Gemini Rising is a stellar new synth-pop project built on a generous foundation of influences. The band are no strangers to the music world: on vocals is singer/songwriter Fiora, whose celestial voice transports the audience; American producer and Grammy-award winner Lester Mendez, and inventive DJ/producer Marco Niemersk, also known as Tensnake. Moreover, the group are three friends who met in L.A. and they share a love of 80’s music and dusty synths. Though a young band, they’ve already set a high bar with a clutch collection of gorgeous synth-pop standouts, from their debut track “Best Case Life” to the latest, “After The Rain.” The project’s nocturnal, moonlit vibe— which is somehow carried with an essential 80’s energy— has been all over the airwaves here at KCRW, and we had the pleasure of getting to know Gemini Rising as they crest into the limelight.
GEMINI RISING Q&A
You all come from very active musical backgrounds. How did Gemini Rising come to be? What inspired you to make music together?
Fiora: Lester and I met at the end of 2015 at a time where at least for me personally, I needed to get back to having more fun making music. We were supposed to be writing for someone else but we both said “lets just make something we like.” So we did that and it just felt very easy, there was a real flow about it.
I’ve been in a lot of studios where the walls are lined with dusty synths that never seem to get touched. But with Lester, every synth was hooked up and ON and then the way he used them – it was like they were all an extension of his brain or something.
It was pretty obvious this was someone brilliant. Not only in terms of the creation of sound, but also completely adept in the nuances of harmony. We just seemed to really speak the same language down to the tiny details. We were in this room full of 80’s analogue synths so I said… “lets make 80’s music.” And that’s where it started.
I would count Tensnake as one of the most extraordinary producers I know. He has such a unique bespoke sound, such clarity of vision and he’s exceptionally creative with the way he produces, especially with lush synths and harmonic/melodic pop. Of course we were hugely inspired by 80’s music but you never just want to recreate, you want to breathe new life into whatever you’re doing. Right from the start he saw this whole thing so clearly and it was just a perfect fit somehow. So between the three of us we started developing the voice of the band.
Marco: I wanted to do a band project for a long time, but was busy travelling the world as Tensnake. When I met Lester there was an instant connection and it felt immediately right. The vibe in the studio felt very natural and I saw that as a chance to work on something together, outside of the world of club music. When I heard the first demos I was amazed by the simplicity, but also quality at the same time. I got hooked immediately and that’s how we came together.
Describe the creative process in putting together the first EP?
Lester: Fiora and I started writing and at some point Marco also came into that constellation and we all wrote together. Fiora or I would work on instrumental ideas (or all three of us would work on them). Then Fiora would take them away and write the vocals. Once we had the songs, Marco would refine and add his magic production touches.
Fiora: I mean – that’s the nuts and bolts of it – inspired gratitude and respect for each other was (and is) throughout the entire creative process; everyone contributes in their own indispensable way, and at least for me, I’m buoyed by how inspired I am by the other’s energy.
You’ve described your band’s sound as 80s synth pop–what about this era of music is intriguing and inspiring to you?
Fiora: I’m someone who likes my music emotional and textural, but I also love melody. When we started writing I had this feeling that in a lot of music I was hearing, it was like – emotion had gone out of style, everything felt held back and restrained. Trying to write in that way for me was like constantly holding your breath. In contrast, in the 80’s we were allowed to be vulnerable and open – musically there’s also this simplicity and space. It’s not about production tricks and percussive pyrotechnics but quality songwriting and the beauty of sound and I found real relief in that. When we started writing I just thought, I don’t give a fuck what people think of this because this is making me so happy. About 9 months later Stranger Things came out and suddenly the 80’s was everywhere.
Marco: I grew up in the 80s and I think that time has brought up the best pop music until today. I think all 3 of us really like emotional music and melodies that 80s music clearly delivers. And also I love the fact that the 80’s sound was more about great songwriting than effects. Of course it was also the time of massive reverbs and flangers… but it was used in a way to support the song, not trying too hard to be in the middle of attention.
If I remember correctly, Fiora mentioned that “Best Case Life” is sort of an homage to Los Angeles. Tell us a little about your latest single, “After the Rain.” Is the new track inspired by a specific place or narrative?
Fiora: I don’t really like to tell people too much about what songs mean to me, I don’t wanna overwrite what those songs can come to mean to other people. When I’m writing them, it’s more like…they are writing me. I just try not to overthink and somewhere between the emotion of the track and the rhythms and some unknown things I can’t explain, the main melodies and lyrics come out kinda, fully formed. And what they mean to me one day, can be totally different 3 months later. I will say though, “After the Rain” was written the day after the American election.
Your music often walks the line of cinematic scoring/composition. Can you tell me more about this style?
Fiora: I guess there is music that plays along to your world, your reality; and then there is music that pulls you into another one. We are all huge fans of the latter. I think for all of us, making worlds out of music and music out of worlds is always what we’re aiming for. The chance to transcend the everyday in some way.
I caught an early live performance, at Bardot in Hollywood. Great show! What was that experience like?
Fiora: That was the first time we properly played the songs out live so it was a really special experience. Until then the genesis of the project had really been in private and we had only launched the first EP a week before. So it was amazing to experience people’s reactions in real time and to meet people at that early stage who were loving the music. Even though he wasn’t on stage I think Marco was more nervous than any of us lol.
Describe the band’s dynamic, both on stage and in the studio.
Fiora: There’s a lot of love in the room. I mean, I am absolutely in awe of the other two creatively and musically, so I basically spend the whole time somewhere between disbelief about whatever they have just come up with and feeling very lucky. And then we eat donuts (seriously at the start we were obsessed with these gluten free donuts from a store named ICDC but then they closed. It was so sad but it probably added years to our lives). Marco can get a bit bossy when I’m doing vocal takes and he’s around so I tend to do those in the privacy of my own studio hahaha.
Marco: ehm… I got nothing to add here 🙂
What’s next for Gemini Rising?
We’re rehearsing for this amazing event, you may have heard of it – the *KCRW Masquerade* ball 😉
And of course… we’re working on album and some more gigs happening early next year in the SoCal area.
If you had to put together a quick thematic playlist to celebrate your EP, what would be on it?
Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”
The Pointer Sisters – “Automatic”
The Psychedelic Furs – “Love My Way”
Pet Shop Boy – “West End Girls”
Prefab Sprout – “Wild Horses”
*Tickets are still available to see them @ KCRW’s Masquerade, this Saturday