Interview by Arianna Govoni
It’s indeed a great comeback the one that sees Eleine getting back on track a year after the release of the EP “All Shall Burn”. Led by the beautiful and enticing Madeleine Liljestam and her partner-in-crime Rikard Ekberg (who’s also her real partner in life, by the way), the band gets back in the game with its fourth studio album, “Dancing In Hell”, a record that once again deals with very intimate and delicate topics, very dear to the Swedish act, which now talks its heart out in these brand new 11 dark and catchy songs. We took a chance to talk to this beautiful couple in order to discover more about this new music chapter that is going to be released on Black Lodge Records.
Hi guys and welcome back to Femme Metal a year after our latest interview! A year after your latest release, you’re getting back on track ready to unleash your latest music baby, so to speak, ‘Dancing In Hell’, that will be out on November 20th via Black Lodge Records. How are you leaving this moment before the official release? Are you getting ready for the release itself and for the feedbacks you’re gonna receive very soon?
Madeleine: Yeah, I mean, right now we were focused on the release party we’re gonna have, we’re gonna have a release party for the album on November 28th, so it’s the day after the release. That’s for maximum of 50 people, which is allowed in a very big place, so it will be very safe for everyone, so that’s it! We are focused on rehearsing that and creating the show, the live show and everything. We’re very, very happy about releasing all these singles and also having the time, actually, to make the music videos too, because it has been very appreciated by the fans, because, I mean, they’ve said to us that it’s been a very rough year but to musicians and also musical lovers… so I mean, it’s nice to know that it has been appreciated.
I must say that I had the chance to listen to the album, especially during my training and my workout sessions and the new material really motivated me both in the training and in the listening.
Rikard: Oh, good!
Madeleine: Cool, yeah! I like what I hear! That’s nice (she laughs, ed)
If I’m not mistaken, you already had the chance to give a little appetizer last year, unveiling the official videos for ‘Enemies” and “All Shall Burn” that were both on the latest EP and since the very beginning, the feedbacks were high and good or, at least, this is what I recall. What can you tell me about it?
Rikard: Hhm, not much! It was very warmly welcomed and people really liked it!
Madeleine: Yeah, it was like really felt, but it was a good next step for Eleine. It really was! And the amount of feedback was just “wow”. It was crazy and beautiful at the same time…
Rikard: It’s always a good sign when people around you react very well to something that to you is a very natural step, so…
Rikard: We’re really happy about it!
Madeleine: Yeah, we are. We really are!
Rikard: We’re super happy, super like grateful and stuff like that.
Listening to the opening track of the album, ‘Enemies’, I can sense a sort of heavier sound that is indeed more pronounced here compared to what you’ve done in the past, but you also offered some little surprise, like the instrumental track “The World We Knew” that seems to break the listening in order to give a great finale of the album or again ‘Die Within’ which is very appealing. Is this a sort of spontaneous choice you’ve done because of the natural evolution and artistic growth of a band that, in my opinion, is growing very well or is it quite the opposite, or rather that you wanted to opt this way in order to see what Eleine is made of?
Rikard: That’s a very good and interesting question! I like this one, it’s really, really nice, well pronounced also! The answer is that we just did what we’ve thought right.
Madeleine: Yeah, it came very, very natural to us. When we started to make the new songs, I mean, it started on December 2018, the first one we wrote was ‘All Shall Burn’, and then, ‘Dancing In Hell’ came along, and then ‘Enemies’, and on a blink it just felt so natural and it feels on point, I gonna say. It really does! It feels like Eleine has really grown into what Eleine is!
Madeleine: And it’s nice to see that it’s also very appreciated.
Rikard: Yeah, but also with ‘The World We Knew’ we thought that we wanted a track to break, it had to be in contrast to the album and also not just to be a contrast, but just to embrace the entire album that has been a really tigh end of it, you know, because the entire album is about progression and like to evolve yourself and becoming stronger and stuff like that, you know… Overcoming your own personal hells, and this ‘The World We Knew’, it’s looking back on the stuff you were through and now you’re looking forward to a new beginning, so to say…
Madeleine: Exactly! When I listen to the entire album and it finishes with ‘The World We Knew’, I mean, during all the songs I do remember and think of everything that I’ve been through and what I’ve been fighting through, and when that track comes on, I just feel like it’s breathing out. It’s like re-letting the tears out. I remember when Rikard wrote it and showed me, I was like: “Yeah, we’re gonna have this. It will end the album”. I’m very pleased with it!
I also have to say that the guitar work here is beyond words, and so is the whole work of the band. Rikard, I really loved what you’ve done in “Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies” and “As I Breathe”, for example! My honest congratulations!
Rikard: Thanks. Thank you very much!
