On March 23, 2023 the new album by SIBYLLE KEFER will be presented at the Radiokulturhaus in Vienna: “Hoid”. KEFER used to be active with the band AUSSEER HARDBRADLER, “Hoid” is their sixth solo album. Jürgen Plank spoke to the singer-songwriter about why it turned out to be a melancholic album. KEFER also talks about the difficulty of being heard as a woman and mother in the music scene and how, from her point of view, the situation in this regard has improved a little in recent years.
Your new album has a wide musical range: from electronic parts to piano ballads, strings are also used. How did this bandwidth come about?
Sibylle Kefer: That’s not an easy question. The songs actually write themselves. It also depends on which instrument I’m working on at the moment. Some songs are heard on a specific instrument, I write them with either the guitar or the piano. I’ve already had the experience that when I get in touch with producers who have a certain idea, I end up with a certain sound image. I wanted to get as far as possible to a sound image that I think is good and that suits me. Such a production is also expensive and I may not be able to afford it anymore. I want to make albums though, so I recorded as much as I could on this one myself.
How did you go about producing?
Sibylle Kefer: I’ve done small production workshops over the years. As far as I was able to do on this album, I did the recordings myself: I just put a microphone next to the piano or plugged in the guitar. Or I asked someone when I found that there should be a bass, or drums. I had the recordings sent to me and inserted them myself.
In a song is the Complaint Chorus included. How did that happen?
Sibylle Kefer: I think a choir is basically super awesome. I used to sing in the Vienna Jazz Choir myself, and I think it’s great when several voices sound at the same time. For example, I also like gospel choirs. I just heard a choir on that track, I felt like I didn’t always want to be my own choir because that’s a lot on the album too. The Complaint Chorus is just great. I think it’s important to speak up when something isn’t right. That’s why I have it Complaint Chorus asked.
To what extent can the album be heard in the context of Corona?
Sibylle Kefer: Yes, this context is certainly due to the fact that it wasn’t finished at that time. The issues were there before: I’m extremely concerned about injustice, it’s human and normal anyway, but I can’t ignore it. I had a whirlwind at work and I just noticed that there were topics that caught up with me or that wouldn’t let me go. And I’m not ready to put up with them or dismiss them. They stick and I deal with them because I want to solve things or understand them better. Treating someone badly or inequality was already an issue before Corona. This was very much reflected in the Corona period. Suddenly I read about it in the newspaper: what actually happens to democratic values and structures? Do you do something for society or for the individual? And patriarchal structures were already there me too finally more present in the general discourse.
“Hoid” has a melancholic mood for me.
Sibylle Kefer: I would sign that. If I notice that I’m slipping into a deficient perspective because I feel something is unfair or feel oppressed, I look at where my hope factors lie and where my self-determination is. And I look at the extent to which I can remain active myself, what I can achieve and how I can protect myself. First and foremost, it’s about my self-efficacy. I’m actually not a negative person, I’m positive. But I like playing minor chords, I can tell that too. When I notice that in some songs, I look for a balance in the themes of the other songs, things like love or the connection to my family, to my children. I then quite consciously set positive aspects, because otherwise an album becomes too melancholy. But I also think that “Hoid” is a melancholic album.
The song “More davo” begins with the line: “De is but thick hod’s gsogt”. Is this a true story or made up?
Sibylle Kefer: It’s made up, but because of the anger that often normal isn’t normal. And that some are always more normal than others. These values not only irritated me, but also disturbed me. And that’s what I wanted to focus on. This image of women always gets on my nerves and at the same time I always whirl with it myself. Now I’m 47 years old and I’m thinking to myself: How do I have to look like so that I can still go on stage? Do I have to deal with this at all? Or: How can I have a role model function that not only corresponds to a social norm that I may not even want to support? The image in this song was chosen very deliberately.
“As a mother, it is difficult to be visible”
What would be your answers to these questions, thinking about the music scene? As soon as you get on a stage, you take on a role, maybe even a role model.
Sibylle Kefer: In any case, I noticed that more and more questions arose and that I know very few women my age who are still on stage. We have few, but of course you can find them. I was a single mother for twelve years, during this phase I was with the Ausseer Hardbradler band for two years. How can I become visible? And if I’m visible, I have to have something to offer. Then I have to be someone who is interesting enough. Questions like this arose: Does the scene need me or not?
Now the young mothers are much more present in the music scene, much more visible. All I can say is: cool, apparently something has gone further. A lot is happening there, but still: I have two more small children, play in bands and make my own music. As a mother, it is difficult to be visible. Of course, you also ask yourself whether your own music is of high enough quality. But I think that’s not the only thing.
An album is also almost like a child, how would you like the album “Hoid” to develop?
Sibylle Kefer: I would be very happy if the album is heard and gets a response. Because I think it could at least open up a discourse and there could be a few numbers on it that would be good for others too. It is an offer for reflection, to sit down and have a nice evening. You might also notice that you are not alone with issues.
One song is called “Redn ma sies schen”. Is that a piece at the time when things are still relatively good for us in Europe, while things are already looking very different in other regions of the world. What does this song mean to you?
Sibylle Kefer: Anyway, if you make an honest diagnosis of what the world looks like and keep doing what you’ve been doing, then it’s almost impossible. There is often the simultaneity of bad things that happen and yet you go back to work the next day. So much is put into perspective. Sometimes I can’t take it anymore and I blame people when they talk things up particularly well. Several songs were written during the Kurz era, during this time I noticed that something was too steep for me and I thought to myself: it can’t be that it goes through. I sometimes assumed that society noticed something and still tolerated it. That asked me a lot of questions, at the same time I was part of this society that accepts things.
The songs seem like diary entries, do you have a notebook in which you write something like in a diary and then the songs come out of it?
Sibylle Kefer: I always have a notebook to jot down something in. I jot down keywords or things that have a certain intensity for me. If the words are somehow groovy and meaningful, I write them down. And if they’re just meaningful, then I’ll find the groove for them. In any case, I always keep a notebook, this is my sixth, one for each album.
Many thanks for the interview.
Live: March 23, 2023, Radiokulturhaus Vienna, 7:30 p.m
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