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  • Albertine Sarges on birdwatching, her ideal live show and how to give up smoking


Albertine Sarges on birdwatching, her ideal live show and how to give up smoking

Ahead of her show at Schall&Rausch, we catch up with Berlin’s most treasured feminist pop icon Albertine Sarges about pandemic inspiration and finding her band.

Photo: IMAGO / Votos-Roland Owsnitzki

After the success of her infectious post-punk pop 2021 debut LP The Sticky Fingers, Berlin’s indie darling Albertine Sarges spread her net, performing with Holly Herndon and Kat Frankie’s bands and dabbling in other creative outlets.

Her second album, which Sarges calls “a coping record”, was 2022’s Family of Things: an introspective, post-Covid reflection on addiction and relationships. In February, Sarges gets a chance to showcase her development as she swaps the touring circuit for the stage, performing both at this year’s Schall&Rausch Festival in collaboration with Komische Oper and at a related solo event at SchwuZ. 

A new album and many live shows; last year was a busy one for you. Do you ever take a break?

That was how I felt during my younger years. A loner, lost in contemplation and fantasy

I remember going into 2022 like, okay, this is going to be when we finally break the spell and have a good year again. We had a new government in Germany, and I was looking forward to positive climate action.

In general people seemed to wake up everywhere. Then Putin invaded Ukraine in February and we were collectively thrown into a nightmare of idiotic violence and hate. I started smoking again on that day. With this doom feeling, I went out and played a lot of shows. Being from a DIY background, this was the first time that I started to think about the business aspect of things.

To me, being an artist and an entrepreneur at the same time is an unsolvable quandary. But I kept going, and then I experienced the post-pandemic touring crisis, including steeply sloping ticket sales, high gas prices and inflation, and in the end, it drained me. We released Family of Things with a heartwarming record release gig at Schokoladen with all my friends.

Christiane Rösinger, Malte Göbel, Albertine Sarges and Jona James Aulepp, from left, during the photo rehearsal for Planet Egalia – A Feminist Singspiel at Hebbel am Ufer HAU1 (2021) Photo: IMAGO / Martin Mueller

Another big joy was being able to take part in Christiane Rösinger’s satirical musicals at HAU. Also, performing in Singapore with Holly Herndon was insane. We toured the UK twice, so I can’t complain. It’s like the bitter and the sweet at the same time; this is the definition of life.

We were thrown into a nightmare of idiotic violence and hate. I started smoking again

What changed between your last record and this one, and what happened to your backing band The Sticky Fingers?

I have never officially mentioned this before. My bassist and bestie Rosa Mercedes [from Kino Motel and Alright Gandhi] moved to Australia just before we put out our debut. Rosa was a congenial songwriter and full-time musician who I could arrange and compose music with, but she had other plans and I had to move on without her. A few months after she left, the pandemic hit, and meeting people, even if only for photo sessions, was a problem.

At that point, I wasn’t sure what my band was. I remember a meme that was circulating, showing a therapist talking to a sick man in a white coat in an empty clinic room. The therapist asks: “And so, is this band of yours in the room with us right now?” I remember almost peeing my pants laughing, and then seamlessly transitioning into a big weep. The same day I did one of those remote interviews with a radio station and all my talking about community felt like a hoax. But it wasn’t. Because if it wasn’t for my community in 2018, that album wouldn’t exist.

Albertine Sarges at Lido Berlin (2022) Photo: IMAGO / Votos-Roland Owsnitzki

In 2020, I found new management, a label and agents. Albertine Sarges & The Sticky Fingers silently turned into just Albertine Sarges, but I still called my album The Sticky Fingers, as a loving testimony. Later, in 2021, the band idea crumbled further. Some of those in our band needed higher fees than I could pay, and some had day jobs, which made them less flexible. I got a substitute drummer and flute player, and I asked Lo Selbo [Sebastian Eppner] to play guitar with us. He’s my partner and now at my side in this project, working on our technical set-ups and tour management.

These are the things no one ever talks about because fans want to hear that we’re having fun and then partake in that fun. In reality, the fun part always gets cut short and is never prioritised. This is something I want to change in the new year.

