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Singer songwriter Sabrina was recently brought the attention of Musical Discoveries' editors. Self-acclaimed a gothic pop-rock act, the artist's debut album is represented by songs of different flavours with at least a couple that will appeal to every sort of female vocalist enthusiast. Our review of her debut album Euphoria (Serip Music (USA) SR 32118-2, 2001) is accompanied by an informative interview with the artist.
Euphoria was cowritten principally with producers Keith Pires but other co-writing credits got to and Spyro Karagiannis, Russel Scott and Holiday/Hovington. The nine tracks are wonderfully produced with vocals perfectly mixed shining through the various instrumental arrangements. Sabrina is supported by Keith Pires, John Pires and Spyro Karagiannis instrumentally--principally guitars, bass and drum programming--throughout.
John Pires told us, "In the current climate of male dominated rock music, Sabrina stands toe to toe with her male brethren and receives acceptance not as a novelty "chick" act, but as a respected artist with something to say and the strength to say it." We were reminded quite frankly of Lennon in these remarks (review). He continued, "With the fading of the overly commercial sanitized pop market and the rise of a philosophicalrock scene with artists such as Staind, 3 Doors Down, Linkin Park and others; I believe Sabrina will be the female voice to rise out of the current rock scene."
Euphoria. Sabrina's ablum opens with the rocker "I'm Alive," which is laced with thick guitar and bass arrangements. Listeners will be immediately drawn into the music by the edge in the singer's voice. The title track has a gothic-oriented beat and with gently sweeping vocal parts, the guitars shimmer and carry the chorus blending perfectly with Sabrina's lead. A lighter love song entitled "Tell Me" is the first track to expose the lighter side of this record.
The album's metal edges shine through in the gothic-oriented "Without A Trace." Sabrina's serious yet sweet vocals break the edge of an otherwise harder song. The standout ballad "Bring Me Down" is vocally srtong, sung evocatively and sensually over a light string arrangement. Sabrina soars through her full range on this lovely track, certain to attract the broadest of audiences. Harder gothic guitars return in the shimmer of "Angels Cry" a heartfelt rock tune.
"Nowhere Girl" is formed in line with today's singer songwriter movement with thick and distorted rocking guitar arrangements and especially crisp percussion underscoring Sabrina's evocative and searching vocal layers. Slightly lighter arrangements grace the upbeat rock track "Find Another" where layers of Sabrina's vocals rise above the instruments delivering tremendous power and emotion. The album closes with a gentle ballad entitled "Star" illustrating the full range of Sabrina's vocal prowess.
We asked Sabrina to tell us a bit about her background. She told us, "I was born in Belgium, and came to the US at the age of eight. I lived a normal childhood of school, dancing, and of course growing pains. After high school, I attended Fashion Design & Merchandising School for fashion design. Later on, I started to work in the music industry, where I learned much about how the administrative and creative side of the business really works--I worked in both records and publishing. Then, I moved to NYC to start a new and decided to go with my dream of making music."
She continued, "My manager, John, introduced me to producer Spyro Karagiannis. We recorded a few songs, including "I'm Alive" and "Bring Me Down" which I collaborated on with a friend of mine--Russell Scott of The Dahlias--in Los Angeles. Then, Spyro and I wrote a song together "Without A Trace." Later on, John introduced me to his cousin and my current collaborator Keith Pires."
Sabrina told us, "Keith was supposed to lay down some guitar tracks for me on one of the songs and somehow we naturally started writing music together. It came so smoothly we didn't even realize how quickly this was happening--all I know is that I'm thrilled it did."
She concluded, "It's amazing when you both have the same mind frame when writing a song. His playing is very smooth, and it's a comfortable process, which makes it easy for me to come up with melodies to compliment what he is playing and visa versa."
