Listen to Alunah's Bloodstock interview with The Midlands Rocks:
In our review of the Bloodstock Festival, we singled out Alunah as one of the really great performances, that made Bloodstock such a special experience this year. They are out on tour in October and November in the UK, visiting Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton, Manchester, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Sheffield and London.
We interviewed Sophie Day, vocalist and guitarist with the band, before their Bloodstock Festival debut, and we were really struck by Sophie's empathic and passionate take on the emotional power of music and its ability to connect people together; and we were really moved by her sharing why she had been so touched by the story of Sophie Lancaster.
R13: Congratulations on being asked to play at Bloodstock. What does it mean to you and the band to be playing at the Festival this afternoon?
SD: It's pretty special for us, because even though we have played similar size venues and festivals before, we have not necessarily done anything this broad in England. We have supported Trouble, Paradise Lost, and Fu Manchu in England to big crowds. But this is such a broad spectrum, it's really nice to be asked to play. I only live 15 minutes away, so for me it's very very local, and it's just really nice. I am looking around now and there are so many people I know, it's really really nice. My sister is coming soon, and it's a real family thing. Lots of people are going to be in the crowd that we know. You two guys were I think the first people I told, remember in Edinburgh. It was before we got announced.
R13: We felt really privileged, and kept it under wraps!
R13: How are your family and friends reacting to you playing at Bloodstock?
SD: My sister’s not really into this sort of music. We got told at the last minute we had some guest passes, so I said do you want to come, and she said yeah okay, and she doesn't really know what to expect. My family are proud that we are getting somewhere. Our friends love it, it means they get to see us play a lot. I suppose you would have to ask them...I'm not too sure. They probably think I should grow up, have children or something (shared laughter).
R13: Bloodstock has the reputation of being the best metal festival in the UK. What has been your experience of the festival so far?
SD: It's incredible. A lot of my friends have said its a very family atmosphere. I'm not a very metal sort of ...and I thought it might be a little too metal for me, but it seems to be okay. Everyone's joking that I am bringing the Woodstock to Bloodstock (shared laughter). It's cool and a relaxed and a very chilled out festival. It's nice to see so many friendly people, and we have been made to feel very welcome. Our sound guy Mez is actually the stage manager for the Sophie stage, and they have let him off today to do the sound for us. So I am really happy about that. We have got someone who knows our stuff doing our sound, and that's really nice.
R13: You are playing the Sophie stage, what's your impression of it?
SD: We went in their yesterday, and saw Mordred. Just to get a gauge for the sound, and it's got a really great sound. I thought the stage was going to be bigger than it was, but I think the size of the tent makes it seem bigger that it is. I am really excited and glad we are playing that stage. It's pretty special to get asked to play any stage here, but the main stage and the Sophie stage are the two that people want to play on. I was talking to Ben from Orange Goblin yesterday and he said they played the first ever Bloodstock when it was Derby Assembly Rooms, and they got banned from ever playing Bloodstock again, as they trashed the dressing room. They then came back a few years ago to play the Sophie stage and the main stage today, so Bloodstock are very forgiving people (Sophie laughs).
R13: We are really interested to know which bands you have seen at the Festival, that really made an impression?
SD: Opeth! There were two bands I wanted to see. I wanted to see Napalm Death and they were very very good.I have seen them lots of times. Opeth I had never seen before ever. Opeth were the band for me and they were just...they blew my mind. So good! I would have hated to be Within Temptation going on after them. I wouldn't want to go on after Opeth, however good you are. No way. I would have just turned round and gone home. I wouldn't even have bothered getting my guitar out. ‘I'm off then, do you want to play for another half hour lads’...(shared laughter).
R13: We all turned to each other after their set, and said 'sensational!'
SD: They were. I thought they probably played their heavier stuff, so the sound didn't get lost, but they had such a lovely mix. They played some really soft bits and none of it got lost at all. You could hear distant thumping from the other stages, but they sounded huge! It sounded like there were 20 people on stage. In fact just five people, it was so good.
R13: You can safely say they have made Ian Anderson and Robert Fripp quite happy with their massive progressive sound.
SD: Yes exactly.
