Interview by Miriam C.
For the second time in this webzine we give space to the Italian progressive power metal band Lunocode promoting their latest work “Celestial Harmonies”. This time the questions have been replied by drummer Perseo Mazzoni and singer Daphne Romano. Just a curious info – this interview was scheduled to be face to face but ’cause of the bad weather our editor Alessandra didn’t make to be at the location by the way at the end it come out a real nice, as always.
Hi Perseo and Daphne, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine and how are you??
Perseo: Fine thanks, a bit tired but happy. The last two weeks have been great with two concerts, the first in acoustic, at Teatro di Anghiari with the show “C’è Vita intelligente sulla Terra?” (Is there intelligent life on Earth?) togheter with Francesco Cecconi and the last, just two days ago, in Rome, with Ivory Moon and Blind Horizon. We discovered that our acoustic side works very well and playing in a theater is something very special, something magic.
Daphne: Yes, two different and exciting gigs. The acoustic set in particular: I have to admit that it’s been really thrilling.
Well, first of all, do you mind give us more insights about your biography?
Perseo: Lunocode formed in 2004 under the name “Anima”. We played mainly cover for about 2 years and had another singer. Then we started writing new material and in 2006 we released the demo “Birth”. The demo went well and we continued writing new material. At the end of 2010 we gained a contract with Spider Rock Promotion and in January 2011 we released the EP “Last Day of the Earth” that also went very very well. At the end of 2010 our previous singer left the band and we found Daphne. After releasing “Last Day” we continued writing and in January 2012 we released our debut album, titled “Celestial Harmonies”. And here we are.
According the site, the band’s name “lunocode” is a wordplay between Lunokhod and the english word Code. From where did you get it?
Perseo: I was watching a documentary about this Russian rover sent on the moon. It’s been the first radio controlled rover to be sent on another planet. I thought it was very interesting and I proposed this name to the band. Giordano came out with the wordplay and everybody liked it so we took it as the new band name.
In your discography we can count the demo “Birth”, the “Last Day of the Earth” EP and your debut “Celestial Harmonies”. As I remember “Last Day of the Earth” EP was a stand-alone piece of concept. This time with “Celestial Harmonies”, as your label states “It’s a moving journey thru the Cosmos with the purpuose to search the origins and life’s origins” although you declare that the album is not a proper concept. Can you tell us more about the album’s lyrics?
Perseo: “Celestial Harmonies” is not a concept in the sense that we’re not telling a single story that starts on a song and continues through the other songs of the album like a concept album usually do. “Celestial Harmonies” has a fil rouge, a loose connection between every song, but it’s not a concept. Every song tells something about humankind, the cosmos, life or nature and things like that so, in a sense, is a trip through cosmos, a voyage by which we can explore the meaning of life, the universe, the pain and the joy of being alive.
“The Origins of Matter and Life” is a suite long almost 30 minutes. What insight can give us about it and also are the suite’s lyrics a concept ?
Perseo: “The Origins of Matter and Life” is actually a story which develops through the songs “On Matter and Mind”, “High”, “The Cosmic Architect”, “Tree of Life”, “Crossing the Line” and “Albert II”. Is a fictional story about a character (at the very end his identity will be revealed) who starts thinking and, by this act, gives birth to a universe in which he finds himself in. He then starts exploring this new world and he asks himself questions about what’s happening all around him and even to himself. Following this questioning the story of this suite unfolds till the end when a dramatic turn of events occur. I prefer not to explain all the details of this story, as I think everyone, if interested, has to discover the message by himself.
For what I get the album was mastered by Ronan Chris Murphy, that has worked with legends like King Crimson, Steve Morse and Ulver. When and how you have contacted him and why work specifically with him?
Perseo: I followed him on internet, on his YouTube channel, on his Facebook and as I think he is a great engineer and producer, I asked him if he was interested in working with us. This was happening in 2010, during the “Last Day of the Earth” mixing sessions. He said yes and I sent him all the audio bounces. As I find myself very confortable working with him, I contacted him again in 2011 and asked him to master “Celestial Harmonies”. Again, he said yes and I sent all the material. He made a great work and he was surprised about the songs quality and the big step forward we made in songwriting during the last year. Working with him has been so great!
“Celestial Harmonies”‘s cover transmit a feeling of peace. Do you mind explain the meaning’s cover building into your personal opinion about it?
Perseo: I too think so and this sense of peace was one of the goals I wanted to achieve with this cover I developed. The airplane you can see on the cover has a particular meaning to me, as actually is a wheater vane my grandfather has built. The cover is in fact a photo and not a computer generated image.
What are the band’s influences?
Perseo: I think we are working hard to find and extract our real self so for sure there are influences but I think they are becoming more unconscious day after day. If I had to name just one band, I would name Anathema.
What difference you can see between the debut EP “Last Day of the Earth” and “Celestial Harmonies” in matter of musical style and lyrics? Do you feel more mature?
Perseo: There are big differences but, at the same time, the differences are not so big. In both albums the writing style of the lyrics remains the same, maybe in “Celestial Harmonies” our acoustic side is more prominent, but even in “Last Day of the Earth” there is a completely acoustic song called “Invisible Tears”. Maybe in “Last Day of the Earth” the songs sounded more heavy but even in “Celestial Harmonies” we have heavier songs, like “The Cosmic Architect” or “Sin Cara”. I think “Celestial Harmonies” is a more mature work, and a natural evolution from “Last Day of the Earth”.
