Originating from Athens and Chania, Playgrounded formed from the pure appreciation of progressive music and Dream Theater. A quick chat over a dirty university canteen table created something spectacular, just in time with the times. Since then, lineup changes, moving to Rotterdam and a debut album called “Athens” morphed the band into what we will experience at their upcoming performances of their new album “In Time With Gravity” on Greek ground, with the band this time being visitors, old friends, ex-locals.
Greetings. Would you care to establish the context of Playgrounded, in your own words, to the interested, yet uninitiated, listener?
Well… from the first listen anyone would tell that Playgrounded is a heavy rock band. What would also strike you pretty fast is the extended use of electronics. Our intention is to find this sweet mental spot where one contemplates his own thoughts or is triggered to explore our musical and lyrical universe. For this album we used electronic compositions as the starting point of our creations and built up to rock songs. We hope to keep the immersive power of repetition from the former and the raw, earthly effect of the latter. I am not certain whether a listener would perceive this but lot of our material is rich with personal and social anxiety.
One could say that “Athens” was a conceptual album, with both the music and the artwork having deeply socio-political underpinnings. Your relocation to Rotterdam clearly influenced the new album, but I feel that some references are subminimal and hidden deep within your music and the album artwork. Could you please elaborate on how your relocation and A.Camus work together to produce “In Time With Gravity”, from the lyrics to the title and the album cover?
In Time With Gravity is an album composed during the relocation. In it you can hear Athens, Rotterdam and the traveling in between. There are philosophically themed lyrics about the tides of history (Crossing) or the questions of existence within a society (The Stranger) but there are also lyrics about personal experiences. Still they all “gravitate” towards describing a more or less dark social reality. I.Christakopoulou tried to navigate between those concerns and came up with an artwork that sets the analog-meets-digital urban setting for our stories.
In a past interview about your – then – newly released album “Athens” -titled after your past hometown- when asked whether you would like to live and create music elsewhere, you answered that “If we lived elsewhere [i.e. not in Athens], we would not be the same band we are now. We would not have the same worries and concerns.” Time went by more quickly than any of us has realized, and you are found living in another country, creating music somewhere else. In retrospect, how do you feel about that claim. Have your primary, music driving, concerns changed?
This quote sounds ironically to the point. Leaving Athens did change us and we are most certainly not the “same” band as we were. Listening to “In Time With Gravity” would tell you that in an instant. The lasting Greek crisis, the hardships of living abroad, the cold and calculated north, possibly us ageing have made us a bit more introverted. What hasn’t changed though is our belief in trying to find beauty in working together, of shedding light to our darkest corners, of communicating our concerns through art.
How was the experience recoding “In time with gravity” with Christer André Cederberg in Kristiansand, Norway?
In retrospect: Christer helped us solidify what we already thought Playgrounded should be. He put all our strengths and weaknesses in the open and proposed and materialized ways of dealing with them. In those intense 3 weeks in Norway we closed a chapter and opened the next one. I should probably restate the obvious that he has an incredible ear for production. Also that he is incredibly fun and relaxed to work with!
How do you feel coming back to your past hometowns, but this times as guests, not locals?
It’s funny that I only saw this question after the Greek tour. I had been contemplating this exact strange feeling. To be honest though it didn’t last long. We found friends and family in every city that we visited and we met a lot of warm hearted people that made us feel at home! There is another side to this story though: at the shows people come in their free time, it’s their and our idea of having fun. It is a privilege to see them in those circumstances but it can also give you a false sense of reality.
Composing music reflecting experiences and inner thoughts cannot be easily rationalized in terms of processes and factors, influences and products. What would you suggest as references, be it movies, books, artists, images, anything, that can be used as entry points to the unities behind Playgrounded?
I will only give a short list as I would prefer to discuss this over a long drinking night out: The Stranger from A.Camus of course, the music of Karnivool, Tool, Deftones but also Massive Attack, Boards of Canada and early Trentemoller.
In your past album, “Athens”, you expressed hopes for a social and political change. What are your thoughts and hopes regarding the social and political scenery, 5 years after “Athens”?
It feels like the big wave of social unrest of that era passed us by, changing nothing. The ‘alternative’ politicians that came to power from both ends of the political spectrum kept on playing the same game, only with a more cynical twist. A good index of this is how everybody still treats the war in Syria and the millions of real people looking for a decent life anywhere in Europe: we play cowboys but the rest is somebody else’s problem. History teaches us that this cannot go on forever. I hope that on the next turn we can learn from the islanders and volunteers that aided the immigrants on the Aegean shores and not the beasts that tried to stone them back into the warzone.
Finally, what does the future hold for the band?
We are performing in Rotterdam on the 15th of December where we host the Dutch release party for “In Time With Gravity”. After that we are trying to plan a tour around the Netherlands and Europe.
Thank you for your time! Would you kindly educate us with any final words?
If I had any educational things to say they would not be final but probably in the form of questions… Some of those can be found in “In Time With Gravity”. However this feels like a good opportunity to thank you for the smart and in depth questions, this doesn’t happen quite often in the interviews we are used to.
Answered by Michael Kotsirakis (guitars)