Australian musician Seja Vogel was born in Kassel, Germany, lived in Stuttgart until she was seven before moving to Melbourne and eventually Brisbane where she now resides. It was here, in a garage studio, that she first fell in love with the synthesiser, an affair that expresses itself not only through the music she’s performed with iconic bands like Regurgitator but in the form of tiny wool felt artworks that replicate her favourite instruments in minute detail, typically just inches high. We grab ten minutes with the songsmith to talk about her musical and miniature pursuits.
What do you love about living in Brisbane?
The mild winters and the loving and nurturing music community.
How did you first get into music?
I played piano and violin when I was little. I was always a big fan of music. My dad owns a big record collection which I used to devour on weekends.
How do others describe your music style?
I think people say I sound like girlie dream synth pop.
When did you first fall in love with the synthesiser?
I started getting interested in synthesizers after listening to bands like The Cars and Devo and eventually joined my brother’s band when I was 16, just playing little keyboard hooks.
Why recreate instruments in miniature?
I have always loved the look of old synthesizers. They have such great shapes and colours and are so intricate and special. I was just making them as presents for some of my friends who play in bands. I remember trying to duplicate my friend’s entire studio. I made a tiny Gibson Firebird guitar, a Korg MS-20 keyboard, a Roland SH101 and a little laptop with an open session of Pro Tools, and then nearly went blind.
How important is the detail for you?
It’s key. The whole point of my creations is to make an exact copy of the real instrument – so I make them all button and knob specific. I want to make them as accurate as possible, within my chosen medium.
What do you love about working with wool felt?
In my opinion, it’s the easiest material to work with. It cuts beautifully, it doesn’t fray, it’s sturdy, and it looks great.
How do you work in such small format?
It takes patience mostly. I never measure anything, so I sort of free-hand my creations while looking at pictures. I contemplate what other bits I might need – press studs, metallic embroidery cotton – and then I put on my glasses and just start sewing.
Who do you envision owning your pieces?
In general, I suppose the people who buy these are obsessive collectors, or avid musicians who have a real connection to their instruments.
Do you do special commissions?
I do! A lot of the time I know who I am making them for. I find it really fun imagining their faces when they see a tiny replica of their favourite instrument.
Where do you imagine them living?
I’ve been contemplating doing a photography book of where they all ended up. I imagine them on shelves in studios, maybe on top of speakers.
Who are you all-time music legends?
Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo is one of my heros. He’s an incredible artist, and a synth nerd. I’m also a big fan of Harry Nilsson – can’t get enough of his voice.
What has been your most memorable moment on stage?
I’ve had a few funny ones. I played a show years ago supporting GoldFrapp in Melbourne and literally every instrument on stage broke. Two synths stopped working, my guitar pedals started buzzing, even my little shaker fell off my keyboard onto the stage and broke in two. I literally had to stop playing because nothing worked. That’s when I stopped purely playing things made before 1985.
What are you working on now, musically or otherwise?
I recently got the Grant McLennan Fellowship and went to New York for a few months to write music which was wonderful. I am now putting together all those pieces into a new album. Hopefully I will get that done this year. Other than that, I’ve been enjoying playing solo shows around Australia.
Seja Vogel sells her felt instruments on Etsy under the label pul(sew)idth.