An Interview with Ari Hames from Synthwave Band Charlotte Someone
Charlotte Someone is made up of Finnish synthwave producer Ari Hames and South African vocalist and songwriter Lokka Vox. They create melodic synthwave with emotive lyrics. I talked to Ari Hames about how the band came together, their approach to creating music and the state of the synthwave scene.
Karl Magi: How did Charlotte Someone come together as a project?
Ari Hames: I started searching for a singer in the summer of 2014 after I disbanded my previous band Melancholy OverDose. It was time to think about what I wanted to do after the disappointing progress of the last band. After taking a little break, I soon found myself making demos and testing some vocal samples. Fortunately I found Lokka Vox's sample library. I did one test song with the samples, a song called Thank You (that song later became our first single Closure). I contacted her because I wanted individual lyrics and vocals, just for Charlotte Someone. She listened to the demo and said it was terrible and that she wanted to do better vocals/lyrics for it. That's how we started as a band. Closure was released in February 2015.
KM: What sparked your interest in making retro/synthwave music?
AH: I think that synth-based music is more interesting. Sounds interest me. Sounds are my main source of inspiration and a starting point quite often. Songs must have a melody, the more melodic they are, the better. Synth bands have traditionally made good use of melodies.
KM: Who are your major musical influences and why did those artists have an impact on you?
AH: Some might be surprised that one of my early influences was The Cure's Seventeen Seconds. The album has a magnificent atmosphere although there is not much synth to be heard. Robert Smith's guitars and Lol's drum sounds make it an almost synth-like album. I still love it a lot. As the band's name Charlotte Someone suggests The Cure is very much at the top of my list of influences. Beside The Cure there are the usual influences like Joy Division/New Order, DM, Ultravox, Simple Minds, Talk Talk, Kraftwerk, Yello and Pink Floyd and more. I must also give big credit to Alan Wilder's Recoil. Recoil is one of my most favourite albums- very influential!
KM: Tell me more about your process(es) for creating new music?
AH: Our work method is quite simple. I do demo songs and send them to Lokka Vox. I try to make a sketch of the song but sometimes things get a little wild and I throw everything into it, then the song can get very noisy and chaotic. I like to paint with sounds, layer after layer until I'm satisfied with the end result. My current personal mood plays a big part there too of course. If the demos are good enough and they touch Lokka Vox, she starts writing the lyrics and then singing the song. Often I get demo vocals with harmonies and everything done in a couple of days.
KM: What are some of the projects on which you're currently working?
AH: Currently we do one song at a time. Time will tell if we’ll release an album, EP or several singles. There are six songs ready and a lot of the demos are in the works.
KM: Where do you want to take your music in the future?
AH: That’s hard to say. My desire to make music changes from time to time. Today it could be "Kraftwerkian machine pop" and tomorrow it could be something totally different. I don't want to limit what I'm doing. Currently I'm searching for the ultimate pop song! It would be fun to do some more experimental stuff in the future.
KM: How do you think the synthwave/retrosynth scene is doing?
AH: The synthwave scene seems to be booming right now. There are many bands and they're very, very good. In my home country (Finland), there are maybe more heavy metal bands than anywhere else in the world but synthwave is making good progress too. A good example of this is a synthwave album which includes over 20 bands. The various artist album will be released by Retro Force Finland this spring. Charlotte Someone did a song called Another Fine Day for the album. The song is a bit humorous (or at least I think it is!) Musical jokes are good for your health!
KM: How do you reinvigorate yourself creatively?
AH: I try to make music every day. Of course, my day job in a printing house somewhat limits that. Resting is also important. I listen to silence, my favourite albums and also to new bands. Going out with friends and watching English football (‘cause I'm a lifelong Tottenham Hotspur FC supporter) is my number one entertainment!