CULTURE

Evolving out of embryonic state at speed

As is the case with most Greek rock groups that opt to work in the English language, Matisse took hesitant early steps. It played its first shows at the An Club in Athens, one of the city’s oldest rock’n’roll dungeons. More recently, the group performed on a far bigger stage, at the Rockwave Festival, as the opening act on a bill that featured Garbage and Marilyn Manson. Comprised of a group of guys with an average age of 28, Matisse writes music and English-language lyrics during their spare time. Half the band members are students, the other half work. Judging by «CheapAsArt,» the act’s first full-length release, Matisse is handling it all very well. Their sound is fresh and their lyrics carry the audacity of their age. The band’s members say they’ve been influenced by the British and American alternative rock circuits. Labels, however, are the last thing the band needs. Matisse does not feel it necessary to represent any specific style; they’re not anxious about what’s to come; and aren’t concerned about making it abroad. What do they want, then? Lead singer Aris Siafas spoke to Kathimerini. How was the Rockwave experience? The things that came before and after the event have been very good for the band. We came into contact with a considerably large audience. But none of us enjoyed playing, and that, naturally, had nothing to do with the crowd but with the restrictions imposed on us by the organizers. They made us feel like inferiors. It’s just not cool for a group to not know whether it will be able to do a sound check before its performance. I’m not trying to say that we’re special, but the truth is I didn’t expect a Greek concert promoter to treat us like that. Your first full-length album is now on sale at stores. Are you happy with the result, or do you believe that something’s missing? What’s missing is the trademark. Our music is kind of ramshackle and, as a group, we’re in an embryonic state. But, what we do have is dynamism, which I hope will help us keep developing. Appealing songs and a well-worked production, in other words, there’s not much to envy from respective foreign acts. Do you believe it’s difficult to gain exposure abroad? It all has to do with circumstances. There are lots of good groups that never got heard and others worth absolutely nothing that are being played constantly. On the other hand, we may have put out a worthy production, as you described it, but countless groups abroad are doing the same thing. In recent years, an English-language rock circuit has developed considerably in Athens with bands that have gone beyond the more claustrophobic trends of the past. What do you think has contributed to that? The music scene changed and fans are showing a bigger interest in such bands. This interest, if I need to put a time-frame to it, developed over the past six years. Quite simply, the time came when certain groups started to sing in the English language and that no longer seemed strange. The number of English-language pop and rock albums by Greek groups has increased. What about the quality? People who start doing something with English language lyrics in Greece usually have higher aspirations. The level of competition they’re up against is higher, and they will strive to achieve the equivalent or something close to what they listen to. I truly believe this scene has a future in Greece. A generation with high expectations Matisse, Raining Pleasure, The Earthbound, Closer, Film: There are plenty of local pop, rock and electronica groups that are fluent in English. Their interesting proposals, fresh sounds and worthwhile album productions, combined with increased interest from listeners for a more international sound, has resulted in the emergence of a scene that contains lots of promise. Interest was once confined to the small independent labels, but multinationals have now moved in too. From Exarchia to ‘CheapAsArt’ Matisse was formed in Athens in 1997 and is comprised of Aris Siafas (vocals), Yiannis Massouras (bass, vocals), Grigoris Kollias (guitar), Petros Tsolis (drums), Costas Sinodinos (keyboards, piano) and Vassilis Zervos (guitar). The group started building a catalog of songs and played its first show in 1999 at the An Club in the capital’s downtown Exarchia district. They began recording material in 2002 which was released on an EP titled «4» the following year. It intrigued a considerable number of listeners. Two years later, and after nine months spent in the studio, Matisse released its debut album, «CheapAsArt,» which contains robust originals, such as «The Gospel,» «She Smiles,» «Rock’n’Roll for Boys,» as well as a gorgeous cover of Roy Vedas’s «Fragments of Life.»