Seasurfer is a shoegaze band based in Hamburg, Germany. Founded by Dirk Knight, the band released its debut album Dive In in 2014. The second album Under the milky way… who cares came out in 2017. Dirk Knight changed the band’s line-up several times to gather musicians around him who fit the sound perfectly. Singer Apolonia joined in 2018 and first appeared on the EP “Vampires.“

Seasurfer’s third full-length, Zombies, a 16-song double album released in December 2020 that includes an additional mini-album of 8 songs featuring singer Elena Alice Fossi from Kirlian Camera.

Big Sonic Heaven contributor Rick Bourgoise spoke to Seasurfer founder Dirk Knight and lead singer Apolonia from Dirk’s home studio in Hamburg. 

The transcript of this conversation has been edited for length and readability.

 

Big Sonic Heaven (BSH): Congratulations on the album you released in December, a double album with 16 songs. Dirk, you recorded all of the instruments by yourself. That’s quite an impressive musical output. How long was the process to record all of these songs?

Dirk Knight: About two years, from recording first ideas to finding the final direction of the sound for the whole album. We decided to take a step back from the direction of the first album to add more guitars, sound and noise. There were also some personnel changes on the way to the final sound. At first we had a singer, and she left. Apollonia and I did it all by ourselves. It was a period of two years, but I’ve read a lot of bands take five, six years for an album. So, I think two years for a double album is okay.

BSH: It’s definitely an amazing output. Let’s talk about your sound. You mentioned it seems to mend together several different styles of music. How would you describe it?

Dirk: I’d been doing dream pop music with my former band Dark Orange. When I started doing Seasurfer, I thought about doing a more noisy sound and not doing the typical band, but doing it mostly by myself. I can feel free to use different styles and not to say, ‘Okay, if you do a dream pop band, you have to have a special sound.’ That’s annoying if you say I must sound like Slowdive. I can’t play around with new sounds. The main idea is still doing some wall of sound and creating atmospheres. For me, every album is a new album and has to have its own sound. The first album was not only sounds, but some small keyboard sequences, traditional guitar, bass, drums and vocals. The second album was a little bit more of it. This album is the most electronic album I’ve ever done. I’m listening today to more electronic music. So maybe it’s some influences that came out.

BSH: Let’s talk about that. You’re based in Germany, but you seemed to gravitate, at least initially, toward this English, 4AD sound. Now, you say you’re going more toward an electric sound. How would you say you’ve been influenced? Who’s influenced you along the way?

Dirk: We’re living in Hamburg, which is still the most British town in Germany. Apolonia and I have spent time in England and have had connections to bands from England. We grew up in a time where music from England was a huge influence. It was in the ’80s when bands like The Cure and Cocteau Twins came over here to Hamburg. Some of them played for the first time in Germany in Hamburg. After Berlin, it’s the second biggest town in Germany. I’ve never really been into German music. There were a few bands from Hamburg that maybe had a little bit of influence, but mostly I was more influenced by the English sound. For me, it’s a compliment. I’ve never felt like a German, I’ve always felt more like a European. We both would prefer to live in England than in Germany.

BSH: You mentioned Cocteau Twins. You have a relationship with Robin Guthrie, and you worked with John Fryer. Fryer remixed some of the songs available with this album release. Tell me how you got to work with John Fryer, what that process was like and his re-mixing the songs.

Dirk: My biggest influence is still Robin Guthrie because of his special sound. He works with delays and reverbs to put guitars into a wall of space and sound. It was very interesting working with him with my older band and on mastering the first Seasurfer album. He now lives in France.  You can call him, and it is easygoing. We got in touch with John Fryer through Elena Alice from Kirlian Camera because she had been working with him. She said, ‘John Fryer is normally very expensive to do remixes, but he owes me for something. I’m a good friend of John, and I will ask him to do two songs.’ For me, it was interesting because I’ve never heard my sound with vocals in front of the music. Normally, I put the vocals into the sound to use vocals like a special instrument. But, he put very dry vocals in front of the sound. It was interesting to have a listen. At first, I thought, ‘Oh, great God, that sounds horrible,’ but after time I fell in love with it too. I still think my mixes are better (laughs).

