To convert someone who’s not a huge fan of stripped down, lo-fi bedroom plucking is an impressive accomplishment. Our ghostly, experimental artist noemienours and her new record “Bear Meditations” is certainly not for all tastes. Despite the slow, melancholic, and fragile nature of her work, Noémie Dal stands firm on her straight edge and vegan fueled ethics. We caught up with her to discuss her intricate work, non ideological lifestyle, veganism, animal rights, feminism, right-wing trends in European politics, and a lot lot more.
“Bear Meditations” by noemienours conjures a steady, gentle longing and delivers a foggy, warm, and gloomy set of bedroom lullabies created by a conscious mind of an ambitious persona. All digital sales of the record support Animals Asia to help free the bears imprisoned in bile farms. The vinyl record is available via Hands And Arms (France), Communication Disorder (Japan), Krimskramz (Spain), Stashed Goods (UK), A-musik (Germany), and Fourth Dimension Records (Poland).
Hey Noémie! Thanks for joining us here on IDIOTEQ. How are you? How?s early 2018 been treating you so far?
I am fine. 2018 has been a very nice year for me so far, I feel like it will be a better year for me than 2017.
You have released your debut, compelling record in December. What pushed you towards recording such an intimate, stripped lo-fi record? What attracts you to that form and the creative process leading to it?
This is the kind of music that I have ever enjoyed, which has the most meaning to me and which is my most natural expression. I have been listening to lo-fi bands like Smog/Cynthia Dall, Cat Power, Palace, Daniel Johnston or Sebadoh, since I was like 15 years old, so I can recognize myself very much in this kind of ethics. I am a very spontaneous person and I like that my musical creation remains something spontaneous, from one person to one person, like Antonin Artaud would put it. I cannot bear superficial relationships, so this is for me the best way to share something deep and meaningful with other people.
Homerecording is for me the best way to create something personal and original. A lot of records made in recording studios often lose their spontaneity and miss this kind of creative freedom, so it would be difficult for me to imagine doing things another way. Homerecording does not mean either that the recordings would necessarily have a bad sound quality, I think this is something that can be improved and I try to experiment other recording techniques as much as I can. My wish would be more to be able to develop some sort of recording studio in my home, so I can achieve the best result with my music.
The question of intimacy is strongly related to the fact, that I am unable or unwilling to include superficial relationships in my life. I also have been listening a lot to the music of Stina Nordenstam for the last few years and I feel very inspired by this exploration of whispered vocals. This is something I would like to explore far more in my further recordings. Also the fact that I ended up playing up clavichord on this record has had an influence on this level of intimacy, because this is one of the most extremely intimate instruments that ever existed in music history, and this was a real challenge for me to record this instrument in the beginning.
What is your state of mind when you are composing?
I try to find some freedom in my mind, this is what makes creation possible. Very often, I write some poetry in the morning and improvise on guitar, clavichord or harmonium to develop the melody, then I try to integrate the lyrics in the melody. In the final recording, I sometimes transpose the music to another instrument because I think it sounds better. Also, sometimes I write lyrics in the evening or when I am travelling, and then rework those lyrics with some new melody.
The whole process is still an attempt to create something new or some new conceptual space in my life, so I would say that my state of mind is very philosophical. I try to develop a new way of thinking about things.
Obviously, the record takes its voice in the ongoing animal rights discourse. What?s your personal relationship with veganism and animal rights issues? How long have you been vegan?
I have only been vegan for the last 4 years and went vegetarian 5 years ago. Going vegan really changed my life, because it helped me feeling much better physically. I have had huge health issues since my early childhood, which made my personal development really difficult. But now, I think that the fact that I was forced to eat this non-vegan food was maybe responsible for some of those health issues that I have had.
Since I went vegan, I feel like being myself, previously I was feeling very bad physically and very depressed. But this is not only something I would believe in, although there is clear scientific evidence that non-vegan food is bad for health: most of mankind still has huge difficulties to change its habits and traditions, and this is one of the main reasons why there are so many unhappy people on earth.
