Five Questions in 5 Minutes. I interview Alicia Edelweiss, Accordion songstress from Vienna on what influences her and reveals that toilet paper, not traditionally underwear, is thrown at a rock star such as herself…
Alice, Alice, who the f*ck is Alice?! Hi! I’m Alice. Some dudes call me Edelweiss, cause it was my birth name (but too embarrassing in Austria to stick with such a name!) I do all kinds of stuff, mostly music and most of the time singing to my accordion. When I’m in the mood for it I mix performative aspects into my shows. I’m also part of some circus projects in Vienna where I hula hoop and do clowning or sing “anti-operas”. I also love making silly videos and drawing illustrations. I used to play loads of street music, especially while travelling, but during the last year I got really tired of it and want to focus more on doing shows now. One day I told myself that I don’t wanna be broke all the time and that it’s not a bad thing to have money and spend it on cool stuff like white clown make-up or new instruments, so I decided to become more “professional” (I know it’s a horrible word). It’s getting better and better, still getting used to writing so many e-mails, and maybe I’ll have to get a laptop of my own at some point! I used to play with a band called Old Trees, we toured a lot, but now I play solo most of the time! But I’d like to play more with other people again, so this November before the UK tour I’m going on tour as the accordion player of my friend’s project “Voodoo Jürgens” which will be loads of fun!
2. The first thing that struck me about you was your intricate theatrical videos. Do you have a background of performing arts and how do you transpose this to your live performance? Cool, I feel flattered that people might think I’ve got some kind of education in the performing arts! I wanted to get into drama school when I was eighteen, but none of the schools I applied for took me. That’s when I thought, “Fuck schools.” So I went travelling and became a hobo street musician playing guitar. At some point when I started writing songs, I began doing small concerts in Portugal. That was cool, but after some time I got really bored with myself and really couldn’t understand why people liked what I did – just playing songs. So I started dreaming of combining the music with theatrical elements. I started to experiment around when I returned to Vienna and did some quite intense and funny small concerts, where I staged giving birth or did shamanic exhortations – trying to do it in-between the songs and giving the whole thing a red line. Then the last year I would smash my head with a bag of coins while everyone would shout “Please Kill Me!” or I’d ask people from the audience to throw toilet paper at me at a special moment in the song. It’s fun, but also a bit tiring sometimes, carrying around props and always having to think of what needs to be done and what I forgot to prepare and so on. At the moment I really enjoy just playing song after song again hahaha. Oh – and costumes!! I like wearing glittery stuff and cloaks and hats with feathers and painting my face! I think just that does already a lot! And signs, just holding up signs with silly pictures and words on them while you sing, that’s fun too.
3. Who do you see as an inspiration as a songwriter and a performer and why? I think my first inspiration for songwriting was the anti-folk music from New York – The Moldy Peaches, Adam Green’s early stuff and Jeffrey Lewis were always my favourites. I finally had found this ironic imperfect folk that I’d been craving for. Also when I saw some videos of The Moldy Peaches performing in their bunny suits and cloaks and hats I really wanted to do the same! Then the second big wave of inspiration came when I discovered Freak Folk – like CocoRosie, Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart – they somehow made me realise that there are so many possibilities to use your voice and also how to “design” the music. There are no rules. That was incredibly liberating. Then there are people like Jeff Buckley, Daniel Johnston or Soap&Skin who I admire a lot for their songwriting, but especially for bringing so much depth and emotion into their music and performances.
Copyright Florian Razocha
4. What do you love most about touring? I like getting really nice food! (doesn’t happen always of course, but when it does, it’s a great feeling!) And of course I love getting new fresh reactions from people who haven’t heard my songs yet, that’s why I go on tour! Sometimes it can feel like you are playing a real old song for the first time if it’s heard by fresh ears!
5. Finally, anything you would like to add about your UK tour? Well, I am just really really excited about it. My mum is from England and it feels a bit like finally presenting my work to my own folk (even if I never lived in UK) – people in Austria or Germany often don’t fully understand the lyrics and sometimes it’s a bit frustrating, because that’s why we write songs, right? To tell stories and be understood. Sure, the emotional part can touch without words, but the lyrics are a very essential part. So that’s why I am coming to UK. I am really curious about how my music will be received and how it will feel playing up there!
Alicia will be making her debut at the country’s longest running Socialist club, The Red and Green Club, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield including Gerrard Bell-Fife https://gerrardbell-fife.bandcamp.com/ and Me Rex https://merex.bandcamp.com/releases
Doors 7.30pm and donation entry. Wednesday 7th December.
Main Image Copyright Franzi Kreis.
© Mariana Vasconcelos