Ingrid Lukas: “Demi-monde is like a musical universe.”

20. April 2015
Pilarica Martin

A Friday morning between the thick walls of Reval Café in Old Town, Pilarica Martin talked with Ingrid Lukas about her new fascinating project.

Two countries, two cultures, two worlds and in the middle there’s Ingrid Lukas, creating a second universe, parallel but with a dark and wet side called Demimonde. After Tallinn Music Week where she performed at NO99, she’s back with her band to tour the country. Four years have passed since their last record Silver Secrets. Now they are presenting their new album fresh from the studio.

Demi-monde is a French term which means half-world and comes from a novel by Alexandre Dumas with the same name, but it also refers to a group of people who live hedonistic lifestyles, usually in a flagrant and conspicuous manner in Europe during the late 19th to the early 20th century. What is the reason for calling your new album that? Does it refer to the half-world or the flagrant manner?

For me, Demi-monde is a secret world in Estonia, a space that my band and I tried to design for us where we can develop our music language and our sound, which means ourselves. This is like a musical universe. It’s wet there, it has a lot of space and dark corners, it’s like very deep down in the ocean. There are terrible creatures like manticoras, goblins, unicorns, night angels and demons. Sometimes a creature might be swimming and dancing around you. This is Demi-Monde.

Your first album was recorded with Ronin Rhythim Records, the second one called Silver Secrets was with Universal Austria 2011, and this third one has been done with RRR again, is there any reason for repeating with them?

Laughing. When you return to something it is a good sign. It’s because I love working with my partners for a long time. like with my band, I’m looking for people who can be part of our team for 5-10 years, and it has to fit in several levels. It works the same for the record label for me. We tried to work with Universal Austria and it was really interesting, they are a big company and have a big network all over the world. Thanks to them I got to know Universal Music Baltics connections.

However, we found out that our way of thinking is more independent so that’s why we chose to release the third album with the same independent record label than before.

In 2013 you said in: “The music is like me as a character; I’m changing and developing, and the third album is going to be different too”. Two years have gone by. How would you describe the process since your first record? How different is your music now?

It has been a long journey since my first record. It’s been an interesting journey. Grinning broadly. All the albums have been diverse. I would say they were in different dresses, it’s just what it is at that time and I think the first one was fresh, new, kind of smiling and curious and also very high. I sang in high registers. I’d say a bit naive, too.

The second one was already a little bit darker and in both albums I decided to sing in English and in Estonian. I work with Estonian traditional sounds like regilaul (runo song). It was really important for me integrate my roots.

I think the biggest process was between the second and the third album. It took me longer to make it, around four years. I grew up a little with it, almost like an adult in my 30 years.

Moreover, the focus was inside, I looked into my own universe and found my inner thoughts. I saw some corners, dark ones, so I gave them a sound in my songs. It’s important for me to share it through my voice because music is my first language. I can communicate through my music and also understand my inner world and also the outside world through it.

The third album is not so jazzy and folkloric. This one is more pop-alternative and electronic music.

In the next concert here in Tallinn, your gig is been called Ingrid Lukas “Meets Dance” because there is going to be a dance performance at the same time that you are singing, right? Why did you chose the dance to accompany your voice?

Two great things that happened are that I’m not sitting at the grand piano anymore. I’m standing and playing electronic piano and synthesizer, then I initiated to move and to find my own language in moving. So that’s new and freeing process for me. I’m working together with a choreographer from Estonia, Rene Köster with his dance group Twisted Dance. The next concert is on April 23 at 11pm at Punane Maja. We hope to connect dance and music. I hope that at the end there are not two separate things, but they start to dance with each other.

What I like the most in your albums is the fact that you have some tracks in English and in Estonian, sharing part of your roots and showing to the world that there’s a poetic language spoken in a little country full polysemous words. However, you don’t have any song in German. Why?

When I started to write at the age of 13, my first songs were in German, but not right now. Maybe at some point I changed it into my mother tongue and then into English. I don’t know… Perhaps the sound is harder than in the other languages. Maybe I should try in Swiss German, but then you have a hundred accents. I just feel more natural in Estonia and English, but I’m open, so it can be that in my next album there might be a song also in an Alemannic dialect.

You also said you wanted to collaborate with the Estonian poet Doris Kareva, have you already written any songs with her?

Yes, we did “Sini Must Valge” (Blue Black White). I wanted to work with her for that song. Actually, this morning, I was in a radio station and the moderator chose this song, I really like Doris Kareva, I admire her work.

It seems that Estonia is truly inspirational for artists. For example it’s well known that the famous composer Tchaikovsky had a special spot in Estonia where he used to sit and wait for his muse: a bench in front of the sea of Haapsalu. Do you have any special place where you get some of this inspiration in Estonia or in Switzerland?

Sure, I have several spots. They are always in the nature. I like the parks in Otepää. For example, a very nice place called Nuustaku Puhkemaja. There are friends who keep the  cottage. I also like Võsu and Käsmu, in Lahemaa. I enjoy the sea, the sun and sunsets, the water at these places. I love swimming in the summer. Also the Estonian forest is really… intense, that is the right word. I relish the sounds of the forest – like when you go to pick up mushrooms and then you can sing with the birds and huge the trees. Laughs and gesticulates.

The Swiss mountains are incredible when you climb to the top, you get this great freedom and space.

You are going to play around Estonia next week and in Switzerland in May. Where will be the next concerts? Will you go to the USA?

My next gigs in Estonia are in Viljandi, Otepää, Tartu, Tallinn, Valga and Pärnu. I’m really excited about that because my band is coming from Switzerland and I’m looking forward to doing that little tour with them in my country. After that, we will perform in Switzerland, and then we will get prepared for Germany and United Kingdom. Maybe we go again to Washington, where we played last year. I like the tours because it’s always nice to travel and play in other countries and cultures.

Do you have any other concerts coming up? Any summer festivals, such as Positivius in Latvia.  That one really suits your music.

Yes, we are going to play in a little festival in Thun in Switzerland, in the mountains. As it’s a new album, just released, and a little bit offbeat, time is needed to find partners to collaborate with. I think we will have more concerts in autumn and winter.

It’s true that our music should suit in that one [Positivus Festival – editor]. I would like to play there but I think we are not on time now for this year, but we may try for another one.

From all the bands that are performing at this Jazzkaar, are there any you would like to attend?

Larking Poe and Elina Duni. She is great, I know her as we played together. I would like to see Hauschka, the piano player. He’s a very crazy man, I recommend him highly.

April 23rd of 2015, Punane Maja.
Ingrid Lukas  – vocal, keyboard
Patrik Zosso – drums, synthesizer, electronics
Céline_Giulia Voser – cello, vocal, synthesizer
Manu Rindlisbacher – bass
Rene Köster – dancer ja choreography
Helina Reinjärv – dancer
Kristel Jänes – dancer
Kreete Pillenberg – dancer