When asked about her favourite artists, Sabrina responded, "It's a bit hard to say who I favor the best. I find myself listening to everything from Live, A Perfect Circle/Tool, The Cure, Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin, Rush to Sarah McLachlin, Dave Matthews, Paula Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, and Earth Wind & Fire." She went on, "I'm very diverse in my musical tastes. I don't just pinpoint to one particular sound, I just like whatever moves me, like the music of the movie Somewhere In Time--I just melt when I hear it."
"As for my favorite band/artists: let's start with a few of the newer bands. Nickelback, Live, Fuel, Staind, Incubus, Train, A Perfect Circle. And some of the older bands, The Cure, U2, B-Movie, Stone Temple Pilots, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Matchbox Twenty, Jane's Addiction, David Bowie. I just love his version of "My Death" on the Ziggy Stardust soundtrack. Jacques Brel is another favorite artist of mine, he originally wrote the song "My Death."
When asked about how she developed her vocal styles, Sabrina told us, "I guess you can say that I developed my musical style by singing a long time, it came naturally. I believe natural is the best way to go with musical talents. I expect vocal teachers are good for some, but my preference is to leave things to nature and your own rhythm - if it works, leave it alone."
She continued to elaborate, "As for prior training/education, I dabbled with the violin at a very early age. However, with singing or writing, I haven't had any. I expect I am being redundant, but again, it all came very naturally, the writing, the melodies, all of it."
"I did purchase a couple books on songwriting structure early on, but noticed that most of what it said, I was already doing so I just developed the more I wrote and continue to do so."
We were especially attracted to the ballads on Sabrina's album. We asked her about them and also to tell us a bit about her favourite tracks. She told us, "I love to sing "I'm Alive". I like the way it makes me feel while I'm singing it. A little wicked. "Star" is another favorite of mine. It's quite personal because it's a song about a friend that passed away a few years ago and in short, this song was her life."
"And, "Without A Trace" I call it my song of deliverance! I was in that space for a long while and at the end, when I just couldn't take it anymore, I wrote that song, changed my attitude, and did everything in my power to get out of that place in time and I did! Deliverance indeed. I am now happy and glad I never have to look back and each time I sing this song I remember that, no matter how bad things may get, they can't get as bad as they were when I wrote that song."
Sabrina's album actually has a broad range of musical styles within it. We asked Sabrina what artists she felt influenced the sound. She responded, "The album is actually a collection of individual demos I had recorded. So, since each song was done on it's own, it may lack a defining overall sound. If I receive an opportunity to record for a major label, and we go into the sessions planning to record all the songs, it will have a more overall sound to it. As far as what influences me, I have been asked this before, and always have difficulty answering it."
She continued, "I don't really look to any particular band or artist to get influence from for my music... I expect that we all get influenced to a certain extent by a lifetime of listening to music and that will infiltrate the music when an artist writes. I can't believe that any artist today takes just a few influences and stamps their music with them. I think maybe some artist, their producer, or their A&R person may try to lean a recording toward a particular influence to help give them a sound and a familiarity for their audience, but I don't think anyone can narrow down to a couple of influences."
"Over the years too much good music has been made to pin point it. I do know that I have always preferred realistic storytelling in music, a bit of dark reality if you want to call it that, and I do really try to strive for my own sound. I like to keep it dark, haunting, and lush... but uplifting as well. I don't like to hear songs that all sound alike. You know, when you find yourself saying, "Hey, wasn't that song just playing?" because it sounded just like the one before with a different melody."
Sabrina concluded, "I realize that many people need to associate a band or artist with another, so I always leave it up to the listeners to let me know whom they think I sound like. It makes it more fun that way."
Sabrina told us about her songwriting, "Writing can come in may ways, I may do the lyrics first and later comes the melody or Keith Pires--my guitarist/collaborator--will come over for practice and he will be sitting there warming up and in a distance I'll hear something he is playing, run in and say, "Wait, play that again, add a chorus or climb," and I'll come up with the melody right there and then."
Hopefully, I will have remembered to have my trusty tape recorder on, because trust me, good songs can come to you as fast as they can leave your head. Once this is done, I'll check on what I have already written to see if anything fits to the melody and mood of the new song. If one does, I'll perfect the melody to the words or visa versa. If not, I'll write new words to customize that new song.
