Berlin-based Day Clinic speak with ReGen about the band’s history, process, and artistic messaging in the digital age.
An InterView with Boris Kaplunovich, Can Aylak, and Rafa Quiñonero of Day Clinic
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
More than three decades after the wall came down, Berlin remains a city of intense mystique that provides inspiration for many musicians. Among them are the members of Day Clinic, a multi-national conglomeration of post-punk, psychedelic, and progressive musical attitudes whose self-titled debut album arrived earlier this year. Having begun life under a different name and now based in Berlin, the core quartet of vocalist/guitarist Boris Kaplunovich, guitarist Can Aylak, bassist Chris Crabtree, and drummer/producer Rafa Quiñonero have unified their disparate national and artistic backgrounds with the goal of crafting “new” music that matters, that exists not just as mere commodity. ReGen had the opportunity to speak with Kaplunovich, Aylak, and Quiñonero about the band’s history and creative approach, touching on the importance of live performance, the inspirational atmosphere of the German capital, the distillation of artistic messaging in the digital age, and more!
Day Clinic is a truly multinational band, and you are now located in Berlin. Would you tell us why did you choose Berlin as your base of operations? What significance does the city hold for you all, and in what ways do you feel the surroundings influence both the sound of Day Clinic and how you interact as a band?
Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) for the first time, and I was completely blown away. I had the feeling that it was where I had to be, in those black and white cold pictures with amazing gloomy post-punk music playing in the background. Of course, the city today is not like the one in the movie, but I feel that some of this atmosphere still remains; it still has got a colder beautiful vibe, while at the same time being amazingly vibrant and pulsing. Another important issue was that there are a lot of creatively talented people living and working here – that’s how I had the privilege to meet Rafa, Can, and Chris.
The album features contributions from saxophonist Ruby Mai and Ted Bernays on flute. Would you tell us how they came to be involved in the making of the album, and to what extent did their contributions affect the songwriting?
Kaplunovich: I know Ruby since a few years from the time when I used to play guitar in the goth/punk band Totenwald. Ruby plays saxophone in this band as well, and I enjoyed greatly playing with her. When we were recording the songs for the album, I wanted us to spice things up a bit, so inviting Ruby was a very logical step. She also joins us occasionally in live concerts.
Ted is a friend of ours, he plays bass and guitar in a krautrock band Zukunft. I saw him on one of the shows of Zukunft playing the flute and I knew that that’s what I wanted to hear at the end of the song ‘Secrets.’ It was a lot of fun recording him. I feel very lucky that we could work with such cool musicians on this record and add more interesting instruments (also a sitar and synthesizers) besides our usual guitar-driven sound. On the next record, I would like to explore unusual sounds furthermore.
Throughout history, artists in every medium – painting, sculpture, literature, music – have used art to express social and cultural ideas that were generally, ignored, or frowned upon. Yet now, we seem to live in an age when these are things discussed more freely and openly, for better or worse. What are your thoughts on this?
A song like ‘Memorial Day’ deals with the warlike and militaristic state of the world, which is unfortunately not a new thing for us. What do you find to be the major difficulties in treading such a topic? How do you address those issues in a way that would be relatable without being repetitious?
Is there ever a concern that you’re speaking to a convinced audience rather than convincing an audience?
Kaplunovich: I think the main difficulty in addressing the issue of militarism and war is for the artist not to become preachy. At the moment I as a listener have a feeling that an artist tries to hammer an idea into my head, even if it’s a good idea, I tend to lose interest. Another issue is not to make it too specific, too much related only to one particular event, because then it becomes dated very fast, but at the same time not making it too abstract. In fact, all the good war songs repeat the same holy truth in one way or another: ‘WAR IS BAD.’ And it is also something every human being knows in their heart, yet still there is not a single minute of peace in this world. I believe that the important part about war songs is not only to say that the war is bad, but also why it is so. What does it cause? Who has to pay the price? Are there any winners in any war? What does it do to our humanity? Those are questions that I believe to be the focus of these songs.
The band was originally known as Janis and released the Closer Than My Skin EP. You state in your biography that the change in band name was to better reflect your sound. What do you feel were the major developments or evolutionary steps that you took as musicians between that EP and the new album?
Kaplunovich: From my end, I can say that we became noisier, louder, and in general more experimental compared to the material as Janis.
Aylak: Definitely. And I think we also got a better idea of the sound and the ideas we want to transport with our songs.
Quiñonero: Janis’ first release was music from Boris. Once we were a band, creating and playing together, the direction and sound naturally changed.
Also, the mix was undertaken by drummer Rafa Quiñonero, while the overall production was shared among the band. What were the major challenges in properly mixing the band’s sound to not only reflect your strengths as a unified band, but also allow each musician to shine?
Many bands turned to livestreaming during the pandemic, and while live shows have returned, we are still facing numerous postponements and cancellations – visas not being issued, health concerns still rampant, financial issues, etc.
First of all, what do you feel artists, labels, venues, the industry as a whole should have learned from the experience and use or think about going forward?
Secondly, what would you like to see in the advancement of music – either a new piece of technology or gear, a new way of thinking about music, etc. Where do you think music has yet to go?
Kaplunovich: I am very happy that you have touched upon this subject. As I mentioned earlier, I want a new way of thinking about music – new as compared with the state of things today, in itself it is not new. I want music to be a tool for exploration, a means for asking important questions about oneself. I want it to stop being a commodity, to stop catering only to the most basic and dull needs of numbing the senses and providing background noise to drown the voices everyone has in their heads. I want music to return to its sacral nature without becoming an instrument of any church or religion, I want it to become the great killer of ego that makes the unity of existence apparent.
Aylak: I’d like music to be a greater thing than only tied to a specific genre. I don’t want it to be something based on algorithms, something you will only see on your Spotify playlist when you have a specific formula. Music is more than that.
Thirdly, what are Day Clinic’s plans for performing live at this time? And is livestreaming something you might be interested in, perhaps to circumvent the difficulties in playing to audiences in other countries?
What’s the next step for Day Clinic? What are your immediate plans?
Kaplunovich: We are working on a music video for the song ‘As Above So Below’ and doing the booking for this year.
Aylak: Practice, practice, practice, and practice.
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Photography by Tim Dajan Thiele, provided courtesy of Day Clinic and The Metallist PR.