Interview by Scott Johnson
We are ready to enmbrace the loneliness of the sinner? Apperently yes, so we took contact with the French lady Maud Hernequet to explain and discover more about this progressive metal reality. Take a seat and greet with open arms Céphée Lyra‘s world.
Hi Maud and welcome to Femme Metal.net. How are you doing, at the moment?
Pretty well actually, with the holidays and the New Year, it’s a good moment to make new projects and take good resolutions!
You are the lead singer of Céphée Lyra, a progressive metal band from Chambéry (France), that mixes progressive music with lyrical singing in its sound. What could you tell us about this mix?
We have always been huge fans of progressive metal bands, such as Symphony X, Dream Theater etc. on the one hand and lyric metal bands on the other hand, like Nightwish, Therion (even though we’re not actually listening to them anymore, but that’s another story!). We wanted our music to bring something new and spontaneously we started to compose those strong progressive instrumental lines with my classic singing. When the band started in 2009, it was pretty innovating!
You have one EP, called “Dawn of Revelation”, that has been released in 2010 and your debut full-length album, “A Sinner’s Loneliness”, that has been released last year in your discography. How was composing and producing an entire album, unlike composing an EP?
We never actually composed FOR the EP or FOR the album… in both cases, we already had existing songs which we were sure to add on the list, and as we went along and decided to make that or that project, next songs in process would follow the tone given by the former ones. The record process however is very different from one case to the other one. It took us little less than 3 months between the moment when we started to record DOR and the release date; as for ASL, the same process lasted almost a year and a half! Of course, for our album everything was home-made so that automatically takes a longer period of time, but we were exhausted at the end!
The artwork of the album is quite mysterious and well done. What does it represent? What’s the real meaning behind it?
The album cover is the Sinner pointed out by the album’s title: “A Sinner’s Loneliness”. It is neither a woman nor a man, it could be you, could be me and could you reader… any body because everyone once has committed a fault in their life. It is a universal figure which everyone could identify to. The setting could be the chaotic background of every single song of the album. The booklet illustrations are also taking the listener deeper into each parts meanings… we were very happy with what our friend Natacha did, however we were disappointed with the quality of the paper cover, which ended up a lot darker than the original illustrations that she made on the computer. This is probably a mistake that we won’t make on our next productions.
Taking a listen to the album, I’ve noticed on the intro, “Daysof Wrath”, a little similarity (or maybe it’s a whole arrangement) with Mozart, which is one of the biggest composer from the Classical Era. What could you tell about it? Was this choice due to your classical singing or was it something previously decided?
You’re right; it is our own version of Mozart’s “Dies Irae” from the Requiem! First of all yes, it comes from my personal taste in classic music and Mozart especially but also because Sylvain, our composer, is also a huge fan of classic music. We had been thinking about a classic piece metal cover and this is what we first thought about! We’re very proud to have given it our personal touch, in two very different genres, with the first and also very last tracks of the album.
In this album we find a lot of good elements, like symphonic and progressive ones (used, for example, in the song “Horsemen of the Apocalypse” or “Deeper into Rage”), and classical singing as I’ve said before, but we also find male voices. What do you think of this opera style mixed with some other genres? Did you want to experiment lot of things inside this band, just to end up in a good result?
We wanted to deliver a universal message about fault and loneliness. And because we wanted everyone to recognize him/herself in our songs characters, we found it was important to have different voices. Therefore you’ll find my lyric voice but also heavy one (which simply has nothing to do with the first one!), heavy male singing as well as grunting but also a choir made of four more singers (two women and two men, working with me on classic projects). Everybody can identify to a voice according to his personal past experience and present feelings. It also makes the whole listening more pleasant because of huge variety of voices and singing.
Your voice, at a certain point, reminded me of Tarja Turunen (ex vocalist from Nightwish) in her “early” ages. Is there a connection in it/with her? I mean: is she a person from whom you get your own inspiration?
