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Soror Dolorosa

Soror Dolorosa has really surpassed themselves on the new (double)album ’Apollo’. The Paris based band really belongs in the top of the contemporary gothic oriented outfits! In addition they even excel in psychedelic influences from post rock and fluttering soundscapes now. We decided to have our next chat with this new signed band at Prophecy Productions. An engrossing story from vocalist and moving spirit Andy Julia about the birth of this extensive collection of music is the result.

By: Vera | Archive under gothic metal

Congratulations with ‘Apollo’! We had to be patient for four years, but it is ace with its seventy minutes length! How are you doing and what are the first reactions on the new extensive work?
We’re very satisfied with the accomplishment of ‘Apollo’, the third piece of our album’s trilogy. We worked four years on this record, that’s quite a lot and we can say that this album is a turning point on many aspects in the career of the band. Firstly, we celebrate our signature with Prophecy Productions who proposed to sign the band at the time when we were playing ‘No More Heroes’ all over Europe, and at the same time get our back catalogue re issued. ‘Apollo’ is also the achievement of artistic path, from the dark to the clear…and at the same time, the album when we decided to add new musical elements such as analogue keyboards, acoustic guitars, drum machines, shoegazing sounds or piano. In a sense, it’s a more complete album, channelling our influences and our desires to get further to music composition and production. It’s a long travel through past, present and future, composed like an analogy of the passing of seasons and at the same time, a total introspection who takes all its definition in lonely listening moments.

In the light of our ongoing support for Soror Dolorosa, can you resume what happened with the band after the release of ‘No More Heroes’ early 2013? Did you tour for that album or are there any gigs that stand out in your memory?
When we released ‘No More Heroes’, we welcomed a new member in the band in the person of David-Alexandre Parquier (guitars) who is also a keyboard master and mastermind of the musical project LUMINANCE. At this time, we had a tremendous live gig period, then we played at festivals and cities all over Europe… unforgettable moments. Directly coming to my mind would be the Castle Party in Poland or the Semana Gothica in Madrid, who were some of the highlights, crazy fucking times. Gathered around this idea to create a big album altogether, those concerts certainly influenced us a lot in the composition of ‘Apollo’. Meanwhile, I had a very interesting period regarding travelling and get closer to my artistic inspiration sources. I had the chance to visit amazing places in the eastern Europe, Turkey, Balkans or Greece…that’s where I got my obsessing solar quest, watching to the sun in perpetual moves over mountains and seas. That’s the way to measure your belonging to human life and in a sense, take the right distance from your everyday life to see musical creation in a more opened way. I must be very grateful to life for this blessed time who permitted to reach another step of my life and gave me the desire to share this pathway with people in writing ‘Apollo’ songs with my mates.

Well, ‘Apollo’ must have been a huge work to write. Can you tell a bit more about this writing process?
I was in Georgia, alone in a big house, lighted by candles… Then when the morning came, I was playing piano and had a remembering about a recording session somewhere hidden in my machine and there was a guitar riff somewhere at the end of a demo track…a simple riff recorded by Franck (drums and guitars, on ‘No More Heroes’). When I heard back this riff I had a kind of vision, something really hard to describe with words. At this precise moment, I had the monolithic ‘Apollo’ word engraved in my head. I started to think about this word nights and days, as if that must have been the answer to all my questions. Slowly I began to play piano and spent hours and hours alone behind my desk to add some atmospheric keyboards parts to some songs that we composed altogether in rehearsals. This time was like an opened door.

Travels were the key inspiration for the songs on ‘Apollo’. That’s interesting, because travelling is indeed a rewarding experience for me too. Just the glimpse of an unknown environment, being out of your daily comfort zone can be healing! So please dig a bit deeper into that segment of your inspiration please…
Everything began with a road trip I made in 2012, in taking my car from France to Georgia in the Balkans. More than twelve days of driving, through Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and then Georgia…I had marvelous times in mountains, deserts, and unforgettable sights along the mysterious black sea. I was stopping at random where I wanted and started a kind of deep introspection and analysis of forms, lights, architectures and elements. In this kind of experience, your mind glows like a lantern, lighting the most hidden parts of your soul…that was the key for my personal inspiration in writing and composing the songs. I was writing some notes in sketchbook, taking pictures and sometimes, recording some melodies at night in the middle of nowhere. That was intense, like the impression of being at the heart of the old Europe and making the link in between the west and eastern countries linked in Istanbul city, passing through the antiquity to nowadays and wandering out of time and space. This is the feeling I wanted to share with ‘Apollo’, like an intimate opened door to the real side of life and not only the facts of our everyday lives, with no more limits or boundaries. I’m grateful to life that I had the opportunity to get this tremendous experience. That’s why I took months and spent a lot of time in creating the artwork of ‘Apollo’, who appears like a kind of riddle way to the temple of wisdom and peace.