BSH: Apolonia, I want to bring you in here. You’ve been with the band since 2018. How did you meet Dirk and how did you become part of Seasurfer?

Apolonia: Dirk and I have known each other for a little bit longer. It was just that we started releasing music around that time. He was looking for a new singer, and he put a post on an online music portal looking for someone. When I read that he’s looking for shoegaze dreampop, I was really excited because this music is quite rare in Germany. It doesn’t have that many listeners. I always listened to this kind of music back in my teens when we still had MTV. I remember when I first heard Cocteau Twins when I was 14, and I fell in love with it immediately. I also lived in New York and London for a long time, so this music was not new to me. When I read that ad, coming from a Hamburg musician literally around the corner from me, I was so excited. I immediately answered, and we’ve known each other since. We started recording a little and tried to get to know each other a bit more. In the end, our first release was Vampires (EP released in 2018), but it took a couple of years.

BSH: Tell me a little bit about your music history. You must have sung previously. Were you in bands in New York or London?

Apolonia: When I was in New York, I was studying and acting. I also had a musical background. At the acting schools, they give you singing lessons, but musicals are totally not my thing. One of my first bands in New York was actually a punk band. Unfortunately, we never really made it to the stage. We had really cool rehearsals in New Jersey at the end of the 90s, but unfortunately, it never came beyond the demo phase. When I returned to Germany, I worked in the film industry for a long time. I was an assistant to a lot of international directors and was also doing a lot with video and film production. Later, I had a little bit more interest in electronic sounds, but I was always listening to different kinds of music. I became a studio singer in Hamburg where you do a lot of different kinds of genres. I was always missing something that comes from my own teenage background. I always say to Dirk, ‘I wish I would have found you when I was still 20 years old.’ There were a number of different genres, but right now I feel like I’m arriving. It’s a great feeling.

BSH: Dirk, back to you. You’ve had a rotating cast of musicians along the way versus having a set lineup. What’s been the advantage to making music and recording albums in this style versus having a set band that’s always together?

Dirk: I’ve been on different sides. It’s not easy for a band because normally you define a band via a singer. The singer is the main face of a band. If you make too many changes, you may lose fans who said, ‘Oh, great singer, she’s gone. That’s not the same band now. I hate it.’ For me, it’s always the question of inspiration and to find people who give a lot of themselves into the music. Our first album had a singer from Berlin and the bass player came from south Germany. We couldn’t meet each other very often. We communicated via emails and sent files around. After the first album was recorded, I thought, now we have to play a lot of live stuff. Normally, when an album is done, it’s over for me. The most exciting part of making music is making new songs. So, if an album is out, it has been done for half a year because of the whole production of vinyl, maybe a CD. I can’t sit here and say to myself, ‘Okay, I have to wait one year to do new music.’ If the singer can’t follow me saying, “no, an album is done. I have to stop.’ I can’t stop. I’m a workaholic making music. So, I always have to find new people. The second singer was from the middle of Germany, and she was also the singer of Chandeen, a German dream pop band. She was only with me for a year. Now, with Apolonia, I may have to change my idea. Normally, I have to look for another singer for the next album. For me, it’s a good feeling if you have people who are living near, and you can meet very often and talk. We realized that communicating via email is difficult. It’s not the same as talking and watching people to know what they really want to say instead of writing it all (in e-mails). It’s very comfortable because she lives near. Apolonia said, ‘No, we don’t have to stop now. We can go further.’ Now, we are both in the band. We also did some songs with other singers, and that’s also good for me. Apolonia is the main singer, and if sometimes, I want to do a different style of music, we can feature someone like Elena Alice from Kirlian Camera. The sound is a little bit more different, and it’s also cool to work with other musicians.

BSH: Elena Alice Fossey has some of the features on this particular album on the additional tracks and then she was on an EP of yours previously. Is it safe to say that Seasurfer is now a duo, the two of you, going forward and then you’ll have a rotating cast? 

