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Suns of Thyme interview with Tim Hoppe, Jens Rosenkranz, Tobias Feltes and Jascha Kreft

© Arrow Mae

Dark, brooding and conceptual, Suns Of Thyme would sound as at home in the Joy Division scene in London during the 80’s as they do here and now.  One of my favorite things when I listen to Suns Of Thyme is the fact that they didn’t mix their vocals into oblivion.  There are clear and legible lyrics to almost all of their songs and in this day and age of the DIY, lo-fi movement it’s a refreshing change.  On the heels of their debut album Fortune, Shelter, Love and Cure I was curious what the band hand in store for the future.  Things aren’t always what they seem with Suns Of Thyme drifting between some serious 80s synth influence, shoegaze, middle-eastern and just out-and-out psychedelic rock.  When you listen to their music you get the feeling there might be a little more going on that what you hear on the surface as expertly demonstrated by the guitar solo at the end of The Years We Got Enough which is sang rather than played.  I don’t say it often but Suns Of Thyme really do help you just, turn on, tune in and drop out, so join me while do so why don’tcha?
Listen while you read at:

What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this your original lineup?

The lineup has been the same since our first show as Suns of Thyme: Tobias Feltes (Guitar, Vocals), Tim Hoppe (Guitar), Jens Rosenkranz (Bass), Jascha Kreft (Drums, Vocals).  We are also supported by our close friend Tammo Dehn, from Medusas Eco, who did percussions and synths on certain tracks.  He’s a producer with an incredible sense for music, which is very helpful.

Are any of you in any other bands?  Have you released any material with anyone else?  If so can you tell us about it?

Tim:  Foremost we have to name The Odd Couple, Jascha and Tammo’s two-piece band they started years ago.  They’re in the process of mixing their debut record right now with Frank Popp but you can already find a lot of demo stuff online.  I have to say they’ve blown me away every time I’ve seen them.  Tammo himself has his solo-project, Medusas Eco and they have an EP Ueberall they released on Bandcamp. 

Where are you originally from?

Jens:  Tobi and I met about fifteen years ago at our school in Southwestern Germany, close to the French border.  Jascha and Tammo are from a small town called Norden located on the Northwestern German Coast and they’ve been friends since Kindergarten.  Tim is from Dresden in East Germany, he’s the only one who didn‘t bring a friend. 

Where is the band located now?  How would you describe the local music scene there?

Tim:  The band is based in Berlin.  The city has a rich music scene with all different kinds of music but everybody knows that it’s the city for electronic music.  Even within the rock scene is widespread in that you meet artists on different occasions who play all sorts of music.  I think concerning us as a band, there were two major things we can talk about.  Our starting point was the scene around Mindpirates e.V., which is an alternative art gallery and a venue for all kinds of artistic happenings.  For example, we participated in a 24-hour jam on a lakeside somewhere in the German countryside they hosted called The Lovers.  Three-hundred people arrived at the Mindpirates e.V. collective building at which point they were asked to give up their telephone and jump on a bus that would take them to a secret location.  This event clearly depicted the wide variety of musical styles within the scene including Tibetan Chanting, Dubstep, Krautrock, Hardcore, a naked screaming woman, etcetera; it was a very interesting event.  In terms of Indie rock, Berlin’s 8MM Bar has built a community over the last ten years.  People really support all the projects and show up for each other.

Are you very involved with the local scene?

Tobi:  Jens, Tim and I were working at the bar at Mindpirates on some occasions and we became friends with a lot of people that are connected to the Mindpirates collective.  We met the Director, Christian Schmid Rincon there who made the video for our first single Soma (God for Gods), and we met the L.A. based artist and musician Lionel “Vinyl” Williams who allowed us to use his image “Space District” as our album cover.

Jens:  We also hung around a lot in a friends place called Mammut Bar where I have been working lately.  Through them we met a lot of guys from the stoner rock scene like Heat and Samsara Blues Experiment who got us in touch with our label Electric Magic.  On the 8MM side, we knew some people here and there from Kadavar, Camera and The Blue Angel Lounge but we weren't really involved until a couple of months ago when we were approached by Christoph Lindemann from Kadavar and asked if we wanted to contribute a song to the 8MM 10th Anniversary record.

