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Interview: Fabienne Erni Talks Illumishade

Illumishade is a new project formed by Eluveities Fabienne Erni and Jonas Wolf. Last November, they kicked off a crowdsourcing campaign to fund the release of their debut album. Since then, we’ve learned a little more about the project, the forthcoming concept album, and have been treated to three great singles from the record. I recently caught up with Fabienne to talk a little bit more about the band, as well as the upcoming release.

First and foremost, congrats on launch for the band! How did you decide to get involved and create this new music project?

Thank you so much! And thank you for having me! Everything started actually because of my masters degree I had to do last September. My task was to create a concept, a band and play music for around 40 minutes. This is how I got started with Illumishade! Nobody knew back then that we all would be that hooked with it and that we will get that far and actually record a CD, develop a whole new fantasy world and so on! After my Master-Thesis we just all loved our dynamic in the group and really enjoyed the music and it would have been a pity to just stop!

You’ve also taken a DIY approach with this band, what’s that been like rather than going through a label?

Yes, we still feel like we want to go without one. We can still have all our rights, and everything is with us. We can just do whatever we want.

Like you have more freedom?

Yeah! We have Tamara in the boat as well, she’s my best friend and she’s working as the promoter in Switzerland, and she just knows about stuff that I couldn’t handle. So we are just a perfect team, and she’s taken the role of manager/label and stuff like that, but I help her as much as I can.

We split everything up that we have to do, and what I can help her with. For example, after this interview, I’m going to have a call with her and Jonas about what to do, and what’s the next step. I love that we have this group of people that are working together, and working towards one goal. It’s actually very nice to keep everything in this circle that we are in.

I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the project and leading up to the announcement of the name of the band. What is the meaning behind Illumishade, and is there any subtle reference we might be missing?

I had this idea in mind about the world, and I love songs that describe a story and are related to certain situations in said story. So I started building this idea with Tamara and now we are working with a concept writer together because this is too big for just one or two people to handle.

So for me, when I came up with the name, I had this idea in mind that the story was going to be about light and darkness taking over. Also the contrast in the music. If you listen to our three singles they are very different from each other. “Rise” is a ballad and “Worlds End” is a hard rock track. I really love these contrasts. I’m a fan of the big ballads, but then I also love the harder stuff.

Also, with all the different musicians in the band, we all come from such different backgrounds. So we just wanted to have this playground where the creativity could flow, and we each come up with various ideas.

So it’s all about the contrast. Illumi and Shade. It’s actually pretty simple! And I just came to this idea because I wanted to build a world with snow and ice. As an example, I knew in Finnish, there is a word that means snowrain or something like that which is “lumisadetta.” So I was like lumisadetta / Illumi-shade!

That’s awesome! You just mentioned that you are working with a concept writer, and one of the most fascinating aspects of creating concept albums is the ability to dive deeper and go beyond the songs. How deep did you dive in this time, in terms of building a world for the music to live in?

We just wanted to build something where people could dive in musically, but also storywise. We wanted a project where we could interact with the people that are listening to it, and you could find a place to escape. So I had this idea overall, and I developed it with Tamara which was something like 1 ½ years ago actually. When everything came closer to the release, which was around the 1st of January, we went to social media to say “hey, we are also here!”

So we thought we had to have more details about the world that we wanted to build, so people could access these different tribes. So we found our wonderful concept writer, she’s from Canada, who also happens to be a metal fan too! She understands the music and how everything comes together. So we gave her our ideas, and she gave us her ideas, so now it’s mostly her and Tamara writing with each other bouncing off ideas like a ping-pong effect.

Everyone else in the group decides on ideas and we just throw them into a pot and then our concept writer is the one cooking it.

Sometimes, concept albums and artistic expressions (such as sci-fi novels or film) are a great way to take on a wide range of subjects, without necessarily being overly head-on about it. Would you say that the concept album features any allegorical or metaphorical content, which might reference today’s social themes or other topics people deal with on a day-to-day?

We think that the general idea is to tell a story that’s out of the ordinary, and there are elements throughout the story that are definitely rooted in everyday life and common to us. Things that we are all facing like some kind of fear, or caring for someone, so definitely. I think it might be different for everybody else that finds something maybe they can relate to, but besides that, we just wanted to create a world in which everyone can escape to, and feels at home.

You explore the idea of tribes in the album, with fan participation. How does that relate to the music, and what does it mean to have your own tribe?

Yeah, we are still in the very beginning stages of that, and we had the idea for tribes for this album. What I love about this, is that I already have so many ideas for new material. I would love to have an album that’s dedicated to specific tribes, or maybe develop some musical motives and for each tribe.

