Interview by Andy Axworthy
When you read that a band is by turns described as epic, symphonic, power, progressive and classic metal all in the space of a few paragraphs you might be left wondering whether such a broad approach could dilute the end result. Ivory Moon is one such band, however one listen to their latest album and it’s easy to hear why in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of those descriptive parts. To find out more about this promising Italian band we caught up with new vocalist Gabriella Aleo to find out a little about her and about the rocking new release, “Dark Time”.
Hi Gabriella and greetings from all of us at Femme Metal. How are you today?
Hello! Thanks for this interview, I welcome the opportunity to talk about me and the music I was involved from yesterday to today.
You’ve recently taken over female vocals for Ivory Moon. Can you tell us a bit about your background and of how you became a singer?
I have always supported my singing talent, heading for perfection in this art that is very complex today. I’ve been singing since I was a child but my serious studies began at age of 20. I studied opera singing at the Conservatory of Music and I have never stopped since then. I teach singing to children. Singing is an integral part of my life, I could not deny it.
You’ve come from the more classical side of singing. To us it seems like a world of difference between an aria like Habanera and full-on rock song like Apocalypse. How do you adapt to mixing up these vocal styles?
Opera and gothic are different, but they live parallel inside me. You have to know well the two musical paths from their technical point of view, and above all you’d be thinking wider than just those who sing only classical or rock. I have always been living with two musical souls. The mixing of the two genres should be done with care. I tried to be not too opera singer using a language more suitable for “Dark Time” and his genre.
You’ve also indulged your inner Electra, recording “Tutte nel cor si vento…” from Mozart’s Idomeneo. How did that experience differ from working with Cristian Ice at Temple of Noise on the new album “Dark Time”?
There were two different experiences but both constructive. Music is what really matters, if it makes you feel good.
You share voice duties with Sandro Manicone. Do you both bring different ideas to the vocal parts or do you work together and adapt the style and harmony as the song writing and recording progresses?
Me and rocker Sandro Manicone are also friends in everyday life. We met even more by sharing this experience together. He is a great musician, composer, arranger and good singer. Along the way he helped me a lot on the side. In the past I had a brief stint with a heavy metal band: Zero Kelvin. I then absorbed part of the language back in this new project after so many years. We have given our voices to the songs of “Dark Time”, we have not dealt with the processing of the texts. Sandro is a complete musician and also took part in the arrangements and musical choices.
We’ve mentioned Sandro. Could you also introduce is to the rest of the band and tell us a little bit more about each of them?
I’ve been knowing the band for a very short time, so I can say very little about them. What is sure is that I am sharing this experience with veterans for the fans of this genre. I am a newcomer, they instead go way back so they had plenty of time to design and create this music.
“Dark Time” had its digital release on the 1st October. How do you feel now it’s out there and how do you feel it has been received by your fans?
I was very pleased and surprised by the performance of “Dark Time”. “Dark Time” is my first record, so I’m glad to have left traces of me in music. The fans do not even know us, but they will be able to do it very soon.
The album itself is a blend of classic metal styles from power through to operatic yet it still has its delicate moments. It is consistently good throughout with tracks like “Soul Disguised” and “The Merchant of Venice” especially standing out. What was it like for you to go from recording and putting down your parts to actually hearing the finished songs? Was there a defining moment for you?
Certainly for me it was a challenge to face this genre. I loved this genre for a long time so I tried to absorb all possible shades. Recording for us means converting our ideas into music. The most important moment was when we heard all the mastering, and we listened to all of our work, all our dreams and our thoughts.
How about sing-writing duties? Do you all get a say in how the song ideas develop? How does a song like, for instance, “Out of Control” come together?
I’m just a performer who sings with passion and love for music, and then a popularizer. I never ventured to write texts. Everyone has their own role. Ivory Moon lyrics are written by the other members of the band.
Is there a story or theme to the song writing on the album? Where do you and the band draw your inspiration for the songs?
We took inspiration on actual topics of today’s life: The crisis, rupture, rebirth. These were the pillars of “Dark Time”.
The album launch gig is on the 7th December. How does it feel to get “Dark Time” out there in front of alive audience and what are you looking forward to the most on the night?
“Dark Time” will debut on Dec. 7 at the Jailbreak in Rome. We’ll expect a good audience who can give us the right boost within this new work. I hope it could bring so much magic in everyone’s hearts.
What about your own personal soundtrack? Who or what do you listen to when you’ve got some time to yourself?
My soundtrack is “Nemo” from Nightwish. I put this song as a ringtone in the phone : ) When I have time I use to listen to different musical Opera, Loreena McKennitt, Epica etc.
What would you be doing if you did not sing? What hobbies, passions or ambitions do you have when you are away from the microphone?
I can not see myself without music… I have several passions: I like to paint, I’m not an intellectual but I’m reading a literary work of Proust, sometimes I play games with Sandro Manicone and I love to walk my French Bulldog Morgana and take long walks in nature. I like to meet up with a few true friends and my family. I would love to travel every year….
Now you’ve taken this step from the light of opera to the dark side of metal what would you say are the main differences for you between the two styles of music? Does either genre have something that can be used and sits comfortably with the other?
