Vatican Calling – An Interview with CAMLANN

WL//WH Interview  Camlann

At their age, I was probably barely still playing toy soldiers and spent time watching erotic Italian B-movies by stealth, while starting to listen to some splinter of Zeppelin, Stones, Pink Floyd and UK Prog, but the Internet and social networks have in some way dangerously reduced the times alas, yet with some positive exceptions, fortunately…

Camlann, the Indonesian Dark Post-Punk teen collective from Jakarta, bring out a convincing and enticing debut album, albeit with some limitations of inexperience, replete with emotional and haunting synth-laden melodic darkwave on which stands out the Ony‘s evocative commanding vocals, soulfully chilling in seamlessly powerful dark passions. I had a chat with the amazingly young dark chanteuse, check it out…

  • Why did you start making music? Who were your musical and artistic inspirations growing up?

To be honest, I don’t even know the actual reason why did I start making music. It was probably around late 2018 when my brother bought me an electric guitar as a Christmas present since then I started on writing some music without any intentions on releasing it. It was all just a hobby really. Not long after that, I started to cover some of my favourite songs and post it on my old Instagram account. Somehow, this attracts Chariszan’s attention and asked me if I want to form a band together with her as the producer.

In early 2019, Camlann was formed. The original lineup was A-be on Vocal, Ony Godfrey on guitar, FX Bim Bim on synth, and Abel Pramudito on drums. Unfortunately, a few weeks after the release of our 1st EP, “The Arrival”, Camlann almost broke up. The reason is, all the members decided to leave the band leaving me and Chariszan alone.

Around September 2019, my classmate, which is Fauzan, asked me if he could join the band as the synth player and the composer. After that, Fauzan asked his friend, which is Bayu, if he wants to join the band. So there you go, that’s how it all started.

My top influences will be Joy Division, The Smiths, Drab Majesty, The Velvet Underground, and Nico. Morrissey’s songwriting and melancholic sound of The Smiths really influenced my songwriting. Meanwhile, Nico and Ian Curtis are definitely the ones who shaped and influenced how my vocals sound. I’ve always enjoyed Nico’s music since I was 13 years old. I’m also a really huge Drab Majesty fan. Discovered their music a year and a half ago, and their music really influenced our music especially in our debut album.

  • Why and how is born your attraction for the cold, dark, haunting and gloomy sound at such a young age?

I discovered The Smiths and Joy Division around early 2017. Since then, I tried to discover more artists and bands from the Post-Punk genre. Not long after that, I got all hooked up on darker music such as Post-Punk and Darkwave music. I’ve always love darker sounds in music since I was 12 or 13, but it has started to become an obsession when I was 14 years of age.

  • What were the trigger factors that lead to the formation of Camlann, did you already have an idea of what the sound would be

It all started as a hobby and me and Chariszan didn’t expect it to become something like now, it was all for fun. But somehow, our music attracts a lot of people around Indonesia after the release of our EP, “The Arrival”. Camlann was never really taken seriously before Fauzan and Bayu joined the group. Fauzan and Bayu are the ones who encourage me and Chariszan to make this band something serious. Also yes, we have always go in this direction since the birth of Camlann until now. We always wanted to make darker music since the beginning. Fortunately, somehow Fauzan and Bayu are also a Post-Punk and Darkwave music enthusiasts, just like me and Chariszan.

  • Indonesia was very familiar to me for several Indie-Pop bands/labels, but it seems to be a rise of interest about Post-Punk too lately (Ultraviolence, Succubus, Tenebre just to name a few). Could you tell us about the music scene of your hometown and then Indonesia in general… Do you have any favourite local bands and any to recommend?

To be honest, all of us are pretty new to the Indonesian music scene. We got introduced to the scene by our previous manager and record label, which is exactly a year ago. Since then, we started to search and discover more local Post-Punk acts in our local scene. We are not really an active part of the local scene, so we can’t really explain it to you since we think we’re not the right person to explain it.

