Name: Ivy Flindt
Members: Cate Martin, Micha Holland
Occupation: Singers, Songwriters
Current release: Ivy Flindt's new live album In Every Move - Live At Rockpalast is out now via bandcamp.
Cate: Conor Oberst Upside Down Mountain and Patti Smith Just kids.
Micha: These two works go well together: Arvo Pärt "Spiegel im Spiegel" and Gerhard Richter "Seestück (Gegenlicht)".
If this Ivy Flindt interview piqued your interest, visit their official homepage and instagram for a deeper look into their world.
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?
Cate: I was a very young child, taking piano lessons, when I started to write my own music. At that point I wasn’t even doing it deliberately. What happened was that I started to present my piano teacher with versions of classical stuff that I was practising at the moment. That is, versions of the pieces I was supposed to be practising, but changed to how I liked them a lot better. And my teacher clearly wasn’t impressed. I’d say this was when it all started.
Micha: So funny, it is so similar to what Cate experienced! I just read through her answer. I began playing the violin at the age of four. I loved improvising on the little melodies and children’s songs that you need to learn when you are a beginner in classical music. This might have been the starting point for me: writing music in a very playful way …I loved how creating music can make you forget about time and space. And I still do.
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?
Cate: I grew up as an only child. No one to play with. So it was me and my piano and I used what I had: Both hands playing and my voice for singing. I took me many years to see my voice as something beautiful. To start off with, I used it only for lack of an alternative.
Micha: As mentioned above, I began playing the violin quite early. I was trained in classical music and started playing in chamber orchestras at around the age of 9 or 10, also performing live in churches and such on a regular basis at that age. So I think from my early childhood on, learning, rehearsing, and performing music became more and more all I was doing. I started playing classical music and switched to rock music as a teenager, learning to play the electric guitar and electric bass, played in jazz bands, learned to play the upright bass, fell in love with synthesizers … It is music and sound itself that are fascinating to me, not a special genre of music.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Cate: My band colleagues, and Micha, everyone I was working with always had more experience than me. In music, in production, in life, everyone was always older. I had to figure out that I am allowed to follow my own ideas even though I am the young one. Over the years I understood that I do have something to contribute. I do have something unique about my ideas that I am allowed to follow, that I love to present to others. And that I want to be heard.
Micha: In the beginning, it was all about playing the right notes. Now, it’s all about playing the notes right.
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?
Cate: Even though I compose mainly at the piano, and sometimes guitar, I have learned that I can much better throw myself into singing, and into feeling it all, if I do not have to accompany myself on stage. It’s a great relief to be able to leave that to Micha, who is awesome at knowing what I need.
Micha: I started to experiment with “multitrack recordings” using two cassette recorders at the very early age of 6 or 7, recording my violin over and over in different voices, emulating a chamber orchestra. And I still don’t care too much about technical equipment as long as it helps me work on my ideas.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Micha: No, not really. Your instrument should support you in your way of playing, and this is what it’s all about. You should feel inspired by the sound of it. The rest of your equipment should not limit your visions but encourage you to move forward. If you care more about the technical details of your guitars than about your music, you might want to reconsider.
Cate: I loved discovering the mellow sounds of an organ or a Wurlitzer Piano or a Fender Rhodes Piano and the delicate sounds of a guitar compared to a “regular” full piano sound. It allows more room for my voice which is very comforting.
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?
Cate: I do collaborate with Micha, but while composing, I only get ideas when I am on my own. Then I present them to him afterwards — sometimes in the rehearsal room when I play them to him, sometimes through recorded bits and pieces I share with him digitally.
Micha: It really depends … Mostly Cate and I need some amount of solitude to work on ideas for Ivy Flindt. At least at the early, most fragile stages of the songs. We often send each other audio messages to our phones and go from there.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Cate: If I don’t get to make music or if I don’t get to paint, which is my other obsession in life, I get very frustrated and sad. That being said, I do not have a routine. I am always trying to get the everyday stuff done so I can get on with the proper work of music and art. And whenever something interferes, it gives me a hard time really.
Micha: I think the only fixed schedule for me is that I drink my morning coffee before I do phone calls …
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Cate: This is a very recent one: I deal with stage fright a lot. And when I feel the audience appreciating the music, interacting with what we do on stage, I start to relax.
But a few days ago, when we played a live stream concert in this amazing venue, the famous Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, I knew no one would be there due to Covid. No audience. No one except the technicians and my band. So to be able to actually perform into this void, I had to let go of my idea of an audience and had to focus on the music itself instead. The music inside me. And for the first time I think, I may have found strength within myself, not looking for appreciation from around me. Though if this was a breakthrough, I’ll be able to let you know in a few years’ time, I guess.
Micha: Recording our debut album together with producer Per Sunding changed my way of evaluating my own work. The greatest lesson for me while working on that album was to let go of my ego and simply focus on the best idea.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Cate: Not for me at least. I write music when I am overwhelmed. I am easily overwhelmed, that’s a plus maybe. I write music to express what impresses me.
Micha: For me the biggest deal is to not be disturbed. Reality is distracting the most! Phone calls, e-mails, the postman … The everyday life doesn’t go well together with being creative, at least not for me. A nightshift is often a good way of getting away from it all.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Cate: To me, music itself cannot hurt. But it can allow you to get in touch with what hurt you. And that’s where the healing starts.
Micha: As a child I often got very scared of the chaotic world outside. I had a hard time filtering important from unimportant perceptions. At its worst, everything blended into a big pink noise. I got better with that, but it still confuses me from time to time. Composing and arranging music has a soothing quality to me, since I’m able to establish my own coordinate system.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Cate: Whatever I do is new. Because I did it. And no one sees the world with my eyes. So it’s not my choice. When covering a song, I am making it my own anyway. I don’t have a choice. I don’t get to be Peter Gabriel, just because I’m singing his song. I can’t escape from myself, even if I wanted to. Obviously, you do still need to give proper credit.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Cate: To me writing poetry and hearing music are connected. But as far as my experience goes, poetry is not actually a sense. And for example, I don’t see colours for music. Even though I obviously do also work with colours when painting. Colours are silent. And it is their silence that I especially enjoy. And colours are intense. It’s a fascinating combination.
Micha: I know about the state of losing the feel of gravity, when everything falls into place in a piece of music. It is a state of mind and consciousness that disconnects from time and place. It’s a very rare feeling!
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Cate: I follow my inner needs when composing. Then, once the music is released, everyone is entitled to do whatever they like with the music. I am not part of the game anymore.
Micha: For me the only way of existing in this world is being an artist. I started in a playful way, exploring sounds, exploring images, and I simply didn’t ever stop doing that. I’m still just a kid.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Cate: Music is much more direct. It gets you straight away.
Micha: In my opinion music is the direct way to our soul. I’ve read poems and heard lyrics that really moved me, but what moves me the most is still music.