WildSpiritz catches up with their good friend Sofia Martins
I think that it's safe to start off by saying that Sofia Martins, aka Starsha Lee, is an accomplished photographer as well as being a wonderful musician. Recently she has had her own showcase for her photography but what we are more interested in is the music and having had the opportunity to catch her live, apart from being simply a wonderful person to talk to, her act is one of the most jaw-dropping musical sets that I have ever had the pleasure to witness. The energy that goes into a show is unbelievable and the word Unique is something that can definitely be applied.
In the world of music, it is definitely a task to be able to pin someone down for a chat so it took a while but eventually, a window of opportunity presented itself and legging it at speed to London I managed to get the interview with Sophia I so desperately wanted.
Sofia is from Portugal and the very first question I had to ask was how a young woman from Portugal manages to find herself in London fronting what is, without doubt, the most eclectic and unique band on the circuit today.
“Nearly 5 years ago I left my job as a museum researcher and I was living near a forest, in the countryside of Portugal, completely isolated from everything and everyone.
At that time I met my guitar player who asked me to come to London and I thought I needed a break from isolation, I felt it was not the right time to go down that path.
So I came.”
Sofia's photography is breathtaking and should I ever be lucky enough to get my hands on one of her original photos, its something I would be honoured to have. It is clear to see however that there is an equal passion for this and for music and I wanted to know if she had a preference regarding the two or if one lent itself to the other.
“Well, that's a complex question and I'm going to try to be short.
I started to feel a vague, imprecise, need for being on stage when I was younger and that made me try out acting school. I'm very glad they didn't take me on because I completely regretted it. I thought this feeling was a family thing without much importance. My father was a jazz drummer, his sister is an accordionist, and the previous generations of our family were stage actors...
But when I started to do self-portraits I realised something else was going on, I was interested in the body as a moving language. At the time I wrote a little essay titled "Why I Hate Photographing", and that was because I was (due to the circumstances) substituting the stage for photography. I'm not sure if I would think that now.
It's very important to say that there's no art without the experience of it, you need the process of doing your work for you to recognise yourself, to know yourself and to exclude what is not yourself.
Having now the experience of the stage I still feel that something is still lacking, my songs don't come close to my writings or photographs in meaning to me. Probably even something else is calling me.
So in a more direct answer: I'm using music to express something that doesn't belong to the music field. I collaborate with musicians, I'm not a musician.”
This seems a very modest statement coming from someone who is so professional and technically perfect in everything that they apply themselves to. I have previously written a live review for Starsha and in that when I said jaw-dropping I meant it in the finest essence of the word. From when she appeared on stage until the band departed there was frenetic energy that was sometimes hard to follow. In the first instance, my mouth was open because I couldn't actually believe what I was seeing. I was however at the front and a couple of songs in got it together and worked out what it was all about. I did, however, during the set move towards the back so I could observe the audience and form some sort of opinion based on their reaction. I also checked some stats online to satisfy myself that I was on the right path. We have to face the facts that for those fortunate to have seen her live, the music is one thing, the show another and Sofia something else entirely. Based on all of that it is probably an accurate statement to say that there is a chance of an 80/20 split of those who get it and those who don't. What did Sofia think of the 20% that didn't get it and what words of wisdom would she have?
“Well, I don't blame them for not getting it because I don't get it myself either. What I'm doing is very much spontaneous, with no references, completely honest and bare.
So I would not say anything, we are in the same boat.”
Once again modesty is the best policy. Sofia is a very gentle soul and there seems to be a fine line between self-doubt and self-belief and I get where she is coming from in that respect. There have been a number of artists down the years who have walked the same path and it could be argued that they were all borderline genius, but I digress. It is a subject I would love to pick up on at another time however as we could probably fill an entire magazine with that debate.
Whilst doing my research before our meeting I was very bemused to see how some people were describing the vocals. There seems to be a crossover between Baby Metal which I find completely bizarre and Yoko Ono which is even more out there. Sofia?
“I think it's quite charming! And I understand the link between me and those artists even knowing there's no influence in me from them. I like the work of Yoko Ono, she works with concepts and she's beyond music - so I feel comfortable with that comment.
Even if it's negative comments or reviews it's important they have some kind of link to reality, not like those that say I'm a continuation of my guitar player's past. Now that's unreal.”
Given how great the band is and how tightly they all play together as a unit it was interesting to learn that despite a few lineup changes, Christian, her guitarist is the one constant that has been there since the start. The band are currently doing some recording and luckily for us, there will be an EP coming but as yet there is no release date. I have a feeling that we will be waiting longer for the album but given the reputation of the band, it will be worth the wait. Looking ahead I wanted to know what Sofia saw as the future for Starsha Lee.
“Well, unfortunately, I cannot talk about the future, not only because I don’t know it, but because I cannot even plan it. I was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and I don’t know how much time this allows me to do my band. I have otosclerosis and the operation I had, unfortunately, did not work. Therefore, literally, I live my band day by day.”
So, for now, we are going to have to take what we can get and for me, this was an upsetting statement. I believe that Starsha Lee is a new revolution in music but in her customary way, Sofia played this down and referred me to Lydia Lunch.
Citing many of her songs, my absolute favourite is Love is Superficial, but I wanted to know, given the depth in the songs, what Sofia had as her go to and why.
“I have one that is very special to me and its called Life is Suicidal.I put that song at the end of a set because I like to leave the stage with a full stop at the end of the performance like I ended something I wanted to say. It has been the last song for a while because of that. Plus, when I wrote it I wanted it to be a dancing song, with a peculiar amusement while I’m talking about death. The paradox makes me energetic and makes me smile very much. It’s life itself right there........awful as it is.”
Given the energy that Sofia puts into a performance, it came as no surprise to learn that she has injured herself many times on stage. Her doctor recommends that she still wear the neck brace which according to Sofia, “..........is such a bore.”
If there was ever a dream to play with a band, Sofia chose Skinny Puppy, not only because she loves their music but also because of their association with animal rights. Further to this and as far as the fans were concerned, Sofia is a woman of few words, “It’s all in the lyrics. They know that.”
I ended here with a feeling of slight sadness. Here was a woman who away from the spotlight was very humble and very quietly spoken. On stage, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were caught in a Jekyll and Hyde moment. Sadness is compounded by the fact that no one knows how much time the band has left.
We, therefore, need to make the most of Starsha Lee. Soak it up. Every now and then someone comes along who makes us sit up and take notice. Someone who we do not fully understand but who draws us in through their enigmatic personality. Whatever happens in the future, Starsha Lee, and in particular Sofia Martins will leave behind a legacy that will live in the heart, bring us warmth and make us smile. Get out there. Go witness something very special. Cherish it.
It will be a very long time before special comes round again.