Greek indie-pop makes its mark

They live among us but are generally ignored despite making up one of the country’s healthier music scenes, whose style many of the artists themselves describe as «Britpop.» The Greek pop circuit has suddenly awoken and is making its presence felt with groups emerging from Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras and Ioannina. All this thanks to an advertising campaign on television! Following the unexpected success of Raining Pleasure from Patras, which gained much exposure through television advertisements that used their music, a whole bunch of other groups have emerged and are currently pushing for recognition. This guild of Greek indie-pop bands, all still on the fringe, is struggling to prove that a real scene actually does exist. These acts clearly prefer using English-language lyrics, an option that brings them closer to the style they serve, which hails from the UK and has a global reach. Because of the language barrier, this tiny English-language rock scene was sidelined on the «Greek rock» scene’s periphery – that is until a couple of years ago. The groups Trypes and Xylina Spathia, both of which sing in Greek and hail from Thessaloniki, dominated the country’s rock scene with little leeway left over for milder-sounding, foreign-language Greek peers such as Interstellar Overdrive, Crooner, and Next Time Passions. This all changed when a well-known mobile telephony firm decided to use excerpts from two Raining Pleasure songs, «Fake» and «Capricorn,» for a series of heavily aired TV advertisements. The band’s music reached households all over the country, and Raining Pleasure’s «Flood» album, from which the two tracks were lifted, climbed the Greek charts. The young band from provincial Patras played sold-out performances at the 2,000-capacity Rodon club in Athens last winter. Raining Pleasure are presently recording a new album, tentatively titled «Keep It Spinning,» which the band hopes will sustain its popularity. «The advertisements served as a way for the band and its music to be heard. The same thing could have happened with the release of an album or a video clip, but television is a medium that exists in every home,» said band member Vassilikos. «We hope that the situation has improved for other bands. Lots of record companies are signing up English-language bands now, which was not happening several years ago. I don’t know whether this is a temporary trend. It will depend on the bands themselves. But the way has opened,» he added. Aris Siafas of the band Matisse, which has signed with multinational Sony’s Greek branch – a move which the act hopes will help it to break into the mainstream – uttered similar sentiments. «The situation is positive but it’s too early to tell what this all really means. It could mean everything, and it could mean nothing at all,» remarked Siafas. The origins of the capital’s current pop circuit date back to the last decade. Of course, various local groups had used pop as their vehicle of expression earlier on, but, quite naturally, the links between acts of the past two decades are stylistically closer. Aspiring urban popsters began seeking their musical ways with legendary band The Smiths as their main guiding light. They formed bands and established related local scenes. Major events included the series of popular «Pure» parties for indie-pop devotees. Also, bars catering to the style began surfacing, among them Pop on Kleitiou Street in central Athens, and relevant music stores, such as Pop Art on Didotou St, opened for business. The current crop of Greek pop bands was propelled into action by the UK’s Manchester scene – not necessarily made up exclusively of bands from that city – which seemingly emerged from nowhere in the late 1980s and early 1990s with beat-heavy pop and a distinctive dress code and attitude. Greek bands that eventually followed similar paths included Groove Machine, Sound Device, Wasteland, One Night Susan, Pillow, and Kissamatic Lovebubbles. Fed up with the moodier and darker styles of indie-rock that had prevailed in the 1980s, these acts turned to more luminous ways. Attitudes, by comparison, were happier and more relaxed material. Protest was replaced by youthful bliss. But this local scene was short-lived after failing to make an impact on the mainstream. Most groups hit dead ends as some members confronted military obligations and others turned to other musical styles during a period when floods of sounds were reaching local shores from all over the world. Members of Sound Device, for example, have formed a splinter group, Dr Vodkatini, whose dance-intended material ranges from swing to reggae. The arrival of recording programs for computers provided musicians wanting to continue making music the opportunity to work alone in home studios, detached from lengthy weekend rehearsal sessions in the pre-computer era. Antonis Vlastos of the 1990s band Groove Machine nowadays works solo on his music from his own studio. Calling himself Monochrome, Vlastos releases recorded work – electronic dance music – and performs as a solo act. Returning to Raining Pleasure, the Patras band definitely paved the way for the latest guild of indie-pop Greek bands. One of the promising prospects, Crooner, recently performed in Mallorca, at the Spanish island’s Primavera Sound Festival, while their album «Soft Escape» was released in Japan. Another act, Byron’s Girlfriend, serves light-sounding pop sounds reminiscent of acts that appeared on the Sarah indie label, while No Balance play a more driven punk-tinged style. Soho 6 are winning over fans largely due to their singer, Marily Kritsiona, whose voice echoes that of Dolores O’Riordan of the Irish group The Cranberries. Film, a moodier, less predictable Greek band, is probing the «post-rock» field. Interstellar Overdrive, an interesting outfit, rejects the term «pop» and notes that distinct styles no longer exist. «Music, these days, is more varied and albums are not homogenous from beginning to end,» said Orestis Karamanlis, Interstellar Overdrive’s main songwriter. This is true, as is reflected by the eclectic work of Matisse, whose pop sound can also appeal to rock fans inclined toward harsher music. Peer group Relevant Box are, by comparison, more claustrophobic in style. These aforementioned acts, currently battling along the local pop front’s periphery for recognition, have all released material. A further 50 or so acts currently working on material and hoping to draw record-company interest, could be added to the swelling guild of hopefuls.