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Comic books and absurdist language: introducing the strange world of CALVA LOUISE

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An amalgamation from three corners of the world uniting in a frenzy of sonic fuzz and rock glitches, Calva Louise are as diverse as their far-flung birthplaces. Citing absurdist literature and the experimental films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Calva Louise continually absorb influences, assembling songs layered in inspiration, looping riffs and spirited vocals. Harnessing the lockdown as a time to experiment with animation and home recording, we spoke to the band about bilingual lyrics, cat wisdom and their new album.

Calva Louise
Image: Chris Driver

For those who do not know, how did a singer from Venezuela, a French guitarist and a drummer from New Zealand form a band in London?

Alizon: Jess moved to France when she was 16. We ended up in the same school and all we could talk about was music. She was like “I need to move to London” so I said “let’s do it!”

Jess: It wasn’t great in the beginning; we were sleeping in horrible hostels. I thought I needed to move to England because that’s where my favourite music was. So, we started playing open mics, doing any we could, we didn’t know anything or anyone. Alizon couldn’t even speak English!

Ben: I was playing in a different band and we were on the same billing, I moved here when I was around 14.

J: We met at the right place at the right time. We were all over London, like nomads. I have a wardrobe now but i don’t use it, I still use my suitcase!

It’s really refreshing that you have bilingual lyrics, do you find there is a language barrier?

A: It’s actually where the band name came from.

J: It’s from a play, all about the absurdity of language. When we first arrived, I thought I needed to sing in English, but little by little I’ve realised that if I want to say something, I will think about how to say it best – if it comes in Spanish then Spanish it is.

A: Every language view the world differently. It’s about trying to be the most accurate with feeling and expression.

J: I thought I needed to fit in the mould of Britishness because we were told we were a UK band, we have admiration for British culture but now we add where we came from too.

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Both the name of your band and first album references the work of Eugène Ionesco, whilst your song ‘Trial’ takes inspiration from Franz Kafka. Is literature a main point of reference?

J: Every aspect of art is an influence; it’s about enjoying the totality of the world. It’s like an onion that you peel away and realise that a song has been inspired by another writer or philosopher or something, you can dig more and go down a rabbit hole of pure discovery.

B: When we first met, cinema was one of the things that we instantly bonded over, we all loved Tarantino and sci-fi films. That chain of inspiration is an artistic network of links that you never thought existed.

Visuals are also a strong element of Calva Louise – from making comic books to animated videos – how important are aesthetics to you?

J: A very good aesthetic sometimes comes with expertise and budget, so it can be hard to match the essence of what we want.

A: It’s so much more straightforward when you can do it yourself, especially at the moment where we have to do things ourselves and learning to be creatively independent.

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Your most recent release was a a collaboration with Strange Bones. how did that come about? Is it true that ‘Nine Lives’ was partly inspired by your cat?

J: We live together, we’ve spent the whole year glued to each other. I have my little studio, Bobby [Strange Bones] has his, and we started jamming and it evolved so we thought we should just release it. Bobby wrote the chorus about nine lives. It was funny, our cat Henry is the master of the house, he doesn’t give a shit, he does his thing. It’s a good attitude to have and we should all be more like Henry! We need nine lives to achieve what we need to do.

What’s next for Calva Louise?

J: We’ve recorded an album simultaneously with Strange Bones recording theirs. Bobby is mixing and producing both, it’s really collaborative, working as a team.

B: It’s been a really nice process; we’ve done it all in-house. Traditionally, in a studio you’re on the clock so there’s always that time pressure, which we haven’t had.

A: People can often be condescending to artists, whereas in reality, artists are fully capable. Managing ourselves has been a game-changer.

Underground Soundwave presents an ongoing series of reports on emerging and established bands with close-up Q&As, new release reviews and gig reports with a special emphasis on supporting diversity in music, women in music, independent labels and venues and the local music scene.

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