In considering their visceral videos for songs such as “Our Own Dream” and the consistent backdrop of layered videos projected behind the band during their recent set at the Mohawk in Austin, it is immediately apparent that Keep Shelly In Athens is a band that thinks about music as a complex art with multiple facets. They make use not only of musical melody and musical textures, but also visuals and theatricality. We caught up with the group before their recent show at the Mohawk in Austin.
The Athens in their name doesn’t refer to the one outside of Atlanta, Georgia, but the one across the Atlantic, in Greece. Though four members round out the touring line-up, the band is largely a collaboration between vocalist Sarah P. and sound engineer RΠЯ, who weaves a complex, ever-present fabric of shoegazey sounds. Still lacking a first album, the blogosphere has played an important role in taking the band to notoriety in no time. A fact of which the duo is aware and by which they seem genuinely moved. “We didn’t expect it,” Sarah quickly responds when asked about their sudden popularity. “We hadn’t the time to think about what was happening.”
With such success stateside, the band remains virtually unknown in their home country, prompting my curiosity about the popularity of American music in Greece and the type of reception they expect back home as an English-speaking Greek band. “We are keen of American culture in a way” the band said, proceeding to say that the alternative scene in Greece has a section of English-speaking bands and another that sings in Greek.
As fascinating as this dichotomy is, our conversation with the band drifted to their prominent usage of images. “We try—with our videos, our visuals in our live shows—we try to combine our aesthetics…music and visuals as a whole,” RΠЯ says. Sarah follows up by adding, “Maybe when we use visuals and music videos, it can be easier for the one who is listening or watching to feel more connected.” As a teacher of English, this strikes me as particularly intriguing considering Keep Shelly in Athens’ international origins. American bands singing in English don’t have to worry so much about communicating their vision. We speak the same language, metaphorically and literally. On the other hand, Keep Shelly in Athens intelligently leans on strong pictorial representations and sonic texture to communicate feelings and ideas—and they do so with great skill.
Their performance that followed our interview reflected the topics of our conversation, as the band sustained a mood of mystery and nuanced beauty. Footage of jellyfish, forests, the ocean, empty houses, and Sarah P’s likeness dissolved into one another and blended together in artistic overlays.
We wrapped up our conversation by asking about future plans. RΠЯ answered first saying, “We want to complete our North American tour and European tour in May.” He continued, laughing, “At some point we have to have an album.” Sarah added, “Hopefully after our tour, we will have so many experiences so that we will be ready to write.” A case of a band being kept so busy by acclaim that they find it difficult to compose an album is a rare occurrence, but it is the difficulty that Keep Shelly in Athens face. As for us, we will be eagerly awaiting to hear that full-length when they do finally find the time to record.