Interview by Roberta Ilaria Rossi
Unsettling. Enigmatic. Spooky. Claustrophobic. These are the proper words to best describe the new album of the French doom funeral project Grey November, here dealing with a crazy work that exceeds the limits of madness. “The Fall of the House of Usher”, a concept album based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, is presented as a work that results in patches of balance, a work that takes the viewer to live a first-hand experience. In occasion of the official release, FM crew has had the pleasure of analyzing it together with the singer Marieke, who has brought us in a spooky and crazy trip…
Hi Marieke and welcome to Femme Metal.net. First of all, let me thank you for having stopped here and giving us a chance to have a chat with us. How are you doing?
Hello Femme Metal.net! First, we want to thank you for your interest in Grey November. I’m really pleased to answer the interview. I’m doing very well, thank you!
Grey November is a French dark romantic doom band, born in 1998, in France. Would you like to introduce yourself to those people who still don’t know you and/or your band?
I think I am not the best person to talk about the origins of Grey November as I am not involved in this project since long. Grey November is a dark romantic doom band created by Cédric in 1998. Cédric discovered the dark romantic doom movement a long time ago and found it really emotionally powerful. He loves also a lot the authors of the Romantic Movement and the music of Grey November grew with the readings of Cédric. The music of Grey November shares the same themes: life, death, beauty.The dark romantic doom enables us to express an ideal of beauty and sadness or melancholy through the sound of the strings. The rhythms and the guitars had power to the feelings given by the melodies. To summarize, the music of Grey November aims at expressing sensitivity and passion with low rhythms and strong melodies.
Recently your album “The Fall of the House of Usher” has been released. The title, obviously, recalls Edgar Allan Poe and his short story that has the same title. The story tells about the loss of a young girl, Lady Madeleine, that is the sister of one of the two protagonists (Roderick Usher) and the story is based on one of the most essential elements of the story: the house! Poe wanted to represent the contrast between science and the occult, reason and superstition, between the human need for certainty and irrational phenomena that we can’t explain. How come have you made this choice to “develop” your album?
As I said previously, Cédric has an immoderate love for the writers of the Romantic Movement. “The Fall of the House of Usher” became one of his favorite text a long time ago and the French translation of this text which is by Charles Baudelaire has really captured the essence of Poe’s writing. After “D’automne”, the previous release of Grey November, Cédric realized that he strongly wanted to work on the “Fall of the House of Usher”. He decided to create an album based on this text in order to dive himself and the listener into this powerful short story. In addition, dark romantic doom is the perfect style of music to express such strong feelings as those given at the reading of the “Fall of the House of Usher”. I arrived in the project later when Cédric had already decided to put this short story into music. I already knew the story of the “Fall of the House of Usher” and the work of Edgar Allan Poe and I had been really touched by his texts so I decided to get involved in the project when Cédric proposed it to me.
What is your relationship with everything that is decadent, moody? What is your relationship with the decay (the decadent movement)?
The work of Cédric is more linked to the Romantic Movement and romanticism in general: he wants to express himself freely through his music and to pass strong feelings and impressions to the listener. If I don’t make mistake, the Decadent Movement appeared in the late 19th century and Charles Baudelaire is one of the writers of this movement. But I don’t know enough about it and its links with the Romanticism to speak of the relationship between Grey November and Decadence.
How was it working for this album? I mean: working on the single tracks, the lyrics, the music itself, the arrangements…
Here, I will re-transcript what Cédric said since he is the one who wrote the entire album. “The first step in creating The Fall of the House of Usher was a pure musical approach. It was also the most exciting part for me. The challenge was, first, to compose the musical parts corresponding to the beginning of the story. I had to find the right tone, the rhythm and the atmosphere to fit each of the major themes of the novel. For this first part, I wrote mainly keys parts. Then I developped the musical parts, added arrangements… I concentrated on the coherence of each song’s structure.Finally, the writing of the lyrics came with the recording of the instruments. At the very end, we worked on the melody and the phrasing of the lyrics.”.
