Lefki Symphonia, underground spirit and the dark essence of the lyrics and music | Interview.

Lefki Symphonia, one of the pioneers in post-punk scene in Greece, speaks about the music, the band and the exclusive live set in DeathDisco MiniFest 2k20, where they will perform their first album, "Mistiki Kipi.


When we talk about the greek post-punk scene, one of the first bands that pops up in your head is this. Lefki Symphonia. With a history starting back in early 80's, and being, still, active, after a long break, Lefki Symphonia is definitely, one of the bands that have inspired and influenced the most of the youngest, underground, dark rock, post-punk bands.

With two of the founding members, Thodoris Dimitriou (vocals) and Diogenis Hatzistefanidis(bass) still present in the band, Kostas Mihalos (guitar) and Vangelis Tsimplakis(drums), completes the music puzzle of the post-punk legendary band.

I could fill this text with a long introductory about Lefki Symphonia, since, I remember myself, in my youth, trying to jumb over a fence, in order to see them performing live, in the city I grew up, and, therefore, it is obvious that this band is one of my favorites and have influenced me the most, as well. However, we have spoken with Lefki Symphonia, and we had this long chat that we really enjoyed and there is a promise that it will be continued, along with the release of their new, 5th, full length album, "San Ton Ilio (Like The Sun)", in February (digital) and March (vinyl, cd), via Labyrinth Of Thoughts and The Lab Records.

Just want to say, that the second, same-titled, single, out of the new album, has been released,some days ago and along with the first one, "Mexri To Thanato (Until Death)", creates really high expectations for such a long awaited come back. And, I think the result will satisfy us, all.

Prior to all these, there is an upcoming live show for Lefki Symphonia, on Saturday, February 8th, at DeathDisco MiniFest 2k20 - Post-punk Edition, on Gagarin 205 stage. A show where the band will, exclusively, perform a unique set, playing their influential, first full-length album, "Mistiki Kipi" A show that should not be missed. Let's go...

ES: Hi Lefki Symphonia. Well, I believe there is no need to a special introduction. However would you like to introduce yourselves and the band?

LS: Lefki Symphonia has released four albums. Songs of the band appear in numerous compilations.LS toured in Greece, Spain, Romania and Germany during 1986-2000.The first album ‘’Mistiki Kipi /Secret Gardens’’, was released in 1986 (EMI).In 1987 the band played two concerts in Barcelona Spain in the Biennale and participated in the Biennal 87 album with the song ‘’I Vrohi Pefti Dinata/ The Rain Is Falling Hard’’.

The second album titled ‘’Iho Tou Pothou /Echo Of Desire’’ released in 1988 (EMI).

Lefki Symphonia is the first Greek band to appear on MTV in 1988 with the song ‘’Kitazontas Piso /Looking Back’’.

In 1990 the band moved to Berlin, playing concerts mainly in Germany and recorded the third album titled ‘’Lefki Symphonia’’.

In 1993, LS released a 12” EP titled ‘’Tha Ime Eki/I Will Be There’’ and the album ‘’Lefki Symphonia’’ (Warner Music Greece).

In the same year the band participated in the 1st Rock Marathon festival in Athens with Metallica and The Cult  and toured in Greece and Germany. In 1996 Lefki Symphonia released their fourth album titled ‘’Hromata /Colours’’ (FM Records) and toured constantly in Greece. The band appeared live on stage at Piraeus 117 Academy in Athens on Saturday 9.12.2017 and started touring major Greek cities doing more than 25 shows.  At the same time LS started writing and recording new material.

The new singles ‘’Mehri Ton Thanato /Until Death’’ and ‘’San Ton Ilio/Like The Sun’’ and the official videos are out now.

The 5th album titled ‘’San Ton Ilio/Like The sun’’ is due for release in February 2020.

LEFKI SYMPHONIA: Theodoros Dimitriou(vocals), Kostas Mihalos (guitar), Diogenis Hatzistefanidis(bass), Vangelis Tsimplakis(drums)

ES: To be honest, I don't know where to begin from! Let's start with what Lefki Symphonia is up to, nowadays and, meanwhile, we take small glances in the band's past. New songs. After a long time, Lefki Symphonia is back with brand new songs, and an upcoming new album. Tell us about it.

