Interview by Alessandra CognettaSoph Day is the lead singer and guitarist for the English doom metallers Alunah. With two albums released and an upcoming European tour in 2013 we took the chance to have a nice chat with her about the band, the music, vinyl vs digital and more. If you’re into doom, check out their work (“White Hoarhound” is already out and is getting a special vinyl edition very soon!), you definitely won’t be disappointed. Hello and welcome to Femme Metal, Soph! It’s a pleasure to have you here and feature Alunah on the ‘zine. Let’s start off with the big news: you recently signed with no other than Napalm Records / Spinning Goblin Productions! A limited edition vinyl is going to be released in mid January. So, how did you guys get to such an important deal and what was the reaction to the news?
Hello guys, thanks for having me! Yeah we’re very happy to be working with Austrian label Napalm Records and their sub company Spinning Goblin Productions. The label is very important in terms of metal, and more recently in terms of stoner and doom metal with the likes of artists such as Monster Magnet, Brant Bjork, Karma to Burn and Candlemass. It’s because of these artists that we came to be familiar with the label, and sitting amongst our musical inspirations is a dream come true. We released our debut album “Call of Avernus” on Catacomb Records which is run by myself and our guitarist Dave – so self-released really. “White Hoarhound”, our second album was released on PsycheDOOMelic Records, another well respected Austrian label which we are proud to be a part of. Napalm Records will be releasing “White Hoarhound” on limited edition green vinyl and white vinyl, we basically sent it over to them for consideration and they got in touch, we couldn’t be happier. Our PR Company Platinum PR also did an amazing job in getting us European press, which helped our profile over there greatly. The vinyl will be released on 25th January 2013, and pre-orders are available now from the label.Music has evolved greatly throughout the years, and technological innovation definitely played a big role in the process. We’ve seen devices come and go in the blink of an eye. But vinyls seem to be willing to survive the change. Why is that? What is, in your opinion, their value and what do you think about digital music and the billion formats that are currently available?
You get a completely different listening experience with vinyl than you do with any other kind of format. I’m a graphic designer so being able to see the artwork up close is important for me. I remember when I was 14 years old listening to my mom’s copy of Electric Light Orchestra‘s “Out of the Blue” for the first time. Staring into the amazing spaceship artwork and hearing this (for me) new sound blew me away, it gave me a whole new musical experience. In the 60s, especially with psychedelic bands such as The Grateful Dead and 13th Floor Elevators, the artwork was such an important part of the music, and that’s been passed onto the stoner, doom and psychedelic scenes. It’s definitely something we try to do with Alunah – make the artwork part of the music. With vinyl, the complete package is a piece of art, from the artwork and the way the sleeve folds out, to the colour of the vinyl and the warm sound and crackle of the music itself – it’s precious and means different things to different people. Also, my heart is rooted in the 60’s and the 70’s, so for me, my favourite albums of all time were meant for listening to on vinyl, and this is how they are best listened to. The first bands I heard on vinyl were Deep Purple, Electric Light Orchestra and T-Rex, I’m not sure I would feel the same about those recordings now if I had first heard them on mp3. However, if you live a life of convenience where you require music on the go as opposed to sitting down and drinking it all in, then digital music is great! I don’t actually own an mp3 player, but I have a Spotify account and racks upon racks of CDs. If I come across a great band or musician through Spotify, I’ll buy their album, and I’ve found so many bands this way. I would never choose to download the album and listen to it on an mp3 player, but I suppose if I had to take public transport or work outside etc. then I definitely would. Nowadays people have more choice as to how they listen to music, and that can only be a good thing, you can wake with music, spend all day with music and go to sleep with music… what’s better than that?Your musical background is definitely worth mentioning, you’ve played violin, clarinet and organ before taking up vocal duties for Alunah. How did those classical studies influence your current style? You also started playing guitar, recently. What led you to this choice?
