Hi! Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Before we start off, how have you been?
Thank you for having us! We have been very busy this year. Touring with Ghost, Kvelertak and Katatonia, playing festivals, recording videos, and preparing for the release of our new album ‘The Rabbit Hole’. It has been hectic, but super fun and we are enjoying the ride so far.
I remember hearing ‘Echoes’ two years ago and your sound stuck with me. Now, ‘The Rabbit Hole’ shows us the evolution of this sound. I always wondered what your prime influences are as a band. Care to elaborate on that?
Thank you! Well, I guess everybody in the band would probably describe themselves as a bit of a music nerd. And we all have open minds in common when it comes to music. If you like a song, it doesn’t matter what the genre is, you just happen to like that particular song. So, I would say that we, as a group, listen to all kinds of genres and try to incorporate influences from them in our own music. I, personally, have always been a huge fan of progressive music such as Genesis (the Peter Gabriel era), King Crimson, Gentle Giant etc. and for me it always adds something extra to music when there is a concept to follow, and a visual aspect to enjoy as well. Of course, all of us are passionate about metal, everything from Slayer to Periphery, Cannibal Corpse, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah, but in our rehearsal studio you could just as well hear us playing Bon Iver, Frank Zappa, Tower of Power, Thomas Newman or The Roots. As mentioned, we like taking influences from all over the musical spectrum and melt them down into our own little world of progressive death pop.
’The Rabbit Hole’ features a lot of variety, but one thing that stays very consistent is your vocalist Fia Kempe and her incredibly captivating performance. How involved was her role within the writing process for ‘The Rabbit Hole’?
Thank you so much, I’m flattered! Since I and our drummer Aksel Holmgren started the band to begin with, I have always been, and I am most involved in the whole process from start to finish. That involves developing the whole concept of The Great Discord, writing music, producing, recording and directing. We always try to work together when we write music, and one of the fun parts of us creating together is that we often write for each other’s instruments. I for example often write guitar parts, on piano, which makes for very funny situations when André and Gustav gets the task of trying to figure out how the hell they are going play certain pieces on their instruments! I write all the lyrics, vocal arrangements and harmonies myself, and for this release I actually also wrote a book entitled ‘The Rabbit Hole’. Since this is a concept album with a story to follow, I had a clear vision of this story before most of the music was even written, and I really wanted to give our fans a chance to explore the story together with us. Since we always tend to write lyrics that are up to the listener to interpret, it felt important to give our listeners a way to dig deeper into the story and its meaning to us. So, if you – like me – love to lose yourself in musical concepts, I highly recommend that you order you own copy of the book together with the album.
I’d love to go in-depth with a couple of songs that really stood out to me, if you don’t mind and start off with ‘Gadget’, which is quite a bit heavier than much of the rest of the material. Do you feel writing heavier songs is easier or harder than writing the catchier songs?
‘Gadget’ is the song in the story of ‘The Rabbit Hole’ that reflects pure madness and euphoria. This is when the persona, IRE, the malice entity, shows Fia (the persona from our first album ‘Duende’) its world of wickedness. We wanted this song to represent the feeling of someone being totally and completely blinded and infatuated by a world they have never seen of felt before. The feeling of just letting go of all your obligations, going nuts without considering any consequences what so ever. So, this was one of the songs that actually came were easy to us, since we knew exactly what kind of feelings we wanted the song to mediate. We had so much fun laying down the intro with the firm pulse, hysterical drums and the shrieking guitars leading the way down into the rabbit hole, and once you get to enter, the song kicks off and the madness begins. We loved every second of writing that song!
’Darkest Day’ was the first single you guys released on YouTube. What made this song special enough to be the first single?
‘With Darkest Day’, we wanted to present the new persona IRE, both via the song and the video. ‘Darkest Day’ is also one of the tracks on the album that is much more direct than songs we have written before. It is actually more of a pop song with a twist, and we felt that we wanted to start of this album cycle with a boom. ‘Darkest Day’ is just that. It is intense from beginning to end, and it has a catchy chorus that sticks with you. With this album, we aimed to create music you have never heard before but is still approachable to a broad range of individuals, and we felt that ‘Darkest Day’ is just one of those songs that gives you a little bit of everything that is ‘The Great Discord’.
