Interview by Andy Axworthy
Everything eventually comes down to the individual. Whether it’s the influences of the films you see, the books you read, the music you hear, or that of family, friends, colleagues it all colours our view of the world and defines our tastes. Now imagine all that filtered through the medium of a metal band – one with seven members – who are as comfortable being staid and grounded as they are running wild off the edge of the map – and who have a pressing desire to share that with you. Welcome to eclectic. Welcome to the world of A New Dawn. Femme Metal tracked down lead singers Jamila and Alysia, now back in Holland after their first UK gig at Beauty & Brutality, to talk about the show, current release “Finally…” and what lies ahead for the band.
Hi girls! A warm winter welcome from Femme Metal. How is the festive season treating you?
Jamila: Well, I can’t say that I like winter, I like the summer – I want sun and beach. I really hate the rain, snow and hailstone. But I do like Christmas and New Years Eve. I always spend the holidays with my family and my closest friends.
You played your first UK gig with the Beauty & Brutality Halloween Party on October 31st in Birmingham. What was the experience like for you both? Any standout moments that you could share with us?
Alysia: I’ve had the best show ever. For me it was a double party because of Samhain. I’m amazed how everyone was cheering us on, and how enthusiastic people were. I had a blast! Meeting the other bands was really nice as well.
Jamila: It was the first time that we played in the UK. I really had a great time. I was pretty tired all the way, but that was because I didn’t sleep at home that much, so I left tired and came home almost dead hahaha. We had great fun with all the band members the crew and the other bands. When we were on stage, everything just went like it’s supposed to be. We gave a great show and they really enjoyed our show.
Although that was the first show on these shores, A New Dawn has been around in one form or another since 1997. As more recent members how has this depth of existing experience helped you, together and individually?
Alysia: The most important thing for me is that the way the band “works”. We prepare and just “do” it: we put on a show and have fun. I always feel that we’re in this all together and that the band is supporting each other fully. This makes us capable of putting on a show as we did in Birmingham.
Jamila: Well, I’m one of the oldest band members next to Elbert. I must say that I have the feeling that we finally found a group of people that “works”. Of course you have your differences and you do not always agree but this group listens to each other and we work pretty well together. So naturally I feel that it’s good right now.
You are both regularly described as opposites – light versus dark. Well they say blondes have more fun but they also say that the devil has all the best tunes, so who has the halo, who has the horns and do you ever get the urge to swap?
Alysia: Blondes do have more fun. I tell ye! 😉 Yes, we have me as the light halo type of character in the band, where Jamila is more the strong nightcrawling woman.
If you are curious for the whole story behind the light vs. dark thing, keep an eye on our upcoming album. I won’t spoil any details before the album is out!
- Jamila Ifzaren – Vocals
- Alysia van Horik – Vocals
- Mike v.d. Heuvel – Grunts/Growls
- Michiel Glas – Guitar
- Peter Groen – Bass
- Elbert de Hoog – Guitar
- Rik Bruineman – Drums
Your EP “Finally…” builds on the good work of 2008’s “Falling From Grace”. With 3 tracks coming in at just over 18 minutes it has something for everyone and is your first release together as leading ladies. How does it feel to have now done that and how was the recording experience for you individually?
Elbert is the founder of AND (if you want to know more about how it all began, you can take a look at our website). In the first couple of years there were other people in the band. When one of the singers left the band, AND went searching for a new vocalist and they found Jamila. You can almost say that AND fell apart in the year 2008 but the ones who were still standing, kept on going. They found Rik and Michiel. In that time Michiel was the grunter. The year 2009 was an awful year for AND, especially on personal level (home situations and stuff). Finally in the year 2010 Elbert, Jamila, Michiel and Rik found the other 3 members (Mike, Alysia and Peter). Since then everything went smoothly – writing songs and getting ready to record our 2nd full-length album.
Alysia: Recording the demo was a wonderful experience. New songs to make my own, and another voice to blend with. Jamila and I have found each other in our singing and we complimented each other. I had never been in a studio before, never had the chance to make a song with other people and to make the music my own. It was amazing. Jamila: I love being in the studio. I was pretty excited to record 3 new songs. We’ve had a radio-silence for quite a while and the time was there to record something new. So we did. Working with Alysia was very easy. She understood everything and did her homework. The songs were done in no time hahaha. Musically, each release seems to be an evolution in the band’s sound. With eclectic and varied tastes and influences amongst the members things must be pretty lively at times. How do you both help and contribute to the music and arrangements during the song writing process? Alysia: The best part about being a band with seven individuals is that everyone contributes to his best to the process of making a song. We all write music, Mike, Elbert, Jamila and I are working on lyrics, and all together we come up with ideas and themes. Jamila: Everyone is working really hard on the music and the arrangements but the song writing is more our part (and of course Mike’s). Most of the time we all work together in the writing progress of a new song. The cover of “Finally…” is intriguing. At first glance it looks like a normal mask/masque but take a closer look and you can see the seven deadly sins etched into its surface. Can you tell us the story behind the artwork?
