Hi! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions, I can’t imagine how busy you guys are now with ‘Eskapist’ out and about. How have you been?
All in all we're doing pretty ok, thanks. Times are busy though. There's a lot of tasks to do for the band, since we still manage a lot of areas on our own. Especially around the album release there's a lot of stuff to do that actually have nothing to do with making music. That's the down side of it since we still consider us mainly as musicians. Haha. The upside is though that we keep a lot of control of our business and vision – that's important to us. We haven't really found another way around it yet.
Like I said, ‘Eskapist’ has been out for some time now. How are you liking how it is getting received all over the world? Is it up to your expectations?
Until now all reactions have been merely positively, from the press as well as from fans. That's of course really great and nice to perceive since we're also quite happy with the record. It's satisfactory to see that our ideas and visions we had for this album match in a way with a lot of people. Because to be honest, when we put a record out we don't really expect anything much in the first place. We know that music is a very subjective thing and mostly a matter of tastes. Usually some people will love it, others will hate it terribly. That also applies to the reviews you get. It's maybe a little surprising for us that we haven't yet received any negative reviews so far.
Before we start off, I have to ask: you guys implement so many different styles in your complex sound – are there any specific artists you consider great influences?
I'm sure there are always individual influences when it comes to writing but there is no main band influence, etc. The Mars Volta's 'De-Loused In The Comatorium' is probably the only record all three of us love equally. And if you ask me there's not a lot of that on our latest record. In general, I think it's safe to say that Nils comes a little more from the punk, indie and hardcore side, Moe's into a lot of progressive metal and math metal stuff and I'm into prog and post rock, progressive metal and ambient electro or (post-)industrial bands.
I’d love to go in-depth with some songs that stood out to me, if you don’t mind. Opener ‘Lifnej’ is one of those. It’s incredibly hectic and technical, but never feels distant and it stays relatable. How do you find a middle ground to create incredibly technical songs, but stay catchy and relatable to the listener?
Things like “catchiness” are also perceived very subjectively in my opinion. To be honest, in the case of
Lifnej there was no real formula or much of thinking that went into that song. It just came more from the belly, pretty intuitive and naturally – farmore, there was a vision for the song. And even the hook was somehow already always a part of it in my head before there was ever a first demo. I guess this song just wanted to be more forward going without many time signature changes and breaks (that we used a lot in general on our last record). And we of course like to stick to the riffing styles we prefer. Maybe it's perceived catchy and relatable due to its nature in thinking a little bit straighter and in 4/4 into your face.
It also features an amazing chorus coming in around the 2:35 minute mark. What a great vocal performance. How do you approach writing vocal parts and who does what in the band?
Thank you! Actually that's a hard question since Nils and I both write vocal parts, but in a different way
and with different melodic approaches. In this case the hook was written by me so it's pretty much just what I heard in my head at that time. I mean...I could of course explain and analyze the scale material that the melody's made of but it didn't develop the theoretical way. Maybe some playing around with a keyboard helps sometimes in terms of finding melodies, trying out some scales or arpeggiated chords. You could try that. But I don't work that way. I don't know about Nils. He always wrote a lot of hooks for other songs on the album. In general all of us band members write songs. Usually we write in groups of two, rarely as a three piece, and sometimes someone writes a whole song on their own – it may include already finished vocals with the melodies and all backings and everything or not. It's really a quite mixed process at times. This album was very much a collaborative work. Live on stage, Nils plays guitar and sings. Moritz plays drums and I play bass and sing as well. Besides and in mainly in the studio, Nils and I also play acoustic instruments like piano, accordion, acoustic guitars and cello, rarely other stringed instruments. Moritz handles some additional percussion stuff too. Considering ESKAPIST, we produced also a lot at home before entering the studio. E.g. all the electronic stuff is done by us in front of our home DAW. Lyrics are handled mainly by Nils and since the last record I have also stepped into the process.
’Berceuse’ is a little less technical but still features some great progressions in terms of melody. Are there certain aspects in your music that have to always come first when you’re writing or does stuff just come out?
I guess even here there's not really a general formula. Sometimes things really just come out like that. Other times there may be a melodic approach that is a little bit more theoretical. Like searching a scale that might fit to the harmonic background or then again contrast. It's really from song to song different. In the case of Berceuse it was a mixed process maybe. The harmonic structures surely follow some kind of formula but I don't really know if that was the reason why it developed the way it did or it if just came out like that. Moritz and Nils actually wrote that one. The vocals came in very late by me, completely visceral. We used to set more frames in the past for songs, due to some album concepts or to make songs fit better to the overall flow of the album. We also had to shorten a few instrumentals on this record. For some tracks (like ‘Xenophotopia’ or ‘Nocturne’) there was also the underlying concept of writing all the harmonic material in the relatively unusual enigmatic scale, which again combines elements of major and minor scales. But overall it's always a mixed process of sometimes visceral writing and sometimes the more theoretical approaches or the mix of those two.
’Tardigrada’ is where the djent really comes out and it’s incredibly groovy and heavy. What went into writing this song?
To be honest, I just wanted to write a simpler bouncing heavy track with groovy riffs and play around with some cliche-laden metalcore stuff. It's actually an appendix of the ending riffs and rhythmic ideas that close Berceuse. It's maybe a little a sarcastic continuation of an idea presented at the end of another song. Like sort of “look, you could make a totally different new thing out of this idea and go into a completely other direction”. And that's what happened. I just twisted the original idea (that was written by Moritz and Nils) completely.
’Inukshuk’ is one of my favorites on the album. It has this 80s feel that really sinks in while the chorus reminded me of more post-rock-esque At the Drive-In and Karnivool influences. I also heard some great lyrics. You guys sing in German. Was that a conscious decision, or did it just feel right?
Thank you. Since German is our mother tongue it was pretty natural and it always felt pretty right. We never questioned it really a lot. It's also another aspect that sets our music more apart from other English speaking bands in similar genres, at least that's what we've been told. And even by now, after three albums in German it would be ridiculous to change the language into English just to get more international.
’Lysios’ is the epic on this album, with its 14 minutes of buildup and release, over and over again. I greatly admire your inherent skill to jump from one style to the next. Halfway, we get treated to a seriously jazzy, ballroom interlude only to fall into straight black metal. Was it hard writing this song?
Actually yes, it was the most terrible and hardest songwriting experience of this album. The beginning and first few minutes of the song already developed in winter 2015. Actually, the first guitar notes of ‘Lysios’ were the first notes to even start the album. And the song was nearly the last one to be completed, somewhere in winter 2016. We just had lost track of it somewhere in the middle of it all and had to let it rest for a while. Really, we had completely lost the vision and idea of what sort of composition this was even going to be. But we luckily found our way back.
’Eskapist’ is an album to be incredibly proud of. Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything you’d like to say to close out the interview?
Thank you and thanks for the interview! We hope that music fans enjoy ‘Eskapist’ in its full length and hope to play again in the Netherlands sometime soon!