Name: toechter
Members: Marie-Claire Schlameus, Lisa Marie Vogel, Katrine Grarup Elbo
Nationalities: German (Marie-Claire Schlameus, Lisa Marie Vogel), Danish (Katrine Grarup Elbo)
Occupations: Cellist, composer (Marie-Claire Schlameus), violinist, composer (Lisa Marie Vogel), violinist, composer (Katrine Grarup Elbo)
Current release: toechter debut on Edition DUR with Zephyr.
Recommendations: We try to share a monthly updated playlist on Spotify with music and artists that inspire us, so please follow that list for recommendations!
Also, when in Berlin, don’t forget to check out Schaubühne; a truly vibrant theater, but be fast, tickets sell out in an instant!

If you enjoyed this interview with toechter and would like to know more, visit their official website or Instagram account and Facebook profile. The trio's members all have their personal website as well: Marie-Claire Schlameus; Lisa Marie Vogel; Katrine Grarup Elbo.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

Katrine: I attended my first concert by the age of five - days - and grew up listening to classical and symphonic music, as both my parents are musicians. I remember watching the orchestra thinking, wow they seem to be having a good time, especially the violins, playing those beautiful, sad and forceful melodies all together in a big group!

MC: When I started studying cello in Leipzig, the movie ‘Under the skin’ dropped, and the music by Mica Levi had a huge impact on me. There were many great releases of string players mixing acoustics with electronics around that time. I started to use a setup with cello, electronics, and voice that would allow me a creative space in bands and collaborations of various genres. My takeoff with producing was with this project and came with our vision to write an electronic album with the use of our acoustic instruments.

Lisa: Music is a form of communication without words and that has inspired me ever since I started. I meet and have met many inspiring people on my path and love the way you share musical moments and learn from each other - whatever genre people come from. Also practicing by myself has always worked as some kind of meditation for me.

Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?

What never stops fascinating us about music as an artform is how it transcends language, time, minds, even worlds. Music can reach you and change your emotional setup without you even noticing it.

Letting our old instruments and the refined ways we learned to play them meet electronic effects and 2022 aesthetics, we aim to also transcend style, genre, and tradition.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

Learning to play a classical instrument like the violin or the cello, you have to start pretty early. As children, none of us were ever exposed to the use of classical training outside of the classical world and scenes, and the years of studying at the academy of music had the tendency of making you feel a little bit odd, as there was for sure some kind of desire which was not fulfilled.

Taking one step out of the classical background, because certain ideas and ambitions kept haunting us, felt both scary, liberating, and necessary. Experiencing other artists who have done the same made you feel less lonely, and founding a group like toechter was for sure like a big, warm hug!

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

We chose the name toechter (German: daughters) because we wanted to research and create from a place of unification. In a time when so many things divide us, it feels necessary to stress that we belong to the same tribe. We all origin from something and someone. Imagine if our understanding for one another would take off from this point - an understanding and sensation of connection.

Therefore, when we listen to music by other artists, we often listen for inspiration or even kinship, as we are very often - unwillingly - put into competitive positions on so many parameters by society and capitalistic structures. How many plays, followers, monthly listeners does he / she / they have? toechter is a project that reaches out; both for collaborations and creative exchanges, and we are aiming for tribal connection with like-minded artists.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

Up until the release of Zephyr, our focus as a group has been put entirely on researching the use of our string instruments and our abilities to play them, deriving from our classical backgrounds. We wanted to create something together as a group; to curate a safe playground where the ideas flow between us and a joint creativity arises.

All sounds presented on Zephyr come from either the instruments, our effect pedals, or ourselves. So in that sense our work to this point has been very dogmatic.

Working as a group shows so many different facettes and we are constantly aiming for the point where we truly complement each other, as everybody is fulfilling different roles.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

One could argue that we aim to transcend the cultural habits of the string instruments by adding layers of electronic effects, by claiming our space as both composers and performers, and by crossing over and borrowing from all genres that inspire us.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

From the very beginning of toechter, we had a common vision to explore the possibilities and realms of string instruments when manipulated by effect pedals. Each of us had different wishes with regards to what we wanted to learn and try out, for example creating bass drums and beats or playing chamber music with the pedals functioning as our 4th instrument.