Has it played a large role in the history or evolution of Suns of Thyme?

Tobi:  Mindpirates definitely played a huge role.  I think we all agree that we wouldn’t be at the point we are now without them; a lot of love to Easton West, Kevin Klein, Owen Roberts, Stefanie and Christian Schmid Rincon, and all the others at this point!

Tim:  And 8MM is the reason we are able to see bands play in Berlin we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, like Dead Meadow, Spindrift, Psychic Ills and Indian Jewelry.  We met Jascha at one of those concerts so I guess we have to thank 8MM for giving us a great drummer.

When and how did you all meet?

Jens:  Tobi and I were planning to start a new band after we left our former band.  We were looking for a second guitarist and a drummer.  In 2010 I met Tim at university.  I think Tim was the first person I spoke to at university and he was exactly the kind of guy we were looking for, a friend and a music lover.  After that we started writing our first songs.  Since it‘s frustrating playing without drum, we were desperately looking for a drummer, but that proved quite a challenge.  It seems drummers are rare in Berlin.  If you find one, he‘s already in five different bands!  Just before we gave up searching, after three month of Craigslist listings, flyers and approaching random people on the street, we went to a Spindrift and Dead Meadow concert at Bassy Club.  Tobi and Tim were checking out the bands equipment before the show and a tall blond guy asked them if they played in a band.  Tobi answered that they indeed played in a band but they needed a drummer, fortunately Jascha was a drummer and just the one we needed.  The next day we rehearsed and started the band.  Tammo moved to Berlin a few months later and joined in shortly after that.

What led you to start Suns of Thyme and when was that?

Jens:  Tobi and I had played in two bands before Suns of Thyme though we weren’t founding members of either of them.  In 2010 we realized that it was about time to have something we could call our own but we didn‘t want it to be just our band and some random musicians.  We wanted the band to be a collecting, with all members treated alike.  We wanted it to be a musical dialogue between the musicians.  It was important to have the freedom to experiment to all of us, not just to follow a certain style of music, but to do what feels right at that moment. 

What does Suns of Thyme mean or refer to?  How did you choose the name?

Tim:  We chose the name because of its aesthetics and the room it leaves for imagination.  We liked its sound and look, and it fits quite well with the music; and yes it’s a play on words.  There’s no particular reference but I think we can say that Alejandro Jodorowsky and Scarborough Fair played a part in the formation of the name...

You guys sound comfortably planted in classic garage and psych, can you talk about who some of your major musical influences are?  What about the band as a whole rather than as individuals?

Tobi:  There’s not just one influence on the band but rather a combination of different influences from each individual in the band, especially because every member is part of the creative process.  Every one of us has certain preferences and comes from different, but still relatable genres.  I grew up listening to Pink Floyd and I'd say it's still my favorite band.

Jens:  Well, there are bands I consider the home base of my musical interests, like Joy Division, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Arcade Fire.  But to this day, nothing is able to overshadow the experience of seeing Michael J. Fox playing Johnny Be Good in Back to the Future when I was five years old, that’s for sure.

Tim:  My interest in music started with classics like The Doors when I was thirteen.  For a very long time now I’ve been interested in Indie rock and new psych rock bands, recently I discovered dark wave and 80’s music.

Jascha:  When I started playing in bands at the age of fourteen, I was pretty obsessed with the early Nirvana stuff followed by punk, stoner, blues, kraut and garage rock.  Nowadays I’m more and more interested in pop music, but my band mates have the biggest influence on me.  There are also specific songs which have influenced me highly in the long run; check out White Denim´s Shake Shake Shake or Michael Rother´s Feuerland.

I absolutely hate to classify or label music.  Can you describe your sound to our readers who might not have heard you yet?

Tim:  We have discussions about labeling in regards to other bands and music we like.  But when it comes to our own stuff, we’re kind of at a loss for a genre that feels like home.  We can only hope that the listeners and reviewers find a way to place it in their musical genre of choice.

Tobi:  Spacy, sad and angry, but also repetitive, fun, and quirky.

