When Swiss vocalist Andreas Schaerer and Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalimba decided to bring some original songs together with the view of recording an album, it was obvious that the resulting music would be something special. Bringing in bassist Tim Lefebvre to play on the album too was nothing short of brilliant.
With the album Evolution just having been released, the recording fulfils the promise of some quite unique and intoxicating music.
For those familiar with Andreas Schaerer and Kalle Kalimba’s music they will not be surprised to learn that the two friends, although armed with much of the music that they wished to present also left things open to interpretation on the day, allowing the music to breathe and evolve organically.
Taking time out prior to the release of the album, Andreas was kind enough to talk to Jazz Views about the new recording.
You have a new album coming out at the end of the month called Evolution on the ACT label. Can you tell us a little about the album?
This album is a collaboration between Kalle Kalima and me. We both love complex music. I like abstraction in any art form, often it opens up spaces for the viewer, the listener. With this album, however, we both wanted to work with little abstraction for once. It was time to write direct and partly also very personal songs. We wanted to develop our own song cycle, which reflects our current thoughts and feelings. What occupies us as people in 2023? The instrumentation is very simple. Voice, guitar and bass. No frills, nothing to hide behind. it was our intention to create a strong song album.
The album is quite different from anything else in your discography and does feel like a natural evolution from your earlier work. What drew to making this album, and did it feel a natural progression from your perspective?
As a jazz musician, I naturally think more about the live situation when I’m creating new music. But an album is a completely different platform than the stage. Already with my previous album “The waves are rising, dear!” I pursued the approach of conceiving music for an album more consistently than ever before. Only when the recordings are finished, I worry about how to implement the music live on stage. With “Evolution” Kalle and I have now gone one step further in this direction. The result is an album that I can listen to over and over again and dive deeper into the songs with each time. It is an album that you “understand” even if you have not heard us live. So, to come back to your question, yes this album feels like a very logical and natural progression within a longer evolution. Nevertheless, I am of course now incredibly excited to open the pieces to experiment with them and to bring them again in a completely different form live on stage.
Your musical relationship with Kalle Kalima goes back many years, and you have been performing as a duo since 2017. How did you first meet and play with Kalle, and how do you feel your music together has changed over this time?
I followed Kalle’s music closely long before we played together. He is for me one of the most important European voices on the guitar. We both share a love for a wide musical field, from contemporary classical music, to rock of the 60’s and 70’s, to jazz and electronic music to name a few. I think it was around 2012 when I invited Kalle with his band “Klima Kalima” to play a concert together. I was co-curating a festival in my hometown of Berne at the time. More or less at the same time I was invited to a festival in northern Italy for a totally wacky concert. The organizer wanted us to perform live music for the first ascent of an overhanging rock in the Dolomites. Piezo microphones were used to amplify the heartbeat of the climbers and sent to us via radio on the loudspeakers. My drummer friend Lucas Niggli, Kalle and I improvised adventurous music to this. Our music was thus from the very beginning naturally quite existential.
After these first encounters, it was clear that we not only shared a lot, but could also incredibly prod and challenge each other live on stage. Most of all, in the ten years of making music together, our friendship has grown. You can certainly hear this in our music.
What has made a lasting impression on me when listening to Evolution is the sheer variety of the music, and in particular how you use your voice. From singing lyrics to wordless vocalising and your mouth percussion the way you perform these parts is a remarkable way of making music. How did you become interested in and then developing your use of extended vocal techniques?
Funnily enough, I was already involved with extended techniques when I wasn’t singing “normal” songs. So I first developed my voice as an instrument in a very intuitive way in my early childhood and only in a second step started to use my voice like a “traditional” singer. I think I could preserve that childlike joy of playing with my instrument until today. This is the source of my drive. Just as I, as a composer, understand an orchestra not as a collection of instruments, but as a self-contained organism, I want to use my voice with all its sounds and noises as one holistic instrument.
After building such a strong musical bond with Kalle in your duo performances it was a brave move, yet an inspired idea, to bring in a third musician in bassist Tim Lefebvre. Where did the idea to bring Tim in to record on the album come from, and had you performed together as a trio prior to recording Evolution?
During the development of the songs, Kalle and I both played with the idea of bringing other guests on board for individual pieces. In November 2022 we were at the Phlharmonie in Berlin for a ACT label night. Tim was also there. We decided quite spontaneously to play a piece together live. The result was a blast. Only a little later I invited Tim for a joint concert at the Jazzfestival Saalfelden and finally we invited him for our album production. Not only as a guest but as a fundamental part of a new trio.
Tim’s opening solo on ‘Piercing Love’ is one of the albums highlights, and the double bass and your voice making a striking combination on this track. This perhaps feels like the most jazz influenced composition with the role of the bass, Kalle’s sensitive accompaniment and your solo. How do you find that improvisation fits in with the concept of Evolution with its songlike structures?
“Piercing love” is for me a very narrative song with a direct and highly emotional text that moves me every time I sing it. The interplay between Tim and me, between the double bass and the voice, is emblematic for me of the two protagonists that the story of this song is about. I like the vice versa metaphor in the lyrics. The dependence between two people can be very similar to the dependence of an addict on his drug. The improvisation here is a distillation of the mood, of this vibe. Almost a kind of conclusion, resulting from the story, the theme.
Throughout Evolution the music is quite diverse, a genre defying album if you like. From your perspective how would you describe the process of making the album, and how would you describe the music?
Kalle and I each contributed half of the material. Kalle collaborated with his partner Essi Kalima on some of his songs for the lyrics. Over several months we met at loose intervals and explained the new ideas to each other. It was fantastic how naturally the song sketches found their concrete form. Sometimes we laughed: “this is how John Lennon & Paul McCarthy must have felt, when they wrote songs together”. We really entered a beautiful state of flow each time we met.
When we went into the studio with TIm in Berlin at the end of March 2023, the songs were more or less already finished. It was crazy, but at the end we had too much material, fortunately. Who knows maybe we will release some songs, that didn’t fit on the album afterwards.
Finally, we have discussed the longevity of your ongoing duo partnership with Kalle. Are there plans perhaps to extend the work of this trio and tour the music with Tim?
Fortunately, yes! Specifically, we are starting a joint tour with Tim in November and will play nine concerts together. Unfortunately, there is no date in the UK yet. I hope we can make up for this in 2024. We all have a busy schedule, so it won’t be easy to find common times, but there will be some concerts together in 2024.