Gaeya Gives the Earth a Voice on Debut EP ‘Awakening’

Photo Credit: Annie Hyrefeldt

Swedish world-beat artist Sandra Zackrisson adopted the stage name Gaeya as an homage to the Greek goddess Gaia, who acts as a voice for mother Earth. And that’s the role she aims to play with her music — speaking out about issues affecting the Earth, as well as celebrating it.

Zackrisson is partly descended from the Sami, a Scandinavian indigenous tribe, and her sonic style and lyrical content stem in part from their music and philosophy. “Nature and the relationship to nature always were present during my childhood and during my younger years when I worked with music,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized I could combine those two, and that resulted in Gaeya in the end.” 

Gaeya’s debut EP, Awakening, spans five enchanting songs that sound almost like the soundtrack to a fantasy video game, with her Disney-princess-like voice against ambient piano, steady percussion, and dreamy synths. The lyrics interweave to narrate a deep personal journey that’s synchronous with the larger journey of the Earth and humanity.

The mystical opening track, “Contact,” sounds almost like a cry to extraterrestrial or otherworldly beings, though Zackrisson wrote it about the search for human connection. The video plays into the fairy-tale-like vibe of the music, with Gaeya wandering through a magical forest, then moving through hypnotizing choreography with a dancer.

Next is “Truth,” an upbeat, powerfully sung track about “finding your own truth and what you stand for and sharing what you believe in a loving way and respectful way so you respect others’ differences,” she explains. Between forceful drums and high-pitched yells, it sounds almost like a battlecry for truth-seeking in a world full of lies. Its video gives off an even more empyrean vibe than “Contact,” with an animated green paradise and a glowing light in the woods, representing the path toward one’s own inner light.

“Aureola” gives off a poppier, more electronic vibe, beginning with vivid verbal portraits of “brightness while moonshine/touches my skin/counting the planets/circling through my head” then describing the process of bringing a dying planet back to life — “wise will we try/to bring life to a drought” — and the atmospheric “Micro Orbits” is about finding peace and being one with the Earth.

The last song, “Tide for the Change,” is the one Zackrisson considers the anthem of the EP, declaring in almost whispered vocals, “with nature still breathing, I know we can still turn around,” then escalating into a soaring, hopeful chorus about the resilience of nature.

“‘Tide for the Change’ is the song that I would say is putting down the mark of what Gaeya is and what we try to communicate about a future that is positive, it’s beautiful, and that we’re a place where the Earth can thrive and we can thrive together with it,” she says. “We only have to start to realize and reconnect to that relationship and see ourselves as part of the Earth.”

Working with producer Anders Rane on the EP, she aimed to blend electronic effects with natural, organic-sounding instrumentals. “We mainly started off with a beat or a piano, maybe some synth pattern that we use, and from there we build the song up,” she says. They altered the vocals very little, aside from layering some harmonies. Gaeya has released acoustic versions of her singles “Truth” and “Contact,” and her next move will be to release an entire acoustic EP.

When people listen to Awakening, she wants them to feel inspired to improve the world and hopeful that they can make a difference. “If they have an idea of wanting to do something, make some changes, go for some goals, I hope they feel they have the support inside themselves and the music can give that sort of reminder,” she says.

Gaeya used to hold concerts in big tents, followed by talks with the audience about sustainability and how to help the environment. “Then I got the inspiration — it would be quite fun to have a space where I can invite guests, where we can talk about these kinds of things that are not hitting the radar on the big news channels,” she says. “We tend to focus a lot on the climate, but there are very important things when it comes to ecosystems, when it comes to the local economy, there are things connected to water systems and energy systems that need to be brought more into the light.” This led her to start her podcast tellUs, where she speaks with experts about topics ranging from biodiversity to buying locally.

She hopes that both her music and her podcast send the message that “the world is not going backwards,” she says. “We still have a choice to make a difference, even though a lot of things are happening and they can be challenging. There’s always a possibility that we can work with our mindset and do something productive and positive, and it doesn’t have to be much. It’s just about our way of thinking and what we send out to others.”

Follow Gaeya on Facebook for ongoing updates.

