“It was difficult to experience the division of cultures in our daily life. It’s impossible to define words like ‘normal’ or ‘common sense’ in the environment we come from.”
As we move into the final year of the 2010s and gird ourselves for the unpredictable 2020s that loom just beyond the horizon, it’s worth taking a look at the incredible trajectory that underground dark music has taken in the last decade—how much of what’s going on now began in the late ‘oughts as a patchwork of various underground scenes experimenting with revivalist forms—with deathrock, roots industrial, “dark punk,” trad gothic rock, and a hybrid of other styles—and how that disorganized movement linked up with older, legacy bands to form more of a continuum with the past (that is, with the 1980s), instead of a mere revival or renewal of it.
One of the unexpected delights of the past decade has been the sheer awesomeness of She Past Away, a band that started late last decade in far west Asia (specifically, in Bursa, Turkey), then moved to Istanbul where they came to straddle two cultural worlds, two continents, both metaphorically and literally. The well-written, well-produced 2009 Kasvetli Kutlama (roughly, “Dark Celebration”) EP seemed to come out of nowhere, and to Western listeners it might have appeared an exotic fluke were it not for two follow-up LPs that were outsandingly consistent in their gloomy greatness, announcing a consistently-good, new musical force to be reckoned with.
She Past Away play richly-produced, booming, club friendly, gothy, danceable postpunk that harkens back to the founding of darkwave in the mid-1980s. In past interviews, She Past Away have winced at comparisons with the Sisters of Mercy (“They say ‘You’re like Sisters of Mercy,’ because they only know Sisters of Mercy,” keyboardist Doruk Öztürkcan once grumbled), but perhaps comparisons to acts like “Your Master is Calling”-era Pink Turns Blue are more apt. Danse Society and Asylum Party also come to mind. In truth, however, She Past Away are their own thing, a duo that play what they note is dark-wave with a re-worked 80s sound, and who also intriguingly note that their lyrics are “minimalist poetry in the Turkish language.” Indeed, all of the band’s song titles, lyrics, LP titles, etc., are in Turkish—a proud declaration of the group’s background—minimalist poetry married to cold synth lines and a spacious, almost ethereal, guitar work buoyed up into the dark sonic aether by throbbing, danceable beats.
I recently caught notice that the band had signed to Metropolis Records, the American label mostly known for its synthpop and electro-industrial acts. It seemed a good time to reach out to the band to see if signing to the US label meant an American tour was in store (hint: it does mean that). And, perhaps—a new album?
But these details are best left for the band members themselves to divulge, below…
Volkan and Doruk of She Past Away were interviewed by Oliver for Post-Punk.com in December, 2018.
2019 will mark the ten year anniversary of She Past Away’s first release, the Kasvetli Kutlama EP. Does it feel like it’s been a decade already?
Volkan: Well indeed, time flies by. Memories from early times are fresh, yet it feels like we’ve been making music as She Past Away forever. It’s hard to for us to be objective judges of ourselves, but it doesn’t feel like we have changed as musicians. The formation of the band has changed, and that’s probably the most blatant change, but our music is the same. We’ve had turning points, moments of disappointment, and great joy during these past ten years. We watched the whole process of our becoming an international band from a disregarded local band. I guess the big moments were when we first played Wave-Gotik-Treffen and when we toured South America.
In the past you mentioned that you thought signing onto the Fabrika label had increased your audience in Europe. And now you’re moving to Metropolis Records. How did that come about, and do you think this move onto Metropolis will expose you to an even larger crowd?
Doruk: In fact, we’re not moving away from Fabrika in order to go on to Metropolis—we will continue to work with both labels. Metropolis will distribute in North America, and Fabrika will continue distribution for the rest of the world. I am sure Metropolis will bring us more recognition in North America, which is a good thing for us. It’s a good thing for the audience over in the US, Canada, and Mexico that our music will be more accessible for them, too. You’ll have a better chance of finding our music in local shops and hopefully you’ll pay much less for shipping with online orders.
What will you all be doing with Metropolis? I know there are two reissues in the works. What are they, and will you be releasing a new album or LP on the label?
Doruk: The reissues are coming out on January 18th, 2019. I mixed again most of the Belirdi Gece LP from 2012 and some tracks from 2015’s Narin Yalnızlık. There were some details about those that had been bugging me for a long time. Inlay designs are also different on these releases. We will also release a new album with Metropolis as well as the previous albums. Therefore, our new album will be released in 2019 on both Metropolis and Fabrika.
Who all is in She Past Away now? You all have switched between being a trio and a duo at some points…
Volkan: Our bassist Idris left the band a few years ago, and we have been touring as a duo—me (Volkan Caner) and Doruk—since then. Doruk was part of the band since the beginning, actually. We started working together in 2009 when we went to his studio to record the first EP, “Kasvetli Kutlama.” He was initially the drummer on stage when we played as a trio in early times. We were a duo with Idris on stage for about two years while Doruk was in charge of our sound. Now it’s me on vocals and guitar and Doruk playing synths and drum pads.
