Laura Carbone is my favorite artist I’ve encountered this year that I had absolutely no prior knowledge of. The German singer/songwriter was in Deine Jugend, an electro-punk band who earned a following in Europe, but whose sounds never really made it to the states, and she released her solo debut, Sirens, this January. The album wears its influences on its sleeves but, luckily, those influences are some of the best sounds we’ve encountered in the past four decades, equal parts restrained post-punk, whimsically and existentially downtrodden new wave, and the craftiest kind of songwriting to come out of the ’90s alt rock scene. Carbone currently has a handful of dates scheduled in Germany in August, September, and October, and earlier this Spring she took some time to tell me all about her history and how she came to be the solo artist that she is at the moment.”
Izzy Cihak: First of all, thank you so much for sending me a CD copy of your latest all the way from Germany. It’s super appreciated.
Laura Carbone: You’re welcome. I love to see my music making all the long way to find someone who digs it.
Izzy: So is there anything you think is especially important for fans or potential fans to know about you as a solo artist? There’s relatively little info available about you and your previous project, Deine Jugend, never really made a sizable splash in the US.
Laura: “Deine Jugend” is my German electro-punk band. We released two records and toured in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It was a great time, lots of fun, and a good start for me into the business. After a few years I’ve developed the desire to see more of the music world and this is kind of hard when you write in German. You have to know that I love to travel, to see new places, and smell a certain scent every city has to offer.
I also wanted to express myself in a new musical way. You’re kind of limited when you sing and write in German and I just wanted to have a new blank space which I could be creative with. I wrote Sirens with Bonassis, who is also part of “Deine Jugend,” but we didn’t tell anyone what we were doing for quite a long time. I didn’t want a business opinion or someone who thinks how my songs could be turned into commercial hits. After a certain period when I finished a few songs I was very confident and showed them to some business people. When some of those business people compared my songs to AC/DC, I knew that I had to stay independent. I was like, “Urgh, you don’t get it, you can’t help me.” Others tried to convince me that I should stick to German because “English is not right for me.” Yes, I am very happy to have had these experiences which kept me doing my stuff in an independent way.
Later, when Sirens was almost finished, I finally found some people who shared my vision without any explanations. Honestly, I think it was a very good decision to choose the harder way, to be your own boss and not have to listen to several other opinions which may not matter.
Izzy: And, as a solo artist, what would you consider to be your most significant influences, both musical and otherwise?
Laura: I am super inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement in the ‘90s, with Kathleen Hanna and her amazing band, Bikini Kill. I like that vision of Girl Power with all the vibes and energies. This leads to another very influential ‘90s bands like The Breeders, Sonic Youth, and my heroine, PJ Harvey. At the same time, my other significant musical influences are in the ‘80s. I love the reverb on a Sisters of Mercy snare drum, or the tremolo in Chris Isaak’s guitar, and the outstanding melodies of The Cure songs. I like these very old sounds, but we are focusing on a contemporary production and I am glad that my producer, Bonassis, has a crazy mind with fantastic ideas and he’s able to transform my wishes into these compositions.
Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite reactions to Sirens so far?
Laura: Well, I don’t really have a favorite reaction because I was really grateful and kind of surprised by every reaction I got. Obviously, I love my album and I think it is great because I put everything I got in there, but to hear all the beautiful reactions was truly amazing to me. It is wonderful to see that people love and enjoy listening to my work – I really appreciate that!
Izzy: Do you, yourself, have a favorite album track? I really love “Late Night Conversations.” It reminds me of the best ‘90s blends of singing/songwriting and alt rock. It totally reminds me of Tanya Donelly at her most playfully rambunctious.
Laura: That is a hard one. But I think “Innocent” is one of my favorites. It reminds me of a ‘90s soundtrack for a college movie, like Clueless. And I really like the bitter sweetness of the whole song.
Izzy: Not to detract from your music, but you have a fucking amazing sense of fashion. What does that draw inspiration from, if that’s even something you think about? Do you have any particularly significant style icons?
Laura: Thank you! When it comes to fashion I am attracted and inspired by people, visuals, and vibes. I’m not thinking too much about these things but subconsciously, I soak everything in of the ‘60s and ‘70s – my favorite style decades. Pictures and people have the biggest influence on me when it comes to style. I like to rely on originals, like real people and real, old vintage stuff where I can feel and see the soul of the pieces. My style icons are the ‘60s Brighton Mod’s, Sophia Loren, Keith Richards, and Uschi Obermaier.
Izzy: You have a few live dates scheduled for later this year. What can those fans expect of the live show?
Laura: We are going to plan a little tour in fall in Europe. I will play all the songs of Sirens and I promise it will be louder and noisier than it is on the album. I like to add a little chaos to my live shows.
Izzy: In addition to that, how do you hope and plan to spend 2015?
Laura: I hope I’ll be able to tour a lot. To see new places, meet new people, and have great moments on and off stage. There is a vision of a 7″ in my mind with special versions of my songs. I don’t know… maybe that is something that I will bring to life in these next few months.