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“Liam Gallagher is lovely…”
…So says Sonya Aurora Madan, one half of song writing duo Calm of Zero, and former singer and lyricist of Echobelly. Calm of Zero Calm of Zero It has to be said that when the opportunity to interview the lovely Sonya, who with her former Echobelly band mate Glenn Johansson has released two gorgeous Calm of Zero mini albums, I jumped at the chance. It’s not often you get the chance to chat to one of your heroines! The most obvious question, after my gushing introduction that may or may not have involved the words “I was a big fan back in the day” was to ask Sonya what she, and the members of Echobelly, had been up to in the years since Britpop died.
“People have been coming and going from the band ever since the last Echobelly album, which was ‘Gravity Pulls.’ People were leaving to get married, have babies and come back again, but eventually we ended up back at the two original members, Glenn and myself. We’ve carried on making music all this time but we got together as Calm of Zero and released the acoustic sessions – one last year and one this year. We’ve done it on a bit of a lo-fi basis, although we’d love to get a full band together, but we just couldn’t stop writing so we needed to do something!”
The new material, which you can listen to at http://soundcloud.com/cozsessions1 and http://soundcloud.com/cozsessions2 is lovely, with what I picked out as folky and even a bit of a country influence, enhanced with Sonya’s distinctive voice. The song writing routine is very regimented in Calm of Zero,
“Glenn writes the music and I write the lyrics.”
“No crossover at all?” I asked.
If the last Echobelly track you heard was from the 1995 album ‘On’ then the voice might be the only thing that links Calm of Zero to their Britpop incarnation. Sonya, on the other hand, doesn’t think that the music’s changed that much. “There’s always been an element of exploration to our music,” she stressed, and if you’ve heard the Echobelly back catalogue you’ll be able to see that there were a lot of unusual and experimental tracks on our B-sides and giveaways.” I asked her about her favourite tracks from the Acoustic Sessions. “Still Running, the last one, is my favourite, I think,” she answered, then added,
“But I like them all, really!”
There aren’t any immediate plans for live dates, although there has been the occasional gig every now and again
“When we feel like it’s worth doing.” Because the band and its members aren’t shackled by a record company telling them what to do, they’ve been able to take things at their own pace, writing at their own leisure and doing their own thing.
“There’s no point doing live dates unless people know about you, and at the moment we’re just trying to promote the acoustic sessions…maybe in the future.”
I asked Sonya what she thought of music at the moment, and if there were any particular bands she was a fan of. “I listen to all sorts, really, but I’m not that excited about most of what’s going on at the moment. I’ve just started getting into Led Zeppelin – I’d never even listened to them before, and now I’m like, they’re pretty good, aren’t they? I’ve started to appreciate their musicianship, their musical craftsmanship.
It’s fun, getting into music I’m not used to. “I’ve noticed that there’s a sort of underground, opposing movement going on, music is developing a bit of a folksy element. I’m even listening to early folk music myself. I’m going back to my old influences, listening to music from the past and discovering things I’ve never really looked at before.”
Sonya paused for a moment and then added, diplomatically, “But there’s room for everything, isn’t there?
Going back to the Echobelly years, Sonya had a reputation for being outspoken and opinionated, along with a few of my other heroines from the day. I asked her whether time had mellowed her. “I was never that outspoken, really. If you look at the interviews from the nineties, we were all encouraged to be opinionated. We were quite often given a list of ten or so questions, the most pertinent replies and the replies most likely to get an extreme response were printed in the magazines and highlighted in bold or as headlines.
“The media loved to caricature people, and it was quite fun acting up and playing up to their expectations. For example, Liam Gallagher is lovely. He’s sensitive and kind, but that’s not something you’d expect to hear! He was always portrayed as the bad boy, and he played up to it, but the person I knew when we toured with Oasis was nothing like his media image.”
The years have certainly been kind to Sonya, she barely looks older than she did when she was posing for the music press in the mid-nineties . I had to ask her what her secret was.
“I don’t think I’ve ever really looked my age, but thank you!” She laughed. “It’s funny because I don’t really think about being older now. I don’t feel it. I suppose when you’re 18, you don’t think that you’ll get to 40 and you won’t feel 40. But when you do get older, it’s actually true. I really don’t feel my age. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had children yet?”
At this point, Sonya Madan, one of my biggest girl-crushes from the 1990s, and I get into a discussion about babies. Whether having kids makes you feel older or younger, whether I have any myself, and swapping notes about friends who now have teenagers and are getting back into feeling young again because they are keeping up with their teenage kids. “The thing is, there are no rules any more. Even in the last couple of generations it’s changed so much and you don’t have to do what’s expected of you at a certain age. I think it’s great!”
I’m not sure how we got onto the subject, but I have to say I totally agree.