The Strawberry Pills is a duo band made up of Antonis Konstantaras and Valisia Odell, who uses her unique voice to sing their first single “Verbal suicide”, dark, new wave sound with pop elements. Listen their new single “Icarus”.
Photography: George Alexandrakis
The strawberry has never been used as a dark symbol in art. What does it symbolize in your stage name?
Antonis: I hadn’t thought about it that way but I guess you are right. However, our very own strawberry is accompanied by the word “pill”, thus leaving a bittersweet aftertaste and so does our sound, as I like to think. Our music is made of more than just dark elements, although they do prevail due to their gravity. So I think our name perfectly describes our sound.
What is the composition of your band and how were you linked?
Antonis: Strawberry Pills consists of Valisia Odell and me. Of course, we have our own team of associates such as Aristomenes Theodoropoulos, who essentially sets up the tracks with us, Panos Tsekouras, our main producer, as well as Ares Athanatos who is in charge of visualizing our tracks, starting from “Verbal Suicide”. Valisia and I used to be in another band and, when it came apart we decided to something more modern and flexible. That is how the Strawberry Pills were born.
What sounds come to mind while listening to Strawberry Pills? New wave, dark, pop…
Valisia: It’s a mixture of our musical obsessions, which is made up of new wave, cold wave, dark and pop elements. However, we’re not trying to imitate or revive artists and bands that have excellently represented those music paths, but to achieve something fresh.
You started this band years ago. What were the reasons behind the pause you had and what personal need drove you to start again?
Antonis: That pause took place mainly because of me and it had to do with some difficult times I was going through on a psychological level. Afterwards, when I began feeling like myself again, Valisia had started this new project and I needed time to experiment on slightly different things. A while ago we randomly contacted each other and after a talk we had, we decided it was time to resume what we had started. However, we don’t believe that the band ever ceased to exist; we simply took our time, both of us. I personally think that we are going through a period during which the world of music has more space for a group like us, at least on a European level.
Valisia: Personally, I express myself a lot better through music. The ability it gives me to become more outgoing and eloquent, especially through the Strawberry Pills, is priceless. So in a way, continuing was the only option.
What is your musical background and your story?
Valisia: Apart from the Strawberry Pills, I’ve been a member of the Phoenix Catscratch and Father Breath and I’ve also worked with Doric. All bands were oriented towards a dark, minimal wave sound. I started getting into music as a dj, something that I still do for about 10 years now, but becoming a singer was completely random, it wasn’t something I intended to happen.
Antonis: Everything started at the age of 13 when I was playing punk music, or at least I thought I did because all we were doing is making noise in some basement. I’m self-taught; just imagine I learned to play the guitar by stealing music magazines from kiosks on my neighborhood. I’ve occasionally played in many bands, without them necessarily having some cohesion in their sounds. However, I always wanted us to have tracks that hide, even deep within, some pop elements.
Your first single, called “Verbal Suicide”, is something every listener can identify with, for their own reasons. What is your take on the track?
Antonis: I don’t enjoy talking about every track’s meaning because I believe I’m stopping the listener from feeling it as they want to, so I’m mainly going to talk to you about its musical part.
It’s a song that has been around since 2013, we have been performing it live since then and it was the next one in line to record, before making the abovementioned pause. We sat down with Aristomenes and worked on the track from the top, having Panos Tsekouras give it a more modern touch. I personally think that this is the ultimate representation of our old sound connected with who we are now.
Antonis are there any common concerns between Greek and foreign artists? Is there something that has come to your attention or have talked about in the interviews you get for Vice? What problems do musicians in Greece usually face? Were these concerns a good source of feedback regarding your new beginning?
Antonis: I don’t divide artists into Greek and foreign but rather into those who do what they do in a serious, consistent and professional manner and those who do it as a hobby – not in a bad sense. The first category artists are mainly troubled with the music industry and how it is today and the decrease of sources of income for the artist. It is becoming more and more difficult to make a living through art and, just like in society, those who make a lot make even more, while all those medium-sized make even less. That is the predominant source of concern, as I have noticed, especially in the conversations we have before and after interviews. Having said that, yes, everything I’ve learned in my job, both positive and negative, and after having talked with successful musicians, has been more of a lesson rather than feedback, a lesson about myself and all the things I need to do for the band to function in a more correct and sustainable manner.
Valisia in your everyday life, you and your partner have set up a Greek clothing brand. How difficult is it to be under the magazines and showroom spotlight? Is music inspired by the world of fashion? In general, is fashion in our times inspiring?
Valisia : The 2WO+1NE=2 (2plus1equals2) brand that my sisterly friend Stella Panagopoulou and I have created is not exclusively a fashion brand to me but more like a mechanism that provides me with the opportunity of constant search, as well as a source of enriching my knowledge. It is a difficult and demanding job with no fixed timetables and no room for complacency but, at the end of the day, this sense of constant alertness is what feeds me. I think inspiration between music and fashion is bilateral. Fashion designers are inspired by an artist’s music or persona, just as a musical movement is defined even more from its fashion choices, like punk, new romantic, disco and many more. I believe that fashion, besides being an everyday necessity, is also an art form and as such, it is inspiring, while at the same time gives you the chance to discover and express your personality.
The Strawberry Pills’ next plans?
Antonis: We are currently recording new material and discussing the possibility of collaboration with some labels. We want our first record to be out by the end of 2019, but for the time being we can’t say anything with certainty. Finally, we are constantly booking live performances to remain on the move. After the record comes out, we will definitely be going on a tour.
Our magazine’s motto is “Look inside yourself”, because that’s where everything begins. What is your life’s motto?
Antonis: “Always be prepared to do Damage Control”
Valisia: “Just get over it”