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Insatia

Met hun tweede album ‘Phoenix Aflame’ heeft de Noord-Amerikaanse band Insatia een prima plaat afgeleverd, die zich uitstekend staande weet te houden in de stortvloed van releases die er maandelijks in het symfonische metal genre over ons uitgestort wordt. Daar de band in onze contreien nog niet echt bekend was, werd contact gezocht met de zeer sympathieke zangeres Zoë Federoff, die gaarne bereid was om haar band nader aan onze lezers voor te stellen.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder gothic metal

Hi Zoë, when did you start singing and when did you discover that you had a certain talent for it?
I began singing before I can even remember, as my parents were telling me that I was already humming when I was still in the crib. When I was a little girl, I was singing in church and just kept singing through my childhood. When I went to university I joined the choir and I also took private voice lessons. After my university period I decided I wanted to sing in a metal band because my favorite style of music is female fronted metal.

Which female singers have influenced you, especially in the early days?
The first female singer that I heard in metal was Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation and later on I also discovered Simone Simons of Epica, Tarja Turunen and Floor Jansen of Nightwish. I basically got to spend all of my teenage years listening to these really fantastic and talented female vocalists and they were inspiring me to do something similar.

Have you been active in any other bands before joining Insatia? If so, which one(s) and did you do any recording with these?
No, Insatia is my first and only band, so there are no recordings with any other band.

The band Insatia was already founded in 2009 and you joined in 2012, what was the game plan that you had back then?
As I joined in 2012 the first album was already written except for the vocals and the guys in the band at that time, Duck and Jester, wanted to create a certain sound and have fun, while I really wanted to see how far you can take an American band in this genre, because as you know the genre is dominated by European bands. I was still very young at that time, but I just wanted to see how far we could take this. I still feel that we’ve got miles to go, but I am quite happy with what we’ve achieved so far.

As you said the debut album was recorded with Duck on guitars/bass and Jester on drums. Can you tell me a bit more about these guys as they have been replaced for the new album?
Well, finding musicians who are talented and who have the time and energy to commit to a serious band is very difficult. In the end they ended up not being able to fulfill certain requirements of being in a band like this and as a result of that they resigned. I still have a lot of respect for them as musicians, but the guys that I work with now have the talent, the time, the energy and the commitment that is needed.

In 2013 you released the self-financed album ‘Asylum Denied’. Were there no labels interested or was it a conscious decision to release it yourself?
It was a decision from the band. We did not start shopping for record labels until after that album was out because the mentality that we had was that we wanted to proof ourselves and see how far we could take it. And for a band in the United States it a lot more difficult to get attention for this particular type of music.

What did that album do for the band both from an artistic as well as a commercial perspective?
The album had a fairly quiet release, but Fabio D’Amore from Serenity ended up finding it and he contacted me and told me that he really liked it. That’s also how we ended up with Fabio as a producer for this current album. So the album was incredibly useful in finding us the right producer for our second album. From the fans there was a good healthy dose of praise and criticism, which was very useful for me going forward into writing the tunes for our next album. We got surprisingly positive reactions for the most part, considering that it was self-recorded, self-mixed, self-mastered and everything.

You released a video clip for the song ‘Image Of Stone’. Why this song, what was the idea behind the video and do you think a video clip is still a worthwhile effort because of the lack of media channels?
‘Image Of Stone’ is actually about a patient who has an eating disorder and the dialogue between the patient and the eating disorder. It’s a topic that’s really close to my heart, because I myself had anorexia as a teenager and I’ve had two close friend who actually died because of their eating disorders. So this video was kind of a homage to them and a homage to the struggle of breaking through the mirror at the end of the day and recognizing that the mirror lies to you, which is very much the theme in the video clip. I think a video clip is still worthwhile as it is a way to visually connect with the audience. Furthermore a video clip gives you the chance to be artistic and to express the music in a different, visual way. I think it more important to have a quality album recording, but if you do have the time and resources to create a good video you should by all means do it.

In 2015 you recruited Dave Ablaze on bass guitar. How did he get involved in the band and what is his musical background?
Dave is the twin brother of Paul Ablaze who is the lead vocalist of the Canadian band Blackguard. They came through here on tour several times and I became friends with Paul. In 2013 Blackguard toured again with Finntroll and when I went to see the show I met Paul’s twin brother Dave. We really hit it off and when I asked him to join my musical project as a guest musician at first for a tour he said yes. After the tour I asked him if he wanted to stay on as a permanent member, which he did.

