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Cyprus

Apostola leads us into her inner fabric on vivid interview with A&R Factory

A&R Factory had the massive pleasure of interviewing Cyprus-based indie singer-songwriter Apostola. This fearless young artist takes us deep inside her universe with a rare glimpse inside.

We appreciate you reaching out, Apostola. You’re one of our first ever interviews, so let’s do this.
Thank you! It’s nice to have a ‘chat’ as I don’t tend to over-share on social media; I like my music to tell the story, and I am also a bit camera shy!

Firstly, please let everyone know where you’re from and based currently.
I am an island girl! I come from a Mediterranean family and was born in London, England, where I spent my childhood years. We left the UK just before my teens and moved to Cyprus – the smaller, warmer Mediterranean island where my parents are originally from. For a few years, I bounced back and forth between my two home countries but have been permanently living in the sunshine for some years now as I don’t like the cold at all and crave the sea. Last year’s summer single ‘My Heart Belongs
to an Island’ captures that unique island feeling and why I love it so much!

Being yourself in this wild world is so key to being happy. Which specific moment drove you to write your latest release?
My latest release is a compilation album ‘Pop!’ and prior to that, it was ‘Suitcase Full of Dreams’ for the summer. Both releases are upbeat commercial pop, but they were released as a bit of an antidote to the serious ‘World for Sale’ album released in March this year. I have to admit, when I wrote and released the concept album, I was not happy. It was a dark time for a lot of people, and I poured all my frustrations and fears into those 10 tracks. It left me very emotionally drained because there was a lot of ‘me’ in the songs whereas I most often song write by ‘acting’ the role of someone going through something. As a result, I haven’t been back to the studio to record new music since… it really took something out of me. The concept albums with more serious themes started with the ‘Broken World’ album in 2021, which coincided with the pandemic, and this album was the next step; part 2 of issues I felt I needed to sing about as a form of expression and catharsis for me, and hopefully, others.

Realising the need for balance, ‘Suitcase Full of Dreams’ was released for a more ‘fun’ summer, and I then collated all my happier, more upbeat pop tracks and released the compilation album ‘Pop!’ in September. I wanted to remember that I don’t just write heavy narratives and to also bridge the gap till my next releases with something more positive.

Summertime is for Dancing is an absolute anthem and seems to perfectly illustrate current times. Does it feel like the music scene is back to normal in your hometown or not yet?
Thank you! I hope it gets people dancing! We had a very good summer that felt ‘back-to- normal’ with people enjoying themselves dancing, watching live performances and remembering how to have fun and live moments to the fullest. I think this is all the sweeter when you have come out of very uncertain and unchartered territory and have experienced what it means to lose freedom, music, dancing and good times. Let’s hope that people will be able to boogie to ‘Summertime is for Dancing’ for years to come!

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard your music before?
This is something I struggle with. I kinda did myself a disservice by releasing two styles of music, but at the end of the day, it is all within the pop genre. The singles tend to be commercial, electronic pop, but the EPs and albums are adult contemporary concept releases with much heavier lyrics and a more ‘serious’ vibe, which I have been told are musical narratives. And so, I cannot really find a good way to link the two under one description!

As indies, we are advised to create a strong identity with consistency, but just like humans don’t have one emotion or have fixed tastes, my music is also based on that rollercoaster of emotions and preferences; we don’t eat and wear the same things every day, because we don’t feel the same every day.

How would your best friend describe you?
I have a cluster of different besties and not just one main best friend. I think each of them would describe me differently because we are different things to different people. I think generally they would all say that I give good advice and am a good listener and a supportive friend. I think they would also say that I give thoughtful gifts, as I always quietly take note of things they like or want. I tend to be the friend in the group who is wearing the bright colours and big patterns, which some like, but others find just too garish and over-the-top! I am also the one in the group who will go with the flow to keep the peace!

Do you have any advice for upcoming musicians just starting out?
I could write a book on this topic as a lot of it is trial and error. There are so many companies and services out there waiting to take advantage of indie artists; our inexperience in the industry and our desire to get heard as a tiny drop in a very vast ocean of music that is controlled by the majors. I would tell newbies that often it is not about how good your music is. If you haven’t got the resources to get it out to an audience it could be the best music in the world, but no one will know it’s there. There are also new gatekeepers; the ‘influencers’ and the playlist creators – select those you work with wisely! And so, I would strongly advise that the first thing they do (after creating their music, of course!), is to go on a blog called ‘Passive Promotion’ written by the wonderful indie musician Brian Hazard and binge read it! Brian tries out many services for indies and reviews them, offering a treasure-trove of information free-of-charge. Everything I know about the industry, I learnt from him!

