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09 September 2016

When The Sun Hits Interviews Ronit Bergman of Undone.

When The Sun Hits Interviews Ronit Bergman of Undone

Discovering the music of Undone was like coming across a hidden treasure chest. There’s quite a bit of it—two EPs and three full-lengths since 2011—and, remarkably, all of it sounds good to us. The project is coordinated by Ronit Bergman, veteran of Israel-based Nineties shoegaze band Plastic Venus, who presently lives in Skopje, Macedonia. Undone involves a constantly changing international cast of contributors and harvests the fertile boundary area between shoegaze and neo-psychedelia.

Undone’s strongest outing yet is this year’s LP Family. The record is a subtle, powerful journey, reminiscent of a good vintage European progressive rock album in the way that it takes you through a series of related spaces and leaves you in a different place from where you were when you dropped the needle. The album is suffused with care, sensitivity and love, with contrasts of softness and thunder that show an appreciation for both the most tragic and the most ecstatic dimensions of life. It's fluid and loose, free of the kind of concern for appearances that can make music slick, rigid or overwrought, but it's never careless. Family is beautiful and it grows on you, gently illuminating new depths and byways within itself as you let it in over time. It exhibits a kind of humble majesty that slowly dawns on you with repeated listening. We can be grateful that it's thoughtfully mastered and pressed on a very fine-sounding, substantial slab of vinyl.

Our appreciation goes out to all of the artists who contributed to Family, and we offer our thanks to Ronit for the time, energy, and patience she put into the interview that follows.

“I have experienced a Sound a few times, perhaps it was the sound of eternity…And it was a beautiful noise (in E).”

How and when was the band formed?
Undone was born in 2010, but it is still forming. In each period of Undone, I collaborate with different people who have musical chemistry and wish to work together. The way of working changes all the time. One album, If We Are Here, the project’s beginning, was based around poetry festivals. The next, Indeed, was based on a three day jam session by three of us. The next, Steering Will, was a rocky homey digital release. For the new one, Family, we collaborated from different countries. It was a decision not to decide what, how, and when stuff will happen in advance, but to flow with the music and how it takes us. So in a way, the how, when and forming are still happening.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?
Family is the fourth Undone release and our first on vinyl. The current circle of Undone is meeting (some of us physically for the first time) to work on live versions of the songs, as we got invitations for concerts and we are all into making it happen.

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
In a general sense it makes sense, as sometimes it is useful. For whom and for what—is another thing. Personally, I never search for music via genres, at the same time I appreciate Undone’s music being discovered in that way every now and then. Genres make some order, make it easier to communicate perhaps at times, like if you are looking for fresh bread you know you won’t find it in the milk products row. But in general, I am more old school regarding searching and finding…Don’t forget that nowadays people are being tagged according to their searches and genres choices (not just in music) and that makes people become products (which makes them become targets). Having said that, one will be exposed to and “shown” more from what they are attracted to, so genres, though the word is the same, doesn’t mean what it used to mean. If it wasn’t for the tagging option (on SoundCloud/Bandcamp/YouTube and so on), I wouldn’t naturally tag music I upload and post. I tagged Undone as “sandalgaze” and “documentary”, simply because it is true. But I am aware many depend on tagging genres for getting exposure, and that’s fine, too.

Regarding being a part of the scene, I am honored to have been around in legendary gigs in the Eighties of the mother and father of shoegaze, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Bands, gigs, and timing put me on this path. I am very much at home in beautiful noise. The scene has since expanded much, not only the numbers of people who are into it, but also the variety of the kinds of branches that are born, the many colors dream-pop-shoegaze can be. It makes me very happy. Besides, not being shy about being shy— that’s definitely one of the genres I identify with. Not everyone is a dreamer, but the dreamers surely recognize each other. I have many friends on social and musical networks who communicate through the music. They make/share/post, that’s how we find each other, nothing else is needed.

“The combination of our styles, tastes, attitudes is the main piece of gear, throwing away the differences.

I do believe we are all brothers and sisters—it applies to music of course as well. My blood musical family might be psychedelic, but I am in close relationship with other families. I guess I am more into the experience than describing it. I believe music is to be experienced—just like love, in that way. Whether I am listening to or singing/playing in floaty dream pop melodies that ride through massive warm noise, I feel at home there, same goes to the magic of psychedelic musical exploration and expressions of beauty. But also, I love rock, folk, krautrock, punk, electronic, classical music, Asian music too.

I do not pay any attention to genres, really. I love all kinds of music and am not into all the dream pop and shoegaze I hear. Undone is probably from a dream-shoegaze-psychedelic continent, but being from there, we like to travel. What is important, I think, is not to get stuck in one’s inner place, not to control one’s own capacity. Making music, listening to music, is a natural thing, it is not limited. One can and should make it and enjoy it in unlimited ways and remain truthful. Change the shoes, or take them off sometimes, it’s fun! I have experienced a Sound a few times, perhaps it was the sound of eternity…And it was a beautiful noise (in E).

