-First of all, how are you doing? What are you up to after the release of your debut album?
I’m great. We’ve been preparing for some live performances, we’ve done a few shows… There’re a lot of plans for festivals, touring and shows coming up, and we’re looking to put that into high gear and just be incredibly busy with that. We’ve also, you know, been creating new music, as well. We’ve been doing a lot of interviews, pretty much immersed in SONJA activities all the time.
-Actually, until the release of this first album it seemed like you were kind of lying in the shadows. You only played very few shows, there wasn’t any official release, and I think the process behind creating this album was quite long, right?
That’s very true. It being stylistically something a little bit different for us too, we didn’t want to go through a lot of those growing pains in the Heavy Metal public eye. We wanted to come out strong, so anytime we did play before it was sort of just us testing out a song on stage, not us really thinking “We have something great to deliver to an audience”. And it is a standard that we want to deliver it all at its high, you know. We wanted to be good, so we spent our time making sure we were creating something fully realized when we had some output to make for it.
-And do you think the audience has responded to that effort? I mean, has it been good when you’ve gone out and played live finally?
Oh, absolutely, yeah! Before this interview we’ve only played two times since the album came out, but the response has been very good, really good. Basically, it’s the start of a whole new phase for us, to be now in this live mentality. A band that has really been a writing and creating project now has to be a manifestation, doing it on stage.
-Makes sense. Do you think the songs somehow come to life in a different way when you play them live, compared to the recording versions? How do you feel like when you play these songs in the studio and when you play them for a crowd?
There is a difference for sure. We’re a three piece when we play live, so it’s gonna have a bit more of a raw, stripped down energy. So it’s certainly rawer and some of the unpolished edges are gonna come across as more aggressive, I think. And the songs themselves are pretty true, too. We’re doing them very true to how they’ve been composed, although, you know it’s a three-piece band, but in the studio there’s times where I’ve done two tracks on guitar, or maybe a vocal harmony, so sometimes you’re gonna get one, not the two, or if we’re able to create a feeling of both, we’ll do that somehow, so… The live presentation is its own thing compared to the recording.
-Actually this has been your first time singing I think.
-How did you feel? Or how do you still feel, especially live?
That’s a big thing. And after the album, for the shows… Playing guitar is easy. Singing is a whole new thing. It creates a different energy. Many of the shows that I’ve played have been like a learning experience. So that’s where a lot of the energy is put; in the preparations. It’s fresh to me. And many times I’ve done vocals in other bands -like back-up vocals or something- it’s usually been like extreme back-up vocals, which I can do well. So with this it’s like… You know, the guitar playing and the vocals, they have to be so locked in that it’s like one thing, not two separate things. It’s really one act the performance of it.
-Are you enjoying it? Because it’s new; is it like a challenge or…?
I am in a certain way. But also I’m just committed to make it as powerful as possible. It’s an intense process and it’s getting more intense. But I like that.
-You said it feels fresh. Would you say this project, SONJA, feels fresh? The concept, the idea… As a whole.
Absolutely. I mean, very intentionally we tried to stay away from everything that exists already in the way that we present it, and in the way that we write it. But not being too artistic or not too… I’d use the word avant-garde, or something like that. We wanted it to be something that it’d be like the Pop angle in your head but also very true Heavy Metal in a certain way. So, we got there. We won’t shift mentally, because we kind of know who we are, but the uniqueness of it is very intentional to us. Instead of deciding to have a Metal band, a Rock band or a Goth band, like any of these other acts, we were trying to create something very pure, that instilled energy, but also intense.
-I think it shows, that plot of different things. It works.
-And actually, I think that the common thread between everything about the band it’s that everything seems to blossom from some sort of darkness. Not just the sound, but the lyrics and the whole aesthetic. The whole imagery somehow. Where does this sort of darkness come from?
