With the release of their debut album, don’t ask if i’m okay, Lisbon based Calmness continues to rise from the smoke and deliver.
Continuing to surprise listeners across the world with their sad-bedroom pop approach to their sounds, we caught up with Calmness as part of our Off the Bat series to talk about their first-ever album, dream to work with Phoebe Bridgers, misconception about the industry and what is next.
Congratulations on the release of your debut album, don’t ask if I'm okay, what have the past few weeks been like for you and to those who may be unfamiliar with Calmness, how would you describe your sound and journey so far?
Thank you so much! These past few weeks have been amazing. The last time I released something as big as this was my first ever EP - Lavender - four years ago. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. All my old listeners keep telling me how much they enjoy my new sound. My music changed a lot, but everyone seems to agree that it still has the essence that made ‘calmness’ what calmness is in the first place, and hopefully, I just bought something new to that same essence.
For those unfamiliar with me, I'm a non-binary artist from Lisbon and currently, I’m exploring Indie Folk on this new record. I’ve been making music since 2016, releasing my first EP in 2017 that got me #1 on iTunes in Portugal (I still don’t know how that happened). That got me the opportunity to tour around the country, play for Sofar Sounds 3 or 4 times, tour Italy, and open for one of the bands that inspired me to make music - Turnover.
Delving into the coming-of-age world of relatable romantic yearnings and fully produced in your bedroom. Could you tell us a bit more about the influences of the album, and how did the creative process come together?
My biggest influences are my friends. It’s so inspiring to share behind the scenes moments with each other, it just pushes you to do better, and it’s this circular motion of mutual help and inspiration. If it wasn’t for antematterz, this record wouldn’t be the same for sure. Outside of my little friend bubble, I love Phoebe Bridgers, Hovvdy and Lomelda.
There’s no right answer for my creative process, to be completely honest. Some songs truly came out of me venting with my guitar and hitting the record button- and then turning it into a fully produced song - while others were forced. And what I mean with forced is, I really had to sit down and say, “I want to write a song that makes me feel the same way this other song feels”. I recently learned that we can’t wait for motivation to do something; we need to have discipline. So that’s what I tried to do with this record. I couldn't just sit and wait for an idea to come to my mind - I had to make the idea come. Sometimes I would sit with my instruments in front of my computer for seven hours with nothing good coming out of it, but in that last hour… that’s when something good would come up. And that would never happen if it wasn’t for discipline. Those six hours going through trial and error led me exactly to that specific moment. That is why discipline is important.
What have you learned about yourself since the start of 2021?
I learned that I need creative people around me more than I thought I did. Mutual creative stimulation really is amazing. I was always stubborn in the sense that I wanted to do everything by myself, but now I know that collaboration, exchanging ideas, and sharing is truly, what’s beautiful in life. Be it in music or just in general.
If you could write a song with any music icon, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Phoebe Bridgers. I think we would take what a depressing song really is and make it even more depressing, and truly, be raw with our emotions. I think therapists would hate us if (when. I’m manifesting) we worked together.
What's the biggest misconception about being a musician, and one thing you want to change about the music industry?
A lot of people think that you need to be born talented to make music, and that couldn't be further from the truth. I couldn't hold a note for the life of me when I was younger, really. It was this intense desire to learn to sing and play instruments that made me good at it. Everything related to music I learned all by myself with loads of persistence and trial and error. I can only imagine how I would have turned out if I had actual lessons, so if you're too scared to learn things by yourself, sign up for singing/guitar lessons or whatever you want to do. You don't have to be even remotely good at music to start learning it - you have to just love music.
One thing I want to change about the music industry is to bring underground artists more into the spotlight. I want to create a space where I have a platform to do so. These beautiful, magical songs are being created that don’t fit in the current music industry game, and they’re still very valid art forms full of heart. Just because it doesn’t appeal to the masses, does that mean we don’t get to earn a living from it? I feel like there’s so much good music out there that no one is giving a chance, and I want to support those artists and somehow make a change. I’m still trying to find ways to do this, but I'm building my career first so I can have some influence to make that change. I also want to bring my very, very talented friends along with me wherever I go. I made this promise to some of my musical peers. That wherever my music takes me, they’re coming along with me. It’s not a coincidence that Flunkie has appeared on every single release that I've had since 2017.
Three things that inspire you outside of music.
If you were able to time travel back in time, where would you go and why?
I don’t think I would, really. Whilst it seems like I reminisce a lot about the past because of the subjects in my songs. I'm a person that’s always forward to the future. Whatever I might find curious about the past is what led to the present, so experiencing said event in person wouldn’t make any difference, in my opinion, if anything, it would make it less magical for the present. So yeah, I really wouldn’t travel back in time; even if I’m curious to see some things, I think it’s always best to leave the past in the past since it might ruin the ideas, I have of said things in my head! Would it be cool to see Fleetwood Mac live during their prime? Sure! But I wouldn’t have this weird and what feels like an unreachable adoration for them that I have if I did travel back in time to see them live. Or maybe I'm totally wrong, and it would, in fact, be cool. Who knows!
On the other hand, what would you be doing if it wasn't music?
If I wasn’t making music, I’d, be studying to be a game designer. I always loved to create worlds and stories in my head, and game design would be just another outlet to put that out there. I ended up picking music, and I would love to have my songs on a game or even score one.
What is your biggest pinch-me moment so far?
It’s weird to talk about this because we’re friends now, but definitely collaborating with Fox Academy was a big pinch-me moment. I was a big fan of those guys all the way back in 2016 (still am!). A friendship that randomly grew out of silly tweets and mutual friends led to me being on their song “duffle” also with my friend Jordana, and now having them co-write and co-produce with me the song “clairvoyant” from my album. Michael and Christian are the best.
And finally, what is next for Calmness?
I already have the name and concept for my next album all planned out, but I'm focusing on new and exciting side projects I've started working on while finishing this record. Really exciting stuff is on the way, and I'm not alone this time. I'm keeping everything under wraps but be sure to follow me on social media to stay updated on everything!