Meet Ella and Robert. Ella is Swedish. Robert is German. She likes playing keys. He likes playing drums. They both have a passion for pop music. They are It’s A Musical.
Hate it or love it, pop music has been crossing boundaries and uniting people all over for decades. A good pop song can help you forget about a shitty day and get you dancing like nothing else can (with the exception of a good cup of tea sometime in mid-afternoon). No wonder both of them are so enchanted by the genre.
Ella and Robert have been working together on making the world a little brighter since 2006, they’ve recently done another tour of Japan, their EP titled Summer Break is to be released any moment now and they’re about to go on tour with the cult band Tocotronic. There’s no sign of slowing down for these two.
What does It’s A Musical mean to you?
Ella: I think it allows us to be childish and colourful, to make sweet and happy music, to do what we wanna do. I think we created this face or something to go into this feeling of Technicolor.
Does this mean that you feel that your other projects are a bit more serious and you needed to counterweight this by creating It’s A Musical?
Ella: For me, it was like this before. I played a lot as Bobby Baby and I think I was getting more into the mellow route in that project, and I wanted something that was the opposite. I’m not saying that we’re only happy and only sing about good colourful stuff though.
Robert: For me, it’s like this… with other projects it’s more about me joining them and putting my part inside but with It’s A Musical it’s about us. The two of us can create together, and since we are just two people, it’s all there is, so you cannot change something. It’s A Musical. It’s Ella and me.
Ella: And I think it’s about not taking stuff too seriously and being more bi-curious. I know when we started that we were, like, “Oh let’s pretend that we are 15 and playing in a band for the first time” to get this (playful) feeling somehow. Of course we still challenge ourselves, and I think we did. I mean I couldn’t play organ before we started this band. I’m learning all the time.
What’s your musical background?
Ella: My main instrument was guitar or acoustic guitar and I started producing my own songs on the computer and trying out some electronic stuff. I was always into trying out new stuff, not learning too much because I got bored really fast. I couldn’t play keys before.
Robert: I always played drums in different bands, and then with It’s A Musical I also started to sing and to have a space for my own ideas. I felt they were too weak to use them completely on my own but thrown into It’s A Musical with Ella’s ideas, we made songs out of them. Before it was more about me having the part of playing drums.
The idea that you, Robert, would sing came from the beginning or did it develop?
Robert: It developed, even if it was at the beginning that we had the idea that we should… that we want to sing together.
Ella: I was more the singer, because I had been singing a lot before, but I really wanted him to sing, so I encouraged it. I was, like, “Come on” and tried to pull it out of him.
Does it have another layer to it other than just sounding good? Is there an intention behind you both singing together?
Ella: I’ve always been interested in playing around with voices, and every project that I was in, since I started playing, had more people singing, doing harmonies. Also, when I recorded my own songs, I always had some voices on there too. I just really like it. I think it’s fun.
Robert: Maybe, especially with us, because I don’t have a really deep, manly voice, sometimes our voices… they really become…
Ella: …they meet in the middle somehow.
Was pop also something you chose to base your music on from the very beginning?
Robert: Yes we love pop songs. Good pop songs with good sounds.
Ella: We like a lot of music. Jazz, hip-hop and soul. I love playing to rock, but still in the end what gets me going is just pop. Just simple and straight up (pop).
With so many instruments, why do you remain a duo?
Ella: Because it’s hard to find people that share the same vision and feeling, that are on the same level, not only in music terms but also in life. In the time one can put into it what you want to get out of it.
Robert: It also just works really well with the two of us creating the music. Ella lives in Sweden and I’m here, so it’s already a challenge to get all the dates together and to meet each other. It’s really practical with just the two of us to go on tour.
So what’s the recipe for a good duo?
Robert: You have to like each other. [laughs]
Ella: I think you need to trust each other. I know that 99% of the ideas that Robert comes up with I really like, so if he’s doing something that is a little bit weird, I just have to trust him that something nice will come out of it.
Robert: We really liked the ideas each of us had, and that was really great at the beginning.
Ella: That’s why we wanted to start playing together. “I wanna try out your ideas together with my ideas”.
What do you hope people get from your music when they listen to your songs?
Ella: I hope that people feel some power maybe and feel happy.
Is there an overall message in the lyrics that you would like to convey to people?
Ella: Not really.
Robert: Not really. There’s not a big concept behind the lyrics. It’s more more about using feelings and sometimes daily things and mixing them together and being a little bit sarcastic –
Ella: – and humorous.
You released your second album in March 2012, you immediately had a release party in Berlin and then you went for a tour of Japan. Why there?
Ella: Because our first album sold a lot of copies there. It was about 70% of all sales.
Robert: It spread there (really well).
Ella: It was picked up by music blogs and DJs, and we got a small indie hit with the Music Makes Me Sick.
Robert: Already after the first album was released, the Japanese label wanted to bring us there. With the release of the second one, which they also licensed, they managed to organize this tour and finally brought us to Japan.
You recently went to Japan again. How was it? How did it compare to the earlier trip ?
Robert: I was in Japan before Xmas playing drums with Masha Qrella. It was funny being there again and to meet people I met in spring. A lot of It’s A Musical fans came to the shows and told me how much they look forward to seeing us (play) live in Japan again. We will go there in May to tour together with the Japanese artists Miyauchi Yuri and YeYe.
What are Japanese fans like?