Well, being immersed in music, dark music for sure, and life experiences that… A lot revolves around life experiences because you know, you have to write what you know about in some way. But also… Lyrically or anything there’s no intention to be shockingly dark or evil. It’s not real. We hold this and present it and show it in a way that it’s authentic. So yes, darkness is absolutely a theme we want to maintain. I just like dark music. We all do.
-Yeah, that’s why we’re here (laughs)
-And also, I read that the lyrics on the album are all of them personal in some way. How do they connect with you? Are they based on personal experiences or feelings…? What are some of the ideas or things that inspired them?
It’s a bit of a variety. The song “Pink Fog”, for example, is literally a dream that I had when I was a teenager. I just remember writing down the narrative of the dream. And I’d been trying to write a song with those lyrics my entire life. And finally putting them on a song is exciting for me. There are other songs where I woke up in the middle of the night paranoid and in a cold sweat and the lyrics came to me, or I’m just recalling experiences I had and turning them into lyrics. So it’s from my experiences, yes, but also some of it is just dreams or you know, something that has come to me in my mind. And it’s been over a course of a long time that they were written. It’s impossible to say how the future material will be like, but I think as experiences evolve the lyrics would sort of evolve along with them too.
-Yeah… I think they always do, kind of, right? One thing leads to the other and you have a new dream and…
Yeah, yeah (laughs).
-It’s an endless well of inspiration I guess.
Yes. So many bands write about a lot of different things but I need to write about what I know about. Something I feel confident speaking over and singing of, that is true and authentic.
-You have already made a video for this album, for the song “Nylon Nights”, and I remember reading an interview with you where you said about this video (I wrote it down) that it has like a “femme queer as fuck Heavy Metal vibe”.
-How do you think that shows or how did you collaborate with the director to introduce this?
It was initially because of me speaking with the director, who’s great, he’s done amazing work. And he’s a CIS guy, so it’s like, “OK, how do we get to mix your greatness with a concept that I have”. And it’s like I can’t really consult with anyone else about it, it has to come from me. There’s nobody that is qualified for me to kind of bounce ideas off it. I felt very wary to represent things the right way, because I didn’t want to… I don’t know. I just wanted to represent something purely.
The video is based on the lyrics that I wrote for “Nylon Nights”, which is you know, so we’re just doing a video based off this song and artistic experiences. So, that was like sort of the band hanging out. We were like “let’s just show the energy that we like to be around and the world around it” sort of thing. In our very own way, which may not be something that’s been specifically seen quite that way before. We’re influenced by older, you know; 70’s, 80’s, 90’s types of artists and what they did, but we wanted to pretty much make it for right now and our -particularly my- life experiences essentially. So, it definitely was extremely stressful, not because of the production, but just because we really wanted to get the concept correct without giving something wrong about it. We didn’t want shock value or anything like that, just something authentic and real. That kind of thing. I think there’s stuff that’s just the vibe and the art of it, we’re not saying “this is what’s happening here”. So we’re just happy we’re doing this sort of thing.
-Yes, makes sense. Cool. Yeah, we definitely think Heavy Metal needs more “femme queer as fuck” general vibes. We support that. And in fact, connected with that, I wanted to ask: was there ever an eye-opening moment for you, in the sense that at some point you realized that Metal was not as welcoming or as free as it preaches? I don’t know, for me for example, as a teenage girl, you suddenly see a very sexist album cover or something, and it doesn’t feel right. And you get this feeling that this thing you love is not actually meant for you or kind of excludes you and it’s confusing and also disappointing. Did you ever have this kind of eye opening moment?
