Gaye Su Akyol is a name who has stood out especially in the last years with the different kind of work that she has been doing. In the beginning of her 30s, the musician has been on stage since she was a teenager. When I watched her in her first band Mai at İncir, one of the few places of Kadıköy at the time, she hadn’t grabbed the attention of big crowds yet. However it was obvious that her music would carry her to different places if she carried on a path of originality. Which is what happened. Gaye Su Akyol perfected her experience she got with bands other than Mai such as Toz ve Toz and Seni Görmem İmkansız. Her second album Hologram İmparatorluğu is a product of this experience, precision for detail, and someone who is very sure of what they want to do.
We meet up with her in Kadıkoy where she spent almost all her life, on Kadife Sokak, also known as ‘Barlar Sokağı.’ As I wait for Gaye at the streets new favorite Bina, I walk around the exhibition floor of the place. I once again witness Gaye’s genes, which she got from her artist father Muzaffer Akyol, who also introduced her to rakı. Someone who is interested in other art forms along with music, one of Gaye’s works is included in the exhibition. Before long, Gaye arrives at Bina. On this beautiful Monday, we pick a corner by the window where we can feel the sun on our faces and can see Kadife Sokak. I order my coffee, Gaye orders her ginger tea. “We left it off with giants,” I begin.
“How did we transform from your first album Develerle Yaşıyorum to Hologram İmpartorluğu?” I ask. “This name has different meanings,” she begins to say. “The discoveries in quantum physics in the last years have disproved a lot of things we knew. There is a possibility that everything we know is a dream, an illusion. Along with that, the world has transformed to a place where everything is representative. Especially after the Internet, we live as if we are representatives of ourselves. There is a situation where everyone seems to live hand in hand with their holograms in social and digital areas. Therefore Hologram İmparatorluğu talks about these possibilities and tells a story about it.” Gaye is able to reflect these in a poetic way in her songs. She expresses this existential fakeness in the opening song of the album as “It’s as if you’re a hologram and you will disappear once I hold your hand.”
Although she makes ‘earth-friendly’ music, Gaye Su Akyol’s proverbial love for space continues in this album. Even at the beginning of the album, Gaye talks about her wish to go to Uranus and Neptune. We begin talking about this wish that feeds off of her fantasy world. “We pursue our existence with many people in a big unknown. What makes that unknown appealing to me are fantasies and dreaming,” she begins passionately. “Regarding planets and galaxies we are like sand in the ocean. In that sand, sometimes we let go of our dreams, getting encompassed by our weaknesses. I think space is a manifestation of fantasies, dreams, possibilities. Once one gets rid of earthly hustles and looks up, they remember that the issue is not that big.” When we mention Elon Musk’s Mars project, her eyes sparkle as she says“So exciting!” and adds, “The first ones there will be the ones facing the problems. There will be amazing things however we are still in the Stone Age in that regard.”
We begin a conversation about how progress needs stability. We talk about how reminiscent the songs from her past groups are. Her previous album Develerle Yaşıyorum and her new one Hologram İmparatorluğu also have melodies that are similar. It’s hard to differentiate between the two musically. I ask for the reason behind this continuity. “With the music I did for Mai 11 years ago, then Toz ve Toz and Seni Görmem İmkansız had different forms to what we do now,” she says. “Actually some of Turkish music’s factor, elements, and metaphors were in that. At the core of it all; I make music that I want to listen to. My priority is to put things that I am affected by into my music without filtering. That is the source of my stability.”
Gaye has an innovative and modern approach that mixes Turkish music with Western forms. She used to listen to Metallica and Nirvana when she was a teen. However in her tone of “This is what comes out when I want to sing. I’m not trying to go an imitate Eddie Vedder. Because it doesn’t work.” her admiration of Turkish music makes the base of it all. She talks about her childhood beginning with “My father used to listen to music as he painted.” “Everything from classic music to Ruhi Su to Aşık Veysel played in his atelier. No one our aged listened to those things. My curiosity grew like this.”
I ask why she has been doing similar things for so many years yet only now she is getting all this attention. She begins explaining, “What I did 10 years ago was only baby steps for what I am doing now.” “In order to convince people, I had to get great musicians to understand what I was doing. It was important that I had a clear description, and that they understood me clearly. That took time.” I wonder if the crowd changed as Gaye was improving herself? Her comment is “Compared to 10 years ago, the crowds are more open to new things. Now due to the internet, if you’re actually doing something good, it’s hard to hide it. Someone definitely discovers it.”
