interview by Valentina Zardini, portraits by Stefano Masotto

Leila Gharib is Sequoyah Tiger: musician, producer, and performer born and raised in Verona (Italy). She has a very rich background to start from: first, the music experience with the rock band Bikini The Cat, and then, the one with the performing company Barokthegreat, founded along with Sonia Brunelli in 2008.

Her path is critical to understand both the project Sequoyah Tiger and Ta-Ta-Ta-Time, her debut EP released last April on the German label Morr Music. An intense project that’s been meticulously shaped, from the writing up to the graphic.

What I consider valuable today, for the world of music, it‘s to be able to surprise, and actually she is, thanks to her desire to experiment, to define, to explore different sounds, bringing along on this journey those who are ready to grasp it.

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A little bit “tree” as well as “wild animal”. Tell us who Sequoyah Tiger is and where her roots come from.

In 2012 I started collecting pictures and texts specifically related to mainland explorations, evergreen travel classics, and some logbooks. Among these materials I met the words Sequoyah and Tiger that eventually would form the name of the project. These two elements have different characteristics – sometimes opposites – but in coexistence with each other. Here comes a double-faced nature laying at the base, to which I then gave soundstage and a voice.

Let’s talk about experimental music. Tell me about how experimentation works for you. That part where you take risks. 

Writing music needs a careful immersion, and I think the experimentation depends on how you “stand” in front of a musical idea. I wait for the right time to ignite all the elements that make up a song. Through a mix of emotional states translated into songs and incoming sounds, I get to complete the form of the song, the territory where I’m interested in developing.

It’s like getting involved with an idea, each time with different characteristics and origins. As for the “live”, it’s the first time that I perform alone on stage, it’s something that I would never have chosen if I had to. when you’re alone on stage the experience you get is very intense if compared to performing with a band.

Ta-ta-ta-time came out in April under the German label Morr music. Finding a supporting label has always been your goal or it just happened?

I started to bound a zine containing various drawings where there was also a code for the digital download of 4 tracks I wrote. For me, it was a way to show myself that I could make it my own way and produce an album independently at a low cost. After this first experience, I felt the desire to record a real album, by giving a “material” body to the music.

I wrote an email to Thomas Morr presenting the project and asking for feedback because I knew how Morr Music works, and the projects they support. Eventually, it resulted in a positive reaction  and the proposal to record an EP.

Listening to the debut EP, it seems to be in front of pieces written after hours and hours locked in the studio playing, stratifying, “dirtying” the sounds. Maybe now you will tell me that the songs were born in two minutes instead …

Yes, generally I need a long time to translate into sound the idea that I have in my head. Actually, having an idea requires time too: before holding the instruments, I get through this phase which is more mental and intuitive.

What is the “Bolero Effect” you’re talking about?

In the song ‘Five Chants’ I took some characters from the musical form of Bolero, the one by Ravel which is the most known. The effect has been an insistent and repetitive pattern, made up through the combination of a harmonic element, with no modulation, and a variable melodic element given by five different parts.

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I saw you live at least a couple of times and I always had the impression that yours wasn’t just a concert, but a performance, where the performing/theatrical part integrates perfectly with the music. Do you agree?

I think so, during the concert I always look for a “body presence”. It’s a consequence of my exposition through my voice. The singing develops on the body showing some physicality, creating an image, something to see that gives material to the sentimental wave.

What strikes me the most is that often the lyrics of your songs are not easily understandable: sometimes this is due to the effects on your voice. Is this something you have always wanted to achieve? I’ve deduced they’re like additional sounds, intending to free the listener’s interpretation.

The impenetrability you’re speaking of depends on the emotional charge transported in the melody and lyrics. I love about vocal melodies, and sometimes the pedal effects I use act on the voice. This sort of “dress” that I add in, throws the listening directly into a different dimension when compared to a “dry” voice. In this way you can also expand the frequencies, covering the roles of other instruments.

How much of your experience with Barokthegreat has affected you, both on the writing side and in your live performances?

A lot! I perceive Sequoyah Tiger as a branch of the experience with Barokthegreat in the performing arts. Developing with Sonia Brunelli all the shows and performances, find my merge between sound and gesture choreography have been important possibilities during my path.

You embody very well the concept of “synesthesia” in art. What’s that you cannot see from the outside, in your opinion?

When I sing -in that very moment- it feels as I am revealing myself more than hiding. It’s a kind of expression that reveals.

What would you like one of your concerts leaves to a spectator, or your EP to a listener?

I’d like them to get the desire to follow the project in its development.

What’s in the future of Sequoyah Tiger?

Soon, it will be released a split 7 inch with the Berlin group Saroos containing a remix of one of their songs made by me, and vice-versa. I am working right now on new materials, and there are new live dates in the Winter.

Sequoyah Tiger @ Villa Buri. Pellicola Instax Fuji.

THE LAUNDRY ROOM

An object always with you.

A knife.

The music of your childhood.

The soundtracks of Walt Disney movies.

Your favorite teenager song.

Too many, it’s impossible to pick one!

The album you currently listen to obsessively.

The one I’m writing now.

A thing your heart.

Stationery and hardware stores.

A living genius.

A brilliant living one.

Drop everything and run…

Home.

A person who you’ll high 5.

Someone who’ll give you a 5.

One thing that you wish you had invented.

Hum, wood.

The cover that never got made.

The one that you don’t wanna do.

A fact that should be deleted forever.

I’d need a DeLorean.

The mistake you don’t wanna repeat.

To not put cheese on my ravioli.

The choice you’d do indefinitely.

Add the cheese on my ravioli.

 

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Sequoyah Tiger @ Villa Buri. Pellicola Instax Fuji.