DIY Album


Do It Yourself music album.
As an indie music band, we don’t have any producer / manager / artistic director / label / distributor / booking agency / designer / … which technically means, we have to do all that stuff by ourselves. It’s a bit like being an actor, one day you’re a photographer, the next day a sound engineer… or at least, we try to be !

Blog, DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Hard-copy is not dead & about music visual identity


This unique piece of Artwork travels to Ireland as a reward for contributions to our Crowdfund campaign. Yann has been a few time to Ireland, but I haven’t so far… I’m hoping this painting is opening the road for me, it’s still a dream to go and visit some of the incredible megalithic sites as well as sites linked with Celtic Irish Culture. Performing there would obviously be a bonus 🙂 Let’s send this wish out into the winds!

Music is a classic performed by The Bothy Band in 1976/77 and released in 1996. Full version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aWl_qdUK1o

 

And this one is on its way to the South of France…

ines bras

 

We are still only realizing how slowly incorporating my artwork into the project has become part of it, part of its identity, and has considerably impacted too the way we now envision projects. With the small audience we have, we probably wouldn’t have been able to reach the goal on the Crowdfunding campaign. The artwork is what has generated interest, it made it easy to post regular visual up-dates whereas posting music studio ones could feel a bit of the same.

When we went to local record labels with the project last year, I could sometimes hear something like “is it a book or is it a music album?” “how can we promote it if we’re not sure what it is?” “if it’s a book with just the lyrics, then it might just be a booklet, not a book.”

 

Once again, we are shown that what is hard to understand in the beginning is what makes us stand out and makes us different, and thus helps getting our project been noticed. In a way, the strong visual identity we’ve developed over the years balances the fact that the language we use can sometimes be an obstacle to dive in into our music.

Now that we started to get fantastic and lovely feedback from people receiving the first orders, we also can feel how the visual impact the way they perceive the music afterwards – so far in a very positive way.

Photo Joelle

Every music style is different, but in our case, we can confirm that we get to earn some money from hard copies sales while we barely make any sales on digital-only editions. We even had already a couple of people that ordered first the digital edition (that still includes the book in pdf) and re-ordered the hard-copy, and that was just the first week!

Is there any conclusion? While we hear very often that digital is the future, we can see exceptions all the time, and personaly it’s not what we’ve been noticing (since 2012, we’ve released 3 hard-copies and 2 digital only). Is there any rule? And who makes up the rules? As artists, we are creative people, and being creative is also something we can apply to the way we connect with our particular audience. We still have a lot to learn on that field, but the last months of conceiving and releasing Inês project has certainly been very inspiring in that field.

To be followed!

– Simone.

Advertisements
Blog, DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

9 months or 4 years? + album Inês big up-date


Dear all,

It has been considerable long time without any up-date from us. Probably because sometimes our progress is so slow that we even barely seem to notice any.

For B album, I remember we started on the 1st of January 2014 on the very first drafts (though we had some ideas of compositions already, or had been working on them for live performances). Anyway, on the 1st of October 2014 we collected the promo samples freshly pressed from the factory. In the meantime we had recorded all the tracks, developed new sounds, new arrangements, done concerts in France, Belgium, and set up our 2 first UK tours, also set up all the legal side, made the artwork for the booklet, edited countless teasers and music videos. That’s 9 months sharp full time into music.

For Project Inês album we must have got the idea around july 2014. Actually while working on the lyrics for Gwerz Inês. The story was so deep that we couldn’t choose a proper angle until we thought we would leave most of it for next album.

Mid 2015 we were already doing some progress on the lyrics/music, and had many ideas about the concept. Broad lines, but most of it was there. At the end of summer 2015 the finances we had asside had gone, and we had to come back to Brittany full time where Yann has been mostly working full time as a teacher. We’ve done the best use we could of holidays for gigs/tours until 2017.

Ar Maured o kuitaat Iberia / The Moors driven away from the Peninsula. Artwork for the concept album Inês (medieval love story between Pedro King of Portugal and Inês de Castro)
Ar Maured o kuitaat Iberia / The Moors driven away from the Peninsula.

