A couple of weeks ago, Sandmoon a band from Beirut released an EP called #InTheEnd which consists of five songs that range from various soundscapes and stories surrounded by the indie pop vibe, that Sandra Arslanian has created over the years.
Credit: Sabyl Ghoussoub
Sandmoon was founded originally in 2010, in Beirut where Sandra Arslanian was born. When she was little, her family fled from the war to Belgium and since then these two poles have determined her musical journey. While her voice seems to be an important element in her music, the first instrument she learned was the Piano. Later on, she followed vocal training to develop her voice further. Arslanian thinks that
“vocals are somehow underestimated in indie music but my main instrument is my voice. It is an instrument”
Later on, she started to learn Ukulele.
Born into an Armenian family, Arslanian grew up with different musical approaches. She was very much into Prince and Bob Dylan while she was growing up, from her brothers she got to know bands like Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and other bands. On the other hand, she is very much taken by Armenian liturgical music. It is the sounds, harmonies and progression that you find which inspires Arslanian. For instance in the single Time Has Yet to Come from the latest EP, the listener will notice that the song is not purely inspired by Western music.
Before #InTheEnd Sandmoon released already two albums in the last six years, and in each of the albums the music is powerful and very emotional, especially with Sandra Arslanian’s voice at the forefront. In 2013 Home was released,consisting of nine songs and was widely acclaimed. The singles Home, Walk and Things found their way to local radio stations in Lebanon. Home is very different in contrast to #InTheEnd. The latest release plays a lot more with different sounds and variations which distinguishes itself from experimenting a lot with many genres.
Although Sandmoon is the brainchild of Sandra Arslanian, and it is mostly a singer-songwriter project, she wants to acknowledge the other band members. Since 2010, there have been frequent changes in the line-up of the musicians, and the name of the band reflects this. As Arslanian explains:
“While the moon waxes and wanes and rotates in relations to the Earth, so too do the band members.“
Though Arslanian playfully says “once a Sandmoon member, always a Sandmoon member.” She adds about the name of the band: “Sandmoon is a combination not only of my name ‘Sandra‘ and the Moon, but at the same time of the natural elements: the Sand, thus the Earth and the Moon. The sand as a symbol of the immutable and the Moon representing emotions.The music has a steadfast emotional character.” The current members of Sandmoon are Sandra Arslanian (Vocals/Piano/Ukulele), Sam Wehbi (Acoustic & Electric guitar), George Flouty (Electric Guitar/Soundscapes), Ribal Kallab (Cello) and Maen Rajab (Acoustic & Electric Guitar). Rajab is now in Europe.
Credit: Ibrahim Ramadan
Maen Rajab (Guitar), Sandra Arslanian and in the back Khaled Omran at the EP Release in June 2016
While the music reflects a lot of herself and her image, she always wants to give credit to the musicians that work with her. Most of the songs are written by herself, but every member who is currently active with Sandmoon is adding his or her part to the songs as well. The guitarist Maen Rajab, as well as others contributed to #InTheEnd, which eventually created a rich blend. Each of the songs in #IntheEnd sound different, while most of them are more indie and folk oriented, the EP includes different kinds of approaches like rock for example too. In the beginning she used to compose a lot on the Piano, this changed with time and now she is composing a lot of songs on the ukulele as well. Usually she starts singing, playing a chord and creating the song through this method. she explains that
“Songs are written in the spur of the moment, a little like impros, and then they naturally develop into a structured song.“
One of the songs “Do not stand at my grave and weep” has been composed in times of mourning as a catharsis song. Words were too difficult to write and failed to translate feelings that were too indescribable, thus this poem from 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye, that was discovered by chance, was put to music. It was only confirmed in 1998 that Frye was the actual writer of this poem. The researcher Abigail Van Buren found out that Frye was originally influenced by the plight of a German Jewish woman and „Frye expresses in this poem what she thinks about life and death.“
Even though the latest EP is called #InTheEnd it is hopefully not the end for Sandmoon. And rightfully so, since it sems that Sandra has planned some projects for the upcoming months and next year…