I have to say that in ‘Dancing in Hell’ you’ve really wanted to experiment and offer something fresh, a great music variety to people. Indeed it’s a bit atipical to see Rikard grappling with the clean vocals as we hear in ‘All Shall Burn’ and “Dancing In Hell”. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m not used to listen to you in this new role, so to speak, because I’m used to your cavernous growl but do you think that will we have the chance to see you singing this way in the future?
Rikard: Like regular singing?
Rikard: If the mood strikes, then yes!
Madeleine: With everything that we are doing, what we’re writing or everything, we only do what it feels natural and this comes up. For some songs, we didn’t only have growls in this album, because it didn’t feel right. And some song was like: “Yes, oh yes, we’re gonna growls on this one” and for these parts that Rikard is having clean vocals, it just felt so good, and I was just like: “Oh this suits so very well”, so I am sure we will have new songs in the future.
Rikard: Yeah, I mean, we will never like not having them. It’s very nice to also have that kind of dimension.
Madeleine: Yeah, I love it, I do appreciate that others also appreciated it, because I like it a lot when it comes to clean vocals, so that’s very nice! Glad you asked!
Talking about the album’s titletrack, on October 30rd you’ve released the official video for it and you’ve gained a lot of recognition from the people. A lot of feedbacks came from your fanbase and I know that you got tons of compliments about the video itself which is very different from what you’ve offered in ‘As I Breathe’ and ‘Ava Of Death’, where you filmed in the same location, basically…
Rikard: It is in the same geographical area, but not the same spot.
Madeleine: Yeah, you’re kinda right.
Something that associates ‘Dancing In Hell’ and ‘As I Breathe’ is the fact that both the videos are in black and white. What can you share about it?
Rikard: It was… well, since our album is also in black and white and in full colour, we’ve thought that it would be nice to have videos also reflect that.
Madeleine: Exactly! I mean, when we started to do this, we knew what we wanted to have as four singles, and most of all actually for the fans, because we knew that from the day we released the music about the new album, from then until the actual album release would be pretty long, so we just thought: ‘Why not now that we have time? Why not make four singles and four music videos?’. It felt kinda natural to have half in color and half black and white.
Rikard: Since the album also is like that, we thought: “Hey, let’s make a thing out of this, half black and white, half in full color”.
Madeleine: And the music video is always an extention of the song itself. You may even see somebody might not get the idea at first, they always have a thought behind.
Rikard: Yeah. That’s true!
Mentioning ‘The World We Knew’, I wanted to ask you who was the one who arranged the piano parts since there’s anymore a keyboard player in Eleine for a while now…
Rikard: It’s always me who have done all the pianos, anyway… I always do these symphonic arrangements, yeah…
The album’s ending is the symphonic version of ‘Die Within’. Have you ever taken into account to release a double album with its own symphonic version as Sonata Arctica did with ‘The Days Of Greys’ or again Nightwish in “Imaginaerum”, for example?
Rikard: We’ve thought about it!
Madeleine: Yeah, we’ve thought about it. The first time I’ve got that idea was just because of “The Days Of Greys”, as you mentioned! I remember that album was released on my 18th birthday – I think it was – and I fell in love completely, I thought it was brilliant and I do remember that they didn’t do it on all of the tracks. I think it shows like six tracks or something. I mean, ‘In The Dark’, the symphonic version, is one of my absolute favorite songs in the world and it was an exclusive for the album. And I seriously couldn’t find the album, so I was like destroyed and, after that, I did know that I’m mentioning for Rikard that I’d love to do that one day, so I am sure it will happen in time, in the future.
Rikard: Yeah, in future, not right now.
Madeleine: That will happen, because I appreciate the symphonic versions myself and we didn’t know what to expect from the fans. I mean, we did it because we liked it, and with that we’ve got direct recognition and feedbacks from the EP ‘All Shall Burn’ with the symphonic versions. It was very cool, it was so nice to actually feel that.
In this brand new album, you share stories of inner demons, strength and loss which are topics that, more or less, are applied also in people’s daily life as well. The interpretations could be many here, if I’m not inappropriate, may I ask you both what are your own inner demons and if there any message behind this one, something you would love to trasmit people?
Rikard: Well, I mean, not to go in too deep, you know, I just said this before, I struggled with anorexia when I was younger and it lasted for about like six years. It’s still, like, in my head, you know, so it’s there. I’ve got ADHD, stuff like that, it’s not only positive to have ADHD, it’s also very, very negative. You know, I’m struggling with that, and I’ve learned throughtout the years how to build myself up and how to stay motivated and how to express my struggles within songs.
