Interview with Sojourner : On Melancholy and hype trains

Epic black metal entourage Sojourner, after having released their well-received second album The Shadowed Road (2018), have decided to muster their internationally spread out troupe and join Harakiri for the Sky and Draconian for a tour of live concerts across Europe. After their concert on the 26th of January in Rotterdam, I got the rare opportunity to have chat with almost the full band, and lest I forget, their Scottish live bass player for this tour, Scotty Lodge. Read what he and Mike Lamb (Scotland/New Zealand), Chloe Bray (Scotland/New Zealand), Emilio Crespo (Sweden) and Riccardo Floridia (Italy) had to say about their live shows, art, melancholy and getting ‘hype trained’.

Thanks for having the interview, I appreciate you taking the time. So you seem to like touring?

Mike Lamb (guitars, ML): Yeah, we love it!

Riccardo Floridia (drums, RF): It’s awesome!

Even the smelly bus and all?

RF: The smelly guys also !(laughs)

Chloe Bray (guitars & vocals, CB): It’s part of the experience, exhausting, but fun.

ML: We were lucky that our tour is with two other bands that get along amazingly.

Anything weird that has come up?

ML: The kind of stuff you would imagine, people get tired and drunk and its kinda funny, but nothing major.

RF: I think nothing major.

You didn’t loose somebody at the airport or something like that?

CB: Well, I got nearly stuck on a boat. So it was the middle of the night and we were on the ferry going from Copenhagen back to Germany and I was in a bathroom when the 5 minute call came. I was brushing my teeth. As it’s very hard to come across a sink when on a tour, I was thinking: yes, a sink and trying to clean my teeth! So I got down late, almost missing the tour bus that was about to leave. No one had realized I wasn’t on it!

So, a bit about more on the music. [I have been] listening to the albums ever since Empires of Ash was released, and for me much of the magic comes from the two guitars playing with and against each other. Can you elaborate on how you go about that?

ML: When we started writing it, we wanted it to be more guitar focused than a lot of the atmospheric black metal. So it almost got a melodic death or sort of classic metal guitar interaction, making it less washed-out than a lot of black metal.

CB: It’s kind of like why we like playing live, cause people say atmospheric black metal is not well suited to playing live, but for us it’s always been more guitar focused. So we feel like its working well, as its always been about riffs being the driving focus of the songs.

When I look at your covers and album art, it reminds me of the Romantic painters like Caspar Friedrich, Dahl and Turner. Is that something you also take inspiration from?

Emilio Crespo (vocals, EC): I mean, essentially our lyrics tend to be either fantasy or nature based. So in the end, what we decide to do is to portray that on the art. Generally, Mike will have a conversation with the artist who will do the album cover and talk about the direction is should be going to. We want it to be based on what the lyrics tells and what the music gives off, feeling wise. Which Chloe and Mike do very well and I write the lyrics to match the music that they are making.

Any literary, books or specific sources or is it more a feeling you’re conveying?

EC: It can be personal to me, in the sense that I write what I know. But at the same time it can be things that inspire me, like gaming, or things I might have read, or movies or stuff like that. It can basically be anything. Or when I am outside in Nature, get inspired and write lyrics to the song. Anything can strike it. But mainly, when I get the songs they have written, that sparks it immediately. That happens with every album, that I don’t need the sparks from other sources, because I get it from what they write.

And you get the music without any lyrics, I guess? With a description maybe?

CB: Well sometimes, will say that we were going with a kind of ‘feel’, but not a topic. Well as you mentioned those particular painters, they are from a Romantic period. We are generally going for a something melancholic, that feeling that nature being something immense, which is difficult to convey in any other way than poetry or music. That’s the emotion we want to get across. So we’ll sort of describe this to Emilio and he will do that what he takes from the music.

And you [Emilio] live in Sweden, right?

EC: Yes.

I assume living in Sweden has influenced your music and inspiration?

EC: Most definitely, yes. Sweden has some very beautiful aspects of nature, in it’s own way of course. It’s not mountainous or anything, its a very flat land. But between the forest and ocean, and (the very rare) lakes. That definitely triggers a lot of things for me.

Why the name? Is it the friendlier version of ‘vanity’; only staying for so long on a life that is a long journey?

