On May 8th 2020, atmospheric/folk metal act Sojourner will be releasing a new studio album via Napalm Records. I caught up with Emilio, Chloe, and Mike, to talk about the project a little bit more, as well as what the group’s plans are for their live shows once the coronavirus pandemic comes to an end.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, how are you guys doing?
Emilio: Good! Kind of isolating ourselves at the moment, but we’re all good.
It’s great to see that you’re now with Napalm and will be releasing an album with them next month, so congratulations on that! How did the signing come about, and how does it feel to be a part of the Napalm Records family?
Emilio: Sebastian the A&R of Naplam had checked out our music and contacted us to see if we were willing to sign with them. After some back and forth and talking with them, we felt like it was the right move, and we’ve been happy since then.
What has the writing process been like for the upcoming release? Has it remained the same, or did you go into it with a conscious decision to make any major stylistic shifts?
Mike: We kind of just kept on doing what we usually do. Just Chloe and I write back and forth with each other until we’re happy with this stuff. And it was just sort of a natural evolution from the last album. We just sort of did what we always do.
Chloe: Yeah. We had a bit of a plan that we wanted this album to be darker. We’d sort of talked about the feel of it. The last album was kind of triumphant and it had these like greens and blue colors on the cover, and this time we were sort of thinking something a bit more dark and brooding with some blues and purples instead. So that was kind of where we started off in our really early conversations about the album.
This was before we knew that it was going to be on Napalm. That was the main difference, really. Just that we wanted to go a little dark at this time.
I can appreciate that you guys use color and as the representative in your music. I think that it’s something that a lot of people don’t think about. Even a lot of musicians, but I think that art and music go hand in hand. And I think it’s great that you kind of think outside of the norms and outside of the box, and think of all different senses when you’re creating your music.
Emilio: Yeah, definitely don’t want to just slap anything on there, you know? I mean that can be done sometimes by some bands, but in our case, the arts is quite important and we definitely make a conscious decision to have the perfect artwork for us at the moment.
Chloe: It’s creating a whole atmosphere, I suppose. So it has to have that visual element there too.
About the cover, I read in one of your Instagram post how it was about a recurring theme in one of your dreams, Mike. Is that right?
Mike: Yeah, I mean, it was just a weird dream that I kept having. And as I said in the post, I’m not the kind of person that puts a lot of weight into dreams or anything. It was quite a striking image, so I just mentioned it to the artist and said, you know, just to see what you can do with this. And he came back with just a phenomenal kind of look to it.
And while we were writing, we’d been talking in terms of quite a dark sort of Lily thing and the blue and the yellow kind of works together. I mean, to be honest, there’s no deep and meaningful thing behind the album cover. It’s just a really striking image that kind of fits the escapism of the music.Would you say there’s an overall general concept to this album or at least any type of general recurring themes?
Emilio: Yes. Lyrically and even in the music, you can definitely hear it. This was an album written during quite a dark period, not just in my life, but kind of for all the members.
Normally, like with the first two albums, I drew inspiration from either fantasy books or video games or nature and all this stuff. With the exception of Fatal Frame, which is based on a video game, mainly, for the rest of the songs, it was definitely about feelings that I had within, and I wanted to bring that out. So all of the inspiration was just about what I was going through at the time.
During the recording process, I’m assuming you used multiple studios. What type of programs are you using to record, and do you have any specific consoles or any other equipment that you take with you on the road to replicate your studio sounds?
Mike: My studio is sort of the home-based studio of the band. We sort of record everything. I use Cubase pro and just a plethora of plugins and stuff, obviously. But we don’t really take anything on the road with us. Because we come from such sort of distant places, we kind of had to get flown in. So instead of taking big rigs or anything with us, we just take the bare minimum and make it work.
The most we take is that Chloe I have a few pedals, and that’s about it. We kind of keep it fairly basic, so we can’t really replicate exactly what is on the album. But I mean, I feel like we get relatively to our live sound. Our live sound is almost a different aspect of the band than what’s on record.
Chloe: We are still fairly new to playing live. I mean, we’ve been playing, I suppose it’s almost two years now, so we’re kind of still working out what we would like to buy in the future. We have sort of on our banned shopping list. Some things that might be able to get us close to the album sound when we play live.
With having such a unique international background, does it affect your sound in terms of creativity and influences? And if so, in what ways?
Mike: Yeah. The main songwriters are me and Chloe, and we sort of gel in the sense that we’ve been doing it for a long time, and our styles are fairly similar, but I feel like everyone brings something new to the table.
Can You tell us a bit more about your first single and video, The Deluge? Which was beautifully shot by the way.
Thank you. The lyrics for the song are extremely personal to me. It was during probably the worst period of what I was going through last year.
So it’s quite a song filled with like despair and I guess hints of nihilism in there. When we were thinking about shooting the video, we didn’t really want to take after the lyrics. If we had to literally shoot out the lyrics, it would just be me. So that wouldn’t be very cool. (laughing)
Then since we’re an international band we don’t get together very often, and we really wanted to have the full band together and stuff. So we decided to keep the elements of water, which is in the music as well as the lyrics, and translate that into images such as the waterfall behind Chloe and her parts.
And then just kind of also tell a bit of the story, let’s say about the band, kind of each one on their own path and stuff. And then we’ve come together to make this thing work, this thing called Sojourner.
So it’s a collective effort when making a video?
Is that something everyone has an equal part in, or more of a focus on you with the lyrics, and Chloe and Mike with the music?
