As part of our periodic look-backs at 2009 and the albums that really grabbed us by the throat, we wrote yesterday about Eryn Non Dae and their mind-bending 2009 release, Hydra Lernaïa. The band also graciously agreed to answer some of our off-the-wall interview questions by e-mail.
They also generously agreed to my request for a plane ticket to Toulouse so I could see them play live on February 18. And all I have to do is buy them tickets to fly back with me to the U.S. so they can play here. Such a deal!
Bass-player Mika André was the designated hitter for our curve-ball questions, and he responded to them just as you would expect based on END’s music: No rushed, off-the-top-of-the-head answers, but responses that reflected some serious thought, effort, and intelligence. Not your typical metalhead interview — just as END is far from a typical band. (read the full interview after the jump . . .)
NCS: END’s music is very complex and intricate and often involves changing tempos and polyrhythms. Creating that music would seem to involve much more than coming up with a few memorable riffs and then constructing a song around them. Is it possible to describe how the band develops and creates its songs?
(Mickael André-bass): Well, it’s most of the time a very long process; Yann (guitar) often comes with a bunch of ideas or riffs and everyone steps into the creation process, but at this point it’s really the beginning, We take time to try every idea and all that’s coming when we work on a song, and sometimes it can takes 6 or 8 months to finish just one…We also do some preproductions before going to the studio, it’s a good way to hear the song differently and also very useful for Math [vocalist Mathieu Nogues] to build his lyrics. Some other songs on Hydra Lernaïa have been written quicker as everything went together pretty naturally, as “Through Dark Skies” for instance, but I guess it’s an exception. And from what we’re working on actually it’s always about hours and hours spent working each idea to finally come with a song, or what we think sounds like a song, because finally the only important thing is the song and the feeling coming from it!
NCS: There’s an instrumental track on Hydra Lernaïa called “Lam Tsol Oua.” What does that title mean?
Mika: This is Tibetan and it means something like “find his own path.” It’s about trying to find a reason about our presence on earth and what we’re supposed to do with our life…quite spiritual, Franck [guitarist/vocalist Franck Quintin] is very much into Buddhism.
NCS: As you developed your own instrumental style, what guitarists have you admired who have influenced the way you play?
Mika: As far as I know Franck and Yann [guitarist Yann Servanin] could mention James Hetfield as a kind of god with rhythm guitar or Robb Flynn and also Scott Kelly for the raw and “sincere” approach of the instrument.
NCS: I’m not a musician, but I can listen to Hydra and can hear that all of you are extremely skilled in your playing ability, and create very complicated music. You could be playing many other styles of metal music that don’t require as much technical skill, while many bands could not play what you play even if they wanted to. And you could be creating music that would be more “accessible” and probably more “popular.” Why did you choose to create and play the kind of music you’re making? What has driven you in that direction?
Mika: Thank you for the kind words. Well I have to start with saying that I play other styles of metal music in bands like Ethersens, Zubrowska, Nojia, or in the past with Disphoria, Eradykate, and others. So personally I need a kind of variety in what I play to give END what it needs. The same is true for Julien [drummer Julien Rufie], who played in many other bands like Carrécube for instance. Concerning END’s musical direction, it’s something we all have within us I think. Before the first EP and before I joined the band, their music was more straight-forward, but they were not satisfied with that, so they decided to dig the dark and intense thing with Math’s arrival, and since that time we’ve played the way we feel. I think we’re very friendly people in every-day life, but END is the dark side within all of us. Even if this music can be seen as aggressive and dark, we know that you can find much more than just aggression, and from what I hear in the new material, it’s like everything is growing and giving another thousand things to feel while listening to what we play. So I cant’ really answer, but that’s what we want to hear in END’s music.
NCS: Although END’s music on Hydra Lernaïa is very intense and dark, it still reflects many different musical styles, including technical “math metal,” doom metal, prog metal, and more. Based on the new songwriting the band has been doing since the release of Hydra Lernaïa, is the sound moving more strongly in one direction or another? Do you hear anything different from the style we hear on Hydra Lernaïa, or should we expect a similar varied mix?
Mika: It’s of course a very hard question since it’s very hard to clearly see what’s happening with these new songs, but talking about the few ones almost finished, for me it’s the natural following of Hydra Lernaïa. But thinking about it more carefully, maybe there’s something different coming out now. I don’t know, we have this very cinematographic song called “Chrysalis” for the moment that sounds pretty dramatically melodic, so maybe a bit of light is coming. But nothing is done until we go to the studio. We’re also very aware that most of our songs are 7 or 8 minutes long and sometimes it’s hard to build a live setlist with such musical neverending trips, so we’re also thinking about more violent straight-forward songs like “Blistering Hate” to find a kind of equilibrium. It’s always present in our music I think. But as between the first EP and Hydra Lernaïa we all want to push everything further, more violence, more melody, more noisy drone ambiance, more everything!
NCS: END has put a lot of effort into its album artwork and lyrics, integrating it into the music itself as a single piece of art — probably more than many bands do. In a world in which so many listeners are simply downloading songs, does END intend to continue making that kind of effort in the future?
