Interview by Vard AmanSince announcing themselves in 2008, Russia’s Finnish-inspired Revontulet have become one of the most promising bands on the Symphonic Metal scene; mastering their craft and building their audience, often in new innovative ways. They recently released their debut album “Hear Me” (you can read the review here). I spoke to the founder and master of this craft; a powerful and versatile mezzo-soprano: Alexandra Revontulet. Hi Alexandra, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. Starting right at the beginning, when did you first start singing and when did your passion for it begin?
Hello, Vard! I’d say that my passion is not only singing, but composing too. I went to musical school relatively late – at the age of 10, but it was totally my own decision. I studied piano there, and I wrote my first song when I was 14. By that time I already was a Gothic Metal fan, I listened to Lacrimosa, Paradise Lost, HIM, Apocalyptica, Within Temptation, Nightwish, etc… And I had been dreaming of my own band ever since. About two years later I started taking classical singing lessons from Emma Sarkisyan, a Russian opera singer, she performs in Novaya Opera and Bolshoi Theater. It is a great foundation for singing, though now I tend to sing in a more contemporary manner. It gives me the freedom to switch between styles, from classical to rock and vise versa, when I want to. It sounds more interesting and emotional, I think.When did you start Revontulet, and how did you and Sergey meet up?
Well, after few years of studying vocals and sound production I decided that it’s the time. So I posted an ad on one popular music website. First I found a guitar-player, Yury Leshchishen, who still helps us with the live shows and recordings sometimes, and then we came across Sergey‘s ad. He was looking for exactly the same band as we wanted to gather. And as soon as we had found a bassist, we met for the first rehearsal. It was the 14 of November 2008 and we consider this date as the birthday of Revontulet.How did you choose the name, Revontulet?
You know, we really love Finland, its nature and metal bands! Sergey even has Finnish roots. I studied Finnish language for about three years… “Revontulet” means “Norther Lights” or literally “Fox Fire”, because a legend says there’s a fox running in the sky in the north. It sweeps its tail and sparks fly off into the sky. So when I suggested the word “Revontulet” and told the guys the legend about its origin, they all agreed that it’s an interesting name. Also I found a picture of “R”-shaped northern lights and drew a logo based on this photo. The logo even has its little tales if you look carefully.I’ve heard that Finnish is quite a difficult language to learn. How difficult did you find it?
Yes, it’s pretty difficult, but very logical in a way. And when you get it, learning becomes much easier.Do you visit Finland often?
No, unfortunately. But it would be great to do a tour all over the country with the band someday!Time for the most difficult question to ask a band: how would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard you?
I would say, that our sound has a lot of strong and diverse symphonic parts, which are supplemented by powerful riffs and driving drums. And of course, very interesting vocals. Everything needed for a symphonic metal sound is here! But we do it in our own way, so take a listen and you’ll be surprised!And a unique and very powerful voice too. What is your natural pitch and your range?
Thanks! My voice is classified as mezzo-soprano, though the range is from С3 (yes, that low!) to C6.I can hear a lot of intricacy and attention to detail in your music, but on one of the videos you released (on the writing of “Infernal Angel”) you made it all look like a fairly easy. Take us through your songwriting process.
Well, it’s pretty hard to explain… Sometimes I write a song and then think: “Wow! That’s good! Have I really made it myself?” Usually I have a vague idea in my mind, and I have to make in clear and write down as precise as possible. It is a melody, text or harmony, or all at the same time. When I have the whole song, i.e. melody + lyrics + harmony, I orchestrate it. But the “metal part” is created by the band during a rehearsal. Sometimes the guys bring some interesting ideas into a song. For example, Sergey knows better what to do with the rhythm and tempo. And returning to “Infernal Angel”, initially it was slower, but Sergey persuaded me, that it would me much better to play it 180 bpm. And he’s definitely right!Does that mean there isn’t going to be a Doom Metal version of that song?