What was the most beautiful part in recording this album?
I’m not sure of what was the most beautiful part in the recording process. I had so much great moments working on the melodies of my parts; immerse myself in Cédric’s songs, trying to feel like Lady Madeline while singing… The thing I find really extraordinary is that Cédric and I didn’t know each other before starting working on this project. He went on my MySpace page and liked my voice so he sent me an email asking if I would have been interested in working with him. I listened to what he sent me and I liked it a lot, I tried to put some vocals on the first songs and he liked it also. That’s how we decided to work together. During the recording process, we worked only by email sending each other ideas, first recordings and so on. So I found someone with, I think, the same sensitivity as me toward the work of Edgar Allan Poe and with whom it was really easy to work since we had the same view. I’m really proud that people seem to feel our emotions through the music of Grey November though we didn’t know each other before this project. I’m not sure if I’m really clear… 🙂
As I’ve said, the album is related to Edgar Allan Poe’s short story. Was it hard to work and to write the lyrics for the album?
It is true that it was not a little thing to try to write an album based on an Edgar Allan Poe novel. The novel itself is so well written in the typical flamboyant style of Poe. However the lyrics are in French and Cédric wrote them after composing the music, it enabled him to have a certain distance with the original text. Cédric was interested in a thematic and chronological approach of the text so he developed songs in a chronological way speaking first of the House, then of Roderick and after that of Madeline. He wrote on the mourning after Madeline’s death and finally on the “Fall of the House of Usher”.
Listening to the album, I felt so much drama and expressiveness. How did you decide playing the role of Lady Madeline? I’d like to remember that Madeline is a quite troubling character.
As I already explained, Cédric and I didn’t know each other before the beginning of this project. He contacted me via MySpace. Since I really love reading Edgar Allan Poe’s novels, when Cédric explained me his project, I was very interested and enthusiast. When I first listened to the music written by Cédric, I was sure I wanted to sing on it! In addition, it was quite a challenge for me to sing so emotional parts; I’m not really used to this kind of music. I’ve read the novel again several times and I tried to immerse in Madeline’s feelings.
Marieke, I was particularly impressed by your voice, which results very expressive: you can give the songs that sense of drama, and why not, also that sense of melancholy. How do you manage to make all of this? What was your music education and/or the bands/singers that have inspired your musical growth?
It’s true that, when people listen to the album, they say that I managed to express the melancholy and sorrow of Lady Madeline with my voice. I’m really proud that people can feel so many emotions while listening to this album. I don’t know if I really succeeded or if people are kind with me when they tell me these things but it’s true that I tried to put as many emotions as I could in my voice when I recorded the songs to serve the story, the music and the lyrics of Cédric. Concerning my musical education, I learned a little bit of music theory when I was young and began playing clarinet. After that, I tried to play guitar but it was definitely not for me. I began taking singing lessons about 10 years ago. I always sang but not really seriously. I began trying to improve my voice when I was in high school with singers like Alanis Morisette or Beth Gibbons (Portishead). Then, I began to listen to more and more Metal Music and I tried to sing on Lacuna Coil songs or Within Temptation songs. I even tried to sing Metallica with one of my previous bands…
When did you start to sing and to develop your passion for music?
I always had a passion for music. First as a listener, even when I was very young, I always listened to a lot of music (not always to good music… 🙂 ). I began playing instruments when I was 13 I think. But since I was really shy, it took me a lot of time to have the courage to sing in front of other people. SoI have been in bands as a singer only since 10 years I think. Since 2006, I am part of a band called Heonia (www.heonia.fr) and, in this band, we decided to play only the songs we are writing. When I discovered that I was able to write my proper songs and to sing them, I think it made my passion for music grow even more!
The first song, “Pendant Toute Une Journée D’automne” (“A Dull, Dark, and Soundless Day in the Autumn of the Year”), is a gothic/doom track, that puts the listener in a sort of “atmospheric/dark” mood. It shows what the album is going to be. I’d like to define this album something that comes closest to being Funeral doom genre. Do you agree with this sentence?