’The Red Rabbit’ is one of my favorites on the album, with its brooding and meandering feel and the precise vocal performance. What was the writing process like for this one?
‘The Red Rabbit’ represents genuine misery, and this is where IRE reveals her true identity of being a rotten megalomaniac. Again, we knew what kind of feeling we wanted the song to have when we wrote it. It started with André laying down the main riff for the song, and all other bits and pieces just fell in place kind of naturally. We wanted the break of the song to be kind of a mental breakdown for IRE, and I wanted to do something special with the vocals for that part. So, when we were in the studio I thought that I might try to pull of more of a James Brown feel to the vocals, hence the “Down boy” part where I really scream my lungs out in the most soul-y way I could. We wanted ‘The Red Rabbit’ to have a cocky feeling to it, and a sense of something being dragged through the mud and we feel that we really pulled it off.
’Neon Dreaming’ is another song that really focuses heavily on the versatility of Fia as a vocalist. It acts as a sort of ballad and is carried by her emotional performance and clear voice. It’s a lot more atmospheric than the rest of the songs. How did this song come to be?
Since ‘The Rabbit Hole’ is a concept album, there is a story for every song on the album. When we arrive at ‘Neon Dreaming’ on the album, the story has taken a turn. Fia (the persona) has realized that she doesn’t want to stay in the rabbit hole with IRE, but IRE refuses to let her go. IRE throws Fia into a cage and locks it so that she will never leave that place. While Fia is locked in the cage, she cries out her frustration and sadness over realizing what a fatal mistake she made following IRE down the rabbit hole. We wanted this song to represent sorrow and the realization that something needs to come to an end. It’s like when you know that you have to end a destructive relationship but you just don’t know how to do it. Therefore, we felt that ‘Neon Dreaming’ needed to be something completely different compared to the other songs on the album. Part because we are fond of the dynamic it brings to the album as a whole, but also because that is the kind of sound the song needed to be able to represent the lyrics and the feelings that we wanted to bring forth in the story.
’Cadence’ has a great pop-rock feel while it never feels out of place or boring, but instead is really a standout song in its infectious groove. I’m also hearing some interesting lyrics. Are there lyrical themes to the album, or are the songs more stood on its own?
As mentioned, there is a theme through the whole album, and ‘Cadence’ is no exception. ‘Cadence’ is the song that we wanted to have that “arena” feel, and what says that better than yelling out a big fat YEAH throughout the chorus? Haha. This song represents the beginning of the end of our story of Fia and IRE. Fia manages to trick IRE into letting her out of the cage by persuading IRE that they are going to be together forever. But it is a trick. IRE thinks that she has outsmarted Fia, but Fia knows that she needs to deceive IRE and stand on her own in order to manage to find a way out of the hellish hole. It is a song that represents joy, and what happens when you are too naive and blind to your own stupidity. ‘Cadence’ is also a song that we wanted to be more straight forward and just pump through the speakers. A song that makes for a grand build up to the big rise and fall for IRE.
’Omen’ is by far my favorite on the album; everything on this song is like it should be and on top of it, it features a solo by Mark Holcomb of Periphery fame. What was it like working with him?
Thank you! Mark is just as amazing of a person as he is a fantastic guitar player. We have all been huge fans of his work in Periphery, and it just so happens that Aksel and Mark became friends a few years ago while on tour. We asked Mark if he wanted to contribute to ‘Omen’ by playing a solo, and to our great pleasure he gladly accepted. Once we got the solo by him in our ears we knew we would never regret that we asked him. We could not be more pleased with how it came out, and it gives that perfect little extra spice to the song that we wanted. If you are familiar with Mark’s work, you can definitely hear that it’s him playing it. His solos always have that little hopeful sadness to the sound that we are so found of. All in all, a great collaboration and we would love to do something like that again in the future.
I want to thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you would like to say to close the interview?
Once again, thank you for having us! We are so excited and proud to release our album ‘The Rabbit Hole’ on September 8, and we can’t wait to come play for all of you in the near future, so stay vigilant. We can also announce that we will be doing a special performance at Damnation festival in Leeds on November 4. Hope to see a lot of you guys there! Until next time, all the best.