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Soror Dolorosa

Every month, many quite good albums are coming out, but many of them are a bit exchangeable with the rest of the releases that daily ends up in our offices. And suddenly… you look up and realize that there's something different going on. That's exactly the feeling we had last month when hearing the captivating debut 'Blind Scenes' of the French band Soror Dolorosa. The bass-driven music of The Cure with its fluttering sounds and pitch black decadence might be mentioned as point of reference, but worth saying that Soror Dolorosa will not only appeal to “bat-goths”. 'Blind Scenes' is way too amazing for that restriction and it really shows their signature sound. Thus we contacted the band and vocalist Andy Julia told us everything about this new revelation hailing from the heart of Paris.

By: Vera | Archive under gothic metal

How are you? Congratulations with your proper debut album 'Blind Scenes'! It is a refreshing experience to listen to it and review it. But I guess it helps that I used to be a fan of The Cure…
Very fine, thanks, we're just back from Vienna, where we played at Viper Room, one week before the official release date of 'Blind Scenes'. It was an incredibly inspiring experience, the audience and the venue was great and the show lasts something like 1h40. The essence of the album is directly coming from the Viennese Secession of the beginning of the previous century, it was obvious for us to play there, to make a kind of homage to this marvellous city…far from the spoiled and saturated air of Paris, the sound of SOROR DOLOROSA felt like liberated from a cage.

One might say that Soror Dolorosa has taken its time before recording a decent full length album. Thus you are a new name for most of the people. Firstly can you tell me something about the first period of the band (2001-2005)?
The band began to compose music in 2000 and settled under the name of SOROR DOLOROSA in 2001. As many bands knew before, we suffered about line up evolutions and member separation… bands' story are most of the time complicated and we don't flee from the rule. When you're playing with other persons as composers and song writers, it's due that personal things influence the complete band story and the evolution throughout years. I think a band is ready to run the stages and go in studio when a kind of harmony is found. You need so much concentration and precision to compose or play music live, that this work has to be done before all, anyway, a band risks to split or compose bullshit after the first release or big shows. Those years were not a waste of time, we learnt to listen to each other, play and say what we have to say in a common sense. Now, we're ready to go again and again in studio to record some songs, and as obvious it could be at the first listening of 'Blind Scenes', I have to say that this album was as difficult as a child's birth. Somehow, we made something like twenty-five shows during this period. At this moment I was drummer, in SOROR DOLOROSA and other bands too, more raw and dark bands like Darvulia, Celestia, Nuit Noire or Mutiilation. I can say that this learning on the stage and the experience in playing music with different people was a very good training to be able today, to drive the career of the band, in every level a band needs to be driven.

What were the strict intentions with the band at the point of foundation? Did you have some “heroes” that inspired you to start making music yourself?
I prefer to speak about musical influences, rather than heroes, even if every band is surrounded by the presence of great musicians and persons. We're all gathered around albums like the 'Trilogy' by The Cure or the amazing recording 'Carnage Visors'. I guess it was one of our first influences, especially about the bass guitar sound, played loud and broad with chorus or smart flanger or distortion. It is like a vertebral column of the album, as you could hear at the first notes of 'Crystal Lane' at the beginning of the album…the crystalline is coming from Emey's inspirations which are very complex to describe. I think we could find correspondences with that in 'The First And Last And Always' period of The Sisters of Mercy or the incredible albums of The Chameleons. The global sense and the mystical aspect of the lyrics could find an echo in Ian Curtis's writings, like words lost in a kind of mist and always unfortunately true… I'm very attached to the surrealistic aspect of the lyrics written by Bauhaus, for example on the track 'Damaged Dreamer', the third one on the album. The progressive and rhythmic parts of SOROR DOLOROSA are a mix between For Against, The Fields Of The Nephilim or more recent, the excellent first Interpol album 'Turn On The Bright Lights'. I don't know if those influences appear like clear in the listening of 'Blind Scenes' cause it's very difficult to listen to our proper music in an objective way… especially songs like 'Low End' which was for me, a kind of trial with life, entirely…

How did you meet your partners in crime, people with the same feelings about your music?
The story of the band is what you can find more authentic hehe! We met in a smoky bar in the south of France, where I was drinking whisky with some friends. I met Hervé (the bass player) at the random of discussion and we spoke about 'Only Theatre Of Pain' by Chrisitan Death. We stopped on the idea that music has to sound a bit like this and he proposed me to play with him as drummer…It was a kind of starting point, cause this album is so intense in every ways that it's strong for the inspirations of any musician. I was just discovering what the real “Goth” was, because at this moment I was totally drowned in bands like Burzum, Darkthrone, Judas Iscariot or Black legion's hordes, like Mutiilation or Vlad Tepes. Then, I found a deep correspondence between those bands and what Hervé made me discover with the early goth scene, especially when I listened to 'Shadow Project' or 'Closer' by Joy Division. Frank, the drummer of the band, at this moment guitarist of Soror Dolorosa, was a long way friend of Hervé and we naturally met after a few weeks. Emey, joined us by the influence of our first singer, they were neighbours and he was exactly the guy we were searching for…he replaced Frank at the guitar and we separated from him during two years. In 2005, we decided to separate from the singer. It was a long and complicated affair in the band…after a two years break during 2005 and 2007; we decided to set up the band again, around songs like 'Autumn Wounds'. At this precise moment, SOROR DOLOROSA took the blue and misty colour that we have today. During the rehearsals since this time, we composed something like forty tracks, themes, or musical sketches as you prefer. 'Blind Scenes' is the final result of eight of them.

Your first release was an EP 'Severance' with six tracks. Is it still available and can you describe the music on that one. Is it pretty similar to 'Blind Scenes' or are there distinct differences?
'Severance' is the first real recording of SOROR DOLOROSA, made with all the skills and inspirations we had after a long stasis period. We were just beginning to take back possession of ourselves. A very good friend of us, Artes from Le Mauvais Oeil, helped us with the production of the sound, because he owns a good home studio. The mixing took six months, all done by Emey, who is skilful with the sound production. 'Severance' is for us a good recording, maybe less mature than 'Blind Scenes', but we're still satisfied with it, especially the songs 'Beau Suicide' and 'Trembling Androgyneous' that we play at every show. It's typically cold wave, inspired by the eighties or more the sensation we had listening to The Sisters of Mercy, especially the incredible live at the Royal Albert Hall, the 18th of June 1985.

How come the release of the EP was so much delayed?
We recorded the instruments very fast and the drums in trigging. The delay time was so long because we needed to mix it and to listen it many times to be satisfied… when you're recording music with sound engineer or producer, you're alone in front of yourself and confronted to the limits of your skills… It can take time to be satisfied of the sound, especially in cold wave, where the effects and the colours of the music is given by the mix and the mastering. From this first record, we kept in mind that the first takes in studio are always the best ones and you have to prepare yourself very intensively before going in to record. All things appear clearer after, it's the feeling we had for the recording of 'Blind Scenes'. In addition, we were engineered by Mr Xort, who is today, a kind of fifth member of the band.

I guess you are grateful to Neige as well, the moving spirit of Alcest. How did you meet him and in which way did he turn into a helpful friend?
Neige is my best friend, I know him for more than twelve years now… We always had perfect connection and I think we are going to stay friends for ever. He made me discover bands like Slowdive, The Jesus and Mary Chains and I made him discover things like And Also the Trees or The Human League. We're living together in Paris and met each other very often, just to relax and to spend good time watching movies. Neige appreciates the music of SOROR DOLOROSA for years, and as I remember he saw many of our shows…he dealt with Northern Silence – Beneath Grey Skies for the release of Amesoeur's album and the LP version of the first Alcest album 'Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde' and after his positive feedback about the label, advised me to send promo tracks to them. The label appreciated the style of SOROR DOLOROSA and proposed us to sign us for three albums. For the progression of the band, signing with a German label was a good thing, concerning the fact that German goth and alternative metal scene is much more developed than in France. We are fully satisfied of this decision, because we had the possibility to release 'Blind Scenes' in very good conditions and the production of the disks as digipack CD and LP collector editions are really perfect. A lot of the good things which happen to us are a part from his influence and I had a great pleasure to send him back a service in shooting the next Alcest photo session for the re-release of the first mini CD of the band: 'Le Secret'. I'm my life, I'm professional photographer and I collaborated with Neige many times before, it's always a perfect artistic connection as well.

You went to rainy Brittany to record at the Drudenhaus Studio. Maybe the first time in a real professional studio J so please tell me all about this experience… (how long recording, what did you learn, was it hard work or did you have time for some beers hehe)
The Drudenhaus studio is the perfect place for SOROR DOLOROSA to create and record. We were isolated in a fresh summer breeze, sleeping in an old 17th century manor, situated at just few miles from the studio, in the middle of a forest, next to a lake. There is no time there, no cars and nobody to disturb your concentration in front of yourself and your music...'Blind Scenes' is a kind of minimalist album, there are no emphatic effects to try to make the music sound louder or stronger, I can say that it's an album of music and feelings, and that's all. So, in a way we needed to be very close to ourselves to let this fragile part of our personalities express freely. Before recording an album, you have to find the right way to do it, anyway it will be just another album on the market and not a real unique one... the magic of the music is to catch something real in the silence between each note and for that, a kind of purity is needed, in SOROR DOLOROSA particularly. We had a bit less than three weeks to record and mix the album, it's not a lot, that's why we didn't really had the time to drink a lot of beers...but don't worry, we had enough on a great Whisky bottle (laughs).

band image


And what about the cooperation with producer Benoît Roux? (ex Anorexia Nervosa – French black metal band)
Benoît Roux aka Mr Xort is a skilful sound engineer and a sensible person like none. He had been able to catch exactly the sound of our instruments, as they are, simple and true. There are almost no machines, except few keyboard notes on two tracks. It's a basic rock production with a very precise mix and equalisation that makes it sound as cold wave. I think Benoît managed to catch what there is a little behind the notes and riffs, the colour of the sound. He works with a gigantic analogue mixer table (coming from the German television) and he had to destroy a wall of the studio to make it enter inside... that gives you an idea of the monster. He is not only a guy that pushes the record button, I can compare him a bit to Martin Hannett in the way that he gave them a specific sound recognizable between thousands... I think this will strengthen with the next releases.

By the way, you guys have quite a diverse taste for good music. Can you go deeper into the favourite music from the four members, so people can see you are not stuck in the eighties hehe…
Yes, absolutely not. For example, we're all fans of Pink Floyd and Deep Purple for the older things... In the nineties a lot of good things came across as well, personally, I'm big fan of Slowdive and shoegaze stuffs like “M83” or the grandiose trip-hop ambient made recently by Ulver. We all listened to a lot of metal before making our music, and I think it's a kind of clearer for the mind by the aspect powerful and cathartic, after that you're able to approach music with a more open mind and find your own way to express feelings. We still appreciate metal bands, especially those who take the risks to open the way for new styles. Alcest is one of them, I can say also Agalloch or Darkspace.

I think you moved from Toulouse to Paris. Did you experience that Paris happens to be a place where your music is more appreciated? I think the Montmartre area will inspire you…
Firstly, the fact that I moved to Paris had a negative effect on the band, because it's a part of the split we had in 2005; but I made it for my job and it was a very important choice in my life. Concerning the fact that Paris is really the heart beating of a lot of things in France, yes, now, it's a good thing that I live here. I had the luck to see a lot of shows and meet new people that made my mind opened larger... It's always a good thing for the musical inspirations. However, I terrible miss nature in the heart of Paris... It's a huge pleasure to go back to the south countryside to rehearsal and see my family there. Paris is also a huge stream of inspiration, but for me it's something completely different. I see in this city, a kind of inextricable maze, surrounded by the radiance of the past... as the catacombs, Paris has something hidden below, under the people, behind the faces. If you look for, you can find the most beautiful things of the world, as much as can be… but at first sight, Paris is a vampire city that could destroy somebody in a simple long winter... a lot of people here know what I mean.

When visiting your website, I found out that you are looking for the possibility of doing a tour. One gig already happened when you read this (or more?) How was the gig and what is the news on touring at the moment?
Yes, we would like to do a tour, like all the bands who release their first album, we're full of energy and willing to deal with the stage and to share our songs with the audience. For the moment, the goal is to make more dates possible in Germany because most of the reviews and interviews we're doing are for German press. For us, it's much more interesting to play there, because in France, the scene is smaller and the people don't have the curiosity to go seeing new bands onstage... Maybe it will change in the future and I hope so. The next step for us will be finding a tour manager and to be listed in festivals. SOROR DOLOROSA is definitely a band to play onstage and our short term ambition is to get the opportunities to tour with our proper sound engineer, which is a capital thing to have a perfect sound on stage. We are actually gathering a lot of great stage videos in idea to produce a DVD, the more shows we are going to do, the better will be the result of this release. We planned to make a show with Alcest, at the frontier between France and Germany and for the moment, there are shows planned in Lyon (France) with a very good death rock band, Castrati the 2nd of April. I was exchanging messages with the organiser of WGT two days ago and for this year, I think it's too late for us, every slot is already taken. Damn it hehehe.

The artwork is nicely reflected and used as lay out on your website. Please tell us about Metastazis, the artist responsible for it?
Metastazis is one of the best graphic designers I know and luckily, he's a very good friend of mine. I spoke with him few months before the release of the album, especially about the Viennese Secession. It's an inspiration we have in common and when he showed me this amazing artwork by Koloman Moser, I said : “Perfect”. Few weeks after, he showed me the interpretation he had done about that and I had a perfect feeling of harmony with the album. He is very talented in creating of course but on top of that he knows what will fit the music, with his big experience with musical artworks. Viennese Secession is a manifesto of modernity and deepness. The pictures you can find in this artistic movement is for me a kind of finality in Art, I think we perfectly gathered around this idea and the final aspect of the release is marked by this unity. www.metastazis.com

I have found a very good live video of 'Crystal Lane' to relish the CD review on our site. But are there any plans to make a video clip (not live) from one of the songs?
An American director, Toshadeva Palani, has already done a video clip on the track 'Low End'. We spoke together during few months and I decided to work with him, because he has a modern vision and a very sensitive way to create images in motion... I invite you to check this video clip which is very innovative, all based on the slow and the weight of the message hidden in the track...

Everybody can hear that your lyrics are moody, melancholic, dark and sometimes desperate. But I would like to know if you can add something about the band lyric-wise?
Lyrics are coming directly from feelings we felt, coming from the real life... We don't play cold wave to express light things. Most of the time, it's true that sadness is the first doorway to express something strong, that marked you deeply... but, as you could read, the lyrics are not always completely understandable in a literary sense. There are many ways to read it, different according to your proper culture and experiences in life... there is a cathartic aspect in our songs, a mix between music and lyrics that could make you interpret the song for yourself, especially when you're walking in the streets, with a loud sound on the ears, isolating you from the other sounds of the surrounding world... the lyrics are made to create a shiver when you read while listening to the music and to reveal if the music is good.

Hervé's bass skills feature the music of Soror Dolorosa. At what age did he get into music, into bass playing and was there someone (family, friends) that has given him the push to start playing?
Yes, the bass is really important in SOROR DOLOROSA, it's not simply following the guitars, it is an entire part of the melody and very often, it is the melody. Hervé is a kind of composer that never stops... every time in rehearsal, he plays new bass riffs, that lead us to gather around and find new harmonies. It's a very special way to compose, because most of the time music comes from the guitars. Maybe it's this fact that gives this specific colour to our sound. I think an album of SOROR DOLOROSA could be only an acoustic bass, as the way the tracks often came to life... simply playing bass, alone in a bedroom. Hervé started to play bass something like fifteen years ago, maybe more, I don't know... he started to play bass, because, as he says himself, its' a way to express everything, and saying nothing.

I think music is not the only art you are interested in. What do you like to mention as art or things that are a source of inspiration?
We're interested in every kind of art, because what it's interesting with that is simply the fact that we cannot predict what a Work of Art will bring to you, as experience and as inspiration. Recently, I saw the movie “Gummo” directed by Harmony Korine and I have to say that I have been interested in what I saw and felt. Another movie that marked me a lot too is “Svidd Neger” directed by Erik Smith Meyer. The original soundtrack has been composed and performed by Ulver. I have to say that I consider that as a masterpiece... I think if there is something that SOROR DOLOROSA could do one day, different as an album, is to compose a soundtrack for a movie like this. Another thing that I can add to this question, is the close relation we have with photography. As professional photographer, I take care about this part of the band's imagery and sometimes in the artworks of our albums; some of my pictures will come to haunt the music... as words in lyrics could do.

If I forgot to cover something you want to tell, feel free to add it here…
For the next album, we are going to take more time in the studio and I think it will be a bit surprising and a bit unexpected. It will be a kind of brother to this one, but not a twin.

To occlude, a brief description of your music and intentions for our readers…

LOW END
Silence, above you
I wish I could cry enough.
Survivor, of your mind
Until I don't write or sign
I don't write or sign
Love still, paralyzes me
Strong into the depths,
I reach another ground
From all comes from inside, you know what I'm speaking
We've got it deep inside, our lives
then you will take and show me the rays
We've got still inside, we could cry a million tears
Up to the cross, up to the light
Up to the cross, I saw the firelights
At least, remember, the taste of my soul
Then I could quietly crawl, under the ground
And you will come inside
you will come inside
you will come inside
you will come inside


Step into this dark, yet compelling musical universe of Soror Dolorosa! Beauty in darkness!

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