Botswana-born singer-songwriter Candice Gordon started her music career at the age of 10 when joining her brother’s band as the lead-singer. After conquering the streets to make some money playing music at the age of 12, she would start having a life as a Mark Twain-style-nomad, traveling and living in various places including Dublin, Montpelier, Croatia or Asia until finally settling down in Berlin. Although her travels have influenced her music to a great extent – specially her time traveling with a circus – she more and more finds herself traveling in her mind and incorporates those thoughts into her lyrics.
Her 2017 album “Garden of Beasts” therefore deals with existentialism and human conflicts. Inspired by Berlin WWII history, she explores the “horrific potential that we as humans hold”. Her newest single “The Kids are Alt-Right” then eventually adapts this notion and deals with far right politicians making inroads in Germany and all over the world. On Monday, 19th of November she will play at Kulturcafé Campus Uni Mainz together with We Bless this Mess from Portland. Dublin singer-songwriter A.S. Fanning (also bassist for Candice Gordon) will open the mini-festival starting at 21:00.
If your album „Garden of Beasts“ had been coming out just after Hannah published her novel „Eichmann in Jerusalem. Ein Bericht von der Banalität des Bösen“, what connection could be drawn between both works’ concepts?
-Candice: Garden of Beasts is about being an average person thrown into tormentous times. It is an allegory to the life of a war. The connection to Eichmann in Jerusalem is that evil can seep into anyone, and toward the closing of Garden of Beasts there is a salvation through the desire for good and peace that is through personal choice.
When asked about your influences for the album, you bring in your group The Salon in a few interviews. What kind of group is that and what does it do?
-Candice: I hosted a group of people with the intention to explore subjects on points of science, philosophy, sociology, and whatever I thought would be interesting. There were incredible members of varied expertise from Ancient Greece to Aerospace who attended. For a while I rented a cinema and we screened films. Sometimes we picked a topic and speakers from different backgrounds would give their takes for example “The Death Salon” with the perspectives of Ancient Greek philosophy, and an expert in AI. The biggest event was ‘The Science of Hallucinations’ with Vaughan Bell, which was a more public forum. Most of the time the groups were small. These discussions fuelled a lot of my writing.
A.S. Fanning, who produced ‘Garden of Beasts’ and plays bass in your band, describes his own music as “dark folk / garage folk”. The Internet has labeled your music in similar fashion. Where do you see those elements in your songs – lyrics aside?
-Candice: Musically, in chord structures and melodies, in tone and cadence, they are rooted in folk. It’s always safer to prepare people for darkness and surprise them with lightness, so there is a practicality to describing it as dark. Sonically, we both often use gritty, dirty, fuzzy, distorted sounds, and have garage / DIY sensibilities.
You wrote your newest single „The Kids Are Alt-Right“ as a “response to the global threat of the alt-right movement“. It is about how “power-hungry pricks“ manipulate “young, disenfranchised people for their own gains“. If we look beyond politics, to what extent do you see manipulation in the art/music business?
-Candice: Art and music are salvation, but the music and art business are by nature concerned about the bottom line. Decades of cunning marketing have created the myth of the rockstar that has been given the golden ticket by the powers of the music industry. The myth puts more power in the hands of the industry suits than the artist. And millions of people around the world are this second dedicating their lives to finding that golden ticket with the promise that they will then be saved from whatever level of hell this is. There’s big business being made out of this desperation, where the artists are both the consumer and the consumed.
For your last album you also designed a perfume. Do you think that to have a product accompany an album will be a common thing in the future? What product will be next for you?
-Candice: It’s common to release t-shirts, posters, mugs, stickers and all sorts of other accompanying products. Although, the perfume is conceptual, because the song “In Golden Dreams” is nostalgic, which I think is a tidy little idea.
Namibia, Botswana, France, Dublin, London, Berlin, Croatia, Turkey, Asia, America …you’ve been around quite a bit. James Joyce once wrote: „ I wanted real adventure to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad!“. You say: “It was a part of my personality to be turned on by exploration and adventure“ (Getinherears). What was your last adventure/exploration that turned you on?
-Candice: Travelling keeps you on your toes. You are constantly made aware of the norms that are different in the places that you are, and the ones you are conditioned with. I just got back from playing in Cape Town and I was struck by the new norm there of saving water vs my norm of taking water for granted.
You even traveled around with a big circus and ended up getting a request from Kate Moss and Pete Doherty to juggle for you. You no longer take part in this circus, what do you miss about it?
-Candice: It was anything but a big circus. It was a strange circus. an amazing circus. but I think the biggest point when I was there was 16 people, so not very big. That circus that I travelled with had taken an extraordinary stance of near total rejection of Western society. Sometimes I miss that. Some of the people remain really dear to my heart. I also sometimes miss performing for children and inspiring and uplifting them. That circus were recently situated on Lesbos with the sole purpose of giving refugee children some respite to their situation. I really admire that. Sometimes I think about going back but I don’t think I’m 100% clown to be honest.
You are collaborating with Berlin-based filmmaker Valquire Veljkovic. What’s your take on visualizing music as in doing entire short films of songs?
-Candice: A lot of music videos are like short films for songs. It depends on the song, sometimes it calls for a more abstract take. It’s a challenge to make a short narrative with the song as dialogue. Valquire’s film were dance films so a very different form of dialogue and expression, and really suited to music, needless to say!
On Monday, 19th of November you will play at Kulturcafé Campus Uni Mainz together with We Bless this Mess, as well as A.S. Fanning, who will open the mini-festival with an acoustic set. What can you tell us about these people?
-Candice: I don’t know We Bless this Mess yet so I will hold back on telling you about them. A.S. Fanning has been my close collaborator for many years now. He’s an intrinsically talented musician and songwriter. He’s in the final production stages of his second album and it’s mind-blowingly beautiful. Do not miss him.