The difference in the two genres is absolutely singing style. I think mainly you need to have a good voice, educated in classical singing and in the modern one, in order to obtain a good result. I always followed both the roads. In vocal symphonic rock you have to play a lot with the expression and sometimes the listener can be confused by a hybrid between an opera and a metal singer!
What can we look forward to beyond the launch gig? Are there any plans to tour with the new album? What next for you and Ivory Moon?
We’re busy with this every single day. It is not an easy time for music here in Italy. We hope that we may get some specialized major label interested… it would be a dream.
Thanks for takine to chat with us Gabriella. Is there anything else you would like to say to the fans and readers to wind this up?
Ivory Moon strongly hope “Dark Time” can be appreciated both in Italy and abroad. Greetings to all!
Interview by Eetu Niskanen
Editing by Miriam C.
Interview with Lisy Stefanoni, singer of the Italian Gothic Folk Metal band Evenoire, in this interview we’ll talk about the 2008-debut EP “I Will Stay” that its review has taken the maximum rating score here at Femme Metal Webzine. Enjoy it!
How would you describe Evenoire‘s music to people who have never heard you?
Evenoire’s music is a journey into enchanted realms, ancient legends, magical places; our music mixes the power of metal, folk ballads, oriental echoes and evocative atmospheres. The lyrics talk about legends, dark fairy-tales and historical people. The result is a special and fascinating sound enriched by flute melodies and different styles of vocals, which go from sweet and ethereal to powerful and aggressive. I call our music Oneiric Metal.
How would you describe your voice?
I think I’m an eclectic singer, I like to experiment with my voice and that’s the reason why I have no limits. I like to sing both in opera style and in modern style, I like folk and oriental styles, too. I try to create something unique mixing all these ways of singing. I have a good vocal range, which allows me to reach very high notes and my timbre is quite crystal clear, warm and high (I’m a light lyric soprano) and at the same time strong and powerful. It’s really difficult to describe a voice, it’s the first time I do that!
Did you always wanted to become a singer?
Yes, sure! I started to study music at the age of 6, attending music theory classes and flute lessons. Then I studied also guitar and piano, but my great passion was singing, so when I was at secondary school I started to attend courses of modern singing including rock and soul styles. At the age of 16 I experienced for the first time the live performances with my rock band and my acoustic trio, but actually I’ve always sang during music school performances, shows, competitions and local events since I was a child. Currently I’m studying operating singing: I love the world of Opera and Theatre and I hope to graduate soon at conservatory. I cannot live without singing, I sing because it’s the only way to be myself, the only way to express my emotions and my soul.
What kind of music do you listen yourself and how often?
I always listen to music! I love metal, especially gothic, symphonic, prog, folk and bands with female voices. My favourite bands are Therion, Opeth, Within Temptation, After Forever, Ayreon, The Gathering, Symphony X. I listen to hard rock, rock and heavy metal, too. I like so much folk, medieval, Celtic music, New Age, and Italian Opera of course!
Where does the name Evenoire come from?
We chose the name “Evenoire” because it’s really evocative and has different meanings: NOIR (black) is one of the colour of our music, EVEN (noire) because we like to express joyful colours with folk atmospheres. EVEN may also refer to the night, a dark night: the deep night is the moment of the dreams, of the dark creatures like ghosts and spirits, the moment of enchanted things and many legends, and we like to talk about all these themes in our songs. Evenoire may also refer to EVE NOIR, Lilith, a really fascinating and strong female figure who inhabits a lot of archaic and modern myths.
Could you tell us something about the other members of the band?
We are good friends, not only a band. During these years we had a lot of fun together and we reached a good level of musical harmony. Marco, the bass player, is the major composer of the band, even if everyone gives important inputs to the composition process and we all arrange the songs. I write all the vocal melodies and lyrics. Recently Giada, the keyboard player, has left the band because of work troubles. We are still looking for a new keys player and we will comunicate you as soon as possible news about the new line-up.
How did you get in touch with Femme Metal Records to be part of the compilation “Demonic and Demonic”?
Miriam, the chief editor of Femme metal Webzine, proposed and encouraged us to submit a song for the compilation: we thank so much Miriam and Carrie Sharp for this great opportunity!
What do you think about the compilation CD?
It’s a wonderful idea to support cancer research and promote female fronted metal bands. The bands included play great music, it’s a top quality compilation, a really interesting project!
Why did you choose “Aries” as the particular track to the compilation?
“Aries” is the song from our first EP that well describes our music and our style: powerful music, oriental and folk echoes, symphonic keyboards, prog riffs, different singing styles, and a melancholic acoustic end with a sweet flute melody.
How is the metal scene in Italy?
Not so good. I mean, there are a lot of good bands but it is really difficult to emerge from the underground, metal is not considered in the major music circuits. The clubs prefer tribute bands and cover bands and there is very few space to promote our music. It’s a really bad situation.
What are the plans of Evenoire for the future?
We are working on the full length and we are searching for a label to support our music.
You also released your debut EP last year, how much work did it take?
It’s our first work and our first experience, so it took us quite time but now we have reached a very good harmony into the band, so that the composition of the new songs is faster. We can say we have found our musical dimension.