What are some of the running themes on the new record?

Well, I guess it is a solitary record. The name Family of Things comes from Mary Oliver’s fantastic poem ‘Wild Geese’, which is about finding solace in nature. I became an ardent bird watcher during the isolation phases of the pandemic. Berlin is a great spot for birds… anyway, the poem ends with: “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

Photo: Anika Zachow

That was how I felt during my childhood and younger years. A loner, lost in contemplation and fantasy, finding connection through beautiful things. I fell back on those feelings during the pandemic. So, you could say that Family of Things is the dark moon to The Sticky Fingers, and I am really happy to have it out, and to have them standing next to each other like that.

What can we expect from your show at the Schall&Rausch festival, and what are you looking forward to the most?

Komische Oper and Musicboard Berlin commissioned me to create a gig theatre night. It’s more music than theatre, but more theatre than would be appropriate for a normal concert. I can’t wait to do it. I have always been very prone to experimenting with things that go beyond only music. But I can’t tell you what it is just yet. It will be darn pretty, with a big cast of the musicians I work with, and it will be very fun and very groovy.

I am convinced that it is and should be possible to entertain and reach the purest emotions

How did this cooperation with the Komische Oper come around?

The Komische Oper is going to be renovated in 2023 and will need to close. They came up with some makeshift creative formats to fill the gap and teamed up with Musicboard Berlin, who in turn put forward my name for some ideas.

I can imagine the team from Komische Oper watched my video for ‘Free Today’, in which I wear a baroque hair piece and dress. That being said, my show will probably not be operatic at all, although it is taking place at the legendary SchwuZ, which I am hellishly excited about.

If money and resources weren’t an object, what would your ideal live show look like?

If I had no resource limits, I would first bring my band out of the city into a beautiful place where their hearts and bodies can expand, and we would cook and connect and make music with no boundaries. And then we would invite people to help us with a great stage design, with different islands to perform at. We would have people to care for the lights and the clothes and styling – I never have enough mind space for how I look at shows.

IMAGO / Votos-Roland Owsnitzki

We’d have a sound technician and a real piano, and I would focus on singing and storytelling only, walking up to the audience, with mic in hand. But most importantly, I’d like to be able to pay my musicians and myself for it in a decent way. Apart from that, I am convinced that it is and should be possible to entertain and reach the purest emotions even with very limited capacities, as long as you are able to connect to the room.

The new single ‘Hold On’ is about giving up smoking. Do you have any tips on how to do it?

Here’s what I would pass on as a quitting senior: acknowledge your addiction and understand that quitting will be one of the bravest things you’ve ever done. Have compassion, accumulate willpower, and then free yourself through celebration. Use nicotine patches, read – or listen to – Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking, pat yourself on your shoulder whenever you can, and don’t fucking worry about your weight. Tell your friends and fans, use apps, and if you made it through the first months, remember that this is a thing that will come back at the first moment of crisis. Prepare for that moment and foresee it. Keep this plan in your wallet and good luck!

  • Albertine Sarges is performing at Schall&Rausch on 18.02.23 at SchwuZ, Rollbergstraße 26, Neukölln.

Albertine Sarges was born in Berlin and raised in Kreuzberg. The multi-talented and outspoken singer-songwriter splits her time working with leading local artists and writing and performing her playful yet purposeful solo musical creations.

After releasing her 2021 debut album, The Sticky Fingers, on Moshi Moshi Records, Sarges has gone on to tour extensively. Her follow-up EP Family of Things came out late last year.

Albertine’s playlist

Shuggie Otis – Island Letter

His positivity is a gift to this world – especially when feeling sick or suffering from long Berlin winters“.

Fazerdaze – Thick of the Honey

“A new discovery. I’m into the basslines and attitude!

Yosa Peit – Serious People Chuckle

The whole record doesn’t stop blowing my mind. The irony and fun in these Florida-esque dolphin tracks is so entertaining!

Richie Setford – A Little Heart

A big storyteller with all the warmth needed on dull days”.

John Moods – Out Of My Mind

“I feel connected to Johnny’s music every time it’s flowy and watery like this track. The track really takes its time”.