LS: The new second single SanTon Ilio/Like The Sun and the video for the song from the forthcoming new album is just out. The album itself with the same title will be finished during the next days. It will be comprised of ten songs. It was recorded and engineered by Ektoras Tsolakis at hd.factory and at Soundflakes Recording Studios. It is produced by Ektoras Tsolakis and the band. We put the finishing touches at the time, finishing mixing and then mastering it. Digitally it will be out at the end of February. The LP and CD will be out on March by Labyrinth Of Thoughts and The Lab Records. A Greek tour in spring and our participation in the summer festivals are also planned. At the time, we rehearse material out from the original first version of our first album ‘’Mistiki Kipi/Secret Gardens’’ plus some of the unreleased before songs that were added to the vinyl reissue of 2019.We also plan to start working on a new third video to promote  the new album and the concerts in spring.

ES: San ton Ilio / Like the Sun is the name of the latest single and the new album as well. Can you tell us about the concept behind the lyrics and the new album?

LS: I felt so emotionally moved the first time I had read the poem of Romos Filiras. I was inspired by the poem’s meanings of lost chances and the small deaths in life that are the lost moments that fly away.

ES: Some days prior to the new album official release, there is an upcoming live show. Lefki Symphonia will play in front of their fans, in DeathDisco MiniFest 2k20 - Post-Punk Edition. What can we expect in this show? It is going to be a special appearance for you and for everyone that will attend the fest.

We will exclusively play the whole first version of ‘’Mistiki Kipi’’with additional tracks that one can hear in the 2019 LP version of the album. Some of these songs together with the more known ones of ‘’Mistiki Kipi’’ we will play in our exclusive ‘’Mistiki Kipi’’ set on Saturday at The Death Disco Mini Fest 2K20 for the first time after many years. It will possibly be also for the last time, as in our next concerts we will play mainly the new album with a selection of songs from the four previous releases.

ES: In DeathDisco MiniFest 2k20, Lefki Symphonia will share the stage with a band that has marked the dark, post-punk scene and genre with an influential debut album. The Chameleons. A band, quite underrated in their time but with a strong and cult following. The Chameleons were formed almost the same period with Lefki Symphonia. How do you feel playing alongside with such a band? Would you say there are similarities in both bands history? For example, two amazing debut albums, long breaks, a sudden band or crew member loss, and other facts...

LS: Yes, we have quite a lot of things in common with the Chameleons as it seems. It is great to share the same stage with them. They are one of the legends of the post-punk era. They have released great albums and their sound has inspired many bands. We look forward meeting them as well as the guys from Soviet Soviet and Data Fragments.

ES: There are two more incredible bands in DeathDisco MiniFest's line up. The Italians post-punk, Soviet Soviet, with some really good releases and with a strong fanbase and Data Fragments, one of the best modern post-punk bands in Greece, with an amazing debut album, released in 2019. Do you know these bands? Would you like to tell us some things about them?

LS: Both bands write fantastic songs. Soviet Soviet has a nice fresh sound and I like the fact that it is very guitar based. Data Fragments have released a very promising debut, one of the best of the past decade in the Greek rock music scene in my opinion. They are both capable for great things in the future.

ES: Speaking of DeathDisco MiniFest 2k20 and debut albums, let's go back in the mid 80's. "Mistikoi Kipi" an exceptional debut album which, immediately, brings Lefki Symphonia to the top preferences of the Greek rockers, dark wavers and post-punkers. Would you like to share some memories of the time that you were writing this album, the production phase and of course the live shows and the audience, back then?

LS: The album had a big impact and ensured a large following for the band. So we moved almost immediately from the small clubs to big concert halls. We played in Club 22, former Autokinisi , for  the presentation of Mistiki Kipi in front of more than 1000.We had already a  fan base of hardcore fans, but now it had grew larger .Everybody knew the songs and was singing every lyric. We also got the attention of the press and we did many appearances in music shows in TV so we became known across the country. We became a well-known group in the Greek music scene in general but our roots were in the underground and still are. We recorded the album in 111 Studio in Athens in October 1985 in a few days as we were well rehearsed and prepared. We always rehearsed a lot, almost every day. After the rehearsal the gang was moving in Diogenis Opel Ascona to the bars in Exarchia, or to see a live show in Rodon Club, or staying with some drinks in the car in the top of Lycabettus Hill, watching the city of Athens from above making plans for the future.

ES: "Mistikoi Kipi" had a great impact in the underground music scene of the second half of the 80's. Which were your feelings about it, back then? Were you expecting such an impact and feedback?