What is the story behind the EP cover, who designed it?
The cover is a painting created by Gabriella Ghisleri, the mother of our ex keyboard player Giada. The painting describes the spirit of a woman who hides her real face behind a mask. We chose this picture because it represents our songs: the spirit on the boat refers to the ghost of “Azzurrina” and the hidden face refers to “Mirror Lies”, which lets us know about the real identities concealed behind the mirrors. The general setting of the picture, the girl on the boat and the lights reflected by the sea, refer to the song “I Will Stay”, which tells the story of a girl who runs away from her pains on a boat and she perceives the reflections of a medieval feast through the water: that feast will make she smile again.
Is there anything the readers should know I haven’t asked?
For everyone interested in our EP and music please visit our websites for all information. Thanks so much to you Eetu for the interview and thanks to Femme Metal Webzine for the support!
Interview by Ed MacLaren
Every once in a while you run across a promising band new band and you’re instantly captivated by their sound, their creativity and their maturity. But most of all you can sense that intangible quality – something difficult to describe – that makes them unique and sets them apart. Ellyose is one of those bands. They ooze potential and bring a defiantly fresh take on gothic metal music. Femme Metal had the pleasure to speak to Ellyose vocalist Justine Daaé on recording their debut album “Théogyne”, the struggles of an up-and-coming band and staying true to your musical vision.
Ellyose has the look and the sound to make a real musical impact on the French metal scene and beyond. What can you give some background of you and the band?
I myself have a classical background; I have studied classical music and singing at the conservatory in Paris and still am. At the age of 18, I started singing in some metal bands; it made me realize and understand several things: that I could never work with people handling music as leisurely entertainment and that, as I’m also a musician, I could never be only an interpreter, I needed to be very much involved in the writing process of the songs. It took me a few years to find partners who matched my musical personality and involvement and who didn’t want to do music in an amateurish way. When I met Ghislain (bass player) in early 2009, I felt I found the right person to work with and that’s when Ellyose began. Our guitarist Arnaud joined us 8 months later, after we released our 6-track-demo.
Ellyose has been together and performing for just over a year. What can people expect when they listen to Ellyose for the first time?
They can expect music loaded with arrangements mixing different types of musical influences among them classical (especially with the vocals) electronic and dance. It is very much a challenge to find the right way to make everything go well together to bring different emotions.
Ellyose is currently hard at work on its debut album “Théogyne”. What’s the recording process been like so far?
The hardest part is keeping the necessary distance to judge fairly our own songs – to be able to stand back and remain objective. In other words, keeping fresh ears after listening to parts of the songs a thousand times to find the perfect arrangement. It’s very long hours spent in front of a computer with our instruments trying to catch emotions in a very rigorous way. It’s exhausting but thrilling.
We can get a musical taste of Ellyose on your MySpace site and the posted tracks are excellent. What can we expect on “Théogyne”? Will the remaining songs be in the same vein or do you have some surprises in store?
It will be in the same vein as our eponymous track “Théogyne”, meaning less of a metal tradition, moving away from symphonic or gothic metal towards electronic, techno, dance and trance. This approach takes the strength and power metal brings and contrasts it with classical arrangements and vocals. And this is what it’s all about, violence and delicacy in one combined in music we want to sound aggressive and sensual.
Did you enter the studio with a specific idea of what you wanted the tracks to sound like or did everything get tossed out the window after you entered the studio and started to experiment?
We don’t experiment in the studio – everything is fixed before in the finest detail. The time to experiment is during working sessions. In the studio, we focus on not forgetting what we perfected, on being good at our instruments, and making ourselves clear and understandable with the sound engineer about what we want.
There are many operatically trained vocalists in goth metal but your classical vocal style works very well with the industrial and electronic elements in Ellyose. And by combining that operatic approach with breathy whispers and spoken word segments, it creates a unique vocal perspective that stands out. How did this vocal style develop?
I like to mix different kinds of singing and make use of everything I can do with my voice in order not to sound monotone and bring different emotions to each song: something more intimate with the whispers, something more lyrical with the vocals. Unfortunately, I’m unable to do grunts! I wish I could! I’m amazed by classical singers like Floor Jansen (very recently) who can do it without damaging their voice. At least that’s what she claims!
Your vocal background is in classical music. What is it about this vocal style that works so well with metal music?
To me, classical singing doesn’t just work well with metal, it could work well with many other kinds of music. I’ve never understood why it is so unpopular or why it sticks only with classical or metal.
Do you ever perform in a traditional classical environment? Is that a musical goal of yours?I still perform in a completely classical environment as part of my training at the conservatory. I also do chorus in operas. I have a deep passion for classical music and singing but obviously, I could never make a career in that environment plus classical music is just one facet of who I am. I’d rather be the crazy metal kind of girl.
Ellyose, while having a strong goth metal focus, also leans heavily towards industrial and electronic music. Is the future of metal going to be one where it assimilates different styles of music to stay fresh.
Metal has only been here for around 40 years so how will it sound in 100 years? I think it’s fair to expect it will continue to evolve like it already has by assimilating different styles of music.