Outside this medical aspect, I feel very concerned with the environment and saddened by the terrible impact that mankind can have on other species, so I think that everybody should try to change this, at least by going vegan and then by trying to help animals to find a better space, where they can live free. But most people are very often indifferent to the mere idea of leading a meaningful life, so they do not care if other beings suffer and I somewhat wonder if mankind will not in the end be survived by less narrow-minded species, like bears for instance.
I feel more and more unable to identify with mankind, as far as they do not treat each person and each living being with the respect that they deserve and I think that bears have never been stupid enough to do human things like using nuclear weapons or electing totalitarian political regimes.
It seems also rather clear to me that anthropocentrism is a real problem in this whole environmental disaster, so I try to develop some critical thinking about how all revolutionary ideas so often are too limited to the narrow point of view of humanity, and about how things would be less disastrous if people could understand that there are other eyes and ears watching them than the ones who have a voice, how maybe those eyes and ears have far more to tell them than this mainstream inability to think usually demonstrated by mankind.
Why do you think people who are environmentally conscious continue to eat meat even after they learn statistics and stuff?
Some people are easily influenced by social pressure and want to maintain their traditions, it seems unfortunately that they are a majority. People who think they are environmentally conscious and still eat meat are not people who are actually environmentally conscious, they simply did not understand how much meat consumption has an influence on climate change and on the fact that billions of people have almost nothing to eat, while things would be far easier to feed everybody with a plant-based diet only.
A lot of people do not easily understand scientific studies either. This is in fact not much different from people who smoke for instance: everybody knows very well that smoking kills, but they do not care. So people keep on eating meat, even if it is clear that they could finally make the earth not suitable for human life anymore in a few decades or centuries by this unthought habit of eating meat, and usually the less people have any environmental awareness left, the more they have children to make this situation even worse.
But I think that any people, who are really conscious of this situation and really change their life to stop this environmental mess, should simply keep on trying to explain better to those who have not yet really understood, what this problem actually is. This is how democracy has been developed and preserved after World War II in Europe, by developing a better education for everybody, I think that people should evolve more in this direction, to actually educate everybody about the danger of eating meat for our environment. The big problem with education is that most schools tend to reproduce the same prejudices and clichés, they tend to promote more ignorance than knowledge in society. So, I think that this change should begin by understanding how much the quality of education should be improved in schools.
Personally, I had a very bad experience at school and I felt quite often that there was no place for my intellectual development in this space. I felt more or less like being bullied since being 3 years old, for having a higher IQ level and other opinions. I only found my way in the end at university thanks to books I was reading on my own, because what I learned at school was really terrible and did not make possible any development for people with other opinions than the teachers.
Do you feel that veganism is going in the right direction as a movement and way of life?
I am not sure that there is so much of a “movement” or a “direction” about veganism. This is a way of life that most people choose for personal reasons and they are still a tiny minority. There was for instance a very nice Indian vegan restaurant in the town where I live, but they had to close, because they were not successful enough. I am a rather isolated person, so I do not really know that many other vegan people. I think this is nice when food is vegan at shows, but very often most of those people attending are not really vegan in their own life. Of course, I think that the more visibility veganism gets, the better it is. But again, the issue is not so much the people who are vegan, but rather those who are not vegan, for whom it is important that they understand what veganism is.
What would you say is the hardest part of being a vegan?
I think that being vegan is sweet, but that exploiting and killing animals is hard and that the psychological prejudices of meat-eaters are often very rusty.
What is important in the beginning still for people going vegan, is being able to find all the necessary vitamins that their body requires, some people do not understand that very well and they must do some research to understand what they actually need. For instance, I am eating sauerkraut today, because it brings me B12 vitamins, which are rarer in vegan food, but I never took any medication with additional vitamins like some vegan people do, and I am fine.
Are there some super vegan friendly places where you wouldn?t have to worry about such things, because of its well supplied local market?
In Germany, there are vegan products in all supermarkets and there are bio-supermarkets with products that can be more difficult to find, in all the towns that I know. So, it is possible to be vegan anywhere I think. But there are also possibilities to order vegan food online, that can be delivered to your home directly, if you live in a remote place. Most of vegan food comes from fruits and vegetables, so this part is available everywhere as far as you have food available, then ordering maybe some part of your food online like tofu or soya milk, can be useful if you live in a very remote place, but almost 100% of supermarkets usually have those products nowadays.