I was lucky that when I was younger I think that the friends that I was around were people that didn’t have that sort of negative mentality, or negative mentality towards femininity or anything like that. But as time went on and then you’re sort of around other people and being on tour around the world, around all these other people, other bands… And you know, people have certain attitudes, and I always kind of felt like… But we’re all kind of still just like the one to say “fuck you” to the rules of society. That kind of thing. We’re like the rebels or whatever. I don’t like using that word, because I don’t like making it dramatic, but quite literally we’re just not following rules put out there for us. So I assume that we’re all kind of on the same page even though there’s a lot of… You know, the way that women or LGTBIQ are treated in general, and in Metal it may not be ideal, but I just assumed it wasn’t really gender-based. However, as a trans person I did experience bad outcomes from that, from certain reactions, but overall… I don’t know. I think… It’s there, for sure. And I think it’s just like who’s in charge kind of thing. I think it’s hard to say, like I’ve come back into it in a different way and it’s all been pretty cool. So, I don’t know, I’m surprised when that is the case even though it has been the case forever; when there’s that negativity, negative masculine energy, even though positive masculine energy is great. I’m always surprised when it actually shows up. It’s very surprising to me always, because it seems so illogical. It doesn’t make any sense…
-I think it also has to do with social network and the Internet, because sometimes things happen online but then they don’t translate into real spaces or the other way around. I don’t know. Do you feel that the Internet or social media have an impact in how all this is viewed?
Yeah, I think so in some ways. I don’t spend a lot of time on the Internet and I never did. I always thought people that were spending a lot of time on the Internet were not very social in real life. That’s changed, obviously, but people kind of get on these things because of the Internet. I’ve always been out there playing music or around other people making music. But I’ve also been in a lot of situations where there’s plenty of misogyny off the Internet as well, so I don’t think it’s just from there. But it’s kind of a looser if somebody’s really into that. You just kind of get yourself looser if that’s your mentality, if it’s shitty like that. I think it’s pretty obvious. Most people think that.
-Well, still on this topic, I think it was a couple of years ago when you came out as a trans woman and got kicked out of ABSU. And I mean, I think it’s an important topic and thing to bring up because it’s another example of how transphobia can manifest, with the people that you trusted deciding to get rid of you instead of getting rid of a part of their fans that they should better not have. How did you experience that? Disappointment? Rage? And how do you translate that into your music career and creativity?
Yeah. Disappointment. For sure. Very upset. I mean, they were my friends, so it was not good. I very much wanted that to not have any effect on my music. I didn’t want to have music end. And Sonja has nothing to do with that old band. But even that particular deal necessarily … Sure, me as a person is always going to be affected by that, but I’m not specifically writing… That was bad. I think it’s more a mentality of them not wanting to deal with it kind of thing, not that they were sitting there like “oh we hate trans people or women” so much. Maybe there’s a little bit of that I’m sure now probably. But I don’t think that was the mentality, it was just not having a friend’s back kind of thing, which is interesting. For me, I would have preferred to have gone under the radar and just continue playing music without making anything out of it. Now I gotta make something out of it because that’s my story now.
-Hopefully it will be for the best and you continue doing great music…
Yeah, absolutely. But still… There’s never not going to be scars because of that part.
-Absolutely. Speaking of creativity, you also have another project that we both love. CROSSSPITTER. We want to talk about CROSSSPITTER before we wrap up the interview. You released something like two years ago already I think. Are you working on something new? Or any news in that sense?
Yeah, I have one more song to write and then we’ll be doing a full length. We toured some parts of the US, we played some festivals and we plan more. We’re gonna be full on with that band too. Be ready for something new with that for sure.
-And how do you work on two so different concepts; sometimes doing something more personal and then CROSSSPITTER, where you even have some sort of an alter ego, and which is just a very straight forward thing. Do you counterbalance or something like that in a way?
They’re so different that it’s easy like you know, CROSSSPITTER is so easy. I don’t think many people can like… Well, that’s not even the right way to say it. Creating extreme sounds is my second nature. I don’t even need to put thought into it. It’s just how it happens. With SONJA we’re creating something that doesn’t already exist in our kind of world. In our own world. And CROSSSPITTER it’s pretty obvious what it is.
-This was what we had. Thank you for answering and if you might feel like adding something else or something we maybe forgot to say or whatever, like some final words, feel free.
Just keep rocking. Thank you so much for the interview. Hope to see you all on tour.