CULTURE

English words for Greek sentiments

Over the past few years, and especially after the Athens Olympics in 2004, there has been a noticeable rise in the number of local bands opting for English lyrics. Mostly in the pop and rock and genres, the popularity of such acts has been significantly boosted by social networking websites, the free press and small record labels. Some have gone on to big record deals and tours, while others are still playing to the alternative crowd.

One of the bands that has stood out among the recently emerged crop is My Wet Calvin. Comprising Leonidas Economou and Aris Nikolopoulos, aged 29 and 28 respectively, this duo has been writing and performing noisy electropop numbers that have their roots in the extroverted sounds of the 1990s since 2004.

Both of them sing, write and play guitar. Economou has a degree in architecture from the National Technical University of Athens and now designs websites. Nikolopoulos meanwhile studied politics and is working in a nursery school.

Offstage there is no trace of stardom on either, yet when they perform live, the pair are transformed as they don the strangest of costumes — there has been an octopus and an astronaut, as well as a parrot and a horse — and hand out free copies of their music CDs in clever and quirky self-designed covers. So far, My Wet Calvin has released seven EPs, each sheathed in covers designed by Economou and Nikolopoulos.

?All Great Events,? which was released a year ago by Archangel Music, is their first album and essentially consists of a selection of reworked older songs. These and other surprises make up their live promo show, which is scheduled for March 12 at, of all places, a strip club.

Does using English lyrics betray a secret desire to work abroad?

Economou: It may have begun from that kind of delusion you know, to be the next Radiohead but I think it?s ridiculous to disconnect what we do from Greek reality. Of course there are foreign influences, but we are inspired by the city in which we live.

Nikolopoulos: I filled entire notebooks with English lyrics, then I went to England for the first time and was hit by culture shock. I saw what it means to have a band in England, to see how the industry works and so on. The standards are very high over there.

That was when I realized that I couldn?t even read an English newspaper without difficulty and I began questioning what I was doing and why I was writing in English.

At the back of my mind I do think about making an album using Greek lyrics at some point, but I?m afraid that if I start writing in Greek the lyrics will be a lot worse than they are in English. We have a mixed way of expression, but this is the one we?ve decided to stick to.

Do you feel that your work is futile?

Nikolopoulos: It depends on what you?re in it for. If it?s money and fame, then, yes, it?s futile. The band is a vehicle that takes us from one place to another and fills us with experiences, trips and music. What?s important is to do what you say, and we do.

You?re very much a part of the DIY culture. Do you think young Greeks have the fortitude to do their own thing and in their own way?

Nikolopoulos: That depends on where each person draws confidence from. We believe that art can survive under incredibly difficult conditions. This situation, glum and dark, is great for dreaming and creating. We have done everything on our own because the music circles in Greece are very tight and limited. We tried to replace a system promotion, art design, concert booking that doesn?t exist.

Is designing unique CD covers one way to make people want to buy them?

Nikolopoulos: Because we can see the slow demise of the CD, well-designed covers was an effort to keep it alive. When we listen to music we like to hold something in our hands. We grew up with CDs and we love them.

Yet at your last concert there was no CD in the cover, just a piece of cardboard with a code to download the music from the Internet.

Nikolopoulos: I think we have reached the next level: distributing music online without worrying about sales numbers.

Are you trying to make a statement with your strange costumes?

Nikolopoulos: It?s just a reaction. A reaction against ourselves. Our live shows are different and special. Our costumes give us an opportunity to escape our day-to-day lives and ourselves.

Erotica Live Show, 101 Acharnon, Aghios Panteleimonas. The show starts at 10 p.m. and admission costs 10 euros.