What do you think would it take for society to reach that idyllic point where meat eating would be generally discouraged?
I think that there should be more of a political change to develop this kind of awareness in schools and in society in general. Most politicians in Germany for instance have not yet developed this level of awareness and are still stuck in their traditions, but I am quite convinced that this comes from prejudices and lack of culture. Most people think that meat industry would bring them more money, while in fact investing in vegan alternatives could bring them as much money if not more, there is a reason why someone like Bill Gates has been investing in research to develop vegan alternatives that would taste like meat. Having a bad conduct and a bad health is something that still can be changed and most people should understand that it makes sense to make this change. I am rather hopeful that this will evolve toward more veganism and more plant-based alternatives and a wider inclusion of veganism in economy and society in the years to come.
Ok, so back to your project, what are your goals and what do you aim to achieve through your work?
My main focus is on creativity and freedom of expression without having to compromise with the cultural environment I am living in. This means I want to achieve the best result that I can at an artistic level, which includes music, poetry and drawings. This implies also, at an other level, that I wish to change the mind of people that I can reach by bringing an understanding of the world that would be unknown to them. This is in fact some side of myself that is entirely unknown of the world surrounding me during the recording process, I am a rather solitary person and record everything by myself. As long as I can keep things going for my musical project, I am fine.
My current personal situation makes it possible to release one DIY record per year, so this is what I would like to keep on doing. I do not know what my life will become in a few years from now, but I would like to keep on recording music as I do currently; I think there is far more music in me than the records I have released so far, so this is really important for me to be able to actually record them. I do not care much about recognition, but I still think that this is important that some people can be aware of the fact that my music exists.
Both recording and performing wise, can you talk a little bit about what you’re planning for 2018? Can we expect some live shows and possibly another record in the coming months?
I will begin recording new songs in February, then I will see what I have recorded and I think that there should be a new record out before the end of 2018. I have no clear idea yet of what I will record, but I should begin using also electric guitar on my new recordings.
About live shows, I also have to work professionally as a translator and I am still finishing writing my PhD which I plan more or less to hand in in 2019, so all of those three activities give me a very tight timeschedule, but I think it should become easier once my PhD will be over. Also the idea of live shows is difficult for me, as I am a bit afraid of possible sexism and intolerance, so I think I will only play shows, if I am 100% sure that the context is entirely respectful.
Nevertheless, I received a request from Animals Asia to play some shows in August in Frankfurt and München, they still have to send more information about this and I will add more info on my bandcamp page, once there will be more details about those events. This should be only me playing songs with a guitar and maybe other stuff. It is possible that I will play other shows this year, but I still want to keep things as quiet as possible until next year. I do not exclude the idea of playing more shows in a few years from now, but I do not think that there ever will be any extended touring, this should remain only a few shows with really friendly people.
Cool. It’s always something and if you asked me, you should actively work towards organizing live events. “Once you start doing only what you’ve already proven you can do, you’re on the road to death.”
Could you imagine a tool, a webservice, or an app that could help you out with organizing your shows? Would yoou use an online planner that could help you connect to bookers and promoters interested in such tunes and giving you an appropriate space to perform?
I have no ideas of how setting up this kind of thing, since I have never done anything like that. Maybe a database with some contacts could be helpful, but I think I would simply try to get in touch with people I think would be friendly, I could get along with or who have shown any interest in my music.
Can you pinpoint any specific albums or artists that are important to you and worth checking out this year?
I think live events will come, maybe in 2019 already, but it takes some time, I have been living with people who did not understand me at all and it took me some time to understand that I had to trust myself, to express what I really wanted.
For artists that I would like to pinpoint, regarding straight edge bands, I like very much abuse of power, free and also time to heal, which I all saw live recently. I particularly like abuse of power, because they sound a bit like a blend of rites of spring, turning point and seam, their sound is rather unusual for a hardcore band.
About more experimental stuff, I enjoyed very much some records by Circuit des yeux and Loke Rahbek released last year and I also liked very much a free jazz album from Sweden by Vilehlm Bromander Initiativ, who sound a bit like the early Ornette Coleman quartet, I think they have some real political message in their music, even though this is only instrumental music.