Hmmm, Doom Metal version… I’ll think about it. 😛
How about your lyrics. What topics do they cover and what inspires them?
As I always say, there are only three themes to write about: love, live and death. The inspiration is a very mysterious thing, I guess, nobody knows how it really works. But I know for sure, I can’t write anything without it. I mean, I can force myself to sit down and generate some lyrics, but it won’t be half as good as inspired ones.Most of your lyrics so far have been in English (at least on the album). Have you written any songs in Russian, or are you planning on writing any songs in Russian in the future?
Of course, I have some Russian lyrics, not for Revontulet though. Maybe we’ll make a song or two in Russian, but only if the language is essential for the concept of the composition. English, you know, fits into the music better. And people all around the world understand it, which is most important.The internet seems to feature quite a lot in your activities, which has definitely been to your advantage. Tell us about your online concerts.
I think the Internet is an amazing way to tell people who you are and show what you do! And an online concert is a great way of communication with our fans too. We played online for the first time before the release of our internet-single “Eternal Autumn”, the second time was dedicated to the opening of our crowd funding campaign, and latest concert was the presentation of Revontulet‘s debut album “Hear Me”. We truly enjoyed the show! We played all songs from “Hear Me” and few covers as well. Also we received a lot of interesting questions and heartwarming messages from the audience, which by the way consisted of people from New Zealand to Canada!How did the crowd funding campaign work out?
It was a wonderful experience for us! It showed us that our music is really needed, and that people support us not only by word of mouth. It is very inspiring for a band!How would you compare performing online to performing live on stage and performing in the studio?
The work in the studio requires a lot of concentration on detail and technique, performing live on stage is way more emotional and exciting, because of the connection with the audience. And online performing includes both, so I guess, it’s the most difficult and thrilling of these options.So “Hear Me” is finally out! Most people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into something like this. Take us through the whole recording process.
First of all, we spent a lot of time working on the material. All songs were completely ready before we started the recording process. Then, we entered the studio to record the album in June 2012. During the summer we recorded drums, bass and guitars. We also had vocals and orchestrations recorded in rough, so we could release our first internet-singles. In the next few months I had to review some orchestral arrangements, which actually means that I had to dig through the whole score, about 20 instruments in every song. And we recorded violin, viola, cello, flute and some choir parts as well. Then we spent quite some time on vocal recording sessions, because I’m a perfectionist. But Sergey assures me, that the majority of the takes sound equally well. Finally, Sergey and me started mixing the album. We wanted to create our own sound, to focus on the symphonic parts and the vocals, because it’s what really important in our music. Also we received some very useful tips from our mastering engineer, Hiili Hiilesmaa, and we kept on working until everybody was completely satisfied with the result. And at last we got the mastered version of the album from Hiili! I just can’t express what an amazing feeling it is! Well, I guess nothing in this story can really explain what we’ve been through while recording the album…How has the response been so far, in Russia and abroad?
We’ve received a few very pleasant reviews both from abroad and Russia. Also we are very glad that our fans often write us very encouraging messages!How often do you play live? Do you have any tours planned?
Well, we don’t play live very often actually, and we prefer the online shows for now, so we can connect with all our fans. But we are open to offers and we’ll consider every one of them.What are your thoughts on the Russian Metal scene currently?
Well, we have some very talented musicians and good bands here. And the quality of their sound and their music itself is improving every year. But the main issue that we face is the lack of professional managers, promoters and distributors. So musicians have to do everything themselves.What do you do when you’re not making music?
As a matter of fact, I make music almost constantly, because I make it for other bands as a sound producer and arranger. But when I have free time I love to watch movies and TV series in English, so I can improve my skills at the same time. Can’t wait to see new Game of Thrones season!What’s next for Revontulet?
New music of course! It’s what we do, isn’t it? Everything else is just “side effects”, you know… We have an idea about a side project, but it’s just an idea for now. Anyway, now I have to write some new songs, and actually I composed one very nice thing today. So stay tuned for updates!
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