Carmen Elise Espenæs – SAVN

Interview by Arianna G.

In a busy environment which is the current metal scene, SAVN is the revelation band of 2014. Norwegian and dedicated to the gothic and folk melodies and led by the blonde vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs, Stig Johansen and Anders Thue (ex-The Sins of Thy Beloved), SAVN‘s debut album gained positive acclaims from all over the world in a very short time. For the occasion, we exchanged a few chats with the singer of this combo and, in this in-depth interview, she tells us something about this new musical experience, without forgetting her “mother-band”, Midnattsol, anticipating some juicy news as well.
 
Savn is a band formed by Stig and Anders. After so many years in which there were so many rumours concerning their band, The Sins of Thy Beloved, they’ve decided to start a new music project. Would you like to give a short biography of this new band for those people who are still not familiar with you?

Yes, of course! It was actually Stig that started the band, he felt that he needed something new in his life, something new in the music front, because nothing happened with The Sins of Thy Beloved, it was too silent for him, so he felt like he lost himself and he needed to start something new… and then, he came up with the idea “Savn” and he started to write some songs, with some basic guitar idea. And then, he asked his colleague in The Sins of Thy Beloved, Anders, if he wanted to join… and he said: “Yes” and they made more songs together, Anders made some piano melodies for the melodies that Stig made, and then they talked together about that it would have been cool to have a female voice on one of their songs (that was “The Demons in Me”); they wanted to have the female vocals on that song and on the refrain. They asked me if I wanted to sing on the song and I was totally like – first when I’ve heard the song – : “Okay, I have my own band, I’m busy! I don’t have time!”, but when I listened to the things that they made, I was so blown away and I’ve thought: “I just have to take part in this!” and I felt so comfortable with the songs. I identified in it, it was so great! When I started to make the refrain, after giving birth to my daughter – yeah, it was in that time – so I wrote the refrain and I came in the studio where I recorded the song for a demo, and they heard it for the first time, I also had only guitar basic lines so I didn’t know all the other instruments. And when I signed for them, I’ve listened to the other stuff and it was like a perfect mix and I was like: “Wow! How could this happen, when we haven’t met before? We haven’t rehearse or anything!”. It was so perfect! And then, they asked if I wanted to sing on other songs, there were more songs and… then, I joined the band, because we were doing so great together on the music front, and we inspired each other, and also when it comes to personal relationships, it’s just awesome! They’re so funny, so nice and then, yeah! We felt like really close, after a short time! That was the journey from me to Savn and also the start for it!

Savn is basically a folk/gothic band, Midnattsol is a folk band as well. What are the biggest influences that has brought to this peculiar sound? Can we say that you’ve brought those folk elements inside the band’s sound?

Yes! There are some folk elements in Savn as well, I would say! There are folk instruments, I would say that I am the one who has brought these influences to the band, so before they didn’t! I came I wouldn’t say they had so much influences from folk, but, for example, when you hear “Musical Silence”, there’s the Norwegian fiddler, the Hardanger fiddler… That was my idea with this folk melody, to give this special folk touch, so I think I’ve brought the influences to the band.

The record seems to be linked by a common thread. What is the concept behind this record?

The lyrical content is deprivation, the meaning of (the word) “Savn”. Savn means deprivation or “longing for…”. It’s like – as you can see – a full concept, everything from the cover to the lyrics and it’s also the band name, because, as I said, Savn means deprivation and that comes because of the fact that Stig longed for making music. That was a big deprivation in his life, he needed the music, so he called the band Savn. And then, I’ve thought about this and what it means for me and actually, I’ve started thinking a lot about it. “What do I long for in my life?”, “What’s the deprivation in my life?” and that also: “What is that for Stig and Anders and for all the other people around us?”, and then I’ve thought: “Wow, this is so interesting!” It’s such an interesting process that I decided that I wanted the whole album to be about deprivation, like the band’s name, so I sing about different kinds of deprivation and longing for in different matters, like longing for a special person or if something is missing in your life: for example, you have the musical deprivation, like in “Musical Silence”, you have the death of a person, when you really miss someone or you are longing for love in your life, like in “Longing for Love”… so everything is a sort of circle, everything is about this kind of theme. On the other side, you don’t need all the songs to understand the lyrics, they are independent songs as well, so you can understand the text independently as well, but I hope that many people won’t feel alone with their thoughts, experiences and stuff… so I hope that I can give the fans something when they will listen to it. That’s the goal!