There is also a new album from Low coming for 2018, I have ever been fan from their early records but did not know much the music they made after 2000, I discovered only recently their last record from 2015 and I think this is really a good album.
How do you view the role of DIY labels in these fast moving digital times? Also, how did you team up with Hand And Arms, Communication Disorder, Krimskramz, Stashed Goods, and A-Musik for your release?
To answer your second question : they are people I got in touch with and who considered my music relevant enough to take copies of my records in their record stores, mailorders or distros. Nevertheless, they are all specialized in different styles (Hands and arms is more into indie, Communication Disorder into straightedge, Krimskramz into screamo, Stashed Goods into ambient and A-Musik into experimental music), without being dogmatically devoted to one and only style, which makes it possible for them to be open to other kinds of music that would not really fit in any box like mine.
About the role of DIY labels, I think I work like a DIY label, I order pressings myself, do the artwork and get in touch with people to distribute records. Any coherent person would have called it a label, but I did not, because my only aim was to find a space of expression for my music, so this was too DIY to actually become a DIY label that would involve other people doing things.
DIY is a concept that can give freedom to some people that do not live in a country where they think they are free for instance, and thanks to new developments in technologies, they can very easily make their music accessible for everybody worldwide, so I think that this is a very fundamental right, that anybody can do DIY music in any context.
For me, the concept of releasing music through a DIY label run by someone else would not really make sense, because my music is very complex and implies several layers of meaning, so I really want to do things by myself as much as possible. Working with a label for me would really mean that they would really make some effort to understand what my music is and could maybe help me in doing a real job to reach more people that would get to know my music. I think that this is more the role of an independent label to do something like this. There is something oxymoronic in the concept of DIY labels, because they do things by themselves for other people that would not do things by themselves.
It feels a bit in Europe like there is a throng of those DIY labels without real work done to share music at a wider level, so for those labels, this is very often difficult to sell their records. For instance, I really wonder if I do not sell more records than some existing DIY labels, simply because I am really involved in what I do and am really enthusiastic about it.
It seems also that people who want to develop bigger labels tend to confuse it with mainstream labels, and do not really understand what it means to be an independent label, like Touch and Go, Sub pop or Thrill jockey do for instance, so there seems to be something missing in Europe at that level.
How about starting your own? :)
This is possible that I will think about that in the next few years, but I cannot guarantee 100% that it will actually happen. I will certainly have to move to Sweden next year, because I feel a real cultural rigidity in Germany where I live, that would not make this kind of plan possible. I will see what happens and what I do, once I have relocated.
What’s there about Sweden that makes you want to gravitate there?
The main reason is physical or biological: I am ill in Germany during summer, because it is too warm, so I want to move to a place where it is not so warm anymore, I like it when the weather is cold, I am usually not ill during winter, but only during summer because of the heat.
Another reason might be because there is not so much space in Germany for straight edge people, everything revolves around beer culture, even when straight edge bands play shows. In Sweden there is a very different mindset, there are movements promoting sobriety or fighting against ads for alcohol in the media. I also attended once a show set up by Stockholm Straight Edge and I felt really happy there was a drug free and alcool free space like this existing.
A majority of people also vote for the Feministisk initiativ party in Sweden, so this is also a proof that a majority of people are really feminist and want to change society to fight discrimination and violence against women.
Also, I enjoy a lot of music coming from Sweden and think maybe I could find other musicians there, with whom I could develop something else musically. Where I live in Germany, this is almost impossible to do the kind of music I play with other musicians, most musicians here are very much “male-centered” and most feminist movements in Germany are quite often some sort of populist extreme-left or communist movement, where I do not think there is any place for more intellectual women with different opinions, who are searching for more freedom of expression. Communism is the very negation of freedom of expression and it has proven historically that its aim has nothing to do with the defense of women rights.
Do you think feminism has evolved in the last two decades? Also, don’t you think it has been kind of disfigured by consumerism?
