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Odd Beholder: Almodovar, Climate Change, and Setting Planes on Fire

Odd Beholder 2
23 September 2021

Daniela Weinmann Odd Beholder – Photo Credit: Daniela Weinmann

Odd Beholder is the intriguing electro-/art-pop project of Swiss singer, songwriter, and activist Daniela Weinmann.

As the name of the project implies, this is a vehicle through which Daniela looks at the curious and complicated world around us.

On her latest full-length record, Sunny Bay, out now via Sinnbus, she turns her lens on society and some of the most pressing issues that we face. The climate emergency echoes throughout this body of work while the invisible hands of the free-market are something of a golden thread that ties everything together. In contrast to the weight of the topics that are explored here, the music is very soothing.

Listening to it whole, in one sitting, is a meditative experience. It’s like spending a moment inside of a spacious cocoon spun out of gentle guitars, warm synths, and breathy vocals.

Today, Daniela and her team are releasing a new video for the song “Transatlantic Flight.” The track, like the video, is about a stewardess who, in a fit of rage, sets an airplane on fire. It’s unclear as to what drove her to do this or what she thought the very moment when she started the fire, which makes the whole thing that much more perplexing, albeit in a good way.

In the video, which was directed by Annalena Fröhlich, who also happens to play the main character, we see a chain-smoking stewardess dancing something of a jagged, spasmodic flamenco. It’s a powerful and hypnotic performance that simultaneously evokes famed directors Almodovar and Lynch.

To find out more about this video and Odd Beholder, we reached out to Daniela Weinmann for a short Q&A:

The first time I watched your new video, it made me think of Almodovar…

“Ha, nice! I love that. There are a lot of ambivalent and radiant female characters in his films that had a lasting impression on me. They are never “good”, instead they are mad but brave, and sometimes wiser and better than the foul situation that they are forced to live in. Almodovar stages them in very theatrical fashion and light, they move through heavily designed sets – and their movements seem very choreographed and very expressive.”

Did you also have a moment during the first lockdown where you thought that people would actually start flying less? It got so quiet here.

“Yes. Covid showed us that flying to a meeting isn’t really necessary. It’s much more handy to schedule a Zoom, and it’s a lot cheaper. As for going on vacation: most of my friends went hiking in the Swiss Alps and actually, most of them sounded pretty happy about their trips. Many told me that they were surprised by the sublime beauty of the landscape that was just about two train hours away. They didn’t need to fly to Canada for that experience.”

“My guess is that if people were better at math, they would avoid flying around the globe. Did you know that a flight from Zurich to Vancouver emits 2.7 t CO2? That’s 4.5 times the amount of CO2 that each of us should emit a year. People think they can compensate for their CO2 emission by donating money, but I am not very convinced that it actually works.”

“Let’s do the math. To compensate for the flight to Vancouver I would have to plant three trees and make sure they get to at least 40 years old. In other words, I would have to take care of them for the rest of my life. Alternately, I could try to compensate for the flight within a year and plant a lot more trees: 216 to be precise. In order to do that, I would have to buy 0.25 km2 of forest.”

“In Switzerland, there are already 66 trees per capita – one third of the country is covered by forests. Imagine how many trees we would need if each one of us would have to plant 216 trees a year to compensate for our annual holiday trips. We simply don’t have enough space for that.”

“Climate Change is worse than Covid. And to prevent it, we don’t have to develop a vaccine or stop partying, we can simply stop flying around the globe if it is not really, really necessary – and by stop eating meat every day. It’s so easy to do better! You don’t even have to renounce great vacations!”

“Your [website] is based in the US and the American landscape is incredible. You can reach so many great places by car: great cities, great beaches, great national parks. If I was American, I wouldn’t even feel the need to fly places just for fun. If we all do a better job at planning our vacation we can save a LOT of CO2. And that really makes a difference.”

In the press text it says, and I’m paraphrasing, that as an artist you don’t want to be moralistic. Can you speak on that?

“I don’t want to be moralistic as a human being, either. But I feel the need to educate people about the current situation because it is getting more and more urgent. When I think of morals or virtues, I think of good or bad deeds. But for me, it’s not about trying to be the good guy in the story, it’s not about saving my soul or about optimising my moral curriculum. It’s about ensuring a healthy future for mankind.”

“Many people think that we are doomed and that it is too late – that’s a very disturbing thought and I don’t want anyone to go through such a feeling alone. We all want a future, that’s something that unites us. If each one of us cares a little more, it will be enough. If we do what we can, we will change the world. We don’t have to become superhuman, we don’t have to renounce everything we like. We just have to change the way we look at certain things. Don’t let the scare-mongerers tell you it’s in vain to care. It is not in vain.”

“But to come back to your question: my art is not political or moralistic – morals and politics are about solutions or at least about the notions of right and wrong.”

“My album is about how things feel. It won’t tell you what to do. I am singing about my fears and wishes. I hope that it resonates with the feelings and wishes of my listeners. Hopefully, we will find each other in this unique space called music. Make yourself at home in my songs. Make room in them for your own sadness and your own confusion if that’s what you need. I hope my songs will listen to you, in return.”

