For three years, Constantinos Gallis ’24 has been creating music under the name “Shrinking Violet.” The artist from Athens, Greece released his second album “Changing Too Quickly” on March 4, delving into topics such as quarantine, fear of the future, anger toward the government and uncertain relationships in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The songs are about trying to figure out how to navigate through relationships when you can’t see the other person, and the uncertainty of how a relationship can pan out when two people are forced to be physically separated,” Gallis said.
Gallis described that many students relate to this feeling when they leave their homes to attend university, and it is amplified by the lockdown measures. Interestingly, Gallis created the album with his girlfriend Nefeli; both parties have a voice in the theme of uncertain relationships. Although Gallis produced the music and wrote some lyrics, Nefeli wrote the bulk of the tracks and sang on almost every song. It is unusual to be presented with two sides of a story in the same track, but it creates a vivid and emotional sensation for listeners.
“Many songs with a male and female vocalist are quite conversational; it’s a call and response,” Gallis said. “With some exceptions, we opted to sing in unison, which gave us confidence when singing.”
Most of Nefeli’s lyrics are based on the emotional fatigue she experienced after her parents’ divorce. Gallis refers to the loss of his family members and the weight of trying to process “a million things at once.”
“I think many students right now just feel tired, and the songs definitely acknowledge that,” Gallis mentioned.
The opening song, “Through The Earth,” is deceptively upbeat, but touches on relatively dark themes. It foreshadows the melancholic messages and tone in the upcoming tracks. Although the album has many dark moments, it ends on a hopeful note with the closing track “Rebuild.” It symbolizes that although there were challenges during the pandemic, the end is in sight; everything will get better soon.
Gallis’ goal is to help listeners connect to the songs, whether it be to the melodies, the lyrics or the instrumentation. He recommends listening to all the songs in order because it will make it easier to find an aspect of the album listeners can relate.
Learning multiple instruments at the same time really helped Gallis develop an understanding of each instrument’s role in a song.
“I’ve played in bands before, and sometimes it feels like a constant battle for each member to stand out,” he said. “Learning many instruments at once helped me understand that it is better to have a functional song than a bunch of competing sounds.”
When Gallis’ band broke up, he decided to try creating more experimental, ambient songs, which excluded certain instruments. The result of this experimentation is the creation of his first EP under the name “Shrinking Violet.”
“That EP re-inspired me to create music and to learn how to record on my own,” Gallis revealed. “It also allowed me to finally see that there is a world outside of rock music that can be explored.”
Gallis’ music is rock-based, but he draws from ambient music, indie music and art-pop. His friends call his style “emo,” and the artist does not completely disagree. Gallis’ biggest influence is The National because he loves Matt Berninger’s voice and how all the instruments interact with each other.
“No one shows off in that band, and that makes the songs so much more cohesive,” he said.
Gallis also draws inspiration from Radiohead, Beach House, Bon Iver and Interpol.
“I think that impactful music straddles the line between familiar and unfamiliar. Emphasis on arrangement and the composition of pop melodies makes music predictable and familiar, affecting one side of a listener’s brain that seeks to find patterns and interpret the music logically. Emphasis on the timbre of individual sounds for the sake of experimentation typically grabs the listener’s attention in a different way.”
Gallies tries to achieve a balance between the familiar structure and melody people associate with pop songs as well as the unfamiliar sounds. Of course, some songs lean towards familiarity more than others, but Gallis have also released a few EPs that just focused on sound.
“Listeners don’t try to discern patterns, but are instead engaged as a result of curiosity,” he said.
For many years, Gallis made art and music without a particular purpose. Now, he strives to express specific messages and atmospheres. “I think I have become a bit more selective about my art and music and will only display my creative endeavors if they contribute to something,” Gallis said. “I do have to remind myself that I am only 19, and I have only been creating music for the last five years. There is no rush to create anything perfect anytime soon, and rushing will almost certainly lead to something bland and vacant.”