Gefahrgeist are a Scottish electronic duo comprised of musicians Fiona Liddell and Niall Rae. After the success of their sassy yet ethereal debut single ‘Graceless’, the pair return on January 29th with the chilling desolation of ‘Nukular’, a song sung from the perspective of the person pushing the nuclear button and exploring the ensuing devastation. This second, soul stirring offering sees them move closer to their debut EP and the prospect of the return of live performances further down the line. I caught up with them to ask them about their musical relationship, creative process and dreams and aspirations.
SP – What brought the pair of you (Fiona and Niall) together musically? And how did you meet in the first instance?
FL – Pre pandemic, we played in the same wedding band (The Apollos) for a number of years. When driving to gigs, Niall would often stick on a track he was working on. I’d offer to sing on it and get rejected outright! It was only when I sent him a demo of my ideas that he agreed.
NR – Fi doesn’t remember when we first met, but it was after a performance I did at university on piano in a band. Think I played one key the whole time since I was very hungover. Afterwards, Fiona came up and said I was brilliant…?
SP – How does your band name, Gefahrgeist, relate to the music that you make? What are its origins?
NR – The name came from a book I read by Michael R. Fletcher called ‘Beyond Redemption’. ‘Gefahrgeist’ is used to describe a sociopath character, but honestly I just thought it sounded cool. It means ‘Danger Spirit’ in German!
FL – In terms of how it’s connected to the music, it’s sometimes quite ethereal sounding and other wordly, so I think a ghost name works well. It is hard to pronounce, though!
SP – How does a typical writing session go for you?
NR – Fi does the lyrics and melody, and I do all the hard stuff. Often I’ll come to Fi with a track I’ve been fiddling with for a while and ask her to write and record lyrics and vocals for it.
FL – My part usually takes about a day whereas Niall is working on these tracks for months (sometimes years!) before they’re done.
NR – She’ll usually send something back that is nothing like what I had in my head and it’ll take me a few days before I realise that it’s way better than what I was thinking.
FL – We complement each other well like that, I think. When I write a song I’m usually just on piano. I give the chords and structure to Niall and suddenly it’s way better than I could have done on my own!
SP – Your song ‘Nukular’ is out on the 29th of January. The song is told from the perspective of someone pushing the button for a nuclear missile attack. What drew you (Fiona) to write on this subject?
FL – It was around the time when Trump was threatening to bomb the Middle East a while back. The thought was so terrifying to me, that ‘Nukular’ became a way for me to imagine how a figure like that who’s so self-involved and shallow would react to seeing the horror he’s created. He sees people as commodities and completely irrelevant to himself. ‘Nukular’ explores that idea and it’s quite a hard song to listen to if you tune into the lyrics! Niall’s production helps create the apocalyptic atmosphere I was after for this figure wandering through the wasteland.
SP – ‘Nukular’ features cello from The Jellyman’s Daughter’s Graham Coe. How important to you is collaboration with musicians out with the duo in your work?
FL – Wherever possible, we’ll always hire and collaborate with other musicians. None of us can do it all ourselves, and it’s great to work with people who can bring something different to the music. Niall’s got a burning hatred for MIDI instruments that could be live. We’re currently waiting for restrictions to ease enough to record a string quartet and a woodwind trio!
SP – Your music has a soulful, ethereal feeling. What artists inspire you and have any had a particular influence over your own style?
NR – For me, I grew up listening to old punk bands and then moved onto film and video game music which has definitely influenced my compositional style. We’ve been compared to artists like Zero 7 and Bonobo which is too flattering, to be honest.
FL – I grew up listening to female singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Melanie, Shawn Colvin etc. and they inspired me to write and perform my own songs from a young age. As I got older, my lyrics got less and less personal and more about bigger subjects and I think that marries Niall’s style quite nicely.
SP – Did the production process differ between your debut, ‘Graceless’, and ‘Nukular’?
NR – Honestly, the process was the same for both songs. Fi came to me with chords, lyrics and a solid outline and I added stuff absentmindedly until it eventually built up into what you hear.
FL – He never thinks anything is ever finished. I’m the one who steps in eventually and has to say ‘It’s not going to get any better, mate!’.
SP – Your release plans have had to change due to the current restrictions affecting live events. How has this affected your promotional activity and what have you learnt from the experience?
FL – Luckily, I was fairly well versed in social media beforehand. Online promo was a big learning curve, however! It’s nice to release this second single and build on the friends we made when we released ‘Graceless’. It feels much more relaxed to me. We’re still working out how the hell we’re going to perform this live, but we’ve got a few ideas! We’re hoping to have our first gig in the summer. Whether that’s online or not, we’ll see!
SP – How similarly do you think that your future live set-up will reflect the arrangements used in ‘Graceless’ and ‘Nukular’?
NR – I’m pretty sure I’d like it to be quite different. It’s impossible to recreate the track perfectly – there’s something stupid like 300 tracks in each of them. We’re aiming to perform the music as live as possible, so that’ll likely involve a large number of live musicians. I think I floated the idea of two drummers at one point? Jury’s still out.
FL – I just need to clone twelve of myself to do harmonies and we’ll be sorted!
SP – Do you have any major aims for the Gefahrgeist project in the long term?
FL – My big dream is to be able to write music and get paid enough to live. Shocking that that’s now considered a ‘big dream’, but that’s the industry! In the long term, we’d love to tour the UK and play a couple of festivals (when it’s all safe, obviously). We’re just focusing on the short term for now. We’re hoping to release a couple of EPs this year and start playing live soon as well.
‘Nukular’ by Gefahrgeist is out on 29th January. You can pre-save the track at THIS LINK
– Sandy Power