ML: Yeah, that’s exactly it with the name! It’s something that kind of works with the epic aspect of the music, and the sort of journey elements we try to weave into the sound.

So, a bit more general, you recently signed with Napalm Records, congrats! Can you elaborate a bit on that?

ML: We were on AvantGarde Music, and we were perfectly happy there. But earlier on, when the tour was announced, Sebastian from Napalm contacted us and said he’d checked us out and was interested in working with us. So we were in talks for a long time after that, hashing out the details, and we officially signed around December I think it was. So now we’re working on a new album for them, And here we are!

EC: We off course had conversations, if it was feasible and everything like that. In the end, they shared our vision and we feel comfortable with them. So we decided to go ahead and take that plunge and the next step.

And I guess become bigger?

ML: Yeah, exactly.

Since you are an international band, I guess you guys travel a lot? How do you manage?

RF: It’s kind of hard, to manage that. But we always managed to do that. Even if we don’t have time to rehearse. We have to rely on our ability. So far on the tour, I think we are on the ninth [day of the tour]?

Lost count [laughs]?

RF: (laughs) So I think we are getting better and better, every show is like a new experience to us. But so far, so good and fucking amazing!

EC: Yeah, I definitely feel privileged to be in a band with so many talented musicians. Even though we don’t get to rehearse that much, or see each other that often, as much as we would like not. We still make it happen, and do our best to give great show and just show people that we love what we do.

Well, that was visible during the show.

ML: I’d like to give a shout out to Scotty here. Our bass player on the two albums [Mike Wilson] can’t often make it to shows and so Scotty here, who is a friend from work stepped in. You enjoy it, right?

Scotty Lodge (live bass, SL): Yeah! Its an awesome opportunity, I am very grateful to these guys for granting it to me. It’s been a life long dream to hit the road. And here we are, tearing it up!

CB: Scotty is our hype train!

RF: Mr. Hype train !

Hype train?

ML: He generally is like the one that gets ‘it’ first on stage. Every time I look at him, he also gets me into it.

SL: I like participation, any opportunity [I] get [to have] the crowd involved and interact with them, I take.

So you learn becoming a live band from him?

(all laugh), EC: Yeah, Scotty is the fucking man!

So you (Mike) are in Lysithea, any other bands that you are involved with?

ML: I’ve got Lysithea and outside of that, I do some sound track work and stuff. Nothing else yet, I’ve got another couple of things in the works at the moment, but that’s brand new. Haven’t really started them yet.

EC: I am in a funeral doom band, along with Peter Lausten of Nox Aurea and Where Nothing Remains, and we are soon going to release an album. That’s the only thing I am involved in, right now.

RF: I am in involved in another band, called Atlas Pain, which is kind of different from the Sojourner style. I am also the live drummer for other bands, which one I cannot say. I am involved in other projects.

Hmm, just unnamed?

RF: Well I can say that, the people [of that band] don’t want me to say that, so I can’t.

So, 2018 brought a lot of nice releases, could you name some of them? Your personal favorites?

EC: Oh yeah, for one, ISON,  with Andromeda Skyline, which is a side project of Heike [Langhans] of Draconian, who we currently are on tour with. Fantastic release…there so many, that you blank out with [this question].

RF: I need to check spotify!

EC: For one, this might cause a little.. I love the recent Architects. Very powerful. A lot of emotion and passion to that album, something that I can really appreciate.

CB: I really loved the new Firtan release!

Yeah, that album was on our lists as well.

CB: And we saw the release show of them at Dark Troll, which was amazing, which makes me extra attached to them.

ML: I was a huge fan of the new Rivers of Nile. It’s a progressive metal band, you should check it out.

SL: A definite shout out to our tour mates, Harakiri for the Sky. Their 2018 Arson is a killer album!

RF: Off course, that goes without saying!

I guess you make also have some spare time to go to live concerts, every once in a while. What were the highlights for 2018?

EC: For me personally, a few weeks ago I saw Architects live. And that was one of the most insane shows that I’ve ever seen. Off course, when we go out gigging we’ve see bands that we share the bill with, Firtan was one of our highlights. I guess I can speak for all. Then as well Dool, for example.