You’ve also been heavily involved with Grey November, an excellent ambient doom metal band, that released its debut album “D’Automne” back in 2008. What prompted you to change musical directions from the dark ambience of Grey November to forming a gothic industrial electronic metal band like Ellyose? It’s a big change.
I don’t actually write Grey November’s music, I only write the vocal parts, so the project wasn’t mine in the first place, I agreed to work with Cédric whose music and lyrics deeply moved me. As a result, I’m very proud of what we’ve done even though ambient doom is definitely not the kind of music I want to go along with. Ellyose is my own project with my bass player partner Ghislain Henry, I am the songwriter myself in close collaboration with him. Today it is my top priority. I wanted a band that was totally who I was and which sounded totally the way I liked. It’s more personal.
Is Grey November still a viable outlet for your darker and more doomy creative tendencies? Will there be another Grey November project in the future?
I’m too busy with Ellyose for the moment to think of some other work sessions, but yes, I’d like to keep singing for Grey November in the future, I’m still a gothic music lover.
What are the musical and compositional differences in working with a band like Ellyose versus a band like Grey November?
The work is extremely different as far as Grey November is only a studio band, we’ve never planned to perform on stage so we’ve never recruited any session musicians and never had to go to rehearsals unlike Ellyose where we had to find other musicians and work for live shows. Many bands – regardless of what country they’re from – choose to sing in English to supposedly maximize their potential audience. Your lyrics are sung in your native French. French works so well with your music and your vocal style (especially the spoken parts) that English would take away from the overall impact of Ellyose. Other successful French bands like Kells sing in French while Markize performs in English, French AND Russian. But is there a negative to that? Does the language you sing in have an impact on the success of a band and the audience they can reach?
First, thank you for saying French matches with our music, especially that you are not a francophone. The funny thing is that I feel that the ones who are more likely to be bothered by French are French people. I personally like to hear songs in a foreign language (especially German) but most people keep thinking English is either the prettiest language to fit music or that it widens the audience. My choice with Ellyose is to record a bilingual album with French and English, just like the way I practice both of them in my daily life. French brings something unusual and I like to go off the beaten track.
As someone who’s been working the scene and developing your musical vision with increasing success, I’m sure you’ve run into a few roadblocks. What advice do you have for young bands trying to get their music out there?
Ellyose is a young band trying to get its music out there. If Ellyose succeeds, it will be thanks to our association with people aiming for the same goals. Music is teamwork as it also includes people providing the mixing, the production, the promotion, etc. The key thing would be surrounding yourself with bandmates who think the way you do. As well, choose the right people to collaborate with even though it could take some time to find them. Never lose patience.
How important is the Internet in developing and marketing new bands in the 21st century?
Internet is freedom; it allows you to choose one’s own music. Other media imposes on us. Most bands couldn’t live without the Internet. Its role is essential in developing and marketing a new band. (Famous) Last words?“Ne fais pas attention à ce que dit la critique : on n’a jamais élevé une statue à un critique.” (Jean Sibelius)
This is a French quotation meaning that no matter how harshly people may be bad-mouthing and criticizing others thinking they have an important role stating their opinion, they’d never be the ones statues are erected for. It’s poetic way to say, “To hell with detractors!” Follow your own instincts and inspirations and never try to have unanimous backing.?
Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
Monaco is a miniature state the size of some football fields. It is mostly known as hangout for the rich & famous in the world. But metal? Until very recently I would not have thought of metal from Monaco. Enter Black Knight Symfonia. The band has got two female singers (an operatic female singer and a melodic female singer) and this interview is with Arya, one of singers and Saga, the guitarist, composer and male singer of the band.Arya is your artist name. Why did you choose this name for your work with Black Knight Symfonia?
Arya: Arya is the name of the main character in the french comic book of Michel Weyland, a solitary woman, dark, incredibly strong and pretty, in Persian this name means pure and noble. The courage of this young lady guided me when I was younger, a nice warrior, doing terrible quests… Black Knight Symfonia tells legends of battles, troubles, I think this name suits well our universe.Did you always wanted to become a singer?
Arya: I’ve always listened to classical music, the first disc I heard was a compilation of solos from Maria Callas. The need to sing came way later. I fist studied piano at the conservatory, but I was missing something when I played this instrument. To be able to change every note, make it vibrate, change its colour just like I want, only the voice could do it. So when I was 14 years old I changed my course and learned opera singing at the conservatory. When I take a breath to start singing, I feel, already fine inside. Some people say eyes are the mirror of the soul, but I think that it’s the voice.
And did you follow any singing lessons and what do you do to keep your voice in top condition?
Arya: I studied music, piano and opera singing at the conservatory, but also in the children’s choir of the opera of Nice. To keep my voice in condition I work everyday. I have a library full of old vocal techniques, anatomy and musical interpretation books. Most of my techniques when I sing were learned from ancient masters. I have the habit before singing for Black Knight Symfonia to sing some technical baroque airs, “to warm up” my voice, like some Handel, then I finish my warm up with operas, like some Gounod or Cilea. And then I am prepared to sing ”Dragonland”.Is Black Knight Symfonia your first band?
