Interviews

We caught up with the duo behind the magical mountain music of Senivoda

Following the release of their LP Dream & Water, we sat down with Ola and Raphael – the master minds behind the collective Senivoda.

Musical connoisseurs and global gypsies, Ola and Raphael of Senivoda spoke with Happy about crowdfunding their album, Radiohead and how to make the best dahl.

HAPPY: Hey Ola and Raphael! How are you both?

OLA: Hello Cassia! I am very good. Currently spending time in the most beautiful Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, enjoying the power of the lava covering the magical Kīlauea. I am traveling in a mobile home/studio van that I recently converted with my travel partner. We attempt to be as self sufficient as possible, leaving no trace and creating minimal waste as we move through the land. I am soaking up the nature here, being inspired by the elements and their extremes. Yesterday alone I was caught in strong winds and constant rain while tracking through the lava flow early in the morning, by the afternoon, the Sun was burning and I found myself covering from the intense rays of the Sun. The weather is very extreme here and the lack of thick vegetation in many places allows the elements to rage at their fullest power. It’s amazing to be faced with such high energy of the Earth. The Volcano experience is a manifestation of Earth sharing the very inside of her being, opening up the crust and pouring out the freshest substance to both kill the life on the surface, clear it’s Karma and let it be reborn in a new form, like a Phoenix raising from the ashes.

RAPHAEL: As for me, I am so well and rejuvenated after meandering down a beautiful river flaked with cliffs and forest for five days. Sleeping on its banks, listening to the black cockatoos living their noisy lives overhead and finding that the people I was with all slowly dropped into a new rhythm that was in harmony with the land around us. After a week we all operated on a different setting. Now back in my home in Melbourne I’m trying to nurture that space which I always find in the bush and make my little green nook in the city (which right now is full of summer veggies) resonate in a similarly peaceful way. That having been said I’m also playing drums for a funk band so there is much integrating to be done between the quiet and noisy aspects of my world!

HAPPY: We’re loving the sounds of Senivoda, congratulations! How did a conglomerate sound like this one come about?

OLA: Senivoda was born in 2013 in Melbourne and has been active in Australia and beyond since then. The project has been through many transformations and has welcomed the creativity of many incredible musicians. Throughout this time the core of the band, our (Ola and Raphael) collaboration has remained strong, grounding the project in its music and lyric intention.

For years we were working from Melbourne, spreading our vibes across Australia, sharing the music at local and country-wide events, gigs and festivals. In 2017 we decided it was time to focus our energy on creating a full length album and we began working on the self-titled Dream & Water. Senivoda means ‘dream and water’ in polish, Ola’s native tongue. The project has a strong intention of connection with Mother Earth and we like to work on our songs in nature, so we traveled up to the Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia, where Raphael is from and set up a studio in his home overlooking fields, eucalyptus forests with frequent visits from kangaroos. We took a few weeks to plan out the songs for Dream & Water, work on arrangements and develop the tunes that were just beginning to take shape. After coming back to Melbourne in 2018 we started the process of recording with the extended Senivoda family of creatives. Mid 2018 we ran a Pozible crowdfunding campaign and raised $10,000 for the creation of the album which enabled us to pay for studio time and to share the money with the musicians involved. Around this time I moved to Hong Kong, following a new love filled path of life. The collaboration between Raph and myself continued by travel between Australia and Hong Kong. In Melbourne we would work with our trusted musicians and in Hong Kong we closed ourselves away on a magical Lamma Island, where I resided and worked closely on editing, mixing and more recording at Lamma Studios. In Hong Kong we were able make new collaborations and invite a number of local musicians to feature on Dream & Water.

Hence the album was created and hit the online stores on the magical date of 11.11.2019. We hope that it can reach many hearts and ears all over the globe.

HAPPY: We love the jungly undertone of the single ‘Mama’ – how would you describe this track?