In 2016 the line-up was completed with the addition of guitarist Kaelen Sarakinis and drummer Daniel Millan. Same question here?
They both live in Montreal just like Dave and when I told Dave that I wanted to re-establish the band line-up in Montreal as that’s a better place for metal in general he tried to find the right musicians there. Dave knew Kaelen as they were old friends from the metal scene up there and Kaelen knew Dan. We auditioned them both and they fit in really well stylistically.

When did you start with the actual preparation for the new album ‘Phoenix Aflame’ and did the song writing process differ from the previous release? If so, in what respect?
For this second album the material was written much more around my vocals. I started to write the songs back in 2012 already as I wanted to start writing my own material despite of the fact that they had a complete album finished already. I always write songs, I never stop, so by the time we spoke to Fabio about starting the recordings for the second album I had already twenty to twenty-five songs that I had put together vocally, which were basic frameworks. When we went into the studio, everything was constructed around the vocal stuff that I had written. Fabio, Ivan and Staffan jumped in and wrote several instrumental parts for the album and also played them.

There are ten songs featured on the album, but as you wrote about twenty-five song skeletons what’s going to happen with them?
You probably are going to hear them on another album to be honest. When you’re releasing an album you’re picking your ten best “team players” and as we wanted to make a statement that was to the point and didn’t want to make the album overly long this time around we just picked the ten we liked best and went from there.

Your music combines a lot of elements from different genres. Is that something that comes natural to you or is it a deliberate thing to create variety in the song material?
Although metal is my number one love I take inspiration from all kinds of music like alternative rock or folk. If you get inspired by something that’s good, it doesn’t matter what type of music it is. Just take that inspiration and do something with it!

What are typical elements that need to be present in a great Insatia song before you decide to release it on an album?
For me personally I’m my own worst critic, but the most important thing for me is writing a good melody. People talk about the word pop as a bad thing, but you really have to be able to write a poppy melody because it sticks into people’s minds. So when I come up with a poppy melody that always gets me excited, then I come up with the harmonies and the lyrics for it, but the thing I really have to ask myself before deciding to release it on an album is if the message of the song is something that I want people to associate me with.

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This time the album is released via the Pitch Black record label. How did you get connected to them and how does the record deal with them look like?
Well, it’s the same as with most record deals. We submitted our electronic press kit to several record labels, you hold your breath and you see whether they’re interested in your music. This time we had a couple of labels that showed interest, but Pitch Black proved to be the most supportive of us as a real young band. Furthermore they communicated really well, so we’ve had a great experience with them so far.

A lyric video for the title song ‘Phoenix Aflame’ was done. Why this particular song and will it be followed by a “real video” soon?
We chose ‘Phoenix Aflame’ for the lyric video because the song lyrics are my favorite of the whole album and coincidentally it was the record label’s favorite song as well. It felt great to agree on something like that right of the bat. Concerning the real music video I can tell you that a video for the song ‘Memory Of A Sapphire’ will be released tomorrow. We filmed it with a fantastic crew here in Arizona at the Vail Theatre Of The Arts and we’re very happy with the result.

What are some of the lyrical themes that you like to touch upon in the songs and are you alone responsible for the lyrics?
I do all of the lyrics all by myself because I have to really believe in them and feel what I’m singing. There are songs that I’m very willing to talk about the lyrical topic, but then there are also songs that I would like to leave to people’s own interpretation. A lot of my songs I would describe as love letters to hope. We’ve all come through a lot of challenges in life and it sound cliché but what doesn’t kill you really makes you stronger and I want to create music that, even if it’s honest about the darkness of this world and how difficult life can be at times, always provides hope at the end. I want my music to be uplifting at the end of the day and I want the overall message to be hope.

I know it’s always a difficult question, but if you had to pick one song from the debut album that would represent Insatia best, which one would that be and why?
Oh…can I please pick two? The first one would be ‘Phoenix Aflame’ as I think in terms of establishing our heavier typical sound ‘Phoenix Aflame’ has both the message that I believe in the most and the sound that resonates with me the most. But then I would also pick the power ballad ‘Not My God’, because I think it’s important to show the more emotional and softer side from the band as well.

The beautiful artwork was done by Gogo Melone. Why did you use her, what was the assignment that you gave her and is it in any way related to the album lyrics?
We found Gogo’s artwork back at the beginning of 2015 and it was really impressive. Therefore I think it’s quite obvious why we went for Gogo because she’s just amazingly talented. I only had kind of a vague idea of what I wanted for the album cover and she took it like to a whole new place. The album cover should represent someone triumphing over something very difficult as this album has a lot of those themes running through it. I’m quite sure we will go with Gogo for the next album artwork as well.

