Interview

Ulrika Spacek

With ten feet firmly planted in the psychedelic dimension, London-based Ulrika Spacek are aware that the pleasure of creation can only persist through a constantly spontaneous and humble state of mind. Embodying those intrinsically human and artistic values, we took a bit of singer-guitarist Rhys Edwards’ time in the Balkans to talk about rediscovering music, self-expression and making collages in Berlin.

Interview by Mathias Bourgonjon
Photos by Cat Stevens, shot in London, UK

Anything you’re obsessed with at the moment?
What I’ve been listening to today is Tender Buttons by Broadcast. It’s a great band. Quite prematurely, the singer died. They have a run of albums that is a perfect progression and it’s a shame they never made any more. Actually, going on holiday is great sometimes because you think you know an album and, listening to it in a different environment, you hear things that you hadn’t before. I’ve listened to it a lot in the last couple of years, but now I like it twice as much.

What drives you most as a human being?
Some form of self-expression makes things worth it, I guess. A lot of people are great at doing, but they just don’t have the confidence. I really wish more people did it because it’s okay to put something out there that people don’t like. It doesn’t matter. That’s really all I can say. The meaning of life? I wish I had the answer [chuckles].

The band was formed back when you lived in Berlin, now you guys live in London. What’s your relationship to the city?
Berlin is a great city but we were never based there. Everything we did was in London and it has always been good for us. I think we were able to do what we wanted to do there. Of course, fighting against rents and stuff… I do worry that the city is going to lose a lot from that but we’ll see. There is always a way.

Do you feel that London is a tougher place for emerging bands?
Not really. I think that the sheer amount of people here is great. It’s really easy to get a gig or to put a night on or meet people that may be better at doing something you want to do but can’t do. However, I do think London has a real problem which will be a tipping point for people to decide to go somewhere else. We would, for example, like to have our own studio but I’m not sure it’s possible in London unless you have a lot of money. We are very fond of Amsterdam and Berlin; London needs to be careful. 

When you like something in particular, you soak it up and it comes out of you in some way

Could you name something or someone as being a key influence in your life?
From the age of about 12, when you start feeling that you have your own opinions about music, films and stuff like that, it’s just been an amalgamation of what you’ve ever listened to and ever watched. Then, when you’re making a video, it’s easy to feel it’s your idea – but nothing comes out of nowhere. It goes even to the point sometimes where – if I named artists or film directors that influenced us – it would almost be a disservice to them [laughs]. When you like something in particular, you soak it up and it comes out of you in some way.

What’s the story behind the album cover of Everything: All The Time?
It’s a perfect example of why Berlin is great. You can just wake up one day and think: “Today, I’m going to make a collage”. You walk down the street and you find a shop that has old DDR books. This wasn’t made to be the album cover. It was just one of the things that was made for the sake of making it. That collage was made without overthinking anything or wanting it to be anything other than it was. I’m really glad it’s the album cover.

There is also something quite idiosyncratic about somebody playing guitar and not really knowing what they’re doing

The structure of the songs is driven by relatively repetitive patterns. Does that come from a lot of jamming during the making process?
The songs are quite repetitive, as they’ve been recorded with loops, but it was written as we recorded. What I like about it is that, quite often, what is on the record is something being played for the first time. There are mistakes and there is a great kind of magic in that. There is also something quite idiosyncratic about somebody playing guitar and not really knowing what they’re doing.

So, that’s what you meant by ‘self-expression’?
Yeah. It’s a beautiful thing for people to do it and not worry about what other people think. I think overthinking kills everything.

Ulrika Spacek plays Eden, Charleroi on 11 May. The show is free for members. Become a member here.