Interview with Reptilians From Andromeda
Hello Aybike and Tolga! It’s wonderful to be able to connect with you over the Internet, since you’re based in Istanbul, Turkey and I’m in the United States. I recently found out about your electrifying alternative rock music that mixes punk, garage rock, no wave, and grunge into one gritty, grimy, distorted, noisy, intense, and extremely enjoyable experience. How are you doing and where are you at this moment?
Aybike: Hi Jen! Thanks for the nice compliments. We are at home now, just chillin' out.
Tolga: We have just recorded some demos to send to our bandmates for an upcoming studio session.
Can you please list who is currently in Reptilians From Andromeda and what instruments you play? I think your line-up has changed over the years.
Aybike: At the beginning, it was just me and Tolga, and our drum machine (Johnny The Tramp), but the recent band line-up is: Aybike Celik Ozbey (vocals), Tolga Ozbey (guitars), Merve Ertugrul (bass), and Taylan Turan (drums).
Tolga: Sadly, Johnny The Tramp passed away last year…
When did you start the band and what/who inspired you to rock out so hard?
Tolga: It all started out around 2013 when I disband my old band, Rashit, after 20 years of playing. Aybike and I were just married and we began to work on some home recordings like “Solar Chaos”, and later we released an instrumental/experimental DIY album on Canadian label Fuck Yr Body Up. Aybike had begun to write some lyrics and we recorded them quickly while on a trip, and then we decided to use the name Reptilians From Andromeda for this new project. Our main inspirations over the years are our love, our relationship, and our rock 'n’ roll lifestyle.
Aybike: When I was a teenager, Tolga's band was one of my favorite bands. Actually, he's a really good songwriter. And I was incomplete before Tolga. I suffered from a lack of attention. When we met, I felt like I was whole. One day, after finishing in the studio with Rashit, Tolga came to my place and said, “I don't wanna play in Rashit anymore.” He was bored from about 20 years of playing and songwriting in Rashit and I said, “OK, maybe you can form a new band where all the members are female except you.”
I didn't know at that time that I would be fronting the band and it didn’t start off that quickly. We wanted to go India. Actually, we imagined all the things about living in India, and then we gave up. Because we know each other and we are the kind of person who loves big cities and winter. We are not summer-loving, beach-going people. India was an interesting idea, but we spent lots of time together planning about visiting India, and we ended up finishing our spiritual quest, even though we didn't go to India.
You’ve released a slew of material over the past few years on cult labels like Spirit Goth Records. How do you hook up with these record labels?
Tolga: Everything happened suddenly. We just uploaded songs on Soundcloud and then offers started to come, one by one. Spirit Goth Records liked “More Than Coke” – Yeah, it was catchy and had a powerful garage rock energy. It was the first song we recorded as Reptilians.
Aybike: Spirit Goth Records is mainly into surf/garage rock music and they have good taste in those genres. We have a sound that’s a bit heavier than what they usually promote, but they were into the garage rock vibe of our songs. And they were really into “More Than Coke”. We are lucky to work with them.
You’re a very prolific band and you delivered your latest two records this past April; Sonic Rabbit Hole EP via Small Bear Records (UK) and Whatever album from Illuminated Paths (Florida, US). Can you go into the differences – and/or similarities – between these two records?
Aybike: We released 4 EPs and 1 album in the last year, and these EPs were recorded during different sessions. The self-titled EP sounds like garage/grunge/punk but the Love Is Gonna Destroy Us EP sounds a bit like deathrock/garage. Jungle Highness EP is so punk rock/New Wave, but Sonic Rabbit Hole is between post-punk and no wave. Our album Whatever is just a compilation of these 4 EPs and an extra song, “Get the Power.” Illuminated Paths has a huge catalog encompassing a bunch of different genres. Mainly they are into the vaporwave vibe.
Tolga: We are listening to and creating many different things and weird kinds of rock 'n’ roll. We're not trying to make something in one genre. We just want to give a sense of the lyrics from the sounds, and it changes from one song to another. The Sonic Rabbit Hole EP got the attention of the public, and we began to get reviewed by blogs and to give interviews. We were happy to meet with Small Bear Records (UK). They’ve released our most difficult to listen to EP, Sonic Rabbit Hole. They loved the stuff on that EP. The owners of Small Bear, Phil Reynolds and Marie Reynolds, are so brave and we love them so much! And also, after we completed this EP, we met with Fran Ashcroft from ‘70s legendary power pop band The Monos. He made some great masterings of our new recordings. They sound incredible!
You shot a video for “Get the Power” off of Whatever. Is this the 1st music video you’ve done? Where was the live performance footage filmed?
Aybike: Yes, “Get the Power” is our first video and it was filmed in Kadikoy Karga Sahne. We have also just shot a new video for “Blood Planet.” It's gonna be ready really soon!
Tolga: We wanted to shoot our first video as a reflection of our energy as a band, so we chose “Get The Power”, which represents our live sound and interaction best.
Your latest single, “Liar Liar”, isn’t even on your most recent records. It’s also a dreamily dark ballad that recalls the potency of Hole/Courtney Love. What is the backstory of the song? Who are you singing about on lines like, “Baby, you start this fire / Liar, liar.”?