Daphne, what are is your musical background? Did you ever do any vocal training?
Daphne: I like different kinds of music like rock, metal and electronic. About my influences, I can say Freddie Mercury, Anneke van Giersbergen and Lisa Gerrard have always been a great inspiration for me. Today I found with Lunocode some new colours in my voice and in my soul that I’ve never suspected to have. I think I’m evolving…but, who doesn’t? I studied opera singing for 1 year, years ago. Now I’m studying modern singing with a great Italian singer. I think singing is a vast world where you can always discover something new: I’m curious, I have a thirst for knowledge and I think exploring the voice potentialities is one of the most stimulating and satisfying elements of singing.
What we can expect next? I read in the website an East European tour with Theatres des Vampires…
Perseo: Yes, we’ve been on tour with TDV and JTR Sickert and it’s been a great adventure and a great experience for the whole band. They are smart and nice people and we enjoyed very much visiting East Europe and Turkey! Then, two weeks ago, as I already said, a dream came true for me, to play with Lunocode in a real theater, in acoustic. We played 10 songs in Teatro di Anghiari (Tuscany, Italy) for about an hour of show. We re-arranged some songs from “Celestial Harmonies” and “Last Day of the Earth” in acoustic and we even played “The Origins of Matter and Life” from start to end! The show has been recorded so maybe we will use those recordings in the future! Other plans for the future? We have some ideas to record a new album, you will hear from us soon!
Daphne: Yes it‘s been amazing and crazy sometimes! Cool musicians and stuff, great audience, life on the road and foreign countries.
Well, Perseo and Daphne, I really thank you for this interview, I hope you like it! Please greet our readers (and your fans) freely! Thanks again!
Daphne: Thanks to you and all the readers of Femme Metal Webzine! See you soon!
Interview by Erwin van Dijk
An interview with Liv Kristine from Leaves’ Eyes. This interview is all dedicated to the forthcoming album “Njord”.
“Njord” is the third full length Leaves’ Eyes album. (the other two were “Lovelorn” and “Vinland Saga”).
I am absolutely happy and satisfied with the album. We’ve never worked this hard before with a production, but we’ve reached our goal. I would even say, we even went further than we thought was possible, technically seen. It has always been important to me that our sound and art is authentic, i.e. that you can hear from the very first tunes that this is Leaves’ Eyes! We also want that our audience really get the feeling of being on a wonderful journey. I feel that our music needs a special well-written and interesting concept which is just as important as the sound, and “Njord” gives you all this.
“Vinland Saga” introduced the Viking elements in Leaves’Eyes. But “Njord” also seems to have some Irish themes, like the songs “Emerald Island” and “Irish Rain” . With “Njord” comes the EP “My Destiny”, which contains besides the song “My Destiny” in two versons also an acoustic version of “Scarborough Fair” and two non album tracks.
“My Destiny” is a song you can easily “tune into”. It’s a good way to introduce the album (out 28.08.), although you will of course have less commercial songs on the record, too. On “My Destiny” is actually an EP, for the price of a single, with four non-album tracks, and one extra album song.
“Vinland Saga” was a concept album. Is “Njord” written with the idea to tell a story or are it twelve individual songs?
The lyrics mainly deal with characters from northern mythology (e.g. “Njord”, “Fröya’s Theme”, “Nine Wave Maidens”, “Ragnarok”), or with places and historical happenings (e.g. “Scarborough Fair”, “The Battle of Maldon”, “Emerald Island“,“Irish Rain”, “Les Champs de Lavande”). This is why I found it necessary to deal with all these different languages. “Vinland Saga” is based on Leif Eirikssons discovery of America, even the EP, “Legend Land”, which followed soon thereafter. “Njord” has a much broader concept, travelling through history, and into Nordic mythology. It has always been important to me that our sound and art is authentic, and that our audience really get the feeling of being on a wonderful journey.The lyrics are written in 8 languages (english, middle-high german, old-english, gaelic, norwegian, icelandic, french and one “self-made” linguistic fictional phonetic sequence)… I even sat down to study a bit French to be able to write one French lyric. I did study Old-English and Middle-high German, so it was really nice to be able to use this knowledge. Gaelic is completely new to me, though, but fortunately I found a wonderful person who helped me. “Njord” is an album that demands an expansion in linguistic terms.
This is your third album. What are the differences between “Njord” and “Lovelorn” and “Vinland Saga”?
