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Lange tijd is het stil geweest rond Midnattsol, de Duitse band met Noorse zangeres Carmen Espenæs als feeërieke frontdame. 2018 betekent echter het jaar van hun welgesmaakte comeback, met het betoverende album ’The Aftermath’ als bewijs. Carmen’s zus, Liv Kristine, is toegetreden tot de gerevitaliseerde band en met beide vriendelijke dames keuvelden we gezellig over de voorbije jaren, het nieuwe album, de nieuwe bezetting en de interessante inhoud van de teksten.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder pagan / folk metal

I am glad that Midnattsol is back. How do you feel now that the album is ready?
Carmen: Hello, thank you so much for doing this interview, we really appreciate it! Yes, we are over the moon to finally be able to show our fans some new songs and rock together with them again! Thanks a lot to everyone who supported us through all these years and never gave us up, that means a lot to us. It is always a relief when you finally have the songs finished and the album is out, because the curious fans are writing to you all the time, asking when they get to hear the songs, and you just want to let them hear it hehe. They waited for such a long time, so they deserve to get something back. We are also so proud that we made it, even though it was not easy, and now we have finally reached our goal! We are also proud of the fact that we can offer a limited edition of vinyl this time. Hope you like the new album as well!

Liv: I am so happy! It's an important step in my career. We feel a strong connection to our fans and their voice and opinions are important to us. The positive response to my entry in Midnattsol also feels like „a warm welcoming home". The feedback from the fans to the album has been overwhelming! There's a positive and strong energy to ‘The Aftermath’. We guess and hope you can feel the energy of the members' eagerness and creativity to reanimate Midnattsol.

Wow, it has been a while. Seven years! How come? What happened with Midnattsol after the release of 'The Metamorphosis Melody' in 2011?
Carmen: There are many reasons why it took so long, and it`s a bit complicated to explain everything in detail. But I would say that the main reasons are huge private changes in our lives such as getting children, building houses, new work etc and the fact that the song writing process was very inefficient. We had so many ideas and couldn't finish the songs, because we focused on different things and different musical directions. We also had different ideas how the songs should be written. All in all, the years went by, and I started to focus on my other Norwegian band SAVN. But it was never the wish of ending Midnattsol, it is my musical baby and will always be, no matter what happens.

Liv: I felt so sorry that Midnattsol kind of disappeared. I sensed that Carmen was very sorry about this. Since we performed ‘I Am Free’ on stage in Wieze, MFVF 2016, we both knew that the future will bring more possibilities for us as sisters in music. That was a magic moment. Carmen said on stage, introducing me, "Rembember, Liv, you are always free!" I was moved to tears. It is a revelation to join Midnattsol and Carmen and I have always given each other strength and security. As I heard some of the new tracks including lyrics of ‘The Aftermath’ in Autumn 2017, I thought "I wish to be a part of this". I am glad Midnattsol is back, and I am so happy that there's a new beginning after seven years.

When did you decide to have a new start with Midnattsol and how did this develop step by step?
Carmen: Luckily, our keyboarder Daniel early 2016 said: ‘Guys, now we need to finish these songs, it`s now or never!’ When it was clear that it was only Daniel, our guitarist Alex and I left in the band, we needed some more musicians. Daniel asked his good friend and skilled guitarist, bassist and producer Stephan if he wanted to join the Midnattsol family, and he fortunately wanted to and started straight away writing songs. We started going through all the material and ideas that we had (which were a lot), decided what we wanted to use and rewrite, and we wrote some totally new songs as well. And the process went very well this time and we made a lot of fun! Suddenly out of the blue my soulmate and the best sister you could imagine, Liv, called me and asked if she should join the band. I was so surprised and of course I wanted to, it was like a dream coming true! She has such a beautiful voice and has been in the business for ages now.

Liv: Most of the demos were already nearly ready as I joined Midnattsol. The original plan was for me to join in on four or five songs as a guest singer. However, the numerous recording sessions ended in me joining the band. It was destiny!

Daniel is not only your keyboardist, but he turned into an important force when recording, having a producer's role... How did he grow into that?
Carmen: Daniel recorded Liv`s voice and his instruments and gave his support in the mix and mastering process. He also produced our video ‘The Purple Sky’. He had a strong desire to do so on this album, after being away for such a long time, he wanted to go «all in». But it was mostly Stephan that had the producer`s role of the album, and he recorded the guitar, bass and his voice.

