28-12-2014 – The fine folks of Switzerland’s Abinchova released their second full-length album “Wegweiser” this past July. Sam sat down with Arnaud (vocals) and Patricia (keyboard) in the folk metal band’s home town of Lucerne the day after their performance at the 2014 Eluveitie & Friends Festival.
Metal Exposure: A rough translation of the title of your new album, “Wegweiser,” would be “signpost.” Did you have a particular reason for choosing this title?
Arnaud: While we were working on the album, I figured coming up with a title was my job. We had a song on our “Handgeschrieben” EP called “Wegweiser” that was pretty fun, and we knew we wouldn’t re-record it. NOFX once released a song called “Pump up the Volume” on an EP, and then they recorded an album with the same name, but that song wasn’t on it. And I thought, if NOFX can do it, so can we! That caused a bit of confusion with reviewers: “Why isn’t the song on the album? Why is there an EP called ‘Handgeschrieben,’ and a song called Handgeschrieben, but the song Handgeschrieben isn’t on the EP, but it’s on the “Wegweiser” album…?” I think people will manage to figure it out, though.Some people inferred from the title that we wanted to indicate the direction we’re headed, but I don’t feel that way; I just think it’s a good name.
ME: What are your favorite songs on “Wegweiser,” and why?
Arnaud: I really like Wandlung, even though we re-recorded it, and Unter der Erde, even though the rest of the band doesn’t like it – I think it’s good to have some fast, upbeat songs. I like Sturmgeweiht a lot, because it has a very special vibe. I wasn’t that big of a fan of Echo at first, because that song has been around since before our first album, and the original version was just awful. When we decided to use it for this album, I was against it, but we finally reworked it and made it faster and shorter – it’s still pretty long, but it used to be longer – and now I think it’s very good song. I prefer the faster songs, but I think I’m one of the only guys in the band that does.
Patricia: Yeah, I guess Arnaud likes the songs that the rest of us don’t like that much. I like Vom grünen Grund and Echo. I also like Felsenfrass, but I don’t like Unter der Erde. I think the melody’s too cheesy; it reminds me of melodies I’ve heard a thousand times before.
ME: You worked with Tommy Vetterli and the team at New Sound Studio for the first time during the recording process for this album. How was it?
Arnaud: It was all very professional. Because we wanted to keep costs down, Tommy just came to set things up, and then he left everything to Wigi [Abinchova’s bassist], his assistant in the studio. Wigi was our producer. Tommy came back to the studio to do the mix, but we weren’t there for that, because, you know, too many cooks… *laughs*
Wigi and Tommy know their stuff, so we just let them work their magic. I think that’s the best thing to do. If you have all the band members in a room, you go nowhere. No one is happy with everything.
ME: What were some of the best and worst moments in the studio?
Arnaud: The worst moment was when we realized that Stef [Abinchova’s former drummer] couldn’t keep up with the drum parts; he left the band, and we had to find a temporary replacement for him on short notice. And then Nora [violin] injured her hand and couldn’t play on all the songs. We were very lucky to get Nicole from Eluveitie to step in and record the tracks she couldn’t finish.
Patricia: Studio scheduling was also a big mess, because we had to delay the album, so in the end, there were many unforeseen circumstances.
Arnaud: Yeah, we had to delay the release because Eluveitie was running behind and asked to use our studio time. But I think we got lucky by striking a deal with them. It gave us more time to prepare for the release, so I think it worked out OK in the end. And as for the best moment: It was probably when we heard the finished product.
ME: You opted for a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of recording “Wegweiser.” Can you share your experiences with that?
Arnaud: When we were considering crowdfunding, we mostly saw punk and indie bands doing it, but not many metal bands. We decided to go for it anyway, but we had to really think it through. You have to consider what you want to give people, and what people want. You need to come up with an advertising strategy. And you have to secure some funding in advance; early contributions keep people interested in the project. Then you write the copy for your campaign in German and English, make your video, and ensure things go smoothly – there’s nothing worse than a botched crowdfunding launch, because the first few days are so important, as are the last few days.
When the campaign went live, it was interesting to see the reactions. Most people were very supportive, but there were a few people who didn’t really like the idea. They thought we were cheating our fans. It’s always the same line: You should do it the old-fashioned way, get a label, or pay for it yourselves. Don’t hassle your fans to fulfill your dreams. But I think those people just don’t understand how crowdfunding works. I think it’s the future for many independent artists.
Patricia: I also think these days, more people are aware that it costs a fortune to record an album, and bands can’t pay for everything themselves. So fans can be the label now! We also tried to offer really nice goodies, handmade stuff. It was fun to put everything together! In the end, the response was really positive.
ME: For the release and distribution of your latest album, you partnered with a service called SAOL (Service for Artist-Owned Labels). How does this organization support you, and what are the benefits?
Arnaud: Patricia came up with the idea. She heard about them through her work at Legacy Magazine. By releasing with SAOL, we retain all the rights to our music. The initial contract term is one year, and then you can decide whether or not to renew. We wanted to see whether having our album distributed to actual music stores would help or not. But we also already had a system in place for getting reviews and interviews before partnering with SAOL, so our level of exposure hasn’t really changed; they just took over that work for us. It’s been helpful in some ways, but less so in others. We’ll decide in a few months whether we’ll renew the contract – whether it will really pay off.
Patricia: The nice thing is that you’re still your own boss, and you don’t give up your rights. SAOL just provides you with support, especially for promotion. There are some costs for that, but it’s pretty affordable.
ME: Can you share a little bit about what you guys do outside of the band – jobs, hobbies, university? Because I think so many fans assume that a band like yours is a career…
Arnaud: Wigi works at New Sound Studio with Tommy Vetterli, Mischa [drums] is a carpenter, Nora [vocals, violin] is finishing her Master’s in psychology and works part-time at her university, and Alex [guitar] is an accountant, but I think he’s unemployed at the moment. Hopefully he’ll get a job soon. Patricia is a teacher, and Dave [guitar] is finishing his Master’s in guitar and applied music, and he’s also already a guitar teacher. I’m studying language and communications, and I work part-time at Switzerland’s largest picture archive.
Patricia: I’m teaching my students how to headbang! *laughs*
Arnaud: You have to be really, really big to just live off your tours and music. Even members of really well-known bands like Manowar or In Flames still have day jobs.
ME: What were your favorite albums of 2014?
Arnaud: I know this, because I just did an interview about it a few days ago. *laughs* I loved The Lawrence Arms’ new album, “Metropol.” The new Reviver album, “The Beauty,” was also very good. And the new Banner Pilot album, “Souvenir,” I really liked – they’re all punk albums, I know. I think metal-wise, there weren’t many albums I cared about this year. Sad, but true.
Patricia: I liked Sólstafir’s “Ótta,” and the new Primordial album. Oh, and The Quantum Enigma from Epica! I did a review of that for Legacy Magazine and rated it very highly. That was a highlight for me in 2014.
ME: Anything else to add?
Patricia: Thanks for the interview!