Our debut “Lovelorn” was very refreshing and a wonderful start for the band, also the press and the audience were surprised. However, you shouldn’t forget that we all have a huge experience and knowledge as musicians of Atrocity and former ToT (Theatre of Tragedy) to rely on. This brings Leaves’ Eyes a wide step forward, so we were really no newcomers in our genre. Moreover, I really have to say that Atrocity + Liv Kristine is a magic formula! I took my experience from my favourite ToT releases “Velvet Darkness They Fear” and “Aegis” as a basis for Leaves’ Eyes music. Our second album “Vinland Saga” was a manifistation of the music of Leaves’ Eyes – we had “settled” in the genre gothic metal with female vocals. “Njord” is the perfection of both our 2 former albums. Since the first demo recordings for “Njord” we have been able to achieve goals that we thought back in 2007 after the “Vinland Saga” release would be quite impossible. I am so proud of my band members – “Njord” is a dream coming true, and all the hundreds of sleepless nights were worth it. We all have developed as musicians and technicians and this is experience that is unpayable. “Njord” (producer: my husband Alexander Krull) has a power to it that even is more intense than any previous production I’ve been part of. Technically, we constantly have new ideas and aims. We have our own studio and therefore we have the opurtunity to specialize in technical tasks concerning album and DVD productions. “Njord” has even a more bombastic but delicate sound that “Vinland Saga”, because techniques allows it. We recorded the classical parts in Minsk (Lingua Mortis, supervised by Victor Smolski), we had a complete local choir (Al Dente) singing the choir parts, moreover, a special artist playing solos on special instruments like the uillian pipe and the whistle. All this makes this album a multilayered and highly interesting experience for our listeners, for your ears, hearts and minds. If I should describe “Njord” in four words I would say bombastic, emotional, contrastive, and pure.
Where do you get the inspiration for the songs. Some sources are clear, like Ireland and the Norse mythology but what really inspires you to write a song?
It’s first of all my love for my homecountry, the Norwegian Nature, history, my family, the culture – everything I grew up with! I feel that our music needs a special well-written and interesting concept, and I want to travel through time and space. For me history has always been extremely interesting, and even when I left my homecountry Norway and moved to Germany 12 years ago, I had more books about the Vikings with me than clothes and shoes. I have travelled a lot and been able to see a lot of the world. History, languages, and geography has always interested me. Thorsten is the main composer of Leaves’ Eyes, he works out his ideas on his guitar. “Irish Rain”, however, was an idea I had one early morning. I hurried to the studio and worked out the tunes with him. Sometimes, ideas just appear to my mind, like a complete “song”.
And can you tell us something about the songs on “Njord” and “My Destiny”?
We recorded 18 (eighteen!) songs, and all of them are placed on the single “My Destiny” (out now) or the album “Njord” (out late August). Our listeners will get a lot for the money. That’s a way for us saying “thankyou” to our fans and friends all over the world. To mention a few examples, “Fröya’s Theme” is one of my favourites on the album, too, next to “Irish Rain”. “Fröya’s Theme” is about eight minutes long, it includes five languages, inclusive two “speaking” parts done by Alex and myself respectively. It tells the story about Fröya, the Goddess of sex with her extreme power of beauty. However, her lover Od leaves her as he has “wandering eyes” for other beautiful women. Fröya travels around and through the worlds in Northern Mythology to find him. Her tears are made of gold and they heavily strike the earth. This song is an epic masterpiece composed by Tosso, our guitarist.
Is “Scarborough Fair” a Simon and Garfunkel cover and if it is, why did you choose this song?
I was an exchange student in the English town Scarborough, and I got very interested in their culture. This song is a folk song sung in the middle ages, also by the Vikings, on a trading market, in Scarborough. I wanted to rewrite the tune into a more heavy version and I am very happy with the result!
“Les Champs de Lavande” is a French title. Lavande means Lavender and the South of France (the Provance) is famous for its wide fields (champs) of lavender.
Can you tell us something about this song and why is it a bonus track?
As we had composed the instruments for this song, I thought about France immediately! I immediately sensed the smell of my favourite flower and scent, lavender! The Provance Lavender was famous already in the Middle Ages. I sat down and tried to put together a Franch lyric, and a friend of mine in France corrected it. This song just had to be about Lavender, and it sounds more authentic and special when it is sung in French.
While recording “Njord” you were supported by The Lingua Mortis Orchestra under the aegis of Victor Smolski and a classical choir. Most people will know Victor Smolski from his work with Rage. And this band does not exactly belongs to the same genre as Leaves’Eyes.
How did you find him and what was his influence on “Njord”?
We met Victor during a Rage/Leaves’ Eyes’ show in Greece in 2007. We are so happy that he liked the idea of working with us. It adds the important depth and bombastic character in our music.
The Special Edition will have a Drakkar (viking ship). What can we expect?
This is a way for us saying thank you to our fans and friends. Remember, many of them are collectors. I used to collect Madonna and Black Sabbath/Ozzy special merchendise objects.
One of the things that would make a lot of fans happy is a duet between the Espenæs sisters. (think of Beyonce and Solange Knowless doing a duet). Have you ever considered this for “Njord”?
It’s not that easy since my sister moved back to Norway a couple of years ago, however, I am planning a duet on our fourth album, which will be a folk-oriented album, planned to be released in summer/fall 2010.
Do you already have some details about an upcoming tour?
Europe in November 2009, USA/Canada December 2009, then Europe and Russia in the beginning of 2010, and another long tour in the Autumn of 2010. Moreover, we have planned an acoustic tour between 28.08.-02.09 (please check the news!). We will play a capella in some of the Media Markets, for free for our fans, and we will have a lot of time to make photos with everybody, have a chat with our fans and friends and write some autographs. I enjoy acoustic tours. It’s a nice way to keep up our close relationship with our audience, moreover, we are able to show that we are good musicians and can play live without a huge stage with a huge technical plan behind everything.