A Virtual Panel Explores Techno’s Role in Climate Change

Ariel Zetina DJs at Hideout Inn in 2019. Photo Credit: @ColectivoMultipolar

Can techno music be a site for climate activism? That was the big question posed by a virtual panel held on Friday, May 22, where Chicago DJs Ariel Zetina and Club Chow (Kevin Chow) as well as British musician and activist Kimwei McCarthy were happy to weigh in. The discussion was organized by Grant Tyler, a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and Mika Tosca, a climate scientist and assistant professor at SAIC.

Full disclosure: I’m an SAIC alum and occasional freelancer for their marketing department. But I’m intrigued by music’s potential and limitations for activating political imagination, and what can I say? This was the most interesting Zoom event I attended last week – and trust me, I went to many. Who’s that culture writer sneaking in to take the temperature of your e-parties and never turning on their camera? It’s me, guys. It’s me.

I know what you’re thinking: Techno’s place in climate action is a pretty big question for one panel. But Chicago seems a natural place to ask. This city has given so much to electronic music, benefiting from its proximity to Detroit techno and pioneering acid house. Hell, we gave you Wax Trax! Afrofuturism is also threaded into the fabric of Black Chicago culture, most audibly in the work of jazz musician Sun Ra, who used science fiction’s escapism and technological critiques to create speculative audio worlds.

Plus, music history is always political history. Techno is no exception. During the talk, Zetina mentioned higher profile techno artists whose work has intersected with social justice politics and especially environmental organizing. Of particular note was the EP Acid Rain by the group Underground Resistance, who were ideologically influenced by the Black Panthers and whose music developed partially as a response to the environmental and economic reality of Black Detroiters in the late ’80s. By Underground Resistance’s own words, techno is “the music for the future of the human race.” Without it: no peace, no love, no vision. But shared modes of expression don’t always point to a shared politics.

“I think there’s a tendency within techno to superimpose a … Utopian discourse,” Chow pointed out, “and [impose an idea of] radical political action on top of raves. But I would argue, most of time, none of that is actually happening.” Got me there, Chow. Happens all the time in punk, too. While he casually noted there are collectives that do meaningful work — mutual aid, building community, and so on — the music is largely apolitical. In his estimate, creating significant change through techno would require a big cultural shift — one that begins with open, frank discussions about who is participating and how, and applying pressure on show promoters to change priorities.

One point the discussion kept circling back to was how well DJ sets have adapted to the constraints of COVID-19. Since they rely on individuals over groups and often incorporate technology-based audio-visual elements, club grooves are thriving (clubs, on the other hand…). Zetina emphasized her work has her flying often, that high-ranking DJs fly in private jets even more, and that there’s a global techno/rave culture that encourages bouncing between countries for events. While not a uniquely carbon intensive culture, high carbon emissions seem part of techno’s modern DNA. Does coronavirus present an opportunity to reimagine the rave as a carbon-neutral space?

Tyler said celebrating DJs successfully connecting with audiences during quarantine ignores why people go to raves: to physically connect with one another. McCarthy responded, “Not to say that we should completely replace live music with virtual reality, but if there’s a genre that could push forward virtual reality concerts, I would imagine it to be techno.” It’s a prescient insight. Creative work rooted in digital technology has long presented world-building opportunities. Alternate realities can be escapes, but they can also pose questions about the worlds we’re trying to escape from and even offer new visions for those worlds.

Zetina used the chat to link an article about Finland holding a virtual concert to celebrate May Day. Seven-hundred thousand people tuned in, and of them, 150,000 created avatars to move through and interact with the concert space. While not techno specific, it certainly sets a precedence for audiences’ willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. And it’s not inappropriate to treat global warming with the same urgency as COVID-19.

As a researcher noted during a recent panel discussion on COVID-19 and climate change at UC-Berkley, “The public health and climate debates are inextricably linked. In our highly connected world, a disease that originated 3,000 or 6,000 miles away can be at our doorsteps in a day or less. So, the way that we mobilize against COVID-19 needs to be reflected in the way that we mobilize against that other big global affliction called climate change.”

