“It was a different album to make and we had to improvise along the way”

SIRENIA are a Symphonic Metal institution and their latest release Riddles, Ruins & Revelations only proves this further. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke band’s founder Morten Veland about the album, challenges in the creative process and lockdown. Here’s what happened.

Hello Morten, thank you for joining us. So, Riddles, Ruins & Revelations; I notice there is more of an electronic sounds compared to the last album release. You still manage to stick to the core sounds that make Sirenia. 

Yes, I mean those are the two important things that are really important to us when releasing a new album; to ensure we bring something new and fresh to the table whilst making sure we don’t step too far away from the core of our sound. We try to balance the two in a nice way.

Given what went on in 2020 and releases being postponed, were you able to record everything before going into lockdown?

I think we missed it by about two or three days. We were supposed to start recording in the middle or the end of March. Emmanuelle [Zoldan] had her flight ticket booked to Norway to start her recording sessions. Two days before she was due to fly out, her flight was cancelled and everything shut down so she was not able to travel. We had to rebook her flight ticket and we rescheduled several times, every time it ended up being cancelled again. At the end, she was able to come to Norway in the middle of August. Her recording sessions were postponed for half a year. 

So everything was running very smoothly until that point, everything just crashed with COVID-19. It was a different album to make and we had to improvise along the way trying to adapt to the situation and finding new soloutions. So it was a different album to make, it was quite complicated. Especially as a band we are spread all over Europe which complicates things further as you have travel restrictions. We were able to get through it and I am really excited about the album now. Especially after working on it for a long period of time. 

Some bands had to postpone their album releases due to COVID-19, was 12th February the intended release date or were you hoping to release it earlier?

We wanted to release quite a bit earlier, I believe five months earlier. Everything got postponed but there wasn’t a lot we could do about it. I think it was the same situation for most of the bands out there. Some bands are lucky to have their whole line-up in the same country and that makes things easier but I believe there were a lot of bands that got heavily effected by COVID-19 in the last year and still are. I am sure we will be for quite some time, we have got to be patient and try to hang in there.

Let’s talk about the songs on the album, do you already have in mind what tracks need growls in and for Emmanuelle to do a certain vocal technique or is it a case of having the track ready and seeing what works?

To me it becomes clear quite early in the writing process what each part is going to, whether it’s an instrumental part like a guitar solo or whether it’s a vocal part, I have a clear vision on what type of vocal it’s going to be. I started working around that and composing that in my mind from the very beginning when I start writing the songs. I really love the whole creative process and seeing how the song starts as a vision in my mind then coming to life. I absolutely love the process.

What part of the creative process do you find the most challenging?

The creative process often goes really smoothly. The challenging parts are normally other processes. When I am in the studio recording and writing, that’s my space and that’s what I feel comfortable doing as I am in control. When you throw me out on tour and other things can happen, you don’t feel you are in control of things the whole time. You try to make the best of things but with the creative part I mean I have so much experience with that now and I have found my techniques and ways of working. 

It’s really smooth these days, especially with the kind of equipment that is available. I remember in the early days, the composing was a completely different story as you didn’t have the computers and you’re basically doing the programming on these machines. They were really easy to use but it took a long time. I remember sitting down with a calculator and calculating the length of the notes and all that kind of stuff. Today it’s much faster with a computer, everything is much more streamlined. 

Which of the songs from the new album are you looking forward to playing live the most?

Definitely the first two singles we released so Addiction No. 1 and We Come To Ruins, I feel both of those are very energetic and melodic songs. I think they will fit really nicely in a live setting so I am looking forward to that. Then I guess we have to pick two more. Putting a setlist together these days is really complicated, we releasing our tenth album now and we have so many songs to choose from. All the fans have their favourite album and they are hoping to hear songs from their favourite album. This time it’s impossible to play songs from every album. We try to choose wisely based on what our fans like and keep ourselves updated on what songs of ours are popular at the moment on the streaming platforms. So we try to keep the most popular songs on the setlist and try to vary it a bit with the remaining songs.

I personally liked the song Addiction No.1. I noticed it got a mixed bag of comments.

Absolutely. It’s actually one of my favourite songs from the album. We knew of course when we released it that we were going to get mixed feedback due to the fact it’s so different to what we have released before. When you step that far away from your sound, it’s to be expected that some people won’t like it. Some people are really open minded to new things and that’s what they want. We are all different. We definitely knew when we released that song, it would get mixed feedback.

When writing this album, what themes did you look into? When listening to the track This Curse Of Mine, I interpreted that overcoming struggles with mental health.

That’s a subject I have been writing about over the years so that might be very possible to be honest. This album is still so fresh. Over the years, I have had problems with titles and also the lyrics. I really have to study them before going on tour, there’s so many lyrics in my mind that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Now with the COVID 19 situation, I have to re-learn guitar and how to sing.

What has been like in terms of lockdown restrictions in Norway?

The government having really being forcing us by law to stay at home but they want you to do it. They tell you in polite way “please don’t go anywhere unless it’s really important.” I am quite lucky as I live in the South West of Norway and the COVID 19 situation hasn’t been that bad in my part of the country compared to the big cities. Oslo, Bergen and Trondhiem got it the worst I think, now there is a mutant part of the virus that is spreading in the Oslo area. East of Norway, the situation is worse. We don’t try to go outside unless it’s necessary, when we go to the super market we wear masks and use anti bacterial gel.

Other than writing and recording for the album, is there anything that helped pass the time?

From my part, it was spending lots of time in the studio being very creative. Composing a lot of music for Sirenia and also for my solo project. I hadn’t done a lot for my solo project before due to being busy with Sirenia especially in the last few years. Now with the COVID 19 situation there’s no travelling or touring, meaning a lot more time in the studio. I try to use it in the best possible way.

What can fans expect from Riddles, Ruins & Revelations?

I think fans can expect a typical Sirenia album. When I say typical, I refer to the fact that you can expect an album that has something new and fresh, an album that is very diverse. We will always sound like Sirenia but with a new modernised twist.

Thank you Morten for talking to Rock Out Stand Out and best of luck with the new release.

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