R13: We have noticed bands at the Festival really speaking up against intolerance and prejudice. A wonderful example yesterday was the Indonesian Death Metal band JASAD dedicating a song to Sophie Lancaster; and of course Napalm Death pointedly playing Nazi Punks Fuck Off. Does that resonate for you, in terms of how metal can really bring people together, in a positive non judgemental way?
SD: It does definitely. We have spoken before, about how people say what is it like to be in a female fronted band, and it becomes irritating after a while. I have just been asked it and it just irritates you, because why is gender still an issue. Whether you are considered different because you have got tattoos, or whether you are considered different because your Muslim, or whether you are female, it's all the same. It's basically everyone needs to be treated equally, and at festivals like this it's really nice to see so many people from different countries, and women aren't being leered at here. It's a really nice atmosphere. It's also quite special for us to be playing on the Sophie Lancaster stage, as every single one of us in the past has been bullied for having red hair, or having long hair, that kind of thing. Me and my now husband, Dave in the band, were beaten up on a bus once, as Dave had long hair. So when I heard Sophie's story that really upset me when I first found out about it, because that could have happened.... Dave had his head kicked in on a bus because he had long hair. That's exactly what happened to Sophie, she was attacked in a park because she looked different. It's really special for us to see festivals like this doing such an amazing job.
R13: And Bloodstock have maintained their support for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation over the years.
SD: I think this has been the inspiration for a lot of other festivals to start taking note. It's really special.
R13: We wonder if this feels like a homecoming gig, and has that sort of feel? And you are playing Birmingham in October as well.
SD: This is more local for me than Birmingham is. Birmingham is 40 minutes away from where I live and this is fifteen minutes. So this is like really local. I used to work two fields away, that's how close. Every year I used to pass all the people walking to Bloodstock and I would have to go to work. I am not nervous now, but I have been nervous thinking about playing here. I think it’s okay, because there are so many people in the crowd who I know. And we have tried not to play local too much this year, because the fans get bored and it's nice to introduce new people to the band. So everyone has just come together today, we have got people from Scotland coming, people from Bradford here, people from London coming to see us, and all my family. Its really nice.
R13: We think you are going to make a lot of new fans here.
SD: Hopefully we get a crowd after all of this (Sophie laughs).
R13: You have got a good few Finnish people going as well.
SD: Oh really, wow!
R13: Yes, there is a group of Finnish people camping, who are coming to see you.
SD: Oh bless. We had 250 0f these stickers printed off saying Sophie Lancaster stage Sunday, we didn't know the time then, so we couldn't put the time on. Dave was handing out loads of them. Everyone kept going, oh my God these are everywhere, and I said, yes that’s the point! Because we are quite different to the others on the bill, and it could either go two ways, we either get a lot of people not into us, or a lot of people looking for something different. I hope its the latter.
R13: Its a fabulous moment when the music is being played, and you see people coming into the tent to hear more. We are sure that will happen for you.
SD: I’m hoping it rains, so everyone comes into the Sophie tent for shelter (shared laughter).
R13: Thank you so much for your time.
SD: Thank you. Its so lovely seeing you again.
Interview by Gareth Allen and Lewis Allen.
Read Room Thirteen's Alunah Bloodstock review >>
Great interview with Dan and Mike James Rock Show. Please excuse the incorrect spelling and wrong name on the intro, the MJRS folks have been informed.
Before their set at the festival, I was able to catch up with a friend of mine whom I’ve now interviewed three times in the past 8 months! We chatted about the upcoming album, Dave’s (guitarist) gear issues and any bands he was looking forward to watching.
Thanks to Andy at Napalm for organising and as ever, Dan for his time. Was a pleasure to interview you again.
MT: You’re playing the Sophie Lancaster stage later on today, are you excited for it?
Dan: Very excited and a little nervous. I think we were just discussing before that this interview is taking my mind of it a little bit. But no, we’re very excited to be playing.
MT: Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you were working on the new album. How’s it going?
Dan: It’s going really well. We’ve got about 2 songs that are structured but aren’t finished, as they’ll probably change. We’re really relaxed when we’re doing it and coming with some good ideas.
MT: Is the production going to be any different to the previous album?
Dan: Possibly. We’ve got some different ideas of how we want to record it and we’re coming up with loads of ideas and concepts as to how we want to do it. That’s a bit different to the last and we’re thinking of ways we can tie the songs together.
