"Do not make music to promote yourself. Make music to promote art. " - Andre Simonian
Andre Simonian is an Armenian song writer and producer. He was born and raised in Iran, and later moved to England for 11 years for his studies. He now resides in Yerevan, Armenia. He only began playing music when he was 18. In London, he pursued his passion and studied music and media - at the same time he followed his Father’s advice and studied English literature to be an English literature specialist. His Grandfather is a genocide survivor, and maintained a high level of patriotism for Armenia, without belonging to any political wings. Following the footsteps of his grandfather, in 1996 Andre came to Armenia for the first time, and started setting roots in his homeland. Andre is known to speak up for social and political issues; he was supportive of the revolution in Armenia, and supports peaceful relations, and anti-genocide policies. His production company, Unity Production Armenia, was one of the coordinators of the revolution stage in Republic Square in 2018.
Andre Simonian founded The Beautified Project in 2005, a Melancholic alternative Rock band whose permanent band members are: Armen Shaverdian, Arlen Shaverdian, and himself. He released a demo album titled ‘Serenades for Insanity’ in London in the summer of 2006. The Beautified Project’s first album; “Behind the Happy Mask” was the first English-language album ever released in Armenia. The Beautified Project has released 4 albums, all with poetic lyrics and beautiful accompanying music videos. Andre has worked in collaboration with well-known artists such as: Antimatter, Sona Rubenyan, Iveta Mukuchyan, Sibil, Adana Project, Katya D’Janoeff, Sevak Amroyan, Mariam Petrosyan and many others. Andre is now working on a duet series with ten different singers from many different genres which will be released at the end of 2020.
How did you form The Beautified Project? What happened in the beginning?
When I finished my media studies in London, I was hungry to educate myself in music. I went back to a music college, where I formed two different bands, The Blue People Society, followed by Gazoline. I was the drummer in both bands. I had no song-writing input. As I improved my guitar skills, I started writing my own songs and that’s when I started recording my first demo album. A year before forming The Beautified Project, I had done a three-month-long research on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and that’s where I picked up the word “Beautified” from.
You started making music very late, at 18 years old. Before you decided to be a musician, what did you think you would be? What do you think you would be if you weren’t a musician?
Either a psychologist or a chef. I love hanging out with psychologists. They are usually pretty crazy themselves. Female psychologists, especially, are really interesting. I find them really cool. For some reason most of my friends are either psychologists or architects. I guess architects have a crazy side too. After all, they are creative people and most creative people have a few loose screws. I guess it’s pretty late for me to become a psychologist but having my own burger or spaghetti house is still a valid dream.
You mentioned in a previous interview that one lesson you’ve learned from your Grandfather was how to take the positive from the negative. What is one way you have done this in your life or in your career with music?
I have taken all the personal pains that I have faced as a child, and as an adult (family problems, man-made rules, wars, revolutions, relationships, loss, migration, etc), and I have turned them into pieces of music, to which quite a lot of people have related. There are dark corners in my songs that have become sanctums and sanctuaries for fans, and that is what matters to me. My band has been on MTV and BBC and has played in over 10 countries, but nothing compares to the pleasure of locking yourself in a room and turning a piece of pain into a beautiful song which then becomes a pain-killer for others.
Your lyrics are personal, and profound and touch upon the painful and confusing emotions that go along with growing up and falling in love. What is the creative process like for writing your songs? And what is the overall creative process like for you with putting together the sound?
Most of my songs sound pretty melodic but, if you get a bit closer to them you will feel their hidden dark side. I am an introvert in an existential crisis; so I am not able to write about the beauty of flowers and butterflies, but I can definitely write about how a flower weathers or a butterfly dies. Pain, disgust, mortality and the profanity of man-made rules have been my biggest inspirations. I usually end up writing the music and the lyrics on an acoustic guitar and then whenever I am comfortable to show it to the band, I play it for them and we all take part in arranging it. Usually, I have to have the final say, because they are my babies after all so I choose how to dress them.
If you have one, what is your favorite lyric of yours?
“Love will die just like the king and the queens.” from the song Black Wooden Nest.
In which language do you feel freest in expressing yourself?
Armenian is my preferred spoken language but when it comes to creative work, English comes to rescue me.
You paid homage to your favorite musicians in the video you released in 2019: “The Missing Part”. How do you find the balance between being influenced by your favorite artists and maintaining your original voice?
After we released our fourth album, I didn’t listen to any music for a whole year. I was so sick of music after so many years of noise since I was 20 years old. I couldn’t even be in the same room with my bandmates for a while. Then I started thinking about all those musicians who have been international stars and all the shit they had to put up with. So I decided to dedicate a song to them. I painted one of my walls black and I hung all those pictures of dead people on that wall and shot the video there. My living room looked like an all-star graveyard for a while.
What is the most difficult piece of your job for you? What is your favorite part of your job?
I hate TV interviews where we have to promote an album or a music video. Basically you have to sit and say you’re the best. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s bad enough that we turn art into a product. It’s even worse when we have to start prostituting it. The best part is the process of writing a new song. Nothing is more beautiful than giving birth to something that is eternal. A song is not made out of flesh, blood and bones, so it does get old but it never rots.
Is it difficult to stay authentic in the music business?
It is impossible to remain authentic in the music business. Once you record your art, you are already a product.
What has been the coolest thing that has happened in your career?
Finding like-minded people. Recently I was reading an article about why people are so miserable and unhappy in the 21st century. The article said that humans are tribal creatures who like to be surrounded by like-minded people. It is so true. We are often surrounded by people with whom we don’t feel connected to. The coolest thing that has happened to me is that my music has become a device to help me find the members of my tribe in the four corners of the world. I have good friends in so many countries whom I am always missing and I know they miss me too, and that really warms my heart.
You will release a duet series with 10 different artists across 10 different genres. Can you tell us about this upcoming project of yours?
After The Beautified Project went on a break I started collaborating with different artists that I love and appreciate, all representing different genres. It was the most amazing thing to analyse all those styles and improve my knowledge of music. Talking about duets, I have to admit my collaboration with the British artist, Antimatter was magical. I had been his fan since I was in my early 20s and for him to agree to sing my song was so amazing. We ended up becoming friends and I even directed one of his music videos from his latest album. The unique thing about my duets album is that each song has an accompanying music video, so you can watch the whole album while you listen to it.
What do you think is the most important thing to remember or do for a collaboration to go smoothly?
To be stubborn and cunning enough to push your idea forward (laughs).
How has your spirituality or religious beliefs influenced your songwriting and composing process?
I am not a religious person at all. As a teenager I sang in a church choir for 4 years and then I even joined a gospel choir. The reason for that was because I love moody music and I find religious structures and imagery fascinating and I love the smell of burning candles and khunk. I do not believe in heaven and hell. I believe in nature and that the energy cycles.
Final advice for up and coming musicians or artists?
Do not make music to promote yourself. Make music to promote art.
Interview by Hannah Kazanjian Brewster