For local bands, Fauzan is currently listening to this Post-Punk band from Medan called Pullo. Their latest single, “Tenebrous”, is really good he said. Bayu said that He also enjoys Pullo and Coldvvave. For me, I’ve been listening to this new Cold Wave duo from Malang called Modern Approach (formerly Ultraviolence). Their latest single, “Temples”, is really good in my opinion.

  • What do you bring from your Indonesian identity and heritage into the music you create?

Not much really, we don’t really put a lot of Indonesian identity or cultural references in our songs and album. We give more religious imagery and references in our songs, specifically Catholic references and imagery. We love our country and we’re proud to be Indonesian, but we don’t really put Indonesian cultural references in our songs and album.

  • The band looks like a collective, in addition to the band’s members, you have a producer, Chariszan, and a co-songwriter, Arachne, both your own age. Could you explain how the creative and songwriting process unfold? Does the music come first? or is it conceived as a framework for the Ony commanding voice?

We usually write the lyrics first, then after that, we will discuss and arrange the music together. Usually, lyrics inspirations come from many aspects and events in our lives. Usually, the instruments come first when it comes to song arrangement. Fauzan is the composer of all of the songs in our debut album, and usually, he’ll give us the ideas on how the songs will sound and after that, we’ll try to develop the ideas together as a band. When we all finally know how we want the songs to sound like, we’ll record the demos. Usually, after that, we’ll send it to Chariszan and ask her opinions about the demos. And after that, we record the songs properly in the studio. Chariszan will take the full control of producing the songs, and usually, she will monitor us when we’re recording. After recording, she’ll usually add some spice to the songs and stuff like that.

  • Could you explain the lyrics’ themes? Is there an all-encompassing thread that ties all the songs? Are they in any way autobiographical?

The songs in this album are actually related to each other if you listen to it properly. It is actually a story, this album tells you the life of a Catholic priest called, Johannes Bianchi. He’s not a real person, but he’s definitely an inspiration from a real person who happens to be a huge part in my life back then.

Some are autobiographical and some are just a story that came out of my mind for whatever reason. The lyrics themes are various, especially in our debut album. Some about love and some about pain. For example, “Father Johannes” is a song that tells you a life of a man who wants to be a Catholic priest since he was a boy, but then he found love and fell in love with a woman. They both drowned in the sea of love, but then he decided to leave her and choose God over her. This song leads to the song, “To Vatican”, where it is clear that this man left her to chase his calling to the Vatican. Meanwhile, “Lonely For The Rest Of My Life” is the song that screams pain, sadness, and anger of the woman who got left by Johannes. To be honest, each song has different and various themes behind them. But all of them are all definitely revolving around Johannes Bianchi.

  • There are deep sadness and maturity in your voice. From where do you pull the unsettling pain and darkness?

To be honest, I don’t really have a painful life at all. In fact, I’m really happy and grateful for my life and my current condition. I don’t really know that I sound “dark” and “painful” before some people told me so. My speaking voice is very shrill, but somehow when I sing I sound deep and dark. Maybe it’s because Nico influenced my vocals a lot. Her voice really influences how I sound musically.

I don’t really experience anything painful, but what I know for sure is that I have witnessed the death of people I love the most since I was a child. I lost a lot of my loved ones since a little girl, and my big family’s condition is full of secrets and lies that my parents never told me about. You know, I feel like my life has been a lie since I was a little kid. But then, my cousin started to tell me the truth about everything revolving around my big family’s life. That’s probably the reason why I’m interested in darker sides of life. I don’t think it’s something painful, but what I know for sure is that I have witnessed a lot of stuff in these 16 years of life.

  • Do you find any challenges as the only woman in the band? Also, has your age caused any unique experiences thus far?

Not really, never really experience any struggles as being the only girl in the group. Fauzan and Bayu are definitely the best, haha! We support each other as a band and as a family. Our age has been causing some experiences such as getting mocked by our school friends and we usually got underestimated by a lot of adults, both online and in real life back then.

  • Could you give us an insight into the process of the LP’s creation? The inspirations, difficulties and purposes lying behind it…Did you have an older advisor and assistant?