Jens:  Friends of ours from Mindpirates e.V. one time labeled us as krautgaze, I liked that term.

Jascha:  Even though the album has a distinct touch of psychedelic and shoegaze we try not to get caught up with those labels.  These days it’s important to be versatile and combine different styles and sounds, otherwise you won’t get people to listen to a whole record.  A lot of bands get stuck in a loop of just doing one thing which can be repetitive.  I do not want to get looped.  Especially by my own music!

Can you tell us about Suns of Thyme’s songwriting process?  Is there just a lot of jamming or does someone approach the rest of the group with a more finished idea to flesh out with the rest of you?

Tim:  We are not a band that gets together, has a couple of beers and jams for three hours.  We simply do not believe in that, or maybe we are just not good enough.  There are some jams during rehearsal when we have the basic structure of an idea and we want to get a better feeling of it and give everybody a chance to try out some variations with it.  But basically we consciously write our songs step by step.  How we come up with songs on the other hand varies a lot depending on the initial idea.

© Linda Glas

Tobi:  There are several different approaches that work for me.  Sometimes I record a demo at home and we start working with that idea together in the rehearsal room, sometimes it's a synthesizer or guitar sound that I'm looking for or stumble upon that builds the basis of an idea for a song.  I’ve woke up with a vocal line in my mind.  Sometimes it's a beat, bass line or guitar riff that one of the others wrote that fits perfect to a piece of my writing.  I usually write a song while recording it and then listen to it over and over again adding things until a structure emerges that makes sense to me.  But that doesn't mean that everything won't be changed again as soon as we start playing around with it together.

You recorded your album Fortune, Shelter, Love And Cure a while back and it is entering the final stages of release right now.  Can you tell us about the recording of that album?  When was it recorded?  Where was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was recorded?

 © Arrow Mae

Tobi:  The songs were recorded throughout 2012.  Tobias Schulz, a friend I met during my studies as an audio-engineer and I recorded the drums together at a studio in Berlin.  Everything else was recorded in my bedroom and our rehearsal room.  When you listen to the album you notice pretty quickly that we’re big fans of effect pedals.  My favorites are probably the EHX Cathedral Reverb and the Z.CAT Poly-Octaver 2.  Apart from the typical stuff like drums, bass and guitar I recorded some synth-sounds from a Korg Delta, some great iPad apps and some other digital synth programs.  For example I also used an electronic tanpura and an acoustic guitar played with a violin bow on Blue Phoenix Tree.  We had the pleasure of working with our good friend Owen Roberts who played clarinet on Asato Maa, Tammo who some of the percussions and Lisa Maul who did some backing vocals.

© Arrow Mae

What does the album title Fortune, Shelter, Love And Cure mean?

Jens:  It's a line from our song Earth, Over and it felt fitting to the mood and the aspects of the entire album.  When I wrote the line my goal was to capture the basic roots of happiness all humans are searching for.  At the end of the day, those are the topics the entire album revolve around.

Tobi:  Four words that mean something completely different for everybody.  At the same time, everybody seeks some or all of these things at some stage in their life and it‘s always a struggle to attain any of them.  But one that‘s worth it.  That struggle influenced a lot of the songs on the record.

What’s the release date for that?  Who’s releasing it?

Jens:  We were lucky enough to find a very passionate guy who owns the label Electric Magic here in Berlin who believed in our music and gave us the chance to release the vinyl.  For both the digital and the physical copy the release date was the 12th of July 2013.  The first edition consists of 150 green and 350 black vinyl copies including a download code and lyrics sheet.

Are there any plans for any other releases this year besides Fortune, Shelter, Love And Cure?

Tobi:  We are working on new ideas right now and will do some demo recordings soon.  There’s nothing planned so far but I think there is a high possibility that we will release something like a new single later this year.

With the recent US postal rate increases where is the best place for our US readers to purchase copies of your album?  What about international and overseas readers?

Tim:  As far as we know so far the album is only going to be released in Germany.  The best way would be contacting us directly via e-mail or Facebook.  We’re sending out some copies by ourselves but that includes the crazy international postage rate.  Digitally you can find it on Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes and all the known digital platforms after the 12th [of July 2013].