And which songs can we expect live?
A set-list still has to be decided on.
Although I think you will be very busy with the promotion of “Njord” this year and 2010 I would like to ask when we can expect a new Atrocity album and a new Liv Kristine solo album?
It’s been 3 years since “Enter My Religion”, and it’s always good to gain a different aspect of your own art after some time has passed by. Right now, I am just about to finish the final recordings of my third solo album, and I see things in a new perspective now. “Enter My Religion” was an expensive production on a major label, however I made the decision in 2008 to release my third solo album on a another label, with a smaller budget, but having more freedom about the whole process, from the very first demo track, until the final master. I am very proud of “Enter My Religion”, however I have developed as an artist and technician and my third album will be a huge step forward. I have put my focus on sounding just like myself, recording songs in one take, so you “get” me with everything I am, my character, my emotional level, my breathing, sometimes perhaps perfect, sometimes maybe not. I just want the audience to hear ME, not some singing lady with a pretty nice voice. I want to creep up inside your hearts and senses. I wrote all the songs together with Torsten (guit. Leaves’ Eyes), all the lyrics myself, and my husband Alex is the producer of the album. Atrocity are already finishing their next Atrocity feat. Yasmin “Calling the Rain”, which will be out end of 2009/beginning of 2010.
Label : AFM Records
Review by Tony Cannella
When a band releases such a phenomenal debut, the task of coming up with a comparable follow-up can be a daunting one. Such is the position that the Swedish hard rock/metal band The Murder of My Sweet find themselves in. Their 2010 debut “Divanity” was one of the best debuts I’ve heard in a long time, since then the band has changed guitar and bass players and now they return with their sophomore effort “Bye Bye Lullaby”. First off, lead vocalist Angelica Rylin sounds as good as she did on the debut. Her vocals are wonderful throughout “Bye Bye Lullaby” and they soar on each song. “Bye Bye Lullaby” contains more killer melodies that helped make “Divanity” such a great release, starting with the heavy – yet melodic – “Armageddon”. The next track “Fallen” has a theatrical vibe to it, and “Unbreakable” has an electronica style opening, it starts off as sort of a ballad before transforming into an up-tempo song with a great melody and a memorable infectious chorus. My two favorite songs came at the very end of the album with the duo of “Black September“ and “Phantom Pain“, before that some of the highlights were “I Dare You“, “Violently Peaceful“ and “Resurrection“. It is really not fair to compare the two albums. The problem is, The Murder of My Sweet set the bar so incredibly high with “Divanity“ that it would be difficult for any band to live up to those lofty expectations. Still, when taken as its own entity “Bye Bye Lullaby“ is pretty good in its own right.
Rating – 75/100
- I Dare You
- Violently Peaceful
- Meant to Last Forever
- Kind of Lousy
- The One
- Waiting for the 27th (Booh Prologue)
- Black September
- Phantom Pain
- Angelica Rylin – Vocals
- Christopher Vetter – Guitar
- Teddy Westlund – Bass
- Daniel Flores – Drums
Label : SPV/Steamhammer Records
Review by Tony Cannella & Luisa Mercier
It is finally here. One of the most eagerly anticipated symphonic metal releases this year has to be “Silverthorn” by Florida’s Kamelot. Of course it is well documented that the band parted ways with popular longtime vocalist Roy Khan. After utilizing Rhapsody’s Fabio Lione to fulfill their remaining tour dates, Kamelot finally settled on a permanent replacement for Mr. Khan… His name is Tommy Karevik from the Swedish band Seventh Wonder. One thing Kamelot has always done is incorporate some of the most talented female vocalists to further enhance their albums and “Silverthorn” is no exception. Elize Ryd from Amaranthe, Alissa White-Gluz from The Agonist and Amanda Somerville has already been on tour with Kamelot and they all turn in tremendous performances when they are called upon. “Silverthorn” is a concept album about “a young girl who dies in the arms of her twin brothers, taking the three siblings’ secret to the grave”. Kamelot has really outdone themselves in the lyrical department, and the music has that movie soundtrack feel to it to really compliment the lyrics. After the opening intro “Manus Dei”, the band goes into “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”. I would say that this is probably my favorite song, which also features some killer vocal performances courtesy of Elize Ryd and Alissa White-Gluz. Alissa adds a more aggressive style. I was surprised to hear that Alissa was on tour with Kamelot and that she sings on this album. She definitely has a more aggressive style to contrast the angelic voice of Elize Ryd. Next is the heavier “Ashes to Ashes”. One thing is apparent, Tommy Karevik definitely has Roy Khan thing going with the vocals, I wouldn’t say he is a carbon copy sound-alike, but with him at the helm the band loses nothing in the way of vocals and musically this is the most inspired they’ve sounded in years. “Torn” is next and has an up-tempo style. Next is the ballad “Song for Jolee”. Next is “Veritas” which features a huge sounding choir on the chorus. Other highlights include: “Falling Like Fahrenheit” and the closing 9-minute epic “Prodigal Son” which is divided into three parts: “Funerale”, “Burden of Guilt (the Branding)” and “The Journey”. There are a lot of similarities in both look and style between Tommy and Roy, but for the most part, I like the bands choice of singers, and I don’t know if it is a coincidence, but “Silverthorn” is probably my favorite Kamelot album since “The Black Halo”.
