In 1998, when Korean-born Valerie Trebeljahr finally made the much-pondered decision to let her boyfriend Markus Acher – of the Weilheim-Munich scene defining bands The Notwist and Tied & Tickled Trio – take part in her new music project, Lali Puna was born.
After a six-year gap, which included Trebeljahr’s pregnancy and numerous side projects, their fourth album Our Inventions (Morr Music) has landed in our laps and laptops. It remains faithful to Lali Puna’s krautrock/soft-rock principles, but will the fans still “Remember”? We’ll find out at Lido on May 14, where she and Acher share the bill with Mexican Elvis.
Our Inventions? What have you invented for the new album?
It’s not about what we’ve invented, but what mankind invents. The title raises the question of whether it’s good – this concept of progress and our belief in it. But you did reinvent the band for the record. I think that if you make a new record you always try to reinvent a part of yourself. Lali Puna has become more of a band with every single record. This time, we worked more in the studio together because we really wanted to sound different from [2004’s] Faking The Books.
The lyrics are always a big part. But they’re different from the ones on Faking The Books. On that album, there was a bigger connection to politics – it was the time after September 11, and politics led to a lot of decisions that I felt we really had to react directly to. Now we are not so direct anymore: we’ll raise questions rather than say, “Hey, that’s wrong…and that’s wrong…”
Lali Puna is no longer political?
It’s difficult to say whether or not we were a political band before, but, for me, it was very important to have some critique of society in my work. And that’s still part of Lali Puna, even if now it’s more a question than a shout.
You’re on 2000’s Putting the Morr back into Morrissey, which was compiled in 2000 by the Berlin based label Morr Music and is considered an indietronic milestone.
I think that compilation was a sort of peak for the indietronic music scene: it was THE compilation of that time. It was good to be part of it, but now I’m not totally glad I still have that indietronic label. It’s sort of the past for me right now and I’d like to leave it behind. We’re electropop. To me, indietronic is a concept that’s not interesting anymore because it refers to a time where people just stood on stage singing behind a computer. Our live set is different – special. We try to make you really move to the music, like a real band. I’d love to be like The Notwist, where Martin Gretschmannhas (a.k.a. Console) substituted the computer for a Wii controller, but it’s too expensive!
But does Lali Puna belong to any school or musical scene?
If you do electronic music, you always have to consider your relationship to Kraftwerk, of course. And we certainly have a connection with other Weilheim bands. But I don’t really know. When we started, I wanted to go more in a dance direction, but it didn’t work out because we are not at the disco every weekend. It was totally a stupid idea! I’d have loved to do it, but we just decided to do it electronically – even if, at the beginning, we thought that maybe it was totally wrong time to do an electronic pop album. And now I see other bands getting more electronic again.
Markus plays in so many bands. What does he add to Lali Puna?
I think he’s a good producer: that’s why he can play in so many bands, because he can really think in different directions. I don’t have this ability to switch: I can only do Lali Puna! I think that, for him, it’s very fun to compose for Lali Puna and he has a very clear view of how it should sound. For example, “Remember” is mainly his song: he wanted to make it with The Notwist, but he realized that it sounded more like Lali Puna, and I liked the idea.
Did you ever feel like starting your solo career during those six long years?
Yes, I thought about starting a real new solo project, but then I had to recognize that it was a stupid idea. If I think about sound, it would always sound like Lali Puna. Now, I’m totally happy with Our Inventions. I think it’s the record I’m most happy and satisfied with.
Did you need to make up for that long silent period?
No. Everybody thinks that artists sort of die if they can’t work. But I think I could live perfectly well without doing music. When I do it, I’m really happy, though!
Published on Exberliner Magazine. Issue May 2010