Interview by Alessandra CognettaOne of the most varied and well-crafted albums of 2012, To-Mera‘s “Exile” has already been praised in our “Reviews” section and is definitely one of the best records from last year. We took the chance and got in touch with lead vocalist and original founder member Julie Kiss to ask her some questions about the band, her career, Egyptology (!) and the current state of the music industry. Scroll below and dive in to read more! Hello and welcome, Julie! First of all, a belated wish for a Happy New Year from Femme Metal! How are you and how has 2012 been for To-Mera?
Thanks, likewise. I’m great thank you, life is good right now. As you know, To-Mera have recorded a new album so it’s been pretty exciting. All the more so because the album almost never got made… Then when it did, we recorded and produced it all ourselves which was a very new but immensely rewarding experience.To-Mera‘s latest effort, “Exile”, is a blessing for the ears and an infinite source of surprises (definitely one of my favourite albums of 2012, and I swear I’m a neutral party!). There’s plenty of reviews to read around, but if you had to review it by yourself, track by track, from the point of view of someone who saw the record come to life, what would you write?
I think I would refuse unless I had a lot of time on my hands 😉 there is so much going on but the songs are all connected: they follow a plunge into a deep dark place that ends in a sort of spiritual enlightenment…The extreme variety of elements included in your music is surely one of the most distinctive traits of To-Mera‘s sound. What inspires such original mixes of different styles and how do you combine them during songwriting?
Tom always had a unique approach to composing music, lead by his very eclectic musical taste. Each song is a combination of moods and styles that somehow end up flowing together quite naturally. At least that has been the aim and we feel we pretty much managed to achieve this on “Exile”.What was the most challenging task for you during the recording sessions (and overall production process) of “Exile”? What changed in your approach as a vocalist from the previous records?
We recorded all the vocals ourselves, so it was very different. Gone was the safety net that is the feedback of a producer/sound engineer. In fact I ended up recording some of the album completely alone, which was great in some ways as I had complete control and less pressure but it’s also easy to obsess about tiny details and take 5x as long as necessary! I learned a lot though.I’ve already asked this in a previous interview, and who knows, maybe it will become a regular Femme Metal question… could you recommend to our readers a few (one, five, a dozen, no restrictions here!) worthy female musicians that you personally appreciate?
In the rock/metal scene my favourites are Silje Wergeland fromThe Gathering, Marcela Bovio…from other genres…I’ve been listening to Florence and the Machine a lot recently. I find her approach very fresh and, well, ‘ballsy’…To-Mera released a self-produced EP, “Earthbound”, after the experience with Candlelight Records. What caused the band to part ways with the label and what do you think was gained and (or) lost in the transition to self-production?
It was the result of a number of factors really, mainly the fact that we just wanted to do our own thing musically – without the pressure of a sales focused entity behind us. We gained this independence but lost our connection to some of the industry that is tied to the money/prestige a label represents…
Your interest in Egyptology gave the band its current name (and “Exile”‘s cover is incriminating proof as well, I presume). How was it born and to what extent does it influence your musical activity?
The cover came together quite quickly really – I saw some amazing images and felt they needed to meet…the end result feels really in harmony with the message of the record in terms of the positive atmosphere: the white dove is emerging into the sunshine from a gigantic dark storm…In terms of the Egyptology influence – well, the eastern element is present occasionally…but really I chose the name because it sounds unusual and interesting…The latest album lists some noteworthy additional musicians like Stream of Passion‘s Marcela Bovio, Stephan Forté from Adagio and Raymon Hearne from Haken. Can you give us a bit of insight on these collaborations?
We’ve played together with all of these guys at various gigs and have great respect for their musical talent. Hence we thought it’d be nice to get them involved in some way.A free version of “The Descent” with alternate vocals by Jesse Higginson has been made available on Bandcamp, too. What gave you the idea (and is it something we can expect to see again in the future)?
Jesse was the winner of a ‘screaming competition’ we did on Facebook. While we loved what he did, but we have also in the meantime got a version from Stephan Forté and thought it fitted the song a bit better. Still, Jesse‘s version was brilliant too, hence why we decided to release it. His take is slightly more brutal which gives it all an interesting edge.Free material, be it for streaming or download, is becoming an important part of many bands’ promotional activities. What is your opinion on the matter? What do you think can be made to have an improved and more effective promotion and to really stand out in such a difficult moment for the music industry?
As you say it is a tricky time and I think really everyone is trying to figure out how to move forward. Giving your music away for free is not ideal considering how much expense and effort goes into recording but sales are pretty low overall anyway due to illegal downloads and the move towards online purchases (online sales can be less profitable depending on the source). At the same time the relative ease of recording at home means you have loads more quality recordings out there and there is increasing competition for the limited buying power/willingness of music fans. It’s never been harder to sell your music…So either you let people stream it and hope they’ll buy it, or just give it away. Bands and labels are now moving away from record sales to other revenue sources such as merch and live shows (and increasingly charging potential support acts for performing – something I find pretty terrible…). But of course you need to get a bit established before you can exploit these revenue sources so it’s really tough out there right now! In the past promoters looked for talented support acts – they now give slots to the highest bidder…awful…Before taking part in the foundation of To-Mera, you sang with the Hungarian band Without Face. But what about the “before”, the road that led you to put music above everything else and make it your goal in life?
Singing was always part of my life from an early age and I always used to sing at school events etc… but really it wasn’t until I saw WF perform when I was about 14-15 that I thought ‘this is what I want to do’…then it just became so much part of my existence that it wasn’t a choice anymore. Music is like a drug…With the new album out for a few months I guess To-Mera will be touring soon. Any surprises in store for your fans? Any place you’d like to play in particular?
Actually I don’t think we will be touring with the new album. We recently lost our drummer Paul but even beforehand it was uncertain that we would take this beast on stage. There is so much going on on this record that it would be an immense task to prepare it for a live setting… plus the band members just got other priorities, other projects to focus on… it’s a tricky one. It would have been nice to play these songs live but I’m not sure that that will ever happen. I think we also feel that we’ve said what we wanted to say with this album and perhaps it’s time to take a break and explore other avenues… stay tuned…That’s it! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, it was really a pleasure to have you and To-Mera on the ‘zine! You can leave a message to fans and readers here, we wish you all the best once again and hope to see more from To-Mera soon!
Many thanks for the interview and check out “Exile” everyone! We’ve sold out of physical copies for now but you can still get it (and stream it) from to-mera.bandcamp.com .