Arya: Black Knight Symfonia is the first band where I am a lead singer, I sang before in Nohellia but I was just doing backing vocals. This is the first time that I have the opportunity to work on the music and the lyrics, this is very hard but the result is that I can try new and more exciting things.The other female singer of Black Knight Symfonia is Nymphadora. What are the differences between your and her voice?
Arya: Nymphadora has a very “rock” voice, very pure and I have a operatic voice. When we recorded the chorus in the song ”Akasha”, we were astonished by the fact that our voices were mixing really nicely. We complete each other extremely well.
To what kind do you listen yourself and what are your favourite bands?
Ayra: On the classical music side, I really love baroque from Italy and England, and contemporary French music. Baroque music was technical and elegant, contemporary music manages to let us enter the world of dreams. Well, that’s for classical music. And now the underground music…. I am a big aficionada of black metal. If I had to list just a few bands, I would choose Burzum, Satyricon and Summoning. I don’t really listen to other metal band with female vocals because I never find the power of the music, songs are focalised on the voice, what Black Knight Symfonia took the risk not to do. Music first and that’s what I like to have real strong emotional compositions with orchestrations and not just “common songs” to be trendy.Why did you choose to become a member of Black Knight Symfonia?
Arya: I was introduced to Saga by a mutual friend. We talked about our visions of music and Saga played me a few songs, like “Emerald Kingdom”, and I immediately fell in love with his musical personality The dialogue between Saga, Nymphadora and me was evident. We quickly began working together and the trio was marvellous. Time passed and since then, we became close friends.Like with Arya, Saga is your artist name. Why did you choose this name?
Saga: First a Saga is an Epic story and Epic is the main characteristic of our music and the second reason is that Saga is also the name of a Knight in Saint-Seiya that like me is a Gemini and has an equally evil and good spirit.Did you always wanted to become a guitarist and who are your favourite guitar players?
Saga: I wanted to become a guitar player when I heard Yngwie Malmsteen and Megadeth albums. I was really surprised and loved immediately the virtuosity of the neoclassical approach of Yngwie Malmsteen melt with the intensity of Metal songs. I am a self taught guitarist and I learned pretty much everything from analysing the playing of the guitarists that I like the most. I also practised some typical neoclassical structures in my playing because I like Metal as much as classical music. My favourite guitar players are Yngwie Malmsteen because he created neoclassical metal, Steve Vai that is a genius of the guitar and plays like nobody else on earth, Michael Romeo, and Jeff Waters from Annihilator that has some kick ass rhythm patterns.
What kind of guitars and amplifiers do you use and why?
Saga:I’m playing on a Vigier Excalibur Ultra (French hand made guitar) and on an Ibanez UV777 Steve Vai signature 7 strings guitar and I play on VOX and Marshall amplifiers.Did you have other bands before Black Knight Symfonia and what are the differences between them and Black Knight Symfonia ?
Saga: I am also a member and the main composer in the international Viking folk metal bands Folkearth and Folkodia. In the past I played in a Black Metal and in a Technical Death metal band and I also played a few years in an instrumental guitar band. Black Knight Symfonia is the band I always dreamt about because it allows me to compose using elements from all metal genres and to add powerful and emotional Epic orchestral arrangements.
With the exception of the female vocals (which is logic) and the drum parts you are responsible for all the other aspects of Black Knight Symfonia. Do you see Black Knight Symfonia as a real band or more as a solo project ?
Saga: Black Knight Symfonia is a real band. Arya and Nymphadora are full time members and they bring their musical background and lots of emotions into the vocal melodies and they also participate in the writing of the lyrics. Composing all the music is just the way it works for me to create an original musical world. I can’t afford bringing someone else to compose music for Black Knight Symfonia because someone else would probably be influenced by another band. It is sad but most of the band are just copying others people work… I really hate followers … For me Music is a sort of art and I always stay focused on my goal that is to create my own music without getting distracted or influenced by any other bands music. Creativity is the most important thing in my music.What is the idea behind the name Black Knight Symfonia? Black is related to the dark mood of our music, I don’t like really much happy “cheesy” music.Knight is related to the Epic and kind of medieval or fantasy themes of our lyrics and the Black Knight is a really Dark strong and tortured Knight. Symfonia is related to the orchestral aspect of our music. I really consider the orchestral parts as important as the metal parts, and finally I can say that Symfonia is written with an F and not a PH because it is written in Polish and it is a wink to Fryderyc Chopin (who was Polish) that is one of my favourite classical composer with Johan Sebastian Bach.
“Heavenly Chaos” is your debut album. How would you describe the music on the album?
The music on our album could be best described as a really emotional dark and epic trip into a fantasy world.
Where did you get the inspiration for the music and lyrics?
I am already composing second album and we will soon work on vocals parts and in 2010 we will go back to studio to record our second album. You can expect our next album to be much more intense and the orchestrations will also have an even more important role to bring you into something you never heard before. We will also keep focused to get signed by an open minded label that will release our first album. And beyond 2010 I would say that as long as my imagination and emotions allows me to bring some more very original and unique music Black Knight Symfonia will live on. And the last question, is there anything the reader should know that I have not asked in this interview that might be important?
