She Bit Her Lip is an Estonian band that produces beautiful dreamy shoegaze and dreampop music. Their debut album, Viiv, came out in 2015 on the Seksound label, which is owned and operated by Rein Fuks of Pia Fraus. The band consists of Siim Kallson, Taavi Iip, Martin Seiler, Peeter Anijalg, and Risse Soomets. Since I’ve been introduced to the band by the encyclopedic mind of Marc Dooley, I have been listening Viiv on a regular rotation and am highly anticipating their sophomore effort. The members of She Bit Her Lip were kind enough to answer my questions about their formation, recording their music, the music scene in Estonia, and more.
Hello members of She Bit Her Lip. Could you all introduce yourselves to our readers and tell us what you all do in the band?
Martin: I play one of the guitars and bring the occasional demo or two to the rehearsal place. I have also been the one to scribble down some lyrics for the tunes.
Siim: I play the drums and take part in figuring out how Martin’s demos would sound even better with a band.
Peeter: Risse forgot to mention that besides vocals she is also in charge of the tambourine and shakers. As for me, I play the other guitar and, based on our recent rehearsals, it seems that I
also play the synth. And sometimes I sing.
Taavi: I play the bass guitar and also try to give some input during the song creation process.
How did you all get involved in making music?
Martin: I started experimenting with different DAW’s in my teens doing mainly some awful trancey stuff. It was fun though and to this day it’s still an enjoyable hobby of mine to create some electronic tracks. I think it was Peeter who first showed me some basic guitar chords on his acoustic. By the way, I remember him actually playing at one of our school ceremonies in roughly 6th grade or so (we have been friends since 2nd grade), which means he had massive stage experience to bring to the band. Anyway, at some point, a friend of mine said he was going to get an acoustic and urged me to do it as well. This was roughly in 2013 and resulted in a few tunes that ended up on Viiv.
Siim: I started when I was about 18 years old, when I and a friend started to learn some favourite band covers on guitar, so, until SBHL, I played guitar in several punk and metal bands. I have now played drums for 3 years, lots of fun 🙂 just beat, no more chords. 🙂
Risse: I grew up with classical music at our household. As I grew older, I started to explore other sounds such as jazz, rhythm and blues, etc. Singing came naturally for me and my music teacher noticed it. Started to take part in singing competitions and so the passion grew. I’ve always loved singing but performing doesn’t feel that comfortable to me. But it gets better the more you practice :).
Peeter: Yes, Martin is telling the truth about the 6th grade school ceremony but interestingly we didn`t receive any other offers to play at similar events.. After that I just played the guitar for fun until a point where Martin started to teach me his own songs and all of a sudden I was part of SBHL.
Taavi: I come from a very musical family and started going to the music school when I was 7, so I’ve always been around music. Although I was studying piano at the music school I was also offered to play the bass guitar for a local kids band, so I did my first gig when I was 8 I think. After that, I played in different bands with various friends but nothing serious or long-lasting, until SBHL asked me to join.
How did She Bit Her Lip form?
Risse: Martin and Peeter had been toying around with their acoustic guitars every chance they got for several years. Then at one point, Martin had an idea for “Eile”. He then approached Peeter and me to try to make a real song out of it. We recorded it, put it out into the world via Soundcloud, and that got the snowball rolling.
Siim: Martin said that he’s planning to form a band, but didn’t have a drummer and asked me to join as a drummer. I said that I can’t play drums, but then decided to give it a try and I started to like it.
Peeter: Like Risse mentioned, Martin asked us to sing to his track “Eile” and so it started. After that we were curious how it would sound with real instruments. As Siim`s former band decided to go on a break we were able to use their rehearsal room and with Risse bringing her bass-playing boyfriend Taavi along sbhl was ready to go.
Taavi: I just want to clarify that I wasn’t Risse’s boyfriend yet when I was asked to join. Or maybe I already was and just didn’t know about it yet.
What is the music scene like in Estonia? How do you see that environment contributing to your sound?
Martin: We do have some very nice artist here. I would bring out Faun Racket, Mart Avi, and Argo Vals from the current crop of active artists. Obviously, Pia Fraus from the same genre has been an influence.
You have an amazing sound. Viiv is one of my favorite albums and I can’t stop listening to it. Can you talk a bit about writing and recording Viiv and how you got involved with Seksound?
