(Comrade Aleks brings us another very entertaining and informative interview with the two core members of the unusual Breton band Stangala.)
That extravagant outfit from Brittany returns after three years of searches with a new refreshed sound and new avant-garde melodies which were formed under the name Klañv… Oh, well, let me introduce you to the Stangala band.
They started in far 2006 as a trio – Steven Le Moan (guitars, vocals), Thomas Coïc (drums), and Alexandre Miossec (bass). This lineup recorded the Boued Tousek Hag Traou Mat All debut in 2011, “drug-fueled” psychedelic doom rock with some Breton tunes and Breton lyrics. About two years later the band (without Alexandre this time) took part in split-record with the Stonebirds group; this work was named Kreizh Breizh Sessions – Vol.1. This time Stangala performed a highly eclectic mix of doom stoner with black metal, with some Breton colors as well.
And now? Their second full-length Klañv, released by Finisterian Dead End on the 24th of March, shows avant-garde Celtic doom black rock as it probably could be. It’s an imprecise term, but you can easily check it – there are a few necessary links down the text. Oh, and the text… It’s our interview with Steven and Thomas.
Hi guys! How are you? What’s going on in the Stangala camp?
Steven (guitars/voice): Hi Aleks! Things are going just fine for us. We just released our second album, Klañv, on a local label called Finisterian Dead End. So far, so good! We already received a lot of very positive feedback!
Your previous release Kreiz-Breizh Sessions Vol. 1 appeared in 2013, almost three years lying between it and Klañv. What did you do all this time?
Steven: Things have always been somewhat slow with Stangala. We like to take our time! Us residing in different countries certainly does not help with getting things done faster but we also have relatively constraining and time-demanding jobs…
Kreiz-Breizh Sessions Vol. 1 differs a lot from Stangala’s debut full-length Boued tousek hag traoù mat all. What should we expect from your second album Klañv?
Tom (drums/saxophone): On the Kreizh Breizh Sessions, both Stonebirds and us wanted to change our sound a little. Stonebirds ended up playing some much muddier material while we started looking at different musical influences such as Black Metal and Jazz. In this regard, the Kreizh Breizh Sessions pretty much set the tone for what would come next. As a matter of fact, Klañv proves to be a very different release from Boued Tousek Hag Traou Mat All. We also invited Odran Plantec to come and play the bombard on the record. Like the bagpipes, the bombard is a traditional Celtic instrument. In Klañv, we gave it a central place, and Odran did a fantastic job writing his own parts. We’re more than happy with the result!
Do you set some limits for yourself when you practice such experiments? You know — just one unconscious step and you’ll have something unlistenable — so how do you decide that the experiment goes well?
Steven: Obviously this is very subjective and it can change from one song to another, but no, we don’t usually have any limits in terms of musical genre or sound. We do, however, set directions, goals, usually in terms of ambiances.
Nowadays you describe Stangala’s music as Avant-garde Celtic Doom Rock. How would you explain the presence of each above-mentioned components in your songs?
Tom: Well, as I was just saying, we took things a little bit further this time. “Avant-garde” might sound a little bit pompous, but it is essential for people to know that the first listen might be a little challenging. Klañv sounds much more Metal compared to what we did in the past and features more experimental elements. Instead of advertising our music using these genres, we decided to put the roots of our music — Rock and Doom — forward and make it all a little mysterious (did you say attractive?) by adding the “avant-garde” tag. And, well, for those who know us, “Celtic” is self-explanatory!
Stangala – Marv int ar martoloded
What about jazz? It sounds maximum organic, but I just wonder how you managed to make it sound so natural in your songs. I wasn’t surprised when I heard the final song of the album — “An Ankou hag ar vor”.
Steven: Well, sometimes one needs to look beyond the semantics. I mean, what does “jazz” mean anyway? There are so many sub-genres, just like metal. We did not intentionally “add” jazz elements to our music, we just put together ideas which seemed to naturally fit together. Turns out it sounds like jazz for some people, so there you go… Both Tom and I listen to very diverse kinds of music anyway, so the mixture of genres in Stangala is only the result of that.
The artwork of Klañv is pretty simple and even childish. Why did you pick this one, as it doesn’t connect with the music at first glance? And what does “Klañv” mean?
Steven: “Klañv” means “ill” in Breton. The previous album was essentially about inducing trance and reaching alternate worlds, this one is about coming back, it’s the hangover. As for the artwork, I do think that it fits the music perfectly. There is definitely something childish about Stangala, something of an ironic and twisted fairy tale.
