TMF meets Charlene Soraia
reached number three in the charts with her cover of The Calling’s ‘Wherever You Will Go’ which was featured on a Twinings TV advert. The Music Fix caught up with her before her reecent Get it Loud in Libraries show at Lancaster Library and finds out that there is a lot more to her than just tea…
You can’t read my questions before I’ve even asked them!
Oh, it’s okay, I can’t read… I’m joking!
If I could get you to introduce yourself to TMF…
Hi, I’m Charlene Soraia, and that’s my name.
Most people have heard of you due to your cover, so that must have opened a lot of doors. It’s nothing like the rest of your music - is that a bit weird for you?
I feel a little bit bad that a lot of people, they hear the cover and they think that my album is like a complete piano ballad album and it’s not. It’s quite arty really, it’s kind of music of escapism. That’s what I love about music, music that you can sit inside and just completely forget the rest of the universe.
The song was featured on a Twinings advert. Do you drink tea, or are you a coffee kinda girl?
The funniest thing is, I actually used to ask for Twinings on my rider when I was on tour! So when I told my friends that I’d been asked to do the Twinings advert they were like ‘Charlene, that is really ironic’. Part of me was like ‘Yeah I know… but imagine the free tea we’ll all get!’… I’ve got tea coming out of my ears!
Your music is centred around an on-going space and moon theme. Where did your interest in that come from?
I’m a lunatic in the literal sense; I’m quite obsessed with the universe and the science of our lives and how we’re here, the planets, the sun and the galaxies, and how we’re all moving about in the universe. I just find it fascinating. I get a feeling of empowerment: it makes me feel connected to something bigger than myself.
It’s a lovely feeling, but I know a lot of people find that scary, like our Earth can fit in the sun over 400 times but it only takes eight seconds for its light to reach us. They say the nearest galaxy is Andromeda but we’ve actually got galaxies orbiting our own galaxy, which is nuts! I find that so amazing and I just stay alone a lot of the time and think about things like that.
Do you have any musicians who inspire you?
I like the fact that you used the word inspire and not influenced! A lot of people ask who influences me as a musician, as a guitarist, as a songwriter, but I don’t really know what my influences are. However I get inspired by so much. I’ve got a telescope and as often as I can, when there’s no clouds I try to look up. My neighbours think I’m spying on them! Please get over yourselves, I’m really not!
I’m not even pointing it at your house… well I am, but it goes above their house. I love to watch films, anything with a bittersweet mentality. The idea that we’re here right now and our lives are so complicated, but in the grand scale of things it doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s quite a bittersweet thought really.
That comes across in your music: it has a positive sound but there’s this heartbreaking element to it.
Yeah, there’s a song of mine called ‘Bike’ and it sounds really happy and upbeat, but the words are ‘I love you so much that I could leave you, I could wait around for another you to come along.’ But the way it’s sung just makes it sound really happy and upbeat. I like the juxtaposition of that.
The way you play guitar sounds quite prog-rock esque…
There’s a lot of progressiveness in the way I play guitar. I really like psych and prog rock, but I like melodic stuff. I don’t like it to be fast for the sake of speed, it has to make sense musically.
I’ve got synaesthesia, so I see colours to sounds. Even when someone’s talking I get colours. A lot of the stuff that I write evolves around how the colour progresses as well. That’s why the album has a lot of layered textures that don’t really sound like they’re there, but they are. That’s what I like in music. I made the album years before the single came out. Part of me wishes I’d paid more attention to the single! I literally recorded it and went on tour that night and I came back ten days later and it was number three in the charts. It took quite a while for me to get my head around. I didn’t really know how to accept it, but I have now, it’s in my life and I’ve come to terms with it.
Were you a fan of the song already?
I just remember when the song first came out and I was at school. I didn’t really have an opinion of it, I just remember the guy's eyebrows. The blondest of blonde hair and then these big eyebrows. He looked a bit like Nick Carter but with these eyebrows!
How do you manage to hit the whistle notes live?
Basically I whistle with my vocal chords. It was actually an accident how I found it. My friends and I we had a crazy night out and we ended up at my house. We were listening to some music but the TV was on and Mariah Carey came on. I don’t know why, but we just started howling and then this really high pitched sound came out and everybody sort of looked at me. I said ‘Well, it wasn’t me’, then I sat there trying to work it out. It was a piss take, but it was a good piss take because I stuck with it! At first it was just a gimmicky joke thing but the more I did it the more I started to control it.
Hypothetical situation here, if there was an alien ...
I don’t believe in aliens, but I do believe in astronauts. Whether they’re alive now or a thousand bajillion years ago, it doesn’t really concern me. I don’t like the word alien, it’s the association that everyone has with it of little green men. I think people from our planet, they try to go to other celestial bodies and I think well, if we’re capable of getting to the moon what makes us think that some ancient civilization way back before we were even developing on this planet, what makes us think that it couldn’t have happened before and what makes us think that it couldn’t happen again? I think that’s quite close minded to think that little green men don’t exist.
If one did land, what would you do, where would you take it?
I’d take it to Strada, show it a good night out. Take him for a date. I wouldn’t take him anywhere, I’d say ‘Take me! Show me where you’ve come from!’. He’d be like ‘Look, I’ve come from a place just like Croydon’, which is a dodgy place in South London…
How would you describe your sound in three words?
[Three very high pitched noises]
How the hell am I going to transcribe that?!
Haha! Er…my sound in three words... [Three high pitched noises again]
Would you go on one of the space tourist trips that Richard Branson is planning on launching?
If it didn’t cost the price of a house, I’d be there! If I could get Twinings to sponsor me to go on that trip, I’d be there, even if I died I wouldn’t care. Yeah, let’s do it! I’d be quite scared if I went on my own. I might wet my knickers.
At this point Charlene discovers the touch screen projector in the room and puts on ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ by Gotye loudly, to the extent that people watching the support act next door can probably hear it, as we later realise. It’s more like chatting to a friend, than an interview, in a strange way. So there you have it, Charlene Soraia, strange in the nicest of ways.