Can you shine a light on the permanent recruitment of Liv, which was announced late 2017? How did that come into being and ended into a full membership? It must be a special feeling to be in one band at last!
Carmen: Yes, you`re absolutely right! When Liv said she was going to join Midnattsol, I was totally blown away! She means everything to me, and we all love her fantastic voice and creativity. She wrote the lyrics and vocal lines for the beautiful bonus song ‘Eitdropar’ and contributed on many of our songs. I think the ending of ‘Syns Sang’ shows how much freedom she was given, she let everything out. Our voices fit so well together I think, it makes the album even more special, more varied and more powerful.

Liv: I love ‘Syns Sang’! Carmen is so right - I feel such an artistic freedom! The positive response to my entry in Midnattsol feels like „a warm welcoming home". There is one happening that is essential in this decision: Since we performed ‘I Am Free’ on stage in Wieze, MFVF 2016, we both knew that the future will bring more possibilities for us as sisters in music. That was a magic moment, as mentioned above. Carmen and I have always given each other strength and security. I love performing with Carmen. Our voices are different, however, melt together and we complement each other somehow.

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But long before that, 'The Aftermath' was already written. So please tell me when the new songs were written, who are the main music composers now and more details about this writing process?
Carmen: We were all involved in the song writing process. Everyone had basic ideas and everyone contributed on the songs with their special inspiration and parts. The good thing is that we bring different influences, so that you have variation, and not the same thing over and over. It`s cool to think about the fact that we all are able to write songs together, even though we live in two different countries!

Liv: As mentioned above, most songs were composed before Daniel began recording me at his place. ‘Eitrdråpar’, however, is a piece of music that was there as an instrumental song which I fell in love with straight away. Thus I wrote the lyrics and composed the vocal melodies for it.

Did you take any decisions before starting, about the musical direction or lyrical themes for this new album?
Carmen: We didn`t have any musical restrictions when we were writing the album, just total freedom to let the creativity flow, so we sang and played things we haven`t done before. We used the singing techniques that we felt most comfortable with to optimize the vocal expression. That was a fantastic feeling, I really loved writing the songs together with the other ones. When we had written a couple of songs and I thought about the lyrics that I had written, it hit me that a theme I`m really feeling so strong from inside and think about every day, is right for this album. I didn`t want to have too many restrictions for the lyrics either in the continuing process, but it actually came very natural to sing about something in this direction. So then you have a red line, but still, all the songs stands for itself.

The lyrics have several topics, but is it safe to say that your concern for the world and nature happens to be the main concept or red thread running through 'The Aftermath'?
Carmen: Yes, you`ve got it totally right, you have a good interpretation! One of the goals of this album is to bring out an important message, we have to wake up before it`s too late! I feel that we are heading in a totally wrong direction. We are destroying ourselves, other people, the nature, the animals – the whole earth, and are focusing on our looks, material things, power and money - it`s such a wrong perspective. What about what life is really about? Inner Values like love, friendship, peace, trying to make the best out of life on earth without destroying people and the environment around you – what happened to them? The cover, the title and the songs are connected together as in a circle, and should remind us of this message all in all together. We think that there will be consequences of our actions, we can`t continue like this forever!

Liv: The album has a very important message for Carmen and also for me personally. Whoever hurt others intentionally will have to take the consequences of his misdeeds and criminal or bad acts. Moreover, I believe in Karma and Karma is everywhere.

You have chosen to cover any traditional tunes. Can you go deeper into what songs like 'Vem Kan Segla' and 'Herr Mannelig' mean for your personally and why you wanted to make your own versions?
Carmen: Actually, it was Stephan who had the idea to cover ‘Herr Mannelig’. He was totally excited by the melody of this traditional masterpiece and created our version of this song. As the idea was recorded, we recognized that the voices fit so well that we equal decided this song has to be on the album. ‘Vem Kan Segla’ is the folk song that I have sung the most in my life. I heard and sang it as a child all the time, at school and at home, and the beautiful melancholic melody and lyrics go straight to my heart and makes me think about my childhood. It`s so awesome to now have my own version of it on CD and I can show it to my kids and they can show it to their kids. It`s important to bring the traditional sings and tales to the next generations I think!

On the other hand, the song 'Syns Sang' refers to the beautiful artwork. Some more thoughts about this would be nice...
Carmen: Glad to hear you like it, the response of the cover has been absolutely overwhelming!! ‘Syn’, the woman on the cover, is a goddess from the Norse mythology who you could compare with ‘Justicia’, the goddess of right and wrong. She should also be a reminder of the fact that everything comes back to you, we can`t continue like we do. We are destroying our earth and every living thing including ourselves! Now is the time to wake up, we should open our eyes and bury our ego! ‘Syn’ is not a very known goddess today, so it was so interesting trying to interpret her and find out more about her. It all ended in a song about her, hehe, and I love the fact that she is a strong powerful woman.

