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Brieg Guerveno

The French Brieg Guerveno exists of four of the last Breton speaking citizens of the former Celtic province. Under the reign of the man himself, Brieg Guerveno, the band has reached their third and mighty fine album ‘Valgori’. Something he likes to talk more profoundly about, rather than the use of his native language.

By: Ruben | Archive under prog / sympho metal

Brieg Guerveno is a band not all of our readers may be familiar with. Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself a bit?
My name is Brieg Guerveno, I am the songwriter-composer of the project bearing my name. My artistic objective has changed a lot since I started back in 2006. I used to be more in a folk register, then I revised the group and addressed the project in a new way. Now it is rather a musician community wanting to progress in art with some common views on music. I feel quite close to the spirit of progressive currents in rock in the seventies, while seeking to unite several influences in a style close to crossover, while remaining firmly on the rock side.

Every word on ‘Valgori’ was written in Breton, making it hard to understand what it was about. Have you never been afraid of the possibility that most listeners never understand the language you write music in?
The Breton language is merely a vector within my project, like any other form of communication. It is not a hindrance to sing in Breton, it is not the language that determines whether you have talent, or gain popularity, or whatever. First of all, you must make good records and good live performances. I truly believe that progressive music, just like metal or world music, opens the path to different cultures, different sounds and different languages. Just look at Iceland or the Scandinavian countries. You can clearly sing anything in other languages than English.

Are there people that don’t like you because of the use of the language?
Probably, but so far, they never have not come forward to tell me as much. You can never please everyone and that’s just fine. When I make a record with my group, I would never think of trying to please as many as possible. The music is there to call forth emotions, depending on the sensibility of each listener. You cannot judge an artist basing yourself on the language used. On the other hand, you might want to assess the way the language is used ad how it vibrates.

How does, in your idea, Breton fit the music so well? What’s so inviting about writing in this language?e
I think there is no reason to ask too many questions about the Breton language and the choices I make in art. Sólstafir sing in Icelandic, Enslaved sometimes in Norwegian, and I think they always get asked why they do this. I am a Breton, I sing in Breton, this is who I am and I have always done this. It is quite natural. I find that Breton is very fitting with rock. When I was a teenager, I used to play in a black metal band, and I already sang in Breton, simply because it sounds so great. I never stopped to wonder whether this would be good for my career or not. At the time, I was listening to the first record released by Arcturus, partly in Norwegian, and this may have influenced my choice. I think that whatever you do in life, what counts is being sincere. Music is an art, and without sincerity, you cannot progress. In France, there are too many groups singing in English, without really mastering that language.

How many people actually speak this language nowadays? Have you got fans, back home, that speak it?
There are about 200,000 bilingual persons in Brittany (French-Breton). There were around a million monolingual Breton-speakers a century ago. Breton is the only Celtic langage still spoken on the European continent. It is the language that lost most speakers during the last century. The two world wars, the industrial era, and the policy of language eradication pursued by the French State have caused the near-extinction of that language .

band imageWhat kind of subject did you write about on ‘Valgori’? What were some of the themes you discuss?
‘Valgori’ is a very dark record. It reflects my artistic personality, as well as my cultural surroundings. Brittany’s culture is incredibly rich and vast. There is a very strong oral tradition tied to the language, as well as traditional songs. Some of the texts are carried forward in time, generation after generation, and can be traced to Brittany’s earliest times. One of the main themes encountered in the popular traditional tales and songs is death, and this is what I grew up with. My songs are like poems, the reflect the mood of the day and my visions. On this record, I deal with subjects connected to isolation and daydreams, and this is what the Breton term ‘Valgori’ means.

What are some of the band’s influences? Which bands do you all like and admire?
There are a great many bands that have influenced me, but I would say that ‘Valgori’ carries some King Crimson influence. I also feel very close to the Norwegian Ulver. I love their general approach to music. I love the idea of being free, untagged, therefore I try to renew myself each time and to expand my boundaries. I listen to a lot of different things, just as long as they make sense and move me.

The band exists of three people, but Brieg is the main man. Composing and writing everything. How is the cooperation between the three of you?
‘Valgori’ is a record that is a bit apart from the others, since the three of us co-wrote many of the songs. On the previous album, ‘Ar Bed Kloz’, I had brought forth many of the ideas and the arrangements were made by the group. When we started working on ‘Valgori’, all the ideas just sprang forth in all directions, and there came a time when I had to take control of the art direction. There is quite a fusional element within the group, we have known each other for twenty years, as friends and as musicians. It was not easy when we started to write, and then each of us found his marks. I brought ideas for riffs and ambiant songs, and we built the pieces together step by step. On this new album, I mainly provided the work of an author in order to give each of us a lead. The album was made and pre-produced over a period of seven months. We then went to the studio to record everything. We mixed the album with our sound engineer in his home studio and it was mastered at Fascination street in Örebro, Sweden.

What was your aim after the last record, ‘Ar Bed Kloz’? What was it you tried to reimagine or improve?
Every record is a turning point in a group’s existence. ‘Ar Bed Kloz’ was built on an ambition of its own, quite different from what brought ‘Valgori’ forward. ‘Ar Bed Kloz’ was probably more into rock, and I was still finding my path as a composer. I believe the new album is much more even, and I address the international scene in a more marked way. I have had a lot of positive reactions to ‘Valgori’, I did not expect that many. That record demanded much work and thought. There were strenuous times as well as a lot of doubt. I think I wanted to be rid of the “province” tag that was being forced upon me. I do not want to be Mr. Rock in Breton from Brittany, that is not my purpose at all. Above all, I am a musician and I want to be acknowledged as such. I don’t want people to say, hey, this lad sings in Breton, how unusual. I don’t want to be known only for the fact that I sing in Breton. Most of those who listen to me in Brittany are not breton-speakers, that proves that my music can reach anyone.

Have you thought-out a plan for the band’s future? What will you be doing in 2017?

Answer: We already have a few dates for 2017, among others for the greates Breton festivals. The record was just published and I am trying to make it known. I have no tour manager, so it is difficult to organise a tour of Europe. If we must leave home, we might as well play for music lovers, so we want to advertise the new record to begin with.
Our project is getting bigger with every concert we play and the acquaintances we make. We recently performend with the French band KLONE, we did fine and this collaboration makes us want to try to share other concerts and other projects. This is how I see music and the band’s progress. There is much work to be done, and a lot of satisfaction to be had.

Is there a possibility that you’ll go touring and show your new works to the audience in The Netherlands?
We haven’t scheduled any dates in Holland yet, but we would love to visit. My guitar player is Eric Cervera, he is sponsored by the guitar brand Rebel Relic, hailing from your country. We sure want to travel through Europe, but it is a bit difficult at the moment. We hope that this new record will open some doors, and that we will be able to play live more often.

Well, that's about it for this time. If I forgot some important feature of what's going on within the band please feel free to add it here.
Thank you for this interview, and for allowing me to talk about the new record. It is not easy for a band to progress abroad and create buzz. I am greatly honoured to share my music and speak about Breton and our bit of earth in the westernmost part of the European mainland. I hope we will tour Holland soon. I welcome any proposal from concert and band managers who would like us to play. Do get in touch with me!

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