Sabrina gave us an example of the process. "Keith was playing a bit with a bass one day to add to one of our existing song and we recorded it. Later on, I was listening to something else on that tape, heard this bass riff and wrote "Obsession" a new song that is not out yet, all from that bass riff. It's Keith's favorite song right now."
"Funny things like that will happen and sometimes will be some of your best songs. I also always have a pen, paper pad, or recorder no matter where I go; in my purse, near my bed, kitchen, car, you name it! You never know what comes in your mind at any given time when you are a songwriter--it's a 24-hour job.
Sabrina is surrounded by other supporting talent. She told us, "My Manager, John Pires, has a recording studio and we have done most of the recording for "Euphoria" there. Basically, we would lay down track by track. Acoustic/electric/bass one day, drums, and whatever else, then my vocals, and finally any backing vocals I need for the song. Then, John mixes, mixes some more, mixes again, arranges, and then masters it. A long process and it requires much patience to listen to a part of a song over and over and over again to get a little glitch that may occur from the analog to digital recording we do nowadays."
"We use a very old ProTools system, a computer based recording program that is wonderful, but you really need to know what you are doing because you must compensate for the warmth one looses from the mic to digital. I really have to thank John for all of the work he put into this project. He even did the artwork and pictures. He is a talented individual, indeed."
"Another person I worked with on the album was producer Spyro Karagiannis. He did all the strings on "Bring Me Down" and the effects on "I'm Alive" and "Nowhere Girl." Spyro is very talented with drum programming and guitars, not to mention a wonderful producer as well."
Sabrina is concentrating on writing and promoting Euphoria but when asked about her career outside music she told us, "I had worked in human resources for a computer graphics company in New York City and prior to that I worked for a few years at one of the major music record companies in Los Angeles."
We asked Sabrina about her live performances and learned that she's just beginning. She told us, "Right now I'm quietly working out the kinks on just a guitar and vocal show. It's really a very cool thing to do since it shows my voice and the songs very well. In about a month I'll be playing in New York City. As for the audience reaction, it's been very positive. I was grateful to see many people, with different genre preferences, have embraced my music."
The internet has influenced Sabrina's musical career and the promotion of her music. She has embraced it fully, remarking, "Ah, the Internet! A wonderful word to my ears. Yes, the Internet has brought me many fans from all over world. It's amazing. I have been able to reach people through Internet radio, webzines, links pages, search engines, etc. Places like, Germany, England, France, Africa, New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Peru, Turkey, Kuwait, Russia, just to name a few."
"I am constantly amazed at the e-mails I get from fans in a far land that just wants to say "hi" and talk about my music or whatever. We just put up a guestbook on my website so these people can now go on and leave messages on there for all to see and who knows, maybe talk to each other--thanks to free translators too."
Sabrina concluded, "I can't tell you how appreciative I am for all the traffic I get from the internet, and this also gives people a chance to hear my music since I have samples and a couple free downloads of my songs. It's almost like being at Tower Records, but instead of being in the middle of a store, you are at home and get to download a song if you like it and if you want the whole CD, just click and buy it just like that.
We agree with John Pires' summary, "Sabrina is a singer songwrite whose musical style is one of the most interesting and compelling I have heard. Her songs combine gothic imagery with pop hooks on a textured background of pure rock." We enjoyed the album's more traditionally-sung rock-oriented ballads the most. Sabrina's website is full of interesting material with access to further photos, soundbites and interesting links. Click on any of the images in this article to visit it.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the well-priced album at amazon.com here. Pires continues, "Sabrina's songs breath a message of hope and strength [in]to everyone that listens. Her hooks are magnetic and her voice is a strong and passionate as her lyrics, which were derived from the truths of every day life." Sabrina certainly delivers her songs with authenticity and passion. From an artist with a great deal of promise, this is a wonderful album worth a journey, certainly a very nice listen!
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