Members: Fabian Bremer, Henrik Eichmann
Interviewee: Fabian Bremer
Occupation: Musician, graphic designer
Current release: AUA’s debut album, I Don’t Want It Darker, is out via Crazysane Records. Their full-length follow-up, The Damaged Organ, will be released on January 21st, 2022.
Recommendations: Frank Sinatra’s Watertown and Hildegard Knef’s KNEF, both released in 1970, are two albums I recently discovered that I really enjoy.
If you enjoyed this interview with AUA, we highly recommend you visit the band on Instagram, or Facebook.
When did you start writing/producing music—and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing songs when I got my first guitar at the age of 14 or 15.
At first, I wasn’t that much into learning other artists’ material, but of course I knew all the essential Nirvana riffs. There are a lot of early influences I drew from my parents’ record collection, like Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac or The Beatles, which still have a huge impact on me.
I remember a Depeche Mode poster from BRAVO magazine [German music magazine aimed at teenagers] that hung in my children’s room, and I thought they looked pretty cool with their leather jackets and undercuts. So, the first tape I bought was their 1994 album Songs of Faith and Devotion, because I needed to know what they sounded like.
Listening to it for the first time totally changed my perspective on music. I was immediately intrigued by the weird noise the album starts off with, and all these alienated, distorted sounds on songs like “Mercy in You” or “In Your Room”—but neither did I know how to reproduce them nor what particular kind of instrument I was hearing. By today my obsession with synthesizers has become a bottomless pit, and I’m still chasing after these sounds.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
To be quite honest, to me coming up with something original is mostly about how you channel your influences into something that hasn’t been done before. Even if I tell myself “I’m going to write a Beatles tune now”, it will most likely end up something completely different, most definitely less groundbreaking but ideally interesting.
The transition towards finding my own ways of expression is an ongoing process for sure, and I wouldn’t say that it will be completed at some point.
I’m not classically trained nor do I practice much … to me, it’s more about learning by doing. But even if I only pick up the guitar once in a while, the muscle memory works in a particular way that influences the sound, for example by certain picking patterns or chord shapes. So, in a sense, there are routines that shape a sound over time without one even being aware of it.
One thing I’ve been trying to emulate for years is coming up with chord progressions that keep spiraling on and on. Meaning that you barely notice when the pattern starts over, but once you get behind it, it hits you over the head again and again in an almost cathartic way.
Some examples of that are the crescendo in Sport’s “Unter den Wolken” or the modulating chords in Cluster’s “Hollywood”. It takes you somewhere, but you don’t know where to turn. At least I don’t. These unpredictable but tasteful shifts between keys fascinate me.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
There is always a correlation between what is going on in my life and how I implement it creatively—or to put it more simply: between the input and the output. I don’t need an artist alter ego or a stage persona for the kind of escapism I’m after. Still, I’m having some trouble considering myself an artist or musician.
Beyond that, I tend to feel a slight sense of unease or restlessness when I can’t be productive. That’s part of who I am, also when I’m not making music. However, the fact that I don’t produce music as a day job makes things a little easier overall. But there’s definitely a constant urge to be productive, and a fear of missing opportunities to be creative.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Getting things done and letting go is and has always been the hardest part of the creative process for us as a band.
In the past, we have found that a significant amount of good ideas suffered from overthinking. Even entire projects. We’ve become much more confident about finishing material, even at an early stage, and although we tend to re-record most of the tracks in a more polished way, we often end up using the first rough take that was intended for the pre-production.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Over the past few years, Henrik and I have been regularly researching vacation homes—like the ones you find on Airbnb—and started transforming them into temporary studio spaces where we live and work. We enjoy hanging out together, writing and recording all day, and sifting through the recorded material in the evening.
The houses where we recorded I Don’t Want It Darker and The Damaged Organ are very remote, so there’s no internet, very poor cell phone reception, basically no distractions at all.
When you live in two cities 400 kilometers apart and work on songs together, you need a reliable structure. With each record we come up with ways to make the process even more stable, and every time something terrible happens, like all your vocal recordings being converted to 8-bit overnight … it can be very stressful.
But on the plus side, we can practically record and mix an entire album at our apartments— that’s certainly one of the benefits of living in the 21st century.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
It may sound like an easy way out, but after a decade of playing instrumental music, the turning point for me was when I made peace with my singing voice. Writing a song with a specific vocal melody and maybe even lyrics in mind fundamentally changed my approach to writing music.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Collaborating with other artists has become a very important part of our identity as a band. I personally need a lot of control over the creative processes, so it took me a while to build up enough trust to pass control over to someone else.
Dominik Fink, for example, who we also play with in Radare, completes our live trio and recorded most of the bass lines for I Don’t Want It Darker and The Damaged Organ. Sharing files with each other works very well for us. It’s been like that since I moved to Leipzig in 2014, and we had to get used to exchanging ideas without seeing each other in the rehearsal room every week.
As for collaborations outside of our creative bubble, I’m quite happy that Chris Breuer, who runs our label, can be such an annoying person, asking you the same thing over and over again until you finally give in. That’s how we got in touch with Annika Henderson (Anika, Exploded View), who contributed her vocals and lyrics to “Islands Song”. Everyone involved is so excited about our collaboration, and I can’t imagine the album without this strange piece of music.