Lastly, do you have anything exciting planned in 2023 music-wise?
As I mentioned, the ‘World for Sale’ album took a lot out of me, so I haven’t been in the studio lately despite my intentions for several planned releases. This took me by surprise as the studio is my happy place and I have the material ready. I am going to snap myself out of this and plan to get back to recording in December and release some more concept EPs in 2023, possibly giving each the theme of one specific emotion. But before that, we have Christmas! I have two Christmas tracks: ‘Christmas Smiles’ and ‘Christmas Card’ and both have an animated, accompanying video which has proven popular. Christmas songs are great in that they are timeless. They hibernate all year, then pop up for the holiday period, as fresh as the day they were released! These two tracks tend to do well on radio stations as there are many that are dedicated just to Christmas songs,
so I am looking forward to introducing them to new listeners for Christmas 2022.

Listen up on Spotify.

Find out more on Facebook.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Drift into the ether with KAIS’ latest alt-indie-rock hit, Hot Air Balloon

https://soundcloud.com/kaismusic/hot-air-balloon/s-j3JsRKKZ1kt?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing

The Canadian, Cyprus-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, KAIS, has released his metaphorical alt-indie rock masterpiece, Hot Air Balloon, which uses the slightly archaic mode of transport as a parable to reflect the importance of persevering our mental space.

It takes some serious reading between the anthemic uplifting lines to pull out the protestive fire that any establishment would be desperate to put out through fear of it cutting profit margins that are boosted by dull hiveminds. On the flip side of that, texturally, Hot Air Balloon is a dreamy, kaleidoscopic blister of bliss, which is all too welcome in these easy to lament times.

Every time, KAIS breezes back even better than the last time we heard his exploratively introspective tracks, which still come with that A-list radio-ready appeal, despite the seemingly infinite depth.

Here is what he had to say about his latest release

“In some ways, Hot Air Balloon is a metaphor for pregnancy, inspired by the sequence of moving along and the process revealing itself, where a spirit permeates the boundless world, reflecting how a hot air balloon grows and rises into the ether, where our thoughts drift and amalgamate. The ether may be our final escape from those who manipulate us with vested interests in how we think and act.”

Hot Air Balloon will officially drop on June 6th, 2022. Hear it for yourselves on Spotify, SoundCloud and Bandcamp.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Spotlight Feature: KAIS is stripped-back and spiritual in his latest acoustic indie-soul-folk single, Healing

KAIS

KAIS bared his spiritual soul in his latest release Healing. The Canadian Cyprus-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer allowed his acoustic single to explore the deep significance of the messiness of our existence and our ability to clean up through bleeding, breathing and healing.

It is thanks to artists like KAIS, that the conversations around trauma have moved past idiomatic ignorance. Remember when we were all under the impression that PTSD existed solely in the minds of those that had experienced war? Thankfully, we now see it as a common experience; every ego-blow and mental scar imprinted leaves us with the option of carrying trauma or moving past it, and that is exactly what Healing forces you to reflect on. It’s enough to make you step in front of the mirror and check for scars that have been pushed into the subconscious.

With KAIS’ effortlessly artful vocals atop the acoustic guitar strings and nothing else to get in the way of the evocative impact of his lyrics that find a meta way to resonate as confessional, it is easily one of KAIS’ most powerful singles to date. As the perfect example, “fall from grace at god’s own pace I’m travelling through the fire, victim of desire” leaves so much more between the lines than your average lyrical confession for the way it alludes to the conflict between our situational emotion and desire.

For KAIS’ fans enamoured by his new venture into psychy indie-soul-folk, stay tuned for his upcoming EP that is due for release in February 2022. Healing was officially released on December 19th, 2021. It is now available to stream on Spotify.

Connect with KAIS to keep up to date on his new releases on Facebook and Instagram.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

A Magical Place: Nav’s Hook admires the big city dreams on ‘Skyline’

After impressing on the wish-we-had-more-time gem called ‘Letters‘, Nav’s Hook is back with a deep track all about trying to avoid that ever-present loneliness on ‘Skyline‘.

Nav’s Hook is an ever-improving alt/pop/rock artist who is India-born and was raised in Cyprus. He mixes in elements of blues and other genres too, to bring forth a sterling blend of music creativity that sits so well with the soul.

An alt pop-rock tune with some space-rock elements, Skyline is sort of an imagining of a cityscape horizon that at first glance is fantasy like but underneath, carries an intriguing layer of a ‘romance-in-transit’. That amazingly lit up high-rise world where we live out our independence as individuals, and in the moment, with big city dreams. Though it’s changed in appearance over time, what’s never changed is the inert desire to conquer loneliness and hence, the short-lived ‘urban fling’. Sometimes special, and even beautiful, but at times a mindwarp escapade where we don’t let emotions get in the way, that is, until… they get in the way… (oh humanity!).” ~ Nav’s Hook

Featuring a studious beat which has you gazing outside the window wherever you are in the world, to see what is exactly around you as you pinch yourself and revert back into reality. With so many distractions around that can take you away from your true purpose, this is the perfect reminder that we all needed to hear.

