Interview with Abinchova

05-04-2013 – Switzerland’s Abinchova might not be a household name among folk metal fans just yet, but it’s only a matter of time. These talented young musicians currently have one full-length album, Versteckte Pfade, to their name; they also recently released a single entitled Handgeschrieben, which was produced by Eluveitie’s Anna Murphy. Sam caught up with Arnaud (vocals) and Nora (vocals, violin) in the freezing parking lot of Germany’s Ragnarök Festival after the band’s explosive opening set.

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Metal Exposure: So we’ll start off with the generic questions: How did the band get started?
Arnaud: The band started in 2005, but now there are only two members left from the original line-up: Nora, who’s here with me, and Stef, our drummer. When the band first started, the music they played was quite different. The line-up totally changed in 2008 – that was when I joined, as well. And in 2009, we started going in the direction of folk metal, changed the language of the band from English to German, changed the logo – we changed everything! That same year, we played our first gig with the new line-up and new sound, and this is the band that people now know as Abinchova. Before that, it was really just a local thing, a couple of friends having fun.

ME: Did the band members have any specific vocal or musical training before starting the band?

Nora: Yes, most of us have had about two to four years of musical training. Patricia took some piano lessons, Dave is studying guitar (he’s VERY good at it!), and I had some vocal training and violin lessons.

Arnaud: Alex took guitar lessons for a while, but then he quit and just taught himself. I’m the only one who’s never had any formal training! (*laughs*) I can’t read notes, I can’t write notes, I can’t compose. But Patricia thought I had potential, so she asked me to join the band.

Nora: And he’s good! He has rhythm, and that’s what’s important for a growler.

ME: What are some of your influences?
Arnaud: Let me put it this way: In the early days, all of the working titles for our songs were “Ensiferum 1,” “Ensiferum 2,” and so on. I think you can still hear that influence on our album, Versteckte Pfade. Ensiferum, Wintersun, and all the melodeath bands from Finland were and still are a huge influence for us. But I think we’re still finding our sound, and we always look forward to new stuff and how it will impact us.

ME: Do you compose your songs together as a group?
Nora: No, we don’t. Actually, our former guitar player Nicolas wrote a lot of our songs, but he left the band earlier this year, so we have to figure out how we’ll do it from now on! (*laughs*) Lately, we’ve all come together to make a lot of changes to our new songs, so it’s really a joint contribution now. Dave does a lot of the composing, and of course Arnaud writes all the lyrics!

ME: You mentioned that your lyrics were originally in English. Why did you decide to switch to German – and why not Swiss German?
Nora: Well, I think our English is crap. (*laughs*) Or it was back then, anyway! Our lyrics were full of mistakes, and it was kind of embarrassing. I personally think that German is a very poetic language; it allows you to express yourself in many different ways.

Arnaud: German has its own special mood and strength, and I love it. I think a lot of English lyrics in pagan metal tend to sound really similar, and I didn’t want that. There’s room for all languages in music.

Nora: But not Swiss German!
Arnaud: I decided against Swiss German because it just feels like a gimmick, you know? All the Swiss pop acts do it. I mean, I like the idea in principle, but I think more people can relate to German, and it’s a more solid language grammatically. German has real rules, whereas in Swiss German, you can do whatever you want, and it just isn’t consistent enough for us.

ME: You guys seem to have a real do-it-yourself attitude in terms of promoting and production – how do you split up that work?
Nora: Oh, Arnaud does everything! (*laughs*)
Arnaud: Well, that’s not exactly true, but I do a lot! I do all the artwork, and most of the stuff related to management and promotion. But in the latter areas, I’m really more of a coordinator; everyone contributes. We’re very fortunate in Abinchova, because everyone in our band has a special skill that helps us out, so we’re able to do everything in-house at a very high standard of quality.

ME: Speaking of DIY, you self-produced an awesome video for your song “Wegweiser.” The theme of the video seems like sort of a middle finger to record labels; are you against the idea of a record contract in principle?
Arnaud: Not really. It’s just that we get a lot of e-mails from small, disreputable agencies and “labels” that say, “Hey, we can make you into huge stars!” And I know a lot of smaller bands who’ve fallen for it. Things are quite good for us without a label, because all the proceeds from our sales come directly back to us – no one else. People are so quick to jump on opportunities and even change things about their bands when it’s not really necessary – and might be a change for the worse – just for the record label.

ME: Your album art is gorgeous! Do you have a specific source for the materials?

Arnaud: I really like old drawings from about 1800 to the early 1900s, so I go to a lot of flea markets to look for cheap old books. I have to sift through a lot of crap, but there are some gems in there! I photoshop the drawings a bit, and that’s how I end up with a huge collection of unique works that are no longer subject to copyright. I usually really like how they turn out.

ME: Do you have plans to release a new full-length album anytime soon?
Nora: We have some new songs, but we don’t have the money to go into the studio. We received some funding from the local government to record our last album, but it’s not enough to cover the entire cost. Producing good stuff is really expensive!

Arnaud: Yeah, actually, that’s the downside to doing this without a label. We have enough songs – they still need work; we’re not quite finished yet – but we want to put out a good-quality record in terms of both the music and the production, and that comes at a cost. We’re really thinking about crowdfunding. But first, we have to finalize the music, and then we’ll decide how to handle the recording process. Naturally, money is always an issue.

ME: Thanks so much for the interview! Anything else you’d like to add?

Nora: I have to pee!!

Arnaud: Fitting words to close with…

ME: Let’s get inside where it’s warm (and there are bathrooms)! (*laughs*) Thanks again!

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