We’ve had many ideas for Inês Project. Many. Many musical directions that didn’t work, mostly because we realised it wouldn’t be doable for the 2 of us to set up the ambitious sounds we had in mind at first.

So we did what we always do: one step at the time, we do what is doable. We do with the limited time/money/means we have. We make the most of it, and try to go around limitations, turn them into challenges. Most of the time.

At least we try. When we look back we realise that maybe, we also lost a lot of time by not being focused enough in what matters : creating music. Sometimes we get bitter, anxious, and only see the limitations. They are challenging limitations. Not travelling much is a major source of sadness for sure. Everytime you leave the music for something else, you need to get back into the mood. As quickly as possible! But there’s no other way than to do with what is, right?

Almost 4 years later… that’s starting to be painful, at a certain time, we need to switch to something else too. So, to give you an clear up-date at where we are at…

  • Lyrics are mostly all written, there might be a need for some changes as we go threw the vocals recording.
  • We have all of the tracks structures, sounds, ambiances with minor changes that will occur once vocals will be in place.
  • Most of instruments played by Yann are finalised (guitars, drums, ud and violin).
  • We have a clearer idea about the guests and what they’re doing on which track.
  • We have a clear frame for our crowdfunding campaign (we’ll be using Indiegogo), time frame, money goals, rewards, etc…
  • I have a structure for most of the artwork for every song.

What’s still to be done:

  • Record all the vocals.
  • Get our guests’ tracks to add to the mix.
  • Create most of the artwork – and there’s a lot to be created. Confession time: I need to have to music before I actually can paint. Probably that’s a limiting belief as well!
  • Edit all the graphics for the booklet with all the lyrics + notes.
  • Finalise the mix/master.
  • Translate all the lyrics in French/English.
  • Set up and launch the crowdfunding campaign. That’s a huge part! Includes a lot of promo, editing some videos too, printing some artwork for rewards too. And for that… we need the artwork !
  • All the legal side of the project – taxes – authorisations – etc…

Put that way, we can’ say there hasn’t been any progress ! Wish us luck and plenty of energy.

A galon / with heart,

– Simone.

 

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Celebration time! We’re featured in fRoots’s album choices again!


It’s a great honour not only to get a really good review in fRoots current issue (available from today for subscribers, on sale on the 20th), but also we got chose among “album choices of the month playlist

fRoots review on Astrakan Project B

 

The review for our first album in 2013 came like a surprise, we had never played in the UK, were not distributed, had got actually absolutely no review in France, it felt really like a recognition for us. For our album B, we weren’t sure fRoots would like it, it’s much darker, and rock. Yet they still recognized that it is nothing but 100% traditional Breton music, and this is truly a very nice surprise again!

 

 

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

I’ll be waiting…


Since last album, I had forgotten this odd “in-between” time after the album’s release. The time it takes to go from “the release” to “what’s next”.

Since the album’s release then, a couple of fans bought it straight away,  fans that follow us regularly, that were waiting for it- you’re probably among them: big thank you! :). It’s a big reward when the first orders come in. (and a relieve also, let’s be honest !!! )

songlines 4 stars review
Our first album’s review in Songlines magazine in 2013

In the meantime also, we keep sending albums+press reviews to magazines and radios, although net-works can be powerful, traditional media have their audience for which they will select the music they think they will like. And from previous experiences we know how it brought attention from people that now follow us on a regular basis. Because this is the concrete real outcome of a good review, it isn’t about praising our musicians’ ego with nice and pleasant words. It really can help to spread the word around our project, and make it successful, help to touch more people and also be a plus when it comes to book new gigs and concerts.

Being aware of that brings a tiny bit of pressure.

What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t play it?

And there is also something we all know, nowadays, everything goes pretty fast. In the case of radios, either our music will get played straight away, either it will never be. All of this has a direct crucial impact on the music we might or might not be able to create and play in the up-coming month. Not that we would stop playing music!!! 😀 But we have the intuition that a slightly bigger audience would inspire us quite a few new cool projects!

