Heligoland (París, Francia)

Name of the band: Heligoland

Year in which it is established: 1999

Name of the members and composition:   

            Karen Vogt – vocals, guitars, keyboards

            Steve Wheeler – bass, guitars, keyboards

Band’s hometown:

Melbourne, Australia, currently based in Paris, France

Discs or ep: (names and quantity)


This Quiet Fire (2021)          

All Your Ships Are White (2010)

A Street Between Us (2006)

Shift These Thoughts (2003)


            Coriallo (2017)

            Sainte Anne (2013)

            Bethmale (2012)

            Heligoland (2000)


            Nearly Everything Is New (2005)

            Along the Snowline / Herringbone (7” single) (2002)

            Separate / Cabo de Gata (7” single) (2001)

            + lots of videos, including some for our new album…

            Palomino (2021)

            Hera (2021)

1.- Why dreampop?

Steve: When I think of dreampop, I imagine layered, textural productions, dreamy female vocals, lots of guitars, and songs you can get lost in. These are some of the things I like most in music. There was never really a conscious decision on our part to make dreampop, but it feels like the best description of our music and we like the sort of bands and artists that are often described as dreampop. It’s a label we are happy to be associated with, even though our music probably also has some overlap with slowcore, indie, shoegaze (just a little), and folk (just a little).

Karen: If anyone isn’t familiar with this genre, I think the name dream pop provides a good description of what it might sound like—dreamy sounds that have the melodic elements of pop music. It can also be very imaginative, spacious and atmospheric. Dream pop can also have many layers and lots of production that give it a certain fullness and complexity. But there is also lots of room for a darker, heavier sounds that can be more psychedelic. Although our music has some other elements mixed in there, I feel comfortable with the description of it as dreampop. It’s a genre where there is lots of space to move around in.

2.- How did you meet (if there are several) and if you are a soloist: How did you start your creative solo process?

Steve: Heligoland began the way a lot of bands started before the internet became omnipresent. I met Heligoland’s original guitarist sometime in 1998 through an advertisement in a music magazine. We tried a few different things making music together, but he always had another idea for a band with a female vocalist. In early 1999, we met Karen through a friend and the three of us began making music together as Heligoland. Our original guitarist had a very distinctive way of playing—very subtle, melodic, textural, and impressionistic. That sound and Karen’s vocals came to define the style of the band. Six months after we met Karen, we recorded our first demo cassette, which we used to get our first concerts and also sent to radio in Melbourne. After adding a drummer and playing our first shows together, we released a debut EP in early 2000.

Karen: Heligoland is the first and only band I have ever been in. Prior to forming Heligoland I had only played a few solo shows with my acoustic guitar. I have learned so much about songwriting and performing from being in this band. In the last few years, I have been less focused on performing live and learning more about recording and production. It’s a wonderful feeling when you are able to write and record your ideas and develop them further. This has become really important in my creative process and songwriting. I also have much more confidence now than I used to when it comes to collaborating with other musicians. Being in a band has definitely helped with that and has also helped me feel more comfortable working on my solo projects.

3.- Where do you frequently create (your) music? In which space (s)? And how do you invest your (their) times in creation?

Steve: When the band was still living in Australia, one of us always had a spare room at home or a space nearby that was set up for rehearsals. The drums, amplifiers, microphones etc., were always in place and ready to play. We could spend as much time as we wanted rehearsing and working on new material. All the songs on our early records were written in spaces like this, with everyone playing together, jamming and improvising. After we moved to France it was no longer possible to work like this. Apartments are smaller, more expensive, much closer together, and no one wants to have a band rehearsing next door. We tried a bunch of different rehearsal rooms around Paris, but when it came to writing new material we found that it was much more fun to travel out into the countryside and rent a space for a week or two. This is how we wrote the three EPs “Bethmale,” (2013) “Sainte Anne” (2014), and “Coriallo” (2017). “Bethmale” was written and recorded at a bar/venue in the foothills of the Pyrenees in south-west France, “Sainte Anne” was written and recorded in a small rural village in eastern France, and “Coriallo” was written and recorded in a converted semaphore station on the Cotentin Peninsula in northern France. Our new album “This Quiet Fire” was mostly written during several trips to a rehearsal studio in the countryside roughly halfway between Nantes and Angers in western France.

Karen: I would add that it is much easier now to record ideas at home. Although it’s difficult to find a suitable place to rehearse, you can get a lot done working at home with just a microphone, electric guitars, and a computer. This is really helpful and means that when you are ready to record or rehearse you have some developed ideas and a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. In recent years I have become more interested in writing a bunch of material first before going into a rehearsal space.


4.- Do you (s) already have live concerts? What are the most important and where did they go?

Steve: During the first part of the band’s history in Australia we played lots of shows, mostly in Melbourne, but also occasionally in Sydney and Adelaide. After moving to Europe we have played in France, UK, Czech, Germany, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. I’m not sure I could say which were the most important, although many of them were memorable for different reasons. Some of the more memorable gigs that I can think of right now were playing on a fishing trawler in Rostock that had been converted into a concert venue, the times we played at Schokoladen in Berlin, playing at an amazing venue (and hotel) in Liepaja called Fontaine Palace, playing at a club in the basement of a shopping centre in Pärnu in Estonia, and playing at the Union Chapel in London. Some of the really small shows we have played (a good example was a venue we played at several times in Gdansk called Kafe Delfin) have been a lot of fun and the apartment shows we’ve played in Paris have also been really memorable.