MT: I think we spoke about this yesterday but Dave’s been breaking amps again from what I’ve heard.
Dan: Oh yeah, we’ve had a bit of a nightmare on amps and poor Dave’s been cursed. He’s gone through a couple of amps and he’s now back with his original one, which is sounding really good. We’re hoping he’s got rid of the curse now.
MT: Has your gear changed since we last spoke?
Dan: Nope still using the same gear. I am looking to upgrade a bit however. As we’re writing, we start thinking about what sort of sound we want and that has an effect on our set list as well. Our equipment’s changed a lot since I’ve been in the band. I’ve been in for 2 years and we’re always looking at different amps and gear.
MT: After you’ve played, are there any bands you’re looking forward to watching?
Dan: We want to see Black Label society and we want to watch Rob Zombie as well. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. *Looks at band list* Oh and maybe Cannibal corpse as well. Unfortunately we can’t go and see Orange Goblin as they are on just before us.
MT: Thank you for your time!
Formed in 2006 and based in the West Midlands, Alunah merge elements of doom, psych and classic heavy rock with earthy hypnotic vocal melodies to create their sound. Currently signed to Napalm Records, the band have released 3 full length albums. They found out they would be performing on the Sophie Lancaster stage at Bloodstock a few months back, chose a set list and practiced it loads. They were unfortunately plagued with lots of trouble with amps and pedals, so "lots of trips to amp techs and music shops to get things sorted" was involved in getting the band ready for their performance.
"We had a great time, and we had such an amazing response from the crowd. Unfortunately a couple of those equipment problems I mentioned earlier reared their ugly heads, but things like that are part of being in a band and you just have to get on with it. It was the first time for me and I'll definitely be returning. Everyone said there was a good family atmosphere and they were right, lots of our family and friends were there too so that added to it. The organisers and crew do such an incredible job."
"Not as many bands as I wanted to, but first and foremost we were there to play so that's to be expected. Orange Goblin were on right before us, so we missed them. I wanted to catch my friends band By Any Means, but only caught a bit of them. I also wanted to see Blind Haze and totally forgot the time. However, I did get to see one of my favourite bands Opeth and they were just incredible. Napalm Death and Rob Zombie were great too."
Currently the band are writing for the 4th album and they have lots of gigs coming up in October and November in England. They also have two more festivals coming up; Crimson Lakeland in the Lake District in September, and the Malta Doom Metal Festival in October.
Watch Alunah be interviewed by Johnny Doom for his new TV show Amp'd on Big Centre TV. It will be broadcast 10pm, Wednesday 22nd July and repeated 11:30pm, Friday 24th July.
Bloodstock is just three weeks away. We can almost taste it. We’re looking forward to it like you wouldn’t believe… and so is Soph from Alunah. Well let’s cut to the chase, you’re playing Bloodstock next month! Excited?
Yeah we’re all really up for it, it’s the biggest festival we’ve played in the UK so far and lots of our favourite bands and friends will be there. I don’t live far from the site either, so it’s great to be asked to play.
What can we expect from your show?
Other than me getting a new frock for it haha we won’t be doing anything different than we do at a normal gig. We’re not Kiss, there will be no bells, whistles or explosions, just heavy riffs served slowly.
Any other bands you’ll be wanting to catch on the bill?
For me it’s all about Opeth. Between us all we want to see Napalm Death, Rob Zombie, Cannibal Corpse, Orange Goblin, Godflesh and obviously Opeth.
There are a few Doom names on the bill this year. Although it never goes away, Doom seems to be on the up at the moment. Would you agree?
I’ve definitely noticed lots of bands springing up with elements of doom, but if we’re talking in the classic sense I’m not sure really. I think there are so many bands to be inspired by across the doom, stoner, psychedelic, classic rock and metal genres that it’s hard to pin point a bands’ genre nowadays.
You are playing the Sunday; will you be making a weekend of it and doing the whole festival or coming in fresh on the day?
We’re going up on Saturday morning and as I live locally we’re cheating and spending the night at mine, then coming in fresh on Sunday.
We noticed you have your 10 year anniversary approaching. Will you be doing anything to celebrate that
There aren’t any plans at the moment to do anything special no. We’re in the writing process for our fourth album so we’ll see where we are with that in 2016, and we’ll also be planning some tours, as we do every year.
