioned earlier – that’s different with most of the industry where it is about exposing every little detail.
Your just mentioned the universal lyrical approach. The songs have very intimate topics, featuring a lot of emotional weight. How do you manage to transfer this intimacy into the studio? Was it easy to open up yourself to Mike?
I think it was. We’re not very extroverted people in general. We are very humble and respectful to each other and everyone. When we met we immediately connected – there was a very open level of communication. We were interested in each others lives and shared them with the other one which does not happen very often. We became close friends and it wouldn’t be almost weird if the music was not about that. And we were also making the music in my appartment in my extra bedroom. Mike knew my girlfriend, I knews his – a very social approach.
Were there specific influences on the whole RHYE sound?
It was more of a general discussion before we started. I’ll give you a couple of examples. With the song Hunger we wanted to create our take on a midtempo disco track. A bit like mixing DAVID BOWIE and HOT CHIP together and making it sound like us, like it’s happening now. A bit early 80s new wave is in it as well. And with Woman, the titletrack, we talked about creating some sort of modern day Ave Maria. 3 Days is in many ways our love for techno music. It’s a repetitive loop and mixed it with more classical arrangements. So, people often don’t notice the loop as we ‘hide’ it behind a traditional song. We always had these discussions at the beginning where we wanna go – but end up in a different place. We also didn’t want to take it that seriously.
RHYE: ” We never owned a SADE record”
How sick is Mike yet about the whole SADE comparisons?
(laughs) Haha, well, we are both a litle sick of it. Non of us is really connected to her in a musical way. We never owned a SADE record. But obviously it’s a huge compliment ’cause she’s a really talented artist, singer and composer. Not to mention all the success she had. But still it is quite funny because it’s hard for us to see as we never used her as inspiration. We never even discussed her when we made the record.
But you do understand the reason why people compare her to Mike.
Yes, I can see that. SADE’s music is quite emotional and honest and she sings in a very soft and tender way – so does Mike. And she also takes a very gentle ballad and puts it on a different platform, something with a bit more rhythm and groove. I can see that all, but I think she’s not the only one who has ever done that. (laughs)
I like the way how you give sensuality and romantic eroticism a big space in your music. Do you think there is a lack of that topic in modern day music? This might also be a reason for the success.
Yes, I totally agree. There is a lot of degrading and misogynistic sex in the music business right now. And I don’t think there is a lot of sexuality – and this is always stronger than just sex, we both agree on that. I think the strongest weapon any person can have is their imagination and be able to fantasize.
Kind of interesting since we live in a sexualized society
I agree. Showing everything so explicitly and showing more and more of everything is really sad because it takes the focus away from what it really should be about. Especially when you write about love and intimacy. It shouldn’t be for shock value. That pushes the people in the wrong direction, even making them somehow numb.
What does the future hold up for RHYE?
Yeah, basically just more of everything. More shows, more music, more videos. All of this.
We are about hope and passion. Your music clearly is quite passionate, we already got that. What’s it in terms of hope?
I think hope is a huge motivation to everything we do as artists. And every time you step outside to to something creative – whether it is performing live or writing a song – you gonna hope you do it as great as possible. It’s a really a big part when it comes to making music and quite inspiring as well.