Interview by Robin Stryker
After more than six nail-biting months of anxiously awaiting the sophomore album from Dutch progressive rock band, Kingfisher Sky, I finally got a copy in my grubby paws on “Skin of the Earth”. There is no second album slump here … the songs are tighter than ever, with plenty of the progressive elements and folk influence that made their debut album such a joy to listen to. Femme Metal webzine caught up with vocalist/songwriter, Judith Rijnveld, to get the inside story on Kingfisher Sky.
Hello Judith, and welcome to Femme Metal webzine! Congratulations on Kingfisher Sky’s sophomore album, “Skin of the Earth”, debuting on both the Dutch top 100 album chart and the top 30 alternative chart. Did you do anything special to celebrate?
Haha, we went out for Sushi!
“Skin of the Earth” has a nice ring to it. What does the album title mean?
It describes the mood of the songs on this second album. We felt that crawling through the dirt figuratively speaking and rising from the ashes of the band we started out with was the main theme of the album.
If I understand correctly, when you and Ivar de Graaf wrote Kingfisher Sky’s first album, “Hallway of Dreams”, you did not have a complete band yet. Was it different writing the new album with specific band members and instruments in mind, like Maaike Peterse on the cello?
It wasn’t really a big difference. Sometimes we thought “this is a good part for the cello” but there are songs that haven’t got any cello in it. On “Hallway of Dreams”, we had two violinists and now Maaike played a lot of strings that melted beautifully with the keyboard strings. We did write parts specifically for two guitars and I went a little easy on the choirs because we would have to hire 4 singers or play a tape live and that’s not us.
The iPhone videos that Ivar takes are hilarious peeks behind-the-scenes at Kingfisher Sky’s gigs and recording sessions. Would you introduce your bandmates and tell us a bit about their personalities?
Ivar can make everybody laugh, especially me, is very genuine, kind, intelligent, charming and he’s a musical genius. Eric is a very calm and down to earth person, he is great at the business side of the band and he has great technical knowledge and he’s an expert in sound engineering. He is a steady and great bass player and he is funny too. Edo is a very sensitive guy, very sweet and such a great guitarist. Just like Ivar, he knows an incredible lot about music in general and specifically about his own instrument and his musical heroes. Maaike is an angel on stage and a sweet friend in life, she is classically trained and knows everything about classical music and theatre. David is a very sweet guy, very shy and that makes him even sweeter, he draws cartoons and is a perfectionist where his music is concerned. He is very driven. Oh, and he enters the dressing room door like Kramer (Seinfeld) does and that is really funny. Chris is also a sweet and enthusiastic guy, who can be very funny too. He has a great imagination and he doesn’t realise how good he is as a guitarist, which makes him even cuter.
You and Maaike seem to have a special bond. What is the best thing about having a musical sister to hang out with?
Maaike and I can read each other like a book, we can tell each other everything and when we have an argument we can tell each other the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and that has been forgiven by each of us the same second. When I’m worried or stressed out before a show, she always knows how to cheer me up and ease my nerves. I trust her with my life.
Four or five people is the typical size for a rock band, while Kingfisher Sky has seven members. Do you ever have trouble fitting everyone on the stage for live shows?
Only when we are supporting, but then it’s great that we like each other a lot J
The band was quite cryptic about any details regarding “Skin of the Earth” until shortly before its release date in late September. For example, in the updates on recording the album, the tracks were only referred to by their initials instead of by name. Why did the band keep the details under wraps?
It was just like parents that don’t want to tell the name before the child is actually born, I guess, and it was funny to see what people made out of it. In the end I think it made the release a bit more exciting.
Kingfisher Sky really took their time recording the new album. Does having a home studio give you more flexibility to get the exact sound that you want? Has the “barking seal” gone away for good?
Hahaha I sure hope so, I have learned to spare my voice in front of the classroom for ever. When we take our time to record, we also have the time to endlessly doubt every little detail, so sometimes that’s even harder than when you only have a couple of hours in a studio.
As a husband and wife team, is it sometimes hard to “switch off” being in music mode?
Music is such a big part of us that it is something that is always there and is integrated in our lives. So we don’t really need to switch that off 😉
How did it feel to hold your new creation in your hands, when the album was finally mixed, mastered, and completed?
So weird. All of the hard work in one lovely package. When I saw the tracklist on the back and realized the songs where actually on there it made me cry, and then we opened a bottle of prosecco.
Comparing “Hallway of Dreams” and the new album, there seems to be more contrast between the soft acoustic passages and the heavier metal-infused passages. What effect was Kingfisher Sky going for with “Skin of the Earth”?
No effect, we just continued writing and wanted the album to contain even bigger contrasts, more roughness and we wanted it to be more progressive, intelligent and adventurous.
The cover art, with primary colours and bold graphics, is also more aggressive than the soft watercolours on the first album. Care to elaborate?
My mother already knew the songs quite well when she started the creative process of the artwork. Just like with “Hallway of Dreams”, I made moodboards and we talked about the lyrics,the stories and the “colours” of the songs. We came up with an idea of the cover, thinking about the elements earth and fire as a beautiful contrast with the first album. Richard Hilgeman, our friend and photographer,came up with great ideas for the photoshoots and made beautiful pictures that completed the whole thing.
Have you ever considered trying your hand at painting the cover art for Kingfisher Sky?
Yes, but my mom is better at it, hey.. but I can sing better than she does J
What do your teenage art students think about you being the vocalist and songwriter for a progressive rock band?
They know me as their art teacher wearing jeans and a black T-shirt and then all of the sudden they see me singing in a video! That is weird for them, children want their teachers always to be the same, sometimes they can’t believe it’s me when they hear or see Kingfisher Sky. In general they think it’s cool to have a Rocking teacher, and they are really proud and sweet.
“Hallway of Dreams” was inspired by movies, mythology and real world situations. What were some of your lyrical inspirations for “Skin of the Earth”?
Exactly the same actually.
If you could go back in time and give your 13-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
To start a band with Ivar de Graaf and not to be so hard on myself.
Is Kingfisher Sky planning a tour? We’d love to see you in the UK and US. J
Me too. We want to play as much as possible and reach as many people as possible. The album will be released internationally, so who knows?
Judith, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal webzine?
Thank you all so much for your support, it means the world to us!
Photos by Richard Hilgeman
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