Can you introduce yourselves and your musical/writing styles a little? How did you start to
Fanni: I’m a Hungarian writer/lyricist/ translator living next to a fairy lake in the Paris area. I
completed my studies in Budapest and London in English Literature and Children’s Literature
and have been writing in both languages (Hungarian and English) ever since. I try to find
magic in the mundane and transform pain into beauty. My favourite genres are the ones
washing together real and imaginary like urban fantasy or magical realism. In my lyrics I try
to be playful and artistic while also talking about important topics.
I got to know Eszter eight years ago on a writing course. We wrote to each other sporadically,
but started seriously working together early 2020. But it’s as if we’d known each other since
Eszter: Well, I don’t write short stories anymore, but I really found myself in music. Growing
up in a musician family, I was always surrounded by music, but mostly classical. I started
composing songs when I was about 13 years old, but I didn’t find the focus in it and I took a
break for a few years when I attended university. I discovered music production 3 and a half
years ago. Since then, electronic music became my main area of interest and I also went to a
music production school in Budapest to study. My musical style has been influenced by anime
EDM, future bass and trap among other things. I started to publish my songs first by the name
ALISA, then I changed my artist name to Girl in the mirror. I’ve recently started singing and
I’m taking singing classes now to be better. We started to work together with Fanni in 2020
but we are very productive, and I think we have written at least 10 songs or more by now.
What is your songwriting method? How do you work together?
Fanni: Our working method changes slightly from song to song but there are basically two
scenarios. I come up with the lyrics and Eszter creates a melody around it – usually it takes
her less than a day for the first draft, but sometimes we have songs that need a bit more time
to mature. The other option is that Eszter sends me a melody and I write the lyrics – this also
goes very quickly. I first listen for the general mood of the song, try to see what associations
my brain makes and then I create the lyrics progressively. I like how my brain works: you
give it something and it immediately tries to create a story around it – this helps a lot in
Eszter: Fanni usually writes a first draft of the lyrics. I find it interesting that first I have to
find the inner rhythm of the text. Or if there is no one, then make up one and guide Fanni with
changing lines and telling her how many syllables or what kind of words I need in a line. I
don’t always think of the melody first, just try to find the rhythm. The process is a bit easier
when I give Fanni a melody line and she listens to it and finds the perfect words for it. This is
the process that we call topline writing in musical terms, but maybe the most interesting part
for the average listener. I used to first produce the instrumental then create the vocal topline,
but I recently changed my method and we have the topline done first then I work on the
production after that. The reason of this change is that Fanni is very productive and she comes
up with many ideas and it takes me longer to fully finish a musical idea. So usually, writing a
topline doesn’t take more than a few hours, but a fully written song can take up 8-10 or more
hours. I like to take my time working on the instrumentals, making the perfect chords, drum
beat or recording instruments, so it always takes more time than the topline.
Tell us a bit more about the Beats of Zooburbia project.
Fanni: I made up first song in this collection, Blinglajhár (“lajhár” is “sloth” in Hungarian)
sort of as a joke, but Eszter liked the idea and we had a song. We wanted it to do something
fun but with a deeper message nonetheless: Blinglajhár talks to us about the importance of
resting and taking it easy while the second song, Giselle talks about haters and online
bullying. The other ones are more light-hearted: I had the idea for Juniper Jamafter reading a
folk tale about gossipy juniper trees while The Secret Society of Cake was inspired by my
friends who sent each other pictures of cakes on Discord after midnight.
Are they the only songs you have worked on together?
Fanni: No, we have done things outside the Beats of Zooburbia project. Sedna, our first
collaboration is a song about mythology, toxic relationships and ocean pollution, while Night
Drive and Tomorrow are about relationship problems. Latte Love is a light and sweet love
song I’ve written for my novel-in-progress, Macchiatos, My Friends and Other Things I Can’t
Live Without. Recently we’ve also started to make Hungarian covers for Vocaloid songs like
Kira’s Circles or Crusher P’s Again. Our most recent song, Nemesis came out on the 1st of July
and talks about a showdown of mythical proportions.
Eszter: We are always working on something. Beats of Zooburbia is our collaborative project
but I’ve included Fanni in some other songs too where I felt her lyric writing style might fit.
The song translations were quite challenging, but I liked it. We are both translators, but this
type of work requires different skills than what I need in my job. We had to think more
creatively than usually and take the rhythm of the melody into account. I felt it’s like playing
with Lego, finding the perfect pieces to the given places.
Looking at the Girl in the mirror Youtube-channel one notices that you have quite a few
collaborations with other artists (for example leorinda or Samk). How does a collaboration
like this come about?
