Interview, Video: Elena Savlokhova
Photo: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
A Brooklyn synth duo. Liz Wendelbo and Sean McBride.
Tell us an awkward or funny story from your childhood?
Liz: I have a story but it’s not so much awkward as it is strange. I was learning how to swim, when I was maybe 5, I don’t remember. And I was staring at the water. There was a swimming pool and the sun was reflected on its surface. It was creating these mesmerizing patterns and I became hypnotized by the reflections and I just couldn’t go into the water. I was learning how to dive and I simply couldn’t do it because I just kept on looking at those reflections. And I thought about it just now, because one of our songs “Sheen” from the “Par Avion” album is about reflections in the water.
Sean: When I was 5 I cut my foot and I had my foot in a bandage. And so I had a venture one day when I was 5 without having any shoes on. There was a certain point in the woods, which had been deforested to build houses and this group of wild dogs surrounded me. Finally, my father appeared to chase them away. I remember I had no shoes on and I had stitches in the foot. Perhaps, that’s not so awkward.
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in your life?
Liz: For me, I don’t know if it’s so much seeing, as it is having a complete experience. Seeing, hearing, smelling something divine, or maybe not so divine. Maybe even something horrible. That could be the most beautiful experience, I guess.
Sean: I’d have to agree with her. Vision is linked to the other senses. Synesthesia. It’s the most beautiful thing. Maybe the Amalfi Coast. Driving on the Amalfi Coast and seeing particular villages on the cliff above the sea. It’s by the Tyrrhenian Sea.
What film reality would you like to live in?
Sean: I would say “La Dolce Vita” by Fellini. It would probably speak volumes about my character.
Liz: Who is the lead actor there?
Sean: Marcello Mastroianni. Not just because of him but because of the diverse cast, a set of figures, a diversity of classes, or class structures going in between them. From the homeless to the religious to the philosopher to the celebrity.
Liz: And somehow, I think his mannerisms are similar to yours. Sean: And you? Liz: I think my film reality is an abstract or experimental film: colours, lights, textures, dirt.
Sean: So which film?
Liz: A film by Stan Brakhage, for instance. He’s an American filmmaker. Or a film by Maya Deren. She was an American film director and was also inspired by dreams.
What moment in your life would you like to relive over and over again?
Liz: I think something really mundane. I could imagine something like opening a door over and over again. Like a loop of just opening a door.
Sean: That feeling when you carried something heavy up five flights of stairs and you let the thing down – the relief of that.
Liz: The weightlessness, the relief of the weight.
If you had to choose between sex and music, what would it be? You can’t choose both.
Liz: Well, obviously, I’m going to say music. I think music begins earlier in life and stays with you until you die. I don’t know if sex does.
Sean: Sex of any kind?
Sean: I guess the choice for me after having experienced both is music, then. I’m going to regret saying that, but music.
Liz: Now you’re stuck with music for life.
Sean: There is something auto-erotic about it, certain senses that are tickled, that are sexual that does transpire with music. Composing music, writing music, or just being in the moment of playing music. Sex is so, not ephemeral, but it’s longevity fades. I mean, as an experience. So I would say music.
What is the best gig you’ve ever performed?
Sean: There are two kinds: the perfect sound system and the experience of the sound system on stage, knowing that it’s also incredible in the audience. There is the best of that and there is also the best of spirit. Of the spirit, I’d say the best concert was in Valencia, Spain, last year in June. We were playing at a club near the sea and it was pure ecstasy. It was like being Maradona, in a football context. There was audience feedback like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Valencia is always amazing, but that time it was really insane, so that would be my favorite.
Liz: Sometimes circumstances can be really strange, really weird. And it’s the best place.
Sean: For best sound – Paris. Three days ago.
Liz: Yeah, it was the best in terms of all the technical aspects.
What book would you recommend us to read and why?
Liz: For me, I’d say the French poet Arthur Rimbaud. His book of poems is called “Illuminations”. They’re a great way to get exposed to the ideas of synesthesia. All of the senses at once: the sense of sight, sound, taste, and smell. That’s what his poems are like.
Sean: That’s really a bit difficult. A good book I could recommend is a Hungarian grammar book that I have, but I forgot the title. It’s been published in Hungary. It’s not Oxford or Columbia or anything like that. I think it’s called Hungarian Grammar.
Liz: He’s actually learning Hungarian, which is one of the most difficult languages in the world.
Sean: This book is something that I bring with me. It’s endlessly useful and there are endless reminders. But then again, it’s only because I like this language. But I’d also recommend Kobo Abe – the Japanese author. “The Woman of the Dunes” is his masterwork, I would recommend that out of self-absorption reasons.
Liz: But you also watch a lot of philosophy lectures. I think those can count too.
What common misconception or belief irritates you the most?
Liz: I have problems with institutions in general. Like the institution of religion. One thing is the belief, but the institution – I cannot stand it.
Sean: A misconception that is seen universally as a misconception or what I see as a misconception?
As you see it.
Sean: The lack of care or conscientiousness around systems: be it linguistic, cultural, or governmental. Formal systems of control, of power, of management – that would be my biggest problem. I’m irritated by that.
What things you can’t unthink?
Sean: “Pet Sematary”, the film. The woman with spinal meningitis goes: “You broke my back! You broke my back”. That frightened me forever. Stephen King wrote the novel but I don’t remember who directed the film.
Liz: Mary Lambert.
Sean: Or the “Wild Dogs” scenario. I can’t unthink it or forget it.
Liz: Sometimes it’s a sound – that can be horrifying. I remember once hearing the sound of a rotating neon sign from a store. It had this electric sound and the motor was just creaking over and over again.
What question would you ask yourself and what would you answer? Something no-one ever asked you before but something you wanted to say.
Sean: Ask yourself a question? Why would I ask myself a question? That’s the ultimate tautology.
Liz: I would ask myself: “What language do you dream in?”. My answer is – in French.