Martin: Thanks! Some part of the writing is pure bedroom stuff – finding some nice sounds and harmonies on the acoustic guitar and then taking it into the DAW and layering other parts ontop of it. Then there is the rehearsal room phase where it changes quite a bit and molds into a more ready package. The vocal melodies usually come when the rough instrumental part is already there. Risse has come up with some of the best melody lines I have ever heard. Initially, we recorded some demos ourselves but got a friendly comment pretty soon that it is illegal to put such poorly recorded drums to any record. We were helped and shown the analogue goodness of the renowned recording-mixing-mastering guru Lauri Liivak and were soon able to use anything from Neve 1073 preamp clones to tube mic’s. Check out the eye and ear candy from his IG account @ lauriliivak_mastering
We were first approached by Rein from Seksound after we had uploaded ‘Eile’ to our Soundcloud. He wanted to add the tune to a compilation and some time later offered to release our album when we discussed other material that we have. Rein is really nice.
I like to pick a few tracks from a recent release and get the band’s more detailed take on those tracks. Would you comment on the writing and recording of “Kajaruum” and “Valguse kiirusel vaikuses”? Also, since you sing in Estonian, could you let our English readers what the lyrical content is about?
Martin: “ Kajaruum” was the second tune that came after “Eile” and was all about those airy chords plus a nice pumping bassline. Btw, the main riff was initially a synth, but as we didn’t have an actual physical synth and no one willing to play it anyway, we stayed with the guitar. Let’s see if we can fix that with our next album. 🙂
Regarding the lyrics – I would say that there is a sense of symbolism to them, but mainly it’s just words which sound nice and are not too tacky when you actually recognize some of them under the reverb. Siim will perhaps talk about the second tune as it’s his baby?
Siim: Well I have a guitar at home and was just playing smth when suddenly I started to like a melody, so I recorded it with my phone and sent it to Martin. He liked it and added some second guitar stuff, bass line, and drum part also. After that we took it to rehearsal and we got ourselves a new song. About the lyrics, I wrote them with my wife :). Usually, if I start to write smth then I don’t plan anything, just start from somewhere and see where it will end up. ‘Valguse kiirusel vaikuses’ ended up talking about how people feel inside when the world is turning around themselves, but the reality is that we all are just a tiny part of everything around us.
Now that it’s a been a while since Viiv was released, do you have any favorite tracks on the album and has the album really held together for you after all this time or would you change things?
Martin: I would like to bring out the track ‘Klaas’ as one of my favorites. Some tunes I would not add to the album if it would come out now, but it is a snapshot of that current situation and time, which I think is still pretty OK.
Risse: My favourite ones to sing (still) are “Uni” and “Laotan tiivad ja lendan”. There is definitely one track that I would like to avoid in the future, but like Martin said – it’s a representation of that specific timeframe and mindset we were in and therefore I wouldn’t change a thing. Siim: I would pick also ‘Klaas’,
Siim: I would pick also ‘Klaas’, nice easy song with nice progress, growing until the very end, good to listen to. I wouldn’t change anything on Viiv, it sounds good, sometimes I still listen to it in my car, but the same thing as with Risse, usually skipping one song. 🙂
Can you talk a bit about how you choose tones and textures for your music? Some of your guitar work on your tracks is distinct and gorgeous.
Martin: As we are not a revolutionary band in terms of the sounds – we don’t really bring anything new to the scene, then it is pretty much just a collection or a symbiosis of different great sounds that have caught our ears.
Risse: Trial & error.
For our gearheads, would you please talk about what gear you all use both in the studio and live?
Martin: When talking about Viiv, then the studio work on the guitars was usually Guitar Rig + DAW effects and additional plugins in combination with actual stompboxes. The pedalboards are put together to pretty much replicate all the sounds live so there are some nice effects on them. I love my Strymon Bluesky for the dreaminess and the Big Muff for the chord fuzziness. The guitars used were a Squier VM Jazzmaster and a mexican Strat on the electrics side and 2-3 Yamaha and Fender acoustics aswell.
Siim: Viiv was recorded with some Pearl beginners drumset 🙂 but we muffled a lot, we taped to the high hats and cymbals any kind of metal stuff we could find from recording room. We used different types of mics and of course the biggest thanks goes to Lauri Liivak who processed the drums and made those sound superb on Viiv. Now I have a Tacton drumset from the year ‘75 or
smth and I’m really pleased. It has a nice retro sound. Looking forward to the next recording session. 🙂
So, are you all working on new music for another release? When are we going to hear
new She Bit Her Lip tracks?
Martin: Go have a look at our Instagram account to hear some snippets! Regarding actual releases – maybe next year? Maybe earlier, maybe later – you never know. 🙂
Risse: Yes, our Instragram stories give out some pretty good hints about what’s coming next.