Eszter: There is this online independent songwriter-producer community that I’ve been part
of since 2018 and I gradually made some friends here. I like that it’s very diverse and there
are people around the globe who make similar music as me and they are very open about
collaborating with each other. Producers and vocalists often work together on a song because
those are two separate areas in music. Not everyone who produces can sing or vice versa. I
usually message them with a song idea and I ask them if they have some time to work on that
song and if they say yes, they will work on the idea for some time and come back to me with
wav stems that I can add to my project in Ableton. I often decline collab requests though,
because I only work with somebody if I feel I’m really vibing with the other person’s idea.
Sometimes people message me more randomly, just looking for a vocalist, but if their song
doesn’t fit my personality and artistic vision, there is no point in participating. It made me
happy that I found many talented musicians online who are willing to work with me and I
enjoy working with others now.
Fanni, you had your short story, Death's Daughter published by Selcouth Station in 2018 so
we know that you enjoy writing dark fairy tales and fables. Does this interest also show in
your lyrics? How is writing songs different from writing fiction?
My lyrics always tell a story, at least in my head. What I enjoy about writing songs is that it is
considerably quicker than writing a novel or even a short story, so I can see the result and the
reception much sooner. I also like the fact that there is the music that adds another layer, not
to mention the art and animation.
As for fairy/folk tales already our first song, Sedna taps into mythology, evoking the Inuit
goddess of the sea. In Nemesis, I reach back to an old favourite of mine, Greco-Roman
mythology. This line continues in our newest finished song, Soft Hell (release probably in the
autumn) which is about a descent into the hell that is love.
What are the biggest challenges in being an upcoming, independent artist?
Fanni: I think the biggest challenge is definitely reaching the audience. There are so many
talented artists out there and people don’t necessarily look for new things to listen to, they
trust more the musicians they already know.
Eszter: Reaching the audience can feel quite challenging sometimes but I feel I’ve been lucky
recently with the Spotify placements and the YouTube features. I think the biggest challenge
as an independent artist is to develop a network of people around you, like graphic artists,
animators, cameramen, photographers, collaborators, press, playlisters. So if you need
anything, you know who to reach out to. Being an independent artist is not a job that you do
all alone, and it takes some time to find people who believe in you and are happy to help you
out with these tasks. By the way, this is why I started to learn animation because I haven’t
found anybody who would do this for my songs, so I had no choice but to learn it. I haven’t
expected that I would like motion graphics, but I started to enjoy making videos and I’m
trying to implement more and more complex ideas. In our recent Zooburbia song, The Secret
Society of Cake, I tried how to make lipsync. It was challenging and it took me around 3
weeks to finish it, but at least I learned this technique. So it’s not just about the music. Other
areas are important as well and it takes a lot of work.
I know it's a horrible question, but what is your favourite song from the ones you did
Fanni: Every song is a new adventure and they can be vastly different from each other. This
summer we went from sweet romance to “burn alone in your soft hell.” So it’s a wild ride and
I always feel the most smitten with the newest song.
Eszter: Similar to Fanni, my favorite song is always the newest one we made. So currently it’s
a track called “Soft Hell”. It’s a sad song about a lovesick character who crosses the Styx
because her love is not returned. It was very exciting to add a Latin choir interlude. I asked a
few friends to record it and I put it together. We used the Latin version of Our Father.
Musically it’s very electronical, with a powerful bass and a trap style but swing beat, and I
recorded the flute at the end of it. Fanni said that it has some Irish vibe.
What are your future projects?
Fanni: Oh, we’re always full of projects. Our newest one, and when I say newest it means we
literally came up with it two days ago, is a “musical,” a performance of songs and poems /
prose bits that tells a story. That’s what I love about working with Eszter, we always push
towards new horizons. It’s very inspiring!
Eszter: You are very inspiring too! I really like the idea of this musical. I’ve been trying to
find a good occasion to make a concert, but I couldn’t find the point of the performance. I’m
not that singer-songwriter girl who goes on the stage with a guitar and starts to sing. I like to
plan bigger things. And recently I felt Fanni has so much creative energy, so I recommended
her to make a musical, or at least a performance with a story, prose and singing together. We
are still working on the concept, but I think it will be fun!
Listen to Girl in the mirror:
SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/musicbyalisa Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2mQTU8dOo4PEJF1stERHUe?si=cgpp_dqlTx6eK4fNrZvC8g Twitter: https://twitter.com/its_aliz Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/musicbyalisa YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/musicbyalisa Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/its_aliz/ Listen to Beats of Zooburbia: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGhbbxrRGkY4QjzfZ1ZReJxK3MOqva-kq Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2fyj7WvYMHWUHRHylPmIWv?si=9p4GPsrTTja2npL0NT-BBg&dl_branch=1 Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/za/artist/beats-of-zooburbia/id1525049908