The first thing I read about Farfara’s music was their own description on the bandcamp page: ‘psychedelic brew of kraut drums, shoegazing guitars, airy synths, ethereal vocals, lots of Love and a clear commitment to pop’. Well, it is not quite clear, but if I should translate it into normal language, I would just say that Farfara’s music is a fascinating mix of psychedelic, synth pop, rock, electronica and God know what else. It is from this kind of music that makes you daydreaming and stretching your own perception of sound.
Farfara is actually a band from Turkey that is now trying to make their own way on the German and the Turkish music scene. Etkin Cekin lives in Berlin, Tolga in Istanbul and Eralp in Ankara. Despite the distance, they are making their specific music always inspired by their passion and close friendship. They have one album and more than 40 gigs in Germany and Turkey so far. One of their latest concerts was on Fusion Festival this year. Now they are working on their second album which hopefully will be able to hear until the end of the year.
So, how will you introduce yourself to our readers? Who are you and what is Farfara?
Etkin: My name is Etkin Cekin. I make music and I have dedicated myself to music. And Tolga is my childhood friend… and we have been making Farfara for two years but we have been making music for very long time, since 2004. We started as a cover band with our drummer, we had a vocalist and I was playing bass and he was playing guitar at that time. We were playing a lot of stuff also like pop and we sometimes ended up playing 50 Cent as well. We were trying out everything because it is fun for us getting to studio and discover how to play a song in a way that sounds good.
Tolga: My name is Tolga. I have been making music for many years. Etkin is my childhood friend and we met in our home city in Turkey, we were going to university there. The city was very small and peaceful, it was like a game – all the people knew each other.
Etkin: It is Ankara.
Tolga: Yeah, Ankara… As I was saying, Ankara was so small and peaceful and all the people knew each other but the scene there is good – you can play 4-5 times a week because there are a lot of music places. Then we stared playing in some clubs. Etkin used to visit me every night after school, you know, listening music, cooking, we just had good time. Then we started to make some songs together and then we came with the name Farfara which is actually a traditional song of the city Ankara. The other meaning is connected to the plant coltsfoot (lat. tussilago farfara) and healing.
How did you start making music? Did you study music?
Etkin: I started playing guitar when I was six. My cousin was playing guitar, I was in Germany at that time, and he was living 3 hours away from the place I lived with my family. Always when we went to visit him he had his guitar there and I was trying out some stuff … well, it was a big guitar, it was bigger than me. But I really wanted a guitar and one day he bought me one. So I started playing and since then I am involved in music. I was always practicing after school, trying out new things, playing all the songs that I hear with one string. At the time I had a cassette player and was listening to all kinds of music. I was very much into Nirvana. I was always listening… I have never learned notes, I took guitar lessons but it was too boring for me, I could not stand it. Yeah… and that is how it started. With 13 or 14 when I was in Turkey I first got a music computer program and then I started to record, to make some samples and tried to make some beats. After that I had a band in school, we did some concerts. Our teacher was director of the school orchestra and we were playing a lot of Turkish music and our parents were coming and watching us giving concerts. Since then we are into music, we are very enthusiastic . Just playing, you know, everything we like…
How did you make your first record? Was it here in Berlin or in Istanbul or Ankara?
Tolga: In Istanbul. But still in Ankara we were both making music on our computers and then we said ‘Let’s do something together, let’s combine it’. But at some point we wanted to get out with our instruments and play. It is very hard to have this struggle between producing a song and playing it live. We had been creating music for so many years and it was not exciting to play something identical every time. It kind of got boring and we got in some more improvisаtions. We also had another friend playing drums, Eralp, and we started improvising with him and we found our own way of playing songs. Now we play our music that way.
Erkin: But our first record was recorded electronically. We said ‘Ok, we made something that satisfies our needs or that sounds good’. And then, as he said (Tolga), we got into improvisations after the drummer joined the band. The improvisation constituted us a new way of making music. But the benefit of producing an electronic album at the beginning is that we became very sensitive to sounds and this sensitivity brings us to a point where we can start from a single pop song and create something very different… you know, when we improvise we have some simple structures like the structure of a pop song and this gives us the ability to practice getting back to the root of the thing you’ve started. Improvisation for us is like arranging one’s life. And that is how we are making it. When Tolga and Eralp came to Berlin for a vacation, we made some concerts. But we also play when I am in Istanbul. When Tolga was here in Berlin for the first time we recorded a couple of songs and started playing them as well. And now it is like that -they come here or I go to Istanbul. We’re now in the process of recording our second album.