Can you tell us a bit more about the lyrical contents itself? Is there a kind of concept or red thread? Why the title ‘Apollo’?
Most of the time, lyrics are inspired by real experiences of my life, like love in beginning or end, rage, desires, disappointment, ecstasies or nostalgia and get transformed in Sun prayers with the intensions of melodies. I was interested in the notion of Apollo as god of sun and arts who is finally, a notion that we can also interpret like personal perception of our existence, as if everybody finally belongs to something unique and inhuman. Apollo is a son of a god and a human, as half god, he is also in certain kind of mythologies, the effigy of human pride and disgrace facing the unreachable pantheon of gods. This is the raging side of the album, the energy we spent in trying to reach the absolute and have the control of our destinies…and sometimes, I had this strange feeling of peace and bliss in solitude and that made the contrast in between post punkish patterns and ethereal soundscapes. There is always an extreme side in the Soror Dolorosa inspirations, I remember the moment when I wrote the ‘Breezed & Blue’ lyrics, that was a long and psychedelic trip through my memories and the words came like a ten years psychotherapy result…finally, simple words like the lyrics of ‘That Run’ are the crystallization of Apollo’s composition effect on my mind, near from Japanese poetry haikus, who usually say everything in few simple words.

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And what about these four seasons that are mentioned when talking about the vinyl issue?
A long album must hold a concept in itself, and this is the idea of dividing ‘Apollo’ in four faces. On the vinyl sides, you can see classic statues, representing the four seasons. I took the pictures of them in the Garden of the Frederick and Cecilia Storck house and museum in heart of the old Bucharest. They were standing alone in this half abandoned garden and I immediately had an enigmatic sensation of they wanted to tell me about something important regarding my inspirations. Their faces helped me when I made the work of concretization of the disc and decided about the final track listing. I really love old stones and specifically silent statues that hold the soul of the sculptor, they hold secrets and ageless memories.

Where did you record the album? Did you work with an extern producer?
We entered in the Drudenhaus Studio in July 2015 and we ended the mastering during February 2017. We worked with Mr Xort during this long term production which includes many steps, problems and solutions. Mr Xort was the sixth member of the band in producing this album, he managed to make the balance in between all our influences and conception of the sound, cause sometimes, we did not always agree in the band. He is a skillful producer, genius technician and had a very specific sensibility regarding the music he produces. We are grateful to him because I think he was constantly involved in his task and knew what decision to take for making ‘Apollo’ sound big, modern and old school at the same time.

How do you look back at the special gig at Prophecy Fest 2017 in July and how did you experience the whole happening?
Prophecy fest was awesome experience for Soror Dolorosa. It’s the first gig we made out of our usual “Goth comfort zone” and playing alongside of black metal bands and stuffs. I must say that the reaction of the audience was quite good and the feeling you have onstage when you play in such great location is hard to describe. This huge cavern is like out of time, I think Prophecy made a perfect job in organizing their festival in this place and I hope that will happen again in the forthcoming editions. We had a two years period without any concert before this one, so the show was not absolutely perfect, but we made our maximum and are ready to work hard and harder to reach a bigger stage level for 2018.

’Apollo’ is your debut for eminent label Prophecy Productions. How did you get in contact with them and how did you manage to ink a deal?
Stefan from Prophecy came to see us many times in Germany during the ‘No More Heroes’ period and he used to speak with us in the backstage, having great party times. I remember about a concert we made in 2012 at Ut Connewitz in Leipzig, I think it was at this time we agreed in signing a contract for Soror Dolorosa to be in their roster. They had a deal with Northern Silence to get our back catalogue rights and get the opportunity to re issue the previous releases. The new versions of ‘Severance’, ‘Blind Scenes’ and ‘No More Heroes’ are even better than the previous ones and we are fully satisfied of the Prophecy’s team work and professionalism. They are definitely the perfect label for us, taking a lot of care about the quality of the products and paying a lot of attention to the artistic part of the music.

It means that ‘Apollo’ will come out in several beautiful formats. As an artist it must be very rewarding to see your art in different issues… so please tell the readers all about the upcoming list of releases…
‘Apollo’ is released in three versions, but the album is a unique entity regarding track listing. Every version has its particularity relating the size and the format of the record.
1.The CD Digipack version, contains a beautiful 20 pages booklet with all the lyrics illustrated by pictures and holds the compete three circles and snake mosaic design picture I shot at the Frederic and Cecilia Storck museum in Bucharest, actually, this is the only version who contains the complete design, which is the genesis of the artwork inspiration.
2.The 2 x gatefold vinyl version, one version is Black vinyl and the other collector Golden vinyl version. The particularity of this version is to vinyl sleeves where we added song lyrics on original copper tinted visuals and the four seasons statues represented on the vinyl labels design. We made a special vinyl mastering to give the opportunity to those who have a good listening sound system, to get through the 70 minutes remaining time of ‘Apollo’, the best experience possible!
3.The Apollo – Rive Gauche, deluxe Artbook version. Limited to 750 copies, the artbook is 28x28cm green golden paper hardcover, contains ‘Apollo’ CD and Rive Gauche Live DVD + 2XCD of one of our best concerts we did so far in the heart of Paris “Rive Gauche”, a place important in our heart. The book is made of 72 pages of Apollo Lyrics on golden pantone, full colored pictures and also all the lyrics and bonus of the 17 live songs of Rive Gauche live + exclusive live pictures. This is the ultimate version of ‘Apollo’, because of the size of the pictures, the outstanding printing quality and it shows us playing the live songs that are the path we followed until we reached the ‘Apollo’ shrine!