Chloe: With the video, we actually weren’t quite sure exactly what we were going to do until we met up with the director, Oliver König, on the weekend that we were going to be filming. So we all met up and we ordered Chinese, and we were in Scottys living room talking about what we were going to do. And we had this idea that that could be a symbol involved in it. So you probably noticed in the album there’s this symbol that we’re all painting or making out of stones and the different landscapes.
So we knew that we wanted to have this kind of fantasy journey and for it to be a bit vague, not sort of acting out a whole cheesy story, but just that we were all on a kind of some sort of subtle, strange journey, and that we wanted to weave the symbol through it. We sort of worked it out from there and then all talked about some cool different places.
For example, a lot of the scenes from the video or along the track of a hike that I really enjoy. So we thought that would be a good place to go and look for some places. So that was in the process planning, which was quite interesting and we’re so happy with how it turned out.
Yeah, it’s visually stunning, you guys did a fantastic job with it.
Chloe: Thank you!
Your music in general, especially the first single, features a truly interesting dualism. A blend of aggressive vocals and clean vocals from you, Chloe, a combination that might feel out of place on paper, but that truly works in your music. What would you say is the key to letting these styles blend together?
Emilio: Basically, I would say that’s when the music is being written and then it comes time for like vocals and lyrics and stuff. We kind of just go on with like what the song is asking for, not so much that we need to adhere to some established norms of, you know, duality in whatever type of genres.
The song here is asking me to not scream or growl or whatever, but it’s really begging for Chloe’s voice. So it pretty much goes on that. Some songs, you know, it’ll only be Chloe cause the song doesn’t ask for me to be on it or, and vice versa. So it’s really just about what we feel the song needs.
Folk and metal are two worlds that also feel quite different from one another, yet they often feel connected and fuse together symbiotically especially with atmospheric metal. What do each of you think is the link between these two genres and why do they fit so well together?
Emilio: For me, it’s just two words. It’s fucking awesome. That’s about it. I guess in my case. I mean, I feel that they mix well together. Maybe because of its epicness. Let’s say the extremity that both can have. It’s really hard to put into words.
Chloe: Perhaps it’s something to do with the otherness of both of them. I mean, whether you’re into metal or whether you’re into sort of a recreation of folk as something such as fantasy or something in the past, it’s all sort of comes out of a dissatisfaction with popular culture and with reality, as it is necessary to be played out every day.
It’s a little bit of wanting to escape that. So in metal, you have this counterculture, and folk, it is this sort of other existence. Which is simpler or more interesting or more connected to myth and nature and that sort of thing. I think maybe that’s why it’s, it tends to appeal to the same people.
That’s maybe why they maybe both appeal to me anyway.
Mike: I think there’s a lot of extreme melody in both as well. I feel like the kind of metal we like to listen to generally anyway has an emphasis on melody and folk is very melody-based. So I think there is a big crossover in that. So I think Folk and Metal kind of go hand in hand in that respect.
Absolutely. I wanted to talk about the COVID- 19 crisis is hitting many artists who are left unable to tour. How are you guys spending your downtime?
Emilio: Gaming and listening to music! And just staying inside.
Mike: I’m writing a bunch of music just for fun. Just to stay sane.
Chloe: I’m looking after our house. And for someone who has a lovely grand piano, I’m playing a lot of piano, and I’m also trying to write a fantasy book very slowly. I’m trying to read inspiring things that will give me the idea to start anyway.
That’s great! And with all the other cancellations going on, I’m curious, what is the current status of the Dark Troll fest?
Emilio : For now it’s still going ahead. There’s no cancellation just yet. Some countries that are kind of hitting a curve, like it’s getting better. I live in Sweden, for example, but I work in Denmark and the situation seems to be getting better. As of right now, our agent hasn’t really told us, which way it’s slinging so basically until he says it’s canceled, it’s still going on and will still take place.
Gotcha. Would you guys consider doing any sort of live streams to maybe celebrate the release of the album?
Mike: I think we’ll do some sort of, not necessarily a band playing live stream, but maybe let’s take Q&As or even just to hang out with the band kind of thing. We definitely do something.
Once you do get back on the road, how much of the new material are you going to be working into your live sets?
Emilio: A lot of it.
Chloe: At some point, we’d like to play the whole thing. The whole album feels like it would go down well. It would be very fun to play live. So if we get a decent set time, then we’d love to play the whole thing. Plus a few of our old songs. That would be ideal.
Emilio: Yeah. For example, Dark Troll festival is actually an album release show so it would be played from start to finish. At the festival.
Well, make sure you guys hit America. Detroit has a huge metal community.
Emilio: Absolutely. Our very first offer ever for a live show was for the States. Way back in like 2017 somebody from Pennsylvania reached out to us. I don’t’ remember who it was, but he reached out to us and he wanted to bring us over, but the cost was extremely high. So we have had an offer to come to the States already, but since then, nothing.
We definitely would love to see you guys here. when you get the chance. I want to say thanks again for taking the time to speak with me. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans?
Emilio: We’d just like to thank everybody for the support. I mean, ever since we came out, it’s just been a constant downpour of support and great reviews, and people really taking a liking to something that we were just creating in our bedrooms or living rooms. And to be able to be at this point where, you know, we’re having like a big release and be able to play live for people, it’s, it’s a dream come true. And that, of course, is thanks to people who support us. So we’re extremely grateful.