Carrying the DIY vibe worldwide | Alexandra Aquilina, Daniel Borg

Malta-born, Berlin-based duo Alexandra Aquilina and Daniel Borg of Superlove release single ‘Jarvis Put the Record On’ on cassette, under the auspices of cult UK-based label Safe Suburban Home Records

 Alexandra Aquilina and Daniel Borg
Alexandra Aquilina and Daniel Borg

You guys have had quite an eclectic musical journey on your trajectory from Malta to Berlin. Could you give us a rundown of all the various projects you have been involved in from then onwards, and how they influenced the current sound of Superlove?

Back in Malta we met each other through Skimmed, with which we released two albums, a handful of music videos (collaborating with many visual artists) and performed a ton of shows, also launching some of Malta’s younger bands. We were always into the DIY ethic (printing our own merch, being involved in production of albums and videos, creating our own artworks and being involved in the scene at a grassroots level) – an ethos we still hold dear to our hearts.

While we were still in Malta, Alex was also involved with Brikkuni and Fastidju and Daniel with Fastidju and The Velts. With our move to Berlin (and different life goals of the rest of the band), we chose to leave Skimmed behind; we had no illusions of wanting to drag out its life span. Skimmed had a fantastic run and we’re proud of the mark we left and the amount of new bands that formed in our wake, but we needed something new.

Once in Berlin, we weren’t quite sure of what to do but we took it as an opportunity to try different sounds, styles, ways of writing and performing and collaborating with other artists/musicians/singers/producers. It was at this point that we formed ‘BlackFawn’,  a goth-pop-psych project. We released a few great tunes under that name but something just didn’t click. We took a break from making music together and Daniel began to work exclusively on his own, and that’s really how Superlove was born. It is purely Daniel’s brainchild on a songwriting level and Alex only steps in to help with second melodies, arrangements, backing vocals and of course for the visual output (filming/editing, photography and merch).

Superlove believe that releasing a single on cassette restores a tactile feel to the increasingly ephemeral nature of music in the streaming era
Superlove believe that releasing a single on cassette restores a tactile feel to the increasingly ephemeral nature of music in the streaming era

How has living in Berlin over the past five years influenced your practice and musical career plans? What are some of the most dramatic ways in which Berlin differs from Malta in this regard?

Admittedly it was quite hard dealing with moving to a country where you don’t know anyone, don’t know the language and don’t have a job or a home, while also trying to get a new band up and running and into the music scene(s), so it was a slow progress. Superlove as a live act is only about one year old now, and we feel it’s doing quite well. We’re being asked to play at bigger events and even have a booking manager. We learned a lot from our first few years so now we know not to make the same mistakes we did with BlackFawn.

Apart from that, the major difference that we find here is that the whole concept of a four-piece band is almost non-existent. There are many venues that have live music, but they generally do not support drum kits and have quite basic sound systems so musicians have to be smarter in their set up.

Same goes for touring. Living in Berlin provides this unique opportunity of being connected to so many European countries by car or train, but carrying an infinite amount of gear (as we did for a show in Slovakia) is just a nightmare.

The idea of having your own rehearsal space is also not so common… there are so many musical projects happening that it just doesn’t make sense. So bands rent rooms and share them with other bands/artists or even rent out rehearsal spaces by the hour… it makes you more efficient as a musician because you need to get stuff right in a shorter amount of time. As a result, many choices related to our sound are actually influenced by logistics.

Could you tell us a bit about your collaboration with Safe Suburban Records? Are you excited to be working with them, and how do you think their approach complements your sound?

Jim and Emma (from Safe Suburban Records) had contacted us to release ‘Jarvis’ to English audiences quite a while ago since they fell in love with the tune after hearing/seeing our music video about a year ago, but the timing was never quite right. They took the lockdown as an opportunity to create a monthly tape release and asked to submit ‘Jarvis’ to the jury. It was great fun working with them; they are such down to earth and hard-working people. They really love what they do and we’ve learnt so much from them. And of course, the fact that they are a DIY label in the same way we are a DIY band just makes the whole thing more appealing because it’s so much nicer to work so intimately with the people releasing your music.

We think people always like to have a physical thing when buying something… all this music on the internet is just so ephemeral, it loses its value…
We think people always like to have a physical thing when buying something… all this music on the internet is just so ephemeral, it loses its value…

There’s an interesting story behind your single ‘Jarvis Put the Record On’... could you recount it for us?

In our first year in Berlin, we tried to get tickets for [Pulp documentary] ‘Life, Death and Supermarkets’ but they sold out super fast. We had nothing to do and figured we’d go anyway and sneak in but it seemed many folks had our same idea, so we had a glass of wine instead when lo and behold, Alex goes, “psst… isn’t that Jarvis?” and after a few long minutes of nudging each other we went to introduce ourselves.

He is such a fun person to be around and a great inspiration to us, and Pulp are one of those few bands that we never got to see play live (damn MCAST finals!)... so the song turned out to be a plea for Jarvis to release more music. Since then he formed JARV IS and only just recently began releasing new tunes!

Releasing a single (with B-sides) on cassette has a particular charm to it – what are some of the advantages of that approach, do you think?

We think people always like to have a physical thing when buying something… all this music on the internet is just so ephemeral, it loses its value… so much that people feel they don’t need to pay for it. Also, a cassette just plays nicely into the element of nostalgia that we always seem to love. It was great fun playing with the artwork for it, and Daniel (who just started painting) made an painting especially for the cover art which we feel works great with the Superlove aesthetic and having all the artistic elements made by us and then packaged in a DIY cardboard box by SSH just makes the whole thing so much more intimate and personal. You can’t get that feeling by just listening to music on Spotify.

What’s next for you?

We will just keep on writing and making music videos from home at this point… there’s not much else to do with this whole pandemic. We can’t wait to get back to the stage, especially since we had a ton of shows cancelled, but we need to keep safe and hopefully this will be over soon.

To hear the track and order the cassette - which includes the B-side song ‘Me and My 909’ - log on to:  https://safesuburbanhomerecords.bandcamp.com/album/jarvis-put-the-record-on

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