Sara Vondraskova makes pop music as Never Sol–lush, intricately layered soundscapes that confront the darkness and perils of our everyday lives. Her music is dynamic in form–sometimes volatile with abrasive beats, more often tender and trepidatious–but its mood is consistently melancholy, haunted even. It’s a vibe almost completely at odds with Never Sol’s own personality, which is exceptionally upbeat.
Last year, after a summer in New York City spent writing and performing, Never Sol returned to her hometown of Prague to finish her debut album CHAMALEO. We’re pleased to premiere the LP today, eleven tracks of devastatingly beautiful, self-produced synth-pop. Never Sol’s voice ebbs and flows over left-field ambient beats, splitting into eerie harmonies like a cold wind. It’s an album most appropriate for the oncoming autumn weather, songs made for contemplation and introspection.
Stream Never Sol’s CHAMALEO via Bandcamp, and read an exclusive interview with the artist below.
Several collages accompany your new album. Tell me more about that process.
The collages are the work of my friend Michaela Karásková. Because my music is based on heavy layering of synths and vocals, I wanted the artwork to be collages. And I knew Michaela creates wonderful ones. When I told her the album name is CHAMALEO she immediately had the idea of making special artwork for each track and compose my figure in a specific surrounding that corresponds with the song.
There is a big tradition of collage art in Czechia, artists like Jan Švankmajer, Adolf Hoffmeister, Toyen (my cat’s named after her), Libor Fára… Their artworks are for me something genius and thrilling. Collaging and surrealistic language in general is very dear to my perceiving and creativity. There are mechanisms that click with our subconsciousness and that is something where I feel home.
You’re based in Prague but we first met because I booked you for a show while you were living in New York for a few months last year. What was that experience like for you creatively? Did you find the stimulation from the city too distracting to focus on making music?
Living in New York was one of the most amazing things I could’ve ever wished for and I am so happy I made it happen. It was hard to leave, but I had to because my visa ran out. I hope I’ll come back again soon. The fast and variable dynamic of this city was inspiring me on every step, in each neighbourhood, on each concert I went to and I felt very motivated to do new things there. I also felt a lot of freedom on a creative level and the feeling I can really go inside of myself and develop my own musical language. I think the city’s chaos is kind of calming paradoxically. In a way is settles you down in your self and helps you find who you are.
I finished “Fog” and “Zoe” here and started a lot of new sketches for songs. I always went to the beach on Rockaway with my friend and I listened to my unfinished songs looking to the sea. I also bought my first semi-modular synth here and started discovering new ways of how to create. The inspiration in NY is just never-ending.
Where was CHAMALEO recorded? When was the album completed?
I recorded this album at my studio in Strahov, which is a very peculiar area of Prague, my favourite one. Here the buildings around remind me a lot of the 90’s: uncovered bricks, concrete everywhere, beautiful functionalist architecture next to ruins of houses that nobody cares of. There’s a certain vibe which I believe got into the album. I was recording in this cozy attic, where I have lots of plants, my cat and loads of synthesizers, I was working alone on this record for the first time and I feel it’s a very devoted statement.
Aside from “Haptic” with TouchieTouchie, are there any other collaborators featured on the album?
There’s only this one song as a collab. I wanted my brother to sing on one of the songs, I hope we’ll make that happen in some new tracks.
You have a beautiful studio space in Prague. I imagine a lot of your music is made there. In what ways is your art and the mood of your music central to Prague?
Prague has it’s mysterious vibe, beautiful gothic architecture and also (post)communist concrete jungles with several high-rise apartments next to each other in the suburbs. That’s where I grew up, that still inspires me a lot, and I love to return to those places. I’m a very nostalgic person and I guess I am always driven by a certain kind of place in my music. It’s atmosphere, it’s stories, my stories in that place, memories. I find myself very dependent on where I create, where I can go for walks around my creative spot, what are my surroundings. But that can be literally anywhere, I can create in a small room in NY with almost no gear around or a studio which I tend to cultivate and make cozy almost as my home, it just has to feel like the “right” place to be. I guess I’m a chameleon in this way.
Stream CHAMALEO on Bandcamp.