INTERVIEW: Virginie Goncalves – Kells

Interview by Ary R.

They rocked Europe last year with Leaves’Eyes and Tarja Turunen, and with Epica and ReVamp the former year as well. Now they’re back on the music scene with the upcoming album, “Anachromie”, that will reveal some other music features of the French rock band Kells. Just read with us what the front-woman Virginie Goncalves told to us!
 
Hi Virginie. Welcome to Femme Metal. How are you doing? Recently, you’ve released the new Kells album, “Anachromie”. How are the feedbacks from your fans going?

I’m fine, thanks! “Anachromie” has been out for a month now, and it seems that both the press and the fans have praised this record. We are very happy about that because somehow we had chosen to take artistic risks, not to repeat ourselves and to renew our image, and people liked it!

I’ve been surprised about the title you’ve chosen for the album, as I’ve been amazed by the artwork as well. Would you like to talk about them? Who has created the cover and how was the choice for the name of the album born?

In this album, everything in the lyrics is written in a disjointed way, the space-time notion is broken, the reality mixes up with the dream, as in the surrealist genre… Globally, the lyrics are anachronistic. Also, I use many adjectives of color (ochre, silver, gold, amaranth, blue, white, black, saffron, amber, sapphire, sandy…), which gives the lyrics a very pictorial aspect. It is the mixture of these 2 concepts, the chromia and the anachronism, that gave birth to “Anachromie”. The cover artwork has been made by Blackthorns Design. We appreciated what he had made for other bands, this mixture of surrealism and modernity, that’s why we decided to work with him. The frontcover and the booklet are an illustration of the lyrics… the girl with her bridal veil, with all her dreams, the tortured childhood, the nightmares and the anachronism always there, with the hours of the clock, the tracklist in disorder … as in the surrealist universe, where nothing has any reasonable landmarks or points of reference.

The recording and the creation of the album have been quite challenging. How long did it take to put down all the material, to record it and to mix it properly?

We recorded this album in November 2011, more than a year ago already! We went to Mon Studio in Nancy, to work with Yann (MyPollux). We began with the recording of the drums, then the basses, the guitars, the strings, the choir, keyboards, electro music, to finally end up with the vocals, at the end of November. So it took almost one month, because we prefer taking time! Yann then attacked the mixing in December, and we eventually sent it all in New York to the Sterling Sound Studio for Ted Jensen to master it in february 2011.

I know that you take part in the song writing and in the creation of the music as well. Where does the inspiration for creating the tracks that will compose an album come from?

We almost all listen to the same kind of music… I like rock music, djent metal, metalcore, nü-metal, pop… Pat is really open-minded, he listens to a wide range of music from metal, rock (“At the Drivin”, “Phoenix”…) to funk music with a brass ensemble! Lo is fond of metal, dubstep and electro and Ju listens to many different things as well, he likes rock, funk, reggae, African music, jazz… Our influences for Kells come from various musical horizons, that’s what we like in music, as far as you stay coherent in the creation process, it works! For this album, we had a lot of inspiration and everything came very naturally.We did not limit ourselves in the writing process, and this allowed us to explore various tones. In the previous albums, we kind of restrained ourselves when we composed because in Kells, we have always mixed the ideas of each members and we were not all in the same musical direction before Julien joined. That’s why “Anachromie” is stronger, because we’re all tending to the same direction, and creating a kind of unity. But that’s just the beginning, because the more we work together, the more we create a style that is just us.

How do you arrange the work in the studio? Is every member happy to help you or is there someone who does everything?

When we enter the studio, we already know who does what. We do not compose during the recording, everything is tightly defined before. So each one is autonomous. No one’s there to tell us what to do.

A track taken from “Anachromie”, called “L’Heure que le temps va figer”, was already introduced by you in some of your live show last year. Why have you chosen to introduce this song?

Vocally, this song was not the harder to sing so I told the guys that would be cool for me to train before introducing the other songs that are quite more technic in terms of vocals. And we thought this song had something quite easy-listening, in the meantime, it showed clearly Kells’ new facette with the growls and the guitar riffs more heavy, so we thought it might please the fans!

You are very popular in France and you mainly sing in French. Have you ever thought of creating an entire album in English, to help your fans that don’t speak French in understanding your songs?

Actually, we don’t. Every band from every country already sings in English, and I think this precisely make us sound different. I think that people don’t mind understanding the lyrics, the melody and the music may be as strong in terms of feelings. We have tried to translate 2 songs into English (“Fury Tale” and “On My Fate”), to see the fans’ reactions, and all I see is that they mainly prefer the french versions, so I see no real reasons to change in the future…

I’ve also noticed that there are two English versions of two tracks in the album: “Furytale” (English version of “Se Taire”) and “On My Fate” (English version of “L’heure Que Le Temps Va Figer”). Why have you decided to put them in this record? And how come have you never done this before?

