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Skinner Box - Interview

Interview with: Vana Rose
Conducted by: T.V.

Greek female fronted band Skinner Box was formed in March 2011, but activated early in 2012 and since then just released one EP entitled Life Is Chemistry. While listening to their debut release you must get amazed by its quality, not only from musical and compositional side, but also productional. Many bands don't reach those high standards in decades or maybe even never. Five songs on Life Is Chemistry EP speak for themselves, are full of emotions and I ensure you that it will be a huge mistake if you leave this release pass by. The band started as a four piece and recently welcomed into their ranks a second guitarist, so the formation of Skinner Box today consist of Vana Rose (vocals), Spyros Mitrokotsas (guitars), Nikos Zourbakis (guitars) Stefanos Manousis (bass guitar/keys) and George Papanastasiou (drums/percussion). We had to ask their amazing singer Vana Rose about many things regarding Skinner Box and how they accomplished to release such a good product.

T.R.: You've just released your debut EP, tell me how are you satisfied with the final result?
: We are satisfied with the final result of our first try in the studio! We are thankful also to our producer Alex Bolpasis who understood from the start exact what we really wanted to do! It is our first try but i think that we can give more! I am a kind of perfectionist.
T.R.: I find it very hard to believe that this is your debut release. You've must been playing in any other groups before...
Vana: To be honest we do not have a great music background or big experience with previous bands! I am singing since I was 16, I took some vocal lessons and had three rock bands, but nothing as professional as Skinner Box. I think that now it is the first time of team working!
T.R.: I can't believe that... So, you formed a band just one year ago, can you share some words about the background of bands formation?
Vana: You have to surely believe this! We were friends for years! We had in the back of our minds that we wanted to create a band but due to personal reasons we couldn't find the best timing for this. Before a year after a big discussion (and wine..), boys decided that it was the appropriate time to do something... to make us feel free and express our feelings. They called me and asked me to participate! I was really excited! First of all we have passion for music! That was our motivation!
T.R.: Lets get back to the EP of yours. What can you tell me about the EP title Life Is Chemistry? Any special meaning behind this?
Vana: All life develops from and consists of (bio)chemical processes. Chemistry constitutes the basis for life. From the first moment and in every second of our life complex bio-chemical reactions go on in our body. We believe in chemistry between people, between things, between substances, we believe in life... in general. It is also a part of our song "A Passage In Time" lyrics! That's for, our EP art cover also "reacts" with human temperature whilst touching it and reveals some life secrets... Hope you will enjoy it!
T.R.: Yes, that's one of the things that got my interest, the album artwork, it's very original...
Vana: As I told you it "reacts" somehow with human temperature! Whilst holding it reveals nature's symmetry and more. We wanted to create something special! We are thankful that a well known greek artist Ico Creative Bureau created such a beautiful piece of art. He is awarded artist and it was honor for us to cooperate with him. Soon we will have really good news about our CD artwork, but unfortunately I can not reveal something yet.
T.R.: You already mentioned lyrics... Who writes them?
Vana: I wrote lyrics of the EP, except that Stefanos wrote lyrics of the song "A Passage In Time".
T.R.: The lyrics of yours offer a lot to think about, where do you get the inspiration?
Vana: Yeap! that is the point when I am writing down lyrics! Want to make my listeners wonder and think about their lives,... their way of living, social problems, love, sex, human nature etc. You need simple things of everyday's life to get inspired of, such as a smile of a stranger while walking in the street a cold winter morning for example, would probably make me create a small story! Our listeners must take that trip with us by being a part of the song, like actors! I think that life immitates art sometimes. Is probably a human need, a way to release and relief.
T.R.: And who's Simon from "0-Type"?
Vana: I borrowed this phrase from Simon Says child's game where one player takes the role of "Simon" and issues instructions to the others. Players are eliminated from the game in case they do not follow the instructor's order! I think that this is something everybody live in our everyday's life! Look at the governments, financial crisis problem... took the part of "Simon" and we have the obligation to follow by having the fear of elimination. We do not do anything to change the world!
T.R.: Interesting and inteligent, must admit! Life Is Chemistry is released by AF-music. How did you got in touch with them?
Vana: We belong to "lucky" bands somehow. When we finished recordings, we hadn't sent any demo yet to other labels and we received an inbox by AF-music that they are interested in our music. We were surprised of the way they learned about our band's existance as Polaroid Kiss band, in a very discreet way, brought AF-music in contact with us through Facebook. Also the person in charge by AF-music told me that they knew already our band and had listened to some our songs through Soundcloud! We are thankful to all of them and we feel lucky as I told above!
T.R.: Do you intend to work with them also in the future?
Vana: We have an open contract and we enjoy the freedom and comfort of independent label provides their artists with. Till now we have a good cooperation and both of parts are focused on promotion of our debut "newborn" EP. We are not able to know what future can bring, but for now it is sure that we are satisfy and we trust our label!
T.R.: Which is your favourite song from Life Is Chemistry EP?
Vana: Hm... difficult question... they are our children, I like "Goldfish Memory" a lot as I can say that it is somehow... my soul stripping.
T.R.: In the promo sheet for your EP it's written that your music unites several musical genres as indie rock, trip hop, dark wave and post rock. But I want to ask you how do you describe the music of yours?
Vana: We do not want to stamp or put labels in music. We are five different persons (we have new member as well) with a lot of influences! We just tried to combine different parts of a music puzzle... and that's what Skinner Box band style is!
T.R.: Can you share some more words about the new member Nicolas?
Vana: We were looking for a second guitarist for three months! We met Nicolas Zourbakis by accident a month ago and we made a jam with him, from then he is part of our Skinner Box family and our friend of course! We have a good chemistry with him and also he is a really good musician and he has good ideas. we are happy for it!
T.R.: Good for you! Your voice adds a lot of atmosphere and warmth to the music of Skinner Box! I'm interested who are vocalists that have given you the biggest influence?
Vana: I admire a lot Tori Amos, Bjork, Florence, Siouxsie, Beth Gibbons as well! Beautiful voices!
T.R.: On the other hand I believe that guitarist Spyros Mitrokotsas must be inspired by The Cure, as there are so many guitar parts that remind of that legendary band...
Vana: As I mentioned above we have a lot of influences, so, probably some of them are obvious on the EP. The Cure is with no doubt one of our favorite bands, but to be honest Spyros while playing has not something exact in his mind and hasn't tried to immitate any exact style. He is a very creative guitarist and has given a lot to our band!
T.R.: Ok, before you mentioned that soon will be some news about debut CD of yours! Will you continue with the same formula?
Vana: Our debut EP was released on 1st of March and we listen positive comments from audience and "music people"... it is not a long time to see of course if we have succeed our target or not! We do not have any special formula whilst writing music. We are already working on new stuff and we think that album will be a bit different than our EP. We are trying to make progress and we do not want to repeat any mistake that we probably did in our first work.
T.R.: What can you tell me about the work with producer Alex Bolpasis? I think that the final product is amazing!
Vana: Alex is a really talented and experienced producer! He'd worked with well known Greek bands and make us the honor to work with us as well! He understood exactly what we really wanted to do and the most important is that he believed in our project even if we had not a lot of previous experience! We had really fun in the studio, he made us feel confortable and in parallel to work as soldiers, as sometimes we had to recording really many hours, also during the night! He is a really good friend of ours!
T.R.: I forgot to ask you what's the real meaning of bands name Skinner Box and how did you came up with it?
Vana: Before we went to studio we had to named our project. So, we had a brainstorming discussion and we came across with a lot of names. We decided "skinner box" it was simple and has a lot of meanings for us! "The Skinner Box" was also used as a box with a lever and a food tray accommodated for rats. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner saw evidence for what he called the principle of reinforcement which states that the consequences of a behavior determine whether it will be more or less likely to occur again. This idea became the foundation for Skinner's new approach to behaviorism. It is the box of experiments... music is a good experiment for us...
T.R.: You made two amazing video clips (both were videos of the week on Terra Relicta). What can you tell me about this experience and how were you satisfied with them?
Vana: We are happy you like them! They are not our official videos all rights go to the respective owners and producers. Although, we searched a lot and worked on the clips for hours to make editing in order to have this result. We would like to make our own clip in the near future as we've already spoke with the appropriate directors. We have some ideas and hope we'll shoot it soon!
T.R.: What about the dancing choreography in video for "Passage In Time"?
Vana: As mentioned it is not our official video! All video rights are reserved by Rubberbandance Group and the vids we used are "Secret Service" & "Small Explosions that are yours to keep". They are so talented! Their choreography is so amazing and we got hooked on them!

