Interview by Miriam C.
If “Becoming” was a mere compilation on which where featured several EPs and some bonus material, Canadian 3-piece rock band Courage My Love, with the new album “Synesthesia” proves to be the real deal. In order to know more about it, lead singer and guitarist Mercedes Arn-Horn took some time to reply at my questions and she candily admits that sometimes being a woman in a musical business isn’t that easy.
Hello Mercedes, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. How are you?
Great! Thanks for having us!
For our readers that still don’t know you would you like to introduce your band with some biographical hints? How you and your twin-sister Pheonix (along with your bassist Brandon) decided to get together for this musical project?
We’re a band from Kitchener, ON, Canada. Phoenix and I have been writing music together as long as I can remember. Ever since we were really little, probably banging on pots and pans. We always had our eye on Brandon, who was playing in a lot of bands in the KW scene at the time. The stars all aligned and as soon as we all had the opportunity to work together, we didn’t hesitate and just went for it.
On 3rd February you have released your second album “Synesthesia”, can you take us through its writing and recording process?
We’re so excited for this release because it’s been such a long time coming. We spent two years writing and recording this album. It was a challenge that I think all artists must face, trying to write something that was honest and vulnerable, but would also take us to the next level as a band. We really wanted to push the boundaries of what Courage My Love was. There was a lot of pressure to really knock this one out of the park, so it took a lot of time and finetuning to get it right. In the end I personally am really proud of the final result. I think we were all a lot more vocal about our “vision” for this record, even down to the album art and music video concepts. This record is a look into our world.
In some ways your new full-lenght “Synesthesia” that is out via Warner Music Canada/InVogue Records has to be considered your real/major debut album. Why and in which manner, it differs from “Becoming”?
We wrote this one to be a full-length album. The extra tracks on “Becoming” are b-sides, which we were really happy to release, but they weren’t originally part of the vision for “Becoming”. “Synesthesia” isn’t a concept album, per se, but it does have a general theme and vibe that ties all the songs together.We were extremely influenced by 70s and 80s psychedelic horror films in terms of the colours and imagery. The lyrics are a lot darker, but I think more real than we’ve ever been able to achieve before. Sonically we really pushed our own boundaries and tried to think out of the box. We experimented a lot more with synths and programming, while also taking major risks with guitar tones and vocal effects. It’s eclectic, but it all feels like the same record.
First let me say congratulations for the album title, it’s really meaningful. Also “Synesthesia”, according to your press release, “ultimately is about emotional empowerment”. What prompted you in tackle this particular matter?
I think emotional empowerment is something everyone struggles with, at any age. There is something beautiful about all of us, no matter what gender, ethnicity, or beliefs we have, sharing a common struggle as human beings. The three of us also had a very rough two years emotionally for many different reasons. We all had to go through the ringer and walk out the other side, grow individually, as people. I think the album was sort of therapy for each of us. You can hear it in the lyrics for sure. We needed to write these songs exactly at that point in our lives.
Here at Femme Metal Webzine beside music we’re really interested about the social impact of how woman that generally play rock are treated and accepted so your statement really struck a chord on me: “We didn’t want to be stuck underneath a female-fronted rock band ceiling, we wanted to reach beyond that constraint and see where it would take us”. So, on the whole I must get that do you find labels somewhat limiting for your creativity, right? Also, on a more practical routine, did you ever encounter any problems about being a woman in a musical context?
There’s pressure coming from everywhere, especially as a female musician. In that particular quote I was talking about the longevity of the band. We will always be female, so we will always be a band with two females in it, but in the rock world there is really only so far you can go before you hit a crossroads. You have to make a conscious decision to either stay in that world and keep doing the same things and writing the same records over and over or evolve into something else and take your chances. We just all felt that we needed a change creatively. We wanted to challenge ourselves and take a step forward.
When it comes to facing discrimination in the music industry because we have females in the band, it’s something I’ve talked about a lot. We have some horror stories that I’m sure a lot of other female musicians have gone through too. I’ve been kicked out of green rooms because they thought I was a groupie, told my accomplishments have more to do with my gender than my skill, and judged by both sides of the spectrum. But like I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, the best way to fight negative stereotypes as a female musician is to stay above the ignorant attitudes and show everyone who doubts you how wrong they are. If there is someone in the crowd who thinks I’m gonna suck as a guitarist or Phoenix will suck as a drummer, we just put on an even bigger, better show to put them in their place. We don’t focus on the negativity of ignorant people. We focus on our accomplishments and our goals.
I really enjoyed the modern approach of your cover album. What it stands for and what is the vision behind it?
I really love the artist M.C. Escher. One of his drawings was 100% the inspiration of our album cover. I thought the imagery of the intertwining heads perfectly visualized what synesthesia might feel like. The faces are actually Phoenix and myself, with whited out eyes. We came to Toronto artist Justin Broadbent with the idea, and he really ran with it and brought it to life.
For your first single “Stereo” you worked together with director Emma Higgins. First, how was to work with her again? Then, would you like to spend some words about the video itself?
She’s a great director and an amazing artist. We worked with her once before on our video for “Kerosene”, so we already knew her vibe and her skillset. Phoenix and I were really inspired by 70s and 80s psychedelic horror movies, and we thought “Synesthesia” was the perfect album to really showcase those vibes. The “Stereo” video is very visually stimulating, tying together imagery of old vintage technology to symbolize not being able to communicate with the people you really care about. The concept of the song is about reaching out to someone but not being able to communicate what either of you are feeling.
Instead, what insights you can share about the song “Animal Heart” that you have premiered on SoundCloud back in November?
“Animal Heart” came out on Spotify. The song is about overwhelming passion. It’s about wanting someone so much you feel like you are regressing back into a primal, animalistic state. We got inspired by “An American Werewolf in London” for the concept of the song.
I also read that Pheonix taught herself synth programming so I was wondering to learn how this new skill helped her and the band during the recording process?
Her programming skills really shine on this record. She programmed almost all the synths and beats, which came in really handy in the writing and demoing process. It adds a new texture to our sound that we never had before.
What are your tour plans in terms of touring in 2017?
We’ve already started the year off with a Canadian tour supporting Marianas Trench. We’ve got some more North American dates in the near future, and some European ones too which we will all announce throughout the year. Stay tuned!
So, Mercedes, it’s time for your parting words – I really thank you for your time – please greet freely our readers and your fans. Thanks again!
I want to thank everyone who has supported us throughout the years, and also those of you who are discovering us now and taking the time to listen to our music. We will forever be so grateful! Thanks for listening.