Rating – 90/100
All of us Kamelot fans were eagerly waiting for this new record. Two years ago, Roy Khan stated that he would have not toured with the band for a while, and after some months he left Kamelot. Since then, I was quite sceptical and curious about his replacement, since Roy voice is unique ine power/symphonic metal and it was the main feature of the band, the one that made Kamelot stand out. It was with relief that I welcomed Tommy Karevik into the band, since he is not the typical power metal singer, but he’s quite versatile and really talented. On the other hand, it was the record that partially did not meet my expectations, since it is hit and miss for me. Do not misunderstand me, the balance in the end is good, but it stays quite below legendary records like “The Black Halo” or “Poetry for the Poisoned”. There are very good songs and songs that are quite average, not the best melodies, sometimes they are just cheesy and too power for my taste. “Manus Dei” is the usual symphonic intro, nothing new if you love this kind of music: orchestra, piano and choirs that build the climax for guitars and the beginning of “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”, the first single. The song has power/symphonic riffs and Tommy is scarily similar to Roy, so similar that I am almost convinced that it was a conscious choice. In the song, he duets with Elize Ryd from Amaranthe and Alissa White-Gluz that is in charge of harsh vocals. All in all, it is a nice track, nothing oustanding. Another track that did not impress me much is “Song for Jolee”, the ballad. Kamelot are masters of ballads, think for example of “Abandoned”, but this is way too cliché. Of course there are positive sides and I can name a few. Beside Karevik vocals, I really liked “Torn” that, even though short, has a good variety of styles and tempo changes without relying too much on power. Same for “Veritas” that recalled me the sound of the previous masterpiece “Poetry for the Poisoned”: epic, more prog-oriented and Tommy is magnificent. Title-track and “Falling Like Fahreneit” are quite good, but the real highlight is “Prodigal Son” in which Tommy uses several vocal styles and also musically goes from solemn to balladesque to heavy metal, symphonic and epic. I wish the others were the same. Nonetheless, the album is good, not a masterpiece, but the result is positive in the end. So Kamelot fans like me will keep on listening to it.
Rating – 70/100
- Manus Dei
- Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)
- Ashes to Ashes
- Song for Jolee
- My Confession
- Falling Like the Fahrenheit
- Prodigal Son
- Tommy Karevik – Vocals
- Thomas Youngblood – Guitars
- Oliver Palotai – Keyboards
- Sean Tibbetts – Bass
- Casey Grillo – Drums
- Elize Ryd – Guest Vocals
- Alissa White-Gluz – Guest Vocals
- Amanda Somerville - Guest Vocals
Interview by Robin Stryker
I became hopelessly addicted to the American melodic rock band, Hydrovibe, the first time I heard its new full-length debut, “Nothing Left to Lose”. The album has everything I look for in top-notch rock — muscular vocals that are packed with emotion (think Joplin), bristling guitar-driven music, and lyrics that connect with something deep inside. Thank goodness vocalist Heather St. Marie continued singing, despite being told early on that her voice was “just too low” and perhaps she should take up the piano instead. Apparently to hear Hydrovibe is to become hooked, even in the jaded world of Hollywood. The first week after Heather and Mat Dauzat (guitars and vocals) moved to Los Angeles, Sharon and Kelly Osbourne hand-picked Mat to play lead guitar for the world tour of Kelly’s album “Shut Up”. Likewise, actress Shawnee Smith (who plays Amanda Young in the “Saw” movies) fell in love with Hydrovibe and urged the director to check out a live show. Needless to say, he also fell under the band’s spell, and the movie studio invited Hydrovibe to write “Killer Inside” for the “Saw III” soundtrack and to record a music video with Shawnee on guest vocals for the Director’s Cut DVD. Read on to find out what makes this band so irresistible.
Heather and Mat, welcome to Femme Metal! We’re so glad you could talk with us today.
Heather: Thank you very much for this interview and your support.
First things first, please tell us about Hydrovibe’s new album. Why did you choose the title, “Nothing Left to Lose”?
Heather: This album tells the story of sacrificing everything to realize childhood dreams. Our quest to follow this crazy goal of ours has seen its fair share of amazing highs and some very trying lows. It’s amazing how liberating it can be when you literally have nothing left to lose. Your actions and intentions are no longer influenced by the prospect of consequence. It is humanity broken down to its purest and most basic level. In that broken-down state, it becomes apparent what is truly important in life, and one tends to re-prioritize accordingly. It allows for discovery of an inner strength and passion to TRULY LIVE. Not only does “Nothing Left to Lose” sum up and aptly title our first full-length album effort, it is our battle cry in approaching the music business in general. We truly have nothing left to lose, which allows us to leap without looking into this dog-eat-dog music business. We remain fearless and persevere in the music business as the major label giants continue to fall and the economy has taken a turn for the worst — not because we are smarter or better than anyone else, but because our priorities are different. We keep the MUSIC and the PASSION at the forefront as we continue this journey; the business part is…well…JUST BUSINESS!
The album’s songs run the gamut of emotions — love, hate, frustration, hope, rage and grace. To what extent are the songs based on your own experiences?
