Post-Rock From La Réunion
From Overseas - what a beautiful name for a music project. Musician Kévin Séry is originally from the French overseas territory La Réunion. With his guitar and his sophisticated loop techniques, he creates a magical sound.
At the moment Kévin commutes back and forth between his home country and Europe. His travels constantly inspire him to new ideas. In 2018, Veer magazine awarded him with the "Best Experimental Act" prize for his debut EP "Volcan".
You have already heard one of Kévin's songs in my music list for April. Now his new album "Home" has been released. In our interview we talked about it among other things.
Anne: Hi Kévin! Thank you very much for taking your time for this interview. How are you today? I hope you are doing well. Corona is unfortunately omnipresent at the moment.
Kévin: Hi Anne! My pleasure, thank you for the interview. Yes, I just came back from doing some confinement groceries after almost two weeks staying in so it was a bit stressful and brought up anxiety. Cleaned everything, took a shower then a recovery nap so I feel better now!
Anne: We're all supposed to be spending a lot of time at home right now. How do you spend it? Do you make a lot of music?
"Ambient music is the best soundtrack for isolation"
Kévin: I am working from home so this situation doesn't really change my routine. I work on music, I listen to music, I cook and I take care of my dog. But it is true that I make more music at the moment, it feels like ambient music is healing right now and is the perfect soundtrack for isolation.
Anne: Congratulations on the new album! It has turned out really great. I like it a lot. You can literally hear the wonderful landscape of La Réunion. Are you satisfied with it?
Kévin: Thank you! I'm glad you like it and that it makes you travel a little, specially in these difficult times! I am really happy with it. I've been working on these songs for a while and playing them live for almost two years. It's a strange, scary but great feeling to have them out in the world now. These songs are important to me so I am really thankful for Past Inside The Present who trusted me and helped me to give this record a proper release with more reach. Really, they are great I can't thank them enough.
Anne: Your new album has been mastered by Stephan Mathieu, who is known for his work with 12k, Shelter Press and Mexican Summer. Did you enjoy working with him? And how did it feel to hear your album for the first time in its current final form after mastering?
"Stephan from Studio Schwebung took my music to another level"
Kévin: Yes! Stephan is great and is actually based in Germany! His studio is called Studio Schwebung. He is actually also someone that I can't thank enough for how this album turned out. Stephan just took the music to another level, made everything shine with more depth and color, I love his work. He really is a master of his art so it has been an honour to be able to work with him as I have been a long time fan of his and of a lot of artists he worked with.
Anne: What inspired you most when you were working on "Home"? I read that the fourth piece "Maloya Tales" is a homage to La Réunion. You even get a little impression of the typical Maloya music of La Réunion. Are there any other tributes of this kind on the record?
"'Home' reflects my travelling experiences"
Kévin: The main inspiration behind "Home" is my travels since I left La Réunion when I was around 20. This album reflects my own experiences travelling and living abroad in France, in the US, in Amsterdam and back in the US now. So it was always some kind of a question for me what home is - and every aspect attached to it such as relationships, family, heart, mind, culture and memories. So this is what my album is about.
But of course La Réunion itself is also a big source of inspiration for me. It's a magical place with a unique mix of culture and a breathtaking nature. Maloya Tales is a great example. It is just in the middle of the record and has a different color and rhythm than the other songs. I used a specific rhythm that is used in our traditional music called Maloya. It's a percussive music which can really bring you to a state of trance. It comes from our ancestors and was a powerful tool of expression during slavery time. This music is really important for our culture today.
"I'll let every listener create their own world with the album"
There is of course other tribute or references to places and people in this record that are meaningful to me personally. But I'll let every listener create their own world and journey with the album. I can say though that there is a hidden track that is only available on the vinyl version which brings the tribute to Réunion Island and home a step further!
Anne: I really love the pictures you can see in the artwork of the record and in the videos that you released together with the album. Where exactly were they taken and who took them?
Volcano artwork shooting
Kévin: Thanks! The artwork of the album is from a picture that my wife took in Réunion Island. It's from the south east side of the island where the active volcano Piton de la fournaise is and where you can see ancient to most recent lava flows running down. The two outdoor videos released at the same time of the album are also from Réunion. I recorded them last October when I was there to play shows and visit my family. The one for the "Awake" was filmed on top of that same volcano that I was telling you about and the one for "Utopia" near the ocean on lava rocks.
