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Interview: Sheebaba

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

Photo by Greta Fay

Sheebaba are a Darkwave/Art-Rock duo based in Mainz, Germany. We had a chat with Eliott Eccho and Prof. Costello about their mysterious origins, formation of the project and their latest colossal tune 'Big Bull'. Check it out below!

Let’s start with the beginning. What are the backstories of Eliott Eccho & Prof. Costello?

Prof. Costello’s origins were recently uncovered by looking through old IDR (industrial diamond review) magazines. The July 1978 issue features a close-up of Prof. Costello operating oscilloscopes that measure the vibration spectre of tunnelling activities, in order to find the best spot to drill holes into the ground for diamond mining. Working under closely controlled laboratory conditions left him with a strong resistance to sharp sinus waves and an understanding of mechanical rhythms. In today's parallel realm, Prof. Costello's hair lost its color but he is forever trapped in black and white, surrounded by the everlasting industrial noise in his head.

Eliott Ernst was a car mechanic, living a humdrum, modest life in a rural town in the north of Luxembourg. One winter day in 1979 a black Ford Mustang 68 entered the garage, the muffler was making an excruciating noise. The driver, a man in a white coat, left the car with Eliott for a check up. Eliott proceeded to test the muffler, when all of a sudden, a loud, deep but very beautiful, bang coming from the car, left the garage and Eliott shaking. From that day on, Eliott Ernst wasn’t herself anymore. She felt the constant urge to recreate that sound she heard in the garage, couldn’t continue her work with cars, gave herself the name Eccho and dedicated her life to recreating the sound that has haunted her since that winter day ‘79.

How did the duo come together and is there a concept behind the project?

An inexplicable turn of events led to EE & Prof.C meeting in a red lit room in which they started communicating through a sonic and visual understanding that is rooted in multiple art and pop-culture references. It all started with the will to create an artistic safe space where everything was allowed, whether it was really loud sharp noises or the lowest of vulnerability. In the end this sonic spectrum became more and more concrete and industrial, with Prof.C controlling live drum loops with different synths and distortions and EE manoeuvring her guitar and bass lines into unheard territories. Sheebaba is genre ending. Sheebaba is fuzzy, glitchy art-school wave. Sheebaba is performative. Sheebaba is all colours of the rainbow. Sheebaba is against hate.

What were some of your initial ideas about how the project was going to sound?

When we started the idea of Sheebaba in 2019, it was rooted a lot more in Sonic Youth, The Kills, Fugazi, Fenster & Cate Le Bon territory. The 80s Wave elements came quite naturally after we started writing songs with drum machines that were processed through guitar pedals. We never set out to be related to Bauhaus or Grauzone but somehow ended up in that corner because the tools we were using were masterfully made popular by these bands. One thing that hasn’t changed since the early beginnings is that we don’t set any limits to where our musical output can go. On our upcoming EP there are songs featuring a Britney Spears quote but also a Jackhammer sample, so it can go into any direction really.

Your recent single ‘Big Bull’ is bold and haunting. What is the meaning behind the song?

Big Bull is a song about becoming someone else through potion, whatever that maybe, can be different for everyone. Whether we are really more like our real selves when we “loosen up” through alcohol or other drugs? Or whether we become a distorted version of our true self? These questions are being raised lyrically over the repetitive distorted drum loop, culminating in a powerful choir that ends with the phrase “and I become myself”. Even though the word and concept of “being yourself”, is a very abstract idea, as we change, and develop over the course of being. So the phrase “I become myself”, stays a very temporary and momentary statement, that will only be true for the moment that it is being said.

The laughing sample that plays during the outro is taken from Elvira Weishaupt’s Slaughterhouse Monologue in “In a Year of 13 Moons” (1979) by R.W. Fassbender.

The accompanying video is surreal and visually distinct, what was the inspiration behind its creation?

We asked our friend Lina Caspary to direct the music video for big bull. She used the lyrics, and tried to distort the idea of potion into a visual concept, to show the inner conflict of being yourself, and becoming something or someone else. She got her inspiration for the look from early 20s horror movies, like for example Nosferatu. Playing with shadows is a stylistic device used a lot in film noir, and was also a huge inspiration for the video.

Talk us through your writing and recording process?

When writing music, usually we meet in the rehearsal room with either a drum loop or a riff and then start working from thereon together. It is rare that one of us has the whole song figured out before showing the other one. Usually the songs develop over a few jams or we work really focused on creating something that matches our idea from the song. In terms of recording, we usually start out by recording a few demos ourselves. For the EP “bruit” we went to Impala Sound Studio in Luxembourg and recorded 3 songs with them. One song from the EP we recorded ourselves in our rehearsal room, because we wanted to use a more diy approach to that song, in terms that we wanted to develop the noise parts over the course of the recording period. We experimented a bit with soundscapes and different instruments, so by doing it just the 2 of us, we felt much freer, and dared to

try many different things, and that process worked out very well as well. The songs were mixed by Christophe Becker at Impala Sound and mastered by our friends at Szun Audio in Mainz.

Photo by Greta Fay

How is the music scene in Mainz, are there any local artists/bands that you’d recommend?

Sadly we didn’t get to know a lot of Mainz’ underground music scene so far, but there are a lot of people who try to make interesting stuff happen. The most obvious one is probably SchonSchön, a venue that puts on shows that are always great to discover new and established artists for example. A great “export” from the Mainz art/music scene is another duo called “Les Trucs”. In the cities around Mainz there are some dark experimental bands that we love, like “Babes of Enola Grey” and “Das Kinn”. Germany in general has a really interesting goth/industrial/EBM scene with bands like “Die Selektion” playing some of the most energetic shows we have ever seen. Our label “Katalog” also has a nice split release planned as the follow up to “bruit” featuring “Modern Days” & “Wohnbau”, which both go more into the post-punk direction.

Finally, what can we expect next from Sheebaba?

We have a few more shows planned over the summer, and hope we can play as many live shows as possible. After the release of our EP “bruit” we plan on releasing a remix ep, where several artists will remix songs from bruit. Hopefully there will be a Vinyl release. Maybe there will be new music after that, we will see how things look post summer.

Sheebaba's debut EP 'bruit' is out on May 6th via Katalog.

Follow Sheebaba on Instagram.

Follow Sheebaba on Spotify.

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