Arya: Just a little word of love and kindness to all our listeners, hundreds kisses !Saga: We just want to thanks every listeners and fans that are sending to us some really nice compliments and support messages. We are really grateful for your support! We also want to thanks the femme Metal Webzine for showing interest in our band. We are still searching for an open minded label to sign our band and release our album “Heavenly Choas” ! So if you are working in a label or know someone running or working in a record company and if you love our musical world please just contact us we will consider every propositions. Stay Epic and Metal !
Interview by Andy Axworthy
It takes a special kind of alchemy to pull off mixing operatic vocals and progressive metal, classical with modern, in a way that stands out within an increasingly crowded genre. To pull off creating gold with your first album is something else entirely. That first album is “Between Life and Dreams”, the city is Milan, and the alchemists… Deva. When this band mentions classical and modern, they really do mean The Teatro alla Scala and the Accademia della Chitarra Rock a Milano. Femme Metal sat down with vocalist Beatrice Palumbo to find out more.
Hi Beatrice, and a warm welcome from Andy and all at Femme Metal.
Your first album “Between Life and Dreams” was released in April 2010, however the band has been together for a number of years. Can you tell us how the band formed and about the other members?
“Between Life And Dreams” is the final step of a quite long walk. Deva, as a band, was formed in 2003 when I met Federico Salerno and Myriam Stallone. After one year Marco Castiglione joined the project. At the time, we had a drummer – Simone Rossi – who was then replaced by Thomas D’Alba in 2007. All these years before the album were spent not only composing and arranging our songs, but also (and maybe mostly) building up the experience that every professional band needs to do something really serious. And we definitely wanted it!
Federico is a talented composer and guitarist (he’s graduating at the Rock Guitar Academy, here in Milan); he knows enough about modern instruments and arranging techniques, he teaches electric guitar in several structures.
Myriam for me is like a sister: two girls in the same band, that’s female power! She’s very creative with the bass, very melodic. She’s also graduated in Philosophy and she’s a very good listener of both Classical and Metal music, especially the modern Progressive Metal projects.
Marco is our “Metal Guru”: name a band, he knows it! His instruments are the synthesizers but he also plays bass and he studied sound engineering and the art of making stringed instruments. Thomas, our drummer and last entry, is very expert about his instrument. he knows everything about drums, techniques and music styles. This is really helpful, it’s like when you can pick from a tray whatever you like! It’s the interaction between five people that makes Deva what it is but I’m sure we’ll talk more about it…
As of then, I focused my life on becoming a singer, but to be honest, at that time, I couldn’t imagine I would have been giving an interview for a metal magazine. Growing up, I kept studying singing at the Conservatory, where I have also started to play the Viola da gamba (I think a good singer should also be able to play at least an instrument) and then Deva came and they changed my life, completely! Now, I live a double-sided life: I keep walking my path as a young solo opera singer and I am the singer in a metal band.The path is difficult on both ways but one helps to be complete on the other and vice versa. The only difference is that the metal world accepts and respects my classical path, while on the other way around, sometimes, the classical world doesn’t accept my decision to be a metal singer. Would you say that this background has allowed you to avoid any preconceptions and enabled you to freely explore and evolve your own vocal style with Deva? For sure, since I joined Deva I have changed the way to see and live my voice. The greatest difference, in my opinion, is that from just being a simple performer of classical pieces, I have also become a writer/composer of what I sing. My greatest discovery was being able to write melodies that could perfectly fit my vocal skills, which is something basically impossible in classical music – you, as a singer, are at the music’s service and not the other way around. You can find pieces that work well with your voice, but would never fit like those you write for yourself. Now, when possible, I often try to read the classical pieces I perform in a Deva key and vice versa. Without my classical background, I don’t think I would have been able to record an album such as “Between life and Dreams”. “Between Life and Dreams” goes beyond the genre’s traditional boundaries with its mixture of styles, influences and subtle complexities. From who and where does the band draw its inspiration, both musically and lyrically?
I’m glad to see that our intention was such clear. The ambition of our project is exactly to go beyond the traditional boundaries and especially those that separate Classical and Modern music. This led us to develop and integrate a complex mixture of influences, styles and sounds. The sounds (and harmony) of Baroque music, for example and its instruments (I play the Viola da gamba, as I previously mentioned) but also Heavy Metal of the origins and Progressive Rock. We are all fans of Metallica, Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation, we love Progressive Metal and the female voices (Evanescence, Within Temptation), I personally take a lot from many famous singers (i.e. Maria Callas and Ella Fitzgerald). Also, with regard to the lyrics, there are a lot of inspirations and themes that we like to develop. Federico and Myriam have studied Philosophy for years at the university and they like to discuss the themes of our lyrics during the compositions. This helps us to write deeper lyrics, full of meanings for us and we hope this reaches those who reads them; but it also gives us a clear idea of what we want from the songs we are creating: even the arrangements and the dynamics are influenced by the meaning of the words. You and Federico are the main songwriters. How do you work together to develop and arrange your ideas and what sort of input do you get from the rest of the band? Normally, the first inputs come from Federico or from me – usually a melody with chords but sometimes it has been a riff or lyrics. Then we develop together the idea, whatever it is, generally starting from chords and vocals, until we have a simple structure with verse, bridge and refrain. We always record all these steps. At this point, we elaborate the material with the rest of the band, and it’s altogether that we finally put together the song as it should be… well, almost!The interaction with Thomas is very important not only from the drum lines (he’s very creative, the first time we heard him, he played “Your Voice” with an incredible arrangement, that we liked very much and that it’s now an important part of the song) but also for the choice of the right tempo and the dynamics. Marco gives an essential help in the arrangements and he’s got a genuine Progressive taste when he plays both the organ and the synths. Some of our best ideas are inspired by a keyboard sound. Myriam follows the work almost from the beginning, she often leads the compositions and she helps me and Federico to keep going to the goal, which for our style is very important. We have to think about a lot of things during the compositions and the arrangements, we are not doing “just a song”, we need to make “a Deva song” if you know what I mean. When you write do you ever find yourselves thinking in terms of ‘single’, ‘album’, ‘video’ or even intended audience as a song comes to life, or is just spontaneous? I couldn’t tell exactly what’s the input that generates the composition. I just sit at the piano and play, trying to imagine the feeling that I’d like to catch while listening to what I’m creating. I also had to compose on already existing lyrics, but nobody forces me to respect the scheme, I’m always free to develop my own ideas as I like. Federico thinks often about words and creates the music after the words. But as for most of the beautiful things, many ideas come spontaneous: melodic lines, arrangements, riffs, solos… Images are also very important during this phase. “Out in Fog”, for example, is about a road accident in a dark and desert road. Our intention was to give this image through the atmosphere of the song, with a dark mix and a dramatic climax. We definitely had in mind a focused sequence of events (it could be like an imaginary video, if you want) that led us to certain choices regarding arrangements and song-structure. We also thought about “Your Voice” as the single but, to be honest, this happened after the drums were recorded. It would be easier for us now, without any doubt, to decide to write a single, a ballad, an intro… For all their style and complexity the songs on “Between Life and Dreams” have a very cohesive and precise sound that will easily translate to a live environment. When compared to some of your contemporaries there is a gentle restraint at work that enables the sound as whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. As you are self-produced can you tell us who the production wizard is? Also, how much and how often do you experiment with the instrumentation on a track when you are in the studio?
Well, it’s certainly true that Federico has directed all the work, from the composition until the final mix. He engineered, recorded and edited all the tracks and he mixed this album with Lorenzo Ardoni (our actual sound engineer) and Myriam. But, I think, he would say that the “magic” comes from the interaction with all of us and with Lorenzo for the mix. It’s been very complex: the experiments have been so many, we recorded a lot of additional tracks after the main ones – voices, effects, noises, orchestrations, percussions, instruments… we have actually recorded everything we thought could even only fit or be interesting. Of course at some point we had to choose and a lot of things have been cut out. What’s important for us is the result: as you’ve said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
On the same subject, I have read that Federico has said it has taken literally years in a cycle of writing, editing, arranging, recording and mixing to get to this stage. The result easily justifies all the hard work but now the cd has been released, do you still feel any impulse to change a track in any way and if you do, how do you let that out?Yes, unfortunately we can’t change anything anymore! …Ok, I’m joking! I think that “Between Life And Dreams” is not a bad result and I’m really happy with what you say about the production, the sounds and the songs. The impulse to change again remains, as this is our instinct. For example, we are now working on an acoustic version of some songs! But we know that we have done what we could (and maybe a bit more), what is important for us is to show our potential: this album doesn’t come out from a “super-studio” but it was expensive, especially in terms of effort and time. Literally years, I confirm what Federico says. And even if I’d like to change some parts, especially now that my voice is stronger and a bit deeper, I still smile when I hear the songs of this album, because I think that, you know, they work!
Talking of the release, how do you feel the album has been received and how as the reaction shaped your ambitions?
The reaction has been incredibly more than what we could ever expect. It’s not a matter of ambitions – we wanted it and we did, regardless of the reactions, because we couldn’t know what would have happened. After the release of the album in Italy and on the web, there has been some sort of word of mouth through websites all over the world. We reached Australia (which is the farthest country from Italy!) in less than three months. Europe, Asia, North and South America, we received a lot of encouraging comments! For us, this is so important! I mean, how could we know if what we were doing would have been appreciated? We couldn’t be sure, we were trying to do something different, something that we were proud of but we didn’t really know what the future could be. And, wow, we still can’t believe it! The tracks on “Between Life and Dreams” are a good balance of style and substance. Which is your personal favourite and can you tell us the story behind the song? I basically change my mind every four/five months… at the moment, my favourite song is “Love and Faith”. This song was conceived seven years ago, just before I joined the project! Myriam had the idea of the bass line that you can hear in the intro of the track, then she and Federico started working on what we could name the first Deva song (as far as I remember, this could be the first song I worked on). After about four years of changes and re-arrangements, when we were all finally ready to face our first album production, “Love and Faith” was still open! The truth is that, in fact, it was complete but it didn’t sound mature, though much older than the other tracks. Things got definitely clear during the recording of the drums and one evening, after the studio session, we found ourselves discussing about it. Somebody, I couldn’t believe it, suggested “we should remove it from this album, it’s a weak song”. Ok, ok, I thought, isn’t there anything that I could do to save it? And the answer is that I stayed all that night in front of the piano, writing a new vocal line for the chorus. There’s a strong link between me and this song, this is why I picked it as my fave! But it’s not an easy choice; I really love all the songs of this album, especially “Dancing Lane” and “Your Voice”… You have made really good use of the Internet to generate interest and contacts that have helped guide you to Orion’s Belt Records, RNC Music and a commercially available album in what seems like a remarkably short space of time. Did you have a strategy and what tips could you give to other aspiring artists looking to make this sort of breakthrough?