Spoiler: the techno panel did not reach a tidy conclusion about what techno should do about climate change. In fact, it maybe posed more questions than it answered. But one sign of a fruitful discussion is identifying some key stakes and possibilities, no? It definitely did — and offered a sick playlist to boot.

If you’re interested to learn more, the hour-and-a-half discussion (and subsequent one hour DJ sets from Zetina and Chow) are available on YouTube.

PREMIERE: The Endangered Species “A Thousand Years Away”

Global warming, nationalism, consumerism, addiction… the human race is having to address its own greed head on. Brothers Wade and Robin Divver formed The Endangered Species as an act of activism, the music becoming a pathway to speak their minds and encourage others to fight back. It’s also, in many ways, a tribute to their heritage; their parents were in a band of the same name, and the brothers not only inherited their appreciation for music, but also their parents’ gear, already emblazoned with the moniker. Nearly eight years in the making, their debut self-titled album arrived in October, and now they’re premiering a video for one of its most urgent tracks, “A Thousand Years Away.”

The music video parallels the song’s somber lyrics (“Don’t take for granted all that you have/You’re living today as if there’s no tomorrow/If that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll have/Children will be born into a land of sorrow”) with stark images of children covered in ash, bombs exploding in the distance, polar bears trekking across melting ice flows. The brothers ask the listener to “save a life a thousand years away,” an idea that may seem foreign to those who think the world may end any day now (not to mention those who insist that climate change is a hoax, often to further corporate profits). In that regard, “A Thousand Years Away” is a challenging message, one that asks people to really look into the future and imagine what happens if we continue to use and abuse our planet.

Watch “A Thousand Years Away” and read our interview with Wade Divver below:

AF: You were both raised on Rock & Roll Road in Hereford, Arizona. What kind of music did you both grow up listening to?

WADE DIVVER: You know, the good stuff: Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams. No, seriously… my older brothers will never let me live down the CD with the giant jeep tire on it (So Far So Good). Outside the adolescent choices of music, the influence of endless stacks of records and cassettes from all classic rock artist from Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Bob Marley, Santana, Doobie Brothers, Allman Brothers, Elvis, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Hendrix, Bob Dylan, anything and everything. Coming from a large family, there was always new music being brought to the speakers. Our older brother Jasper worked in a record store in DC and was always the first to hear bands like Primus, Tool, Rage, NOFX, Clutch, and the list goes on. Music is the universal language of the world. No matter where you are; the beat, the vibe, the words, the heart, it makes everyone’s foot tap eventually.

AF: The Endangered Species is a project born out of tragedy, founded eight years after your father’s murder. Was the music a kind of slow boil created over years or was it a sudden creative spurt?

WD: My father’s death is an inspiration to carry on after tragedy, but not the motivation behind the music. My family has always been musical. There is a baby picture of my sister sleeping in a kick drum. Sure, a few songs are dedicated to the issue and the event; however, the rest of the music is far more in depth and less entwined with our personal past. Injustice, inequality, ignorantly blissful people, government corruption and corporate greed are some of the more underlying issues in our music. Some of the songs are heartfelt and emotional based on recent episodes in our current situations. To say that my father’s death was the motivation is not the case, simply a reason to rise above the hate that one may find themselves dealing with and want to direct it outward, but to rather turn that energy into something more meaningful.

AF: How do you write together? Does one person take the lead on lyrics, one person on the melody or do you trade back and forth?

WD: Robin and I are very similar in our styles of music and choices of tone and vibe. Some songs are true collaborations. In some songs, one of us is more of a supporting role and will play the bass, back up rhythm, or some vocal support. For example, on “Sleepless Nights,” Robin completely wrote the song independently; however, the bass line I wrote to compliment it, and it became synergy. Our debut album is more so a back and forth support album. I would write a song, Robin would write a supporting rhythm and/or play the bass as he does on “Widow’s Son,” really solidifying the deep and dark tone of the song. The song “Mirror on the Wall,” Robin plays minors to my rhythm while Casey Higgins executes our lead guitar playing. Lyrically, isolation is my best medium, and situational frustrations typically motivate my content. I feel Robin has more heart in his lyrics. He will find himself isolated late at night, inspired in the witching hours to not sell his soul to the devil at the crossroads and will touch on his soul to inspire his in-depth lyrics. I also feel he draws more off our father’s death than I do, however the impact of the incident on a twelve-year-old is unmeasurable. I’m his number one fan and hope to be a part of every project he puts forth.

