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  • SUIR: “We started this band because we didn’t have a TV”

Music & clubs

SUIR: “We started this band because we didn’t have a TV”

Ahead of their Berlin gig in January, we talk to cinematic shoegaze duo SUIR about the humble origins of their music – and the artistic influence of their dying cat.

Photo: Jenni Smith

Tell me about SUIR. How did you start playing together?

Lucia: We’ve known each other for a long time – maybe nine years now. We met and became close when I was living with one of Denis’s friends; eventually, we decided to move in together. Then we started this band because we didn’t have a TV. Denis had a band before, but at the time he was looking for a new one. I’d never done anything like it, but I thought, Why not?

So, Lucia, you’d never been in a band – did you have musical experience?

L: Absolutely none. I had maybe two piano lessons when I was little. I’m also bad at learning stuff because I’m so impatient! But when we formed the band, I started teaching myself to play the synthesiser. It’s not that hard – at least the way I played it. Then, during the pandemic, I started to play the guitar and bass guitar.

Denis: It’s true, Lucia started totally from scratch. She wanted to learn bass, but it’s not an instrument you can play immediately; it takes a lot of practice. So we tried to find some- thing she could do straight away – and landed on this synth sound. It emulates the heaviness of a bass, but it’s easier to play. The basslines aren’t that hard, but the sounds are really big. That was the starting point. Then we just needed a few years to teach Lucia how to play bass.

I love your honesty!

I had maybe two piano lessons when I was little. I’m also bad at learning stuff because I’m so impatient!

D: Lucia’s very modest. She’s always been the first to downplay her abilities. But I do think music history teaches us that you don’t have to be technically gifted to make good music. The White Stripes’ drummer, Meg White, has always been called ‘technically bad’, but in the end that band made some of the best records on the planet. We’ve created music that’s resonated with someone, somewhere. Lucia’s very capable of that. She doesn’t have to play Eddie Van Halen guitar licks!

How do you pronounce your name? And what does SUIR mean?

L: It’s pronounced a bit like the French word sur (meaning ‘on, above’ or ‘over, above’ as a prefix). I was reading about surrealism when we started the band, and that prefix ‘sur-’ somehow got stuck in my head. I wanted to use it as our band name, but unfortunately it was already taken. So we stuck an ‘i’ in, hoping it wouldn’t bother anyone. But now no one can pronounce it anymore!

It’s not a happy summer album… but it’s an honest one!

D: I think that’s a good thing. It keeps us more mysterious.

What inspired your new album, Not All Of Your Pain Is Self Chosen?

D: It’s hard to say because we spent such a long time working on it – about four years I think. This record was about taking the time to develop things fully. It was a different process to what we’d done before: normally, we start with the instrumentals and add lyrics very late. This time we started with the lyrics and had to write music around them. It was new, and it happened very naturally.

We wanted to tell honest stories as opposed to writing random songs that people would forget quickly. It’s a personal record, so it took time. It was a hard, cathartic process, but in the end we were able to express what was inside of us. It’s not a happy summer album…

L: … but it’s an honest one!

Your music has been labelled as shoegaze, post punk, cold wave, noise pop… do you relate to any of these labels?

D: In the beginning, SUIR was just about two people making music. We didn’t know what we were doing or how it was going to sound. It was what it was. People kept saying it was inspired by this or that genre or this or that band, but really it was inspired by nothing at all. It was just Lucia and I trying to make music with whatever skills we had. I find it difficult to say what genre we’re doing, maybe because I’m too close to it. It’s also not my job to say; perhaps it’s not necessary at all. I do know that we like loud guitars and instruments though!

L: On the other hand, I think the two of us can both relate to post punk and shoegaze. That’s the stuff we listen to. It’s a bit harder to relate to cold wave, dark wave and gothic stuff, because we don’t really listen to bands like that. But when people say that’s what we are, maybe they’re right – who are we to say?

How was touring with The Jesus and Mary Chain?

D: That was a highlight because they’re a band that inspired both of us even before we played with each other. They’re a big influence. I say that carefully because we never try to sound or work like anyone else, but they’re one of the bands that we actively listen to and we really love. So, it was both surreal and an honour, playing in a really huge venue – the biggest I’ve ever been to. You get nervous when you do stuff like that, but people liked it, so…

Is shoegaze making a comeback?

D: I’d say so. Especially in Berlin – it’s the place to be in Europe if you’re into that sort of thing right now. I can’t really say why it’s happening. I can only guess that people are tired of the mainstream right now. Lots of stuff sounds the same. It’s very basic…

L: … and it’s very electronic. My guess is that people want to hear handmade music again.

What are your plans for 2023?

L: I would love to learn to play drums, but I’m so bad at it. I know I say that about most things, but drums I’m really bad at.

People are tired of the mainstream right now. Lots of stuff sounds the same.

D: I’ve been working on a solo project for a few years now, and I think I’m close to finishing it. I’m most excited about that because I just want it to be done now!

Is that a cat making noise in the background?

L: Yes, it is – that’s Bert, but she’s not doing so great at the moment. She’s very old, and we think she’s in the process of dying. She’s always been noisy. She’s actually on the new album, meowing in the background.

Your cat features on your album?!

D: I recorded all the vocals in our flat, our home studio. Bert always walks around here and she was meowing really loudly on one take, which turned out to be the perfect one. I didn’t want to record it again, so I just left it. You can’t really hear her – the instruments are so loud that it mostly covers her – but we know it’s there!

L: She’s our number one muse, always.

  • SUIR Jan 8 8MM bar

SUIR are a Cologne-based duo comprised of Denis Wanic and Lucia Seiß. They create create rich, atmospheric music defined by dense and complex sound walls. They released their debut album, Soma, in 2018, following with Ater in 2021 and Not All Of Your Pain Is Self Chosen in 2022. They’re set to play at 8mm bar in January.