In my review I have written I hear echoes of The Cure (their psychedelic solos too, that’s marvelous!), the guitar cries of U2, the darkness of Sisters Of Mercy and a semblance of post rock… can you find yourself a bit in these thoughts?
Absolutely yes! I can also add some influences from the Chameleons, Pink Floyd, Psychedelic Furs, a-Ha, Slowdive or Ulver! Yes, this a mixture you can feel better in listening to this album. ‘Apollo’ starts where we stopped with ‘No More Heroes’. Exodus walls of sound and get much more high within our artistic research.

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The musical evolution of the band really struck me in a positive way. It seems as if there is room for psychedelic overtones and spaced-out guitars, more than ever. As if you are freed from boundaries now that you could write longer songs… What do you think about this?
Sure! ‘Apollo’ opened our mind to a limitless creative landscape. I think our future compositions will be even more experimental, long and will reach new creative universes. I don’t want to say too much things about the future, because sometimes, it brings bad luck, but there is something that you can be sure of: that the post ‘Apollo’ period will be full of surprises.

And in the meantime you did not focus on short catchy gothic songs, I have the impression, although ‘Another Life’ would be a perfect single I guess. Are there plans to shoot a video clip?
We’re actually preparing the release of three great videos from ‘Apollo’. A fourth one is in preparation that I’m working on as director, and two others of pictures we shot during ‘Blind Scenes’ and ‘No More Heroes’ period but no plans for ‘Another Life’. ‘Apollo’ is a pictorial narrative album and it’s obvious that those composition needs strong visuals to reach another level. We’re fully open to any director’s proposition regarding ‘Another Life’ song, that could be a blast!

Now our department: links with Belgium (that’s where I am living) Your band name has a link with Belgium. Please explain…
Soror Dolorosa is a word extract from ‘Bruges-la-Morte’, written by Georges Rodenbach a Flemish writer from the 19th century decadent period. The name was found by Hervé, the bass player of the band, fifteen years ago when he first read this amazing novel. If you like a deep and introspective reading experience, I advise you to get through this novel that will not leave you unscathed.

You live in Paris, a place where you can take photos of gothic architecture as well, but the new promo pictures are shot in Brussels. Why this choice and tell us about this shooting and its symbolism…
We recently gathered to rehearse in Brussels and David Alexandre (guitars and keyboards) lives in this amazing city. Brussels is a surprising town and sometimes, gives you the feeling that times stop somewhere in the seventies. Of course we like that and felt quite inspired in doing band pictures in a beautiful park near David Alexandre’s place. It’s the talented Felicy Novy who took the pictures, she’s also living in Brussels and we appreciate her work in capturing life. I think she managed to immortalize us quite well, even if the north winter’s cold doesn’t let you chill in the sun!

Another visual thing: the artwork. Who did it and can you tell a bit more about it?
On ‘Apollo’, I made everything. From the research and inspirations to the photo shooting and artwork layout. Since the beginning, I had a special feeling with ‘Apollo’ and that was not possible for me to let anybody work on it outside of the band. ‘Apollo’ is the concretization of a four years period of composition, and it is was also a moment where I shot pictures. This is the reason why, every song has its original photography as illustration and that is where ‘Apollo’ visual side takes its roots. Concerning the cover art, I wanted a non-retouched photography and that’s all. I wanted to create a mysterious piece that you cannot forget when you saw it once. This bloody yellow tones of the mosaic caught my eyes and made me wondering during hours and hours around the perfect shape of this symbolistic antic serpent, ageless image of fertility, wisdom, and original sin.

What are the plans for the near future? Plans for gigs? Can we hope for a gig in Belgium or the Netherlands? I hope so…
We have to deal with some lineup changes in the band and it will take few months to go back on the stage. Actually, we plan concerts for springtime 2018 and we focus ourselves in production and realization of video clips for ‘Apollo’. This an important period for us where we know the best and the worst at the same time! Maybe that’s a sign of a page that turns and the story opens to a new chapter. Sure we are going to come back in Belgium, last time during the Fantastique Night, that was an absolute blasting night we spent with you guys.

If there is anything you like to add, please feel free to do so…
Here are some words by John Keats, extract from ‘Ode To Apollo’ to close this interview!

In thy western halls of gold
When thou sittest in thy state,
Bards, that erst sublimely told
Heroic deeds, and sang of fate,
With fervour seize their adamantine lyres,
Whose chords are solid rays, and twinkle radiant fires.

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