Interview by Ed MacLaren
Every once in a while you run across a promising band new band and you’re instantly captivated by their sound, their creativity and their maturity. But most of all you can sense that intangible quality – something difficult to describe – that makes them unique and sets them apart. Ellyose is one of those bands. They ooze potential and bring a defiantly fresh take on gothic metal music. Femme Metal had the pleasure to speak to Ellyose vocalist Justine Daaé on recording their debut album “Théogyne”, the struggles of an up-and-coming band and staying true to your musical vision.
Ellyose has the look and the sound to make a real musical impact on the French metal scene and beyond. What can you give some background of you and the band?
I myself have a classical background; I have studied classical music and singing at the conservatory in Paris and still am. At the age of 18, I started singing in some metal bands; it made me realize and understand several things: that I could never work with people handling music as leisurely entertainment and that, as I’m also a musician, I could never be only an interpreter, I needed to be very much involved in the writing process of the songs. It took me a few years to find partners who matched my musical personality and involvement and who didn’t want to do music in an amateurish way. When I met Ghislain (bass player) in early 2009, I felt I found the right person to work with and that’s when Ellyose began. Our guitarist Arnaud joined us 8 months later, after we released our 6-track-demo.
Ellyose has been together and performing for just over a year. What can people expect when they listen to Ellyose for the first time?
They can expect music loaded with arrangements mixing different types of musical influences among them classical (especially with the vocals) electronic and dance. It is very much a challenge to find the right way to make everything go well together to bring different emotions.
Ellyose is currently hard at work on its debut album “Théogyne”. What’s the recording process been like so far?
The hardest part is keeping the necessary distance to judge fairly our own songs – to be able to stand back and remain objective. In other words, keeping fresh ears after listening to parts of the songs a thousand times to find the perfect arrangement. It’s very long hours spent in front of a computer with our instruments trying to catch emotions in a very rigorous way. It’s exhausting but thrilling.
We can get a musical taste of Ellyose on your MySpace site and the posted tracks are excellent. What can we expect on “Théogyne”? Will the remaining songs be in the same vein or do you have some surprises in store?
It will be in the same vein as our eponymous track “Théogyne”, meaning less of a metal tradition, moving away from symphonic or gothic metal towards electronic, techno, dance and trance. This approach takes the strength and power metal brings and contrasts it with classical arrangements and vocals. And this is what it’s all about, violence and delicacy in one combined in music we want to sound aggressive and sensual.
Did you enter the studio with a specific idea of what you wanted the tracks to sound like or did everything get tossed out the window after you entered the studio and started to experiment?
We don’t experiment in the studio – everything is fixed before in the finest detail. The time to experiment is during working sessions. In the studio, we focus on not forgetting what we perfected, on being good at our instruments, and making ourselves clear and understandable with the sound engineer about what we want.
There are many operatically trained vocalists in goth metal but your classical vocal style works very well with the industrial and electronic elements in Ellyose. And by combining that operatic approach with breathy whispers and spoken word segments, it creates a unique vocal perspective that stands out. How did this vocal style develop?
I like to mix different kinds of singing and make use of everything I can do with my voice in order not to sound monotone and bring different emotions to each song: something more intimate with the whispers, something more lyrical with the vocals. Unfortunately, I’m unable to do grunts! I wish I could! I’m amazed by classical singers like Floor Jansen (very recently) who can do it without damaging their voice. At least that’s what she claims!
Your vocal background is in classical music. What is it about this vocal style that works so well with metal music?
To me, classical singing doesn’t just work well with metal, it could work well with many other kinds of music. I’ve never understood why it is so unpopular or why it sticks only with classical or metal.
Do you ever perform in a traditional classical environment? Is that a musical goal of yours?I still perform in a completely classical environment as part of my training at the conservatory. I also do chorus in operas. I have a deep passion for classical music and singing but obviously, I could never make a career in that environment plus classical music is just one facet of who I am. I’d rather be the crazy metal kind of girl.
Ellyose, while having a strong goth metal focus, also leans heavily towards industrial and electronic music. Is the future of metal going to be one where it assimilates different styles of music to stay fresh.
Metal has only been here for around 40 years so how will it sound in 100 years? I think it’s fair to expect it will continue to evolve like it already has by assimilating different styles of music.
You’ve also been heavily involved with Grey November, an excellent ambient doom metal band, that released its debut album “D’Automne” back in 2008. What prompted you to change musical directions from the dark ambience of Grey November to forming a gothic industrial electronic metal band like Ellyose? It’s a big change.
I don’t actually write Grey November’s music, I only write the vocal parts, so the project wasn’t mine in the first place, I agreed to work with Cédric whose music and lyrics deeply moved me. As a result, I’m very proud of what we’ve done even though ambient doom is definitely not the kind of music I want to go along with. Ellyose is my own project with my bass player partner Ghislain Henry, I am the songwriter myself in close collaboration with him. Today it is my top priority. I wanted a band that was totally who I was and which sounded totally the way I liked. It’s more personal.
Is Grey November still a viable outlet for your darker and more doomy creative tendencies? Will there be another Grey November project in the future?
I’m too busy with Ellyose for the moment to think of some other work sessions, but yes, I’d like to keep singing for Grey November in the future, I’m still a gothic music lover.
What are the musical and compositional differences in working with a band like Ellyose versus a band like Grey November?
The work is extremely different as far as Grey November is only a studio band, we’ve never planned to perform on stage so we’ve never recruited any session musicians and never had to go to rehearsals unlike Ellyose where we had to find other musicians and work for live shows.Many bands – regardless of what country they’re from – choose to sing in English to supposedly maximize their potential audience. Your lyrics are sung in your native French. French works so well with your music and your vocal style (especially the spoken parts) that English would take away from the overall impact of Ellyose. Other successful French bands like Kells sing in French while Markize performs in English, French AND Russian. But is there a negative to that? Does the language you sing in have an impact on the success of a band and the audience they can reach?
First, thank you for saying French matches with our music, especially that you are not a francophone. The funny thing is that I feel that the ones who are more likely to be bothered by French are French people. I personally like to hear songs in a foreign language (especially German) but most people keep thinking English is either the prettiest language to fit music or that it widens the audience. My choice with Ellyose is to record a bilingual album with French and English, just like the way I practice both of them in my daily life. French brings something unusual and I like to go off the beaten track.
As someone who’s been working the scene and developing your musical vision with increasing success, I’m sure you’ve run into a few roadblocks. What advice do you have for young bands trying to get their music out there?
Ellyose is a young band trying to get its music out there. If Ellyose succeeds, it will be thanks to our association with people aiming for the same goals. Music is teamwork as it also includes people providing the mixing, the production, the promotion, etc. The key thing would be surrounding yourself with bandmates who think the way you do. As well, choose the right people to collaborate with even though it could take some time to find them. Never lose patience.
How important is the Internet in developing and marketing new bands in the 21st century?
Internet is freedom; it allows you to choose one’s own music. Other media imposes on us. Most bands couldn’t live without the Internet. Its role is essential in developing and marketing a new band.(Famous) Last words? “Ne fais pas attention à ce que dit la critique : on n’a jamais élevé une statue à un critique.” (Jean Sibelius)
This is a French quotation meaning that no matter how harshly people may be bad-mouthing and criticizing others thinking they have an important role stating their opinion, they’d never be the ones statues are erected for. It’s poetic way to say, “To hell with detractors!” Follow your own instincts and inspirations and never try to have unanimous backing.?