Heather: TO THE FULLEST EXTENT! All of our songs have very personal and special meaning to me in some way or another. Most of them deal with struggles in our musical quest or some sort of personal past experience. I have also drawn lyrical inspiration from close friends’ experiences as well….I don’t want every one of our songs to sound like a page pulled from Heather’s diary!
What are your musical backgrounds, and have you been involved in any other projects (musical or otherwise)?
Mat: I’ve wanted to be a guitarist for as long as I can remember. I’d sneak into my older brothers’ room when I was just a baby and listen to their albums… imagining what it would be like to play the songs on guitar. At 3 years old, I began teaching myself to play piano. I’ve always had a very good ear and could repeat what I heard, so I began learning whole songs on piano by ear while still in diapers. One day while playing around in our attic, I found an old acoustic guitar and immediately began actually playing those Led Zeppelin songs from my brothers’ albums, which totally freaked my brothers out. From that moment on, I was glued to the guitar. I toyed around with a couple of bands in high school, but nothing really serious. Hydrovibe was really my first band. Since moving to Los Angeles, I have branched out a little — touring the world with Kelly Osbourne for a couple of years and working with actress/singer/songwriter Schuyler Fisk. I work with a few other artists as well but Hydrovibe is and always has been the main focus… and fortunately takes up the majority of my time!
Heather: I grew up in South Louisiana where Classic Rock rules, so it wasn’t until high school that I realized that the music I was hearing on the radio (Rush, Led Zep, Sabbath, Boston, 38 Special, etc) was not current music! I think these bands gave me a solid foundation on song structure, catchy vocal melodies, harmonies, etc that are key elements to Hydrovibe’s writing style. I also played French Horn throughout my schooling, which not only perfected my pitch but opened up the world of classical music. I believe this taught me the importance of layering parts (another crucial element to Hydrovibe songs — both musically and vocally) … when NOT to sing so that the music can breathe … and how to have drama in your music. Drama is epic and passion is key. We like to take the listener with us on an emotional musical journey, in both songwriting and through live performances. Like I mentioned, I did play French Horn for years but Hydrovibe is the only band I’ve ever been in. Until this, I only sang for fun. I have a few creative side projects in the works — both musically and non-musically. I’m an eternal artist at my core, so I created heatherskingdom.com as a catch-all for my random artistic endeavours. Be looking for some very cool new music, art, and clothing randomness coming soon!
You have both been passionate about music since you were barely out of diapers. What is your favourite musical memory from childhood?
Mat: Finding that old acoustic guitar in the attic!
Heather: I can remember singing along to The Beatles records my Mom had in a big trunk; I loved the way the records sounded. I would get so excited when she’d put the needle down… My mom told me that I was only about 2 years old at that point. I started reading at an early age, so when I was in 1st grade I was chosen as a representative for a Literacy Community Service Project. I got to go to the local radio station and read the news on-air. The radio station fascinated me …. being near all that music and such a powerful hub of broadcast was a very cool experience at such a young age. That surely was an important event on my way toward discovering my passion for a career in music.
Hydrovibe just released “Nothing Left to Lose” in Japan. How did that come about, and what has your reception been like?
Mat: We’ve always known that Japan would probably be a very good market for us. When I got word that I was going to Tokyo to do a promo tour with my friend Schuyler Fisk to support her album release in Japan, I immediately began scheduling label meetings for Hydrovibe. Schuyler and I did 8 shows in 3 days, and somehow I was able to schedule meetings with the top 3 record labels over there between shows. Crazy! Even crazier — I was able to score us a deal with our first-choice label as well! The response has been overwhelming! We have big spreads in almost every major music magazine over there, we have end-caps and listening stations in every major music retailer there, and we are actually getting radio play — which is almost impossible for a new non-Japanese band! We are very excited to hear how the sales are going over there!
I’ve always wondered, why do Japanese releases have at least one bonus track that is not on the European and American releases?
Mat: The reason is that in Japan, the CD is still a viable PRODUCT. Here, a band’s CD is almost becoming like a business card… given away for cheap or free in hopes to bolster the band’s popularity and assist in bringing more fans to shows — where the band hopes to make some money on merchandise sales. In Japan, THEY STILL BUY CDs!!! As the mom-and-pop CD shops and the giant retailers such as Virgin and Tower are almost all gone here in the States, the retailers in Japan are all still thriving. You can’t walk two city blocks in Tokyo without seeing some sort of music retailer! Additionally, they sell CDs there for an average price equivalent to $25 USD. Since so much value is placed on the CD as a commercial product, they pay special attention to make sure that there is adequate perceived value. So, they include additional artwork, printed lyric inserts – both in English and Japanese, additional credits and thanks, and some sort of additional content beyond what is on the non-Japanese versions (bonus tracks, music video, etc.). Our Japanese release of “Nothing Left to Lose” has all of the above and includes “Killer Inside” as the bonus track. HMV went a step further to include a free Hydrovibe download card with every album purchase, that allowed them to download the radio mix of our single “Fame” as well as some other content. Diskunion (a big retailer there) went even farther, packaging a free DVD with our music video for “Killer Inside” with each Hydrovibe album purchase. Pretty cool!