The lyrics seem to be very personal, private. I have to admit that I was very impressed by “Hold On”, the first single you’ve chosen to promote this record. what could you tell me about the videoclip you’ve filmed for this song?

I can say that it was very cold, ahahah! It’s the coldest thing I’ve ever done, but it was an amazing experience, because it was my first music video ever and, like you say, the song is personal. It’s not about me, eheheh, or about my thoughts, but it’s about a person that… yeah, is really close to me. I’ve thought about the lyrics and I’ve thought: “Okay, we have to tell the story in this song”, so I did just a nice makeup and I’ve worn a nice dress, standing there and singing on the beach or something. I wanted to tell the story and to create emotions in people, so that it’s personal. We filmed it in Norway, in the nearby here, so everything you see is real, very less effected or “No Photoshop” and something like this, so everything is real, everything you see. That’s what we wanted to express also with that song, it’s really emotional. It’s about a girl who has lost all hope, because of bad experiences in her past and she’s just giving up. She is running away from everything and then she just takes a boat, with no direction, no meaning behind it, she’s just sailing away and then, she decides she wants to end her life, because she doesn’t see hope… And then, the meaning of the song, for me, is “there’s always hope, hang on, there’s always a way” and that’s the end for the ending, for me it’s positive. People have told me that they see the ending also in a negative way, because she’s dying, so it’s hope and people can decide for themselves what they want the end to be. For me it’s positive and “Hang on, there’s always a way”.

How did you choose the guests for this record? Let’s remember that, apart from Michelle Darkness and your sister Liv Kristine, we have here Alex Krull, who produced the record, Thorsten Bauer and Sander Van Der Meer, both from Leaves Eyes’

Oh, it’s very well thought, because they are so great musicians, so there was no doubt that we wanted to use them and we also know them personally, so we had a lot of fun doing that. When it comes to my sister, she has never sang in one of my records before, so we have talked about it but it never happened! I sang a lot of times on Leaves’Eyes, so there’s this song called “I Am Free” and I’ve thought about the refrain I had in my head, and all of a sudden I’ve heard two kind of voices singing. I’ve thought: “Who is this other voice? Who could this be? It would be perfect if it would be my sister!” and I’ve heard her voice very clearly in this song. I’ve asked her and she loved the song and the idea, so she did it and it was so great, it was so powerful. I am very grateful for the job that she did. Michelle [Darkness]… he had this growling part, you know there’s this version of the song that is growling but that was the first one and then I said to Stig and Anders that it would have been cool if there would be one version with just male vocal on it, clean male vocal. Then they said “Yes” and we’ve thought about who could he be. This is such an emotional song, a melancholic song and I’ve thought about Michelle’s voice, he has this special melancholic touch, his voice is so emotional. Alex [Krull] knows him and Liv as well, so they asked for me if he wanted to contribute and he said “yes”. I was like “Wow, this is going to happen!”, because I am a big fan of End of Green and Michelle as well, so I was blown away that he said yes and what could I say? It was so magical, I’ve got tears in my eyes the first time I’ve heard the end, because it was so much better than what I expected! It was so great!

We mentioned it earlier. This is the first time that your sister takes part in a record of yours. You had the chance to work with her in the past, so what do you think about this cooperation? Do you think there will be some new chances in the future?