Skyline‘ from the India-born, Cyprus-raised Nav’s Hook, swirls into your mind with a big light being brightly directed towards the big city. You can make your dreams inside but also be broken from all the break-ups, friendships lost, and lonely nights when you wonder deeply at the path you are headed down. Made with customary class and love from a soulful artist, this is a highly reflective track which will have you thinking deeply about your next move.

See this new music video on YouTube and see more news on the IG music page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Rocky Ground: Nav’s Hook looks for that sign in the sky on ‘Twisted Winds’

As he returns speedily with his new much-awaited release after the graceful effort from July 2021 called ‘Letters‘, Nav’s Hook wonders if this once-unbreakable connection can be saved from these thunderously worrying ‘Twisted Winds‘.

Nav’s Hook is an Indian-born and based, Cyprus-raised, indie alt-blues/pop/rock singer-songwriter, who has traveled and lived all over this wonderful planet. He makes that experienced-sounding music journey or us to learn from, that comes from his open-minded view of the word, and his appetite to fuse a special sauce to our hungry hearts to lather up.

What was supposed to have been a connection built on trust, ends up being something caught in a storm, ‘cause neither one really held their end of the bargain.” ~ Nav’s Hook

Twisted Winds‘ by the Indian-born multi-genre musician Nav’s Hook, is a relevant story about trying to save a partnership that was on track to such a beautiful place. You wonder if you are done for good – or if anything can be salvaged from the rubble – as you feel like you are in a tough place, that is causing so much heartbreak as you look for a sign from above. Sung with such passionate love and that sensational potent style which makes this such a glorious artist to witness, this is the ultimate almost-break-up track, that will decide your romantic fate this time.

Sometimes you need to know what the future holds before you jump off for good – as you wonder if that all-important trust has been damaged beyond repair – or if it can be fixed again.

Hear this new single on YouTube and see more of the journey on IG.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Just The Words On The Page: Nav’s Hook wishes there was more written on the soulfully reflective ‘Letters’

As he wonders what might have been had they had more time together, Nav’s Hook takes time to reminisce on this groovy blues gem called ‘Letters‘, that has you lighting the fire and thinking back to the good days that are sincerely missed.

Nav’s Hook is an India-born and based, Cyprus-raised, indie alt-blues singer-songwriter, who has also lived in various countries. He comes in with over twenty years experience in the music game, and has recently started this new project.

Cyprus was the beginning of my musical experience where as an teen I regularly tuned into a British radio station called BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service) where anything and everything “British Rock” was played. Of course, later time spent in America only furthered my passions into the kind of music I always wanted to make.” – Nav’s Hook

His superbly toned vocal range is filled with so much easy-to-hear class and the soundscape here is of the highest standard, as you feel the warm energy and totally admire the quality here. The carefully-penned lyrics are so honest and have you thinking back to those moments you certainly wish you could have back.

”‘Letters’ came about while going through a box of old letters. It’s that “dim the lights down with a drink in hand” kind of Rhythm & Blues story of dealing with separation and finding closure in written letters. But sometimes they were so beautifully written that instead of moving on, you found yourself slipping into reverse mode.” – Nav’s Hook

Letters‘ from the India-based indie alt-blues singer-songwriter Nav’s Hook, shows us a man on a mission to express his new art. He flood our minds with a memory that he cherishes so much. As he now sits down by the fire with a beverage, and marvels at these incredible times, that makes him wonder could of transpired if the timing had been different.

See this top lyric video on YouTube and find out more on his FB music channel.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

Debut track ‘Boy’ from the sultry but classy Stephània is a story about that intuition

Debut track ‘Boy‘ from the sultry but classy Stephània is a story about that intuition you have inside, you just know what is right and wrong.

Stephània is an Irish-Cypriot, Neo-Soul-RnB singer-songwriter from the island of Cyprus. She is currently based in Boston and is here with her exciting new song, full of fabulous melodies from his high-flying singer.

You can’t stay away but you know that you should. They are clearly messing you around so you need to keep your distance, you know this inside. The problem is that you can’t get enough. You love being with them but you know long-term that this won’t work. For now, when the lights are off, there is no looking back.

Stephània hits all the right notes here with vocals that make you catch your breath. You just have to take another listen with ‘Boy‘ and this is a fine song, full of sexy potential. This is a debut of the highest level.

Click here for that Spotify page.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen