Given these strange times, we all need something positive to look forward to and stay connected. One of theses things is the release of Dancing In Hell from Swedish Symphonic Metal troupe ELEINE. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to lead vocalist Madeleine ‘Eleine’ Liljestam and guitarist/growler Rikard Ekberg about Dancing In Hell, the upcoming release party and the amazing connection with their fans.
First off, how would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard you before?
Rikard: That’s a difficult one, that’s not up to me to decide. It’s metal.
Madeleine: It’s pretty and dark yet empowering. It also has great symphonic arrangements.
Rikard: If you like good music, listen to us.
I am a relatively new listener and I have found that dark and empowering comment to be true. How do you think you have managed to make that work?
Rikard: I don’t think we really thought about it. We always write what feels true to us and that’s what we often say: Stay true, stay metal. That is within every regard in life.
You’ll be releasing your new album Dancing In Hell. Would you say your previous EP All Shall Burn was like a teaser? Since some songs from there made it to this new album.
Rikard: Yes, two tracks from the EP are on the full-length Dancing In Hell. It was like a teaser but it’s also more like a bridge between the previous full length album Until The End and Dancing In Hell. We feel it’s such a big leap from Until The End, I don’t think we will shock people but it’s nice to have a bridge between albums. If you listen to our discography, it’s nice to hear that bridge and also to be active. Releasing an EP is also nice to do as a band because you have certain things you can do. We did a cover of Rammstein song Mein Herz brennt.
Madeleine: Basically, the EP was for us because we really wanted to make something and we wanted to do this cover. We also did the symphonic versions for ourselves because we want to put them out there. Getting that feedback for them as well was really great.
Would you also use an EP to experiment with your sound to see what works and what doesn’t?
Madeleine: Not really because we write what feels right to us. We don’t sit down on the Monday thinking “what do people want to hear at the moment? what is the trend?”. We want our fans to listen to Eleine because of Eleine and what we do comes from the heart.
When you write the songs, do you already have in mind what songs are going to have growls in them?
Rikard: Every song gets created in a different manner. For instance in All Shall Burn, we thought about having the growls from the start. It started out with me growling “all shall burn” because that has a great feel to it as those growls provide that emphasis on the meaning of the song.
Sometimes we have a track with no vocals at all and we just do what feels correct. Sometimes we start the track with riffs, sometimes the melody. Maybe there’s a piano part that turns into an orchestral arrangement by me and we do what feels right. We could have put growls in As I Breathe but to us, that would feel forced and as if we wedged it in there. Who knows, in the future there may be a cover of that song where it’s all growls.
Do you guys have a particular favourite song on the album? I personally really liked Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies, it was my ideal symphonic metal track.
Rickard: Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies is kind of a Dimmu Borgir tribute. I love that and every song is dear to me. It’s better to own those things than to discard them.
Madeleine: All of the songs are like our babies, I love all of them. When I have answered this question before, I have answered it differently each time because it depends on how I feel at the time. Today, I would choose Dancing In Hell and Where Your Rotting Corpses Lies.
Rikard: I always love Die From Within, it’s a close and personal song because of the meaning of it to us plus I get to play two solos in that song.
A lot of bands have had to push album releases back due to COVID, is this the intended release date for Dancing In Hell?
Madeleine: It was. The first track was written in December 2018 and we planned all of this for two years. We had the date set for more than a year so we knew what we were working towards.
Rikard: We talked about postponing it but then we decided not to as you never know if you need to postpone again. It’s about making sure people don’t fall into a deeper depression for those who are in one, people need something to look forward to and be happy about. That’s why we are doing a release party here in Sweden. We have restrictions which allows us to have fifty people and they’re sitting down in this grand theatre in our home town. There’s a lot of space, maybe we can release more tickets as restrictions loosened.
It’s important to have something positive for people to look forward to, it’s easy as ploppers to be negative and to spread negativity, digging your hole deeper. Someone or many has to be a source of inspiration, some kind of guidance or just someone to lean on. We wanted to stay positive.
Madeleine: Yesterday, they said we can allow up to three hundred people sitting down if they can keep a distance of one metre in between. It takes a lot of space to keep those restrictions. Even if it’s fifty people, we want to do this. Without Patreon, I don’t know what we would do at the moment. Not only financially because we need to stay creative for morale and we do stay in touch with our fans in a closer way.
There are days where I feel I don’t want to get up from bed. We all have those days and there are people that need that positivity in life. That’s what made us decide to have the release party, it cost us a lot to arrange a concert like that at such a beautiful venue but we want to do this and make this happen for the fans.
I was going to ask if you were doing a release party as a lot of bands are. Can you share more details and will this be live streamed?
Madeleine: No, this will be an exclusive event. It’s going to be awesome, we’re going to give them the album and exclusive merch whilst they’re there.
Rikard: The thing keeping it safe and secure is that that venue can fit two hundred and fifty people maximum and we’re keeping it at fifty. There is enough room to keep it really far spaced from each other, there is also a balcony people can go to so it will be super safe. We will also have hand sanitiser and face masks.
Madeleine: We do have face masks that we will give out for free, if someone has forgotten their face mask they can have an extra one just to feel safe.
Rikard: It’s also for everyone else to decide if they feel secure. The launch party sold out in a day, it’s really great support. In Sweden, it’s close to normal as it can be for the most part. There are restrictions here and there, particularly in pubs and restaurants. Then one day they say no gigs, then they say gigs, then no. For a musician, it’s night and day from last year but for many it’s the same.
Madeleine: We’re used to keeping a distance from everyone in Sweden, we’re pretty famous for that. Now you leave a bigger space and you wash your hands more often. It’s working very well.
Lockdown is having a negative effect on mental health. Going back to what you were saying Madeleine about having those days, is there anything you guys do to help you feel better and keep grounded?
Madeleine: Taking a walk really works well. For me, since we’re working with fans and Patreon, I usually go and see the messages. Maybe I make a post and I also write some of the messages as well just to see how they are doing, to see if they anything fun planned because when they share their stories and what they’re up to, I feel more alive reading them. It really helps and it’s a two way street. I know a lot of our fans suffer from mental health issues, we’re helping out.
Rikard: Both Madeleine and I support each other when we’re feeling down, that’s the first thing. I have a knack for being zen if there is chaos around, staying positive and looking forward. You can’t pump the breaks when you’re driving uphill.
Madeleine: Rikard is fantastic to have around when you’re down because just his food. If I haven’t had any energy during the day, the smells alone give me energy.
During lockdown, is there anything else you guys have been doing to pass time other than write songs and answering patreon messages?
Rikard: There hasn’t been a lot of writing music as that was done. We’ve been working and continued trucking on. We got a lot of things going on for next year. The thing that really changed for us is that we got more time to do music videos. We do it ourselves and instead of having two singles and two videos, we said let’s do videos.
Madeleine: We did have the time to do a proper music video for each and every one but that’s also the reason we talked about for the fans. From the day we announced the release of the album, which would take a few months, we decided to choose four singles. We love every song on the album and we want to highlight all of them but we can’t. Now we could choose four and create four music videos. It’s been fun but stressful at the same time as a lot of work goes into making a music video. Rikard and I sit here cutting and editing, it takes a lot of time but it’s been fun.
You seem to have a really lovely connection with your fans, have you recieved gifts from any of them and what was the most memorable?
Rikard: I received a Dark Link mug, I use that every day.
Madeleine: We receive lots of beautiful gifts, the guy who sent the Link mug is called Mikko, he’s a great artist and he has sent us beautiful portraits of every band member. We also receive gifts for our birthdays, including candy from the UK.
Rikard: He uses ink. We got candy from a lovely couple from the UK. I have also got video games from fans, I love video games and they know that.
Madeleine: I got a pair of beautiful earrings for my birthday last year from one of our fans. All of them are memorable.
I suppose things like Patreon and social media have made that connection between fans and bands more personal, wouldn’t you agree?
Rikard: Exactly that. It’s like fan clubs back in the nineties. Old school fan clubs where you pay a small fee, back then you got access to a newsletter and a watch. Now it’s run by us, a dollar a month and they get access to an exclusive feed where we post more close and personal stuff. So photos from rehearsals, small ideas and maybe we have upcoming merch, we ask them what the best one is out of three. You get to see music videos twenty four hours before anyone else.
It goes up from that. We launched a Discord channel and we’re building that community. We also do virtual meet and greets on YouTube where fans can ask us anything.
Madeleine: It’s a lot of fun. The other day we had our first personal chat with someone in the highest tier Patreon. One of the perks of that tier is having a personal chat with anyone from Eleine and he told us so much about himself. It was such a great chat, it lasted for over an hour. We talked about games and life in general, I cried and he cried. Getting to know fans in a way like that, I know it meant a lot to him. During the hard times, some of our songs were very close to him.
Rikard: If we had the opportunity to speak to our idols when we were younger, for me say it would be Dave Grohl, that would have been mindblowing. It’s still a goal to collaborate with Dave Grohl.
Madeleine: It’s pretty new but it’s fantastic. It helps a lot of artists survive and staying creative as it is a struggle to be creative and survive at the same time.
Rikard: Given the time we’re living in now, they’re happy to do it. If you’re in a situation where you can’t be a part of Patreon, that’s fine and you’re still a super fan. Only do it if you can and want to.
Do you have a message for your fans, particularly those who aren’t coping with COVID and lockdown?
Rikard: The situation is temporary, it will pass. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when and it will come sooner than you’re feeling.
Madeleine: If you’re feeling depressed and days feel like an eternity, those days do exist. The best way to go through these days is to accept that it’s a shitty day and try to focus on the small things that make you happy. It can be things like your favourite food, if you want to be a kid again and eat pancakes for dinner do it if if makes you smile. People say tomorrow will be better but for someone who has depression, it may not be. It will get better, maybe not tomorrow but focus on the small things that make you smile.
Rikard: And we love you all.
Thank you guys for this great chat and best of luck with the album release.