AF: Tell us about the writing process for “A Thousand Years Away.”

WD: “A Thousand Years Away” was inspired by frustration. Every day all we see is our lovely impact on the world: war, hate, death, greed, consumerism. We are such parasites. We need to have a symbiotic relationship with the only viable planet that we know of. We have inherited heaven and we are turning tomorrow into hell.

AF: Was it difficult writing about a subject as depressing as global warming?

WD: The song is about more than global warming; that’s just one effect to our horrible human cause. It’s about our lack of care as humans. It’s about our inability to see through the governmental lies sold to us through media and educational institutions. Only a few get to enjoy what we call life anymore. Sure, it’s what you make it; however, the pain of having eyes that see through the bullshit, you find yourself motivated to write about the darkness hoping to find a light at the end of the endless tunnel. Our impact is far larger than global warming. We are the only species paying to live here, killing each other over useless consumer goods and resources, fueling obsolete technologies. Overconsumption in the name of corporate greed. Sold the lies of what we need. In the words of Tyler Durden, “You are not your wallet and you are not your fucking Khakis.”

AF: How do you keep yourselves mentally and emotionally healthy while tackling such heavy material?

WD: I personally feel it’s my job. As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”.

AF: What music are you both listening to nowadays? Any new bands we should keep an ear out for?

WD: As mentioned earlier all music is good. However, I feel music has lost a lot of content and meaning. I listen to the words of what’s out there, especially in the mainstream, and wonder how the hell are these people getting paid to spout this crap and sell this on the waves. What has the industry become? The Endangered Species wants to change that, [to make] music with meaning, music with heart and soul. Not music mass produced, cut and spliced to fit a time slot on Cumulus radio to meet the demands of huge corporate music gods. Unless, of course, they have a time slot for us – then long live the beast, we will drink the Kool-aid.

AF: What do you hope the audience takes away from an Endangered Species show?

WD: T-Shirts.

Follow The Endangered Species on Facebook for ongoing updates.


It might sound silly, but I can hear Rebecca Foon smiling through the telephone. The masterful cellist behind Esmerine, Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra, and her autonomous project Saltland is nothing but lovely – her beaming positivity a bit surprising given the sonic and thematic weight of her music. Foon’s latest record A Common Truth is a moving rumination on climate change – a topic to which she has dedicated a great portion of her career. There’s a reason why the album title sounds familiar, and when its underlying motif is revealed I ask Foon if she’s alluding to An Inconvenient Truththe global warming documentary from 2006.

“I guess you could say it’s a play on An Inconvenient Truth,” Foon admits. “I’m trying to talk about how this is our one and only planet and how climate change and the state of the world ties us all together. You can’t run away from climate change. You can to some extent depending on how much money you have, but at the end of the day we are all interconnected and we can’t hide.”

I can’t help but wonder how she remains so positive despite the world’s current state – Trump, glacial melt rates, water crises…how does she deal with the harsh reality and cynicism?

Serenely, Foon relays that she sees “problems as opportunities –climate change is an enormous problem, but it also presents incredible opportunities that can come from it by trying to address and fight it. And with that comes beautifully resilient, creative cities for example that are not dependent on fossil fuels. Imagining a world where all your favorite cities are not reliant on fossil fuels by 2050…to me that’s an exciting prospect and that’s something exciting to start to imagine and put energy into figuring out.”

Foon puts her energy into music, but also activism. A member of Sustainability Solutions Group, and co-founder of Junglekeepers and Pathway To Paris, the songwriter is a big proponent of the symbiotic relationship between art and ethics. “I think the arts and music have a huge role to play in terms of bringing a visceral, emotional and spiritual energy to politics and love,” she says. “This is our planet; this is our world. Do we want to go extinct? Let’s feel things, you know?”

You’ll certainly feel things while listening to A Common Truth, a dense ecosystem of live and looped cello – its raw and manipulated iterations conversing hypnotically. Foon’s ghostly vocals sew throughout her undulating compositions, several of which feature Warren Ellis of The Bad Seeds and The Dirty Three. It’s a match made in sorrowful string heaven.

When I ask her about working with Warren Ellis, Foon mentions that Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ recent record Skeleton Tree is one of her favorite LPs of all time. “That’s interesting because that record and A Common Truth are both sown from tragedy,” I say. Foon agrees, but her intrigue lies mostly in the chemistry Cave and Ellis conjure together.

“Nick Cave and Warren Ellis have an incredible musical connection and I really love Ellis’ chords,” she says. “The melodies that he can tap into are so deeply moving and very emotional and visceral. I think for me what stands out is that ability that they have to tap into a real emotional depth, which is something I really appreciate with music that I don’t feel very often.”

Foon is also a big Arthur Russell fan, identifying 1986’s World Of Echo as her favorite in his discography. This makes immediate sense to me. “I think your music really captures what he did as an artist,” I tell her. “You’ve both taken a classical instrument and stretched it to the bounds of its sonic potential. Has Russell influenced your approach to the cello at all?”

“Absolutely,” she assures me. “Huge influence for me. And it’s interesting with him because if you didn’t know his music, if you were to put it on it feels so relevant, you would maybe think it was made this year.”

Ok, so Nick Cave and Arthur Russell – I can see that, or rather, hear it. It’s Foon’s love for Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On that catches me off guard a little bit, until I realize that, like Foon’s crusade for climate change, Gaye was making music about the defining political movement of his era.

Foon immediately confirms this. “I’ve always loved Marvin Gaye. I’ve been listening to that album lately, and the lyrics make me want to cry! He was talking about environmental degradation and humanity and the fact that we’re facing extinction and about loving our planet – his lyrics are super intense! It’s so crazy how relevant his lyrics are today, and that he was singing them in that time. I feel so deeply moved listening to him.”

“How about contemporary protest music? Any favorites?” I inquire.

“Matana Roberts, for sure. I think there are quite a few artists who are doing that not necessarily with words, but who are very tapped in. Anne Waldman, who’s a New York poet, is definitely a big source of inspiration for me, she’s really staying engaged in the world and writing about it. Even Thom Yorke, if you listen to some of his lyrics from the new Radiohead album, you can tell he’s engaged in climate change, which makes me so happy. There are a bunch of artists on Constellation [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Saltland’s record label] who are doing the same thing; Constellation seems to tap into artists who are engaged with the state of the world, which is inspiring to be around.”

“You seem to be very appreciative of the collective in that way – can you speak about the importance of being collaborative – whether it’s in art or activism?”

I can hear her light up. “Oh yeah, I love it. I really feel that we’re only as good as our collective ideas. I don’t really believe in an individual idea. I think the best ideas come from being worked and rehashed through collaboration where ego’s not a part of it and it’s just for the sake of making the idea better. With music I think it’s really beautiful when you can collaborate with people you respect and admire and see what comes out and really put ego aside. I live for moments like that – I find it really spiritual too, that process.”

Foon’s approach to activism is collaborative as well – focusing on community-based organizing, whether it’s pressuring your Mayor to implement sustainable initiatives, envisioning a future independent of fossil fuels, or addressing climate change at city council meetings. She is a humble visionary; an altruistic artist in an often cynical industry.

So: if Rebecca Foon could have her audience take away one thing from her music, what would it be?

“I think at the end of the day, because it’s just a record, I’m just trying to create a space where I can channel music from an open heart to try to access something that’s within me and communicate with others something that’s honest,” she says. “All that I hope for is to cultivate that kind of energy amongst listeners, and to inspire an honest dialogue around the state of the world, because I do feel there is an obligation at this point with artists to honestly engage with what is really going on around us. I feel we’re in a state of emergency.”


A Common Truth is out now on Constellation Records; she’ll play National Sawdust on April 7 and tours Europe with Esmerine throughout spring.