Q: Hi! Erika, your cover of “People Are Strange” with The Slums of Mediocrity presents a unique blend of your whispery, mysterious tone and their experimental style. How did this collaboration come about?

A: Last Summer I was casually listening to some playlist on Spotify and when “People Are Strange” (which of course I already loved, since I’ve been a fan of Jim Morrison for ages) came on the speakers I thought “Now, this is a wonderful song to cover, with all the possible meanings that one can put into it”, so I posted a poll in a story for my IG followers, asking if I shall cover it or not and of course everyone said that I should. I love them. The producer I have worked for most of my production was already busy on other projects, so I considered collaborating with other artists this time around. At first, we did an acoustic reggae, faster version with Baba and Jo from the Binghy Family, but it was meant more for live and jam sessions and I was moving to another place around that time and we couldn’t possibly work on that project consistently. Then I decided to ask my friend Allan Raible aka The Slums of Mediocrity, a very prolific self producing musician and visual artist from Brooklyn. His music is pretty peculiar, experimental and definitely ‘strange’ if listened from a -typical point of view. I knew that, if he would accept, it’d be a perfect match for what I had in mind. Allan and I have various common points in our personalities and stories, being both outsiders and insiders for different reasons. We could narrate the “being strange” thing from a detached perspective, without pain, but also knowing what we were talking about.

Q: The release of this track seems perfectly timed for Halloween. Was this intentional, and how do you feel your rendition fits into the spooky season vibe?

A: Definitely intentional. I love the month of October, the spooky vibes (although I cannot enjoy horror movies released after 1968) and a couple of covers I did in the past (Love Potion N.9 and Red Right Hand) keep being added to dozens of Halloween-themed playlists every year. For this reason we released this single just before Halloween. The fact that it sounds naturally eerie, makes it particularly fitting for an Alternative Halloween playlist. Me and Allan are obsessed by playlists. Maybe because we’re both voracious music listeners and also because we have been working in the music industry, from two different continents, with different jobs for many years.

Q: Can you describe the process of putting your own spin on such an iconic song originally by The Doors? Were there any challenges you faced during this creative process?

A: I received from The Slums of Mediocrity two mp3s: one with the instrumental track and Allan’s voice singing in some parts and the other just instrumental. Allan’s singing was very different from the original version and I’m way less experimental, more “traditional” in a way, so I recorded on the instrumental file singing the way I had in mind. I didn’t have a recording studio available (I didn’t want to ask around for favours, for personal reasons) during that time so I recorded my parts with my own equipment, late at night, in a dim lit kitchen (actually I’m answering this interview from the very same spot). I did many takes, the last ones were done almost at dawn, my voice a bit sleepy. I sent the files to Allan and he liked them. Allan’s voice is really very good sounding and it’s a shame that we didn’t end up in a duet this time, but you can hear his super weird and super cool vocal sounds here and there along the song. Staying at a producer’s house as a guest, a dear friend of mine, he offered to “align” and clean my pretty high gain vocal tracks, but Allan decided that for this song we should pick genuinity over perfection and that’s what he did with this final master. I’m very happy with it, it added Nine Inch Nails vibes to a The Doors classic.

Q: You have a diverse range of covers, from Mazzy Star to Nick Cave. How do you choose which songs you want to reinterpret?

A: I listen to music all the time, since when I was a child who needed to isolate from the outside world. Music and books were my paradise, my escape.

It all happens pretty unconsciously. We never know why or how a song, a poem click with us, but sometimes it just happens. To me covers are a pretty personal matter. I give my own meaning to the words, think of my own experiences, those who can relate to the lyrics on a deeper level and my vocal interpretation is just a consequence of what I’m thinking or feeling while I sing. 

Q: Your music has been described as softly scorching and raw. How does your approach to creating music influence the way you handle covers, and how did you apply this to “People Are Strange”?

A:It all comes from the same source. I try to sing from a place of truth. Something that matters to me in the moment while I’m dealing with that topic. I believe that our souls are on a constant journey. Art is a beautiful, sometimes painful byproduct of such process. 

Q: The collaboration between an Italian-Hungarian artist and a Brooklyn-based project is quite international. What do you think each of you brought to the table from your different cultural or musical backgrounds?

A: I was born and raised in Italy by a Hungarian mother and an Italian father. My very first word was in Hungarian and I still remember some of the lullabies my mom used to sing for me. But I was raised in the country of Dante Alighieri, Italo Calvino, the Festival of Sanremo, its greatness, its genius and also its provinciality at times. Musically speaking I was listening to international music from a quite early age. When I was four I loved my parents’ Joan Baez live tape as much as I loved the Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare or the classical music records of my grandad. Growing up my crave for music was fulfilled by various discoveries: rock, grunge, post punk, new wave, metal, melodic music. In my early twenties I fell in love with Portishead, trip hop and electronic music. With the equivalent of 250 euros I packed my stuff, said goodby to the last year of my University career, to the few friends I had in Milan and I jumped on a bus to London. I was scared of flights back then. Fortunately I found two jobs during my first week in London and I was able to live there for around two years. I found an English band which immediately hired me as their singer. It felt like family. They were all so great and crazy, we had a wonderful, creative time together, until a tragedy came to visit me right before a concert and changed the course of my life. But I won’t talk about this now.
I can’t talk on behalf of The Slums of Mediocrity, but being a New Yorker from Brooklyn adds an instant allure to his personal baggage. Being an official music critic for Disney’s ABC News for over 15 years speaks volumes about Allan’s knowledge on the matter. 

Q: Having built a name with originals and covers alike, what have you learned from reinterpreting other artists’ work that you apply to your own original music creation?

A:Standards. I always wonder if I would love to listen to my song if it was someone else’s, before proceeding in the writing process. It’s hard, because there’s so much great music out there, so many incredibly talented writers and composers that I must be careful with this precious form of art, that keeps giving so much to me.

Q: What message or feeling do you hope listeners take away from your rendition of “People Are Strange”?

A: I always share on social media, in lengthy ways, as you can gather from this interview, the why and the how I need to release a certain song.

But it’s my point of view, my story. My take on the subject. The feeling and the message about this version of People Are Strange revolve around the concept and the experience of being outsiders, somehow excluded by society, isolated. It’s about being perceived as strange, atypical, unfitting. About turning bitter because of the unfriendly vibe received due to one’s diversity. I edited a kind of sick, pretty lo fi visualizer for it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_1tNRoWVX0 

Q: What can your fans anticipate from you in the upcoming year?

A: I recently recorded a song for the upcoming EP of producer Andrea Del Miglio (with whom I did Red Right Hand, Into Dust, Titanium, Out of Depth). It’s a dance-chillout version of “New Kind of Love” (original by Frou Frou). It has a pretty complex melody which was hard to learn, but we nailed it! So exciting. I was also contacted by German producer Dirk Knight aka Seasurfer (he has worked with many cool artists, including members of Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil) to collaborate on one or more tracks for his upcoming album. I already wrote words and vocal melodies for a song and Dirk liked it. So, that’s hopefully something that will be released next year, around May, although not under my name. There are a few open projects here and there with other musicians and composers, original music. Stay tuned.