The best thing we have is people who believe in us. It gives us a strong motivation, every day. We’ve been very lucky, since we have found Orion’s Belt Records and RNC Music through the web. What I can say is that a deep research, patience and trust in what you are doing are a good way to reach some result. I mean, it’s essential to have a good, a very good idea to take out there but it won’t become something solid all alone. It won’t show itself to the world, automatically! First of all (I’m talking about our experience) and this helped especially after we found a management, we started to work hard on ourselves as musicians and as a band. Our strategy? We thought “ok, what do we need to make Deva a real and effective band?” The answer was on the stage, in the studio and on the web: on the stage, because you need to learn not only how to make a good show but also how to make an original show, that gives a value to your personality; in the studio, because out there is really full of musicians that are better than you, so you have to train hard for hours and hours every day; on the web, we had the simple idea to create a cool MySpace profile, with our best songs (“Your Voice” on top), our best photos and an interesting biography. Then we discovered Nico Spinosa and Ros Manica, in other words Orion’s Belt Records and RNC Music and they strongly believe in the possibilities through the net. Having come this far, how does it feel to be surfing on the edge of the Italia-metal wave? Well, if I have to be honest, I must say that unfortunately in our country there isn’t so much space for Heavy Metal. The media and the biggest clubs are more focused on other genres, which is very annoying because Italy has got a fantastic audience, a lot of people appreciate very much Rock, Heavy Metal and so on! A young band hasn’t got many possibilities to come out, neither to show something new. Even in a big city like Milan, once you have played on these ten /twelve stages, what do you think you will do?
But we can’t complain too much. Talking about Milan, we have simply found the best label for us and great support from Backline (which is among the other things providing Cort basses) and Percussion Village (that provides cymbals and drums stuff). I’m sure that many people, here in Italy, are just waiting to discover what’s under the surface where, I can assure you, there are a lot of very good musicians. Your press release mentions rave reviews from all over Europe and South America. How does this compare to the Italian media and do you find that you are thinking internationally more often than not? The Italian press reflects the mental attitude of all the media: not much space for young bands, they only consecrate who’s been already put on the edge from other countries. A perfect example are Lacuna Coil (they come from Milan too) and I don’t know how many others… because once you are appreciated in the rest of the world, do you think you will care about a country that didn’t believe in you? We are definitely thinking internationally and the results we are seeing are incredible: excellent (and very deep!) reviews of our work, important labels licensing “Between Life and Dreams” all over the world: Soyuz Music for Russia and Ravenheart Music (Plastic Head distribution) for UK and Ireland are already working on it but many more are interested in our project and from Orion’s Belt Records and RNC Music we have some news almost every day! Many Italian reviews (not all!) of our cd are poor, they reveal a superficial listening and a lot of contradictions compared to the other reviews, which sounds pretty strange! But our first review on Mellophonium, an Italian webzine, has been amazing and Metal Maniac, one of the most respected Italian metal magazines, issued a rave review and will publish an interview on their September issue, so I won’t complain
Any dates or tour plans in the near future that you can tell us about? Also, if you could pick any place or venue for a Deva show, where would this be and why?
Well, it would be an honor for us to play on the stage of the Gods of Metal, which is the most important metal festival here in Italy. Or, why not, the Heineken Jammin’ Festival…
Personally, I also have a dream that I hope, one day, could become reality – I’d love to make a Deva concert in a big theatre (maybe like La Scala), with the full orchestra. Who knows what’s on for us, in the future?
With all that has happened so far, do you feel that you are indeed between life and dreams and what plans do you have for the remainder of 2010 and then 2011?
Next months, “Between Life And Dreams” will be released in many countries, so my desire is to reach the USA and Japan as soon as possible. I really love Japan!
Since I’m not able to stop my creativity, I’m working (ok, ok, we all have already started) on new material. I know it’s too early to think about a second album, but… I don’t have many plans for the next period, since we must have a potentially free agenda; you never know what could carry the next call from RNC Music! Beatrice, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers? : )
I really enjoyed this interview: your questions dig deeply into what Deva is or, at least, what it tries to be. I’m really grateful to you and Femme Metal for giving me the opportunity to show your readers our world. I have to say that who’s reading this magazine is learning not only about music but especially about culture and what lies behind a song, an album, a band. This is very rare, so I truly wish you all the best! You rock, guys!
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