Photo: Rona Lane
Altin Gün On 'Yol' & The Future Of Global Music: "We Like To Think We Defy Genres As A Band"
While many current artists play with and blow apart the boundaries of genre, GRAMMY-nominated Turkish psych-rock band Altin Gün are truly a band beyond categorization, even as they source their music from a specific place. They reinterpret traditional Anatolian and Turkish folk songs with psychedelic, sparkling flair, using synths, electric guitar and bass, and other instruments—like an Omnichord on their latest, Yol. They may nod to the '70s and '80s—like on Gece and Yol, respectively—but the results are timeless, expansive and otherworldly.
Altin Gün is based in Amsterdam and Berlin and consists of bassist Jasper Verhulst, guitarist Ben Rider, drummer Daniel Smienk, percussionist Gino Groeneveld and synthesists-vocalists Erdinç Ecevit and Merve Dasdemir. The band formed after Ecevit and Dasdemir responded to ads Verhulst posted on Facebook and in Turkish grocery stores looking for bandmates.
They released their first music in 2017 and their debut album, On, in 2018. Not long after, in 2019, Altin Gün released the critically acclaimed, Best Global Music Album-nominated sophomore album, Gece, their first on the beloved New York indie label ATO Records.
Despite the pandemic derailing their plans to record their third album in Malibu, California, after making their 2020 Coachella debut, the group continued their musical momentum and growth. Their creative development resulted in the remotely-crafted Yol. Released on Feb. 26, the glittering LP dives deeper into the band's wheelhouse of reimagined traditional Turkish folk songs, yet steps further into the sunset with a poppier, synth-ier tone.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Dasdemir over email to learn more about how Altin Gün made Yol in lockdown, what the GRAMMY nod meant to them and more.
How did working on Yol under lockdown shift the band's collaborative process? How different do you think this album would be if COVID-19 hadn't happened?
Our original idea was—well, we were supposed to play Coachella and we had found a studio/home in Malibu [to rent] where we were planning to take two weeks to start demoing the album. Obviously, that didn't happen and we were stuck at home.
This new way of working definitely had an effect on our sound. We all got to reinvent ourselves in our creative processes. Personally, I loved it. I love working on music alone, so in that sense this is the most invested I've been in an Altin Gün record.
How do you feel that working with [Belgian production duo] Asa Moto to mix the album affected its sound?
They certainly added their own style and magic to it. [We had] a lot more crazy sounds and synths—we certainly experimented more in this album with them. We're very happy with the result.
What did it mean to you to get your first GRAMMY nomination last year, for your sophomore album, Gece?
It's very flattering, of course—something we didn't expect at all. It's very cool that the [Recording] Academy acknowledged these folk traditionals through our reworks. For me, it feels like a tribute to the amazing folk artists that inspired us, such as Âşık Veysel Şatıroğlu and Neşet Ertaş. Also, it was the first time Turkish-language music got nominated, so it's pretty special.
Can you provide us with a bit more context on Turkish psych-rock and the specific Turkish influences you draw from?
We were inspired by the electrified reworks of traditionals by artists such as Baris Manço, Erkin Koray and Selda. We are continuing that approach, taking folk songs and giving them a new life. We have more public domain songs—really old traditionals—on this record. Usually, these songs are sung with just a bağlama, which gave us a whole space where we could arrange and rework them as we liked.
The way we talk about and understand genres, borders and traditional music is continuing to evolve. Where do you see global music heading in 2021, 2022?
We like to think that we defy genres as a band.