First things first: There’s no Shelly. Though they’ve only been making music together for a little more than a year, the Greek duo (producer RÎ Ð¯ and vocalist Sarah P.) are already sick of explaining the joke: They grew up in a neighborhood called Kypseli. In Athens. Get it? But Keep Shelly are used to feeling a little lost in translation: Their first two EPs, In Love With Dusk and Our Own Dream, were both cult smashes in the English-speaking blogosphere, while they remain all but unknown in their home country. “We have a lot of electronic music in Greece, but not exactly the kind we’re into,” Sarah P. says. “I don’t like labels, but the chillwave thing doesn’t really exist here.” Still, thanks to their mostly American fan base, Keep Shelly’s 2011 played out like a fairytale of overnight internet success. They appeared on the Hype Machine’s top 10 list of Most Blogged About Artists before they’d played a single show.
Keep Shelly’s music is full of contrasts – long stretches of dreamy atmosphere suddenly interrupted by glitchy, Balearic-inspired beats (“Running Out of You”) and a vibe that feels equally indebted to Ibiza house and My Bloody Valentine (“Hauntin’ Me”). “We grew up in the center of town, which can be very overpopulated, but all our lives we also visited all of those beautiful islands in the summers,” Sarah P. explains. “So, all the Greek atmosphere, full of contradictions, that’s us.”
On a wintry East Coast afternoon, eMusic’s Lindsay Zoladz Skyped with Sarah P. and tried not to look too jealous when she claimed to be able to see palm trees from the window of her Athens apartment. They talked about the band’s reputation for being “mysterious,” their expanding line-up (guitarist Stefano and drummer Angelo now round out their live band) and picking up tips from Slayer’s live show.
It’s a cool landscape, all of it around here. It is beautiful, and it’s definitely inspirational to our sound, all this urban lifestyle, and too many people around when you’re walking in the city. Kypseli is a great neighborhood, but these days it’s known to be a poor neighborhood with many refugees. It’s quite an experience to walk around this country.
On overnight success their reputation of being “mysterious”
At first we wanted [to appear mysterious], because everything was happening so quickly and we had to be really sure about what we really wanted to do and what would be our next step in all of this. I think that all came from the fact that we didn’t feel ready to give interviews or do photoshoots or anything like that. But then it came to be something of a concept and everybody was talking about this “mysterious Greek duo.” I think now we’re not that mysterious. Maybe RÎ Ð¯ is still…but he’s just a mysterious guy.
On her creative partnership with RÎ Ð¯:
[We met] through a common friend. He was looking for a vocalist and I was looking for a band. We didn’t know each other before, so it could have been a disaster, but it’s turned out to be a really peaceful relationship. He writes the music, and then he gives it to me and I write the lyrics. Then we take it into the studio. That’s all. It’s so peaceful. We’re like brother and sister. On tour he’s always telling me, “Oh, Sarah, eat!” “Oh, Sarah, get some rest!
On their first American tour and people actually going to shows on Mondays:
[Our November tour] was my first time in America. So it was the biggest experience in my whole life! It was great. For RÎ Ð¯, it was the second or third time. He had played shows with another band in the past. But Keep Shelly in Athens, you know, we are babies on stage. We still can count the weeks we’ve played together. Here, we’re not that popular, so it was so funny and exciting to fly to America and play some shows, and it was great to meet other bands. And there were people who came to see us! On Mondays, for God’s sake! We are so grateful and so excited about all that’s been happening. It’s amazing.
On honing their live show:
We try this, we try that, and at the end of the day we sit down and discuss. We’re always doing research to try and find things that we can adjust to our performances. The Fun Fun Fun Fest that we played…it was a great experience. In two days we had the opportunity to watch so many shows from many, many different bands. I took a lot of tips with me to keep in mind…even from Slayer! That was an awesome set.
On their varied influences:
Every one of us used to listen to completely different music. Stefano is in a punk band…well, mostly punk. Angel is used to playing dubstep, so his influences are much heavier. RÎ Ð¯ and I are used to British music. We’ve listened a lot to Oasis and stuff like that. And I have darkwave influences as well. So there’s quite a mixture, and in our live performances were four people on stage who have listened to totally different music all these years. At first we were a bit afraid of it. But then we trusted it and we decided to follow that path of all this variety. It’s quite like a potion, now, we have to mix all of these things together and try to create something different.
On lessons learned at acting school and accidentally slipping into the third person:
I was studying acting at a drama school here in Athens, and it was a great experience for me. I had to spend so many hours there every single day from Monday to Sunday, but it was worth it. That’s how I learned to be on stage, like an actor. I can’t say to Actor Sarah, “Don’t come up on stage with me.” No, she’s always with me. She’s an actor, she wants to be on stage. [pause] I’m talking about me in the third person. Oh, my god. [laughs]
On what’s next:
Hopefully we’ll have an LP out this fall. That’s our plan. And we want to play shows here in Greece, because there are plenty of people here who still don’t know about us. This is our country. We want to do shows here for sure. We’d love to gigs anywhere and everywhere. We are always discussing how we can get better, and I’m pretty sure that we will come back to the United States and we’ll be really proud of our live show.