OLA: Mama was born from a reminder given to me by my mentor Lala Witika. She said to me that I must connect with Mother Earth with each step that I take, to ‘meet the Mother under my feet’, to walk with gratitude and respect for the Planet from which I was created. One day I was walking through the Sacred Indigenous Land out in the Grampians, Victoria, and the words ‘meet the Mother under your feet’ came pouring into a melody, and planting a seed for this new tune. I then took it to Raphael and we expended the couple of riffs I had into the song Mama you can hear as the opening tune of Dream & Water.

RAPHAEL: The tune evolved over many months, mostly on stage where we used the vocal ideas to begin our set. Ola would greet the audience with an acknowledgement of Country, then take the mic and launch into the vocal ostinato that begins the song. All the other musicians on stage would then layer their parts, improvising grooves and harmonies, different every time but always seeking to maintain a grounded, rhythmic energy, to express our care and connection to our Earth Mother. The current arrangement of the song took a long time to settle, the beautiful bridge harmony structure was shown to us in a field at the foot of Lillian Rocks in Nimbin Australia by our then guitar wizard Joshua, the didge was always a must though. On a number of occasions we performed with didge players who brought the energy of this track to life. The sound made by human breath resonating through wood conjures a deep magic and inspires the sentiment of connection with the ground. The roots of the earth and of humanity upon it.

HAPPY: What does a normal day of song writing look like to you?

OLA:  The songs often come to me when I am moving, walking through nature, riding a bicycle, when the life force is flowing through me. The words and melody often come together. Then I sing them over and over until they start taking shape and developing into a song. I have this one rule, that if the melody sticks in my head without me writing it down, that’s the one to dedicate extended amount of time to. Then I sit down to the piano, guitar or ukulele and continue with the harmony and further shaping of the tune. A lot of the songs written for Senivoda were only melody and lyrics when I took them to Raph, who then wrote the harmony. We would sit together and ponder over the different ways the songs could go until we found that most special way that made us both feel excited about it.

HAPPY: What is your favourite track from Dream & Water?

OLA: I have a new favourite track every new day. I think every one of the 11 songs featured on Dream & Water has been my favourite track at some point of the process of the creation on the album. Each song is so different and special in its own way. In fact, once when I was listening to the album in meditation, while lying on the floor in the darkness I had this image of each song being a separate dream, and through one night we can go through many dreams. While listening to the whole album the listener is taken on a ‘dream journey’ entering many dimensions.

Dream & Water comes with a scent in the form of incense and essential oil blend. The idea is to burn the incense while listening to the album for the full immersion into the energy of the sound of Dream & Water. You can order our scent made of locally harvested Eucalyptus, Lavender and Frankincense or the Melbourne made Scentivoda essential oil via our website.

RAPHAEL: Ah favourites, that Ol’ chestnut! Well, of course my love for all the music we have be part of is endless and loops around from track to track. But some tunes in some formats work particularly well. I keep coming back to Shut, the third track on Dream & Water as one which I feel like has been fully realised in its power and message on this record. The main ideas of the song were written many years ago, in my leafy backyard when Ola had just returned from the forests of Poland and the war museums of World War II. I love the way Shut takes the listener on a journey that voyages far away from its start point and yet comes back to it again, older and wiser. The video clip is constructed from beautiful footage shot in Poland, on the edge of a forest that is in the process of being logged.

HAPPY: Were there any particular artists you were listening to that inspired the album?

OLA: The inspiration for album came from many years of listening to music from different corners of the world. Some of the artists whose work inspired the album are Björk, Radiohead, Snarky Puppy, Hiatus Kaiyote as well as European neo-folk DakhaBrakha, and Warsaw Village Band, Same Suki and early Justyna Steczkowska who come from Poland.

OLA: Do you think it’s important for artists to push form and experimentation in music?