What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?  Any chance of seeing you here in the United States?

Jens:  We’re working with a booking agency from Berlin called Magnificent Music who also works with Kadavar and The Flying Eyes.  They’re planning a small German tour for us at the end of the year.  Besides that we are looking for support slots and festivals to get people to listen to our music who don’t know we exist yet.  The first step is to get out of Berlin, and then it’s on to other countries.

 © Linus Ma
 © Linus Ma
 © Linus Ma
©  Stefanie Schmid Rincom

Jascha:  To go overseas is simply a question of money and having a market.  It's already hard enough for U.S. bands that aren’t well known here to tour Europe, Black Moth Super Rainbow still haven't played here because too few people know about them for example.  And it’s the same the other way around if not even harder.  If we had our way we would play Austin Psych Fest maybe next year and have some shows around it.  We’ll see what happens.

Who are some of your favorite acts that you’ve had the pleasure of sharing a bill with?

So far we’ve supported TOY at their Berlin show and shared the stage with The Sun and The Wolf and Camera at the 8MM 10th Anniversary Record release party.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Tim:  I guess you mean physical records since everybody has access to almost everything nowadays.  Well, Jascha, Tobi and I have piled up some vinyl over time.  My Collection includes Black Angels, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Devendra Banhart, Deerhunter, Dandy Warhols, Entrance, Goat, Richard Swift, David Lynch, Blur, Blue Angel Lounge, Black Marble, My Bloody Valentine, Baïkonour, Grizzly Bear and more alongside classics like The Beatles, Kinks, Doors, Beach Boys, Vanilla Fudge, etcetera.

Jascha:  Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Pop Levi, Ty Segall, Mark Lanegan, John Frusciante, The Flaming Lips, Sol Seppy, White Denim, CAN, NEU!, etcetera.

Tobi:  Philip Glass, Rolling Stones, Ravi Shankar, Pink Floyd, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Love, Claude Debussy, Jeff Buckley, A Tribe Called Quest, etcetera.

I must admit that I do love digital music.  Having a copy of an album to take with me wherever I go, to listen to in the car of wherever, it’s still a new and novel concept to me. But having an album to hold in my hands, liner notes to read and cover-art to look at, it makes the listening experience more complete; at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physical releases?

Tim:  Of course!  That's why we waited so long for the album’s release even though it was done some time ago.  We wanted the vinyl digital versions released at the same time.  Nothing is better than holding your own record in your hands and we believe in physical records in general.  Not only because of any vintage hype or better sound quality, but because we see no other way to make sure that the artists are getting their money.  Digital music is great because it’s easy to handle.  But it’s also very quickly beyond the artist’s control and somehow you reduce the music to some letters on a screen.  Just another folder on the hard drive you might forget about over time because you’re getting more music than you can handle.  Music records are a whole art package, and a large part of our culture and people who take the music and artists seriously are willing to buy physical material for that reason.

I ask everyone I talk to this question in hopes of keeping up with all the killer music out there, who should I be listening to from your local area or scene that I might not have heard of before?

Tim:  There’s a Berlin based solo loop artist, HELMUT who’s really great and has a good feeling for songs that just get stuck in your head.  Camera, The Blue Angel Lounge and The Sun and The Wolf are quite well known already and they’re all great.

Jascha:  We played with Roof Top Runners and Brace/Choir who are both more international bands but based in Berlin and show how versatile the music scene is around here.

Jens:  And of course you should listen to The Odd Couple and Medusas Eco, Jascha and Tammo‘s other projects.

Tobi:  They’re not from our local area but are nonetheless worth a listen: Lionel Williams’ band Vinyl Williams.

What about nationally and internationally?

Jascha:  Right now we’re all very impressed by the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra Record.

Tobi:  I recently discovered Dumbo Gets Mad which is super quirky, but I like it.

Is there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to talk about?

Tobi:  I want to thank my parents for all their support.  Without them I couldn‘t do what I do the way I do it.

(2013)  Suns Of Thyme – Fortune, Shelter, Love And Cure – digital, 12” – Electric Magic Records

© Stefanie Schmid Rincon

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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