Interview: Si Schroeder

As conformity in the music industry becomes increasingly pervaisive, Anna Burzlaff chats to freethinker Si Schroeder about unusual inspiration and finding that elusive voicePerhaps it was an undiagnosed case of ADD that led Dubliner, Si Schroeder, down the path of musicianship. Schroeder admits attention deficit may be a cause; his debut album, Coping Mechanisms, is somewhat akin to a musical version of the stream of consciousness in literature, with multiple streams, multiple psyches, all conversing at once.Call it eccentricity, or oddity, or genius, Schroeder’s musical style is undoubtedly unusual. Not surprisingly so. While other young crèche going toddlers were waddling in a sea of foam toys and chewed up Lego pieces, the young Schroeder busied himself with the psychedelic musings of The Beatles; already at such a tender age unwittingly experimenting with the dynamics of sound.“My favourite song when I was a kid was ‘I Am the Walrus’ by The Beatles, and I used to play this over and over again… But there was one day my mother drove me to the UCD crèche and I brought her copy of that single, it was ‘Hello Goodbye’ with ‘I Am The Walrus’ on the other side and I left it on the backseat of the car. It was a sunny day, and when I got back to the car I realised that the record was really badly warped because of the heat and I had no idea what had happened. I put it on and it sounded even better because it was really sort of sea sick and distorted sounding. That must have set something in motion internally that meant that I like strange things that are going a bit out of tune and stuff slowing down and speeding up.”Schroeder’s freethinking did not peak that day in the car rather, luckily, it continued to develop. In an age in which a song with the lyrics: “Stop telephonin' me. I'm busy. Stop telephonin' me” reached an astonishing half a million views in 12 hours on YouTube, it is refreshing to encounter a type of music whose content is more deeply thought out. The inspiration for Schroeder’s next album, Holding Patterns, is drawn on the idea of, as he puts it, “a point in your life where you might suddenly feel that you weren’t going to be human anymore for some reason, for moral reasons, that you might be obliged to make a choice that involves you leaving your humanity to one side.”This sounds more like Darren Aronofsky film than a music record, but this is a good thing, and once again not surprising. Schroeder’s follow-up album was always going to be painstakingly crafted. Although he is clear that the songs are open ended and subjective for each listener, Schroeder’s thought process circles around a very particular idea: “The idea that you’re kind of in a circular holding state, and waiting to decide whether you’re going to behave this way or that way in a certain situation.”Eccentricity or oddity or genius, or whatever camp of thought you believer Schroeder belongs to, while it may be interesting it is not necessarily the stuff of huge commercial success. Sadly musicians attempting new and exciting endeavours within their art form aren’t always adequately rewarded. The nature of the industry being what it is sees conformity and exposed midriffs rise above and often shadow the work of a higher calibre of musicianship and artistry. Making music costs money, and for struggling musicians their output may not be as finely tuned as it could be were the finances there.Schroeder may be a maverick, but he’s no idealist and he recognises the role money plays. What does he hope for in the future? “Maybe having a bit of money to work with musicians for the next recorded. Just to be indulged very slightly so it isn’t all totally hand to mouth.”This isn’t to say that the Dubliner is despairing, far from it. Schroeder is still only in the early years of his musical endeavour. His thoroughness when it comes to album writing has caused somewhat of a delay in his career, but it is still a career that is just beginning, and one which Schroeder clearly intends to keep going: “I really think it takes quite a lot of time to build a unique voice in any discipline, whether it’s film or music or literature or drama or whatever, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever you’re doing you can spend your whole life finding your voice.”After all the nature of mavericks is such that they march to the beat of their own drum, they won’t follow the rules to express their artistic worth. They are the true artists. Their voice may develop at a slightly slower pace but when it does finally find expression the whole world is sure to hear it.