Karen: After having played many concerts with the band over the years, I have found that I much prefer smaller venues where you can be closer to the audience and play a more intimate kind of show. I don’t really like playing in loud bars or outdoor festivals where there is lots of other stuff going on. I much prefer when there is a room devoted to playing music and people have come specifically to see a concert. This feels much more meaningful to me. Playing in these conditions allows you to really focus on the music, while also having the feeling that people are really listening. I have very fond memories of playing a show to maybe 30 people on the balcony of a friend’s apartment that overlooked the Sacre Coeur here in Paris. It was a lovely evening, mostly due to the host making it a really beautiful and special place to play and also the wonderful audience who felt really happy to be there and share the evening with us.

5.- What do you think is the ep or hit song of your band and why?

Steve: I’m not sure we have ever had one song that seemed much more popular than all the others. Among the records we have made over the years, I have my own favourite songs. But I have no idea whether they are the favourites of other people too. One of them is a song on our new albumcalled “Palomino.” I think this is one of our best songs and if someone asked me what Heligoland sounds like, this is a song that I would play for them. Aside from our new album, “This Quiet Fire,” another record that I think might be one of our best is an EP called “Sainte Anne” that we made in 2013.

Karen: Our most recent work is usually my favourite. From our new album the songs “Trinity” and “Shadows” are my favourites. Another song that I feel very strongly about is “Trust,” the final song on our EP “Coriallo.” There is something very special and satisfying to me about these songs. It’s a great feeling when you feel that you have been able to express yourself and found ways to communicate the feelings or ideas that you had in mind through the words and music.


6.- What references did you take to create your music?

Steve: Over the years, we’ve tended to write a particular style of music: often quite long and dreamy songs, lots of textural and atmospheric touches, guitars with effects, melodic bass parts, and female vocals that are front and centre. While Heligoland has, for the most part, always made that sort of music, a number of different people have come and gone from the band over the years. Everyone who been involved has brought something of themselves to the music. While the overall sound might have common threads that run through our history, each of the records has its own character and feeling. We’ve never tried to replicate or imitate a particular band or style. Our music has always been the sound and sensibilities of the people involved at any given time playing together. When we’re writing songs, the only criteria for choosing which ideas to pursue or record has always been the ones we like the most or that felt like the best work.

Karen: My approach has always been to try to be myself and follow my own path. I am not interested in sounding like anyone else and I think it’s always really important to be true to yourself when making music. It’s so much more interesting to make music this way and give yourself the freedom to fully explore your ideas and feelings. Sometimes I get stuck on certain words and sounds and want to just explore those. My only reference has been how I am feeling and the moods I want to explore.

7.- Any anecdote in a band or soloist’s live performance or show

Steve: Some of our very earliest shows in Australia had some interesting moments. We once played a show in Bendigo (a regional city several hours drive from Melbourne) and the venue had booked us alongside a local metal band who brought their parents to the concert. Needless to say, they didn’t like our music very much. At another early concert we played in Melbourne (sometime in late 1999), the sound engineer (who must have been a bit deaf) kept trying to make us louder and louder, eventually breaking the PA.

Karen: When playing live I have sometimes forgotten the words to a song and had to either make something up on the spot or sing the same thing several times until the words came back to me. Some years ago we were playing a gig at a small club in Hamburg and I was wearing my favourite black pants. During the first or second song I bent over to check a guitar lead. As I was reached down for my tuner pedal, I heard a rip and my pants had split down the back. I spent the rest of the gig feeling very self-conscious, exposed, and terrified about turning around onstage. As soon as we finished the last song, I ran offstage and threw on my long black coat.

CD «This Quiet Fire»

8.- What do you enjoy most of your music?

Steve: Writing songs and making records.

Karen: For me, it’s writing a new song, watching how it takes shape, and then hearing what it becomes. I love the early stages when we’re working on a new song and I’m trying to refine the lyrics and find the right words. When we start working on a new idea, I mostly begin by improvising sounds and melodies. It’s sometimes quite a while before the words start to appear. It’s during this point in the process that I start figure out what I am trying to say with the lyrics. When it comes to finding a meaning or theme, it often feel a bit like being in the dark and then suddenly a light is switched on and it all becomes clear. I have loved being in the studio during the mixing process for our most recent EPs and albums. It has been amazing to watch our producer Robin Guthrie working on the mixes, hearing the songs come to life, and always sounding more beautiful than I had ever imagined.

9.- What do you think about the creation of the Dream Dream pop platform? Do you think (s) that this space is necessary?

Karen: I think it’s wonderful that you are devoting your time and energy to exploring this genre and supporting it with this platform. Dream pop has a fascinating history and it has been really interesting to watch how the sound and style has evolved during the time we’ve been making music. I would love to see the genre get more attention and exposure because there are so many great artists and records for people to discover. Sometimes it seems like dreampop is pushed to the fringes and people don’t have a chance to discover some real gems.

Steve: I am always happy to support any project that brings people together and helps them discover new music they not otherwise have heard.

Casette «This Quiet Fire»

10.- A message that you want (want) to deliver or free words from the band to the readers

Steve: I’d like to thank everyone who had supported our music over the years. We really appreciate it.

Karen: I would say that it’s more important now than ever to support artists that you love. The last few years have been really difficult for everyone involved in the music industry. Reach out to your favourite artists and send them a message or just show them that they are appreciated. It can really make your day as an artist to hear from a listener that your music means something to special to them.


Click here to listen Heligoland: