The first sunbeams of a spring that’s just begun shine upon the faces of Milena Eva and Thomas Sciarone, respectively the singer and guitarist of post rock band GGGOLDDD. The two of them are sitting on the patio of a Rotterdam cafe to talk about their new album, This Shame Should Not Be Mine, released earlier this month through Artoffact Records. It is a personal document of trauma from Eva’s childhood, that much is clear. Depicted in full plate armour on the album cover, she exudes a certain confidence.
Written by: Micha Zaat
Photo: Szilveszter Mako
“The armour symbolises the defence mechanisms you put up once you’ve been sexually assaulted,” says Milena Eva, “But those mechanisms also limit your movement, just like that heavy suit of armour.” It is the central theme of the album: Eva was sexually assulted when she was 19-years old and, for a long time, kept it quiet. Until that, too, was no longer viable and speaking up became the only option. “For a long time I felt ashamed about what had happened to me. Now, the time has come for revelation and to hopefully inspire others to also seek help.”
For years, Eva fought the demons of her traumatic experience by working endless hours, always keeping herself occupied, and spare herself of free time. When lockdown began, work stopped, as well as touring. Suddenly, she was faced with an abundance of time - too much time. Her demons returned with flashes from the past and a general state of melancholy. Eva started writing, as she would often do when feeling down. At first, she just wrote these words for herself, but soon they became the foundation for an album. “I was hesitant to reveal things this way. After all, I haven’t spoken about this for seventeen years, and now I was going to tell the whole world.” In the end, she decided to go through with it, in part thanks to the many positive responses she received after a performance at the redux edition of Roadburn in 2020. “The very monday after the Roadburn performance I rang the Sexual Assault Centre. I knew, only then, I needed help.”
“Fortunately, there is more of a conversation around this subject nowadays, but when it happened to me, that was barely the case. I really hope that I can be one of those musicians that does talk about it and by doing so help other people,” says Eva, “That was the reason for me to release this album. If I can help one person with this, it’s worth it. I make music from my own experience, but I’m not doing it for me.”
“The creative process of this band often is the symbiosis of Milena’s stories congregating with the band’s musical accompaniment,” says Thomas Sciarone. Eva adds: “It’s all very intuitive. The album may seem very heavy, but the creative process was actually pretty light-hearted and spontaneous.” Portishead’s Third formed a significant source of inspiration for the band. “Especially because that album feels so simultaneously studious and spontaneous. It’s like Gesamtkunst: it’s so all-over-the-place and yet so coherent,” Sciarone says with passion. Eva: “Musically, we wanted to highlight as many facets of my story as possible, which meant going in all these different directions.” It led to a surprisingly hopeful end to the album, the two of them agree. Eva: “I hope I can motivate people to seek help to cope with their trauma. And maybe men in particular, because too often they carry around their mental issues for too long. If everyone would find some time to seek out a therapist, the world would be a better place.”
Not only is This Shame Should Not Be Mine an intimate insight in the rehabilitation process after a sexual trauma, it is also the story of unfounded shame and an imbalance between victim and perpetrator. “I’m someone who always wants to do everything right, who wants to ace everything. And when that’s the way you think, there really is nothing worse than someone crossing your boundaries. Because even though you know it’s not your own fault, you’ll start thinking it is, and that’s exactly the problem,” Eva says. “Besides, I was always told not to bike through the woods alone, because someone would pull me into the bushes. No one every told me rape mostly takes place in domestic situations - by people you’re supposed to trust.”
“I think the shame you feel about what happened is a product of our patriarchal, neoliberal society, where responsibility is always your own and failure is never an option,” Sciarone says to Eva. “It’s like how we always treat drug addicts like it’s their own choice. That’s just not how it works.”
GGGOLLDDD is one of the curators of Roadburn Festival (21-24 April) in Tilburg this year and will be performing This Shame Should Not Be Mine. You can order the album here .