Linea Aspera is a darkwave/minimal wave band formed in London, the UK in 2011. A musical duo, they are fronted by vocalist Alison Lewis and Ryan Ambridge on synthesizers. Linea Aspera are influenced by electronic bands from the 1980s, the project name is derived from the physiological name ‘linea aspera’, which refers to the muscle attachment on the back of the human femur. We talked with Alison about her creative universe, Eastern Europe, and many other things in a delightful interview!
Hi! How do you think that you have grown as a band since forming? What has remained the same?
I’ve personally learned a lot more about producing music. When we first started I knew literally nothing – all I could do was sing. But now I produce and manage my own project and run a record label, so I’ve developed my own personal processes and feel way more confident in how I do things.
Our roles in this particular project have stayed the same though. Ryan works on the instrumentals and I work on the vocals.
How much of your work is strategically calculated, and how much of it is spontaneous?
Nothing is strategic for me. I don’t do strategy and find that a little disingenuous. My music is straight from the heart. The only thing I plan is when I can work on music, and that’s because I have a hectic life and don’t have much free time! But what comes out is purely spontaneous and related to whatever I’m going through at the time.
For newcomers to your music, if you had to pick one track that shows people who you are as a band, which one would it be?
I think if it was possible to show who we were in a single song we’d be a rather boring band, so I’ll just pick a favorite right now which is Equilibrium.
Do you have any habits when writing a song?
I always listen back to the first drafts while walking my dog, then I listen once more before I go to sleep. If there are any parts I’m unsure about the answers usually come to me the next day. We process a lot while we sleep.
What was the craziest idea you had — whether feasible or not — that you really wanted to go forward with?
When I was 7 years old I wanted to build a submarine, like for real I thought I could actually build one – it was going to be made of fiberglass and I was going to fit it with a regular boat engine and swim it around our pool. Needless to say, it was not feasible and did not happen.
Right now I’ve got a bunch of music video ideas that involve conveying insane psychedelic experiences and transformations. I want to film one of them in Scotland, and another one on a Greek island. I’m not sure I’ll manage to make those happen either, but I’ll certainly try!
When you go on tour, what normally arouses your curiosity the most about the place you visit?
I love supermarkets. Maybe it’s the archaeologist in me, but I really feel like it’s from the seemingly mundane daily life details that you really learn who people are.
Is there a particular place you feel bound to in any way? Where did you have the most unusual happenings?
I feel very bound to my parents’ place in Queensland. I didn’t grow up there, in fact, I only first visited a few years ago when they moved there. But the land has me totally captivated and inspired. I’ve had unusual things happen to me all over the world though so it’s hard to choose a place… honestly, the weirdest shit that’s ever happened to me was all in Berlin, where I’ve lived for the last decade. It’s another place I feel bound to, mainly because of the community of creative people I’ve met here.
The Westerners have somehow a bad impression of Romania and Eastern Europe. What do you expect to find here?
I love Eastern Europe! And I have a very good friend from Bucharest – one of the smartest people I know, who always inspires me a lot when our paths cross every few years. I visited in 2014 with my other project Keluar and had such a lovely time. I remember enjoying some amazing food and meeting very interesting people. I’d love a repeat of that but with warmer weather!
Linea Aspera will play live, Tuesday, May 31, on Control Club from Bucharest. Details about the event, here.
Do you happen to know of any Romanian musical projects?
Not that I’m aware of, but I’m always open to recommendations.
If it wasn’t for Linea Aspera to create and release such amazing songs, what other bands would be able to do it instead of you?
Every artist is irreplaceable in their own way (or should be, if they’re doing their job right!) (laughs). No one could do what we do, just as we couldn’t do what other artists do.
What song “costs” you emotionally so much that it’s difficult to perform it nowadays? Speaking of, which of your songs has the most interesting backstory to it?
‘Solar Flare,’ because it’s about my sister, with whom I have a very complex and deep relationship. There have been times when my family was going through some heavy stuff when I couldn’t get through that song. I just completely fell apart.
The back story is quite literal… basically, we were on a boat moored in a cove on the island of Ithaca, experiencing a completely insane once-in-a-lifetime situation, and I saw something in her that’s so incredibly unique and strong. She’s not an average human and has been through some terrible things, and the song is a testament to her power.
Have you ever thought about what would have happened to your lives if there wasn’t for music? Do you ever wonder about this?
As in we didn’t do music or if music didn’t exist? If music didn’t exist life would just be way less fun. If I hadn’t made music, I guess I’d have just become an archaeologist or anthropologist. I would’ve been cool with that, but this life path has definitely made for a lot of personal growth that I don’t think would have been possible with a more ‘normal’ job.
People tend to listen to music when they do this or the other. What activity fits Linea Aspera’s music?
It suits a lot of things I guess… I usually listen to the demos while I’m just walking around Berlin. It’s good for a long drive as well. And for processing heavy emotional life events, according to some sources.
In a world increasingly affected by selfishness and indifference, is there any more passion in art?
I think we’re overall growing less selfish and indifferent as a species, we’re just more and more aware of what little of it is left in the world because we’re so connected. I think the level of passion in art will never change because it’s an intrinsic human trait. What will change is our appreciation of its value to society – this will increase as we grow more conscious and aware of what life is really all about.
Article cover photo: (c) Clotilde Cadar
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