LS: We did not expect the success of Mistiki Kipi because it was our first major step outside of our small studio in Dasos Haidariou, Athens. The album established us in underground circles and at the same time it was the breakthrough for the band to more mainstream audiences in Greece. It is a classic album in the scene, has inspired many fans as well as musicians, people listen to it a lot and still buy LPs and CDs. We always enjoy playing the songs of the album live. It was also well known in post-punk audiences abroad. I Vrohi Pefti Dinata was in a Spanish compilation that was released in Europe and after our appearance in the British MTV, so we became quite known outside Greece. Nowadays   thanks to the internet our music travels all over the world and we gain new fans in Germany, Spain, UK, Denmark, Holland and Belgium and lately in the USA. Bands like She Past Away and Motorama have referred to ‘’Mistiki Kipi’’ as one of their favorites. The titles and lyrics of the LP and CD versions of the new album will be printed in English as well so everybody, everywhere in the world will understand the meaning of the lyrics of the songs and simultaneously hear the colors, the melody and the magic of the Greek language.

ES: Some years later, the second full length album is out. "Iho tou Pothou". Another great album, establishing the band as one of the best bands in Greece. Can you tell us about it?

LS: The expectations after Mistiki Kipi, were high so we did what we had always done anyway. Rehearsing intensively, trying new ideas, hardening our sound, incorporating garage and psychedelic rock. We had written two of our most loved songs: ‘’Tha Ime Poli Makria’’ and ‘’To Fegari Emoragi’’, we appeared on MTV with ‘’Kitazontas Piso’’ from the same album and played often in Rodon in Athens. We started planning to go abroad. It was a good period for us.

ES: In "Iho tou Pothou", there is the single "Koitazontas Piso". A really beautiful song that brings the band in MTV's choices. How did this came up? Did you know that this would happen? Which was the procedure?

LS: The late Kostas Sgontzos, who hosted the popular music show Mousiko Kalidoscopio where we had often guested, telephoned us and told us that the British MTV was in Athens and that they wanted to film a group or artist which was most representative of the music scene of Greece at the time. So after MTV had the chance to hear various artists and bands, they had chosen to make a video clip and an interview with us. The video clip was filmed in Ergostasio Club in Athens by the MTV crew. We decided to play Kitazontas Piso because it was an energetic song with mysterious lyrics and it was representing how we were living our lives and feeling our music. Fast and wild! It was in heavy rotation on MTV. We became known in Greece and abroad. Everybody in Greece was happy and proud to see a Greek band on MTV as music television was something new at the time and everybody was watching fanatically.

ES: A year later Lefki Symphonia moves to Germany. How was that experience? How did you choose Germany? Where were you rehearsing, there? What was the music industry and scene in Germany during that time, and how did this affect that band?

LS: We did choose Berlin because we had been always fascinated with the music that David Bowie and Nick Cave had produced during the time they were living there. It was also the decadent atmosphere of the City since the 1920s that was intriguing us. We had friends that lived in Berlin and they could help us in practical ways. Find a place to stay, etc. The band arrived in Berlin in November 1990. We started to promote our music and play in venues in the West as well as the East part of the city .Berlin was still in a fresh imbalance just a year after the fall of the Wall. We shared a really well equipped rehearsal studio in the third floor of a factory building in Kreuzberg with a friend’s band .There, we rehearsed for the shows we were playing in 1991 in many cities in Germany and a year after in 1992 started to prepare the songs for the third album. The music industry was and still is really strong in Germany being one of the top countries in the world in producing and consuming music. We had the chance to sign with Warner Germany in the summer of 1992.The band was tight with new songs, doing great shows, but due to health problems of our drummer we had to come back to Greece and see what we will do. Our plans had changed.

ES: After having recorded 11 new songs in Berlin, in 1993 you return to Greece and the third album, "Lefki Symphonia" is coming out. The underground rock sound has changed in the new decade and Lefki Symphonia has several member changes. How did those facts affect the sound of the band in this, third, album, as it sounds a little bit harder than the previous releases?

LS: The underground spirit and the dark essence of the lyrics and our music were always there and still are present in our albums. That bonds our musical output through the years. We always liked to incorporate different elements in our music and we were always influenced from the music of the different periods that we live in. At the time of the third album we were listening to and had been inspired by the bands of grunge. It was great because the guys were our age and had been brought up with the same music heroes like us. You could hear in their music that they also were trying to combine the bands they were listening to in a young age. The Cure, Joy Division and Killing Joke with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, mixed with punk and hardcore elements. These combinations and the truth which the musicians of grunge carried in their hearts made rock music dangerous again. That was fascinating and inspiring. Rock was at the top again all over the world first time since the 70s and this was a great time to live and make music, especially in Berlin.

