Both born and raised in the region of Geneva, Switzerland; Asher Varadi and Yanni Caloghiris are Ola, Rodéo – a freshly formed band inspired by the realms of psychedelic rock, synth pop and dub echoes. Currently living in separate cities, they come from a long path of musical explorations beyond Ola, Rodéo – Asher performs solo as Ash the Ash and produces for Sherkan, while Yanni runs electronic music label Electroménager, deejaying under his alias Jacques Torrance.
Today, one year after their first ever studio session, Ola, Rodéo release their debut single and music video ‘Foam on Foam’.
We invited the band to have a little chat about the origins and creative processes behind the project.
Œ: This is the first time we hear of the band and actually the first anybody hears of the band apparently. How did this happen, who is Ola, Rodéo ?
Asher: It goes pretty far back, we actually met when we were 13 years old at a festival that I was organizing but we only found out 10 years later. At first, I didn’t like Yanni too much (laughs). but now it’s more than love. We would kind of just jam from time to time, and then one night it just happened – Ola, Rodéo is our first born and accidental cute little baby. Some people would say we’re a duo, I see us as parents.
Œ: What impact has the pandemic had on your music ?
Asher: We both live in different cities, so it made it even harder to meet and to work together. We have a process where we create and record at the same time, therefore when we meet-up we spend a week together in our little love bubble, to really just focus on Ola, Rodéo . Otherwise we always have a lot of other projects going on, so it’s not always easy to find the time. That being said, the pandemic didn’t stop us from doing that though, once we were able to be together, it just pushed us to make songs with more constraints.
Yanni: Somehow the fact that we can’t do shows is pretty relieving. It gives us a bit more time to really focus on finding our sound and not be rushing to do gigs – we really want the project to grow organically and take pleasure from the creative process.
Œ: What’s the story behind the name (Ola, Rodéo) ?
Yanni: As Asher said, Rodéo is like our little baby that we are raising, even though I see it a bit more like our puppy (laughs). It’s a bit unpredictable and we don’t know what Rodéo will grow up to be, but it’s a learning process and challenge for the both of us – it’s our first rodeo. And like most names whether it’s for your children or your pet, you just know when it sounds right – it clicks, there’s not always a big story behind it.
Œ: Geneva.. Stuttgart.. Paris.. Where is this Rodéo ? It sounds complicated.. we’d love to understand how you work together.
Asher: Rodéo has to deal with split parenthood, Yanni is based between Paris (France) and Stuttgart (Germany), I’m in Lausanne (Switzerland) and we work between the french alps and Geneva (Switzerland). At this stage it isn’t really a problem – we choose a week where we work and record songs, we have all the gear for that so it just depends on our schedules and finding a time that suits us both, which isn’t always easy. We’re still thinking about how it’s going to work in a live setting but for now the distance gives us time to find ideas and when we meet the voodoo happens.
Œ: Where did you record ?
Asher: The first song “Foam on Foam” was recorded at my mom’s using what we had at the time. Rodéo was very young and a bit cranky, after countless sleepless nights filled with cries for wakeup calls, it turned out surprisingly alright. We were lucky to get support from our own parents and we had roughly five days to compose and record two songs. “Foam on Foam” was really the first song we ever made together, my mom even added some vocals on the chorus and bridge, a good grandma she was. It was a family reunion.
Œ: So correct me if I’m wrong – you record everything together in a home-studio, Asher mixes the music and Yanni directed this music video. Is making everything yourself something you stand by?
Asher: I wouldn’t say we stand by it but it does give us more freedom. We can work as late as we want, it’s almost free (we still have to pay for food for Rodéo, that hungry little baby), we work when it suits us and no one but us is to blame if the song isn’t good. So at least until we find another set up that gives us as much freedom I would say, yes, doing things ourselves is the best way and it’s a fun learning process.
Œ: There’s foam in the name, and foam all over the video – why foam ?
Yanni: It actually started off as a bit of a joke between Asher and myself while we were recording, I think one of us was drinking a foamy coffee or something.. Anyway, it quickly became more and more serious as it turned into a lyrical metaphor, described by Asher as “the foam concept”: when two individuals like each other but do not want to accept that they like each other, therefore the tension builds up like foam – it grows and grows until eventually disappearing. From there onwards, it just started to make sense and I immediately knew that as well as being catchy for a title, foam has a very pleasant visual aesthetic and would make way for a very interesting music video.