Haha… Yes, I got your point… I like it. But from there did this childish approach come? Metal is usually about masculine pitch-black darkness of hell in the middle of the winter night and different extreme forms of emotions, you know?
Steven: Sure, I see what you mean. I don’t really know what to say though… this artwork is just exactly what I wanted! When I showed it to Tom, he reacted very positively, stressing the fact that it’s particularly original and, as such, it fits the music.
The core of Stangala is you and Thomas Coïc; but I see a third gentleman in the band’s new photos. Who is he? He doesn’t look like Alexandre Miossec, whom we know because of your fantastic video “Doom Rock Glazik”.
Steven: That would be Fañch, from Stonebirds! He has been playing live with us since the KBS.
Oh, I should recognize him! How often do you play gigs? And what is your top gig at this moment?
Steven: We play perhaps an average of 2-3 gigs a year, and that’s already a real pain for us to organize! We receive a lot of requests and it’s always so frustrating to answer that we just can’t. For the moment, we don’t have anything planned for the coming months.
The new album’s lyrics are written in Breton once again. What inspired you this time? What are your songs about?
Steven: This album is about getting back from a long trip, some sort of a hangover in music as I was just mentioning. Everything is metaphorical and relates to a large extent to Breton mythology, local legends, and the ocean, as it was already the case on our previous album.
So is your new promo photo somehow connected with this idea? Should we say farewell to careless druids from Breton groves?
Steven: Let’s just say that the druids went for a swim, looking for hallucinogenic seaweed.
You uploaded the new track “Marv int ar martoloded”; why did you choose this one to represent the new material?
Steven: Klañv is quite varied in terms of styles, ambiances, and moods, so finding representative songs was an ill-posed problem for us. That particular track is probably the one that best conveys the overall feeling of the album, but eventually one really needs to take Klañv as a whole, in order to really appreciate everything we tried to express. Of course, if you are not into original stuff, do not even bother.
Steven, what’s the message of Stangala on this album?
Steven: There is no particular message, or at least nothing that I could easily put in words. Klañv is more of a journey towards the bottom of the sea.
Subjectively, one of Stangala’s general moods is melancholy, but how do you yourselves see the emotional palette of Stangala?
Steven: Melancholic indeed, but also oniric, dreamy, epic, whatever gets you high man! There is so much that we tried to convey… again, it’s not necessarily easy to find the words but it’s all there I think.
The album is released by Finisterian Dead End — what is the story of Stangala’s relationship with the label?
Tom: I have already worked with Laurent, from FDE in the past with another band, and he did a great job taking it to the next level. He has been working pretty hard to make a name for himself and his bands in France and abroad for the past few years, and I thought it made sense to tell him about Klañv. He already knew about the band, but I’m not sure he expected that! He actually loved it and we quickly started working on scheduling the release. He’s also grown in Brittany and values our folklore and traditions. It just made sense to work together!
Stangala – Konk Kerne
Mate, I’m still waiting for Kreiz-Breizh Sessions Vol.2. Don’t you plan to do one more split-record in the nearby future?
Steven: We have been discussing it many times with Stonebirds and we would love to do it. We already have the songs, all we need is time. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, this is really a problem of availability for us (actually, mostly for me who lives abroad).
Really?! What are these songs alike? Are they closer to the Klañv stuff or to Kreiz-Breizh Sessions Vol.1?
Steven: Experience shows that our tracks can change drastically from demo to final stages, so I can’t really answer you at this point. I wrote these songs in the same period as I wrote Klañv, though, so I guess they are somewhat in that vein.
And I remember about your solo-project Netra. How soon do you plan to return to it?
Steven: I hope to be able to release a new album before the end of the year! Actually, I wrote this new material a couple of years ago and I never really felt like completing the recording process… until very recently. Somehow, it seems as though I cannot focus on both Stangala and netra at the same time, and I have been mostly taking care of the former lately.
Thank you for the interview men! I’m glad that we have this opportunity once again, and I hope that you’ll successfully spread Klañv further across the world. What are your last words of pagan Celtic wisdom for our readers?
Steven & Tom: Thank you for reading! Kenavo!
Klañv was mastered by Dan Swanö. It was released in late March and can be ordered HERE. A trailer for the album is below, along with a Bandcamp version of a song stream that appears above.