And you have a tour coming up too?
We’re visiting Malta to play The Malta Doom Metal Fest and playing lots of UK dates in October and November, but the European tour has been postponed until next year now. We were looking at joining up with a US band also, but they’re unavailable until next year so hopefully our diaries will be compatible then.
Last one… What is your favourite festival story/experience either as a band or a fan?
A lot of people go to festivals purely for the experience, but I have to be into the bands playing or else I’d rather stay at home. I have so many great experiences from festivals, and most of them are to do with actually watching the bands, the Black Sabbath and The Prodigy sets were possibly my favourite festival experiences. We played DesertFest Berlin 2013 on our first European tour, and it was the biggest crowd we’d played to. Most of them were singing along to our songs, and the energy we got off them was unreal. I’d say that was my favourite festival experience, although last year’s Up In Smoke Fest in Switzerland is a close second. Sharing a backstage bar and hotel with your favourite bands is a little surreal.
Alunah hit their ninth anniversary as a band this month and this feels like their time. With a new album being written to follow the acclaimed ‘Awakening the Forest’, which has had a well deserved number of spins on the Sonic Bandwagon radio show, and a breakthrough appearance at the Bloodstock Festival in August, it couldn’t happen to a more deserving and talented band! Gareth and Lewis Allen of Sonic Bandwagon had the pleasure of interviewing Sophie and Dan from the band before they went on stage at Edinburgh Bannerman’s to give a breathtaking and amazing performance, reviewed here, and were completely blown away by! There was much shared laughter during the interview, and Sophie and Dan were very generous with the insights they shared into all aspects of this great band.
Sonic Bandwagon: It’s been a year since you recorded ‘Awakening The Forest’. Terrorizer called it ‘your most mature release to date’. How does the album feel looking from the vantage point of a year on and playing the material live.
Sophie: When we started writing it we didn’t know how people would receive it. We hoped we’d enjoy it ourselves. We have to play it every night, so if you don’t enjoy it, there’s no real point in putting it out there. We liked it from the start, and enjoyed playing the songs live. We recorded it last May but it doesn’t seem like a year. We’re still not bored with the songs. It’s quite nice now as we’re re-releasing some of our older albums, so we are putting some of the old stuff in the set as well. It’s quite nice picking the old songs that we think will match, just so the styles aren’t too different. For example ‘Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’ is quite doomy, so we put that in as an old song, and we have ‘White Hoarhound’ in. It’s quite nice to see how it all mixes in and we just enjoy it.
Dan: You do notice that it all fits together, though each album sounds very different.
Sophie: We have already started writing for the fourth album. You can tell its Alunah but it’s still different again. I think I mentioned when you interviewed me before, we don’t just write a song and say that’s it done, we listen back and play it, and if we don’t think it’s right we will just scrap it and start again. I think because we do that we don’t get bored with songs because we have gone through so many processes with them.
Sonic Bandwagon: That takes us nicely into our second question. How is the writing for your fourth album going?
Sophie: I am quite enjoying the writing.
Dan: It’s really organic. If someone has got an idea we start jamming on it. It’s really chilled out.
Sophie: I have written the lyrics for four of the songs and I have an idea of what I want the theme of the album to be. That could obviously all change. When I write songs I don’t start them very doomy, it’s like a singer songwriter style almost. Then I email it to these guys and say have a go at this. Once they add their bits it becomes quite heavy and it’s cool to see how it progresses. We played Cardiff and had a room to ourselves so we had a bit of a jam beforehand and said these songs work really well acoustically. It would be quite nice to do something acoustically. We have probably written three songs for the fourth album, but not completed them yet. We have all the riffs and structures.
Dan: What’s different is with the third album, with signing to Napalm, we were writing to a deadline. With this one we are starting really organic, jamming on stuff.
Sophie: We haven’t been given a deadline. At the end of the day Napalm Records could turn around and say we’re not releasing this album, and if they do we just carry on and look elsewhere. It’s quite nice, they haven’t told us they are and haven’t told us they are not, so we are just writing for ourselves and then whatever comes along we will just go for it. With ‘Awakening the Forest’ we started writing it relaxed and when we knew Napalm wanted to release it we started to panic a little. It’s quite nice having the freedom. After tonight we haven’t got a gig until the summer so it will be loads of writing.