In past interviews you’ve mentioned that you’ve been invited to play a lot more throughout Europe, places like Paris, or Wave Gotik Treffen, and not so much in your home country of Turkey because of the lack of a local scene. You’ve even played South America! Since you’ve started to gain recognition, though, I’ve noticed that more Turkish darkwave and postpunk type bands have started popping up: Dead Man’s Dream, Merry’s Funeral, and others. Do you think there is a growing dark music scene in Istanbul and do you think you all helped encourage its development? Can you say a few words about what the darkwave/coldwave/postpunk scene is like in Istanbul or elsewhere in Turkey?
Volkan: Yes, there’s an increase in the numbers of bands of our genre in Turkey in the last few years. Rain To Rust and Lost Script are some I’d advise people to check out. We could say maybe we encouraged some people, but we can’t claim that it is our influence on the whole thing. We moved away and haven’t performed there for a few years, so we don’t actually have a sense of the scene over there right now.
What prompted the formation of She Past Away in 2006? What sorts of bands were you listening to at that time, and what inspired you all to actually start making music, instead of just listening to it—especially in the postpunk style you’ve explored?
Volkan: We actually really started in 2009, and before that we were experimenting with some ideas. We are mainly influenced by 80’s wave music in general, from post-punk to EBM. We followed whatever was dark and absurd. I believe it’s the enthusiasm about music that takes you beyond being just a listener. We both studied music and have only pursued a musical life. Also, we were both in bands before She Past Away came along.
My own introduction to darker music came by way of the anarcho-punk scene and bands like Rudimentary Peni or American deathrock, like Christian Death, and then bands like Siekiera or Fliehende Sturme, bands that switched from punk to postpunk as their careers went on. You all have a pretty cold sound — has deathrock or anything with punk roots factored into the production or the making of the music of She Past Away?
Volkan: Yes, it’s a mixture of many influences, including those. Initially Doruk and I were both metalheads. That was around high school, in the early 1990s. In time we moved onto other genres, exploring more areas. We enjoy any style as long as we feel it and can appreciate the musicality and musicianship.
I’ve always found Turkey to be really fascinating, since it quite literally bridges Europe with Asia in the city of Istanbul. Do you think the sort of music you all are making will spread further into the Near or Middle East—that is, do you think more postpunk-type bands will start popping up in places even further interior to the Near East? Do you ever feel split between cultures, personally?
Doruk: No, we personally don’t feel split. We’re sure about where we stand. Yet it was difficult to experience a division of cultures in our daily life. It’s impossible to define words like “normal” or “common sense” in such an environment. I guess post-punk or alternative culture/aesthetics can’t really spread in Muslim countries. Prejudice, conservatism, and oppression is a common cultural motive in these lands. They are immune to new or avant-garde ideas on the margins, and they don’t hesitate to destroy diversity. Don’t judge how things are there by our example; we are a rare species.
Do you have any thoughts on the political atmosphere we find ourselves as we go into 2019 — Trump and how he’s interacting with Turkish president Erdogan, and the incident that happened at the Saudi embassy in Turkey with the killing of Jamal Khasoggi? Is She Past Away a political band in any respect, or do you think your music reflects any global events or the global atmosphere at this point in history?
Doruk: Even though we do have strong views, we prefer not to express political opinions through our music. But we’re not afraid to describe our experiences and feelings relating to “real, daily life.” For example, the lyrics for our song “Asimilasyon” express our frustration with the contemporary situation back in Turkey. But there’s little judgment in the song; it’s more of an observation.
What shows do you have coming up that folks should know about? Will you be coming to North America (USA, Canada, and/or Mexico) any time soon? I certainly hope so!
Doruk: The US and Mexico will see us live in 2019! That’s all I can say about it right now, unfortunately… We regularly play Mexico, but a US tour will happen for the first time in 2019 and we are excited about it. In Europe, we will continue touring as always with 30+ gigs throughout next year.
She Past Away’s reissues are coming out on Metropolis on January 18th, 2019. Their new Lp will arrive some time in 2019…
She Past Away have just announced a string of tour dates for North America with more shows to be announced soon. These tour dates coincide with Metropolis Records reissuing both “Belirdi Gece” and “Narin Yalnizlik” from this beloved Turkish band. Both of these albums will be released on January 18th, 2019 on CD, limited edition vinyl and through all digital formats.
- July 17th-Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bazaar
- July 18th-Chicago, IL @ Chop Shop
- July 19th-Tampa, FL @ Crow Bar
- July 20th-Austin, TX @ Elysium
- July 26th-San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
- July 27th-San Francisco, CA @ Neck of the Woods
- July 28th-Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex