Interview with Julien Sournac of Wolve

After returning from Wolve’s very first European tour, frontman Julien Sournac talked to Progressive Music Planet about the writing and recording process of their latest EP “Lazare” as well as the band’s experiences on tour and future projects.

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What were your main influences during the writing process of “Lazare” (musically and lyrically)?
Personally, I’m influenced a lot by what happens in my life, I’m really aware of what surrounds me. Sometimes good things happen and some other time shit happens… and shit was particularly numerous this year. I started to write on “Lazare” by the end of 2015, I can remember that it was the beginning of November. I wanted to write as much music as possible in three or four months before going back to the studio with the band to record something in the winter vacation. Unfortunately, there was the attack in Paris about the same time… which eventually influenced the direction of the EP. Not that this EP deals with this topic, but we tried to put what we felt in our music. Music is our religion and I think this EP is somewhat of an unconscious response to what happened.
Lyrically, it deals with pure human emotions like anger, abandonment and duality. You know this Freudian model which says that there are at least two or three parts in each individual: id, ego and super-ego. Sometimes there is confrontation, you have to deal with it, to face your own demons to keep going and find your way.
Musically, we wanted to go back to the music we liked when we were kids, let’s say back to the roots. Our generation was a lot into alt rock from the 90’s. We dig a lot of bands like Tool, NIN, RATM, Radiohead, Beck, The Smashing Pumpkins… We don’t really listen to them as much as in the old days, but I think they’re a huge part of our culture now. There were other influences as Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” and of course the map to hell by Botticelli, primitive art, astrology engraving, tarot games… trippy stuff!

“Lazare” was mainly recorded live. How would you describe the recording process, especially compared to regular recording?
Well, I think regular recording is live, a lot of bands that we’re listening to are recording live. It made the sound more honest and organic, I think. We had this small room for us where we usually rehearse, and we thought: “Ok, let’s do this with what we have.” Brice, the producer, helped us a lot in the process, he has a real love for sound aesthetics. So he took the time to place the microphones in the right places and created the base for the sound.
For the track “Lazare”, we were all in this small space and I played the bass line, so I could watch Simon hitting his drum and Alexander who played the guitar part that you can hear on the left side of the mix. We liked that a lot because there was a real emotions involved in the takes we recorded. We could look at each other. It really unifies a band to experience a recording like this. There was the producer in the room with us who was our external gaze and he advised us really well. I think the man really understands where we want to go. When the instrumentals were recorded, I just had to finish the lyrics and track the vocals and additional guitars.
This way of recording [live recording] is, in my opinion, much better because you catch the real emotion. So you can really hear the band playing when you listen to this EP. We really enjoyed it, I think we found a way for our band to process and we will continue in that direction in the future. Not to mention that you also save time and money!

Can you tell us something about the artwork for “Lazare”?
We worked with Louise Le Quinquis which is a gifted French artist, and we tried a lot of directions in a really short time until we found what fitted perfectly what we tried to express musically.
We went into many different directions: engraving, for instance, which we ended up not using because we thought it was not the right direction – such as impressive plastic artworks – but we found them too tidy compared to what we have expressed with our music.
So, we went into a lot of directions, until we instinctively thought that we have to go into a “rawer” direction – the same way that we conceived this EP. I was really inspired by primitive art and I thought that we have to do something with what we had at the moment, like the way we recorded this EP. We took a canvas, paint and brushes and I painted the lyrics of the song “Far” while I was listening to the mixes. I’m not a painter so I did my best and we thought that it worked great because there were a lot of imperfections. Then Louise painted the other lyrics on canvas. She came up with other ideas that ended up on the final artwork, like the spectrogram inspired by “Porcelain”, the fresco of stamps behind the disc… We wanted this artwork raw, simple, and I think it turned out really well.

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In general, how would you describe your experience on tour?
We had a lot of fun altough if it was very difficult… We had to get our hands dirty to make this tour go well and even to finish it!
We have been on tour with French post-rockers SaaR and we tried to help them like they helped us a lot during the good and difficult moments. We get along well together; we got to know each other and to built a strong relationship to them. They’re great guys. We even invited their drummer to perform with us the opening song “Lazare” on the last gigs. He makes percussion and that was so cool!
Touring at our level is very difficult because all is made by ourselves: DIY. But we enjoyed it a lot, that was the first time for us and we found the right solutions to our problems.
I learned a lot about myself and the others, we learned about life in community because we were a ten guys living together, so you understand really quickly that you have to put your ego aside and find the strength to take it back when you have to go on stage.
We had a lot of good times in Germany, I think that German people make a great audience to us; they have a great concert culture and were more receptive during our gigs. There was a lot of exchange between us and the audience: We gave our music to them, they gave us their energy, so we gave more energy back through the music, and they gave us more and more energy. It really helped us letting ourselves escape into our music and embodying it far better. We even went off the stage to play with the crowd, a thing that we absolutely wouldn’t do in our country.
Touring was very formative to us, we have become more and more efficient, more professional. And of course we had a blast! We had a lot of fun, we met a lot of lovely people who helped us, even hosted us. I’m thinking of our friends from The Makeshift Project (Köln), really cool guys and they made us feel at home when we were in Köln. You have to dig them, they’re such a great band. Also Shamotte from Oldenburg, a post-rock/math-rock trio, Flowers In Syrup, all of them… I can’t quote everyone but there were a lot of great and talented people that supported us, so we came back home with heads full of beautiful memories. This helped us to evolve as a band and we can’t wait to go back and hit the road again!

Is there anything you wish you had known before going on tour?
No, not really, I went on tour without expecting anything so I couldn’t be disappointed.
This was a 100% positive experience to me, so I certainly don’t wish I had known anything before hitting the road with my mates. I was there to learn, and I’ve learned a lot!

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picture by Alex of SaaR

What do you like most about being on the road?
There is this particular moment, when you had a hard day on the road – because being in a car for five to eight hours a day for two weeks could be really alienating – and you give all you got every night, then you go off the stage completely empty, and you feel great. People are smiling around you. You have a beer and laugh with your mates and talk with people in the audience about anything. I think this is what I like most about touring.

Have you been faced with challenges?
Yeah … many! There were moments of discouragement, you know … We had to cancel a gig because of this f***ing broken car in the middle of a Czech highway, and we had to find a solution to finish the tour as well because 48 hours after that we had to play in Berlin. During the gig in Berlin, one of the windows of our second vehicle was vandalized. There was a lot of frustration that we transformed in energy during the sets, which were becoming more and more rock ‘n roll, more sincere, I guess.
We also learned to put our ego aside, learned to live in a community, there were short nights with little sleep, which is not the best for vocals… so I had to warm up twice more. I tried to stay healthy and to not fall into those tour/ego traps, you know, too much partying, too much alcohol… it could make you feel really down.

What are the next steps for Wolve?
I think we’re attracted by the idea of giving a follow-up to “Lazare” while writing songs for a second LP, but the first step for us is to take a look at what worked during the tour and what did not in order to come back in 2017 with a stronger set.
We’re actually working on this in the studio with Brice, we’re working on dynamics to get even more impact. Results are coming quickly and sound impressive, so we just can’t wait to play our next gig in February in Paris! We’ll be working on a live video for 2017 to capture a bunch of songs… basically, I’d say normal work that small bands like us have to do to step up their game!

Read our review of “Lazare” (EP) here and of “Sleepwalker” here.

Follow Wolve:
www.wolve.fr
www.facebook.com/wolveofficial

Listen to Wolve:

 

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Steven Wilson vs. Marco Minnemann: a study in personalities

25f53e5045d07ad4924689a84ce29c6aBy now everyone know about the rift between Steven Wilson and former drummer for his band, Marco Minnemann. People are going to pick sides but is it really that easy? I think this goes way beyond a gold record and whether or not Wilson purposefully slighted Minnemann. This is a study in personalities and chemistry.

Wilson has been a leader for quite sometime now. While many people seem to think Porcupine Tree was a band, really it was Wilson’s project. He only brought in others when it became clear that he had a chance to tour the project. So he needed a band. Once he felt like those people were limiting his output, he went out on his own.

Once again, Wilson hired a band. As with any band, other people have input. To what extent the members of the Steven Wilson band had input is debatable. However, the material was written by Wilson and his name is on the music. Minnemann is an equally talented artist and he knows he is. So there’s some jealousy at play here and honestly that is understandable.

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Back when Dream Theater chose Mike Mangini over Minnemann, I thought they made the right choice and it had nothing to do with ability. Mangini is the “good soldier” type and that’s what they really needed. Minnemann is VERY over the top and outgoing. He is also very opinionated, which reminds me a lot of Mike Portnoy. Personality type is just as critical to a band as talent.

Remember when the Storm Corrosion project was announced as Wilson, Mikael Akerfeldt and Portnoy? Remember how quickly Wilson said they were not using any percussion…but Gavin Harrison plays on the album? I am guessing that Wilson was not initially aware that Minnemann was quite as opinionated as Portnoy. Honestly he really isn’t QUITE as opinionated but he isn’t the “good soldier” type like Mangini or current drummer Craig Blundell.

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This rift was inevitable. The gold record was just the easiest way to force it all out into the open. People don’t always get along and bands disband because of that reason as much as “artistic differences.” But the bottom line is that Wilson doesn’t owe Minnemann a thing. That’s why it’s not Porcupine Tree and it’s not called the Steven Wilson BAND on the album cover. It’s also why people like Mangini and Blundell will always find work and why people like Portnoy and Minnemann have extensive work histories.

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THE PINEAPPLE THIEF ANNOUNCE HEADLINE YOUR WILDERNESS TOUR FEATURING GAVIN HARRISON

tpt-gh-hiresThe Pineapple Thief have announced a string of European dates for early 2017 in support of their highly acclaimed new album, ‘Your Wilderness’. The band will be joined by virtuoso Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson) on drums.

We always said that we couldn’t imagine touring the material live without Gavin on stage’, explains band leader Bruce Soord, ”We’re so excited that we have made it happen. It’s a real once in a lifetime event.”

20.01 Patronaat, Haarlem NL
21.01 Uden, De Pul NL
22.01 Zwolle, Hedon NL
24.01 Aschaffenburg, Colos Saal DE
25.01 Oberhausen, Eisenlager DE
26.01 Berlin, Frannz club DE
27.01 Prague, Futurum Music Bar CZ
28.01 Dresden, Tante Ju DE
29.01 Hamburg, Knust DE
31.01 Maastricht, Muziekgieterij NL
01.02 Paris, Le Divan Du Monde FR
09.02 Glasgow, ABC2 UK
10.02 Manchester, Sound Control UK
11.02 London, Islington Assembly Hall UK

For more information and ticket details – http://pineapplethief.com/tour

The band will be performing Your Wilderness plus a string of re-imagined favourites from their back catalogue, and with an expanded 5-piece line-up including Darran Charles on additional guitar duties, this will be a live show not to be missed.  Special guest support is from Kscope label mates Godsticks.

Your Wilderness, their 11th studio album, showcases the band performing without any inhibitions providing a springboard for the ongoing creative growth of The Pineapple Thief.

For the first time, The Pineapple Thief brought in several special guest performers: Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) contributed drums throughout the album, John Helliwell (Supertramp) some beautiful clarinet parts, and Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) provided a string quartet. They were also joined by a 4-piece choir and to cap it all off, Darran Charles (Godsticks) added some jaw dropping guitar playing.

Seen as one of the most vital rock bands the UK has produced over the last two decades, The Pineapple Thief was formed in 1999 by founder and chief songwriter Bruce Soord. The band has steadily evolved and refined its sound with the bass playing of Jon Sykes and the production and keyboards of Steve Kitch vital ingredients of the unmistakable TPT sound.

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Ollocs – “Soul Theory”

ollocs.jpgI’ve battled this album probably more than I needed to. The problem for me was trying to find the direction that Ollocs were wanting to go versus the direction they actually take on their new album “Soul Theory.” Ollocs consider themselves progressive rock or even experimental. What I hear is a band with psychedelic roots that are exploring a more post metal area.

The riffs are often quite good as on the opener “At the Edge (part 2),” and the band understand when a more atmospheric section is needed. The problem is that the riffs don’t have enough meat on them and the atmospheric moments lack the huge space to really set them apart. Another issue are the occasional vocals which are not terribly strong and really unnecessary.

Sometimes an arrangement just throws the song off. The soft bass drum throughout “The Paradigm” is an example. It pulses through an otherwise beautiful song and is just loud enough to be distracting from the true magic of the song. It happens again in “Insight.” The clumsy “Ignite” is an example too. The intro section is messy and makes little sense next to the mellow part that follows (which has those aforementioned vocals).

“Appetite” actually repeats the same chaotic intro but has really annoying death vocals. I love death vocals but they sound like bad Gregorian chants over a riff that could use less noise and more actual power. “Unfolding” is ambient filler, while “Paper Dragon” has parts that are good and other parts that just don’t work for me. The album closes with the Floydian “Earth Meets Moon” which seems to fit the band better than the last few tracks.

The frustrating part of “Soul Theory” is that Ollocs are talented as hell. It’s obvious that they can play, that they have grand designs for their music. Unfortunately, the band’s own ambitions exceed what probably SHOULD do. I give Ollocs tons of credit for doing what they want but it’s obvious on “Soul Theory” that there are certain things they should explore more and other things they might be better off jettisoning.

Rating: 5/10

Tracklist:
1. At the Edge, Pt. 2
2. Macrocosm
3. The Paradigm
4. Soul Theory: Ignite
5. Soul Theory: Insight
6. Soul Theory: Appetite
7. Unfolding
8. Paper Dragon
9. Earth Meets Moon

Bandcamp: ollocs.bandcamp.com

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Eye – “Vision And Ageless Light”

eye-vision-cover-1024x1024There are some bands that just GET how progressive rock should sound. Eye is one of those bands. Vintage keyboards, analog sounds, and massive soundscapes. I got into Eye just after their first album. I still can’t for the life of me think of how or where I found them but I was blown away by “Center of the Sun.” I could never understand why no one else picked up on Eye. Then they released “Second Sight” and again, I was floored by it.

Eye is back with a new album and new lineup. “Vision And Ageless Light” is another awesome chapter in the book of prog according to Eye. If you like bands like Astra, Proud Peasant or any new band with ancient DNA, then you need to add Eye to your list. The album starts with a 3 and 1/2 minute intro-type song in “Book of the Dead.” Most times, I am not into shorter throwaway intro tracks but this is more than that. It works as an invitation to the rest of the album.

“Kill the Slavemaster” has some very evil sounding synths to start off which leads into Eye going into a full gallop as the song kicks in. The song highlights Eye’s psychedelic side which just flat out jams. “Searching” is another rocker which has a great throbbing bass line along with echoing vocals. It’s another wild trip. ‘Dweller Of The Twilight Void” showcases the band’s “lighter” acoustic side which reminds me a bit of “Waiting for the Tide” from the previous album.

The album closer is worth the price of the record alone. “As Sure As The Sun” is over 27 minutes long and, like the band’s previous epics, shows everything that Eye is capable of. They have plenty of riffs, excellent transitions and are amazing players. It’s all on display on “As Sure As The Sun.”

Eye are what old school prog is all about. This is not nostalgia. This is a band that understands what the heart and soul of prog is and it is inside them. “”Vision And Ageless Light” is another great album by Eye and dammit, people who love progressive rock need to know about this band and their music!!! I just hope that “Vision And Ageless Light” is the one that gets everyone to sit up and take notice.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:
1. Book Of The Dead
2. Kill The Slavemaster
3. Searching
4. Dweller Of The Twilight Void
5. As Sure As The Sun

Label: The Laser Edge Group
Bandcamp: eyemusic.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/EYE00

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