Aybike: I love Courtney Love. When I was younger, I really loved to listen to Hole, so sure, there is some connection there with my vocal delivery. Yes, it's a sad song, but the story behind it isn’t so sad. It’s a modern day Pan and Venus love song. Venus is the main person in the song. I was inspired by Adolphe Alexandre Lesrel's Pan and Venus painting. This couple is telling lies so their clothes have burned away… Hahaha.
What is the recording process like for your songs? The sound quality is rough and edgy, like your music, and I’m wondering what effects and/or techniques you use to achieve this result.
Tolga: We are a lo-fi garage rock band, but it's not about inability; contrarily, it's our choice to play and record like this. We love background noises, feedback, deep sound sizzles, etc… We want to create music with the energy of punk and garage with some noisy, experimental elements. It's a kind of noise and pop sound mixed together. And we love to use cheap, old, bad, and weird equipment because we believe they give our music its soul. We use different techniques in every session; sometimes we open a staticky radio signal and record on it.
Aybike, you have an alter ego named Marina Poison who is a digital and handmade collage artist. Is Marina the one who designs all the cover art for the band?
Aybike: I talk about her sometimes with Tolga and I tell him, “Marina wrote you something. I am gonna kill her.” Ha! And Tolga says, “She's a nice girl.” – and then I bite him! Both me and Marina find Tolga attractive and love him – It’s our only similarity. Yes, she designs pieces, like our album covers, but I think that will change in the near future. I want to get rid off her (*evil laugh*). In fact, I have two friends, Ece Gürlü & Ali (Modajenik), and I really love their artwork, so maybe we can collaborate in the future on cover designs.
What is the music scene like in and/or around Istanbul? What is the vibe of the city like with all this strife and conflict currently going on in so many parts of the world?
Tolga: There was a strong underground punk movement in the ‘90s, but now it's hard to tell what the scene is. There are just a few bands around and it seems like the Internet has killed off friendships and the collective mind. Everybody lives in an independent solitude. You should check these names for good music: She Past Away (goth), The Raws (garage), Robotat (surf), and Tampon ( ‘77 punk). Istanbul always has an amazing dynamic, especially from the beginning of the ‘90s 'til Occupy Taksim Square in 2013. The city has evolved, but after Occupy, the government began to believe that all kinds of alternative youth movements were a threat to themselves, so they started a war on this generation to create the type of youth they yearned for.
Aybike: I mean, the alternative scene is still in good condition in Istanbul. There are lots of bands around, but in everyday Turkey lots of terrible things happen, so the concerts and festivals get canceled. It creates bad situations for the musicians. Yet the government can celebrate their meetings and special religious days. So this cancelation of events is just for the alternative people. And lots of journalists and artists are going to prison for criticizing governmental policies. People can't create something when censorship exists. If an artist is terrified to create, then we can’t talk about a democracy. Some people think they are OK because the government hasn’t attacked them yet, but it won't be long before their turn will come.
Do you have dreams of relocating to the US in cities like LA or NYC to continue to pursue your music or are your roots deeply planted in Turkey?
Tolga: I lived in NYC at the end of the ‘90s with my bandmate Asli from the band Tampon. We had played in a US garage/punk band called Pink Tits for a while, at venues like CBGB’s, Saint Marks Place, and C-Squat. Nice days… Reptilians From Andromeda has a future plan about touring in the States. Yeah, anyway, my roots belong in Istanbul and Istanbul is an addiction. I have spent 20 years with my old band Rashit in the Turkish punk scene and we have released several records, both in Turkey and in European countries, so everyone knows me here, and I know everyone in this so-called scene. But on the other hand, things are changing politically in Turkey. People are getting more conservative every day, and the government pushes everything in that direction, and I’ve never been an optimistic dreamer. I believe that secularism is under big pressure from radical Islam and there isn’t enough democracy anymore. So, you know, it’s now hard to see how the future will unfold in Turkey. Are we are gonna resist these changes and see what will happen?
Aybike: We really want to tour the US, but moving to the US is a more complicated thing. Sure, we live under pressure here, and there's an independent world elsewhere where we can create freely. That’s why lots of our friends had to run away to European countries, Thailand, and US. Or lots of people just moved to seaside places in Turkey where people are not conservative. Here in Istanbul there's an unnamed war that’s still goin' on between alternative people and conservative people. They want to stop secularity and impose Islamic laws. We love to live here and this is our home, and we want to stay as long as we can do it.
Why Reptilians From Andromeda and not Amphibians From Ursa Major or Avians From the Black Eye Galaxy? What is the specific meaning (besides sounding really menacing and mysterious) behind the band name?
Tolga: You know, the world is ruled by an evil power and behind this power there are Reptilians who came from Andromeda. Shape shifting guys. Haha!
Aybike: Didn't you watch the videos about them? They are celebrities who actually have green blood.
Tolga: Maybe real reptilians are us: punks, outlaws, rebels, and other outsiders who rule the world.
Aybike: We love B-movies. The name came from the movie The Reptile (1966), a nice film that we recommend strongly! We also once looked at nebula and galaxy photos and decided that the Andromeda galaxy was for us!
What are you future plans as Reptilians From Andromeda? Will you be releasing more videos and/or singles and playing gigs?
Aybike: Right now we are recording our new stuff and this time we want to release it on vinyl as an LP, and we are also looking for a proper record label for that.