Let’s go back in time to 2002 when you both moved from a small town in Louisiana to Los Angeles (equivalent distance-wise to moving from Moscow to London). Why did you relocate the band, and what was the biggest shock once you arrived in Los Angeles?
Heather: Biggest shock? COST OF LIVING! In Louisiana, I was living in a very nice 1,000 square foot [93 square meter] two-bedroom apartment with a huge balcony overlooking nature for $400 per month….my first 600 square foot [56 square meter] one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles cost me $900!!! We knew we had to make a big move to really give our dreams a fighting chance. We were located in a small town in Louisiana, and we were trying to find the right musicians to complete Hydrovibe’s lineup, but were having no luck. We had plenty of interest nationally, but asking people to relocate to our small town was a very hard sell. We knew we needed to move to a more major metropolitan area, so places like Nashville, Dallas, and Austin became attractive possibilities until the band could ultimately make the move out to where the heart of the music industry is located – Los Angeles. When it came time to make a move, however, we said “screw it – if we are going to make a move, LET’S GO ALL THE WAY!!!”. Why make a step toward moving to Los Angeles, when we can just MOVE TO LOS ANGELES! We officially relocated to L.A. at the beginning of September of 2002.
Which Hydrovibe songs best describe where you were in your lives a few years ago, compared to now?
Heather: “Shallow Grave” describes my frustration and desperation to be discovered a few years ago. Funny thing is, we were discovered by a major label and we were introduced to some less-than-savory aspects of the music business that made us rethink everything and follow the independent, grass-roots approach. Now, I’d say that “Liberation” best describes how I’m feeling these days — “through pain we grow!” Our story is nothing special — everyone has to jump through their own set of hoops in life. You just take what you can from the experiences and LIVE! This album sums up a huge chapter in my life, and as I segue into the next chapter, I summed up these experiences (as well as the album “Nothing Left to Lose”) with “Liberation’s” hopeful sentiment “NOW LIFE CAN BEGIN!”. We’ve re-prioritized our lives and are eagerly leaping head-first into this next chapter of Hydrovibe’s story.
If you could give one piece of advice to a fledgling band, what would it be?
Mat: Prepare yourself for the long-haul. Successes are not built overnight. The rare few bands that do blow up quickly, always fizzle just as fast. Statistically speaking, successes are usually seen after a strong 10-year effort. Scary? Only if you are in it for the success and not the pursuit of happiness through the expression of your art!
It seems that one of the biggest challenges when you moved to LA was finding musicians who were the right “fit” for Hydrovibe. What were you looking for, and what made Eliot Lorango (bass) and Philippe Mathys (drums) right for the band?
Mat: Whew…that was A LONG SEARCH!!! When Heather and I agreed that Los Angeles was going to be the place to find the right drummer and bass player to complete Hydrovibe, we had no idea what a tough proposition that was going to be! hahaha In all fairness, though, we had almost-unreasonable standards. Not only did we need two highly-skilled musicians with looks that fit the band’s image; we insisted that we find people with a solid character, and strong moral fiber, and good chemistry all-around. We knew that we were going to basically be living together in a van on tour for quite a long time, so keeping the high standard would eliminate problems down the road. For that reason, it took us the better part of a year and a half to find the right people, but it is by far one of the best business decisions we’ve ever made. Plus, not only were we able to complete our band with the perfect members, we added two dear family members into our personal lives.
The members of Hydrovibe often talk about how supportive and tightly-knit everyone is. What is the secret to keeping friendship alive, when you are literally living on top of each other for months at a time while touring?
Heather: Love and laughter. Even in the low times, we are somehow able to keep each other in good spirits through laughter and genuine support. We are certainly a tight unit and all rally behind one another in times of need … it is really heart-warming to experience, and necessary to keep it together in the sometimes mind-numbing world of tour!
Speaking of touring, I suspect that many people think that being on tour is all about riding from city to city on a luxury bus, giving interviews, and sipping mineral water backstage until you perform. Can you give us an idea of what a typical day on tour is really like?
Heather: You wake up in an unfamiliar hotel room sometime just before noon, pack your stuff, check email, look up the venue’s address for the night to put into the GPS, and run downstairs to check out. The band convenes in the lobby to discuss how far the drive is to the venue, whether or not we are being fed at the venue, or any other pertinent show info, and we jump in the van to begin the trek. While en route, one of us gets online to do all the show promotions — MySpace bulletins, Twitter, Facebook, Hydrovibe.com posts, etc. We then do any radio or local news interviews… or any other press-related promotion our publicist scheduled for us that day. We then take the time to respond to any MySpace or Hydrovibe email questions waiting in our inbox with whatever remaining time we have on the drive. When we get to the venue, the guys begin unloading gear while I set up the merch display. As they are setting up on stage, I’m doing merch inventory and accounting. Then we sound check and break for dinner. While waiting for the show to start, we discuss whether we are staying in town or making a drive that night. One of us then gets online to find a hotel for the night, while we make set lists for the show. Anyone who has been to one of our shows knows that we support every band we play with, so you’ll see Hydrovibe members up front listening to a good portion of each opening bands’ sets. Then comes the show part … we always laugh because we work long hours, but the ACTUAL PERFORMANCE aspect of our day lasts an average of 45 minutes to an hour! After our set is over, I run to the merch booth to meet fans while the guys break down the gear. When the gear is secured, the band all converges at the merch booth to meet fans and sign autographs. When the last fan leaves the building, the guys begin loading the gear out of the venue while I do some quick accounting and pack up the merch. Then we leave the venue to go crash in another unfamiliar hotel room. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Hydrovibe has a devoted fanbase, with people driving hundreds of kilometres to catch a show and getting themselves tattooed with the band’s logo. Why do you think fans feel such a strong connection to Hydrovibe?