T.R.: One more personal question... Beside music, what are your interests in life?
Vana: With no doubt music is my life, but I am also involved into shipping! Greece is a shipping country with huge history. I have studied economics at the university and I work also as a Crew Manager.
T.R.: Before we talked about videos and that in the near future you would like to shot an official one. Which song would you like to be your first official video clip?
Vana: Definetely "Goldfish Memory", we like it and we believe that probably would be interesting to make a whole story about this song, playing mind tricks and as said above, make our listeners playing a part on it by facing the devils of their inner self.
T.R.: And in which way do you intend to involve your listeners?
Vana: Spiritual of course!
T.R.: Any plans for live shows in the near future?
Vana: Yes of course! That is the point, to connect and spread our music by playing live acts! Due to our drummer's accident (he broke his arm), we were forced to postpone some shows in Greece. We are now waiting the good news by his doctors in order to be able to know the exact time that we will be off to the races again. We are discussing about some good proposals regarding live shows but we can not reveal anything yet.
T.R.: Thats bad news. Have you already had any proposals to play outside Greece?
Vana: Yes we have, but as I told you we can not arrange anything yet as we do not know exactly when we are going to be ready!
T.R.: What's the main goal that you would like to achive with Skinner Box?
Vana: We really want to continue making music! It is something vital for us! We want to share our music and be heard by people, and our music to acompany moments of their lives. We want to speak in souls, nothing more, nothing less!
T.R.: And what's your opinion about the current financial, social and politicical crisis in the most parts of the world? Greece is one of those countries that suffered a lot because of this...
Vana: With global financial crisis behind us, lets hope that things will be better for all of us. I hope that all of this will give us new confidence and courage for a fresh start… The first step is to turn off our TV and face reality as hard as it is! We have not realized yet our real strenght inside us! Anger for example is a good emotion and we have to use it somehow!
T.R.: Please be honest with this answer: What do you think about our website Terra Relicta?
Vana: I was really wondering how much "darkness" can take in a web site! Now I am sure... A LOT... I like it.
T.R.: Anything that you would like to add at the end of this interview?
Vana: I would like to thank you so much for this interview! I would like also to thank to all the "skinner box" people for their love and support! We are receiving a lot of it everyday! It is important to spread the word and help D.I.Y. ( do it yourself) bands like ours. Thanks a lot!

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