Just stuff like that, which gives us a lot of ideas and we are now working on more of the core of each tribe; such as how is the mood, what is the style, what colors are represented and so on. It’s all just questions that you have to ask yourself when creating them. Also, the people that are in these groups inspire us too, as they should kind of relate to their own tribe and find a home there. This is why we made the tribe quiz, so everyone can see where they belong and we got so much feedback, and they were like “yeah that totally fits me.” It’s so cool that they find their own group within our project, it’s a lot to develop and explore!

Concept aside, the production of the singles that we’ve heard are absolutely fantastic. Was the album recorded fully at New Sound, and I thought I saw that Anna Murphy did some work as well?

We mostly recorded drums and vocals with Tommy Vetterli, the owner of New Sound Studio. We already had recorded with Euveitie for him and that’s how I knew him. We fit very well together and I love recording with him. Guitars, and base, and stuff like that we recorded with Claudio Rodriguez, he has a studio next to Tommy. He is also mixing it.

Anna did the recordings for my backing vocals. So because everything takes longer than expected, and since this is the first time with me doing it without guidance from Chrigie, it’s a lot to think about. We finally had time, and she had time to borrow Tommy’s studio, and I so enjoyed working with her because going crazy with another singer is just the best thing!

We had a lot of fun together and experimenting with things. It was very lovely to work with her and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last time. I really enjoyed that she recorded my backing vocals.

The singles are amazing, and each track stands out in their own special way. What would you say is the “glue” that holds these songs together, stylistically?

I think a big part of it is Mirjam with her sounds and her string recordings. Thanks to her sound, the listeners can dive into a new world, into our ILLUMISHADE-World. She gives the magic to the songs, to the ballads but also to the harder songs.

The glue itself probably is also the whole story of the album. The whole album describes a story and every song fits into a certain situation during this development.

Do you mostly approach instrumental ideas first, or did you focus on conceptual storylines in the beginning of the recording process?

I did have this initial rough story of mine, but I also had like 60 other ideas. How it all started was I showed them to Tamara and she was like; “I like this one” and “I like this one”. So I developed those a little bit more. When I first have ideas it’s for a song, it’s only for pianos and vocals, and like chords and the melody. I went to Jonas and we did some preproduction and he added guitars and drums as well as his ideas. It was fun to work with him and develop those ideas, and after those two days, I knew what the songs could be like for the future.

For example, such as what fits into a specific situation of the story that I have in mind. So I might do one song for the story for a different situation. So it was a little bit both, and they kind of grew together.

With the Coronavirus pandemic forcing everyone indoors, touring has become a little tricky. How are you planning on promoting this new music? I know for the moment you’re scheduled for a couple of release shows in May, and assuming things get better by then, are you still going ahead with that?

At the moment everything is just so unpredictable and so hard to say how everything will develop. So far in Switzerland, we cannot play until the 30th April, so our release show on 22nd of May which could still be possible. But we just don’t know how everything will develop and we are working on a plan B, plan C, plan D, because it’s so hard to say.

We, of course, hope everything will work out, and we also have a festival on the 28th in Milano. Everything has changed and we may just have to find another way, so I think now is just a good time to do a lot on social media. For example, we launched this interaction where everyone who wants to be part of the intro can say these four most important sentences of the world we built and recorded it, then we mix everybody at once into the album.

So just stuff like that, and even though we’re alone in our houses, we can still build stuff together like that intro. Jonas and I will also go live playing a live set where we will make an announcement. We just have to make the best out of the situation, and see the positive sides.

If the situation doesn’t change, would you guys consider doing the live stream of the release in some way?

Yeah, that’s something that we’re looking into and how it would be possible. Because who knows, maybe in May were not even allowed to meet with two people. Currently, in Switzerland, we are allowed to meet with five people, though you probably shouldn’t. So who knows, maybe in May were not even allowed to see each other at all.

I think we just have to go with the flow and make a lot of plans because we want to do something. So we are just hoping for the best with our fingers crossed.

Looking a bit further into the future, have you thought about touring the album at some point?

Yeah definitely, we would love to play shows. It’s basically going to be if we have a gap with Eluveitie then we will make plans with Illumishade. So if you see it that way it’s actually pretty simple. It will be like; here and here are the days we will be on tour with Eluveitie, and we will see where we have the free spots and we will see if we can make with Illumishade. We definitely want to make it happen, and I hope we can play the release show because I’m looking forward to playing, it’s going to be so much fun!

I’m sure it will work out, looking forward to the release! Thank you very much for speaking with me, is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans?

Thank you to everyone! And I hope you guys are all fine and safe out there!

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