We begin talking about the very important musicians that transform her music to a completely different point: Ali Güçlü Şimşek, Görkem Karabudak and Emrah Atay. She starts talking about the system they have. “Obviously the groups imput is very important. They say that it is easy to work with me. Because I am very clear with what I want to do with music. In most of the songs, I know about the scores and harmonies in my mind. This makes things very easy.” I wonder if there are any quarrels within the group. Gaye talks about how each musician has an ego. “I think that is the reason why a lot of bands get destroyed and disappear. You have to admit that one has to be the pushing force behind this engine in a group where you are doing something collective related to art. Because you are producing from a subjective point. When someone says ‘red, not blue’ the other needs to agree. There is a main reason why we are in sync with Ali, Görkem and Emrah. We don’t have problems since I went to them in the beginning knowing a thing or two, and I persuaded them.” This accord between them provided a series production for them in their house in Uskumruköy where they lived together for 3 years. “We recorded two GSA albums. They recorded on Bubituzak album,” she smiles as she remembers the recent past. “However after having reached a certain age, there were small brawls,” she laughs.
We start talking about Kadiköy, where she came to after Uskumruköy. “I’ve been born and raised in Kadıköy. All my memories, stories, conversations, loves, friends are in Kadıköy,” she says in a comforting manner, and looks outside the window. All of a sudden, she yells out the window “Ohhh Başar!” It’s their sound technician Başar, who walks away without hearing Gaye calling out to him. “I even celebrated my 18th birthday next door in arkaoda” she continues. She doesn’t only talk about Kadıköy when İstanbul is mentioned. She remembers Akmar Pasajı and Atlas Pasajı or Mısır Çarşısı with a passion. “When Beyoğlu was Beyoğlu, we would go on İstiklal street” she smiles nostalgically. “How do you remember that area?” I ask.
“My father had an atelier in Asmalımescit. I spent a lot of time in that atelier. Before Babylon, there was a carpenter atelier there. I remember that. People used to be scared of walking in Asmalımescit from when I can remember. I began going to concerts around 13-14. I would get into any concert I wanted using my father’s neighbour status. I listened to so many concerts at Babylon… I remember watching Duman at the age of 13-14.” Which leads us to musicians that impress her. She starts talking about things she has learned from people she admires. “When I look at people that I love and who impress me, I see that it’s their originality that impresses me. They’ve taken the chance to discover a music of their own. When I say Müzeyyen Senar, I think of an ecole, music. Seldan Bağcan is the same. They had people following what they’ve created.
I ask about their theatrical look on their latest music video Eski Tüfek, directed by Çağlar Kanzık and perfected by İdil Ergün. Are all these well-thought masks, space, the colors of their music videos and stories a part of a whole, some fiction? She says “You can only go so crazy in normal life.” “However art is a form where it is limitless. That theatrical approach is not too planned. However as opposed to presenting people with something boring or a copy of something else, producing a reflection of millions of things that we have seems more fun and timeless.”
International crowds and the press are also interested in this of course. Gaye Su Akyol took the stage in not only Denmark’s but one of Europe’s most important festivals, Roskilde Festival. She remembers Turkey’s tumultuous, tough summer saying “We went during a horrible time.” “Our plane was on the day when Istanbul Ataturk Airport was under attack. You walk through broken glasses to your plane. Nothing is normal yet you act like everything is. There was no one on the plane, of course. We were probably 10 people. You’re on your way for a concert yet people have died. We went manic depressively, having lost our minds. That was the first thing we said at our concert the following day. The festival was great despite everything. We got really good reactions.”
Then we arrive at the inevitable topic; living in Turkey during this time. “We live on the extreme edges,” she begins to explain. “A human being is healthy when they forget about death. Thinking about death every day is not healthy at all. We even wish for the mourning period to pass to get back to normal life. However it’s as if we’re constantly mourning. It’s such a phase that your personal kindness offends the eye. Your misdoing is approved more. If you’re good one day, the following day that becomes harder anyway.” I ask her what it is that gives her strength through this period. “People shouldn’t forget dedicating themselves to what makes them happy. They shouldn’t be doing the best they can, without bypassing the good part of life.” This is exactly why Gaye Su Akyol was able to present us with Hologram İmparatorluğu, because she didn’t give up on her happiness. The negativity around us shouldn’t hold us back from doing good things. That is when this world becomes bearable. Listening to Hologram İmparatorluğu on our way to space, rises are resistance here…
Photo by Hikmet Güler