Sonic Bandwagon: I hope we pronounce this right. We’ve been having arguments about it the whole day. Your debut album ‘Call Of Avernus’.
Sophie: It’s an Italian lake so we are probably pronouncing it completely wrong. Like in America they pronounce it that way, and to be fair it’s probably pronounced that way and I have got it wrong (shared laughter).
Sonic Bandwagon: Now that it’s come out on vinyl, how does it sound to you, and how does it look seeing the artwork on a 12 inch sleeve?
Sophie: Its brand new artwork, put together especially for the re-release. When we got the CDs through we thought it looked really nice. For the vinyl we have the test pressing, so we have heard it, but we haven’t had the physical copies yet. We are getting them next week. From the photos the vinyl sleeve looks really nice. It’s just nice because for years people have been asking, are you releasing ‘Call Of Avernus’ on vinyl? We never had any plans too as we originally released the album ourselves. Then our friend, Jay from HeviSike Records, he loves the album, and he asked if he could release it. So it was quite cool to see it out. It’s also been remastered for vinyl. Our friend Tony Reid, who has mastered our last two albums, he remastered it. It sounds really nice. A lot of people think it’s our new album. Obviously the songwriting has progressed since then. I try and get it into people’s heads that it was our debut album. We were a young band when we wrote it. It’s nice to see it out on vinyl.
Sonic Bandwagon: You are a graphic designer, and your design and layout for the Oct Doom tour poster is just stunning.
Sophie: Thank you. I didn’t do the illustration. It was a Russian guy. I’m not going to even try and pronounce his name.
Sonic Bandwagon: I’m going to be doing it in a little bit.
Sophie: (Sophie laughs) Rather you than me. I’ve never professed to be an illustrator, but that’s my job, graphic design. The ‘Awakening the Forest’ cover was all Michael Cowell. Where possible I do try and do our design work, it saves us money, and we all know each other so well. It’s nice to not sit down with a graphic designer and illustrator and have to say this is what we want.
Dan: It’s very handy to have someone that can do that.
Sophie: We just do it, it’s easy.
Sonic Bandwagon: You already know what you want.
Sophie: That’s it. And we needed it in like 2 hours to put out there, so I just did it. Whereas if we had to use someone else it would take weeks and we would be paying for them.
Sonic Bandwagon: Can you say a bit about how you created that, and also about Slava Gerj’s illustration?
Sophie: Very good (referring to the pronunciation). It’s a sneak preview as we are re-releasing ‘White Hoarhound’ on CD, and we are in talks to put a re-release of that out on vinyl with new artwork as I believe the copies of that have now sold out. We are not doing it trying to get money out of people as we make no money from it. It’s just people ask for it. We have a licensing deal with Napalm and they are happy for us to use another label to do the re-release, and again we are talking to someone about doing that, which is cool. I had to put some artwork together for the CD release and I used his illustration as it just seemed to fit. I wanted something feminine. Once you see the ‘White Hoarhound’ artwork you will know what I mean. The hand illustration on that poster is from the booklet. ‘White Hoarhound’ is nothing to do with a woman, but I quite like the possible double perspective. I didn’t want to be obvious and put like a leaf on the front. When I saw his illustration I thought that’s perfect and I like the style, and it was quite cheap. Sorry (all laugh).
Sonic Bandwagon: You posted on Facebook about the sad loss recently of both BB King and Terry Jones of Pagan Altar, and how both had inspired the band. Can you say a little more about what inspired you about both of them?
Dave: With BB King it’s the blues isn’t it.
Sophie: Tonight’s dedicated to BB.
Dave: We are all huge blues fans.
Sophie: BB, Robert Johnson, and it was always Janis for me. Reading into what inspired Janis Joplin she used to talk about the greats. I didn’t have a clue about the blues, and she mentioned something about Robert Johnson, so I looked him up and listened to him. Then you move on to BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, you go through them all don’t you. BB was like the one that really stuck out for me and Dave. Our guitarist is a massive Eric Clapton fan, and of course Eric Clapton and BB were great friends and they worked together a lot. Dave and I went to Memphis on our honeymoon, and of course he spent a lot of his career there, and the Rock and Soul Museum has got all the BB memorabilia. Everywhere you look its BB King. I just love him. For me it’s the soul he puts into his singing. He’s obviously a great guitarist, but it’s the way he sings, the raw passion.
