Interview – Callipolis

We’ve featured the artist Callipolis a few times now, so I felt it was finally time to sit down and get to know him a little more! Read on below to find out more, and make sure you check his music out if you haven’t already!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a track titled Twilight Snow, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the song?

Originally, Twilight Snow was a simple poem that a good friend sent over to spark musical ideas. The general flavour was super evocative and pushed me to rearrange the meaning to fit the vision of the dream-city of Callipolis. However, I had already mastered 3 songs that would end up on my future EP and released one, but in the excitement I postponed them all and dropped Twilight Snow instead! The cinematic feel and conflict between naïveté and nightmare throughout the track was always a desire of mine. Even though it’s quite an unusual song, I decided not to worry too much about how this ‘experimental’ structure would be received. And it’s my most streamed song today!

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Well, it depends which way you look at it… as a freelance cellist I’ve of course lost all my work and my income and I’m far from having recovered from it. But Callipolis was a lifelong dream of mine, restrained by my usual busy classical career – even songs like Heatless Love, written and produced before then, would take me half a year to complete. Suddenly I had months with barely anything else to do and I could dive deep into what I really wanted and produce my ideas, make mistakes etc. Not having to feel guilty about taking such an unusual direction was a true gift.

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

I’m first and foremost an instrumentalist, mostly a cellist, but I am also a keen keyboard player and I like to improvise random tunes everyday. Whether I’m practicing scales on the cello or learning a fingerpicking exercise on the guitar, there’s always some kind of melody or new riff that pops out at one point. Depending on how committed I am, I’ll explore the musical idea with a song structure on the piano to have something that really excites me and it’s never long before I have enough musical material to fill up a song. Strangely enough, I tend to take a long time before actually opening up Logic Pro or Ableton and start building layers. I like to have as much lyrics as possible so I don’t wear out my inspiration by playing loops on repeat in different softwares to try and fill the gap.

When I’m confident enough about the whole skeleton and lyrics, I plug in my mics and lay down all that I can as clearly and quickly as possible. My real Achilles heel is beatmaking, so I tend to spend a lot of time on that too. But I recently invested in an Ableton push 2 and it’s really helping me improve.

Do you plan to release any more singles in the near future?

There’s at least 1 other song due this spring and an acoustic version of Kerosene (my debut single), accompanied by a music video that I’m really excited about. Unfortunately I just had an accident to my left hand middle finger and have to be off instruments for the near future, so everything is on hold until I know more. Not the easiest of times but we’ll get there eventually!

Have you started writing for an EP or an album?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and for the moment, maybe an EP is a better format for me to begin with. I suspect my sound will change a lot in the coming releases, so maybe fewer songs per batch will make it all more coherent.

What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

I often like to get inspired by different arts than music and see how I can apply the same tricks. I look at a mind-bending artwork, read a classic Orwellian novel or watch some very engaged series/movies like Black Mirror and think “how does that trigger me so vividly?” Then usually the following question is “how could these tricks be applied to music?”
But I do listen and get inspired by music as well of course. Recently the new Aurora album, for example, such a belter! And of course Woodkid who’s such an influence for me.

Where are you based? What is the music scene like in your part of the world?

London has really become my home city in the past 7 years. There’s just so much happening there, even though I’m mostly used to the classical concert halls! But there are so many clubs and famous venues, you don’t know where to start.

Are you influenced by your surroundings?

Maybe yes, especially coming from such a small and ‘preserved’ country like Switzerland and witnessing some of the rawer inequalities here in the UK, but also the incredible diversity. To expatriate from my home country was my biggest mind-opener.

Do you have any tour dates lined up?

I’ve called off all my projects since my recent accident but I was working on a live set to start gigging in London and Geneva. I’ll keep everyone informed on my instagram!

What can people expect from one of your shows and why should people come and see you perform live?

There’s a LOT going on in my productions, but the live versions are likely to be stripped down to something purer, with the lion’s share of the attention focused on the voice and probably some cello, which is quite unusual. But also expect some serious beats…

Any last words for the fans?

A massive thanks for everyone supporting me from the beginning. You have no idea how a simple message to say hi or talk about the music I release makes it all worth it.

Stay tuned, the Callipolis journey has only started.