Heather: I’ve found that fans gain strong connections to our songs and find personal meanings in the lyrics. We are told often by fans that our songs have moved them to do great things in their lives or that certain songs have helped them through harsh life experiences or that they have linked great events in their lives to one of our songs. I also think that fans feel a strong connection to Hydrovibe because we have made it a point to make strong connections with the fans. We personally answer each and every MySpace message, emails or any correspondence with fans. It takes a long time, but it is important to us to listen to the fans, take inspiration from their stories, and give them a platform for their voices to be heard. As a completely independent band, without fan support, we could not possibly move forward. Our fans are truly near and dear to us and we are excited to bring them along with us on our journey!
What is the most extreme thing a fan has done to show his or her appreciation for your music?
Mat: I’d have to say that the most extreme thing I’ve seen is the Hydrovibe logo tattooed completely across a fan’s forearm! It’s HUGE! And quality work, I might add. There are plenty of other extreme shows of support (including several other cool tattoos), but that’s the most extreme I’ve seen yet.
The band was an early adopter of social media, like MySpace. In what ways (good or bad) has the Internet changed the landscape for musicians?
Mat: As an independent band, we have to keep our band current with any and every social media site that pops up to ensure that every possible outlet to reach fans is being utilized. It can be exhausting at times as you can imagine, but necessary for business. For us independent bands, social media sites have been a blessing … we can make our music available to the larger general public free of charge. For major labels, however, the social media sites were a bit of a nail in their coffin. No longer did they hold all the keys when it came to bands being able to get their music to the general public. With these social media sites, it has become much more of a level playing field. Fans can discover new music 24/7 with the click of a mouse. We no longer need the major label giant dinosaurs to help us reach the public, so now it’s about making good music and touring your ass off to support the music.
Most new bands half-kill themselves chasing the big record labels. Why did Hydrovibe choose to go the indie route, after landing a deal with a major label?
Heather: Our hunt, chase, and capture of the major label was a huge learning experience for us. Through that experience, we learned that our focus was all wrong. We were spending way too much time courting and catering to the music industry instead of focusing on what matters the most …. THE FANS! We decided to shift our attention from the music industry back to the music itself and the fans who so deserve our attention. Once we made that our focus, we began seeing progress in leaps and bounds. Some sort of healthy partnership with a major label in the near future is not out of the question, but we are unwilling to do anything that impedes forward progress or would divert focus from our music and our fans. We are devoted.
Comparing the three tracks that are on both the 2006 “Killer Inside” EP and the new “Nothing Left to Lose” album, the new versions sound fiercer and musically thicker. Are my ears playing tricks on me, or were the songs re-recorded/remixed? If so, why?
Mat: Good ear, Robin! Yes, those songs were completely re-worked and re-recorded. When we recorded the EP, we had only been a band for about 3 months. Once we got Eliot in the band, we went straight into pre-production and hit the studio 3 months later. We actually went into the studio planning to record our album, but during mixing we got word that our song “Killer Inside” was going to be featured in the movie “SAW III” and the “SAW III” Soundtrack in a month’s time, so we packaged the 5 songs we had finished and put out the “Killer Inside” EP to capitalize on the exposure. We then hit the road for almost 2 years in support of the EP, playing all the songs that were to be on our album nightly. Needless to say, the band got much stronger on the road, and our songs took on lives of their own on stage nightly. When we got back to Los Angeles to finish our album, we knew that in fairness to the songs, we must scrap the previous recordings and re-record these stronger and more powerful versions for the album. Sure, it costs us much more time and money, but we are extremely pleased with the result!
What are Hydrovibe’s plans for 2010 and beyond?
Heather: Well, definitely touring here in the U.S. and hopefully some in Japan as well. We have also begun setting our sights on a UK release of “Nothing Left to Lose”. With all the excitement and press associated with the Japanese release, we have seen some interest by labels in the UK, and we have begun discussing details and laying out the strategy. So, if all goes to plan, we’ll be able to release in the UK soon and (fingers crossed) tour there by the end of 2010! After that will be Germany, then Australia, and we’ll continue to lock down territories to release “Nothing Left to Lose” and spread the reach of Hydrovibe!
Thank you very much, Heather and Mat. Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?
Heather: Thank you, Robin… and everyone at Femme Metal! We appreciate the exposure and support! To all the fans, please continue to support independent music — buy your favorite indie bands’ CDs or merch … it goes farther toward their success than you’d think. And please continue to support Femme Metal … supporting Femme Metal = supporting independent music. Femme Metal is doing incredible work to assist independent female-fronted bands in getting their music distributed and heard, and using proceeds to support charity! Amazing! Femme Metal, WE SALUTE YOU! Thank you.
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