RAPHAEL: I think there is a place in music for all forms. Lately I have been realizing just how important it is for a music scene to contain repetition and a multilayered use of similar ideas. That’s what makes it a scene! Sometimes aspects of familiarity encourage the creativity and boundary pushing, we find the edges of the ideas that we have become familiar with and then move beyond them.
If all artists aimed to be as boundary pushing as possible there would be no context for them to exist in. At the same time, even the most overused of ideas can still be fresh, inspiring and different each time it is played. This is the space I want to exist in as an artist. I want to have my influences, the sounds of the artists around me present in my work and to also provide my own flavor, the mix of spices that only I can bring to the creative space. There are a hundred million ways to make dahl, out of lentils and water, you could also choose to make olive bread, that’s pretty different to dahl, but still pretty cool and all are valid and valuable. There is also a place for making soba noodle vindaloo tacos if that’s where you want to go. Everyone who makes sound is contributing to the evolution of music.

HAPPY: Lyrically, do you find story-telling more important or do you prefer an abstract approach?

OLA: Coming from the background of poetry and mysticism, I often take the more poetic, abstract approach, leaving space for the listeners to create their own interpretation of the subject. I personally like the magic of riddles and openness of carefully crafted poetry. At the same time, sometimes I like to say things exactly how they are at the present moment in my experience. For example the lyrics to the bridge of the second song of the album TYOG are straight to the point:
“They’re cutting down trees, the lungs of the Earth, and all those monkeys will soon be exterminated, like once-upon-a-history time, some people unwanted, indigenous tribes, taken their homes for gold mines.”
Straight to the point, yet I think our words still give the audience space to think about their meaning.

HAPPY: Widely travelled and inspired, where in the world are you most musically inspired?

OLA: Nature, trees, thick jungle, opened fields, water, ocean, sea, river-flow. Of course a lot of the music we create is a commentary on the human experience within the nature, whether the nature made by Earth itself or by the human hand. Sometimes the best inspiration is found in the quiet moments after the busy times. Let’s say we may spend a few days in the depths of a city, the graffiti painted streets of Melbourne or the sky scrapers of Hong Kong, followed by the serenity of trees either in a park or outside of the metropolis, in the times of reflection, re-connection, thought is where the inspiration truly strikes.

RAPHAEL: I find that the natural and humanised spaces lend themselves to wonderfully different kinds of musical expression and inspiration. Often when I’m in the bush, maybe sitting under an ancient rainforest tree wreathed in magical starlight, I feel a desire only to listen to the sounds of the quiet forest around me. Or if I feel moved to sing or play, I tend to most want to play quietly, with lots of space and awareness of my small sonic space in a vast forest. As a little possum might potter quietly around in the branches above me, also careful to express itself in harmony with the beings around it. Back in the bright and wonderful bustle of my city community I feel rushes of energy whenever I see artists full-power channeling their truth from the stage, when their eyes are alight with the joy of song, of movement, of life. Then the feeling of inspiration makes me want to burst forth with similar conviction and fullness.

HAPPY: What’s next for Senivoda?

SENIVODA: We are working on getting Dream & Water out to as many ears as possible around the globe. We are on a search for a manager, booking agent, tour organizer, someone who can help us share our sound globally through both the internet and through touring. As a duo, we can take Senivoda’s sound anywhere in the world and either bring with us the musicians we are familiar working with or build a new team of artists on the different continents we travel to. This is what we did in Hong Kong, during our tour there. Raphael flew over from Australia and we rehearsed a new team of musicians who were committed to creating the psychedelic sound of Senivoda that you hear on the album. For our Hong Kong tour the musicians were both Hong Kong based or passing through at the time of our tour from USA and Columbia. It was an amazing experience to share the creation of our sound with these wonderful artists who brought their own creativity and a feeling of freshness to the music.

Our music is ever evolving, each new performance, each new musician we bring on board contributes something new to the sound-space, the ideas space. Our family is ever expanding, we want to share the joy of life through sound. We want to be part of the discussion about our relationship with our Mother Earth, and all who we share this world with.

Check out the full album below: