Hi Bart! We are very pleased for having an interview for Lords of Metal.
First of all: wow! I am saying this as a guy who has a keen interest in lyrics, but I think it is quite hard to make an instrumental album that is interesting all the way through, and you made an instrumental album that is fascinating all the way through. Back when you founded the band in 2012, you were looking for a singer. Why was it so hard to find one?
David: I am very glad to hear you say our album is interesting all the way through. When we made the choice to go for instrumental, we were not always sure it would result in to the music which it is today. It just felt the right thing to do, after we had some issues with previous singers.
And what made you decide to stop searching?
David: We started experimenting, just by jamming and letting the music flow. Like this we created several songs. We did a lot of reflecting and tried to fit in some lyrics but it became clear that the music we were creating was more or less too complex to sing on.
Steven: The music has totally evolved to a point where it’s almost impossible to add a voice. Everything feels the way how it should be right now. I think, when we add a singer to the band, we could not bring the same level of emotion that we bring now with our music. On the track 'hope(less)' we actually added a voice, but it is more used as an extra instrument that accomplishes to the music and brings the song to a higher level of emotion. It just felt right to do that.
Three of you were formerly part of the band Nagrach. If my information is correct, this was a black metal band? Please tell us more about Nagrach and how that band fell apart.
Steven: That’s correct Bart. It was somewhere around 2004 Nagrach was formed. We recorded a demo and an EP. But at some point we had to part ways with our singer. That wasn’t an easy decision, because we are all good friends, but we had no other choice. At the same time our bass player decided to leave the band. We found replacement for both of them. But somehow, we never could replace the original sound and atmosphere of Nagrach. Little by little, we made other music than before and after a while, we decided to continue under a different band name: Last Of Us.
I can imagine that erasing the vocals has an impact on a band. What changes did you have to make in order for Last Of Us to become what you wanted it to become?
Olivier: The challenge was to make the music interesting to listeners. Without a voice to tell, we had to find the way that our instruments could tell the tales, but eventually this came natural.
I got your album in the mail along with a couple of other cd's, and at first I put it on my easy-listening pile, because the design on the cover is so simple. I know from experience that judging an album by its cover is silly (I know it even better after listening to your album), but it made me wonder why you chose this design?
Olivier: Thank you Bart. Well, it was our intention to let the listener’s imagination go wild. The album’s concept is about a swarm who comes to conquer, but if that are aliens, creatures from another dimension, mankind itself, etc.; that’s up to the listener. We have our idea, but you can interpret the album the way you like. And that is why we chose for a subtle artwork, not to push an image into the listener’s head.
Your band name on the cover also shows some resemblance with the letter type used for American Horror Story. Is this a coincidence or was this a deliberate choice?
Olivier: Actually, we were looking for a simple, readable font (since we’re not a black metalband anymore, it’s ok you can read our logo, haha) and this had something mysterious. So it looked like the best choice.
One of the interesting things about that (the letter type resemblance) is that even before I realized it, listening to the beginning of 'Omen', I felt as if I was in the middle of a typical US horror movie. Is that the feeling you had in mind for the listener?
Han: When we wrote the music, it became clear that our future album would sound a bit apocalyptic. It wasn’t something we planned to do, it grew naturally. But of course, when we finally made the album, for us it was very important to tell a story by our music, to create an atmosphere that fitted to the story, and to take the listener (and ourselves) into a trip, from the first to the last track.
As we move on deeper into the album that feeling sort of evolves into a darker, more serious kind of terror. It gives me the impression that you guys have a lot of control over what you have in mind (the end result) and how to get there. Is that how you create the music, by envisioning a goal and then work towards it?
Han: Not really, actually. Mostly, we just start jamming. And when something feels right, we build upon it. So our “writing method” doesn’t differ a lot from the early days of Last Of Us. I guess we like this very organic way of making music. Of course, for the album, we created a story around our music and made sure that everything fitted in this story, that the atmosphere was right
I also read that you wrote many songs, played them live and discarded some of them. What makes you decide that a song (or a piece of song) is or is not good enough for you to continue with?
Olivier: Since we started in 2012, we grew in these six years as persons, musicians and band, so our sound has evolved throughout the years, what makes that some of the old songs don’t really fit with our sound from today. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still proud of these song, they were a good learning process, and without them we wouldn’t be the band we are today.
'Swarm' was released last January. How have things been since then? How is the album being received and have you been performing live a lot?