When we happened to tour with Tarja and Epica, we saw that the fans didn’t mind the French lyrics, but some media did. So we decided to translate 2 songs to open some closed doors to Kells, we wanted to give “Anachromie” every possible chance to get heard by everyone.

If you could describe this new album with very few adjectives, which words would you use?

Rock, metal, melodic, heavy, aggressive, airy, groovy, melancolic.

Is there a particular song you feel more connected to in this album? If the answer is “yes”, why?

Actually, there is a song I feel really close to. It is “Bleu”. I don’t know why but the music, the melody keep stuck in my head. The lyrics also, talking of psychological confinement, are written in a poetic and surrealistic way. The title “Bleu” is directly derived from this genre… The painter Miro said “Blue: this is the color of my dreams”, the poet Paul Eluard said  “The earth is blue like an orange” and even my favorite movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” directed by Michel Gondry uses this color as a leitmotiv along with the orange color.

Virginie, your voice is very delicate and versatile, that is able to adapt to every kind of singing. We know that sometimes you also use the scream and growl. How was, for you, recording this shares in growl on this album? How hard was to sing the growls in the recording studio, but especially on stage?

To be honest, growling or screaming were far easier for me on stage. During the recording I was ill, so screaming was really painful. Normally, I feel really at ease alternating clear and saturated voices, but during the recording I had to part those 2 technics because of my illness and so as not to kill my clear voice. I started recording all the clear parts and ended up screaming and growling like hell, because I did not need my clear capacities anymore. I think that all my pain and suffering can be heard in the recording and that suits the lyrics perfectly in my opinion…

Who has inspired you for your shares in growl?

I like the performances of women such as Candice (Eths) and Maria (In This Moment) but the bands that inspired me for the use of saturated voices are led by men : The Used, Killswitch Engage, Feverish.

Recently, you’ve signed a deal with Season Of Mist, that promote bands like Cynic, your friends Eths, Mayhem etc… How was this deal born? Would you like to share something with us? If I’m not mistaken, you were under another label before joining this new one…

Season of Mist were already willing to distribute “Gaia” in 2007, but for some reasons (“Gaia”was already distributed by Adipocere Records), it was not possible… So when I offered Season of Mist to distribute “Lueurs”, they accepted immediately, without even listening to it. Then, “Lueurs” sold quite well and that’s why they accepted to add us fully to their artist roster ! And we are really proud of this!

Now that the album is out and released, are you going to embark (to) a new tour with your band mates? If so, have you already set up the “tour legs” for 2012?

We are starting quite a big French tour next week. Some gigs are with our friends of Eths and others alone. We are trying to book our new European tour for next fall, because of course, we would like to meet again our European fans!

Your most famous hit is “La Sphère”, who has introduced you to the big audience and that has seen the cooperation of Candice (Eths). How was working with a friend and a music partner?

We met Candice some years ago, in 2005, in a Belgium Fest called “Iguanorock”. They were headlining the fest and we were playing right before them. We shared the same backstage room so we got to talk and know each other. 2 years later, we sent “La Sphère” to Candice to ask her if she would feature, and she accepted immediately. That was cool to work together. Last year, she invited me to adapt some of Eths’ songs into English for the foreign version of their upcoming album, so this collaboration has not limited itself to the recording of “La Sphère”.

How would you describe your music to a fan that never had the chance to get in touch with Kells? Some fans have the habit of comparing every frontwoman…

I would say that Kells is a rocking band with rock, nu-metal and metalcore influences. Our particularity is that we have a clear female voice bringing an airy aspect to some parts of the music, and this clear voice switches to a more aggressive sound when the music needs it. There are some orchestral parts that emphasize melancholy or drama. The music is catchy, energetic and melancholic. I would not compare Kells to any other female fronted band… We are a rock/metal band.

Last year, Kells were very active, musically speaking. You’ve toured with famous bands, as Epica, Leaves’Eyes, ReVamp and, above all, the Queen Tarja Turunen. How were all these experiences? How has been, after all, sharing the stage with these people? What have you learned from these tours?

Visiting so many countries was a wonderful experience. We have learnt a lot on stage and off stage. Touring is quite a difficult exercise… Sleeping not much, working hard… To be honest, I have never really listened to symphonic metal since I prefer nu-metal, djent or rock, so I have never seen those bands as superstars during the tour. We were not there as fans but as colleagues. They were just cool people we were touring with.

Who, among these bands and people, gave you more under an artistic and human level?