All of the videos that you shot for this LP were shot with an all female cast and crew. It’s unfortunate that we’re still living at a time where this is a radical statement and not just a matter of preference! Was this the first time that you worked like this?

“Yes. For the first time I shot two video clips with a female director, a female director of photography and a female cast.”

What was the experience like, and what did you learn through it?

“The two experiences were different. Maybe that’s the most important lesson. There can be bigger differences between two different women than between men and women with a similar character, experience or workflow. But there was also something that the two crews had in common. Both crews experienced something that members of the crews called „magical“.”

“During the shooting of “Transatlantic Flight,” something very unforeseen happened. We were really happy about the location that we have scouted: Julia Reist (the producer) and Annalena Fröhlich found a defunct plane that had been used as a bar for a while and then had been completely abandoned. We thought that this was the perfect location for the clip. But shortly before we could actually shoot the clip, we heard that someone had set the plane on fire! We were shocked. We decided to shoot some footage in front of the burned down plane and look for another location. Luckily, Julia found a second plane. This was such a coincidence that we called it fate.”

“During the shooting of “Disaster Movies,” a very intense moment on set happened where I suddenly felt like I was on the set of The Shining or Suspiria. The main character and dancer, Fhunyue Gao, was suddenly struck by a lot of energy and almost flew over the red lit tables and the chairs. It was remarkable. After the scene was shot, she broke down, seasick. We had to call it a wrap and discard a few scenes.”

“Another experience that I found remarkable were the several Zoom Meetings that we had. Stefanie Reinhard, Fhunyue Gao, and I wrote the script together. We met online regularly during the lockdown and had long conversations. It was an intuitive and intimate process.”

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Daniela Weinmann Odd Beholder – Photo Credit: Daniela Weinmann

I’m assuming that, provided that it will be possible, you will be touring soon. I’m curious as to how you plan to make the tour more sustainable? It seems a lot of musicians are interested in this, but most of them just don’t know how to go about it.

“Since I am touring alone and the European train infrastructure is much better than in the US, I will be able to tour mainly by train. I am also eating vegetarian food or – if possible – vegan food when I’m on tour. Most of the time, the food on tour isn’t great anyway (musicians know what I am talking about), so that’s not a big sacrifice for me.”

“I found it important to talk with my booking agency about this. We need a lot of agencies that believe in green touring. Agencies have a bigger market power than you, as a single musician, have. They can make sure that their artists have a tour route this is reasonable and that the artists don’t have to frantically drive in zig zag lines across the continent to make money.”

“An ideal route is a circle – each venue is only a few hours away from the next one. This will also make your touring experience easier because you have to spend less time in a small tour van per day. Musicians should publicly advocate for their fans to travel to their shows by train. Because a lion share of the emissions is caused by the audience. In an ideal world, music venues make a ticket deal with the train company so that the concert ticket already includes the train ticket.”

“Artists can use their reach on Social Media to create awareness. Your voice, your example is important. I would love to see a famous rapper post his favourite vegan dish on instagram – that can have an impact in a male dominated and meat obsessed hip hop scene. Remember: millions of people making a baby step is better than one person who’s going all the way. You’ll know what to do, what to post and what to say on social media, you’ll know what your fans need to hear, what content they need to engage with.”

In closing, would you mind telling our readers about Music Declares Emergency and how they could get involved?

“The problem with the last question is that it asks what musicians can do on an individual level. Climate Change is not a problem that individuals will solve. We need to think much more collectively to effectively change the situation.”

“You can stop eating meat, move into a tiny, well insulated home, switch to renewable energy, sell your car and stop flying You can basically become an eco-saint – if you are the only person trying, you won’t change a single thing except your own life (and drastically so). It’s nice to be a nice person and your good deeds are hopefully beneficial for your psyche, but they will not solve the problem. If you really want to make a difference, talk to your boss. Talk to your coworkers. Talk to your political party. Talk to your union. Talk to the religious community you are a part of. We need to change the industry, and each one of us can start with the industry that we work in.”

“As a musician, I know about the flaws of the music industry. That’s why my friends and I founded the Swiss branch of Music Declares Emergency. We have experienced that the demand for green solutions is huge; the industry WANTS to change, but it doesn’t know how. That’s why we get invited by a lot of people and organisations. We have meetings with the state, with booking agencies, with venues, with festivals, with artists, with environmental specialists and artist unions and we tell them everything we know.”

“Ideally, we will invite competing companies and ask them to find a solution together; that would be a great method to break the vicious cycle in which the worst polluters make the most money. We offer workshops and we link people who share the same concern. We plan to document our findings and accumulate know-how on how to become greener. We plan to share that knowledge freely. If you are an artist and you don’t know how to reduce your carbon footprint, consider donating to our organisation or joining it. If there is no Music Declares Emergency Group in your region, found one. We are convinced that if we can do it together, we can do it better.”

Sunny Bay at Bandcamp