Han: It has been received very well, actually. We heard a lot of nice feedback, and received lots of positive cd-reviews. Of course, we’re all proud of the result, but it pleases us that people like the album, and share the same feeling. We did several shows, also at the Boundless festival in The Netherlands. But there’s always room for more. These days, it’s not so easy to fix lots of shows. So don’t hesitate to contact us!
The first time I really got in touch with post metal was when I witnessed Amenra live at Roadburn. Since then I have listened to a lot of bands from Belgium who use a similar style. I do not mean they copy them, but there is definitely a resemblance. I know post metal did not originate in Belgium, but why do you think this genre is so well represented by your country?
Olivier: Awesome band by the way! I think post-metal/-rock is so well represented, because it is honest music. It is full of emotion. It is like getting in a mahlstrom, it takes you away, but in a good way. After a show, you have to crawl back to reality, sadly. In truth, metal, rock, punk and those derivatives is honest music. Those musicians and fans don’t just play or listen that music, it’s a part of their lives.
And, even though the answer may seem obvious, why do you follow a completely different path?
Olivier: We’re trying to get our own, unique sound and are not afraid to touch/overstep boundaries. There’s always room for trying something new.
Last Of Us tells stories with their instruments and you do so very well. I think on 'Swarm', the absence of vocals (except in the final song) is a good thing. Will you continue along this way or is there some plan someday if you meet the right person to do add vocals?
Steven: It’s like what I already mentioned in a question earlier in this interview. At this moment I don’t see it fit in the music. Now we have the freedom we want. When we add a singer we will lose that freedom and will have certain limitations to the music. We can put all the emotion we want in the music without the need of a voice.
Even though 'Swarm' does a perfect job in telling a story - it touches on just the right emotions - can you tell us a bit about what you are telling and describing with your music?
Han: Well, when most of the songs originated, we did feel a certain atmosphere, but there wasn’t a real story behind it already. So before we went to the studio, we sat together. We asked ourselves: what is our music telling us, what do we feel and experience when listening to it? At that point, the real story behind the album arose. We don’t want to go a lot in detail, because the listener is free to create its own story, but in general, the album is about something dark which threatens us (the world) from outside, or even inside. And every song tells a chapter of that story. In the lyrics of the last song (sung by our former singer of Nagrach), we kind of summarize the whole story. Be free to explore!
I think I hear so many different influences in your music. I say think, because when I hear something that reminds me of, say, a Metallica song, to you it may sound like something completely different. My next question is not about your musical influences, but I want to know what was/were the band(s) that got you into heavy music? And at what point in your life did that happen?
Han: When I start playing the drums in Nagrach, I actually didn’t like black metal (or other heavier metal genres) that much. I was twelve years old, so I was more into power metal, like Gamma Ray and Helloween. But since Nagrach, I start liking this dark and melancholic atmosphere in this music. Somehow, it attracted me, you can put lots of emotions in it. Several years later, when my brother lend me the album 'Panopticon' from Isis, and some albums from God Is An Astronaut, I suddenly knew post rock and post metal was the music that fits me the most, which really touches me, where I can lose and find myself in at the same time.
Olivier: I think I was about twelve when I discovered punk, thanks to a new friend I met at school. His older brother had a punk band, and I knew, someday I wanna play in a band too. As I grew older I got into contact with heavier styles and got into that. Bands like Slipknot, Metallica, Sepultura, and Marduk. And I still love different kinds of music, of course metal, but also blues, jazz, classical music. But I think that my love for music started much earlier, thanks to my dad, who listens a lot to music, he’s a huge fan of blues and hard rock.
David: I can tell that I was raised by hard rock and metal. As long as I can remember our dad (Steven and me) has been playing a lot of hard rock and metal albums. Going from bands like Dire Straits, Queen, Status Quo to bands like Iron Maiden (his all time favorite), Metallica, Judas Priest. I think I was influenced by this a lot. During puberty I started listening to more aggressive bands and genres.
I read that you want to show this album to as many people as possible, so my next question is if there are any plans for live shows in the near future?
Olivier: We’re constantly in search, but Like Han already told, these days it’s not that easy. So if you’re interested out there, don’t hesitate to contact us!
As a final question: what was the last album that made you cry?
Steven: The song 'Mother Crone' from Crone, the album 'Earthcult' from Trna. I don’t think I have to explain why. Just listen to it and you will understand!
Thank you so much for answering the questions! Please feel free to say or add anything if you wish.
Steven: Thank you for this very interesting interview. For the ones who are interested you can listen to our album through Spotify, iTunes or Bandcamp.