Dirk: I don’t think about it today. I really want to play live more. Normally, we play live shows in March. They were all canceled because of the situation here (COVID-19). I realized if we ever want to do it live, and do it well, we have to (recruit musicians) to realize it. The main idea of doing Seasurfer was to have more of a wall of sound than normal dreampop, much more noise, but having a real ethereal voice over it. Apolonia has all the things I want with Seasurfer, so it’s fantastic. It’s very special.

BSH: What are you working on now? What can we expect next?

Dirk: We are having some discussion about it. I want to do some songs that are really dream punk music, very fast songs. We are still working on it, and it works very well, because it will be very fast music. It’s very experimental work with very ethereal vocals over it. It’s interesting.

Apolonia: We’re experimenting with that at the moment.

BSH: Apolonia, you have some ideas as well. What are your thoughts?

Apolonia: The way that we have always worked was that he’s mainly doing the music. He would send me what he’s working on at the moment. There are some songs where immediately I had the singing melody and the atmosphere. I would write something and record it, and he liked it. Some songs have to be a bit more back and forth, because I can’t always get into his head and he can’t always get into my head. We’re  working together now so closely, we’ve also become friends. I think I will definitely find a way to figure out what is in his mind right now, but I understand what he means because it’s such a cool clash to have this punk, electronic, shoegaze music with ethereal vocals. I love doing female vocals. I’ve been a huge Cocteau Twins fan, like I said, since I was 14 years old, but I still think it’s so important to bring in your own true authentic feelings into it. I think that works really well with both of us. The songwriting is really on both sides because the singing melody comes from me and all of the music comes from him.

BSH: How soon will we hear some new recordings?

Dirk: We will do another single in the summer. We are trying to get remixes at the moment by Buzz Kull from Australia. He’s very electronic. Our label is also in touch with Tempers from Europe to try and get a 10 plus remix. I don’t know if they will do it, but we’ll try. We’ll do this punk EP in autumn. We also have a project featuring a singer from Hamburg who is on our label. It’s a very different kind of music, no guitars; very dark, slow stuff. So, there will be some music soon, and after it, we’ll go on. If you are able to do music, you can never stop, because who knows how long you can do it. Making new music and songs is part of my life. I can’t live without it. We are lucky to have a small label from Germany, who’s very close to us, and we can release it very fast.

BSH: Are you hoping to do any live shows sometime before the end of the year?

Dirk: Normally, we have to play some shows with a band from Canada, but it’s all canceled and put into March of next year. We’re gonna do a small summer show for some friends and record it and put it on the net. Nobody knows if shows will be possible in Germany this year. 

Apolonia: The summer show is outside of Hamburg. A friend of mine has a beautiful farm. Certain parts of our video for “Too Wild” were there. It’s really old fashioned where animals were kept. We’re thinking about doing some kind of a concert there in this atmosphere, and then recording it. Maybe in August. It would be nice to have a little bit of an audience, but we’re not sure if we can organize this because regulations in Germany are getting very tough at the moment due to COVID.

BSH: We’ve got several of your songs in rotation at Big Sonic Heaven. We love your music. We’re really excited to hear the new single this summer. I can’t thank you enough for doing this.

Dirk: It’s always good for us also to talk about music, because we don’t talk music among ourselves in the way we did with you. Another point of view is always interesting to talk about and clear your head. Thank you!

Seasurfer’s latest album Zombies is available for purchase on Bandcamp at https://reptilemusic.bandcamp.com/album/seasurfer-zombies-double-album.

 

Learn more about Seasurfer at https://seasurfer6.wixsite.com/seasurfer.

Rick Bourgoise
Big Sonic Heaven Radio Contributing Writer

Big Sonic Heaven is a 24/7 Internet radio station dedicated to the ethereal sounds of shoegaze, dream pop, post-punk, trip-hop, etc. Listen to the artists featured on the blog and discover more by downloading the app for iPhone and Android or listen at bigsonicheaven.com.