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
Fantastic music happening, many favorites! Some of them are: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Angels, Dead Skeletons, The Dolly Rocker Movement, Magic Castles, Miranda Lee Richards, The Warlocks, The Dandy Warhols, Elephant Stone, Flavor Crystals, Chicos de Nazca, Tales of Murder and Dust, Chatham Rise, Nameless, The Asteroid #4, Vibravoid, The Chemistry Set, The Sun Blindness, The Koolaid Electric Company, Cheval Sombre, Dead Horse One, Helicon Glasgow, Floorian, Joe Chapman, The Red Plastic Buddha, Wooden Shjips, Lower Heaven, Sonic Jesus, The Limiñanas, Kingdom of the Holy Sun, Desert Mountain Tribe, The Hanging Stars, Baby Woodrose, Juan Trip, The Oscillation, Dead Meadow, Sun Mahshene, The Blackrays, The December Sound, Grim Tower, The Citradels, The Third Sound, HIGH & DRYs, Frankie Teardrop Dead, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Quarter After, Sweet Jane and Claire, Mellow Lizard…there are more. These bands for me are original, honest, simple, exploring, doing it in a beautiful way, and are rocking at the same time.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
In our case each song and album have their special moments, and that changes. The special sound is coming from collaboration, sometimes from very different backgrounds and taste—but with a wish to be together in a song. Stuff comes out of one which usually maybe doesn’t when they are open to not do something in the way they usually would, and contribute to a real collaboration. In this way, the combination of our styles, tastes, attitudes is the main piece of gear, throwing away the differences (huge age range, females and males, being from Jewish, Pravoslav, Christian, Muslim, Sufi backgrounds, different musical backgrounds and tastes), this is the gear.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
I recommend to explore, to consciously try and remain as open as possible, to work with people who all really feel like working together, enjoying the process, to listento where the song, songs want to go. Improving the equipment is good, great! But it is not the most important thing.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway. How do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
I would say I am concerned about the human industry (condition). The massive change which is underway is not about the music, it is about humanity. The music industry is affected too, no doubt, but more crucial is the effect on the essence of art and the artist. I was more concerned about the future of the music industry years ago, I was sad and worried that it will never be as it was anymore and so on. In a way, I experience the massive change you mention as a process of “time turning into space”. The timing of (certain kinds) of music, which made it revolutionary, that is gone perhaps, in the way we knew it to be. Perhaps now it is not as exciting as making music and discovering music was when you (consciously or not) were being a part of an obvious revolution, breaking through. In a way, modern music has done that already, but it doesn’t affect anything else.

The current wave/phase is a special one in its own way. It is much harder to really rebel. Rather, this stage of revolution is a fight towards unity—a mental and even spiritual revolution. A stage in human evolution which can challenge musicians (artists) to continue, to explore, to learn about the artist’s part in this period. In this way we can, maybe actively think—what is the role of rock and roll in 2016? Definitely not to give up! We can always (and many do) write and sing about it. In that way, nothing has changed. There is a freedom in not being so dependent on the times. (Not to speak about the many new possibilities technology gives to sound, and internet to musical communication with others.)

If you think about it, music itself couldn’t care less about the “industry”. Music was, is and will be sound, harmony. We can still hear and make music. That’s most important! The artist/musician today might as well explore the new possibilities.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
DIY is the most fun beautiful way, and it is the way today, but it’s only for true believers. Along the way you will meet others who do it themselves. Undone has gotten so much support, help, and guidance over the years. Never counted it in numbers, because it’s way beyond that.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or MP3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them? 
Vinyl sounds the best and is most beautiful.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
I loved and love so many, more than I can tell here. They all take part in the shaping of my being. Some I know for sure have irreversibly changed me. I’ll start with them: Syd Barrett, Jim Morrison, Gong, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Anton Newcombe. Some of the others who influenced me: Simon and Garfunkel, Love, The Beatles, The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Small Faces, The Monkees, King Crimson, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, The Seeds, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, Laurie Anderson, Cocteau Twins, Can, Sonic Youth, Pixies, Butthole Surfers, Coil, Suicide, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lydia Lunch, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, The Legendary Pink Dots, Spacemen 3, Biosphere, My Bloody Valentine and more…

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
At this time I need to give more and deeper attention to bands, projects, and artists I am already into. I try not to over block with info, and support what I can. I am also into DJs, radio and radio shows that feature music I’m into as well as video artists who are into similar music and are making amazing videos. I enjoy listening to, watching and supporting these. Also, consciously supporting in social and musical networks the underground circles I hang out with.

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
It’s different from song to song and album to album. In general, I usually hear the lyrics with a melody, I find it on the guitar, I pass it on to the fellow musicians, and we start to develop and play with it until we are all happy with where it went. In this last album, I sent videos of myself playing the basic idea of the song, and we took it from there, communicating musically via internet, recording, listening, adding and so on.

Your music's depth of sensitivity and address to the individual and collective human situation is part of what makes it so powerful. Can you comment on the various conflicts and incidents of violence that have intensified recently around the planet? Perhaps you, as a very international person whose homes have included Israel, Macedonia, the United States, and the U.K., can bring to bear a special perspective.

If we thought of the next generations, the ones who are not even born yet, as our living family, we might try harder to take care of things. The media are the mirror of humanity and are totally broken. “News” has a huge part in promoting terror, violence and divisions among peoples.

The sphinx is a very instructive symbol, intelligence in a wild animal’s body. Just as one may learn how to control oneself and to understand one’s own different levels of functioning, those in the intelligent part of the body of humanity must work collectively to control the situation. That includes news channels that happen to be around. I do not think “alternative” news channels are any better than mainstream ones. They actually might be more dangerous because they address more sensitive people and spread confusion and fear just the same. I always remind myself not to confuse facts with Truth.

This period is extremely challenging and hope is the only clear path. I hear many friends saying recently they do not believe in praying and the power of prayers any more. If someone can send love and support to everyone, bless them, let them do it.

My grandfather used to pray to God for his mind to stay clear. Once when he was not well and later told me about it he said, “My mind was cloudy like the sky in Tzfat (Safed, his birthplace) on a winter day." Recently I am being constantly reminded to keep the mind clear...These thoughts will find their way into the next album I am working on...Its working title is NewClear Reactions.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?