Œ: There is a strong sense of visual style – tell us a bit how this came together, any influences ?
Yanni: Other than playing music, I come from a background in filmmaking and now work as a graphic designer. To me the visuals are just as important as the music and I always feel that establishing a strong visual coherence and evolution throughout a project, really makes a big difference. And it’s actually even more fun being able to make the visuals for your own music, it’s like a process of turning self-interpretation into expression.
It would be hard for me to pin-point a specific influence for this video, but I was definitely very inspired by Wes Anderson’s style, duo bands like Agar Agar’s visual identity and a bunch of fashion photoshoots, hence the reason for shooting in a studio. I wanted to portray a psychedelic feel but stay away from the clichés such as kaleidoscopes and over the top visual effects. I worked very closely with my friend Kevin Brari, the DOP, to really get it right.
Œ: I can see that quite a lot of attention was given to production & costume design, including the presence of a stylist. What made you decide to work with a stylist ?
Yanni: We were working on an extremely tight budget (less than 200€ for the whole video, including renting a foam machine that didn’t even work), and I am so grateful that the entire cast and crew volunteered to work with us and did such a great job. I think production design is such a core part of filmmaking and is often undervalued in smaller projects like these. However when the extra work is put into it, you can really see it. Just by spending the time to find all the right props, décor and clothes; you can actually make something very low-budget look pretty decent and it can almost pass off as a bigger production.
When I started working on the direction for the video, I had quite a clear idea of the clothes that I wanted. It was very important for the characters, props and set design to be colour coordinated for the concept to work. This was the first time I had ever worked with a stylist and I am so glad I worked with Sophie on this, she did an incredible job and really put my vision to life.
Œ: Would you consider fashion as an important part of your aesthetic ?
Yanni: Definitely. Over the past year, I’ve been working in the fashion industry and I love how it is a crossing point between so many creative disciplines. We wear clothes every day and whether we like it or not, they are a very strong form of visual expression. So yes, I would consider our choice in clothes important not only for our videos but also for the image of our band.
Œ: We had the chance to ask the stylist, Sophie Giannoules, a few questions about her part in the making of the video. How did you end up working together?
Sophie: Yanni and I know each other from Stuttgart. Since Stuttgart is not a big city, most creative people know each other. Yanni once played music at a vernissage of mine, a few months later, he asked me if I would like to work on this project. I accepted right away. It was interesting to see Yanni’s vision and to merge it with my ideas.
Œ: Tell us about the designers you collaborated with for this shoot.
Sophie: This time I collaborated with Franziska Michael, Danny Reinke and Silke Debler. They are all very creative and talented designers. That’s what I love about this business. Meeting new people, making new connections and supporting each other.
Œ: What is the difference between styling a video shoot instead of an editorial?
Sophie: Since everything is in motion, the clothes naturally behave differently than in a photo. You have to live with the fact that the clothes are alive and if necessary, shoot a scene more often and that’s, in turn, more time-consuming. But you train your eye and get more sensitivity for the garments. It was definitely an exciting shoot.
Œ: The last question goes to Yanni, what’s next?
Yanni: We have some more songs that we recorded over the past year, but we’re still tweaking them and plan to keep on writing more. We probably already have enough for an EP or something, but let’s say we’re not in a rush to put things out – we are really working on finding our own sound and style. In any case, I prefer not to spoil too much in case our plans change, just keep an eye out.
Home Recorded at Ola, Rodéo Studios (CH)
Composed by Asher Varadi & Yanni Caloghiris
Mixed by Asher Varadi
Mastered at Crystal Mastering (AU)
Director, Writer & Producer – Yanni Caloghiris
Director of Photography & Assistant Director – Kevin Brari
Styling – Sophie Giannoulēs
Assistant Camera – Felix Keltsch
Assistant Styling – Carl Breisig
Editor – Yanni Caloghiris
Colourist – Kevin Brari
Starring – Achim Großmann, Laura Schulze, Rim Tekle, Aljosha Rösch, Alena Berning, Konrad Jurko, Lion Durst
Special Thanks – Studio Orel, Tennis-Stuttgart Auchtwiesen, Franziska Michael, Danny Reinke, Silke Debler, Vivian Grumser, Gaudenz Strauss, Anida Alicehajic