To say 2017 was a huge year for Berlin duo Gurr would be something of an understatement. Members Laura Lee and Andreya Casablanca self-released their impressive first EP in 2015 while still at university, on a North American Studies course which connected their desire to make music with a distinctly American flavour. Indeed, if it wasn't for the song 'Walnuss's appearance on their debut album, a song in which they were required to write and perform with German lyrics for a German TV show, one would probably guess that Lee and Casablanca were two of many, many Americans living in Berlin.
"We love our German language, but when we write our songs we generally feel using English suits what we want to get across better. 'Walnuss' was a nice exception to have though, and both German and English-speaking audiences really reacted to it, so it's not implausible that we won't use German again in the future" reveals Lee.
Despite being the only "German" song on their debut album ‘In My Head’, which was picked up by Duchess Box Records and released at the tail end of 2016, musically it was a move towards a more fully-realised sound for the band which has characterised the excitement surrounding Gurr. The band are currently working on their second album, due for release later this year, in-between upcoming tours with Shame and The Go! Team, which Lee confirms will see the band follow the darker themes presented on ‘In My Head's best moments '#1985', 'Moby Dick' and the aforementioned 'Walnuss'.
"We're exploring some darker themes on our next album, like the loneliness and anxieties of living in a big city and pessimism about the future given the year we've all just had; there's not going to be another goofy song like 'Computer Love' anyway," Lee explains. Casablanca assures us, however, that "while there are darker themes on our next album, there will still be some straight-up poppy songs on there!"
It is this meeting of pop-songs with darker themes that largely define Gurr and fuel much of the curiosity around them. Sonically, they are like an updated B-52's, taking a traditionally "fun" genre of music like surf-rock and lacing it with poisonous lyrics that bubble under the surface. It is an intentionally deceiving conceit, something Lee remarks upon when thinking about the reception to their single 'Moby Dick'. "People always used to tell me they think it is a happy song, but we intended it to be pretty dark. We're happy that people are reacting to it either way, though!"
Gurr are in a crucial position as they face 2018, on the cusp of potential greatness. 2017 saw the band wow audiences at festivals such as SXSW and The Great Escape, for live they are a force, both, of great power, but they are also a word that perhaps doesn't get bounced around enough, they are "fun". This notoriety led to playing sold-out shows at the end of last year at London's Shacklewell Arms and Moth Club, while back in their native Germany, they just completed a sold-out tour of 500+ capacity venues.
They are a slight oddity for a German band to get success in their native country singing in English, something both Lee and Casablanca admit they get asked about a lot by the German press as to whether they will sing in their mother tongue more going forward. However, for now, the band are happy with their dual-status as both a German and by proxy UK band. "It's funny because we're now getting invited to play really mainstream, corporate showcases in Germany after we won our VIA Award (Germany's Mercury) for our album, but we still get to live this double life as a trendy underground band in the UK."
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WHAT: American riot-grrrl obsessed Berliner duo who will make you laugh and cry simultaneously.
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
GET 3 SONGS: ‘#1985’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Walnuss’.
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Gurr tour with The Go! Team in February and Shame in April.
Words: Adam Turner-Heffer
Photo Credit: Marco Leitermann
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