Athens’ finest Μαύρο Γάλα (Mavro Gala) released their Ζητώ Νερό (Begging For Water) LP in 2019 and we are waiting for them to play Sofia for the first time ever, after a failed attempt few years back. Here’s an interview they gave for the newest local zine SUSTAINER, whose #1 issue just came out in print and is available at Kontingent Records shows.
Hi there! How would you describe Mavro Gala to someone who has never heard your music before?
Loud, emotional and sometimes out of tempo or out of sync.
Can you please introduce us to every member of the band, how did you end up forming your current line-up?
Mavro Gala now are Giannis, Alex and Haris. It all started when Giannis and me talked about forming a band in the spirit of late 90s screamo. Soon after, Hector joined for the bass duties. A couple of years later, we had our first line-up change when Alex joined the band as the new bass player, after Hector had to leave.
What’s the story behind the name (Mavro Gala means “black milk” in Greek)?
It’s taken from Paul Celan’s poem “Death Fugue”, which is informed by his experience in a concentration camp during WWII.
To what extent did Athens, and political climate in Greece in general, make you the people you are and have shaped Mavro Gala as a band?
Mavro Gala, and playing music in general, came naturally as a response to everyday issues, either political or personal. The band does not have a particularly political lyrical concept and its mostly centered around emotions and personal relationships; on the other hand those have always been formed in a city where police violence and right wing politics were reigning since we were born. The political climate has mostly shaped the band in terms of how we operate but this would be better fit for an answer in the next question!
What does DIY means to you as a band?
DIY for Mavro Gala was not a fully conscious choice but something that came naturally. From day one we always preferred political squats and DIY venues when we wanted to arrange a show because it always seemed more fitting to us to play, for example, in fundraisers for medical or political expenses.
What are the current best-kept secrets (bands, zines, venues, labels) in Greece? What local bands/artists/projects you can recommend?
This is gonna be long. Let’s start with venues which sadly is easier nowadays, as a lot of squats have been evicted by the state: Idrima2.14 and Ypoga K94 are the two most active DIY venues in Athens right now but shows have been put in a lot of squats or university campuses as well.
Some labels that helped us along the way and have been putting out some amazing records are Nothing To Harvest, Scarecrow, Sweetohm Recordings, Undergroung Union.
A lot of hard work has been put in by some zines in Athens as well. Some of them are Crucial Zine, Puke Soup and Disco Suicide. As for bands (sorry if we forget somebody) Chronoboros, Kalpa, Broken Fingers, Malignant, Tenants, Mammock, Chain Cult, Dirty Wombs, Nurse Of War, Falkonera, King Medicine, Maladie, Dramachine, Allochiria.
All of them have been doing tremendous work over the last years and we hope they’ll keep it up!
Your latest album Ζητώ Νερό (Begging For Water) came out in 2019. Tell us more about the process of writing and recording these songs!
This is a funny one. Well, it’s strange now that some time has passed, because it was a decision that stressed us in ways we could not imagine as a band. In May 2019, Kalpa asked us to tour with them in that coming October, and of course we said yes.
Some days later we thought “it would be nice to tour with a new record”. That meant we had to have a record ready and mastered, not to mention the money we had to find, by the first days of August. So, we had around two months to create a record.
By the time we took that decision we only had four unfinished songs. Doing this while all of us were working our daily jobs and putting all our money on the side during summertime nearly killed us but the songs, full of stress and desperation, were beautiful and cathartic to our ears.
This would not have been achieved if we didn’t have our long-time friends Ignite Studios and No mas No more by our side. They helped us with the recordings and the artwork on a such short notice.
Do you have any interesting stories you could share from touring and playing shows?
These stories and the friendships created along the way are what gets us going, not the vast amounts of money we make, rest assured. I think that if we could just choose one, it would be that show in Groningen, where it was kind of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-meets-Mad Max situation. That was a 14 hour bender we will never recover from for sure and we somehow managed to remember everything (Pro tip: use the memories of the other band members to fill in the gaps).
Anything else you would like to add?
We want to thank you for giving us the chance to talk and also say that we are really looking forward to playing a show in Sofia. We will try to be the loudest and the least out of tempo we have ever been!