We wanted to create something together as a group; to curate a safe playground where the ideas flow between us and a joint creativity arises. What we all found inspiring as a group was how we gently and carefully pushed each other in learning new tools or trying new things out, like singing, new ways of playing, creating individual sample libraries, and prioritizing a focus on producing.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

Working mainly remotely as we do, we value the times of hanging out and working physically together extremely high.

A day of workshopping together, be it in Berlin, Copenhagen or in the countryside of Sweden, we make sure to start the morning with a round of checking in with one another. Where are we all at mentally? Sharing a moment of complete honesty, maybe drinking a cup of coffee and letting the energies flow and the day take off from a shared sensation of connection.

After this, we would get our instruments out and perhaps play some slow scales together to warm up the wood and the strings and tune in to one another musically as well. Maybe we would play a bit with a metronome, too, to embody a shared feeling of pulse and tempo. After this, we would probably start jamming, just press the record button on the setup and see what comes out of it. Maybe taking off from a dogma like hey, let’s all play something icey or what would happen if you were to turn that thing up on the Big Sky?

Then maybe later it is time for another break and a walk around in the neighborhood or maybe sharing a moment in silence together, just tuning in to all the sounds from the world surrounding us or resetting our minds before we go back to the studio.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

The creation of the last track on the album, "Epilogue", has something very pure and direct to it, as it is a direct transcription of a small part of a longer jam session.

On a very hot Summer day of 2020, we were jamming in the studio, and someone suggested we play a classical string trio on the count of three without deciding on any key, tempo, or common vibe. So we inhaled, counted ourselves in, and played what turned out to be "Epilogue".

This track is the only one on the album on which we haven’t done any post production, as we like the idea of the purity and immediacy of this composition. However, it was probably the hardest track to record at the Funkhaus, as we all had a very clear vision of energy, timing, phrasing, tempo, and sound from the original jam session.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

To us, the body of work originates from the fruit of our collaborative forces coming together.  Diving into our work or jam sessions, and letting our united research surprise us and take us places we would have never experienced alone.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

As artists, we try to communicate. Be it complexity, emotions, or the suggestion that maybe things could be done differently - maybe we could live together more equal, free, honest and true to ourselves.

One theme, to which we all seemed to constantly return during the genesis of Zephyr, was the entering or transcending into other worlds or spheres, be it through symbolism, rituals, or dreams.

We hope this album comes off as a clear invitation for the listener to join us into another dimension, to a utopia of which we ourselves do not fully know the contours.

Also, getting a little political here, it is quite obvious that the way music is valued in comparison to other art forms today is problematic. Nobody would steal a book, walk openly into the theatre without a ticket, or expect to get unlimited private access to Sofia Coppola’s latest film on the day of its first showing.

So, something drastic happened when music transitioned from having a physical place in the world to floating out of your mobile phone whenever you want it to.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

There is a sudden feeling of unity which can appear when listening to a piece of music in a state of deep concentration - a sensation, which can make you feel less lonely, simply because your emotions and experiences are mirrored.

It almost goes without saying that this sensation appears in other fields as well; reading a book and a certain line hits you with all of its intensity, watching a choreography and one specific movement, how the dancer stretches out an arm, overwhelms you completely, or fixing your gaze at a certain facial expression depicted in a painting in an art gallery and you happen to see yourself.

There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?  

Working with art can be a way of processing science and new scientific advancements as an individual. Within our group, for instance, the frustrating apathy connected to issues regarding the climate crisis has been an important source of inspiration.

Artists of all kinds are able to suggest a somewhat sensory entry to a certain scientific topic, which for some may work as an easier entry into understanding it.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Like mentioned above, art is - among other things - communication. What we try to do with our music is we try to reach out, suggest other mindsets or ways of living. Music happens to be the language we have learnt and refined in order to express ourselves as best we can.

Playing a string instrument even allows you to express complexity without suggesting any verbal solution or neglection of the massiveness of the topic.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

Again, music is a way of communicating. Sounds speak directly and beyond words, geographical and cultural borders via frequencies you were already exposed to in the womb - some fetuses move energetically when they recognise music or sounds from the outside world.

Of course scientists continually dive deeper and deeper into this subject, hence are able to give us even better and more precise explanations for what is physically going on. But isn’t it somewhat lovely that there some things with regards to how art, in this case music and sound, is perceived, that we cannot fully comprehend?