Yeah, we are proud of that [in the Netherlands].

EC: And Draconian, favourite band of all times, seeing them night after night is something amazing for me. And off course Harakiri for the Sky; it’s very cliché but very true.

CB: One of the highlights is seeing them over and over again. Me and Mike saw Wardruna in Edinburgh, and they were amazing. It’s just such an experience, completely different from going to a usual metal festival.

ML: It such an otherworldly show. One concert that probably isn’t going to go down easily, well here anyway, was Coheed and Cambria. I saw them this year in what, for the first time in 10 years? It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

RF: Personally, I have two; which were Audn, the Icelandic metal band. I saw them at Summerbreeze. And the other one was Tribulation with Insomnium.

Coming back to a more Sojourner related question; I guess you will at some point release a new album?

CB/RF/ML: Nah, we won’t… (All Laugh)

SL: Yep…This is our farewell tour!

ML: We’ve started on it, actually, we are about three songs in. One completed with vocals.

CB: Yes, we’re getting ready to send some demo’s to Napalm. So it’s [starting to] get a bit of shape. We can kind of see, roughly, where it’s going. But its always with two or three songs, hard to see in what the whole shape of the album is going to be.

ML: Shadowed road, but going in a darker, more epic, sad…

More melancholic?

CB: Always more melancholic.

ML: But at the same time, more epic duration.

EC: I love it when we are in the writing process, sometimes I get very impatient. But at the same time, not in a bad way, it’s just that I know they’re writing amazing music, and I just want to get my hands on it! So actually, being in Sojourner, when I first listen to it, I am actually a fan rather than a member. Because they are writing it and they only give it to you when it’s completely  finished. And the feeling you get when you listen to it he first time…is just…it’s really amazing.

RF: I haven’t mentioned all of my favourite albums of 2018, which is also The Shadowed Road. If you get to see my lastFM charts, it’s like right on top!

You like hearing yourself?

RF: (laughs) I have, you know, after every year, you can see your Spotify charts. And that had Sojourner as top 1 of all the lists. I was like, okay, I cannot fucking share and post this!

[To ML/CB] So, you both live in Scotland at the moment?

CB/ML: Yes.

RF: Scotty too, by the way!

(That part I got (laughing).) So how has living in Scotland affected the inspiration part? I think you where inspired by the Isle of Skye? Other parts as well?

ML: Yes.

CB: Oh yes, we live on the east coast of Scotland, I am studying at the University of St. Andrews. It’s not too far to drive up to the Cairngorms, we go there quite often. There are some epic hikes, there is one that goes to a mountain called Lochnagar, a big epic circuit. It’s a different landscape around every corner. It’s always misty and dramatic. Yeah, that really inspiring, whenever I am trying to feel the atmosphere we want, I always look at photos we have of that.

And your academic studies, are they influencing the work?

CB: Yeah, I am studying Landscapes in ancient Greek tragedies. So the whole kind of epic landscapes, the dark sad, aspects of landscapes and landscape and memory and that sort of thing I am studying. Quite often, I find myself thinking about writing songs while I am doing research, or I think about my thesis while I am writing songs.

Final question: Any Spinal Tap moments this tour?

ML: Backstage labyrinths, that what I was just thinking of. It is just like that, every venue you go to seems to be built on some sort of just…maze. Trying to find your way around, your end up walking into dead ends, into laundries…

RF: That’s basically the first thing that you do, is getting used to the venue. So you don’t get lost inside.

CB: You’re wandering around all sleepy, thinking: where is the food? Where is the rest?

Ever wandered into old musicians from previous tours, that have turned up as zombies?

EC: I have to say, one for example. Was an amazing show with an amazing crowd. We had one of the best shows ever, in Leipzig. But that venue was a total maze, sometime you were were even a bit disoriented.

ML: The venue with al those doors?

ML/RF: The cold venue? With the prison showers?

Wait, what, prison showers?

ML: It was a shower, that you see in prisons. A simple divider, with these open stalls.

RF: Funny fact: there were four, but only one with warm water…

Well, have fun on the rest of your tour and good luck surviving the prison showers (don’t drop the soap)! Thanks a lot for the interview and hope to see you around!

(photo courtesey of Diana Muschiol // Sunvemetal)