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Ditching Hamburg in the early noughties, the Grether twins – one a riot grrrl (Sandra, of Parole Trixi), the other a published author (Kerstin, author of Zuckerbabys) – seized occupancy of apartments in the same Prenzlauer Berg building, as well as the critical scene, as rabble rousers for Intro Magazine.
The Powerfrauen initially started Doctorella as a Hamburger Schule supergroup, along with Jens Friebe and Ja, Panik singer Andreas Spechtl, before frayed relationships left the batty duo firmly at the helm, joined by Mesut Monroe and bassist Jakob Groothoff.
Post-drama, you can catch Doctorella preview their upcoming debut, Drogen und Psychologen, at Exberliner Magazine’s Haute Areal label night, along with Mary Ocher, at Kaffee Burger on Wednesday September 28.
SANDRA GRETHER: It’s all about excess, healing and love!
KERSTIN GRETHER: For example, suicidal love and love psychosis. Getting crazy over this and sounding like a diva.
SG: All the songs are about excess in some way, like cutting my skin in desperation so rivers of blood pour out.
KG: And then some of the songs have a healing affect. It’s therapeutic. This is the druggy part of the record. You can say, this is a drug song... this is a healing song....
You’ve been working on this record for years, and it still won’t be out until February or March. Is it a maddening wait?
KG: It is like having a baby early and then having to leave it in the hospital for a year and only being able to go in every now and again to touch it and hold it.
How do you feel about being called a supergroup?
SG: I like it because the ‘super’ is included! Originally we also had Jens [Friebe] and Andreas [Spechtl]; it was great, we had the characters of everyone combined. Though maybe we played the game too good and now we’re in rehab.
What do you mean?
SG: How do we say this? It takes time to find the right people. Jens wrote two songs on the new album, and he’s a great songwriter. But then one day we found out we should not work together anymore.
We decided that we need full control of our own music. The name of their band was in one of these songs, but he asked us not to use it. [It’s now bleeped on title track].
KG: We had to self-censor!
SG: We're very happy to have Jakob and Mesut in the band now.
Is there still a need for more strong female musicians? Do you consider yourself Powerfrauen?
KG & SG: Yes!!
SG: With Parole Trixi, there was a total consciousness of being feminine. Hamburg’s totally male-dominated. We were very inspired by Patti Smith and Hole, bands like that, and it was very important for us to see female role models on stage.
Except then there seemed to be more men in the audience than women, as if girls don’t want to see other girls on stage? That was one of the reasons Parole Trixi split up. We don’t want to make music for girls if girls don’t want to hear it.
KG: But the music industry is still male-dominated. There’s no female Beatles…
SG: …no female Strokes. My dream is to be the female Strokes!
Is there a Courtney Love for Millennials?
KG: I really loved Amy Winehouse about a year ago.
SG: Ha, I didn’t want to go into her apartment because she was always playing that record! But maybe she’s not such a great role model? She would do interviews and say, “I don’t want to be an artist, I want to be a house-wife.” I want a female role model who says, “I’m a genius because I write my own songs.”
KG: Is she an empowering figure for women? Yes, I think so. She’s so crazy, like Bowie in the 1970s. And yes, maybe she comes from an upper-class privileged background, but she feels she has to say she’s an outsider. Ten years ago no one wanted to be an outsider.
MESUT MONROE: She copied that from Marilyn Manson.
KG: She represents pop art and concept, whereas Amy Winehouse represents soul and heart. I also really like Gustav (Eva Jantschitsch) from Austria. She’s one of the only German songwriters I can identify with. She has that chanson touch, but with political lyrics and strong expression.
As critics, as well as artists, does that critical and historical point of view affect the way you make music?
KG: I’ve been writing about music since I was 13, so it feels natural to me. I don’t over-think it, because for me music is therapy – it’s so much about pain and expression. First I feel it, then I write, and only then do I think about it. The feeling always comes first.
SG: You don’t have to solve riddles with our music. It is direct enough to catch the emotion. We are intellectuals, but we don’t force others to become intellectuals too.
How does being twins affect your music? What’s it like working with twins?
KG: I always wanted to make music with my twin sister; I feel really good about it. I have my own identity as a writer now, and I had to do that first…I am pop, she is rock, I’m the introvert, she’s the extrovert, I have blonde hair, she has brown hair...I’m everything my sister hates! I’m blonde and I sing and I like Lady Gaga!
MM: I like working with women. Working with men is tiring and sometimes it’s hard. In a boy-band, girls are the only topic on the tour bus.
You’re linked to the Hamburg Schule which pushed for German-language lyrics. Is it still important to you to sing in German?
KG: I made a decision to write in the language I dream in. I’m a poet. I have rich language associations; I want to work with lyrics and have choices, to think of a word and to know 25 other words I can use, rather than just one or two. This is so important for me. I’m so sad I can’t do this in English.
SG: Though, of course, we’re influenced by English bands. And we have English parts in a few of our songs – like “Lass uns Märchenwesen sein” (“Let Us Live in Fairytales”) – English is not a curiosity for us. Sometimes we talk in English together and it’s fun to sing in English. It makes a party mood!
What about international appeal?
KG: Yes. I’m really sad about this. But having said that, if it’s authentic, if you’re singing from the deepest love and the deepest madness, it’s so much better than, [sings] ‘Oh baby, I miss you. I look out the window and what do I see?'
SG: A tree! [Laughs] I don’t feel very German. I feel more international, or even American.
KG: Please tell the funny story about our graffiti. You tell it better than me.
SG: Haha, okay. We were punks, and we hated our town. It was a totally clean little village in South Germany. So one night we got spray cans and we wrote, ‘The children of the revolution, living in the fucking town of …,’ and we sprayed the little golden pigs that stand as symbols in the city…But don’t print that we come from South Germany, or people from Berlin will not like us!
Wed, Sep 28, 21:00 | Kaffee Burger, Torstr. 58-60, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz