You released ‘Stormsleeper’ as an EP in 2015. The new edition that will be released through Arising Empire/Nuclear Blast holds several new songs, new cover art as well as a different sequence of the songs. Why is it that you decided to release the album again in a ‘2.0 version’ instead of releasing an album with only new songs?
With Iris on board it took us a while to get used to the 2.0 version of the band. Because of the drastic lineup change we took a lot of time to make the music that would fit for everybody in the band. So we wrote a ton of new music and went live, only with the best songs we’ve had written at that time. We released the EP independently because we could go live with Iris and get used to each other on stage. When we found out it was a big success, we wrote more music to create a full length and release it when we had found the right contacts. While the EP got us signed with Nuclear Blast / Arising Empire we could finally go international with the new sound we’ve created.
You have added a couple of new songs to ‘Stormsleeper’ as well as the order of the songs has changed. Whose idea was it to make the changes in sequence? Are the new tracks songs that were written around the release of ‘Stormsleeper’ in 2015 as well or are they more recent? I especially ask after it as the new tracks seem to fit in with the other tracks very well. Can you say that your current sound is more or less your signature sound, which is why these songs blend in so well?
Well, we took some time to figure out the right order of the tracks, just because we created a vibe on the EP that was just simply not there when we would just put the four new tracks at the end of the album. Because nobody can listen to the EP as a whole online, it wouldn’t make any difference to the potential new international fans what the sequence was, so we treated it as a complete new album. The new tracks now perfectly fit with the other songs of the EP. Some songs we wrote for the EP didn’t make it at that time, but were great songs on itself. With a few cool changes it perfectly fitted the full length. I think two songs were written fairly close before we planned going back into the studio. But we chose these track above other finished demo’s because we believed more in the vibe that it already had before the demo version was complete. Sometimes you need some extra time pressure to get the best stuff finished. I think we really found our signature sound with Iris on board. It’s more brutal, modern and catchy as it has ever been. This full length feels like a new era, and we will continue writing where we left off with ‘Stormsleeper’.
In what aspects do you see your main musical challenges?
I think nine out of ten fans would always first react to the vocals of a song, even in metal, so you just want to make sure that’s catchy as fuck. We take time to find the ultimate vocal line and when a song doesn’t work for Iris’ voice we try to change pitch, chords and harmonies to make it fit. I think that’s the toughest challenge of the whole songwriting process. Sometimes we are musically at 90% and then we find out it just doesn’t work with Iris’ so in the studio we really experimented with her abilities. On the new songs she did a terrific job, and she is growing ever since!
How does Spoil Engine compose a song? How do you determine whether a track is good enough for you/fully after your liking? Did you have to adapt the writing process with a new vocalist coming into the band?
Most of the time we initially write individually behind our computers. We have an massive cloud space where everybody can upload their new ideas and songs. Because we all live far away from each other we had to do it online. So we created an environment where everybody has the same composing tools at their disposal to make new tracks. Every band member can open the exact same sessions and work independently out of their home. So before we even go into the rehearsal room we know what the main guitar riffs and raw structure of a new song will be. From there we create the details together as we are playing, like special hooks, breaks or find the right tempo to match the live-vibe. Then we adjust all those details behind our computers again and we repeat this process for as long as necessary to meet our desired deadlines.
Iris, what do you do to keep your voice in shape? How do you ensure continuous improvement or is it more or less ‘only’ a matter of maintaining the current level?
Iris: “I'm always trying to improve myself and seek to learn new things (even outside of the metal genre). Right after recording the ‘Stormsleeper’ EP I got the chance to start a four month traineeship with a Dutch company called Vocal Center. I learned a lot from this and at the moment I’m working as a vocal coach for Vocal Center in my hometown Maastricht. To improve my metal-vocal skills I listen to what others do and if I like it I’m gonna practise that and use the technique in our songs.
The album sounds, partly due to the variation in tracks, as a composition in itself. How do you experience that? Is the order of the tracks on an album important for you or, given the current generation that hardly listens to full albums and prefers to listen to single tracks, does it not matter? Why?
For me personally, I really try to zoom out as a listener when we decide the order of the tracks. Every track has to come across lyrically, but it also needs the musical impact. You need to make sure the album has enough ups and downs so every song has the right impact. It has to constantly grab the listener's attention. For all the people who listen to singles only, you want to make sure you choose the right singles that are catchy enough to invite them to check out the full album instantly. I don’t feel like a composition in itself, I rather see it as a vibe that can be heard in every track. And that is what makes an album great to me.
What is ‘Stormsleeper’ about? Is it comprised of individual tales? How is it tied to your personal lives? Where do you draw the inspiration for your lyrics? From personal life? From books, movies, nature, politics…?
There’s a lot of shit going on in the world nowadays. ‘Stormsleeper’ is about that and the frustration/anger that comes with it. Iris wrote the lyrics, so it’s from her point of view, but there is not much of our private lives in it. The word “stormsleeper” comes from the “storm” that’s going on in the world and a lot of people that choose to stay “asleep” because they do not want to see it.
I assume (correct me if I’m wrong) Spoil Engine is not enough to make a living out of it (yet). What do you do next to the band?
We all have our own working lives next to band, that’s correct. I recently started my own recording and mixing service. Our guitar player Gaze has a company in electronics, our other guitar player Bart is a primary school teacher. The bassplayer Loco, well, the name says it all... is just nut job hahaha and Iris has a vocal coaching job like she mentioned earlier. It would be awesome for all of us to make enough money to live from the music we love, but that is currently in no way realistic for all of us. But who knows, maybe in the future!
Although a band is made up of individuals, being a band becomes a difficult process if you do not work as a whole. The arrival of a new member will undoubtedly have changed things within the chemistry and routines within the band. What has changed since the advent of Iris?
I think the biggest change was the communication, we completely went online for everything just because of the distance. We constantly chat with each other via messenger. Everybody has their phone near them so why not? It makes it so much more efficient if everybody can respond quickly to make sure decisions are made to keep moving forward. Apart from that Iris is probably more ‘guy’ than the rest of us the chemistry pretty much stayed the same. Everybody has their own tasks and I think that’s the key to make it as a band these days.
What do you do to keep working in music and the music itself fresh? Will you pursue alternative genres to avoid your new material resembling old stuff? Or will you strive to keep to what you know while renovating your style to stay true to your original sound and fresh?
I try to listen to as much music as possible in every genre. This helps me to get a better vision on what makes a great song. This obviously shifts my view on songwriting and it challenges me to write better songs as a band every single time. As the drummer in the band I always set a goal to try something new on every album we record. So we try to improve our techniques and keep challenging ourselves. That is what makes the music evolving with every new album. We are not that kind of musicians who just wants to show off their skills, we just want to perform a great show as a band every time. Nowadays I am really interested in song structure itself and I try to really nail the rhythm of the song. So when I play a new song live and see the front row banging their heads I know my job is done!
With the release in 2015 you have released videos for ‘Disconnect’ and ‘Stormsleeper’. With the 2017 version coming up a video for ‘Doomed To Die’ was shot. What made you decide to pick this specific song as video?
We needed the catchiest song of the four songs we added to the EP, and it was ‘Doomed To Die’ or ‘Black Sails’. And we asked our local friends and family to pick the one that would be the best song to release first. And it simply became ‘Doomed To Die’. Maybe we release a video clip for ‘Black Sails’ as well but that’s not certain yet.
The new album is your first release with Arising Empire and they are also handling worldwide distribution when I’m correct. How has the cooperation been this far? What did Arising Empire bring you till now?
We are very pleased with the co-operation with Arising Empire and Nuclear Blast. We see big results in promotion already and that’s wicked. Especially when somebody from across the world sends you a message on how awesome your new music is. We don’t know these people personally, and the fact we did reach them by the label’s promotion is just phenomenal!
Thank you for taking the time to go through these questions. Let’s come to a closure; if there is anything left that you’d like to mention, feel free to do so…
No, thank YOU for this opportunity and I would like to say to everybody who didn’t see us live yet: Go check us out, because on Spotify it sounds amazing, thanks our friends at the Fredman studio in Sweden. But if you really want to catch the right Spoil Engine vibe you need to be in the middle of a circle pit during our show.