Herne and Nemetona spoke with Annicke and Thomas of Shireen about the band’s origins, Annicke’s clothing label ‘Folk Tailor’ and even hair products! This interview first appeared in Wyldspirit Issue 3 (September 2014 edition of the Wyldwood Radio e-zine).
Nemetona: So we’re here today with Thomas and Annicke of Shireen. Hello guys!
Thomas and Annicke: Hello!
Nemetona: How are you doing?
Thomas: Fine, thank you.
Annicke: I’m totally cool!
Nemetona: Good, good. So, we’ve just got a few questions. The first one we’ve definitely got, is we’ve heard your fantastic EP, Unmarked, which you released on the first of July. Are there plans for a debut album?
Thomas: Thank you.
Annicke: Yeah, there are some plans for an album, most of the songs we want to record are already written, but we still need some time to perfect everything and we don’t want to rush it so..
Nemetona: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Annicke: That’s the state of the album right now. We also have a few new songs we wrote and those songs are not finished yet, but we want to use them for the album, so we’re taking our time.
Annicke: Not too long, but not rushing anything.
Nemetona: It’s always good to keep it flowing.
Nemetona: Awesome! So, as well as Shireen, you also have your clothing company, Folktailor. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Annicke: Yeah, sure, I graduated from the Utrecht School of Arts as a fashion designer, and when I was studying in my last year, I started Folktailor, because I really wanted to have a playground kind of thing, where I could focus more on making costumes and not fashion, because it’s a totally different kind of designing and now it’s kind of a cross-over between, so it’s a bit, uhm…
Annicke: Theatrical! I’m sorry!
Nemetona: No, don’t worry.
Annicke: It’s a bit theatrical, and it’s also a bit fashion, so yeah.
Nemetona: That’s really cool.
Annicke: And, yeah I do have some customers, and I also make a lot of costumes for myself for onstage, because for me it’s a big inspira tion thing, so…
Herne: We’ve seen some of the stage costumes, and they’re absolute ly fantastic! Do you have or is there a certain inspiration that goes behind those?
Annicke: Thanks; yeah, for me, I want every outfit, every costume to have a kind of air of umm, Avant Garde, it’s a thing that I really love, but also it needs to be Queen-like, but not in the very modern way, maybe more like uhmm…
Thomas: (In the background) Regal.
Thomas: (Clearer) Regal.
Annicke: Regal, yes! (laughing) But also, I try to use a lot of material like silk and wool, as well as feathers and horse hair, and stuff like this. So for me, the material is really important as well.
Nemetona: It’s gorgeous. We did also see one of the ones that you did for Cesair; we saw Monique modelling that one, the dress for Cesair.
Nemetona: It’s gorgeous!
Annicke: For Cesair, that dress was a totally different intake, becauseit was for Cesair, and you know they have their own epical story to tell, so yeah, that was a really nice thing to do for her.
Herne: So what got you into performing musically?
Annicke: Well, I kind of started singing in a church choir when I was ten years old maybe, something like that. And at first they put me in the sopranos and then they didn’t have any altos, so then they switched me around where it was necessary. Then when I was a little bit older, they started a gospel choir with children from 14 years old, something like that. It was a Capella, it was in the church and not, er…
Annicke: Not amplified, so it’s where I learned to sing really loud!
Annicke: After that, I quit the choir, and I started, when I was in high school, and I started a band with songs, and we’d just kind of wing it a bit and got into a band contest. We started with writing funk and then progressive rock (laughing) so we changed a bit, and after that I quit singing for a long time. I went to the arts academy, and I missed it really badly. So I met Thomas via a friend, and then it just, from then it just kind of started I think; the real thing (laughs) for me. Yeah.
Nemetona: That’s awesome. So have you always had the back ground in singing rather than say, an instrument, for example?
Annicke: Yes, I did play bass guitar when I was in the other bands.
Herne: Good choice!
Annicke: Yep! (laughs) I must say, for me it was really good because I also had some lessons in Spanish guitar, and that was cool as well, but I was more passionate about the bass guitar. But still it didn’t feel free on stage; holding an instrument and singing at the same time was too…for me, I had to focus on too many things at the same time.
Annicke: I couldn’t get my heart in any of those things; so I just kept it with singing.
Nemetona: I know some bands and things, they like to have- well the singer will have a guitar, and without it, without the guitar, they will feel kind of naked, like they don’t feel like they can perform properly, whereas other people, I suppose if you’ve had more of a background in singing, then with an instrument it would be difficult.
Annicke: Yeah, I can imagine that is like that, but I always have the urge to move around a lot, and with holding an instrument, it feels like I’m not able to move around as much as I would like to, and especially where you say the feeling naked part; I kind of like that.
Annicke: Because it’s giving yourself, completely giving yourself and for me it’s the openness that feels like, freeing, sort of, yeah, free.
Nemetona: Awesome, that’s cool. Ok, so Thomas, obviously a very, very different sound to Cesair. How difficult is it to play the different genres? Do you find it a challenge, or do you find it quite easy to transition between different sort of styles?
