“Loud, tempting, dangerous”: Those are the words that come to mind to describe the captivating visuality of the party series “Sirens” in Mannheim. Brought into being by the designers and musicians Julia Kobel, Steffen Hotel, XOF and Selim Hex, the event just took place for the sixth time in July at the local club Disco Zwei. Named after dangerous creatures, called Sirens, who lured sailors with their enchanting music to shipwreck on the rocky coasts of their island, the name today reminds of the alert of incoming danger. But the experimental club night can not be put into a certain category, it aims to exist somewhere in between. As a child of post-rave subcultures it builds hybrids in the spectrum between Noise and Pop, deconstructs formulas and blends them together in ever changing possibilities. The visuality of Sirens seems to reinvent the way of creating a design for a club night: Futuristic and captivating motion graphics clash with seductive, electronic sounds, abstract fantasy worlds built with an eager eye for details collide with experimental typography, materials and textures. Meet Sirens – and dig deep into the tense atmosphere of exceptional electronic music and contemporary, expressive graphic design.
Introduce yourself to our readers: Where are you from? What are you doing?
Steffen: I’m living in Mannheim but originally coming from the middle of nowhere between Stuttgart & Mannheim. I am bad at saying no to interesting things so I am doing a bit of everything these days.
What is the story behind your name, “SIRENS”?
Steffen: Searching for a name was such a long clusterfuck! At one point we were walking through the city and reading everything we could find and saying Oh that would be a fun name for the party». After all we settled on Sirens (which was one of the first names we had on the list) because we like the double meaning of the mythological creatures luring you in and the modern Sirens that are more meant to get people to move the fuck away.
XOF: Mythology + Industrial
Selim: It was actually on our initial list of possible names, before we thought of 100s of other names and came back to it. It’s loud, tempting, dangerous and can house all 4 of us and everyone else who make it possible for us to share the magic 🙂
How would you describe your design style?
Steffen: Aggressive ADHD Emo?
XOF: burning trash can JK i dunno, occult & cute
Selim: I feel like we’re young, adapting or simply shapeshifting quickly. We already had like 3 logos. We may go in a total different direction with our videos too, it’s no big deal. I personally prefer the sincerity and progress over perfection.
How many of you are there? Are there some new members joining you? Or some old ones leaving?
Steffen: We are 4 currently: Julia Kobel, Selim Hex, XOF & me. Since we are an ineffectual little family we never thought about adopting kids. But if somebody wants to, we might think about it.
XOF: 4 but XOF might have to leave because he only gives shitty answers
How has Mannheim shaped you creative output?
Steffen: Not much. We are all children of the internet I guess?
XOF: Not really in a straightforward way, more indirectly through differentiation from other events.
Selim: Oh! I like this one. It was kind of a big difference when I moved from Istanbul to Mannheim like 3,5 years ago. I was quickly and gladly surprised as I met like-minded noise-heads, my punk babies and cool visual artists. This rather smallish city has so much to offer in terms of harmony and chaos, similar to what inspired me in Istanbul. So many people from all around the world, all of them calling it home. Yep, it’s my home, that feeds my love and hatred of music.
Moment of Truth: Are there arguments between you sometimes? And how do you resolve these conflicts?
Steffen: YES! As I hinted we took 2-3 separate meetings to decide for a name. So every subject gets it’s fair share of arguing about. We usually just resolve things not having time anymore and having to take what’s already there. Hugs also help most of the time.
XOF: Oh yes and they never really get resolved. So one day we will end up killing each-other in epic 4 hours fight to the death. Footage of this bloody mess will be the trailer for our final sirens event.
Julia: Oh yes there are. I am not sure if we resolve them… but in the end, its ok, we hate each other but also love each other – YING & YANG!
Selim: Sure 🙂 Sometimes we just agree to disagree.
Which person of your group is responsible for which job?
Steffen: Julia does a lot of our 3D-Sculptures that are appearing on the Posters and Videos + additional 3D Work and is our magic link to Disco Zwei. XOF does most of the animation and 3D-Environments, as well as DJing. Selim is questioning every design-decision and goes loco on the CDJs. He also takes care of a lot of the artist-interactions. And I mostly do type and try to make sure everybody’s kinda happy. But these roles often switch. For the second party we each did a sculpting, that’s why we had 4 different Posters. Sometimes Julia does more on Posters and sometimes I do. Sometimes Selim has a good idea for the concept and we are just working with that. It’s a pretty flexible operation and depending on who has more power and capacity at the moment, these constellations can vary.