So… we’re waiting…

§ Simone

astrakan breton world music on facebook

DIY Album, Sound & Video

Making new from old AKA dare to sacrifice


Our album is right now being manufactured, it’s a big achievement already! We still have a lot to do, but we can be more relax since the first big deadline is over (and we made it! 🙂 ) And since we were so busy last week, here’s a sneak-pick on how we created the album cover.

Our music too is pretty much also about “sacrificing” ancient (and beautiful) a-capela songs to turn them into new pieces. Sometimes we barely dare to. For some tunes, including some on next album, we waited for years before we dared to. Not by fear really. But because it’s sometimes hard to transform a song into a new tune that will at least compete with the original version.

§ Simone

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

What else do you need to release your next album?


… You need Gesso!!! Or at least, I need gesso!

What? Gesso is a primer used to coat canvasses or paper before painting, especially loved and treasured by artists that love multiple layers and materials as well as heavy textures. Well… like me! I love gesso. And I still don’t know how I run out of my precious primer, (well, no, not completely, I still have some black gesso 😉 ) , and not only I run out of gesso, but also I haven’t found so far any art-shop in my area in Greece (around Kavala, if you happened to be reading and know one, please! Don’t let me down, leave me a comment!).

Not only did I run out of gesso, but I’m painting for next album cover (ho, here comes the album!), so, what can I do?
DIY homemade gesso primer

So what else than go back to the old Do It Yourself method. Yes. Again. I found an easy recipe here. Basically baby powder+white glue+water. I chose to add some very white paint. I’ll wait until tomorrow to allow it to settle.

I sometimes wonder if I haven’t been cursed for really needing again and again to find last minutes creative solutions. Do I really wish things would be different? Noooooo ! 😉

§ Simone

Buy Astrakan Project debut album

 

DIY Album, Sound & Video

How to chose the right track order for your album?


Although we could have been tempted by this method :

… we went back to the one we used for our first album instead !

The way we organised tracks is something we pay a lot of attention to, we discuss it, we write it down, imagine it… And so far we are happy with what we came up with.

I‘m not pretending there was no other possibility, but in our minds, it all comes down to perception. A song will be heard and felt in a different way if it comes as the opening of the album, or after another track, and it also depends on which track.

We like to think about an album as a travel to our world. In the opening, what we want to do is to welcome the listener, almost take him by the hand. Then the journey can begin! We like to imagine and believe that an album can also be heard as a whole piece, not only track by track, but that when you listen to it, the story you hear is different.

You may now be wondering, how will next travel be? Maybe darker than the first one, maybe more powerful, but still as joyful as we are!

§ Simone

 

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Your album isn’t ready yet + mind-mapping for self-produced album


I know that people don’t have any bad intention behind the question, and we musicians love to get questions about “how things are going”. Or at least, the intellectual side of me knows it.

I know sometimes people are just super exited to hear it. But how can you explain that there is no way it could be done quicker ? That going to the studio is just such a tiny wee(1)  little part of all what we do?

Who said again that a picture worth thousand word? 😉

your album is not ready yet
Your album is not ready yet? [click for HR image – it’s really large!]
Scary, hey ?

Although largely exhausted, I couldn’t sleep last night – maybe because we recorded until late one more ghosty gwerz that kept on haunting me (this one is about Yugoslavian wars, and is really painful to work on).