The bonus track 'Eitrdropar' has an intriguing theme as well, akin to mythology (which was main topic on your first albums). Please tell us about the idea behind this track...
Liv: The lyrics for ‘Eitrdropar’ are taken from Edda (K. Ødegård's version). I translated it into 'drops of poison'. Eitr is a mythical substance in Norse mythology. This liquid substance is the origin of all living things: the first giant Ymir was conceived from eitr. However, the substance is supposed to be very poisonous and is also produced by Jörmungandr (the Midgard serpent) and other serpents. I find it highly interesting that poison is the substance of life in Norse mythology. Moreover, life and death are opposite states in the process of living organisms, as well as death can be seen as rebirth. Most of us really start living in the here and now after we have experienced suffer and pain.

As said before, this is a wakeup call to save mother earth. Can you tell a bit more about your engagement for this matter and how you got aware of the necessary actions to turn the tide on this globe?
Carmen: I have always been very concerned about how we treat each other, the earth and the animals on this planet. I don`t know how many times I sold flowers, things from our house, sang songs for people, baked and sold it etc in order to collect money for a good cause. I won a price at school for making a peace song and sang it at stage as a little child. I wrote my own books about it, tons of stories about poor people. I stopped people at the street when I saw someone wearing fur, if someone had the car on while not driving or yelled at potential dangerous people who were hitting their dogs etc. I cried over every dead bird I saw on the way home. I wanted to help, wanted to make people stop fighting and treat the world better. I became a vegetarian at a young age when people in Norway thought that that meant eating only grass in your garden hehe, I have watched thousands of documentaries about the theme, taken part in several demonstrations, and I try to lead my youth at school and my own kids in a better direction. Yesterday we talked about what we could do in order to reduce all the plastic in the sea etc etc. Still, I am NOT doing enough, and it bothers me that I can`t give everything away because of my own family, I can`t spend more time on it, because I have absolutely zero spare time hehe. But like you understand, I try to do something, and I wished people could do the same. If everyone does a little bit for a better world and changes their attitude, then we can make a huge difference I believe.

Liv: I absolutely agree with Carmen.

We hear different languages on the album. Do you have a more than average interest in languages (although I know the Swedish ones are traditional songs)? Which language can be seen as richest one to write lyrics or poetry for you?
Carmen: Yes, I have a HUGE interest for languages, I`m an enthusiastic language teacher (both as a job and in my heart hehe), and I would love to learn so many more languages!! Actually Dutch is my number one on the list of languages I want to learn, because I understand so much of it, it feels like a mix of English, German and my Norwegian dialect! I love to write in my own dialect, it feels personal and I can say exactly what I want to express, but English is also beautiful with so many more words than Norwegian and so many more people can understand what you sing about. I like to vary it, I write in the language that feels right and comes natural in that moment when I write the song.

Liv: Carmen and I love languages! We are both langue teachers. Combining Scandinavian languages (next to using English) and using vocal manners and settings that are found in traditional Scandinavian singing is highly important to me. ‘Herr Mannelig’, ‘Eitrdråpar’ and ‘Vem Kan Segla’ are good examples of this. Moreover, for me personally, after the loss of my own band, Leaves' Eyes, which is unfortunately not in my hands anymore, I couldn't feel more at home joining Midnattsol where my Norwegian heritage and love for my home country is rooted, as it was in the concept and foundation of my former band.

What about the drummer's place? I found out that Michael Kapelle (Stillborn) will help you out on gigs, but who was drumming on the album in the studio? And what about the plans for proper replacement?
Liv: We still have to evaluate the drummer situation, but the process is ongoing.

Recently you created your first video clip ever, for 'The Purple Sky'. How do you look back at this experience? What about the making of, the beautiful place, the idea behind that song?
Liv: The video was shot nearby Mosbach in Germany. It was a rainy day and quite cold, however, family and friends helped the best they can. Carmen came all the way from Norway and after the shoot we had some time left for a little party. The idea of the concept was carried out between the band members, basically coming from Daniel who involved a lot of helpful friends.
Soon you will have two days with release parties. Have a great time! What are the plans for the near future, concerning playing live or touring? Do you prefer occasional gigs or are you willing to do EU tours again?

Carmen: Besides our release shows in Germany, there is not planned any tour yet unfortunately. We want to meet our fans and play the new songs live, and like both occasional concerts and tours, but right now it`s a bit difficult to go on tour because of our small children. But as they get older, it will get easier, and hopefully we will play a tour, or at least at some festivals next year.

If there is anything you'd like to add, please feel free to do it here...
Liv: Thank you ever so much for being such a true and constant fan base. We can't wait to play the songs live for you!

Carmen and Liv: Thanks to YOU again, so awesome to talk to you! Thank you for your support!

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