With Fabio D’Amore, Ivan Monti Bodin and Staffan Karlsson no less than three producers were used. Why’s that and how do you feel about the actual end result sound-wise yourself?
I love the three of them very, very much. Fabio of course came on board first and his partner in his own studio is Ivan, so they naturally came as a boxed set so to speak. Fabio knew Staffan and he has worked with bands like Arch Enemy, Roxette and Earth, Wind & Fire and he’s just one of the greatest audio engineers around in my opinion. The three of them together are just an insanely talented group of people and form a very strong production team.

There’s a vocal guest performance by Apollo Papathanaio (ex-Firewind, Spritual Beggars). Why did you feel the urge to use male vocals and how did you get Apollo in?
The song he sings on, being ‘Not My God’, was always written as a duet, so we needed an extra vocalist to express the dialogue between two people. There are a lot of vocalists around that I love, but I didn’t think that they would be interested in doing this duet with me. One of them was actually Apollo, because I’m a huge fan of Firewind and since Staffan knew him because they record together often he proposed to ask him for the job. So we asked him, he liked the song and did the vocals parts for it. I’m really floored by his performance, I think he did an amazing job.

With Chris Amott, Christian Hermsderfer and Erica James you got some more guest appearances on the album. What’s the thought behind these guest roles and how did you get these people interested?
Chris Amott is also a friend of Staffan and it was great to work with him, because I’m a big Arch Enemy fan. Christian is the guitarist of Serenity (and Beyond The Black), so it wasn’t that difficult to get him in as that’s Fabio’s band. And then for Erica: I was in Oklahoma in the summer of 2014 when I heard this beautiful violin rock music down the street. So I ran down the street to hear who was playing this music and decided I had to meet whoever was playing that. It was the Erica James band so I waited until the end of their show and approached Erica when the left the stage and told her that she had to be on my next album. Luckily for us the said yes as she’s an absolute fantastic musician and also a great human being.

What are according to you the biggest differences and/or improvements when comparing both Insatia albums?
I have to say first and foremost that Duck and Jester were really great musicians, so you can’t really critique their playing ability on the first album at all, but at the same time because it was written without a specific vocalist in mind it’s a little bit more disjointed between the vocals and the instrumentals. It’s a lot less melodic in many ways and it’s a lot less power metal, but more progressive. We went into a very different direction with ‘Phoenix Aflame”, that is more straight-up European style symphonic power metal, which is frankly what I prefer personally. So big differences between the two albums and they both have their strengths, but in terms of my personal musical preference ‘Phoenix Aflame’ is a lot closer to the sounds that I have in mind.

What are you own personal expectation from this album? When will it be a success for you?
The thing is that it’s out and I have no expectations beyond making music really to be honest. I’ve always been surprised by where life has taken me and my music and I think that I’m just keep on being surprised. We’ve gotten a really positive response so far and I’m really happy about that. Let’s just see what happens…

The market is overflooded nowadays with female fronted metal band. What are the unique selling points of Insatia? Why should people check out your band instead of the numerous others that are around?
My big question back at that would be: why doesn’t nobody ever ask what a male vocalist does to make his male fronted band stand out among other male fronted bands? At this point a female singer in a metal band is not a gimmick as it used to be in the past, but in 2017 I hope that people will just see a vocalist that fits in with their style and vision and that’s why the vocalist is there and not because she’s a girl. So I think the real question should be: how do you stand out in the world of metal? For us I can say that we are our own unique collection of people and I hope that our lyrics resonate with people and that they find something to connect to.

Besides promoting this new album, what more can we expect from Insatia in the next six to twelve months? Any concrete touring plans
We have a couple of shows lined up back East in Canada, which we’re really excited about. We’re really hoping to do a North American tour at some point next year, but of course this takes a lot of planning and preparation. Furthermore we plan on releasing another music video sometimes this winter as well, so we’re going to keep busy. Next to that we will start working on our next album as well, because we’re all anxious to get moving on to the next chapter too.

What is the ultimate ambition level that you have with Insatia? How big can you grow the band in your opinion
I don’t think anybody ever really knows that. For sure the era of the giant rock arena bands is passing, but that’s okay because the industry has changed and a lot of those changes are exciting. It’s much easier to reach you online fan-base now than ever before, so in terms of expectations and how big can we get this, at the end of the day I just hope my music makes people happy and make their lives just a little bit better.

Okay Zoë, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
Not really, as we’ve covered quite some ground during our talk. Thanks for the opportunity to introduce our band to your readers!

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