Anne: Your debut EP "Volcan" was released in 2018. But I'm pretty sure you have already been making music a long time before that. Have there been any special projects? Have you always been a musician?
Kévin: "Volcan" was my first From Overseas release, and actually my first release ever. Fun fact: The picture for the artwork of that EP was shot exactly at the same spot where that live video "Awake" was recorded. I always played guitar, I was in a band in high school but I never was really serious or had a plan about it until I moved to the US four years ago and started this project.
"I am an aerospace engineer"
Before that I worked for Airbus in Toulouse, I am/was an aerospace engineer. Now I only work on music. I am also involved in the music scene here in Norfolk, Virginia where I live, and I sometimes play and collaborate for shows with friends in their post-rock bands such as Long Division or Bantustans. I also played in a band called Death Valley Rally and now I am a member of another shoegaze band called You're Jovian. Check them out, they are all good!
Anne: Are there any artists that have influenced you in your work or that you are particularly enthusiastic about?
"My first introduction to soundscapes was 'Ágætis byrjun' from Sigur Rós"
Kévin: Oh there are so many and from different genres. That's a tough one. It would take hours to dive in I think. So let's be simple. There is of course all the big ambient gods and a lot of instrumental bands that played a role in my sound. Let's say that my first introduction to soundscapes was Sigur Rós with "Ágætis byrjun" and it blew me away. But at the end of day the band that made me who I am as a person, music lover and artist is Radiohead. I followed them since their first record. I grew up and evolved with them. They opened so many doors and not only in music.
So if I have to choose one band/artist that I am still enthusiastic about, I guess it would be them. I could talk about Sonic Youth, or Talk Talk, or Traditional Réunion Island music like Alain Peters, or Cocteau Twins, or electronic music, or ambient and post-rock too. I told you it can take hours so I'll better stop here (laughs). More recently and since I joined the label Past Inside The Present, I met so many great artists and friends that I am really inspired and enthusiastic about what this community brings to the world.
No live gigs these times
Anne: Oh, I love Sigur Rós and Sonic Youth and... I know what you're talking about. There is so much great music out there. I'm also fascinated about Bandcamp. So much to experience. It's a bit like in the old days with MySpace.
At the moment all concerts worldwide are unfortunately cancelled because of Corona. The virus has got us all under control. Also more and more festivals are being reneged. You surely also had planned a tour with the new record, didn't you? Have you already considered new dates? Are there some concerts planned in Europe in the future? It would really make me happy to listen to your music at a festival next year when the situation has calmed down again.
"People should stay safe inside"
Kévin: I would love that as well, a festival sounds so good right now! Do you remember those (laughs)? But seriously this situation is tough and that virus is serious so people should stay safe and inside. I see too many people here that I feel don't take it seriously and it drives me insane. So yes, I had an album release show planned on April 17th and wanted to tour Virginia and East Coast in spring and summer but with what's happening I just cancelled everything. Hopefully when we can take back our lives I can work again on planning this show and a tour! In the meantime I will probably do a live stream on Facebook or Youtube, the day of the album release show on April 17th and play some songs of the album so stay tuned!
Anne: We can listen to your music online, which is really great. Some people would surely also be happy about the vinyl edition as well. And I totally want to experience the hidden track! Are there any opportunities to buy one in Europe?
Vinyl can be ordered
Kévin: Yes! The vinyl edition is actually available right now on PITP Bandcamp and we can ship worldwide. Shipping costs due to US regulations can be high at the moment and it's sadly out of our control. But copies will be available soon on Juno Records in the UK for UK/Europe/World listeners with better shipping cost! "Home" is already listed on their website so you can subscribe there to get an email when it's available.
Anne: Yes, it's 17 EUR for the record and about 25 for the shipping. But I need to buy it. I'll check out the pre-ordering options at Juno Records. Thanks for the hint! And of course thank you very much for this great interview! All the best for the new album and the future! I'm looking forward to the livestream on the 17th and to more music from you!
Kévin: Thank you very much, I had a great time. It was nice meeting you, stay safe and take care!