Every single night at Serifos, the only bar existing on the island where one can have a proper drink and a proper dance would play Maraveyas Ilegal’s song. And I was sad there would be no more music, but so happy to hear the song. So I thought to myself: I need to get to know this guy. His voice is amazing and his song has been the soundtrack of my summer holidays. I tell you, it was a pleasure meeting Kostis Maraveyas. Although he is not the first musician / singer I got to take pictures of, he is the only one who sang during the shoot and played his guitar, the xylophone, the acordeón and the piano. I left his apartment all smiles and joy, since it was more like a private concert than me taking pictures. But let me tell you about Kostis. Because most of you know he sings, and maybe some of you know he writes, but the man is passionate about many things and skilful at many arts. Most importantly, I am very pleased to say that Maraveyas Ilegal is one of the most humble and warmhearted people I had the chance of meeting.
Apart from being a musician and having just published your first book, you’ve recently travelled around the Mediterranean on a cultural journey that explores both the locality and communication between the music on this region of the world. How would you describe this experience, not that it’s almost over. Are there any stories worth sharing?
It all started when Panos Kaknavatos, the director of Mediterranean, told me about what he was thinking and asked me to join his team. And I was very pleased to do that and felt very passionate about it, because I got to discover new places, listen to a lot of good music and learn a lot. Something really strange that happened, during one of our travels, was at Gibraltar. There was a very small village, abandoned during the winter, but full of tourists in the summer. It was winter and the village happened to be the birthdplace of flamengo, so we had to visit. If you are doing research and presenting the music of the Mediterranean, you need to visit the village flamengo was first played. So there was this small café – bar, and they opened it just for us, so we could shoot our show. That was something I will never forget.
Any other places?
Oh, I have travelled a lot. I went to Crete to meet Psarantonis, Israel, Turkey, Sicily, Cyprus, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. I am now going to Morocco to get some more footage. We are doing an extra show, because the director felt that Morocco shouldn’t be left out.
Surely, apart from the great beauty you must have seen in your travels, you’ve also met some very important and inspiring people.
The most impressive person I met was Vinicio Capossela. He’s made this album with music from all the harbors of the Mediterranean and when we met him, he had just returned from a trip to Crete to meet Psarantonis. He was dressed like a captain. Very impressive indeed.
So, after this amazing journey and your personal experience, would you say music has no geographical limits?
More or less no, it doesn’t. But that’s not absolute. For example a greek salad will taste differently on an island, than a restaurant in Brussels. What I am trying to say is that location and origin always play a vivid role when it comes to understanding music.
You have had the chance to perform in other countries. Was it difficult to get your message through someone who doesn’t speak the language?
Not really, maybe at first. A couple of years ago I was performing at Berlin’s Radio Music Hall on this event called Prix Europa. So I went on stage, started talking in English as well as I could and it was at that time that Greece was dealing with austerity for the first time. So, I think everyone was thinking: ‘He looks too happy to be Greek.’ I started playing my songs and soon enough all the Germans were taking their sweaters off and dancing on their chairs. I like to think that I showed them what Mediterranean hospitality is really all about.
Your songs talk about love and relationships and women who have hurt you or things you’ve done to hurt women. What is it that you’ll be singing about in 10 years’ time?
Relationships. I will still be singing and writing about relationships. It’s the most important thing to live for and it will always be our main concern.
A lot of songs just stick to blaming the other person about flaws in the relationship. But you admit your mistakes in your songs.
Yes, I do that. You need to do that. It’s like the way Woody Allen behaves in his movies. I love his way of admitting his passion and weaknesses without any concerns and without anything holding him back. The imaginary victim, the underprivileged lover is always a character that interests me.
Do you write out of personal experience?
Sometimes. But most of the times I just observe what is going on around me. Many of the things I am singing about are things and stories I have seen happen before my eyes when I am out having a drink. I always look around, notice things and behaviors and take notes. Literal notes, not mental notes. I am serious. I have even gone to the bar’s washroom, with my voice recorder and go: ‘It is Saturday night. I am at this bar. The boy did that…. The girl did that….’, so I won’t forget.
Really? That’s, wow, that’s great. So you are borrowing facts of your life and facts of other people’s lives and use them in your songs.
No, I steal them. I steal moments from me, from you, from everyone around me. It’s like stripping off your life in a song.
Tell me about Lola. Who is this person and what has she done?
Lola is no-one and everyone. She is a person that holds the flaws, the glamour, the beauty and charm of every girl I’ve known.
Did the song come first? Or the book?
The book came first. And as I was trying to figure out who she really is, I saw her. I just saw her in front of me and started writing all about her. Then came the song.
Was it challenging? Writing your first book?
Yes, it was. But it was also a need I had to fulfill. I wrote Lola over a summer, but I have written bits and pieces before. I was asked by LiFo to write a small summer story. I wrote Κρύο στη Δονούσα.
But apart from music and writing you also love movies and film directing.
That’s right. I took some directing classes with P. Voulgaris.
Can music, or film making, or any art be taught?
No, I guess not. Apart from the tools and means you need to know in order to communicate well what you want to do, apart from the necessary historical knowledge and references, the core of any art is something you have within you and no one can teach you how to express it.
If you could compose the soundtrack of a book you’ve read, what would that be?
The Marseilles Trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo. You can find profound detail in there, about everything. The street, the wine, the neighborhood. All my senses were awakened as I was reading it.
We talked about you singing about relationships and love. How is love in the times of austerity?
It’s the same as it was before. It’s a social state of things that is born and dies in a binary system that is not influenced by anything outside it.
But don’t you think the times are changing, and we are changing with them? We are becoming self-centered, aggressive; lose patience, therefore unable to bear love?
Yes, but we are the ones to blame for that, not love. This means that we are unhealthy expressions of love.
Last thing you need to tell me is your future plans.
I don’t know just yet. I am in the process of deciding what to do, I have so many different things in mind, all creative, all exciting. The good thing is that the people that listen to my music are people that need change and dislike repetition, and that is exactly what I am aiming for.
A few comments about the things pictured and said above:
Kostis is extremely proud of his indoor plant. He is proud because he managed to keep it alive for almost a year now. His apartment includes a mixture of real and fake plants. Very confusing, I tell you. / The espresso machine is new. He is watching videos on youtube on how to master the art of coffee making. He has found the secret in the pressure you add to the coffee before turning the machine on. It’s a matter of time until he becomes perfect. / Musicians today, as I have come to understand, are very high tech. He has so many applications and strange stuff on his i-pad and i-phone and he connects little pianos to them and records stuff anywhere, anytime. / Lola was published by Μεταίχμιο. The artwork for both the book and the poster Kostas is holding and the album was done by talented duo BOB Studio. / The text pictured above is something Kostis read the night before our photo shoot. He found it interesting and asked me to take a picture of it. It’s an abstract from ‘The War of Art’ by Stevel Pressfield. Kostis reads a lot.