Terry Jones….I haven’t been into Pagan Alter that long. Dave is a big fan and he’s got me into them. It’s the legacy in the whole doom scene. They’re seen as legends; their career, the places they have played, the things they have done, they are just legendary. We played with them in Copenhagen and actually met Terry. He thought I was one of the band’s girlfriends. When I told him I was in the band he said well done, sort of very old school, but a really really nice man. And everyone you speak to says what a lovely man he was. We spent some time with Dino who is the drummer and his stepson. Just a really nice family unit. It’s been a sad couple of days really.
Sonic Bandwagon: You recently signed with Loud Noise Productions, and with becoming part of the Napalm family too, these seem important milestones on the band’s journey. What direction are your aspirations as a band going in?
Sophie: We just want to get out there and play to as many people as possible. If you had said to me when we started, what do you want to do? All I wanted to do was release an album and put a vinyl out. That was all I wanted to do really.
Dan: To carry on doing things like this gig, that’s all we really ask for. It’s hard to be in a band these days.
Sophie: Well that’s it. I think I have always said I would like to quit my job and do this full time, but I think the older I get I don’t really want to do that. I think it’s nice to have normality because if this becomes the norm you start to resent it. I think you need a day job, you need something normal. You can’t be just doing this all the time. It would just drive you mad. I think people who do this all the time are in a little bit more of a luxurious position than we are (Sophie laughs)…with six of us crammed in the back of a van. We really enjoy each other’s company though, and we get to have a real good laugh. Some of us have never been to Edinburgh before and it’s such a beautiful city.
Sound of Liberation have been very good to us and we wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of what we have done without them. I think Loud Noise have different contacts, sometimes you just need to mix things up a bit. They are less busy with the number of bands on their roster so they can maybe concentrate a little more time on us. We have a festival coming up. We’ve been confirmed for it for months and are just waiting for them to announce it, but the festival we are playing is something we have wanted to do for years. So it’s just that kind of direction really, getting to play places we have always wanted too.
Dan: For me, all the dreams to play music in Europe, we did that. So we want to go on doing things like that.
Sophie: I still really want to tour Scandinavia. We played in Denmark, but Sweden, Norway, Finland, we haven’t. We have a lot of friends who have played there, so I would like to do that. America would be really nice to do. Just visiting new places.
Sonic Bandwagon: My sense of what you’re saying is that part of the future direction is connecting with new audiences.
Sophie: It’s the experience. When we first started you would get hit with a lot of blank faces at gigs, and that was never nice. You have to do it for the experience. As people have got to know our music more, it’s nice to play to fans who are there to see you. It’s nice to have people who know the songs.
Dan: There’s a lovely couple from Dundee who come to see us and bring us a gift each time. They come all this way to see us.
Sophie: It’s really nice, I didn’t share the last bottle of wine with anyone though.
Dan: No she drank the lot. I don’t think she should get any of it this time (all laugh).
Sonic Bandwagon: Metal Insider recently published its Top 10 Female musicians to watch at upcoming festivals and featured you within that, and referred to there not being enough female representation in festival bookings – feeling it was worth discussing and calling attention to. What were your reflections on reading that?
Sophie: It was nice because normally when I am mentioned in female things, I am like oh God, do we have to talk about the fact that I am a female again. But that was written from a slightly different angle, which I quite liked. And I have got a friend who is a feminist and she hates why it is necessary to point out you are a woman, but she liked the angle of it. It was this is the theme, there is a woman in the band, it’s not necessarily fronted by a woman, it might be the drummer or whatever. And I think it was responding to an article in the NME which I think showed the line up for Reading and Leeds festival, and they took out all the bands that just had males in them, and out of the whole festival there was only about three bands with women in, and there was a whole debate about it. I think that article was written purely as a response to that. It was also nice to be mentioned alongside Electric Wizard and Halestorm. There is no reason for women not to be in bands.
Dan: I have been in two bands previously, with women in the line up.
