MY UGLY CLEMENTINE came out of nowhere. “Never Be Yours” had urgency, it had elegance, groove, and a chorus to howl along to. The people involved – MIRA LU KOVACS, BARBARA JUNGREITHMEIER, KATHRIN KOLLERITSCH and SOPHIE LINDINGER – had already attracted some attention through other bands and projects. During the first concert in Vienna’s RHIZ, which was sold out in no time, all four of them sang, the atmosphere was euphoric all the way to highly euphoric. On September 21, MY UGLY CLEMENTINE will perform at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. And, as if that wasn’t all proof enough of the band’s enormous potential: MY UGLY CLEMENTINE are announced to perform at Eurosonic 2020. Stay tuned!
Some might find it remarkable that MY UGLY CLEMENTINE is made up exclusively of women. More remarkable, however, is how these songs were written. It was all SOPHIE LINDINGER. She has been underestimated for quite a while as the singer of LEYYA. In reality she and MARCO KLEEBAUER have equally made all decisions. Now, with MY UGLY CLEMENTINE, she did it all. She has written, composed and recorded the songs – and, on top of that, directed the video for “Never Be Yours”. Stefan Niederwieser met the musician for an extensive interview.
“I HAD A VISION AND WITH OTHERS IT WOULD HAVE BECOME A COMPROMISE.”
You write everything, record and produce on My Ugly Clementine. That’s unusual, isn’t it?
Sophie Lindinger: I´ve wanted to do something more raw and less electronic than Leyya for a long time. After the intensive work on “Sauna” I felt like doing something else, so I locked myself in the studio for a week and recorded instruments for fun – still without a voice. Marco [Kleebauer, note] recorded drum drafts for me, on which I continued to work. Half a year later I discovered the Regrettes, that was the impulse to finish the songs. I wrote melodies and lyrics, sang them and realised that my voice didn’t fit. Since I wanted more energy, Babs [Barbara Jungreithmeier, note] came to mind. I grew up with her, we did ballet together as children and have known each other for ages, it quickly clicked. I have admired Mira for a long time and on Instagram I hit up Kathrin regarding the drum part.
To do everything yourself you have to want it.
Sophie Lindinger: I wanted to know what I sound like alone, I didn’t want to explain how I wanted something done. I had a vision and with others it would have become a compromise. You learn so much about yourself. For the final mix I asked Marco for advice, let him listen to it and finalize it, because I know how he works.
Did you adapt your vocal melodies for Barbara Jungreithmeier?
Sophie Lindinger: I had already perfected them for myself, I was rather strict. But it’s totally okay when Babs cracks live. I used to make music with her. Back then she was already singing with such bluesy stylings, which was very untypical.
How does songwriting for a band work?
Sophie Lindinger: I have chords for example, I hum something over them, I think about the right tempo, I get inspired, I try drum sounds, I have a track, I play guitar, I think about a bass line, which most of the time follows the kick drums as a basis. Then you refine, leave the guitar out and try out things on the computer. A mixture of analog and digital ideas.
You start your live performances with “Playground”, which hasn’t been released yet. One line reads: “Just cause my playground wasn’t surrounded by men.”
Sophie Lindinger: I mean that as a metaphor. As a women, it often happens to me that I am underestimated, especially in the music scene. Just because I didn’t grow up around men, because I’m not a man, I’m not good enough? It’s a difficult topic, it’s easy to misinterpret. I don’t mean that “men rule the world” and all men are evil. I just want to be taken seriously in what I do.
“I’M A FEMINIST. BUT I DON’T WANT TO MAKE A BAND BASED SOLEY ON THAT […]”
“The work I do runs on passion, and that is, I suppose, the qualification” and “Because I have small hands, doesn’t mean I can’t do what my male friends can” – as a message, these lines are not so radical.
Sophie Lindinger: This is an important topic for me. It’s about everyone being able to do the same work if the passion is there. It’s supposed to be a gentle, relaxed statement. I am a feminist. But I don’t want to make a band solely based on that, but one that is fun, that has energy, that makes people dance or laugh, but at the same time doesn’t only sing about air and love.
Have you had a lot of draft texts?
Sophie Lindinger: Here it went extremely fast. When it comes to making statements I write rather defensively, because I want people to actually understand them and say: “She’s right”. There are topics that I want to handle with ease. I don’t want to force anything upon someone and don’t expect anyone to see it the same way I do. However, I don’t understand why you would be so stuck up and assume that just because a person looks a certain way, he or she isn’t able to do certain things.
If women had acted the same for the last hundred years, they might have won fewer rights.
Sophie Lindinger: Absolutely. This holds true for a lot of things, not only in feminism. You have to be vigorous, protest, sometimes radical and loud. But I don’t want my music to be like that, for me it’s a private island, it touches me, I can switch off. I want to keep that for myself.
How often will we see you being called “Powerfrauen”?
Sophie Lindinger: Very often. Fortunately nobody has called us a “girl group” yet. But we are already “the new female supergroup”. When a few men get together, it wont be called: “The new male supergroup”, but instead: “The supergroup”. Something like My Ugly Clementine is not common, it’s still a sensation. It shouldn’t be like that.
“I LOVED AVRIL LAVIGNE, THE FIRST ALBUM”
The classic rock band is still a bastion of boys.
Sophie Lindinger: I understand that, but at the same time it’s sad. At the age of 15 my role models were Paramore and Avril Lavigne.
Sophie Lindinger: I loved Avril Lavigne, the first album. She wrote her own songs, played guitar. As a young girl, that motivated and influenced me a lot.
Christina Stürmer as well?
Sophie Lindinger: Kind of, more as a person, not really her music. Of course everyone listened to “Ich lebe”, I liked it, too. She once gave a concert in Eferding, which she had to cut short because there were too many people.
The second single “The Good The Bad The Ugly” has grunge harmonies.
Sophie Lindinger: I listened to a lot of Nirvana. I like dark guitars, the way they kind of half ass it at times. The harmonies may be different than with Leyya, but not on purpose, I don’t do that consciously. I just write the choruses the way they come out.
You directed both videos of My Ugly Clementine. Do you do styling, editing, just everything? Is that an obsession?
Sophie Lindinger: Kind of. I have a picture in my head and I know what it’s supposed to say. The concepts come from me. I look for people who respond to it and implement it in this exact way. I have also edited live videos of Leyya, but my computer doesn’t have enough power to do it properly.
Did you learn directing and editing by watching others? Watching someone two or three times, then do it yourself?
Sophie Lindinger: Yes, exactly. At some point it develops in such a way that I can implement it myself.
What would have to happen for you to play some big festivals next summer?
Sophie Lindinger: We’ve already been invited to Reeperbahn Festival. It helps that people know our other projects and we have played with them at many festivals. You have to work with the right people, you have to know people, you have to tour a lot, you have to put a lot of work into it, you don’t have to do every show offered to you. But I don’t know the one “right” way either. It also depends on the genre and how you can stage yourself. Mavi Phoenix makes good music in a genre where, as a woman, it’s not normal to have a message. HVOB have found a good niche with their melancholic techno.
Are you going to start your own label?
Sophie Lindinger: No. Even though you are more independent and have more money left in the end, you have much more work to do and you need a team. I have so much to do, I’d rather find a label.
You would have to cut down on other activities, directing, photography, DJing, doing guest vocals…
Sophie Lindinger: Thats a lot of fun. Founding a label is not fun. Organising an event on my own would be too stressful for me. I can imagine inviting bands that I think are great, but someone else would have to make it happen, I couldn’t be resolute enough towards managers.
Was that an application to be a curator at Popfest?
Sophie Lindinger [laughs]: No.
How confident do you feel live?
Sophie Lindinger: We recently got a compliment saying we play as if we’ve been playing live forever. We feel very confident. We rehearsed for a long time, the gigs confirmed it.
And when will there be more music?
Sophie Lindinger: The album is coming next year, it’s almost finished. Until then one or two songs will be released. I still want to write everything myself. And at least for the first album I want to have control over it, thats how it started and that’s how I want to finish it. But off course I’ll be open for the others ideas, we found each other with this sound.
“IS THAT REALLY ‘TIME MAGAZINE’?”
How do you coordinate the work with Leyya?
Sophie Lindinger: I block my time by the day. We have a shared calendar, where we see who does what – I know, for example, when Marco is producing Bilderbuch for two weeks. I used to have this urge to make music, I wanted to write. When it becomes a profession, the urge often no longer exists, because you’re constantly making music.
You can’t force creativity, but you can sit down, move your mind and do it. And here it helps to consciously take time.
Let’s talk Leyya. How did you find out that you won the UK Music Video Prize for the category “Best Pop Newcomer”?
Sophie Lindinger: You have to submit and get selected. Video director Rupert Höller was very much behind it. We were playing that day, he wrote us right away.
How come Time magazine recommended you next to Drake and Sting?
Sophie Lindinger: We all almost missed that. One day an acquaintance posted it on Twitter and linked us. I kept scrolling and thought to myself: “Wait a minute! What? Is that really Time Magazine?” I clicked on it, immediately sent it to the agency. We have a label in America, I guess the attention was drawn to the song by the people from the label, but they didn’t initiate it either. We were probably just lucky.
Why wasn’t the single “Wannabe” on the album?
Sophie Lindinger: After an album you often fall into a hole, you put all your energy and every idea into it. We didn’t want that to happen to us, that’s when “Wannabe” came to be. We knew that one year from now we would probably make different music and that this song wouldn’t fit anymore. Retrospectively speaking thats true.
Do you know where the clicks for Leyya come from?
Sophie Lindinger: I don’t really care about that, I prefer making new music. We have meetings with the label from time to time where they mention it. When we released “Superego”, thousands of clicks came in through blogs within a day, which I intensively followed while at work. But not anymore.
Do you do photography in addition to directing, editing and production?
Sophie Lindinger: I would never call myself a photographer, I don’t know anything about cameras, but I know how they work, and I have an eye for angles or arrangements. And I’m the producer of the band Don’t Go. I met Nina Jukic and told her that I wanted to do it. There I’m not involved in songwriting, I’m just a producer. They will soon release their first single, we will do the album together. I learn a lot about how other people approach music.
Would you do a remix?
Sophie Lindinger: I would like to try.
You lend your voice to other songs.
Sophie Lindinger: Yes, there is one with Motsa and also with other bands. But I’m reducing that, I don’t want to only be know for singing.
And as a DJ?
Sophie Lindinger: I did that once, but I don’t think it’s for me. Because I only play what I really like, and that probably won’t work out that well.
“I’D LIKE TO OFFER A WORKSHOP FOR MUSIC PRODUCTION, THAT’S AT THE TOP OF MY LIST.”
Are there any other talents we don’t know about yet, shooting ASMR videos, carving, painting with watercolors?
Sophie Lindinger: Pencil drawings calm me down, but I won’t show them. The artworks of Leyya come from me. I would like to offer a workshop for music production, that’s at the top of my list. I did one at the Intertonale in Scheibbs last year with a group of women who said that they were more likely to go to a workshop like this if it was led by a woman. I would take anybody of course, I wouldn’t want to exclude anybody. But I think it would be important to get more women into producing.
Thank you so much for the interview!
Stefan Niederwieser [translated from the German original by Dave Dempsey]