Thomas: It’s actually a perfect way for me to bring to light all the different aspects about music that I love. For me, when I think of a song; when I write something, it’s very easy for me to decide wheth er it should go to Cesair or to Shireen because it’s so different, and both bands allow me to develop and explore different sides of me, and of the music that I want to make.
Herne: So how did the whole band meet? I know you said that you met Thomas, etc, but how did the band get together?
Thomas: Well we have been re-inventing ourselves over the past years.
Thomas: The first formation of Shireen started in 2008, and there was Annicke and Dennis who played the bass in our band. After that, I joined. Shortly after that, we had Joris, who was our percussionist back then, and we already wrote a good hour of music back then.
Thomas: The thing was that after that, the percussionist left, and we were joined by Marijn. Afterwards, our bass player left, and we’ve been switching bass players for quite a while.
Thomas: In the meantime, Annicke had an illness due to which she developed some problems with her voice.
Nemetona: Oh no!
Thomas: So we were on hold for a few months, maybe a year even.
Annicke: Yeah, one and a half year.
Thomas: One and a half year.
Annicke: It was really bad, because I couldn’t speak for a while.
Herne: Oh no!
Annicke: I was not able to speak.
Thomas: Yeah. Luckily, you know, you got better.
Thomas: That’s good!
Annicke: Even better than before.
Thomas: That’s true! And we’ve recently been joined by Sophie on Cello, who is also in Cesair, and now by Hein on Bass guitar. With them, we’ve really found the close connection that we need to be the band that we want to be, and all those different changes in line up have meant that we have been re-inventing everything all over again, numerous times. So that’s really an interesting development to see. It’s also funny to see that if we now would look back on the music that we used to make, I don’t think it resembles what we are doing right now.
Thomas: All those changes.
Nemetona: It’s good when things develop, and sort of move on a bit and, um…I can’t think of the right word (laughs).
Nemetona: Grow, that’s the word!
Herne: Yeah, absolutely fantastic to hear the story.
Nemetona: So you’ve got Folktailor, of course, the clothing, accessories, etc, you have Shireen, with the music. How did you come up with the imagery for the band? Because you have the costumes and masks, etc. How did that all come about?
Annicke: For me, it’s really important as a band that we have our own style in music, and it’s hard to define which genre we’re playing. For me, it’s really important that the visuals that come with this band, people need to see them and think, ‘Oh what is this?’, it must give some more questions; it needs to challenge people a bit, I want to challenge them with the kind of image that is not so normal. It’s kind of a growing playground.
Herne: It’s fantastic, I definitely get that from the cover of the EP, it certainly says ‘ooh, well what is this going to be like?
Herne: ‘This looks really interesting; it could go sort of any direction’- I like that.
Herne: I’m going to throw in the silly question, because we always have the silly question; we have to ask this.
Herne: Sometimes we do biscuits, of course with Cesair we did trees. Rastaban we did biscuits, we do what would you take to a desert island. We’ve chosen for you, because there seems to be much more of a fashion theme here; what styling products do you use for your hair?
Annicke: What styling products?
Annicke: Ummm… (laughing).
Herne: That’s to both of you, as well.
Annicke: Ok, first Thomas.
Thomas: I’m using some kind of organic, biological cucumber shampoo.
Thomas: And you rinse twice, and that’s it.
Nemetona: Cucumber’s awesome.
Annicke: For me, I use…wait, I’ll get it. It’s called Evo, wait…
(Annicke runs off to get her product)
Thomas: This is gonna be it
Annicke: Ok, so it’s called ‘End Doctor’ from Evo, Smoothing Sealant and I’ll just read what it says, what the package says.
Herne and Nemetona: OK.
Annicke: It says: “Slightly possessed, uncontrollable, wild and spinning while simultaneously vomiting and pronouncing your good name backwards into the fires of stylistic hell? And that’s before you noticed it was all coming apart at the ends”
Nemetona: Wow! That’s cool!
Annicke: So, my hairdresser Jett gave it to me, and I’m using it right now, and it works really well in my hair!
Nemetona: It’s brilliant! I love it.
Herne: We need to get some of this as well!
Nemetona: We do! That is very, very cool.
Thomas: Talk to Jett!
Annicke: Yeah, talk to Jett! Or I can.
Thomas: We’ll send you everything.
Nemetona: That’s cool. Right! So recently, your last gig was at Park fest on the 8th August. Do you prefer playing things at festivals, do you prefer smaller venues; what’s your ideal sort of gig location to play with the band?
Thomas: It’s a difficult question to answer, because every location has its own merits and its own faults and difficulties, but we like playing everywhere because on a festival, you get less atmosphere on-stage because it’s light outside, you can’t do as much with the light show, but at the same time the energy you get back from the festival public is sometimes overwhelming, which is an incredible feeling. On the other hand, if you play in the venue, you can do so much on stage and you’ll get less back from the audience, which makes the dynamic completely different.
Thomas: But we like both.
Herne: That’s very cool!
Herne: I think that’s literally about all the questions we’ve got here, thank you very much!
Thomas: No problem!
Annicke: Thank you!
Thomas: Thank you for having us!
Find out more about Shireen here: www.shireen-music.com
or via Facebook: www.facebook.com/shireenmusic
For Folk Tailor: www.folktailor.com
And for Hair Architects: www.hairarchitects.nl