From a literal point of view, it is true that Funeral doom could be a genre that corresponds to us. On the other hand, from a cultural point of view, funeral doom makes Cédric think of a cold and harsh British doom, like My Dying Bride. In Grey November, keys have a lot more importance than in the funeral doom genre. That’s why the style dark romantic doom is what we think is the most appropriate to describe our music. With the adjective “romantic”, it embodies the tragic and sensuous dimension brought by the string ensembles in our music.
In my opinion, the best track of this album is “Lady Usher”. It’s what I’d define “romantic doom”. The songs opens with a instrumental intro, and your soft voice becomes more powerful/whispered, as if you were really Lady Madeline. How was playing this role?
Actually, I was quite tense before the beginning of the recording of this song. I knew it would be a very emotional song. So I tried to enter in this character and feel like her to sing with all her sorrow and languor. It was quite moving for me but I really enjoyed recording this song.
I’ve noticed that the songs are quite “long”. What could you tell about the length of the tracks? Why have you decided to create so long pieces for this album?
The songs were built naturally, following the story and its atmosphere. It’s certainly what brought Cédric to write long pieces. The languidness of the novel, the long descriptions of the sceneries, the way the author describes the characters’ mood, the characters who are extremely hesitant to act instead of thinking, all of these characteristics of the novel favored the writing of long songs. In addition, Cédric loves to construct languid atmospheres and deeply loves Poe’s novel so it is also perhaps an explanation for such long pieces in the album.
I think that it’s a good doom album and I think that, if Poe were still alive, he would be pleased about you, your work, what you and Cedric have made this work in music. What’s the real meaning of “The Fall of the House of Usher” for you?
I leave here the world to Cédric : “The topics covered in “The Fall of the House of Usher” are extremely numerous; according to us, far away from the academic considerations, the interest of the history does not appear in the opposition between science and the occult, or in dubious oedipal considerations, but in the metaphor of the glance of the main character on its own decline, on its immutable decrepitude and sovereign death. Roderick and Madeline are twins and, through the whole story, Roderick sees himself dying and wasting away when her sister joined the tomb, he feels himself rushing to the end of its own destruction, the collapse ofits family, his condition relentlessly promised to nothingness. This story is for us the story of as a lucid man confronting to the spectacle of his inescapable human condition, of his destiny and his death… Similarly, the house is the epitome of the history of the family, his state of decrepitude is the image of an absurd entelechy, in which the heritage, the family, the offspring can be no outlet, no metaphysical consolation: the end of everything. The story is just an introspection, a minor movement sublimated by the prose of Poe. It is true that there were many reasons to be hung-up by the original text of Poe and his flamboyant style. But our words have been drafted in French, and after the process of composing music, and this could well afford a certain distance. Cedric was interested in an approach in both a thematic and a chronological order of the text, by developing successively songs on the house of usher, on the character of Roderick, on that of Madeline. Over the period of mourning following his death, then the Fall of the House of Usher, finally…”.
What is your own opinion about Doom and all its subgenres?
I am absolutely not a specialist of doom music. I really like the way emotions are brought to the audience by this kind of music. I think it’s one of the Metal subgenres which is the most emotionally powerful. Apart from that, I don’t really have an opinion on this genre which I am not really used to listen to.
Is there something new, now, for Grey November?
Cédric is now working on a new project for Grey November but we can’t say more for the moment. Everyone interested can follow the news on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/greynovember
Ok, thank you so much Marieke for the nice chat. You have the chance to speak to Femme Metal users and Grey November fans. Is there something you would like to say?
Thank you very much for this interview! I know it took me a lot of time to answer these questions and I apologize for that. What do I have to say to Femme Metal users and Grey November fans? First thank you very much for reading this interview, supporting Grey November and listening to our music!! And finally, keep listening and discovering little bands, they deserve it!