I suspected also that as the deadline is approaching (we’ll be leaving for next UK tour by the end of September), I’m probably also getting nervous about all that needs to be done. It’s not our first self-produced album for sure. But a few things add a bit of spice to the all adventure…

  • Music and technique-wise, our level of expectations has considerably raised. Mixing and blending the sounds together is part of our music, and thus takes much more time than for an acoustic project for instance.
  • Learning from previous launching campaigns, we want to get the best out of our release and try to plan ahead for a decent release impact – in a way, when we were younger, there were so many aspects we didn’t suspect that we were pretty relax about!
  • Instead of manufacturing 500 of pieces each time (and then eventually re-manufacture afterwards), we decided to invest on 1000 in one go, to save money, but then, we have to plan for when and WHERE we can get it delivered… and stored!
  • Since our activity is increasing (more touring, more sales, other projects), we have to switch to a decent legal status… and I wonder if this isn’t the most epic part of this particular release?
  • It’s the second album with Astrakan Project. I’ll write back about it, but well. It’s kind of an extra little source of pressure.

It kind of relieved me to get this end-less to-do-list organised in a visual way, kind of mind-mapping out things so that I don’t forget anything. And well, although it might look scary at first, it really helped me to see that a lot as been done, and also now, I know which part I was not paying enough attention too. The legal status part of course!

Back to work – our album isn’t released yet!

§ Simone

(1) wee=little if you haven’t spend some time in Scotland. And if you understood it, I want to play there! I want to go back to Scotland, if you have any place to suggest for next October, you’ll make my day!

DIY Album, Musicians' Diary

Some work in progress art work for next album


Last Astrakan Project album (2012) was the first album ever I used my art work for. With the exception of Yann’s portrait, I did not specifically create the paintings for the album, but once they were finished (they were created between March and June 2012 whilst the album was to be released in September), there was absolutely no doubt in our minds they belonged to the album.

For our upcoming album, I had no idea so far. Absolutely zero! I even hadn’t been drawing much lately because I kind of wanted to get first an idea of what to paint… for the album!

Ha ha ha! Inspiration just doesn’t seem to work for me that way! Last week-end I started to doodle inspired by Shamanistic Sami drums from northern Scandinavia, like this one:

sami shaman drum blue
Prob. 17-18th C. Norwegian Sami People Drum. During rituals a ring was moved around on the drum membrane. Predictions and conclusions were made based on rune itself and the path that the ring took in selecting it.

I loved the very stylish way animals and people get depicted, but above all the way they depict a world, they tell a story that you can follow. And I kind of got inspired… So inspired that

While composing music we often get into the same inspiration process, if we try to pull it too hard, nothing really happens, when we let go off the pressure about “this needs to be done”, then only ideas start to flow.

Truth is, most brilliant ideas aren’t really ours…

…best ideas come to us – if we allow them to.

Back to painting!

§ Simone

DIY Album

Tales of dark romance and doomed love / album review from Songlines


Here is the complete review we got in Songlines issue n.93 last July. We’re extremely proud to have been reviewed in such a prestigious review… and even got 4 stars **** !

Tales of dark romance and doomed love

This album has nothing, as far as one can tell, to do with the town on the Caspian Sea or hats. The core of this album is enjoyably gloomy traditional Breton singing, from the pure voice of Simone Alves with her partner Yann Gourvil in charge of instruments and programming. The duo’s songs are peppered with Celtic myth and legends, but mainly about doomed love and death. A sample lyric, translated from the Breton, as a lover decides to kill himself after his beloved dies « We’ll lie in the same grave since we haven’t in the same bed, we’ll be married in front of God since we haven’t by the priest. » What is unusual, and probably unique is the « oriental » colours added to the songs (the duo lived in Istanbul for a while) with Yann Gourvil playing oud and saz as well are more usual folk instruments.

Stand-out tracks include « 1932 », which is an effective evocation of the misery of a failed harvest when there’s no bread, while « mouezhioù » sounds a little Bulgarian and is an atmospheric song about a woman who bitterly regrets marrying a drunkard. The electronics used on songs like « Kreñv ‘veld ar garantez » are generally subtly interwoven although at time the drum machines stands out, and not in a good way. By the end of this compelling, if at times slightly claustrophobic, record there is a slight sense that some other players would have added a more rich sonic palette. Still, there are some superb songs rendered in an original way, which suggests considerable potential. The cover Art Work is intriguing too.

Track to try : 1932

Peter Culshaw

This slideshow requires JavaScript.