Meet New Wave experimental band Minimal Schlager

Meet New Wave experimental band Minimal Schlager

During my time at the SXSW music festival, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the coolest musicians from all across the globe.

One of the most interesting bands came in the form of a New Wave electronic dance group called Minimal Schlager.

Brother and sister Francisco and Alicia have been making music as individuals for many years, but they decided to come together to form this project and create something magical during the pandemic. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with them about their time at SXSW 2022 and what it was like making music with your sibling. 

We’ve got to know — as siblings, do you ever fight? I know if I made music with my brother, we might fight all the time. Do you bicker or like working together? 

  • Alicia: Yes, let’s say we’re both very passionate people. And, while that’s good, that can lead to… hmmm 
  • Francisco: It’s really easy to be frank with each other. So, in that sense, there is, I think, a huge sense of trust. Like, when you’re angry or angry with somebody; it’s not from a personal point of view… with us, there is always a universal love. And, in that sense, we are very upfront with each other. We don’t always agree, but we have fun.
  • Alicia: Yeah, we have fun together.
  • Francisco: I think it makes it easier to spend a lot of time with somebody you know. So, when you are touring or spending a lot of time in the studio, it makes it easier to have her around, because these can be very testing times.

What instruments do you play? 

  • Alicia: I play piano and guitar, but for this project, I’m mostly just doing keys when in the studio, but for performing live, I’m focusing now just on singing, which is, it’s quite great. You know?  Just to do that sometimes and focus on your body language, and how you present the song. I think it’s pretty important, because before I started this project, I was behind the keyboard and I couldn’t move around that much, so now, I’m appreciating that sense of freedom.
Photo cred: Derek Jones

I read that you like to collect analog gear? 

  • Francisco: Yes, I do! I wish I could afford more! 

Why does it have to be so expensive? 

  • Francisco: I know, but it sounds so good! 

What is your favorite piece of gear that you own? 

  • Francisco: Hmmm, I guess my Moog Synth. I have used it in almost every song I have recorded. 

What shows will you be playing while here at SXSW? 

  • Francisco: Well, we have the Official Showcase tomorrow. We have the show at Cannon & Belle in a little while. We also had a second stage thing at the Hyatt. So, it was good to have these little warm-ups before the main show. 

How does it feel to be at SXSW? Was this like a dream festival for you? Or, was it like a random thing that came about?

  • Alicia: No, we both knew about the festival before this. We used to think ‘it would be nice to play that at some point’. The vibes in the streets are amazing! There is such great energy. So yeah, we’re very happy.

Are you working on new music right now?

  • Francisco: Yeah. We just finished recording 10 tracks for a new album. Now, we are in the process of resting our ears a bit because it was very, very intense. We are back to the studio in April to finish them off. Do some more mixing arrangements. Hopefully it will be out this summer! Fingers crossed! 

Do you co-write everything together? What is your writing process?

  • Alicia: Well, it really depends on the song — there are songs that are more personal to each of us. Normally, we collaborate heavily. But, in these COVID times, we’re having moments of more introspection or more direct messages. And, yes, we are able to spend more time together, because I’m based in London and he is based in Berlin.
  • Francisco: During the height of COVID, we had a tougher time writing together, but we used Zoom to work on songs. It’s gotten easier as things have started to get better with her going back and forth from London to Berlin.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

  • Francisco: We used to dance to some songs, but lately, the shows we’ve been doing, it’s like we have to set up everything super fast and then go right on. So, basically, you know, the ritual comes with like, grabbing a bottle of beer cheering, ‘Let’s do it!’ It’s better because you don’t have as much time to think and worry. For now, it’s just like, here we go! I like, for example, to be silent for 30 minutes, visualizing the show. 

If you could give yourself one piece of advice to your younger selves, what would that advice be? 

  • Francisco: Be patient.
  • Alicia: Practice more. I spent a lot of time practicing songs I don’t really listen to anymore, so if I could go back, I would have worked on more complex songs.

Are there any bands at South by Southwest that you guys want to see or go to? 

  • Francisco: Yeah, our label friend, Laura Lee and the Jettes are also from Berlin. She’s really awesome! She’s pretty good; it’s like a grunge sound. 
  • Alicia: I would like to see two bands; one is called Big Joanie, a black feminist punk band. They are super good! Also a band called Mata Grande. They have an Italian singer-songwriter, but she’s also a jazz singer and works in a jazz choir experimental thing. 

What does your name mean? 

  • Francisco: So, I was with a bunch of friends one night and we’re discussing German music. The guys are familiar with a schlager… a schlager is literally a ‘bat’ in German. Schlag, you know, means to hit like a hammer. It’s also a type of music that was popular during the 60s and 70s. It’s basically considered white people’s music. It’s used to make fun of the missionaries or foreigners living in Berlin… similar to how people felt about disco at the end in the U.S.
  • However, even though the music is kind of simple, it’s very difficult to make a good Schlager song, but if you do it right, you are set for life. So, my friends were making fun and telling me to listen to techno and I thought that it is like a ‘Minimalistic Schlager” and that’s how the name was created.
  • When I first moved to Berlin, because of my skin color, I found myself in some unpleasant situations. I was just learning how to speak German at the time, so things weren’t always easy. When I started making music, I often heard ‘you are not part of German culture’, so when I started this project, I wanted it to be a statement, you know? There are a lot of people that aren’t originally from Germany living there, making music. I wanted to say that we are still part of what is coming out of that city, the culture that is really boiling right now. They are starting to see that it is not a joke anymore. 

Minimal Schlager – “Before”

Minimal Schlager links: Instagram | Bandcamp

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