Impose Interview: Time Will Tell

Full interview with Sjimon Gompers can be read on Impose Magazine.

Tell us what you have learned about the world, yourself & art in the decade expanse of time between Swim Team to the culmination of these experiences & inspirations that have informed Life is Everywhere.

The world — it’s a strangely messy and inspiring place, as beautiful as it is not. Coming from a dark corner of the world that is Bosnia & Herzegovina, my experiences were shaped by negativity and ever since it’s been a bumpy road trying to make sense of it all. Through music I have been very fortunate to travel to places and meet people that otherwise I would have never had a chance to encounter. In the 10 years of Arms and Sleepers and two hectic years of touring behind the Swim Team album, I have really come to understand just how important trust and personal interactions are. There are so many incredible people working in and supporting independent arts and culture, folks that are willing to sacrifice time and money to stand behind artists and their own community. Everyone knows each other, and you quickly figure out who has integrity and who does not. It’s been truly inspiring to meet people all over the world that want to create something meaningful, individuals that put in the hard work but don’t prioritize money over personal relationships. I’ve leaned that the best shows and experiences come from people I know personally, and the mediocre ones from those I only know through email. There’s something to be said about offline interactions and relationships, those that evolve from initial awkwardness to something that potentially lasts a lifetime. In the modern music industry, where making a living from this is getting harder and harder, it’s easy to skip over personal relationships (and trust) and hide behind a computer, and yet to me that seems to be what ultimately creates vibrant scenes and interesting art. So for me, especially in the last two years, I’ve made more of an effort to get to know the people I work with — concert organizers, promoters, etc. — and the people that come to our shows. That is a big reason why I perform off stage on the floor and why I do a Q&A after every show.

Tell us too about the recent 10 Year Anniversary tour and how those experiences you wrote about in “The Other Side” piece about relating to the refugees in the displaced persons camps, and how art shines a light on senses of place & belonging.

The 10 Year Anniversary Tour in Europe was the first time I performed with a live band since 2012, and it was really great to get in a van with friends and play songs I hadn’t played in years. We went to a lot of places that are very special for Arms and Sleepers — mostly in eastern Europe — and it felt incredible to play songs that people hadn’t heard live yet. The response was amazing, and despite the usual ups and downs of touring — our van getting stuck in mud, for instance — it was a deeply memorable experience. Just before that tour, I was playing shows in Europe on my own and I began sharing my personal story apropos everything that’s been going on in Europe as of late. I landed in Amsterdam the morning of the Brussels airport bombings, and that got me thinking about my own human fragility. Then I was thinking about my upcoming shows in Greece and how close I would be performing to the refugee camps. It felt incredibly weird to be a Western artist performing near people that are trying to survive and find an opportunity for a better life, when I had been in that same situation as a child. The whole thing felt surreal to say the least. The main point of that story was my own questioning of whether what I do is worthwhile and important considering how much suffering there is all around us. And not just what I do, but art and music in general. Do we try to feed everyone first before any of us pick up an instrument? My conclusion which I talked about at shows was that both are important — we need to fight for a better life for everyone and we need to make sure meaningful art continues to exist. For me personally, music helped me get through some incredibly difficult times in my life traveling from country to country as a refugee, but I also wouldn’t have made it to a life where I have the luxury to choose to be a musician if other people didn’t help me. Both music and individuals played a significant role in shaping who I am today. To answer your question about art and a sense of place and belonging, I know for me personally my identity has always been in a state of confusion, and I never truly felt like I belonged anywhere. The best drug to deal with this has been music and films, and I am sure this is the case for so many others whose identities and homes have been stripped away by war and conflict.

Hopeful words & thoughts for our world?

Phew, after all that it’s hard to feel hopeful! Well, the number one thing I’ve seen through my shows, the people I’ve met in random corners of the world, and other personal experiences I’ve had is that the human drive can be incredibly inspiring. People overcome obstacles that many of us don’t even know exist. Whether it’s refugees from Syria or underprivileged youth in Chicago, people fight for a better tomorrow with all they got and that is simply amazing. I’ve seen it directly through my own mother, who alone dragged me as a small child across the world in search of a better future. Now I’m seeing it again as a traveling musician and a US citizen, and I’m hoping that I can contribute meaningfully through music and other personal endeavours.