Alex Karametis (Villagers of Ioannina City): People feel the same as I do as a composer and that is magic

Alex Karametis Villagers of Ioannina City
foto: Tasos Agapis

Greek stoner-progressive-folk band Villagers of Ioannina City is going to have their first-ever show in Serbia, as a part of World’s on Fire Tour 2022. The concert that will be held in Novi Sad was long-waited, and the audience from Serbia started listening to their music since their debut album Riza. Their worldwide recognition came with the album Age of Aquarius, and last two years they performed as much as possible. While we are looking forward to the concert, we had a chance to talk with the frontman – Alex Karametis about the shows, tour, life in Greece, their music, and inspiration.

BR: Greetings, Villagers! I hope your travels went safely. Are you looking forward to meeting the locals and trying Serbian cuisine? I hope you have a little time for that.

Alex: We are super excited to visit Serbia for the first time. We hope also to find time for that.

BR: Introduce us to the band in a few sentences. Who makes VIC?

Alex: We are a group of friends. Grew up in a city called Ioannina in the mountains of Epirus and playing music together since we were kids.

BR: I’m willing to bet you have prepared quite a show for our audience in a couple of days. Do you want to divulge some secrets in advance?

Alex: Since it’s our first time in Serbia and we are very eager about this our will is to play songs from all our albums and some songs we don’t play very often. It will be an alive and strong night I can promise that. I want this to be a unique experience for all sides.

BR: Can you give us a bit of a background on what inspired you to fuse stoner/psych rock with dimotika? Was it something that came as a conscious decision from the start, or did you experiment your way into it, gradually?

Alex: When we formed the band back in the first days, we were a heavy rock band with the standard instrumentation such as guitars bass and drums. We were experimenting with rhythms and melodies from the Greek traditional music especially from our region in Epirus and at some point, we felt the need to explore more our sound. The actual songs asked for that. And we decided to jam with some friends who were playing traditional instruments and from the first jamming, it felt super.

The rest is history.

Alex Karametis Villagers of Ioannina CityBR: Your last album, Age of Aquarius, caused quite a stir when it first came out 3 years ago. In retrospect, what can you say about how it translates into live performances? What was the audience response like, so far?

Alex: It’s a very esoteric album that we‘ve been working almost 10 years in our minds and to be honest I am still amazed by the fact that many people from all over the world connect with the concept and the emotions that this album delivers. They feel the same as I do as a
composer and that is magic.

Every album we make we try to keep it as close to the actual performance and not to overfill it with lots of extra instruments or whatever that cannot be performed live, so I believe what you hear in the studio it’s very close to what you hear in a live show with the extra and unexpected magic of a live performance which the audience plays a very big part, of course.

BR: Why English and is this necessary to succeed in music?

Alex: Not necessarily. The lyrics came naturally in English in those songs. I am not a professional writer or poet and mostly I don’t write lyrics before music occurs. Usually, I write the lyrics while singing to a melody or rhythm and after that something happens and the rest of the lyrics come like water, naturally. Sometimes in Greek, sometimes in English, and sometimes even in an unknown language.

If you want to communicate with people and share your message all over the world it makes sense to sing in English but on the other hand, sometimes music speaks by itself. Even the songs we sing in Greek people from various countries still get the message and sometimes more accurately than the ones who speak the language, which is also magic.

BR: With the tours, and all the organizational, promotional obligations – do you find yourselves homesick at all? Surely, you must miss Ioannina?

Alex: During a long tour of course you miss home and when you are at home for a long time you miss touring. Fortunately, last year we had lots of shows so the balance between them was very good. As a person, I love traveling, seeing new places, and meeting new people and when you do that with your music it’s a big big blessing, so I am really grateful for that.

Alex Karametis Villagers of Ioannina CityBR: As evidenced by your output so far, the city definitely carries a special type of magic, where the local and the familiar expands to cosmic proportions. What kind of other stories about your native soil does the band hold for the future?

Alex: The stories are always there for everybody, waiting patiently for us to witness them. This whole process of discovering is the real magic.

BR: And on that note – inevitably, what comes after the Age of Aquarius?

Alex: The age of Love, the age of Humanism. For me when I am thinking and dreaming of the next day of humanity, I am seeing all the living creatures connected as one, united and in direct contact with nature and the universe, in peace and in perfect harmony. Even if this day comes in thousands of years, we will stubbornly stay optimistic and positively dreamers of this new day, and we should always look towards this day, and sometime, sooner than we believe this long-awaited day will inevitably come.

BR: If a new album is to see the light of day, is it going to feature more songs in Greek?

Alex: I don’t know. After this tour, we will take a step back from the live shows, and we will focus more on the studio and start to jam together. We really need that. We have lots of stuff inside us from all these years and we have to take them out. That’s our process usually. Let’s see what happens next.

Alex Karametis Villagers of Ioannina CityBR: Did you maybe discover some music that you didn’t know before? Suggest us some bands you think should be checked out.

Alex: From more recent bands I dig a lot King Buffalo, All them Witches and Elephant Tree, King Gizzard and more but to be honest I went to a New Model Army show a few days ago and it was super and the last couple of days I am stuck with them once again, I am re-discovering their music. Great band.

BR: Greeks and Serbs are brotherly people. We are very glad that you are coming after a long time. Our people feel the sound you make very well. We promise you an unforgettable atmosphere. Thank you for your time, and I sincerely hope you have a killer performance!

Alex: Really can’t wait to see you, people! It’s our first day of this tour and for the very first time in your beautiful country. So, give us your blessing, and let’s make a night to remember!