Mika: ABSOLUTELY!!! As you said, it’s a whole thing. Personally, I just can’t discover a band or an album without these elements. Very often friends try to make me listen to an album by sending me files or CDR but I just can’t listen to it. I don’t know why, but I just don’t understand what I’m listening to if I have nothing else than an mp3. I know it’s a bit silly since it means that I’m influenced by the image the band wants to give, but for me it’s a total part of the thing. I mean if I listen to a band playing an accoustic folk thing and looking at the CD booklet, see their band name written with a black metal type, for sure I will listen to the band differently. That’s just the way I grew up with music. That’s the reason why we would love to go further with artwork or lyrical concept of an album. It gives more strength to an album for sure, but as everything, it’s always about money. Even if we would love to work with some artists we love, we can’t always afford to pay for it, but we’ll find a way to go further with that for sure. We’re very happy with the work Romain Barbot (iamsailor.com) did on Hydra Lernaïa.
It’s something very exciting to see what other artists can do with the music you wrote. I remember when we first saw the video for “The Decline And The Fall” we were totally blown away. That was beyond everything we were expecting, just perfect for what were thinking about for this song. The guy spent about eight months manipulating paint, ink, paper and other stuff since all the images are real; it’s just amazing, I wish we could have done this for the whole album!!
NCS: Do you think there is anything about France’s unique culture that reveals itself in your music, or in the music of French metal bands in general? In other words, do you see any kind of national identity in French extreme metal?
Mika: Well, the expression national identity is quite a stupid debate for our government actually, funny you mention it! But to speak about musical culture I am not sure about a true identity in the French scene. I just think that the world is slowly considering bands from France since Gojira, but it seems that it’s our progressive side that interests the rest of the world. Bands like Hacride, Gorod, Klone, or Kalisia represent the progressive wave I guess. As in every country there’s always been good bands in France, but people are just discovering it now thanks to Gojira. Even French fans seem now to just discover bands from their own country. While you can go to a good show each week in a town like Toulouse, sometimes it’s like people just have to wait for someone to speak about a band on Facebook before trying to discover it, but that’s another story…
Maybe this fresh enthusiasm for French bands will permit us to build something more particular, as Sweden did with their Gothenburg scene — but it’s a long way before that…
NCS: Your fans in the U.S. and Canada would love to see an END North American tour, but that’s an expensive proposition. I guess it’s a chicken-and-egg problem: before a promoter and label will help cover the expense, they’ve got to be convinced the fan base will be there. On the other hand, it’s tough to build a substantial North American fan base without touring. Is that a problem that you see for END?
Mika: You totally sum up the problem. We got a proposal for a North American tour but the amount of money needed was far from our possibilities, from here. And maybe I’m mistaken, but it seems that foreign bands can easily tour for whole months in little clubs, of course with other American bands. And we have a few bands around there that have already done it, but as you said, we have to obtain a visa and fly over before. That’s the main thing. Concerning the fan base, I guess it’s a bit early to say it that way. I think we have to make a couple more albums available in US and Canada before thinking that people will want to see END in the US, but who knows…
NCS: I know END devotes a lot of time to creating its music and getting it right. Do you have any timetable for a new release? And do you think the next release will be a full-length or another EP?
Mika: We’re sure that it will be a full length and we have four or five songs almost ready, but we don’t have any timetable about when we will record and release it. For the moment we have to write while rehearsing for coming gigs, and it’s definitely taking time. We want to be fully satisfied with the new songs before going to the studio. So, until someone tells us, “it’s time to make it now,” I just can say, we’re working on it!
NCS: Other than continuing to create new music, what are END’s plans and goals for 2010?
Mika: We’re still looking for gigs and writing songs, that’s our plans! Since most of us have jobs next to the band, things take time for END to go ahead.
About goals, for me, it’s about writing and recording the next record, as I feel that’s the better way to strengthen what we began with Hydra Lernaïa.
NCS: I think the success of Gojira in the United States over the last year has led American metal fans to become more interested in extreme metal bands from France. Other than END, what French extreme metal bands would you recommend to our readers in America?
Mika: As I said before, the latest Hacride is really brilliant in that kind of extreme progressive metal. They’ve been a bit dead since some of them joined Soilwork or Mnemic, but Scarve has really impressed me with albums like Irradiant or Luminiferous. Also check our friends from Zubrowska, or a bit different but a really talented noise band, Doppler — definitely amazing on stage. Not extreme metal, but something really interesting these days are Memories of a Dead Man or Radius System.
NCS: END is playing a show on February 18 at a club near Toulouse called The Bikini, along with Hacride, which is another French band we like a lot. Will you send me a plane ticket so I can see that show? 😉
Mika: Here’s the deal, we send you the plane ticket for that show, enjoy the night, get drunk and you take us back with you to play the US, allright?!!
NCS: In parting, is there any other news about END that you’d like to tell our readers? Or any other thoughts you’d like to share with us about anything else on your mind?
Mika: Something really pragmatic but very helpfull for us and fans, our new webshop here http://www.erynnondae.com/shop/shop.html.
And a friendly hello to all of you over there!!
NCS: Thank you for making the time to talk with us.
Mika: Thank you very much for your time and these interesting questions!!
thanks a lot!