Here in Berlin?
Etkin: We started it here but we are going to continue in Istanbul and there we are going to record it from the beginning to the end. Hopefully a producer is going to join us and help us do what we want. But we don’t have a contract. We are still waiting to start being satisfied with the records. When we play our music it is different from when we record it because of the improvisations. It is a different kind of feeling when you record it and press the record button. We want to avoid this pressure. And that is why it is very good to have a producer, to have someone who takes over that job. This will also help us to overcome the pressure.
What’s the music for you now – a hobby, a profession or just a passion?
Tolga: if by ‘profession’ you mean something that determines your life, then yes, it is a profession. It is some kind of a struggle between doing something, doing music , and the music business and the music scene. We are now learning how to cope with this struggle. For us it is something else, it is not just music, it is another thing to think of. While we are playing we can concentrate on only one thing and after two years of giving concerts something is happening. We are just trying to be calm and wait for the right thing, the true energy. It is about good people like a produced that we met here in Berlin one week ago. He perceives himself as a part of the band.. We just need people who respect this music and feeling. So we are looking for collaborations.
Etkin: Yes, definitely, it is about collaborations. I guess, it is very difficult to understand for someone who looks from the outside. We also don’t know what exactly we want to do, there are a lot of directions we want to go At first, the producer told us ‘You don’t have any style’. I guess our style is the stylelessnes. Maybe because of the place we come from. As everybody says Turkey is some kind of a bridge between Asia and Europe. So I guess this is also projected on our way of seeing music. Maybe if we came from Scandinavia it would have been easier for us to get to something that shows our roots as well, I don’t know. Because of the way we grew up and the way we listen to music and get inspiration it is a little bit different. That is why it is difficult to understand for an outsider. But our producer is like a prophet for us. He got the idea immediately because he is just open to everything.
Ok, let’s talk a little bit more about the music you make. When I was first to one of your concerts I noticed some influences or similarities with other bands. For example like the early Pink Floyd from the 60s and a lot of psychedelic, a little bit Sigur Ros because of the vocals, electronics like Royksopp, maybe a little Radiohead too, and at the same time the drums were very new wave style like Joy Division for example. Am I wrong?
Etkin: Well, you just named the bands we are really into. And it is nice to hear that our music sounds like a combination of that.
So how would you describe your music? Except for styleless.
Tolga: Actually we play the guitar, bass and drums and maybe we look like a rock band. Probably because of this chaos of genres in Istanbul and Ankara we have a different view of these instruments. We are trying to add something to it as a structure.
Etkin: There is a nice saying. Making music is like having a house with a lot of windows. One window is Pink Floyd, another is Beatles and so on. There are a lot of windows, a lot of different perspectives. Every musician has goal to add something new to music. If we see all of these references that we carry with us like a bubble, the things we are making with improvisations are giving a shape to this bubble. I would not say that our music is based on a specific genre, it could carry everything or nothing. You could call it also pop because the perception of pop had also changed, it is not connected to mainstream media any more. Pop music is also something we are opento, we are surrounded by it.
What about the visualizations on your concerts?
Etkin: When I came to Berlin I started to work at a multimedia design company. They have made visuals for bands like Jazzanova and Christian Kleine. They work in a very analog way and use diaprojectors, they don’t do so many stuff with computer graphic programs, and definitely have their own style. I started a project with them called Open system for making chemical experiments in an aquarium and filming it and projecting it on a wall. So this is actually the only visual project I took part in. But still, we want to use visuals for our concerts. But there is a very thin line between visual semantics and music and we don’t want to add too many visuals. So for us it could be only light source for example and we want to make it by ourselves as well. We’re also into video making. We make our own videos and it is fun for us to combine the music with visuals.
What have you done so far, where have you played? And what are your plans for the future. Well, ‘plans’ sounds too exaggerated because you can never know what will happen next …but what are your dreams?
Tolga: Last week we counted our concerts, it was very funny. We have given about 40 concerts so far. We gave two in two different stages in Fusion Festival this year. Our last gig was at HBC Berlin. We played also in Istanbul and Ankara. Our plans and dreams are to play more. Well, it is hard because Etkin is in Berlin, Eralp lives in Ankara and I am in Istanbul and it is difficult to make music without living together, without seeing each other. It is also very hard not to do normal things. I just want to call Etkin and Eralp and tell them ‘Let’s go to the park and not talk about Farfara and not talk about anything’. Our dream is to have the ability to spend our time together and to play more.
Etkin: Yes, to play more, to have more gigs and live with it without any dependencies. This is a dream…