When did you realise you want to play music and what motivated you to start out a band?
From a very young age I was voraciously listening to music. I was instantly in love with this art. It gave me outlet and perspective. Then in adolescence I listened to The Beatles, The Stones and Pink Floyd and immediately realized I wanted to be in a band. I was daydreaming about playing on stage.
Did you have any previous experience as a musician or The Bittersweet is your first band?
I formed The BitterSweet when I was 32 so I obviously had a long previous playing experience
in various bands. But The BitterSweet were my first real personal endeavour.
What is your role in the band and who are the other members and their role? Do you compose a song collectively?
I am the lyricist, composer and creator of the band. We do not compose collectively. I take the compositions to the other members of the band and they put their own personal touch to the formation of the songs. Each one adds something valuable that a composer cannot possibly predict and that’s the wonder in this procedure.
The other members include Antonis Gkoufas on the guitars, Konstantinos Kontonikas on the bass and Costas Mexis on piano and keyboards. At this moment we’re about to change the drummer with Marios Panyperis replacing Chris Zelelidis most probably. I sing and play the guitar.
Your debut "Dancing In The Ζoo" was released in 2012. What do you remember from these days and what was the feedback the album had?
I have very fond memories from the days of our debut album. It went down very well with the Greek internet press and media and many singles from this lp found their way in the Greek indie charts. We enjoyed constant airplay on radio stations and our single “You Don’t Want Me Babe” featured regularly as a video clip on MTV Greece. EMI was quick in wanting and signing us. So the general reaction was close to enthusiastic.
Musically though I feel distanced from this era. Imagine we are talking about compositions ranging from 2003 to 2009. I cannot connect to my feelings of such a by-gone era. I find myself in a totally different planet now.
"The Age Of New Delirium" is your 2nd album. What are the differences with your debut? Did you work any different for this album?
There is a main and huge difference between the two albums. On “Dancing” I wrote and recorded all the songs basically alone. Then various members of the band and additional session musicians joined me in the studio and recorded their parts. I even played piano, keys and bass guitars on some songs due to the lack of personnel, of a real band. So it was not what you would call “a group album”.
On “Delirium” there was a great team spirit of collectiveness. We played and formed the songs together in the studio so each member had their parts rehearsed and prepared. We also agreed that the mixing approach would be “live”. A band playing in the studio as they play on a live stage with very few overdubs or gimmicks. The first LP was more elaborate and sophisticated with overdubs and orchestrations that we could not re-create easily live. “Delirium” was meant to sound fresh and real.
What has been the response to "The Age Of New Delirium" so far? How satisfied are you now that you listen to the album again? Would you change anything?
I think any musician with a sort of feel and passion for this art would agree that we tend to change many things in works already published, if not everything! I would definitely rework the guitar sound on some of the tracks and improve the vocals and accent on others. The backing vocals needed reworking too. But I chose to abolish my ego and listen to the producer’s advice.
“The Age Of New Delirium” has had a very warm, genuine, enthusiastic and substantial response from the Greek music press and sites already. The reviews are triumphant and we are very pleased with the crowd’s warm welcome. Most of all we are proud of the album itself and hope it’s going to stand the test of time. I’d like to think “Delirium” is a consummate musical proposition mixing different styles and genres successfully. A more mature work compared to our first songs. So we are really satisfied by the outcome.
Which artist/bands have influenced The BitterSweet and how?
To begin with, our main ambition is to blend different musical styles in an exciting and interesting pop/rock format. So the influences cover a wide range. From The Beatles which is a definite influence to the psychedelia of Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett over to more proggy things like Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator and Procol Harum. But the range is really diverse so I would say that Bowie, Roxy Music, The Smiths, Τhe Cure, Radiohead, Blur, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac early and mid era , The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Nick Cave and even artists like Bill Evans, Weather Report, The Stooges and Bach play their role, huge or trivial, in forming the musical landscape that The BitterSweet inhabit in.
I tend to say that we’re based more on a songwriting sense and approach, focusing on the melodic and the harmonic virtues of music, as opposed to Atmosphere, that many bands build their approach and musical styles on. Being trained as a classical guitarist and studying fugue and counterpoint has played its role in my approach to modern music certainly. But basically I’m a huge rock’n’roll fan. So volume and power are also necessary, but as a side medium to convey a more “rocky” feeling. After all we are nothing more or less than a rock’n’roll band! So in that regard, The Beatles, Bowie, prog rock and The Floyd are my main influences. I have a huge passion for melody and harmony.
How would you call The BitterSweet's music style and why?
This is a very difficult question for me to answer. I do not like labels and I’m not into following certain musical trends or playing a specific type of music. My interests cover nearly all the facets of modern music, from pure pop to hard rock and jazz. If I do not have a choice, I would be forced to say that our style is reminiscent of a psychedelic pop approach with a prog feel. Some of the songs have a brit pop indie feel too. But I say we are playing pop/rock. And that certainly covers all areas and styles.
Is there a scene for your music style in Greece? Please name some artists/bands worth for us to check out.
Yes, there certainly is one. But as in every country, aside maybe for The States and Britain, some of the very good things get lost or go unnoticed. Whereas more “stylish” bands that tend to stick to a formula get more chances.
My favorite Greek bands at the moment are Verbal Delirium, Ciccada and Methexis. There are also some good indie bands but I haven’t found the time to fully listen to them with attention.
I’d like to mention some older bands like Raining Pleasure, Closer and Trypes which I really dig. Unfortunately they do not exist anymore but it’s definitely worth it checking them out.
Please let us know more about your lyrics.
Our lyrics are mainly existential. I find myself infatuated with the absurd and the metaphorical. But history, the current world situation and love as a form of pain and expression interest me too. Sometimes you desperately want to write simply so the message will get through directly to any “receivers” or “recipients”. So as the years pass I try to simplify the lyrics a little bit. My older style was more elaborate.
There’s a natural course and progression in the songwriting approach as you get older.
What is more important for a band? Where do you focus as a band?
Chemistry between the members, steady rehearsals and a passion and love for a common goal. We as a band focus mainly on the musical side and a good live presentation on stage concerning technique, musicality and perfection.
We don’t tend to act too much on stage. We are not that energetic. We care more about the musical quality and the message we convey to the audience. We want them to listen to the music and we work very hard in that direction.
Are there any scheduled live shows ahead for The BitterSweet? Have you played abroad?
There is a live show coming on the 6th of March in Athens and a very strong possibility to open for a very famous foreign group, but nothing is confirmed at the moment. We’ll certainly play venues in Greece and large festivals, as we’re still promoting our second album.
Unfortunately we have not yet played abroad. We would love to.
Which goals have you set as band? Are you satisfied with your achievements so far? And how do you plan to move on?
First pragmatic and urgent goal is to complete our 3rd album, which is gonna be called “September’s Sons”. We’re looking forward to releasing it at the end of this year.
The standards we set as band are very high and we want to reach a very high level of artistic expression.
We don’t necessarily care about the “here and now”. We want to be remembered and care for our musical legacy and posterity. So our top priority is giving the audience music with quality and innovation.
We are mostly satisfied but are always looking for higher degrees of artistic achievement and, secondly, popularity. There could have been a brighter present for us, but things could certainly be much worse, especially in a country like Greece, which is not necessarily ready or eager for a music like ours.
We do not want to go the easy way ‘cause we want to stand for our musical morals and approach.
Believe me, lasting 13 years in the Greek Anglophone music scene is no small achievement!
We are also looking forward to as many live shows as possible, here in Greece and abroad. Our drive is our passion for music.