When Andrew and Anisah met, halfway around the world, as a result of a series of strange coincidences, Venusia was born in the midst of the global pandemic. They quickly realized that despite being divided by different living arrangements, COVID restrictions, borders, oceans, and continents, they were actually counterparts and shared many things, including a strong musical compatibility. They overcame the obstacles to live their life together, expressing their special creative synergy through music, art, and words. They finally met on neutral ground after defying travel bans, conventional concerns, and coronavirus variants. The Venusia Project was created by combining their abilities to orchestrate melodies, words, and ideas with their diverse range of life experiences.
Venusia is finishing up work on their first record, Light Waves. Songs with a pop-rock and classical fusion are introduced in Light Waves, which celebrates themes of independence, unconditional love, loss, growth, and hope that range from the particular to the general. In the coming days, they will release their new singles one at a time, so pay attention and follow along.
In a nutshell, Solstice Love is a real-life tale of pandemic love. In the midst of the COVID lockdown in 2020, they happened to meet after traveling halfway around the globe. They realized their extreme compatibility after exchanging numerous letters, and they were able to effortlessly make beautiful music together. They began virtually, overcame the various travel restrictions, met in a neutral location, and ultimately sealed their fate as Venusia in Cancun, Mexico. They wrote our first song in the same room during that initial face-to-face meeting on the Winter Solstice, and it was just released on June 21 (the Summer Solstice), referred to as Solstice Love. They were married on the same day in Basel, Switzerland, which is an additional intriguing fact. Check out their original single Solstice Love and the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
VENUSIA: Anisah originates from Malaysia and Andrew, the USA. We led parallel lives, Anisah all over the world and Andrew in Florida, all the while appreciating, performing and playing music. During the pandemic when the world was shut down, we unexpectedly found each other. After realizing we had just about everything in common, we realized we had an amazing musical compatibility. Our first musical exchanges were conducted remotely, our initial recordings were from sound clips sent by email. When we heard our instruments play together and our voices harmonize, we knew that this was our true destiny. Thus, Venusia was born.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
Andrew: I started playing guitar when I was 10 years old, with a few lessons but was mostly self-taught. I started recording when I was a teenager and played in several bands, but after that mostly concentrated on my own original material. Before Venusia was formed, I released two solo albums, one called Mixed Messages, the other called The Dreamer or the Dream (both can be heard on Spotify).
Anisah: I started playing the piano with formal classical training when I was 8 and began formal training on the cello as an adult in France. I began composing music in my teens and performed as lead characters in musicals in high school where I also had classical voice training. I played music quietly throughout my adult life, but this really came to the forefront when I met Andrew.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences?
Andrew: My first influences were folk and rock. I remain heavily influenced by the Beatles, particularly their later songs. My love for them crafted my style of using harmonies, counter-melodies and influenced my main approach to song styling. So many other artists have influenced me over the years including David Bowie, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Regina Spektor, Jack Johnson, to name a few. I am also inspired by classical music, electronica and some jazz. These influences resulted in the foundation of my style, which is to focus on the message, lyrics, vocals and harmonies, and build the instrumental foundation to support these.
Anisah: My influences are diverse and very eclectic, as I come from multi-cultural Malaysia in a family with Arabic heritage. Growing up, my father would always return from the music store that he frequented with recommendations from the store owner, so we ended up listening to classical, jazz, Latin, Middle Eastern and even Japanese music, to name a few. I was also exposed to traditional Malay music at school and Hindi music as I grew up with an Indian nanny. In my teenage years, grunge music became popular, and I dabbled with the guitar and was enamored by Pearl Jam and Nirvana. In later years, my musical sensibilities expanded further into jazz, electronic and ambient music. My piano compositions are influenced by contemporary minimalist composers such as Max Richter and Ludovico Einaudi.
Together, Andrew and I draw upon a wide range of inspirations that we look forward to synergizing in a variety of ways.
4. Why the name ‘VENUSIA’?
Anisah: The name Venusia came when I was observing the night sky and saw an object, unlike anything I had seen before which reminded me of the planet Venus, except it wasn’t. Venusia, therefore, intends to unite the mysterious with the obvious, and as we like to say, alchemize the shades, moods, and emotions within us.
Andrew: When we met, Anisah asked me if the word Venusia meant anything to me. I immediately picked my guitar and started writing a song, just from hearing the word. Somehow the feeling of Venusia activated me to create, so I wrote a song called Venusia. As we were forming, it occurred to me that our band should be called Venusia too.
6. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
First and foremost, our instruments communicate with each other, and our voices combine to captivate our listeners. From the very first time we performed in front of people, they were moved to tears when they heard our song. This was the prototype of Solstice Love. The interplay of our piano, guitar and cello forms a tapestry that people seem to resonate with. We field-tested our set while busking in the city of Basel, and people stopped to listen and reacted enthusiastically, so we realized that we have something that moves our listeners. Our songs have many themes; we sing of unconditional love and life as well as for unity and peace. We also write about mythology such as in Ancient Egypt as we have a special affinity to that era. We believe that music is the perfect force for reuniting people in these strange times of division. Some people have described our sound as spanning several genres including rock, pop, classical, electronic and spiritual. Some of our songs tend to be self-reflective and express our lessons and growth as we journey through life.
7. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
Music is one of the most powerful tools to soothe the soul, lift the spirit, inspire the body to move and to bring people together. Music allows one to express the raw and basal emotions that we all share in our lives. It creates an atmosphere of empathy and support for people to know that others feel the same way as they do. So, we feel that it is a very important tool to evoke and inspire an awakening, both individual and societal. We feel therefore that music is a vital vehicle for political, cultural, personal, spiritual and societal change and progress. We are deeply interested to using music to elevate the discussion for all these purposes, in addition to our own songs of self-expression, personal narrative and for entertainment.
8. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
Yes, definitely. Playing together continues to delight and amaze us. As we mentioned, working together is effortless at this stage, so we are certainly fulfilled from it on a continual basis. We feel very fortunate because of this. Creating music never feels like work, but only like play. Moving forward, we are excited to be more widely heard, because we feel that we have a lot to share and a vision to unite the divisions we see around us. We want to create a better atmosphere for peace.
9. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
We both bring songs to the table that we individually conceive, then we play together until we find our place in the song. Generally, we add verses to each other’s ideas and end up with a synergistic result.
Anisah: I am a serial doodler and have been doing this since I was a child learning the piano. I would compose random tunes on the piano to express the emotions that I had difficulty verbalizing to the world. Now that we are actively making music for production, I tend to start with a melody, although Solstice Love itself started with a poem. Sometimes I’d work on the melody for months before the words would appear. Other times the words follow very quickly, and the song writes itself in a matter of days. Andrew would jump in at various stages of the process and play with me on the guitar. We’d record these short excerpts on the phone, so we don’t forget these creations. Often times these excerpts get strung together into a full song. One such excerpt is demonstrated in a short video clip on YouTube or Instagram, where I was playing the cello and Andrew, the guitar. This was a piece from our upcoming song, Beloved (link to YouTube video here: https://youtube.com/shorts/0HvC0rN1sDE?feature=share).
Andrew: My process varies. Some songs reveal the lyrics first, others the melody. A song like Waking Dream, actually came to me in a dream. I woke up in the middle of the night with a melody in my head, ran to the phone to record it and then the next day, laid down the song in the studio. The lyrics seem really apropos and came very quickly. Anisah added her cello, some piano and harmonies, and it took on a new life. I had written a second set of lyrics called The End of Loneliness and that became the substance for the chorus. It was a perfect union. So, the process varies, which keeps things fresh, inspiring, and interesting. Basically, I never know how a song will come, so I remain open to any possibility, and this keeps a consistent excitement in the air. It feels like these songs emerge from a well that will not run dry.
10. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
Andrew: The most difficult thing that I’ve had to endure in my life is watching people disrespect one another, and when they show lack of stewardship and responsibility towards the Earth. I have basically grown up a peace advocate. These observations have activated me and energized me to promote awareness, hope and change through music. These themes drive my message and motivated my songs like Think Peace, Through the Eyes of the Other. In my music career, I would imagined that I’d have had more success being heard by a larger audience earlier on, but I can now see that I was missing half of my band the whole time. So, now is truly my/our time.
Anisah: For me, the most difficult thing has been to continuously reinvent myself and find my place in the world, despite being an outsider in almost every country or work area I would get into. In the fields I have worked in such as science and tech, there was the added challenge of being a woman in a male-dominated arena. These challenges however have shaped me enormously and I appreciate now how being an outsider can be turned into an advantage as it brings new perspectives when seeing the world while maintaining a ‘childlike curiosity’. This is how I also now approach our music and pretty much everything that I get myself into now.
11. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
Andrew: Right out of the gate, we´re being heard and amassing listeners, this is a good start to success in my view. Also, when Anisah and I came together, it totally changed and transformed both of our lives, allowed us to feel a constant flow of happiness, contentment and satisfaction with life. So, I also write songs to share the idea that it´s never too old to grow, evolve and transform one’s life to achieve a more preferred outcome. Music has the unique ability to literally strike a chord in the heart of its listeners. Music can usher a person out of their unhappiness and depression. Music can inspire and motivate people from all walks of life to dance together. Music can awaken an inner romantic feeling. So, we’re working with an extremely potent tool, and we intend to use it well for these purposes. I’m very proud of this and even more proud of Venusia.Anisah: I’ve taken a lot of risks in my life, oftentimes going against the grain or career advice of others to follow what I would feel was true for me. This ruffled a lot of feathers or confused people who could not understand these decisions I had made. But whenever I have gone on my own path, I have learnt important lessons and experienced enormous growth. By far, the biggest leap of faith I have had to do was to meet Andrew in person despite the challenges and complicated life circumstances during the pandemic. Ever since we’ve been together, my creative process has been turbo-charged and my days are filled with joy from our union that can only come from a deep place of knowing one is fully one’s true self. The decision to follow my intuition that led to the birth of Venusia is truly what I am most proud of today.
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