We have loved touring with Tarja. Her crew was super. We would love to go on another tour with her. We only have good memories of the German tour we performed together.

As I previously said, you’ve had the great honor to share the stage with 4 great women (Floor Jansen, Simone Simons, Tarja Turunen, Liv Kristine). Is there anyone of them that gave you something more than the other ones? If you could describe the strength points and the weakness of each of them, what would you say?

I would say that the 2 that have the biggest singing technique are Floor and Tarja. I would say that I feel closer to Floor’s method since I’m using quite the same belting technique, but really Tarja was amazing on stage. I wouldn’t have suspected that. She seems to be at home when she is on stage, her pleasure, not her job.

Is there an artist or a band that has influenced you the most, musically speaking?

When I started playing metal music, the first bands I listened to were : HIM, Korn, Deftones, Papa Roach, Incubus, Taproot, Lost Prophets, Guano Apes… So somehow they are still in my heart, and still there as a background influence.

What are you favorite artists and bands?

There are so many! The Cranberries, Skunk Anasie, The Cardigans, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Used, Feverish, NIN, for the non-metal bands, Korn, Deftones, Papa Roach, Killswitch Engage, Periphery, Him, Funeral For a Friend, for the metal ones… But there are so many that I can hardly mention them all!

Is there anybody you would like to cooperate with in a nearest future in the recording studio or, why not, on tour?

I am open to every artistic collaboration, so I’m available to study any proposition!

Let’s talk about fans. As you know, fans are always the people who help bands in getting famous. I know that you like to keep your fans updated through your Facebook profile. How is your relationship with them? How do you get close to a genuine fan that loves your music and loves you as an artist as well? Is it something that annoys you or do you think is it something enjoyable and gratifying?

Of course, this is gratifying. Having people telling you they respect what you do and what you are is obviously motivating on hard days. Fans make me remember why I do all this and that’s why I’m trying to be there as much as I can for them, because without fans we are nothing. But, sometimes, it is difficult for some people to understand you cannot always be there, some don’t understand there might be a limit…

In these last two years, you’ve embarked an hard tour with various bands. What is the most beautiful part of being on tour? What do you like to do when you’re far from home? And what do you like less?

When I am on tour, what I like most is performing on stage and then meeting the people after the show. That’s what I like. What I don’t like is leaving my daughter at home, that makes me sad… Happily we call home every day, but that’s still morally difficult…

We know that you and your boyfriend Patrick (the bassist player of the band) have a baby, the beautiful Maelle. Have you ever had the chance to bring her on tour and to show her what is it your work? What does your daughter think about your work?

Of course, when we play near home, we bring her with us. She has had the chance to meet Epica and Tarja Turunen recently. She is proud of us and when she sees the videos, she claps her hands, she shows her horns, that’s funny. But there is school and we cannot bring her far from home yet.

Do you think she will ever become a singer? If she will choose this job, would you happy or upset?

She sings very often, she is fond of Adele and knows all her songs by heart. Sometimes, she even sings “Bleu” by Kells which she adores, but she told me she does not want to be a singer. She wants to be a dancer (laughing). But she’s got time to change her mind, she’s only 5 years old, and Patrick and I will always support and help her in her decisions, whatever she decides to do in the future.

Now you’re promoting the album. Do you have any future project now or will you postpone everything?

We are preparing the European leg of the tour and also we are preparing the shooting of a second videoclip extracted from “Anachromie”. We are really busy those days, but that’s exciting!

Virginie, you’ve been one of the few emerging metal singers to tread the boards (to be on an important stage) for Metal Female Voices Fest. Would you like to tell something about it?

The Metal Female Voices Festival is an amazing festival for female fronted metal bands. We have had the chance to win a contest to play there in 2008, right before “Lueurs” was released, and we have a wonderful memory of it!

What do you think of female fronted bands? Is there any particular band with a female voice you like the most?

I think that it is sad that people don’t talk of music genre anymore but of genders. No one talks about male fronted metal… but well if I had to mention bands with female singers I like most I would say Lacuna Coil, Guano Apes and In This Moment!

Have you ever thought of cooperating with some other band or, why not, to have your own side project?

I wouldn’t have time to work on another project. Kells is full-time part of my life. Yet, sometimes, I happen to feature in other projects like I did recently in Melted Space, playing the role of the Goddess Era. But I wouldn’t have time to have my own full time side project. Kells is my key-priority.

Thanks for your willingness, Virg. I give you a blank cheque to say something to your fans, to Kells fans and to Femme Metal readers…

I would like to thank you for your interest, your readers that have read this interview until the end and our fans for their love and support! See you soon on the road!

 

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