ES: It had been a rather intense period, back then? So many different facts happened. On one hand the loss of Spyros Harisis, and on the other hand there is a new album that you need to promote and a unique live show, supporting The Cult and Metallica? Can you remember your emotions and feelings from that period? Was everything moving so fast for the band?

LS: It was hard because at a real good period in our lives and musical career we had lost our friend, a founding member of the band, who had really fought all these years with us to achieve our goals in music and life and he decided to leave them all and go somewhere else .I respect his choice. I hope he is relieved from pain. We were living in the same house, rehearsing and playing together in Berlin and then suddenly everything changed .It was so strange because on one hand we were supposed to be happy as we were in a mega rock festival with legendary bands at their peak, we had just released a new album that was doing well and on the other hand we were extremely shocked and devastated.

ES: Supporting Metallica and The Cult. What a great experience this, must have been, if we also think the time that this show happened? Tell us some things about it. How did you feel back then? How was the audience? I've read somewhere that you went on stage without a rehearsal or soundcheck.

LS: It was great. The third ‘’Lefki Symphonia’’ album was out some two months before the festival and the song ‘’Tha Ime Eki’’ and the video of the song directed by Nikos Nikolaidis as well were already well known. We were on TV and on the radio quite a lot. We had many fans expecting to see us. The stadium was full before we came on stage and there were great expectations for our appearance. Although we did not have the time because of the festival schedule to do soundcheck our sound was ok. We have played really well as we were rehearsing constantly before in Berlin and we had already done many concerts in Germany.

ES: 1996 and the fourth album is out. "Xromata". An album, representing all the experiences of the band, and with a compact sound. How was the things at that time?

LS: With the crucial exception of our record company who for reasons unknown to me did not want or could not really support and promote rightly not only us but all the really good and well known bands they had at their roster it was a very creative period for us. We had a very good and tight band that was already two years together with this lineup and had delivered an album that had many innovative musical ideas and some of our best songs.

ES: Lefki Symphonia stops in 2000 and after a long break, there is a reunion live show in 2017, followed by a mini tour in 2018 and a promise that you are back for good and with new music. How this reunion did come up? Which was the feedback from media and audience?

LS: There were discussions between us to meet again in the studio and play a selection of songs out of the four albums and then play just one big concert in Piraeus 117 Academy. The feedback was very warm before and after the concert from media and the audience. So we continued, doing about 25 concerts in Greece. During this period we started writing new material and playing some of it for the first time in our concert of 2018 in Gagarin 205 in Athens. We received very positive feedback about the new songs. Last November we started recording the new album.

ES: If you had to compare the underground dark music scene of the late 80's and early 90's with the present days, what would you say are the biggest differences? Concerning the music industry, the bands and the audience?

LS: The post-punk scene in general produces many new groups that blend nicely the sounds from the past with their new aspect, attracting new fans, reassuring the continuity of the genre.

ES: Would you change anything from the things that you've done as Lefki Symphonia? And where would you like to see the band in the future? Which are the future plans regarding the band and the new album?

LS: After the release of the new album we will start rehearsing a selection of songs from the previous albums together with the material of ‘’San ton Ilio’’ for the forthcoming concerts. We will also start to work on new songs .We are working on promoting our music and playing live in major European cities.

ES: I think I will never stop asking things about Lefki Symphonia. I suppose I have to stop and perhaps continue this conversation along with official release of the new album! Would you like to add anything more? Any last words for our readers? Any hints about the special live show, coming up, in Death Disco MiniFest 2k20?

LS: Okay I am looking forward to our next conversation too. The new album will be out soon .The two singles ‘’Mehri Ton Thanato’’ and ‘’San Ton Ilio’’ are very well received and we are ready for the album release and to play the new songs live. Concerning the Death Disco MiniFest 2k20 we will be playing just the songs from the album ‘’Mistiki Kipi’’.It will be a new experience for us too performing only songs from just one album .An experience that we want to share with our fans as it will be for for this concert only. Rehearsing the material is an emotional   time travel, because it includes some of our very early songs  like ‘’Igro Kardiako Aroma’’ ’’Panikos’’ and ‘’Melancholia” that where never released.

 ES: Thank you very much for this conversation. Looking forward to listening to the new album and seeing you on stage. 

Info:

http://lefkisymphonia.gr

https://www.facebook.com/lefkisymphonia

https://www.facebook.com/groups/799871203496678/

https://twitter.com/LefkiSymphonia

https://www.instagram.com/lefkisymphonia

 

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