Music is a potion.


“Who is Shelly… that’s funny,” giggles Sarah, “there is no Shelly. It’s a game with words because here in Greece there is a suburb called Kypseli.” The Greek pun slowly dawns on us as silence hovers over our chat. This isn’t the first time it happens – our disjointed conversation is peppered with misheard comments and I beg your pardons. What we are left with though, is a highly enjoyable exercise in patience, with occasional sparks of delight. These tend to occur when we can actually hear each other.

Sarah is the 21-year-old singer of Keep Shelly in Athens, and her and her enigmatic producer known only as RPR are, rather predictably, in Athens, Greece. Having spent their life in the bustling city, the sudden overseas attention that’s recently come their way has come as a pleasant surprise.

“It’s really, really strange to release a record in a different country,” says Sarah, “but we are ecstatic. Here in Greece we aren’t so well known, so this is just really weird.”

An appearance in the Hype Machine’s top ten most blogged about artists confirmed the band to be as hot as a coach trip to the Acropolis, and with the EP ‘Hauntin’ Me’ currently out on UK imprint Transparent (a label with Yuck and Porcelain Raft on its roster), there’s enough PR power here to motor the band around the world.

This breathless rise is all because of the duo’s breathless music. Evocative, downbeat and awash with Balearic influences, Sarah and RPR manage to transport you to the wooded Hill of the Nymphs, looking back down over Athens to cover your eyes from the midday sun. “Our music is quite urban,” says Sarah, “very Athens. When you live in a City you feel that rhythm and our rhythm is about the need to go somewhere else. We are dreaming of another world,” she says; a cute contradiction to their name that somehow makes sense.

Drawing from their immediate surroundings seems vital for Sarah. It’s clear from the KSIA blog that their natural environment inspires – beautiful, vaporous images from around the City are everywhere; a steady eye that sits alongside their ambient dream-pop perfectly.

Redolent and suggestive, ‘Hauntin’ Me’ evokes Athens in chime and sprit but Jamie Harley’s striking video manages to add another layer. He’s already done promos for How to Dress Well, Prizes and Memoryhouse, and now KSIA’s sumptuous sound has been transported onto the screen with panache. The bands immediate reaction was one of surprise. “He was inspired by our music and that was a real honour,” Sarah gushes. “The colours he used were the colours in my head when I was writing the lyrics!” And those colours are deep violets and velvety blues.

With everything falling into place so quickly for the band, Sarah and RPR (“it’s a nickname” is the only explanation we get) are going to need a band to actually play the songs though, right?

“Today we booked our first show in Athens, for May,” says Sarah. “We’re so excited to confirm now, to finally get a guitar and drums is great. For me it’s the first time I would have performed in this way.”

A local show is probably for the best when bedding in and working out how to get your mid-‘90s, downbeat electronica in the live arena, but Sarah’s no stranger to the stage.

She tells me: “I’m finishing my school as an actress this year. It’s a big part of me. I’m really interested in cinema, but I also love the stage and I just enjoy being a part of performance.” Dramatic performance and musical performance must be decidedly different, though.

“Ummm maybe yes, maybe no, we are working on it,” she laughs. “I love performing very much and I love the combination of the two.”

Influenced by art, acting, the weather and their home city, it’s a wonder that KSIA have time to be inspired by music at all, but sound does enter into their varied palette and there’s two bands they seem to be constantly compared to – St Etienne and (especially ‘Moon Safari’-era) Air.

“We are actually influenced by them, though” admits Sarah. “Its right what people have been saying.”

Finding out what Sarah and RPR are currently listening to is more of a feat. Suddenly they come over all shy. “I like listening to stuff like Toro Y Moi, Fleet Foxes and Still Corners,” Sarah eventually says, and considering KSIA’s slow, honeyed piano tones and crackling electronics it’s no great revelation that they’re into a mix of folk and chillwave, to wash down the art, theatre and ancient ruins of home.

“Music isn’t just a single thing,” reasons Sarah. “It’s a potion, it’s all this and it’s all that. There isn’t a recipe for real music.”

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