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  • In bed with… Mary Ocher


In bed with… Mary Ocher

Berlin’s off-kilter folk queen brims with restless ambition. Now, Mary is stepping out with a debut album, War Songs (Haute Areal). She gets us in bed and tells us her secrets.

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Photo by Anna Achon

Exberliner turns 11 this month! On June 15 at 10pm, we’ll be celebrating like it’s 2002 at the nearly brand-spanking-new Urban Spree. Team Plastique’s Legs Akimbo brings the lusty Legs Akimbo Show, Mary Ocher and Your Government will preside over the quirky kids and Elbee Bad’s badass self will keep it going. We’re running interviews old and new all this week to get in gear.

RSVP on our Facebook event.

Here’s our chat with Mary from our September 2011 issue. And check out our chat with Legs from issue #103, March 2012 for the boobs issue.

Berlin’s off-kilter folk queen brims with restless ambition.

Until recently, the 24-year-old could be found gracing a Berlin stage on almost any given night, alone or at the helm of her former band, Mary and the Baby Cheeses.

Days, she was often busking at Mauerpark. Now, the Moscow-born, Tel Aviv-bred singer-songwriter and DJ is leaving her borderline-circadian gig schedule behind and stepping out with a debut album, War Songs (Haute Areal), and as always, a clutch of other projects to fill her sleepless nights.

Who comes to a Mary Ocher show?

Visual artists. Maybe a gay male, between 20 and 30, wearing glitter pants and blue eye makeup. That’s my average fan.

You’ve been performing solo recently. How is life after Cheeses?

Ha. Maybe one day I’ll use the name again. I always wrote all the songs, but the lineup changed so often it became confusing.

You came to Berlin from Tel Aviv. How much of an influence has it played on your music and style?

Not much really. Tel Aviv was too dull. If anything, it’s made me anti-politics. My influences are complete imagination, or more the history of fashion and music, which has little to do with how people dress on the street.

Do you feel you come out of the troubadour tradition? Or are you more of an itinerant gypsy?

I used to think I could always move around. When you’re sitting on the train with your guitar listening to Bob Dylan, it all makes sense. Now though, I have really good friends and a community. I’m less alone. I feel like I fit in somewhere… though if I don’t leave Berlin at least once a month, I go crazy!

Can you tell me about your record release party for War Songs?

The concept was to play only new songs I wrote that day. It was a spontaneous decision. I fucked up all the songs though and it was kind of awful, but the crowd found it amusing.

Tell me about your relationship with your own music.

It used to be something I did to define myself. Now it’s therapeutic.

You seem to be eternally gigging. Do you ever worry that you’re diluting your power by playing all the time?

Yes, I still DJ lots, but I’m trying to play fewer gigs in Berlin now. Only when a friend or a promoter I really like asks me. It gets hard to make people come to some of the smaller venues. It feels like wasting time.

You’re always working on a million new projects at one time. What’s up your sleeve now?

I’m currently doing a mockumentary about a fictional 1970s avant-garde movement called The Sounds of Softness. It started as a joke on tour two years ago in a van in France, about making sounds on pillows and feathers, making fun of the pretentiousness of the avant-garde. We’ve almost finished shooting, but we don’t have an ending yet.

You’re working with King Khan at the moment.

Yes! He’s so full of ideas, which is great, because everyone in Berlin is so lazy. So many people come by the house all the time. It’s full of life. His kids are there, his wife, and there are always touring bands coming to stay.

Do you have dreams of world domination, or are you happy being Berlin’s darling?

I want to reach new people. I’d love to get distribution in the States, or the UK.

How is working with Haute Areal?

I’ve always wanted to sell out. Ha, no, but it’s an experiment I had to try. The contracts were so business-like, they freaked me out… but they really care about the music and support me, as well as putting me in touch with a lot of people I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.

And what does Mary have to say about SLEEP itself? She took our SLEEP SURVEY.

What keeps you awake at night?

Worries, fantasies, longings. Wondering about the future. Ideas for shows. Morbid sadness for loss of loved ones.

Do you have any bedtime rituals?

Turning from side to side until it seems just comfy enough. Oh yeah, I love hugging my pillow for that extra comfort. Therefore, a pillow is absolutely necessary! Though I have my flamingo too.

What are your sleeping patterns?

I’m a light sleeper. I can wake up at any time and do more or less anything, which means that I might sleep no more than five or six hours (and then most likely catch a cold or a bug, because my immune system’s fucked).

What or whom do you like to sleep with?

Tall, pale and drop-dead gorgeous. Usually comes with a built-in nasty personality.

What’s your best nightmare?

I have some awake nightmares. Fear of waking up in five years still at the same spot. In 10 years. In 15. Looking around, I see people who are almost twice my age, who have never gotten anywhere or done anything. All they have is an unwanted child… if they’re lucky.I want my life to make more sense. And I don’t want to trade the guitar for that child, or a man. Maybe that’s my biggest, err, best nightmare. That, or dying in the process.

What’s your favourite sleeping position?

Small spoon. Or recently, a rather lonely small spoon.