Madeleine: We never talk about this and, in general, we were talking about the tracks itself, ‘cause we really want everyone to relay in their own way, we don’t wanna put ideas in others’ head, you know… but for me, I mean, all this came very natural for both of us, because I mean, my entire time in school I was bullied and ever since then, I’ve been in and out of depression. It’s an inner demon that I’m struggling with and feels frustrating and it didn’t get better when I lost my dog last year. It has been with me since I was 13 and through all of this shit in school, you know? So it was pretty hard, so yeah… I mean, I do know people really are in what we’re writing about and we really want to keep that way, so people can relate in their own way. I mean, we have some fans who has written us about their drug addiction and they came out of it, just because of music…
Madeleine: It’s beautiful in a way. It really is!
Rikard: Yeah, all we do is like we know what and how it feels to be ‘down in the dumps’, we really know how it feels to be in a place that isn’t very good! And we managed to get outta there, and still struggling. Some people just don’t know how to do it, how to get them power, how to believe in themselves again. This is a big reason why we do what we’re doing, it might sound cheesy, but I don’t care, because I have my stuff I mean “done”, when I was younger, and I had issues, you know. Everyone had and it’s very… we wanna help people, we wanna make the world better, you know. Who doesn’t? And our music helps us and it helps others, so I mean, why not?
There’s a sentence that pops up in my mind which we could apply to this historical moment we’re living and it’s this one: “I know we will survive. United we join the fight, against our enemies”. Indeed, as you know there’s a saying in English that says “united we stand, divided we fall” and personally I think that, despite people’s belief, we shall stand united now more than ever in order to fight this monster, this demon that is called ‘covid-19’. Unfortunately I have no idea of what’s going on there in Sweden so I wanna ask you something about it, but do you think that if we really stand united as one we could fight this thing that is bringing everyone on its knees and that is offering us a peculiar alternative of our own daily life, work and family?
Rikard: Yes, of course! It applies to anything, really.
Madeleine: Yeah! Stand united together would be the distance and it will work! I mean, the only reason why it doesn’t work is because people prior their own ego in this. I mean, you should take it seriously, just do what you gotta do and it will be solved, right?
Rikard: It really applies to any struggle, like we are one world or might be several different countries, but I understand like different parts and different cultures, but we’re still one world and of course everyone shall stand united, you know. That’s how you get through everything, really, but I mean, some people suck!
Madeleine: (she laughs) Basically it’s the same thought that I had, I mean. When we were talking about it, I do remember that “Enemies” was written a year before the pandemic really broke down.
Rikard: Yes and that really got to show that you can apply good music to any situation. Any good message you can apply to any current situation, the words we speak is true, because we speak from the heart and from what we know. I mean, it’s always very contemporary.
Talking about this historical period that is bringing a lot of sectors down on their kneews like food services, tourism, economy and art, at least here in Italy and also in UK there’s this situation, how was your own experience with both the lockdown and this pandemic?
Rikard: Well, in Sweden we really didn’t have a lockdown. I mean, it’s not normal that it’s kinda closed to normal in some sectors, but you know for us as musicians and entertainers in general and those who work with artists, lights and stuff like that, they take away our way of making money.
Madeleine: Yeah, it’s a disaster!
Rikard: Our way of making a living, you know.
Madeleine: That’s the biggest part that is different in Sweden, it is going pretty well, but now we’re noticing that maybe it won’t continue that way, because people are just feeling that: “Now it’s not that serious, fuck it, I’m not gonna wash my hands”. You know, you can sense that in some people, because you can see it on social medias and stuff like that, people actually are doing their dinners with friends that usually hang with! So at this point you can like relax until it’s all over, because it’s not over! We were on tour when corona broke out, and that was in February/March, I do remember like it was yesterday, it was March 13th when we had our last gig in Liepzig, Germany and we didn’t know, ‘cause during the tour it started like it was spreading, they had to make something about it and when we had played in a venue the day after we left it kinda closed. And that’s how it continued and so it reached us and we couldn’t just continue with it, so we had to go home and going from being out on tour, meeting fans, doing what we love, being on stage and playing our music to nothing… All gigs disappeared, people were afraid, scared and no one was allowed to have concerts and anything, just a maximum of 50 people is the matter that we still have, which is not very possible to have proper gigs, because it’s kinda expensive to have gigs as well… And that’s been a disaster for so many in Sweden, life has been just the same.
Rikard: We’re just speaking for what we’ve seen and what we see is that it’s close to normal and for many hasn’t changed.
Madeleine: No, for many hasn’t in Sweden, but I do know that people in other countries had lockdown, so I’m sure you’re on your own lockdown…
Rikard: It sounds terrible!
Ok dear ones, I wanna thank you for being with me tonight and for giving Femme Metal this little spot! It was a great pleasure!
Rikard: Thank you! Likewise!
Madeleine: Likewise! Please take care now and we’ll talk soon!