I hope so, but the only problem, again, is the time, that is always our problem and of course there’s the distance as well, but I have expectations for the future that it could happen and I hope this will happen. Ixxx one more time, because we are still young, ahahaha. We have to make it happen! I think that the song we have done together is so great, the voices fit together, so we both want to and we have a lot of fun when we cooperate, so it’s only finding the time, so that we can do more together.

I’ve always asked myself this question: I’ve noticed that both you and your sister include in your albums at least one song in Norwegian. There’s also a special song in this self-titled album, called “Lengselens Hånd” and if I’m not mistaken this tracks deals with your grandmother. Is that right? Do you feel more closed to your tradition and culture when you sing something in your mother tongue language?

Yes, you’re right. I have to say that! I think it’s very personal to sing in my own mother tongue language, it’s like even more close! When I knew that I was going to write the lyrics for this sad happening, it was very natural that it came in Norwegian, it’s a very personal thought. Yeah, you’re completely right, I think it’s even more close to the traditions and also to who you are.

As I was saying at the beginning of our chat, Stig and Anders are basically known for their work in The Sins of Thy Beloved. Will they bring the band back to life? Or the past is past?

I don’t think that Stig and Anders will play in The Sins of Thy Beloved again, I don’t think so! In general, if they were to come back to life, it’s difficult to say, perhaps, but I really don’t think that Stig and Anders will go back again.

What could you tell us about Midnattsol instead? It’s been a while since we had the latest update concerning the band…

Yes, I know. It has been some years now with the songwriting and there has been some stones in the road when it comes to the private front. Many of the band members had some other things on the private front, and of course, everyone is working 100% with other jobs, so we’re busy in general… but the songwriting is taking longer than usual in Midnattsol and we needed to find the right direction and the right… how can I say? We needed to find the right way for everyone. So there have been some stones in the road, but we are still writing songs and we want to give out a third album, so I’m pretty sure that there will be an album even next year that is coming out! I really hope so, because we have a lot of material, we have lots of songs, ideas and some songs are finished. Our goal is to give it out, ehehe, but yeah, we’re not finished yet, but we are in the middle of songwriting. We’re not finished! Ehehehe.

Do you think that there will be a chance to promote the band through a European tour?

Yes, that’s our goal! The only problem is that we are only three people in the band, so we need, well we have needed some time now to come together as a live band and practice together, but now we have just – perhaps as you can see on our Facebook site – we have just released the news that we have a guitarist for lives and also a drummer, so we are in a good way now to be a live band. We will practice together and then, we hope that in Spring 2015 we can start with the shows, because we want to give our best and we want to get prepared, so we need this time. We also hope that there will be a tour and we’ve got lots of live requests from all over the world, so thank you so much to everyone who writes to us. We have just to be prepared in the best way before we can start.

With the introduction of Internet, it’s easier to convey music through some platforms, website such as Soundcloud or Bandcamp and some social networks as well but in your opinion, how much work is needed to convey yourself in the music panorama?

I think the times have changed a lot over the years, the music business has changed a lot over the years since I’ve started, it’s a huge difference, because now I think there are so many bands, so many artists and so many people who want to show their songs, so I think it’s really difficult to let people know about you. I think it’s very hard and very difficult as a new band to do this! It’s very hard and I really hope that something will change, that something will happen, that we’ll be able to find a solution so that it can make it better, because I think it’s very sad that so many great artists that no one hear about them, and there are other ones that are, perhaps, not so good, ehehe. It’s sad, but we don’t get to hear all or many people that are doing so much great music. It’s so sad that it became this way. It’s a lot of work and you have to, of course, be on all the different social platforms and medias, and you have to be unknown in order to let people know you. If you want to live from the music, I think it’s very hard to do that as a new band.

I’d like to thank you so much for having allowed me the chance to talk to you tonight. On behalf of Femme Metal Webzine‘s editorial staff, I wish you all the best and I give you a virtual hug. The final words are up to you of course.

It’s so great to know that people are supporting through all these years. Thank you so much for not giving up and for having always been there. Yeah, I really appreciate. I wish you and all your colleagues all the best for the future.

 

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