Clare and the Reasons Channel Berlin on ‘KR-51′

Photo courtesy of Big Hassle

Brooklyn just wouldn’t do. When it came time for orchestral indie-pop group Clare and the Reasons to write and record their third album of highly textured, cabaret-ready mini-symphonies, titled KR-51, they moved from New York to a place that is known for inspiring highly textured mini-symphonies: Berlin. Once frontwoman Clare Manchon arrived, she began examining a wide variety of music that came from the same place. “As cliché as it may be, I was listening to Bowie’s Berlin albums,” she says. “Also, Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill and [classical composer] Shostakovich.” While she also mentions Pink Floyd, Deerhoof and Harry Nilsson as influences, the thread that connects all of these artists, and especially Clare and the Reasons, is a duality between dark and light. It’s what comes through most on KR-51.

“As the years pass, and I go through more hardship, I’m just drawn to the darker side of music — not the depressing side, but the heavier, more muddy side,” she explains. “There is always room for the sun to peek through, though.” The ratio between sunlight and twilight on KR-51 is what makes it captivating. To achieve this, they enlisted members of the Orchestre de Paris for support, recorded in a small German village and soaked in both the good and bad things Berlin had to offer. Manchon explains how it all came together here.

Why did you move to Berlin to write this album?

It has endless historical intrigue as well as a very high quality of life for a very low cost of living. They also have the best orchestra in the world, which can only be a very good sign for the cultural relevance of the city.

One song that stands out is “The Mauerpark.” Given the history of the park, which was heavily guarded when the Berlin Wall existed, what inspired you to write it?

Yes, the park itself has a tragic past, but it’s given way to quite a nice park, with people acting quite joyously in it. There is a flea market there every Sunday, hipsters doing karaoke, robots being built, people selling bikes. It also backs up to one of my favorite DDR [East German] buildings, the old DDR stadium, pictured on the album cover. You can see the stadium lights towering over the Berlin Wall, which still lines the park. It’s a place I’m very drawn to. There are so many juxtapositions. It’s a reminder that time moves on and the same geographical place can mean many different things to different generations. “The Mauerpark” itself is not really about the park; it’s about little experiences that happened to me all near Mauerpark, so that was the reference point. It is not one story, but stories of pain that several of my friends, and maybe even myself were going through, authored into one. Pain can all be one story.

Watch the video for “Make Them Laugh” here:

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