We created the mask because everyone wears a mask every now and then. But we wanted the mask to have “lived a life full of emotions”. So, looking at the lyrics of the songs of the EP, there were the seven deadly sins (“Final Verdict”) and the name “Desire” in a Japanese Sign and of course the mask itself (“Masque of the Red Death”). We just thought it was funny but it also has something to do with the new story that can be found on our 2nd album. As a band you ask your fans to share their experiences with you – to take inspiration from everyone, in everything and of everywhere. Is that something that you still look to build into the song writing? Also, what would you both say is your current favourite/inspirational AND song and why do you feel that way about it? Alysia: Definitely. My inspiration comes from other people’s stories and things I see and experience in daily life. Also, showing the crowd what we, as AND, have been through is very important to all of us. It shows that we’re human. My most inspirational song is on the new album. The music is awesome, there are nice guitar solos in it and the story behind it is really grabbing you by the throat. We call it “ToF”. You’ll hear it soon! Jamila: Everything I’ve ever written is about life. My life, the life of my family and friends, what I see on television and so on. So people in general are a big inspiration to me. You have sad, happy, evil, angry, disappointed, crazy, loving and caring people … and they all have their own stories. I’m really interested in what it is that moves people to do things or to never do that special thing. This is my big inspiration. Lately I’ve been having contact with a French fan and this person told me a beautiful story (with tears and happiness) about his life. It grabbed me by the throat and I just wrote like an idiot hahaha. My favourite song is “Final Verdict” because of the different styles of music in one song, but there’s something really personal for me in one of our new songs. You will hear the story as soon as the album is finished.
You have a strong fan base, two EP’s and a full-length cd as a fully-fledged band and despite this you have stayed unsigned for now. What plans do you have in this area and would you say there are any advantages or drawbacks when balancing total freedom to do what you want against restrictions that might be placed on you if you were signed?
This is a difficult question. Because of course we want a label that wants to work with us (and we really have a lot to offer) but it’s difficult these days. We are so ready to entertain a bigger crowd and that’s what we also hear from a lot of people: “You belong on a bigger stage”. And this is something we believe in. Sometimes you need a period of a few years to find your ideal partner (or band members in this case hahaha) and make it work. This new album is something we’ve all worked really hard on and are very proud of. Next to creating/writing the songs, we are also very busy to create a big show to look at. We like to put on a big show but sometimes we need a bigger stage. But believe you me … we will rock your socks off with this next album and especially on stage.
What is it like, living the metal dream? How do you both handle balancing the call of the wild with those moments when reality comes knocking?
Alysia: Sometimes it feels like my reality only starts when I’m playing with the band or performing. Work, obligations are dull things. It feels like I start “living” when I can make music. I need to get used to people speaking their appreciation about what I do, but it’s wonderful.
But reality did come knocking on my door a while ago (r.i.p. daddy) and I still have problems to cope with all that and still try to give the band my full attention. It’s a constant learning progress but I’m doing better and better. Music is a great medium to express yourself and for me, singing is the best way for me to express my emotions when I just don’t want to talk.
You have played the MACC (Metal Against Child Cancer) Fest. How does raising awareness with this type of show figure in AND‘s overall philosophy and are there any other similar events that you can or will support and which you can tell us about?
Alysia: Unfortunately our band has lost beloved ones to cancer. We wrote a song in that theme and we were more than happy to contribute to MACC. In December we did a show as a tribute to a deceased fan who died of leukaemia. Speaking on my behalf, I will always be up for charity. Jamila: It’s just like Alysia already told you, unfortunately, our band already has lost loved ones to death (mostly because of cancer), so playing at a festival where they make people aware of cancer definitely fits in our overall philosophy. What do you each do to relax and let off some steam when you are not actively involved with AND? Alysia: I play the piano and I love to play computer games. I also enjoy sports, although I haven’t had much time to do so. Jamila: I read books, watch movies, talk and go places with my loved ones and take walks in the forest.
How about your alternative reality – what would each of you be doing if you were not singing with AND? Do you have any ideal jobs, burning ambitions or an itch you would just have to scratch that you can share with us?
Alysia: I’d be having my own practise (working with troubled children), stuck to my huge mansion somewhere on an abandoned piece of land behind a forest. I’d have an enormous kitchen where I could bake cookies and cakes all day and I’d have at least four dogs (and a pony!).Jamila: I’d probably have my own private practice in painting (ß in the biggest meaning of the word, face-painting, body-painting, mural painting and other types of painting) or I probably would have saved up all my money to go to the other side of the world to work as a volunteer helping out disadvantaged people.
How about your ideal gig? If money was no object and you could take the band, crew, rig and set up anywhere in the world to play, where would you go and why? Alysia: The Royal Albert Hall! Because it’s enormous! And, and, and, yeah. Or Wacken Open Air! Or Pinkpop! … Lowlands! Oh dear, these dreams are getting ahead of me. Jamila: I don’t really care where that is, but there has to be a beautiful big stage with a lot of lights and where everything is well arranged with lights and sound. A stage where we can do our show like it’s meant to be (maybe even bigger hahaha) with a minimum of 5000 people who really enjoy the music and show of AND. You teased us with a new track “Madness Within” at Beauty & Brutality and you are back in Rotterdam’s Excess Studios at the end of January to continue work on the new album. Can AND fans expect any teasers or samples of the new material to help get them through the bleak midwinter? We didn’t want to say anything yet but of course we will show you teasers and let you hear and see new stuff.
Finally, when do you hope to release the new CD and do you have any touring plans that you can share with us?The release of the new album will be before the summer. The presentation will be a blast. We’ve got a lot of great ideas for our album presentation – it will be a big show. We are all very excited and a bit nervous, because we just want it to be a great show. Thank you both for talking with Femme Metal and best of luck recording the new album. Before you escape, any last words for the fans & readers? Alysia: Hope to see you guys soon, stay up to date through Facebook, Twitter and our website! Stay metal! Jamila: As you’ve been reading, we have lots of plans for our new album and we will keep you posted on everything. Just keep checking our websites. We hope to see you all at one of our shows and thank you for reading this interview.
Photos by Cristel Brower