I’ve been writing some lyrics for our debut album since July 2019, but didn’t really do anything to these lyrics before Fauzan and Bayu join the band. When they joined the band around September 2019, we started to brainstorm the concept and ideas for the album. As I said previously, the lyrical inspirations are mostly a development from events that are happening in our lives, but some are imaginary and fictional. Musically, we got inspirations from both old (Joy Division, Clan Of Xymox, and The Cure) and new (Drab Majesty, Kælan Mikla, and She Past Away) Post-Punk and Darkwave related artists and bands.

This album has gone through a lot of changes and versions, there’s also a time when we got quite exhausted and kind of hopeless on this album. The struggles behind the making of this album is a lot, but mostly, its time management to be honest. We’re all still in high school and some of us really want to go to our dream University that is located in Jakarta, so we need to divide our concentration between school and making music. Aside from tike management, maybe the other struggle we experienced is re-recorded everything (3 times) from the start since all of us feel like the previous versions are not good enough and that we want to improve how it sounds.

The purpose behind this album is actually pretty simple, we just want to share our music to the world and hoping that people will like it. We keep on making music because we love it and we enjoy it. We will keep on making music and expect our 2nd album to come out in 2021.

For your question regarding if we have an assistant or advisor, the answer is no. Our advisor is our producer, Chariszan. Aside from that, we don’t have anyone else. We do everything by our own selves, we used to have a manager back then, but now we do everything by ourselves.

  • Have you any favourite songs that would you pick out from the LP, if you had to, and why?

This is a hard question for three of us, but when I asked Fauzan and Bayu about this, Fauzan said his favorite tune from the album is “Father Figure” and “Father Johannes”. He said it’s his choice tunes simply because the “cinematic” melodies the song gives and how it all makes the song sounds so sweet and emotional. Meanwhile, Bayu said that his all-time favourite will be “To Vatican” because it’s the first song we all compose and record together as a band, and this song has gone through a lot of versions and revisions. He also loves this song because it’s very danceable and upbeat, but somehow dark and painful.

For me, I would pick “The Forgotten Lost Fragments” because I feel like that song, in particular, is very personal and dear to me. That song also caught the attention of our current label which is Cold Transmission Music, and it leads us to where we are right now. The song itself has a really dark and painful vibe in it, exactly how I feel when I wrote the lyrics for the song.

  • Your sound is a blend between dreamy/ethereal and dark/haunting. Was this an intentional creation or a natural inclination? But you have sprinkled it some poppier episodes, like in “New City, New Hope” with those tasty 80s disco-funky leanings…

This is definitely made intentionally, since the rebirth of Camlann, three of us has decided to go in this dreamy and dark direction, but still have each members’ characteristics and various influences from various artists. “New City, New Hope” is made that way because Chariszan gave us an idea to give the album a “shock value” by putting an 80’s happy sounding disco/funk song on the album. This song particularly was composed and produced all by Chariszan.

  • Which band/artist would you love to collaborate or make a cover version of?

We would love to collaborate with Drab Majesty, it would be a dream come true if someday we could make something together with them. We’re all such a huge fan of their music, and all of us went to see them performing in Jakarta last February 2020. We’re influenced a lot by their music and we look up to them, so it would be awesome if someday we could collaborate with them. In fact, we would be so honoured.

  • Do you remember the first record you bought or strikes your imagination forever?

“The Queen is Dead” by The Smiths, hands down.

  • What are you listening to at the moment?

We listen to a lot of songs and album from various genres lately. We listen to a lot of stuff recently, so we’ll just give our top picks which are “Gathering Swans” by Choir Boy, “FIERCE” by Hante., “My Mind Makes Noises” by Pale Waves, “Section” by A Projection, and “Front Row Seat To Earth” by Weyes Blood.

  • I know it’s not easy, but please name your favourite 3 records ever.

“The Queen Is Dead”The Smiths

“Modern Mirror” – Drab Majesty

“Heaven Or Las Vegas”Cocteau Twins

  • Is there any question I forgot to ask or anything you’d like to add?

No, haha! We think it’s enough, thanks for having us though!

CAMLANN‘s debut LP “The Forgotten Lost Fragments” is out now, CD/Digital, on Cold Transmission Music.

Keep up with Camlann: