KHIRKI: "Every song needs three basic ingredients in my book: a cool riff, a vocal hook, and originality"
I love that feeling coming across a new band and having a great time with their music from the first spin. This just happened to me with the Greek trio KHIRKI, who released their debut album "Κτηνωδία" on May 20th, 2021, as their mix of pure rock'n roll with some musical surprises grabbed me at once.
I had the opportunity to chat with guitarist and vocalist Dimos Ioannou about their development, music, and what a sorceress has to do with the album:
Hey, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you today?
I am fine! Just a bit hung over from yesterday’s beers, and my voice is raspy as hell. Thanks!
Could you please introduce yourself and KHIRKI to our readers?
I am Dimos and I play guitar and sing. KHIRKI is our band, we are from Athens, Greece and we play Anatolian-spiced Rock ‘n Roll!
We got together through a mutual friend and formed a band called Mad John the Wise back in 2012. After releasing an EP and a full-length, we decided to continue as a trio, start fresh, and in 2019 KHIRKI was born.
The name “Khirki” is originally based in the Greek mythology. Does it have a deeper meaning for you?
We decided to name our band KHIRKI since she’s the sorceress that transforms people into animals. She speaks directly to your primal instincts, just like music in a way.
You just released your debut album "Κτηνωδία". How do you feel about it, and how was it received so far?
We are extremely proud of our album, we love it, and we believe in it. It is an honest piece of art and so far it’s been all 9s and 10s in the reviews, which is very good to see. We put so much love and attention to it, and we are fortunate enough to have people all over the world really digging our songs.
That’s something I can totally relate to, always had a great time while listening to your music :-) The spelling of your album title is striking, but brings in something mystical. The cover artwork supports that impression too. What can you tell us about the idea behind, and how do they reflect the album thematically?
Of course I can. The point is to be original and different, so we liked the idea of putting the title in Greek when all the lyrics and song titles are in English - Something to give you an immediate impression of what we play and where we come from.
The idea behind the cover comes from Homer's "Odyssey": You see Circe (or in Greek Κίρκη the sorceress that inspired our name) offering you a goblet filled with wine. There is a part in that epic tale where Odysseus’ crew landed on her island, and after they drank from her magical wine, they were transformed into animals (pigs mostly). The title and the cover art reflects that, because we strongly feel that upbeat rock'n roll sometimes does that to people - makes you connect with your inner animal!
Music-wise, you offer an interesting mix of styles, I like this combination of pure rock’n roll vibes with that kind of varied rhythmic and some folk elements. Where do your main influences come from?
Good to hear! Our influences come from metal and rock bands like Mastodon, Kvelertak, Jethro Tull or Tool and also from Balkan and Anatolian folk music. Bands like L’Ham de Foc, Gaye Su Akyol, Goran Bregovic and of course many Greek traditional folk songs. If you ever find yourself on a Greek island during summer, go to a traditional festival and experience the power of this music yourself!
Sounds awesome! Let's stay a bit with the music: Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process, please?
That’s always my favorite question. A song begins with a family of riffs. Not one, but 2 or 3 riffs that are nice and cohesive-sounding. After that we jam them and try to come up with a structure that is somewhat interesting and unpredictable while making sure the momentum of the song is not lost or compromised. Then I go and lock myself in my house with my acoustic guitar, singing gibberish, trying to come up with a vocal melody that moves me.
After that we go to a studio and record a rehearsal in order to be able to listen to it at our leisure; not while performing. Then we fine-tune it and I write lyrics inspired by an emotion or a theme that each song invokes in us. Every song needs 3 basic ingredients in my book; a cool riff, a vocal hook and originality.
Oh, I see :-) That's definitely something that can be found in your music. Especially "Medea" conquered my proggy heart by storm thanks to the originality. Do you have a favorite song on "Κτηνωδία"?
It constantly changes, because I love ‘em all! This week my favorite must be “The Barkhan Dunes”.
Let’s talk about KHIRKI live: What was the most memorable concert experience for you so far?
The one and only show we managed to play before the pandemic locked down the world was in January 2020, when we opened for our friends Bat Signal. It was in a club in Athens, and it was packed. No-one knew our songs, no-one had heard them before, so it was nice to watch people dance around and sing. We felt that this bunch of songs we had clicked with people right away. It was very encouraging. People immediately loved “Wolf’s Lament”, “Raging Bull” and “Medea”.
I’m really impressed by the number of great bands and new music coming from Greece at the moment. Is there something special about the Greek rock/metal scene? And did you notice changes over the past years?
Greek metal scene has been blooming with bands of all kinds and we have a strong underground community. People that watch your back, people that help out and guide you. It was not like that 20 years ago. When this pandemic ends, I’m sure there will be half a dozen local shows every week. I am looking forward to checking out Dendrites, Calyses and Kemerov live!
What can you tell us about your future plans?
Right now we are focusing on writing new songs, we plan to record some videos for youtube and getting ready for a summer tour of the Greek Islands, where we will grab our acoustic instruments and play acoustic versions of our songs. Let’s hope that we will be able to play normal shows before the end of the year.
Keeping fingers crossed. Do you have any further thoughts you’d like to share here?
Well, I’d like to live in a society where music is only listened to on vinyl or radio, the attention span of a normal person is greater than 1 second, and rock music is the most popular music in the world. I guess the world was something like that in the 70s, so I guess we were born too late.
I can’t complain, we have everything in front of us easily and fast, but the downside of that is that music consumption requires more and more retarded songs. Check out today’s most popular hit song and compare it to “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel or “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder. It’s sad!
Yes, the curse of information overload... Fortunately, there are still many people out there, appreciating music made with heart and soul, but it's a big challenge to bring it to the right ears.
Thanks again for your time :-) All the best for you and your musical plans!
Thank you Katha! Cheers!