I was very young when I played violin, 6 or 7 maybe? I soon realized (or my parents did haha) that it wasn’t the instrument for me. I played the clarinet and organ for a good many years, did all my examinations, and then quit to go to university, I actually played my clarinet in an orchestra conducted by Noddy Holder of Slade which is pretty cool! I would say my classical studies helped me to understand melodies, I’ve been writing songs for a long time but always worked by myself. Being in a band is a completely different way of writing, a lot better for me actually. I’m always striving for the perfect melody, I haven’t found it yet and probably never will but I’m always trying. I actually started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12, I went to blues guitar lessons but quit when I discovered the bass guitar. I played bass in a band with our guitarist Dave when I was about 17, we just did Life of Agony covers and never left the house hahaha. I wanted to play guitar in Alunah from the beginning but mastering the dual vocals and guitar was a problem, after some practice it came together nicely.It’s no secret that women’s situation in metal is rather peculiar and it’s also rare to see female musicians in the scene. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter and I’d be glad if you could share with us any recommendations of female musicians that you particularly admire or would like to let the rest of us know about.
I’m actually listening to the greatest female singer who ever did live whilst doing this interview… Janis Joplin! I’m sure your readers know all about her, but for those who don’t, go and listen to her! The only thing peculiar about women’s situation in metal is that folk think it’s peculiar. I’ve said it a few times before, but this is nearly 2013 and I can’t believe us ladies still have to discuss and/or defend why we play music. We used to describe ourselves as “female fronted” but we dropped that a while ago, it’s almost like we’re warning people “ooh watch out, we have a female singer”. Bands with male singers don’t point out that they’re “male fronted”, it’s ridiculous. There are loads of great women in music who I love, past and present, including Janis, Rose Kemp, Joni Mitchell, Jinx Dawson of Coven, Lori S of Acid King, Alia O’Brien of Blood Ceremony, Tairrie B of My Ruin and Uta Plotkin of Witch Mountain. There are some lovely English ladies in upcoming bands at the moment such as Taz and Hel of Undersmile and Dani of Ishmael, people should definitely go and check them out.The new album goes down the same path of the first one but digs out original elements along the way. How would you describe the musical development of Alunah throughout their works?
We had less time to write, and a better idea of where we wanted to go with it. We wrote “Avernus” over 4 years and “Hoarhound” over 1, we also had Gaz join halfway through writing “Avernus” so on “Hoarhound” he was involved from start to finish. “Avernus” is a mix of many different styles, and sounds like a band finding their feet.
I must say one of my personal favourites from “White Hoarhound” is “Belial’s Fjord”. What is your favourite song from the new album and why?
Thanks, “Belial’s Fjord” for me is second to “Oak Ritual II”, those are definitely my two favourite off the album. Without sounding egotistical I just think it’s got a great riff and a great melody. I think it was one of the last songs we wrote, and I just think it’s the stand out track on the album, that’s why we left it until the end of the album haha.Alunah‘s been touring around for quite a few years: what have you learnt from this experience? Could you share with us some “tour moments” that have caught your attention in particular, in time?
Personally, I’ve learnt to offer to drive the van so I get a proper bed and don’t have to spoon the drummer and his kit! Seriously though, we’ve not done a “proper” tour for a couple of years now for various reasons, and in 2013 we’re planning two including our first in Europe, which I can’t wait for. It’s something we love to do, and wish we could do full time, you meet so many amazing people and visit some awesome places whilst on tour. We have had our fair share of disasters along the way and been involved in many a “situation” including dogging (Google it if you’re not sure) in Doncaster, losing half of the van on the M1 and having gear stolen. Generally though, we see the funny side of such situations and always have a great drunken time.I was casually browsing through your various social network accounts and found out you’re already writing new material for the next album. Can you give us any teaser information about it? What can we expect to hear?
Yeah we’ve already written some material for the next album, we’ve started to build on the sound of “White Hoarhound”, but hope to add some different elements which we’ve never tried before, and try out different instruments and sounds. The lyrics I’ve started to write are inspired by England’s medieval and pagan history, and especially inspired by our ancient festivals and celebrations.That’s it, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions! We wish Alunah the best and hope to see you again soon. Any message for fans and readers?
Thanks so much for taking the time to compile the questions, I’ve really enjoyed the interview. We’ve got quite a lot coming up in the new year, so please keep visiting http://www.alunah.co.uk or http://www.facebook.com/alunah.doom for updates. Thanks.