There has been an evolution of society for the last decades, there is no doubt about that. I think that feminism has become something wider, more focused and more directly related to political action at some level; but at other levels, some things have not changed that much, because the same issues are still there: women are often under-represented and over-looked in a lot of cultural fields, history is very often understood only from a white male point of view, a majority of women are still uneducated in poorer countries, there are still agressions against women and those agressions are often not taken seriously by society or legal authority.
At the same time, I do not really understand feminism as a movement, because I am not the kind of person that can easily correspond to statistics or social expectations. I understand any person in its ability to be oneself or to be different, but I think that this has ever be something important in the feminist discourse, that women can develop their own personality or subjectivity, and also that they can reach the highest possible level of education to become independent financially to live their lives as the person that they really are, without being subjected to an authoritarian person.
Nevertheless, understanding things this way still seems peculiar for a lot of women with anti-feminist views, who prefer to become like the other people have told them to be, but I tend to think that this comes very often from a lack of education. I have ever been allergic to what most people become once they develop their own family, decide to get older, and go further into their consumerist trip. This is the kind of historical determinism all ages shows have ever been fighting. This problem has always been there, but you might be right in stating that this has become even worse for the last two decades.
I think that feminism has become something different intellectually thanks to the development of internet, because everybody can be connected and develop one’s own opinion, so it can become something wider, deeper and less dependant of a social movement that could be too easily rigidified, to become maybe more effective at a political level. Political action can have more meaning than mere discourse, but political discourse can also have the power to change society, and people who have no intellectual means to become aware of their subjection will certainly not be able to do anything to change their situation.
Of course, I understand life personally more like a philosophical, artistic, literary or poetic development, I am more like some sort of isolated bear living in the heights of my mind, listening to my records and reading my books on my own most of the time, and this is how I found my own freedom. I am certainly aware that this is not the kind of life that most women must know, but if there are any positive changes, I am convinced that they should include all people with their differences, not only because of their similarities.
It means something to me, when there are political changes that can fight discriminations against women in society and if I can do something to change those discriminations in society, I will certainly do it. I like to witness the development of ideas and how they can make life different, even though I live quite often outside of any idea of society, because I rather like to live in an intellectual world of my own.
Apart from Sweden, are there some countries that actively support such changes for the good?
I do not know exactly what is happening in each specific country, to be honest. I think there is something made at the level of the United nations with United Women for instance, which can have a positive influence for women of all countries. Also the European Parliament have a committee dedicated to this aspect. Both of them can make things change to some extent but this can remain difficult too, when a specific country has very rigid politics.
Ok, so lastly, since I am based in Warsaw, what associations do you have with Polish alt & DIY music scene? Do you have some Polish friends or favorite Polish bands?
I do not really know anyone from Poland very well and I never went to Poland either. I saw GOVERNMENT FLU live 2 years ago in Berlin and I think they were really nice, but I should explore further their discography.
But my vinyl records should be available very soon in Poland directly through the mailorder of Fourth dimension records, which is specialized in avant-garde music and seems to have some interest in my music.
I am a bit afraid of travelling to Poland, because the government and a lot of people tend to be very conservative and have strong prejudices against women.
This is difficult for me to imagine going to a country, where abortion rights do not exist for women and where they are therefore supposed to be considered as objects for procreation purposes; even the pope supports that sexually abused women have children from their abusers, this implies clearly that a lot of men with catholic fundamentalist views will think that they are justified by the Church to be rapists. So I think this might be a bit dangerous for me to want to travel to Poland, I am not really a “standard” person and usually this is more difficult for me to find my own freedom against prejudices and discriminations. I think that countries like Belgium or France are far too conservative because of Catholicism already, and it seems to be far worse in Poland.
What do you think will be the consequences of current right wing movements around the world?
I do not really have time to check the news on a daily basis and journalism is very often so poorly written, that you end up knowing more about the prejudices of the writers than about what actually happened. As a consequence, I do not know exactly everything what is happening right now, but, as usual, some people are really nice and some behave really awfully.
I now there are sometimes really weird things happening in France or Germany, but this remains very marginal and only done by very irrational people; although this can make life difficult for other people sometimes, this has not yet had real consequences for those countries at a wider political level, but the danger still exist.