The comparison always pleases me and “annoys” me at the same time! We both are sopranos so of course the tone of voice is quite alike but I don’t see why should it be more similar than all those clear-singers whose voices always sound the same but who are never compared to one another! But like I say it pleases me at the same time because she is a very talented singer with a great technique and she is the reason why a lot of young singers started to find interest in classic singing and opera in general. Personally, I was already into my classic singing process, but she helped me realize that singing opera could be possible in a metal band
In the track called “A Destructive Victory” we find a new element: the grunt vocals. Why have you chosen of putting this ‘detail’ into a song of a band whose style defines itself as “progressive music meets lyrical/opera singing”?
Once more, this has to do with the message we wanted to get across and because we thought it was the right song for that as it deals with chaos and Evil, therefore embodied by his voice. One more important thing is that we definitely didn’t want people to think that Céphée Lyra is just about lyric singing. That pisses a lot of people off, including us! So that was a choice we made within our constant will of variety.
What can you tell us about the lyrics and the writing/mixing process? How much of yourself do you put in the writing process or in the total work of the band?
I write almost all CL’s lyrics. Sylvain wrote two texts in the past, one on the EP and one on ASL. I never ask myself where to find inspiration… sometimes it can come from the feeling I have when I listen to the demo of the song and as I start to compose my vocal lines; sometimes from a temporary title that would be given to the song, or sometimes when the guys talk to me a feeling, or sometimes even just a word! When I start writing, it’s usually very quick, a few hours maximum. Once you get the engine started, there’s no way you can stop it until the road comes to an end! I write my vocal lines myself, alone where no one can hear me, and I wait until I’m satisfied with the result before trying it in a rehearsal session.
You’re an opera singer, so your voice needs lot of training, I assume. How much time do you dedicate yourself to train your voice?
It actually depends on the time I have and the quantity of stuff I have to work on! I’m still a student at the conservatory (National Music Academy) and apart from that and CL, I’m a solo singer in a lyric company, so in general I have a lot of pieces to prepare and I work on my technique when preparing them. But I try not to sing 100% of my voice each time I work on something. We are our own instrument, so we must learn how to save it sometimes!
Is there any particular person/singer/band who has been an inspirational source for you? What are the bands or music that it influences you the most?
Tarja Turunen convinced me that my project with metal music could be possible. Floor Jansen is a great model concerning her way of mastering both classic and heavy singing without boring anyone. Natalie Dessay, Diana Damrau and my own singing teacher at the conservatory are models for my classic career. Concerning bands, I think Therion and Ayreon have made an incredible path since their very beginning and I’d love if CL could have the same kind of career!
Female fronted metal bands from France are not that known in Europe. What do you think about this? I know that the metal business in France is pretty hard and not every band is able to reach the “fame”…
You’re absolutely right! But I think it’s even more than that. French metal bands in general are having a very hard time to make themselves an international name. It took years for Adagio to get famous (even in France) and now only a few bands are starting to emerge, like Whyzdom or Kells and still they had to get signed abroad or create their own label… I can’t really explain why because I don’t really know how metal albums actually sell in France if we compare to Italy, GB or Scandinavian countries. Metal festivals, like Hellfest, are also struggling with authorities and region councils to renew each year. But like I say, this is something I notice but simply can’t explain!
Is there a band, maybe a French one, you would like to cooperate with?
How could I give you just one?! Let’s give you a top 5, that will make my task easier! Arjen Lucassen with Ayreon and Star One, Symphony X, Therion, Adagio, Eilera… OK that’s 6, but I can’t help it!
Currently, you haven’t a deal record with any label. Is there a label you would like to work with nowadays or maybe in the future?
Ascendance Records and Inside Out are two great labels that we’d be honoured to be signed to.
What do you think the future might bring to Céphée Lyra? Is there something that you have wished for so long and that you wasn’t able to satisfy? Like a tour, or a collaboration with a particular band? A deal record?
We just got our drummer back from 6 months in Scotland, so at the moment we’ll just be more than happy to get the rehearsals started again! We’re planning to book a few concerts dates, and we’ve working on many new songs that we’re planning to record on an EP. A record deal would be a great thing but we’re not actually looking for any at the moment. We’ll probably wait for a better quality EP to offer the labels,and then consider a second album after being signed.
Ok, thanks so much for this nice chat. Would you like to tell something to Femme Metal readers and/or Céphée Lyra fans?
Thanks very Scott for this interview. Happy Heavy New Year to Femme Metal and CL fans!