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Interview: Chellcy Reitsma
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Injuries got me into music. Before I started music I was a touring professional dancer, choreographer and teacher. Had I not been injured beyond repair at age 40 I would most likely still have my dancing career going. After getting injured I was laid up on the bed or couch and in a wheel chair for over a year. I knew my dancing days were over, but I still wanted to be on stage a doing something creative. Since I was also in too much pain to even sit at my easle to paint or draw I decided to try singing-songwriting and writing more poetry. It really helped my depression by keeping me occupied and excited about trying something new. I was happy to find a new passion and to discover something new about myself, but I was also terrified at my first vocal coaching session and at my first performance. I was so used to expressing myself silently with my body through dance that it took time to feel comfortable vocalizing my self expression and to hear my own voice recorded. Since then I have recorded 10 singles and a 4 track EP.
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I am also a visual artist and poet. I graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Art has been a passion of mine since childhood so I would definitly be persuing a career in art had I not discovered music after my dance career ended. I love to blend my visual art and poetry too by creating short stop motion animations or simply illustrating my poetry with painting and drawings. You can see some examples here on my poetry page: https://instagram.com/ephemeralcompass?utm_medium=copy_link
What do you like to do when you're not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like creating art including stopmotion animation, painting, drawing, sculptures and installations. I also like writing poetry, swimming, reading and traveling. These all inspire my creativity, visualization skills and broad my life experiences. My surroundings certainly facilitate my songwriting. I get the majority of my ideas while driving or traveling and I do most of my songwriting in the car. Sometimes I record a lyric or melody line on my phone while driving or I pull over to the side of the road to write something down. In Malta, where I live, I also have a few places I go to park and write near cliffs overlooking the sea. I love incorporating my visual art background with my music. A perfect example of this, is my 2020 project titled 'Desolate Days' (
). It hit the Top 20 Music Video Charts in Malta. It combines both my music and visual art practices in my first stop motion animation lyric video drawn in charcoal and digital art. 'Desolate Days' was part of the InnovAiR: Artist at Home program for the Valletta Cultural Agency.
How long has your band been around?
I started off as a solo artist with my first single release in 2016. I started the band in February 2019. I placed a post in a local Facebook page for auditions for those interested in joining a new band. Our bass player has been with me since the beginning but all the other members changed a few times before we got this committed, solid group formed about 2 years ago. So it was a rocky start but now the members all get along well and we have great music writing chemistry together. Alan Degabriele is the bass player who’s been with me the longest and also plays for the popular local band Skarlett with his talented sister Sandrina. Simon Cutajar is lead guitarist also studying graphic arts and marketing. Edward Mifsud is the rhythm guitarist and a science teacher at Junior College. He has been in a number of bands and duos since the 90’s. Adam Cutajar is the drummer studying to be a doctor and obsessed with polyrhythms.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We are based on the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta in the EU, aka ‘the rock’. All the current band members are also of Maltese heritage except for me. I think being an immigrant and all my life experiences greatly influence our eclectic music style and the lyrics. Considering that we are on a small island inundated with many musicians and bands, I think we all strive to do something unique and different to the island in an effort to stand out as a band.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
We all agreed to keep my personal name because it’s too expensive to start over with re-branding and I already had a decent sized and committed fan base started before starting the band in 2019. I have always performed and signed my art with that name. It’s hard for me to imagine identifying with another name like a stage or band name. It just is who I am and now who we are as a band.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
Our best show was at a music festival in Malta last October of 2021. We just really gelled as a band, had great energy, connected with the audience and the audience was great too; they really got into our music and vibe and showed us some love. Our worst gig ever was definitely our first gig before all the current and committed band members we have now. The bass player was with me at that time but all the other band members have changed since then because of this terrible first gig. Lol! The only two vand members really gelling at that time were the bass player and I. So we started the search for new band members together. Now we have a great team!
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
My favorite venues have been music festivals. There is just such a great vibe at music festivals and the audiences are usually music connoisseurs and excited to discover new bands and sounds. It is my biggest dream to travel to play at large foreign music festivals especially the Pitchfork and Lollapalooza festivals. I would feel like I had died and gone to heaven to have the opportunity to play at these amazing festivals.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
It would be my dream to open for a concert that included Kovacs, Asaf Avidan, LP, Nick Cave and Patti Smith. Those are my favorite artists and I love and respect them so much. It would be a great honour to open for them.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Leave your ego, fear, jealousy, low self esteem and bad attitudes at the door when you are with your band for any reason. Those little demons will destroy your band and you. There is no room for them when you are creating as a group (not an individual) and they will get in the way. Have fun, be committed, respect your band mates and thier ideas and contributions. If you can’t do this then just be a solo artist and don’t get involved with a band. When you are a band it’s not just about you anymore, it’s about the collective whole and the music.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Don’t dance professionally for a career and be more careful with your physical body. You have to live in it for the rest of your life. Do music instead.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
My most recent single ‘Happy New Year”. It was inspired by the one year anniversary of my cousin's death. He died on Christmas Eve in a motorcycle accident, hit and dragged by a semi-truck on a highway in California. We grew up together and were neighbors for some years. He was only a few years older than me and his death really struck a deep chord with me. Then I thought about all my many family and friends who have died and felt like I could end up, eventually, being the last one left at this party we call life. So I used a New Years Eve party as a metaphor for life and death. The song is my way of processing all of this and a tribute to those who have gone before me. Sometimes I still have to fight back the tears while I sing it. It is also a challenging song to perform because of the musical transitions. I enjoy a good challenge!
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
As a band we love performing a new song we haven’t recorded yet called ‘Dark Times’. We also love to play ‘Bad Love’, ‘Vixen’ and ‘Every Time’. Our most requested songs are ‘She-Man’ and ‘Black Water’ from my 4 track concept EP ‘Black Water’ released in 2018. It is a narrative of my life, my anger, loss and my love from 1990’s to 2010. It ends with a poem that sums it all up. Some have even called ‘Black Water’ an anthem for all women! Lol! I love that.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
For most of our songs I usually do the songwriting, meaning I write the lyrics and melody lines and record my vocals. Then I send it to someone in the band, usually Alan or Ed for tve musical compositions. We meet and start laying chords and getting the over all vibe we want. Then we meet as a full band and start working out everyones parts and thier contributions all together. Lastly I send the demo to a producer and work with the producer to further develop the song and polish it up and produce it. Then send it off for mastering.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I have recurring themes of hope, empowerment of women, lgbtq, and minorities; moving on, and facing ones fears. I want fans to be able to relate to and identify with our songs, to feel empowered and not alone.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
We actually get along really well but of course there are those inevitable times we disagree. We are all really good about talking things out, listening to eachother and making an effort to understand eachother. I think we are all quite a sympathetic and empathetic bunch so we really make an effort to talk and come to understandings and compromises.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
Coming up next on March 4th we’ll be releasing a new alternative rock single called ‘Fleshbot Prison’. An angry rock song with an artistic theory about human existence. You can presave it here: http://smarturl.it/crfleshbotprison
We are also working on a number of new songs in preparation for hopefully producing our first full LP. It will also include some poetry as my Black Water EP did. We are hoping to get some bookings started again for Spring and Summer 2022 as soon as the pandemic situation calms down and restrictions ease. Last year we did quite well despite the pandemic and managed to labd 2 festivals and headlined a decent sized local concert. We had our last performance in November all our December and January bookings were cancelled due to covid. We also have some TV and radio appearances scheduled for March 2022 for both local and USA stations.
Thank you so much for the interview and having us on Volatile Weekly!