Keep Shelly in Athens: The TVD Q & A

The dream pop duo of Sarah P. and RΠЯ, aka Keep Shelly in Athens, are about to embark on another US tour. They have just released their debut full-length album, At Home, on Cascine Records. While they share a lot of similarities with other touring bands, there is one major difference:

Keep Shelly in Athens reside in Greece and call Athens home. When they say goodbye to friends and family, they travel hundreds of miles to first get to the United States. Then they travel around in a country foreign to them. But it’s not all bad. The two are touring behind a great album and are getting to play a lot of the songs for the first time to their ever-growing fan base here on this side of the Atlantic.

The tour was slated to kick off October 9 in Washington, DC, but due to immigration and embassy issues both in Greece and here (thanks in part to the government shutdown), Keep Shelly in Athens will be staying in Athens until they pick up on tour with Chad Valley in Chicago on October 18. With no rescheduling announced yet, the East Coast will have to wait a little while longer to catch the duo. 

Before Keep Shelly in Athens was set for their originally planned tour dates around the United States, I was able to chat with singer Sarah P. about the new album, the inspirations behind it, and just what exactly it means to feel at home. 

Here in the United States, there has been this consistent increase in vinyl record sales in the past several years. Why do you think that is happening considering it’s such an old medium for music?

I don’t think it is only in the States; it has been a trend all around. I guess it is much more personal, and also a collectors item. It is completely different from the MP3s and the CDs. It is something else. Personally, I love the fact that vinyls did come back.

Has the same thing been happening in Greece?

Yeah, totally! The music store lines are on fire with customers calling and asking, “Bring me that vinyl,” “Find this for me.” It is definitely a trend that lasts and grows over the years. People probably understand that music can be listened to much better on vinyl than having them super-compressed and flat.

Being a Greek band who play here in the United States a lot, what are some of the biggest obstacles you encounter?

It is hard to get there, we are really far away, and there is a long process, bureaucracy, etc. Plus, we cannot play as often as we want. It is hard to be based far away from your fan base.

How have the recent hardships in Greece affected you guys? Did it affect the recording process for this new album at all?

Greece is getting through some crazy stuff lately. It’s not just the crisis and the money; there are many other troubles originally provoked by the bad economics. For example, our hometown, Athens, has turned into a really violent city, a hard city to live in. People have nothing to lose; violence is the easy way to get what you want and to express your rage, regardless if you are articulate and reasonable or not. But you cannot let it affect you. People toughen up, they learn to live with less, and yes, that has affected us in many ways. I could talk for hours about Greece.

Who did you work with on At Home? When and where was it recorded?

It is always just the two of us. RPR makes his tunes on his computer at home and sends it over so that I can write the lyrics. Then we get in the studio, and we record the vocals. Nothing changed this time. Most tracks of the album were recorded last summer. Last additions to the album were “Oostende” and “Flyway.” “Flyway” is the kind of sound we want to stick with for our next album. That is why it is slightly different.

What pushes you to continue to write new songs and make new music?

Our mania with getting better and better, our spirit, new states of mind, fresh ideas. And sometimes reviews. (laughs)

What were some of the inspirations behind At Home?

Being away from home while traveling, then getting back and missing the road. We always want what we cannot have. On top of all of that, there’s the mood swings. And then the doubt of “what I want is really WHAT I WANT?” Pretty much that is the concept. It was personal. A lot of it was about a personal strife to get back on track.

When I think of the title, At Home, it makes me think of a more personal feeling, like being inside of my home. Is that what you were going for with the album? Is it reflected in the songs?

Definitely. As I said, it is a personal album. It gets more intimate. Sometimes it is pleasant, but there are moments that the dark side flashes and diffuses. That can only happen when you feel “at home.” And by that, I mean your home, your actual home. But also, the people you feel free to show your dark side. For me, there are a few people I trust like that.

How do you guys deal with being so far from your homes when you are playing overseas in different countries?

We stick together, and I—as I am the only girl in the band—tend to keep some things from people I love. Photos, jewelry, notes. Well, it is a fun journey, though; we are not rushing off to the war! It is fun; it is a nice adventure…

What are some of your favorite things about playing here in the United States? Least favorites?

It is a great test for us to visit and play there. We try to be as well prepared as we can be and to play some emotional shows. Playing in America has helped KSiA grow up as a band. Some of the best things for us are the people coming back to our shows (some faces are locked up in my mind, and I never forget), the van experience—visiting a beautiful country and having the chance to drive it around—and of course the different crowds. That is so exciting that it changes so much from place to place. The least favorite thing is that we leave to come back after a long while, plus that we know we will miss our friends.

What makes you feel truly “at home?”

Honestly? My mother and my best friend.

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