This is more complicated for the USA and UK. Maybe things will change in the USA with the next president though, even if it seems currently that most of what is happening right now politically can’t really make any sense. The worse situation is maybe in the UK, because they will become very isolated culturally and economically, when they get out from the European union, and maybe they will want to come back to the European Union in a few years. It feels a bit like a lot of people have forgotten for the last few years what it means to defend freedom and democracy in society.
I think that there are not that many consequences as long as there are people fighting against extreme right movements. But at the same time, there are constantly narrow-minded people agressing other people on the streets or doing things to destroy freedom in society, so maybe it would be necessary to really do something to change those abusive human beings, who are often only uneducated, depressed or alcoholic. I do not think that extreme-right is the only problem though, there are also abusive and populist behaviors among extrem left people, while more mainstream politically center pearties are also often far too passive to understand what the real issues are and how things should be really changed for the environment and for the rights of women or other oppressed minorities.
This is also the point of a party like Feministisk initiativ: to create a counter-movement against those extreme right parties and this political passivity to really do something with the European parliament against it. Maybe there should be more feminist parties in all countries to affirm actual social justice and equal rights for everybody. There is a huge need for this in Poland, it seems.
Sure, but on the other hand, women went on strike in Poland in protest at planned abortion law. We actually started a number of various related black marches all around the world. Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and there are attempts to further restrict access to abortion. What’s your take on this issue?
I feel rather bad about it and I think it is important to keep on doing things to try to make things change. Maybe it would be better to try finding other politicians with other philosophical views, who could decide other laws, if the current politicians do not even understand that the access to abortion should be a human right. I do not know exactly how is life in Poland, but maybe it would be really useful to develop non-governmental alternative structures in society like Planned Parenthood in the US for instance, to really give a real access to abortion for women who really need help and counteract those brainless laws and abusive behaviors. I mean, as far as a law makes no sense, the only law should be what really makes sense, and this is how the Berlin Wall was broken down for instance.
There should really be a counter-movement to change the mentality of those uneducated people, who should not even be called politicians, if they are not even able to think by themselves and are only able to reproduce those meaningless prejudices that a satanic institution like the Catholic Church has told them to have.
Those conservative catholic people usually do not even know what the bible is about and do not even know what means spirituality, this is nothing else than fascist bullshit based on the hate of anything that could have a meaning and might change their tradition, or provoke a single thought in their rusty brains for once in their life.
We’ve been watching many youth centers, DIY undertakings, and initiatives that have helped many people share their views, personal experiences and help one another through spreading inspiring stories and helping thought-provoking concepts grow. I’m always eager to find out about safe DIY spots and events that let people feel comfortable and safe rather than threatened and concerned. What venues, festivals and events would you recommend for Berlin and Germany visitors?
I do not know that many places, where I can really feel confortable. I do not travel by car, because I do not want to have a driver licence. Most of the time, I stay home working, reading, listening to music, playing music. I feel confortable at the Technical University in Darmstadt, where I study, I feel like I can share my views and meet nice people. I go to shows from time to time, but I usually only read a book and drink tea and go dancing when the bands play, then I leave.
For me, the best place to stay is reading books, so I can feel free and it can be anywhere. When I go to shows, most people only want to drink alcohol or take drugs, so I don’t like it much most of the time.
I think the best all-ages and DIY shows that you can attend are the ones set up by Stockholm Straightedge and this is not as good in Germany. I saw Free and Abuse of Power at JUZ Mannheim in January, the show was great and they book straight edge bands, so this is OK; but I never felt like it was really a place, where I wanted to share stories with other people. If you want to go to Germany, go to University, do an Erasmus exchange, so you can do something with your brain. I never found actual intellectual freedom at DIY venues in Germany.
Haha, awesome! You should go and check out this year’s Noc Walpurgii and its cool workshops or fests like Fluff Fest in Rokycany, Czech Republic.
Ok, so I guess we’ve covered everything I wanted to ask you about. Is there anything you?d like to expound on before we say goodbye?
OK, I think I said a lot already, I have to focus on recording my next record now. I almost forgot to add, that all digital sales on bandcamp are now set “Pay what you want” and will be sent as donations to Animals Asia to help free bears imprisoned in bile farms. Thank you for the interview!