Steffen: GOD OF TYPO & MENTAL CENTER Julia: QUEEN OF DIGITAL WITCHCRAFT & GLOWING HEART, Selim: i dont even.. eehm……. MASTER OF CONFUSION & MOST HATED CDJ USER IN SOUTH GERMANY, XOF: does 3D and also dj
Steffen -> TYPO, Poster, Textin, brainstorm + adhs
XOF -> 3D Wizard + dj + crossbow-power
Selim Hex -> Communication, textin, brainstorm, also financeplan – but nobody understands this plan,
also i am not sure if selim knows what he is doing – confusion + dj
Julia -> 3D, Poster, negative and rational part sometimes
We have a pretty fluid structure, I would say. Everyone is somehow responsible for everything. All of us are visual people and we’re into similar noises, with very different takes on things. Julez did many of our 3D sculptures and did design works with Steff, who did all of our typography and logos, XOF made the videos happen and we both also have been the “resident DJs” so far. I did many of the bookings, but Ashida Park collab for example was all Steff & Julia. At the end of the day it’s a teamwork and we all in this together.
Can you tell us about a really funny situation that has happened to you?
XOF: Once Steffen got punched haha god I donnu
Julia: as XOF already said: Steffen got punched at a party lel
Selim: I don’t know if it’s my weird sense humor, but I kinda find it funny, that there was this one crazy drunk dude who somehow found the way in to our party and punched Steffen on the dance floor – sorry boo :(- in the 1st hour, the only time we started the party before midnight. I don’t know if it was the amount of war tunes XOF played in their warm up set or this person came just for it, but yeah… our 1st and thankfully only “fight”.
What was your most successful/happiest moment at SIRENS?
Steffen: Everytime we don’t have to work on something and can just enjoy music together! So also on the night of our parties for me. I don’t know if that applies to Selim and XOF as well since they have to host the night. Also our road trip to Creepee Teepee Festival!
Julia: When we were drunk together at creepy teepee festival I guess.
Selim: I actually felt like this at all of the our parties. I rarely find it comfortable in a club, where I can dance like no one’s watching. I’m glad that it worked every time I’m at a SIRENS party. I think success is a very relative thing, but it always motivates me to meet people, who came by accident and are so impressed that they don’t leave till the end.
Sirens IN 10 YEARS?
Steffen: IDK! 10 Years is a long time to throw parties. So maybe we transcended to some other state until then.
XOF: probably dead
Selim: Probably in a very different form than now. More cities, more of our dream line-ups, more freedom… I can imagine that I’d love to work with these cuties more.
How do you understand collaborations? Where do they beginn or end for you?
Steffen: I think collaborations are a good way to learn new things and get out of your comfort zone. Good collaborations can change the way you think about your practice and about yourself and make you question stuff more carefully.
It seems like there are a lot of collaborations happening lately, especially on Instagram. Do you have someone in mind with whom you would like to start a collaboration? You don’t have to name a certain person, it could also be a company or even a field of interest in general, e.g. fashion or music.
Steffen: I have a lot of people I find inspiring. Mostly Musicians and Artists, hardly any Corporations. Most of the Artists I’d love to work with already have a strong visual language thus it would be both scary and super interesting to work with them one day since I can’t stay in the comfort zone too long cause I am scared to repeat myself.
Do you think we should collaborate with each other more often? And why?
Steffen: Definitely. I saw someone post on twitter recently: “Put me in your invoice not your moodboard!” And i really feel that. I hope i can get to a point where i can just reach out to people and work on a project together with them and pay them instead of clients expecting students to make the 100th knockoff of the same 5 designers they see on instagram. Or big corporations luring young designers in to work for clout.
Do you have any collaborative projects in mind which you find inspiring?
Steffen: Puh it’s hard to decide here. The collaborations of Arca with Jesse Kanda are just amazing, OneohtrixPointNever and David Rudnick as well, then there is the whole Drain Gang & everything Flufflord as well as Kristýna Kulíková touch is gold. I also love the collective spirit of No Shade and DigiGal.
Maybe even some works that haven’t been created in the digital age of social media?
Steffen: Puh there’s honestly not much that comes to mind since i was so young when the internet wasn’t around. Maybe the Video for Linkin Parks «Breaking the Habit» which was done in collaboration with Kazuto Nakazawa who also worked on the animated sequences of Kill Bill and did Character Designs for Samurai Champloo. The video and song together really touched me when i first saw it, since i already liked the band and anime a lot. So for me it was the perfect match even though I didn’t quite understand what the song was about at the time.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Steffen: A lot from Animes to be honest. But also of course from everything on the internet, though i try not to look at other peoples design when starting to work on something. I try to find inspiration everywhere really. Braulio Amado’s approach is a major influence here as he basically uses everything he finds for his posters and makes it look unique. Same with Jonathan Castro!