I came across Bedless Bones playing a lively bar as part of Tallinn Music Week. Frontwoman Kadri Sammel was the star of the show, a boisterous guitar-stumming meastro who owned the stage as she blasted a mix of metal and dance influences into the ether. “Like a techno Evanescence,” I thought at the time, though in hindsight her music is less vocally led, more dancefloor suitable, and more of a memorable affront than that description might suggest.

Sammel kindly agreed to tell me about it, in my first ever interview with an Estonian act, after the show. My general sense is her music, peformed in English, has huge potential when it comes to make a broad impact across Europe, and that it might just edge into a kind of genre world all of its own. Oddly, one of her key influences is Enya…

First of all, your style is quite unique and not something you’d find in Ireland. How did you arrive at it? Are there any key inspirations?

Counterculture in general is an inspiration, more specifically early darkwave and industrial music. Also post-punk. Nick Cave, Dead Can Dance, Frank Tovey, Einstürzende Neubauten have all influenced me. I’d say Enya is one of my earliest favorites. I had never felt transcended by music before hearing The Celts, I used to religiously listen to it on my newly bought CD player lying in bed and dreaming. Fever Ray’s debut album was also a huge igniting force, it sparked the idea to make music too, as before that I had only sung in choirs and briefly played some instruments, like the Estonian zither and classic guitar. I don’t know if any of this is traceable in my music. Enya and a chainsaw.

How would you describe that style?

It’s electronic, atmospheric, raw, free. It’s usually categorized as darkwave, but post-darkwave is more fitting. I belong to the future; I hail from the past.

What are the dominant themes in your music?

Nature, longing, (imagined) myths, alienation, introspection. There’s also a dash of hedonism, and battling self-destructive urges.

What made you decide to perform in English in your music?

That’s a good question, because I don’t remember ever making that decision. It happened naturally, because the music I listened to and was inspired by was in English, and that was where I felt my own creations belonged. There is a lot of beautiful music in Estonian, and it would probably be easier to write in my native language. I have thought about writing songs in Estonian, I might start a side project at one point if the idea doesn’t die away. But I don’t think Bedless Bones in its current form would work if the lyrics were fully in Estonian. I have one song in Estonian though, it’s called ‘Armastus on seadus’ (Love is the law).

What is the background to the band and your formation?

After I began experimenting with composing electronic music and producing, my partner Anders invited me to play synth and do backing vocals in his band Forgotten Sunrise, which is currently active, too. Simultaneously, I was making music that I always knew was a separate, solo work, and so I named it Bedless Bones and released the first singles. I played the first two shows alone and then Anders joined on drums. I write, record and produce alone.

You have a few different records out now. Do you feel there is a progression through them?

Well, I have a better understanding of what I’m actually doing now, so there’s definitely that progression. All my three albums are quite different, ‘Sublime Malaise’ is untethered and rough-edged; ‘Bending The Iron Bough’ relies on atmospheres and free forms, samples of folk instruments and field recordings; and ‘Mire of Mercury’ has psychedelic synths and more tangible song structures.

You’re extremely energetic live. Is it difficult to perform complex pieces of music and show such energy?

I owe it to the music, my audience and myself to be fully committed to the moment. I mean and feel everything, my body and being become a part of the exchange that happens between the music and audience, almost like a medium. Also, I enjoy the freedom of transforming to a different persona that isn’t bound by any social expectations of behavior.

How does imagery and aesthetic play into your art overall?

Photography had a central place in my life at one point, and I still take photos. Images have accompanied my music from an early stage, and it’s important for me to create as much of the imagery myself as I can, whether that is photos, music videos or album design. I think the visual and aesthetic side of it is a part of the experience, but it’s not worth much without the depth and integrity that comes from the music.

How explicitly does your work reflect your wider life, and in what way?

It would be very difficult to create something that doesn’t have a personal connection, or some foundation in my own experience. That doesn’t mean that every story is something that happened in my life. But the feeling and understanding behind the metaphors are genuine. Currently, I’ve taken an unusually long break from writing and producing, due to personal issues, and only recently have I felt ideas coming back to me.

Random melodies pop into my head in the car; or things I hear inspire new realizations, new ways to say something. That’s a good sign – when I’m not consciously trying to create something, but instead something is reaching out to me and wants to become known. I almost want to linger with this notion, it’s a very pleasant phase. Being in the beginning of a journey and not knowing where it takes you, but somehow knowing it will be magical.

How is the Estonian music scene in general and how do you fit into it?

I wish I could fit into it more. But Estonians are more into hip hop, pop and folk music. I’ve played more abroad than in Estonia. But I feel slightly out of place almost everywhere, so it’s okay. I’m speaking through my music to people who feel the same way.

Is there a message you hope the audience take away from what you do?

There isn’t. A room for interpretation and the listener’s imagination is invited to actively participate. Who am I to preach anything? I’m still figuring things out, and will never say there’s no more room to learn.

What are your hopes for the future?

A hope that we evolve to a less violent species over time. Be honest. Have courage. Art is therapy.


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