October 5, 2016

Interview: Gurr

Learn about Gurr's hitchhiking beginnings and how they're inspired by Shania Twain.

The first song ever uploaded on Gurr's bandcamp page is an ominous-sounding tune called "The Tragedy of S.T.," replete with album artwork featuring Canadian godsend Shania Twain in her famed "That Don't Impress Me Much" leopard hooded jumpsuit. Gurr, a German garage rock duo comprised of Andreya Casablanca and Laura Lee, were hungover in the kitchen one morning and started reading Shania's Wikipedia page. They had the divine inspiration to record an ode to the pop songstress, reciting her biography and pairing it with lo-fi bluesy riffs, a tambourine, and a monotone verse delivered in German. Gurr's other bandcamp tracks feature funny anecdotes such as this one, like the time they visited Nico's grave in a Berlin forest or when they laughed throughout the movie 50/50, which, you know, is about cancer. These stories perfectly complement the playfulness and candor found in Gurr's music. There's also a strange kinship that forms while listening to them; it's almost as if you're in the kitchen right beside them, nursing your hangover and marveling at the fact that Shania's real name is Eilleen. Gurr's debut LP, In My Head, is slated for release on October 14th via Duchess Box Records. I got to chat with the twosome about touring, books, and eighties karaoke.

The Le Sigh: Where are you guys at right now? 

Gurr: Right now, we are in Laura's living room, eating chocolate and drinking coffee. We are listening to a Spotify Playlist called Indie Music for Slackers. We just came back from Reeperbahn Festival which is kind of like a German SXSW and we were signed by a UK booking agency so there will be lots and lots of shows coming up for us. Also we are playing SXSW next year so if you have a room for us in Austin let us know :).

TLS: I read that you guys met in an American Studies class. What interests you about American culture? 

Gurr: We definitely listen to a lot of American bands. Right now, we really love Warpaint and Broncho. Our studies have influenced us in so far that we encountered a lot of American literature, movies, music and also ideas that we bonded about – Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers, J. D. Salinger, Douglas Coupland and postmodernism are definitely some of those. Musically, we also draw from a lot of British influences though. We've always been obsessed with the Beatles and also Manchester bands like Joy Division or Oasis.

TLS: When did you decide to start a band? 

Gurr: We were sitting on Andreya's bed and were thinking about what we could do for the summer. So we checked out flights and it was really cheap to fly to London. We just booked two plane tickets there and stayed for 4 weeks, hitchhiking through England, which is not at all a thing in England and only freaks or very concerned dads would take us along. We told everybody that we had a band in Berlin so when we came back we had to follow through with it.

TLS: What kind of music did you guys grow up on? 

Gurr: It was an eclectic mix of trash pop and things that were in the charts in the late '90s and early 2000's – Spice Girls, Aaliyah, Shania Twain, or Linkin Park. But both of us soon got into bands like Oasis, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, King Khan and the BBQ Show or Black Lips. Andreya was obsessed with Be Your Own Pet and Laura dreamt of having babies with Noel Gallagher.

TLS: I looked up the German meaning of “Gurr” and apparently it means “useless person or wicked woman.” How’d you decide on the band’s name? 

Gurr: Funny how many meanings there are in this word that we didn’t know of – we recently watched this interview of a German radio host that said he can only find dentists when googling “Gurr.” We decided on the name because it was short and it's the sound German people make when imitating pigeons. And since Laura is very, very, very afraid of birds, especially pigeons, we thought it's a good paradox and word pun (gurr, girl, grrrl... you get it).

TLS: What’s Berlin’s music scene like? And what’s the difference between German and American audiences? 

Gurr: It's really great. We just went to 8MM Bar, where a lot of bands like to hang out, to listen to the test pressing of our album because our label manager's record player was broken. And it just happened that another band, Jawbones, was listening to their test pressing there when we arrived – it's a small circle and there's a sense of community among everybody. Even if you don't really know each other you can rely on connections your friends have. Promoters, bars, bookers, and bands all kind of blend together. About the audiences – well our American audience consisted of three 50 year old dudes on average, so we can't really say a lot. We will report back after SXSW.

TLS: You’ve shared the stage with bands like Jimmy Eat World, Bleached, and Best Coast. What musicians, dead or alive, would you like to tour with? 

Gurr: We just tweeted at Ryan from Broncho that we would love to tour with them – for us, they are a great example of contemporary indie music. But also touring with The Kills or Parquet Courts …. or BLUR (as if!) would be a dream for us.

TLS: I really love how some of your songs on Bandcamp have these corresponding hilarious stories. Do you have any anecdotes about the new songs on In My Head

Gurr: The stories behind the songs on In My Head definitely got a little darker or sadder, so they might just not be so funny. The guy in the song "Yosemite" was a famous climber that Andreya sat next to on a plane and died three years later in Yosemite. "#1985" is about a lost soul, who cannot get home from the bar and also not further in life. But there are also songs like "Computer Love“ that are about an imaginative love relationship between a guy and his computer.

TLS: So let's do a couple In My Head-related questions. Did you have embarrassing AOL screen names? 

Gurr: We are a little too young/uncool for AOL but we spent a lot of time on ICQ - Laura’s name was Cappuccino_90 and her Myspace name was taper_jean_girl (it was a time when Kings of Leon were still cool). Andreya's Myspace name was AndreaGoesToHollywood….. and her Skype name is one of the best because it’s "bssssssssssssssssyeah." And she always has to remember how many s’s the name has.

TLS: What is your go-to 80’s karaoke song? 

Gurr: At Reeperbahnfestival, we ended up at a Thai karaoke bar and Laura sang "Total Eclipse of the Heart“ by Bonnie Tyler and for a second all the drunk bachelor parties got really sad and sang along before one of them sang "The Real Slim Shady" again.

TLS: You recorded some of In My Head at Hansa Studios, the same studio David Bowie recorded much of his Berlin trilogy albums. There’s that famous rumor that his diet consisted of cocaine, milk, and red peppers while he lived in Berlin. What three foods would you pick for your diet? 

Gurr: We actually didn’t end up using the recordings we made at Hansa because it was too crazy to step from bedroom recordings to Hansa. So for our album, we decided to do something in the middle - we went to an all analogue studio in an old GDR radio station called Funkhaus. We recorded with our friend Mishka, who runs Kozmic studios, and produced the album ourselves. But coming to the food question: We LOVE chocolate, specifically a weird kind of cookie that is called Jaffa Cake for no particular reason – and the classic tour snack of bread rolls with cream cheese.

TLS: Who is your favorite literary character? 

Gurr: Holden Caulfield, which is probably embarrassing at the age of 25/26, but back then it had a huge meaning to us. It was also the first book that had kind of this slang and atmosphere that is now so prevalent in series like Girls or mumblecore movies. We also both read "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius“ recently and loved how Dave Eggers in the book is always close to these important sub-cultural happenings (like the whole WIRED magazine crew) but he’s always to uncool to be a part of it.

Listen to Gurr on soundcloud.

Written by Taylor Silver