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Psapp - From Grey's Anatomy to living room favourites

PSAPP

Feature by Jack Foley

THANKS to its endearing presence on primetime US TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Nip/Tuck and The OC, Psapp’s agitated-yet-swooning electro-acoustic signature sound is probably already a familiar sound in millions of living rooms without people even knowing it.

Viewers of Channel Five’s Grey’s Anatomy, in particular, will probably count themselves as fans without realising – for Galia Durant and Carim Clasmann’s music is regularly used.

Recent single, Tricycle may have passed the mainstream by but it’s another endearing little introduction from the delights that look set to light up their forthcoming album, Everything I Ever Wanted, which hits stores on May 22.

But fear not, for Psapp could well become the name on a lot of people’s lips by the end of the year. The duo can already lay claim to an ever-expanding global fanbase ever since winning a lot of friends with their debut track Scissory, which appeared on the Deep-Water label’s Indoor Shed compilation in spring 2003.

The ensuing two years have seen them emerge from homespun indie hopefuls to assured international contenders.

Galia Durant’s story began in a household running amok with records, art and books.

Her mum collected protest songs while her dad remains a professorial art historian with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Indian classical music.

Galia “loved it all,” finding no real distinction between Woody Guthrie peacenik anthems, Sarangi etudes and her elder brother’s acid jazz albums.

After struggling to learn violin and piano (she preferred her 1988 vintage Casio SK-8 sampling keyboard, which the band still use), at eight, Galia graduated from a more-ideas-than-action ‘band’, “GO”, which she formed with her brother.

Carim Clasmann’s musical youth was spent in German recording studios learning the alchemical business of faders, compressors and microphones.

A self-professed failure at the school recorder and a frustrated guitarist, he dabbled in music-making while cutting demos for other people.

Quickly rising through the Cologne studio ranks, Carim learned his chops recording bands like Einstürzende Neubauten and Die Toten Hosen and even worked at Can’s famous Inner Space studio, always dallying with music of his own on the side.

He moved to London at the close of the ‘90s, working and then taking up residence at the King’s Cross studio/house he and Psapp currently call home.

Carim met Galia through mutual, musically-inclined friends who would often gather at the studio.

For a year or so the duo experimented, united by an eclectic taste for Tom Waits, The Cure, Erik Satie, Duke Ellington and “anything that’s silly and uses stupid noises”.

Their own ‘silly noises’, married to Galia’s sultry vocals and perspicacious lyrics, produced recordings of shimmering originality and nascent charm – an opinion shared by the handful of labels to which Psapp, as they’d by now christened themselves, sent demos toward the end of 2002.

A litany of recordings duly followed. Early 2003’s debut EP for Melodic called, instructively, Do Something Wrong was followed by a single, Difficult Key, the following Autumn.

After seeing a live show by Morr Music electronicists ISAN and befriending the band’s Robin Saville, Psapp’s next recordings would appear on Saville’s own Arable imprint, with Winter ‘04’s Buttons And War EP attracting rave notices.

Around this time, several Psapp tracks found their way to US music consultants who were universally wowed by the band’s evocative charms.

The duo’s music seemed to chime with the TV zeitgeist and their music started to seep into primetime dramas (not to mention a very high profile Volkswagen advert), culminating in the track Cosy In The Rocket being chosen as the theme music to hit ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, which premiered in March 2005.

At a stroke, burgeoning inquisitiveness about Psapp turned into an eager US fanbase.

Meanwhile, in King’s Cross, dust wasn’t being allowed to settle. A Japanese EP, Northdown appeared in March 2004, swiftly followed by a vinyl-only 4-track nugget, Rear Moth for the discreet Wiaiwya imprint – some tracks from which would appear on the band’s debut album for Arable (also licensed to Leaf for the US and Canada, Third Ear in Japan and Gronland for much of Europe).

Released in February 2005, Tiger My Friend consolidated the burgeoning interest in all things Psapp. With Psapp duly rising, the major labels soon came a-courting but by autumn 2005 Psapp had spurned their fevered advances, preferring to ink a deal with Domino.

Toward the close of 2005 Psapp embarked on their first live ventures. Translating their records’ layered complexity to the stage was never going to be easy, but with the multi-instrumental Galia and Carim joined by Gwen Cheeseman (violin, floatation toys), Eshan Khadaroo (drums, lumps of wood), and Jim Whelan (bass, keyboards, ashtrays etc), (joined this year by Matt Jones (keyboardist, Ultrasound, Minuteman)), Psapp took to the road around the UK and Europe, eventually honing an exhilarating, ‘in the flesh’ version of their incomparable recorded sound.

Initial touring forays successfully completed, Psapp set about buffing their second album to lustrous perfection, pausing only to head down to the Dorchester Hotel to pick up the BMI Award for 2005’s Best TV Theme Tune for Cosy In The Rocket.

The resulting album, The Only Thing I Ever Wanted, marks a change of approach.

“I think this new record’s got a bit more of an ‘in the house’ atmosphere, than the previous one”, Carim ventures. “Whenever we make a new track it’s always a bit of an experiment, some of them fall apart after five minutes, others survive for an hour in the incubator, but most of them make it through…”

“A lot of the new songs are quite joyful but quite sad simultaneously,” adds Galia. “Songs can be pretty one-dimensional – ‘we’ve broken up’ or ‘I’m so in love’ – but life’s not really like that.

“When we were making the new album my cat, Puss Puss died, I came to live in King’s Cross, I fell in love, got engaged, got unengaged, had the landlord threatening to evict us at any moment and so on…”

IndieLondon will, of course, be reviewing The Only Thing I Ever Wanted prior to its release. But in the meantime, we’d urge you to venture to our AV Room to check out their current single, Tricycle. We’re sure you’ll like what you hear.

Read our review of the album

Hear Tricycle now