Sophie: We know tons of women in bands, but it’s if they are breaking through though, because it’s seen as a bit of a novelty by some people. Sometimes it seems the only women breaking through are the ones that put their corsets on and have a team of make up artists before they can set foot on the stage. The women that are not drawing attention to the fact that they are women and just getting on and doing it, maybe they are not coming to the forefront as much. I really don’t know what it is, but I liked that article as it was written more like this has been pointed out as a problem and let’s discuss who you should go and see.
Sonic Bandwagon: You shared on Facebook a very moving picture of all the band at the memorial bench for your Dad at Llandudno Pier. In that picture you get a real sense of the closeness in the band, that they were there with you. How important is that closeness to the band and its musical journey?
Sophie: Yeah. When you spend so much time with each other you have to understand that real life happens. Dave was telling me a story about one of his friends whose band got offered a spot on a big tour a few years ago, and turned it down because his dog was dying. So he basically said I am not doing it as my dog is dying, and he stayed with his dog. You have to be close to understand that. I have got a dog, and I treat her like she is my child.
Dan: We are a unit and if for any reason one can’t make it, that’s it. There are no qualms in it as you are all in it together.
Sophie: You have to cover for each other. We are a family, and as Jake our drummer says, you see each other at the worst times. We see each other at 9pm on a Thursday night when you have been at work all day, and you are messing the songs up because you are absolutely knackered. You travel a long way to a gig and you are loading the gear in to the venue in the rain. You have got to be close and you have to have humour about it, because most normal people would not do it, and that’s why so many bands don’t last. We are still together in a band so we must be doing something right. I remember when we were writing ‘Awakening the Forest’ and I said to Jake, this song is about how I felt about my Dad, and he just got it and started playing the drums differently, where as I think if you weren’t close that might not have happened. We try and put that into the songs, the emotion.
Sonic Bandwagon: When we saw you at Audio there was a real emotional charge to the music.
Sophie: I’m glad about that, thank you.
As a postscript to the interview. In response to reports of the Download Festival Promoter saying about women ‘They just haven’t felt inspired enough to pick up a guitar or be the singer of a rock band’, Alunah recently replied on their Facebook page ‘We’ll quite happily play Download 2016 and show Mr Copping how inspired us ladies are’. That reply tells you all you need to know about the wonderful heart at the core of Alunah. This band represents all that is good about metal, and we can’t wait to hear what they have in store for us with the new album they are writing.
Interview by Gareth Allen and Lewis Allen
Alunah represent all that is best about doom, though their music is so expansive, with blues, folk and psychedelic influences, that they pretty much transcend the genre. They are a fabulously creative and dynamic group of musicians, to which the voice and lyrics of Sophie Day add something very unique indeed.
We interviewed Sophie before the band went on stage at Glasgow Audio. Despite your interviewer and Sophie getting accidentally locked into the tour van, and having to bang on the windows to get out after the interview, Sophie gave a captivatingly, wide ranging and knowledgeable interview, that also had its poignant moments. Sophie and Alunah are musicians with a real vision and ambition, creating great music, and Room Thirteen recommends you catch them on their UK tour dates in May in Cardiff on the 2nd, and Edinburgh on the 16th.
R13: Welcome to Glasgow. How does it feel playing your first gig in Glasgow?
SD: Its lovely. I’ve never been to Glasgow with the band or personally. I have been to Edinburgh, and that’s about it. We have never played Scotland before; it's our first time. We have been everywhere but Scotland. We are doing Ireland later in the year and then Wales as well, so it’s quite nice to do all four corners.
R13: The new album ‘Awakening the Forest’ is just stunning, and we think is doing new things with doom. There is a really inventive song construction, with changes of pace, instrumental breaks, progressive and post rock elements, and in places a real groove feel. Could you say a bit about the process of developing the songs for the album?
SD: Thank you. I think initially I came up with the lyrics, and my husband's in the band and he knew the things I was writing about, and he’s always coming up with new things. We were listening to a lot of neo-folk bands like Hexvessel and then bands like Imperium, and Ahab, that sort of doom/death thing, which we never really listened to before. I was listening to a lot of artists like Rose Kemp so a lot of folky dark stuff, and I am also a massive fan of Portishead, bands like that. So we definitely wanted to give it a dark feel. Especially as the first album was more stoner rock, and we wanted to move away from that. So it was trying new things; and we had got a new bass player, and he had an idea of where he wanted to go, and it was the same kind of thing. So it was just a case of going in, and having a jam, and saying this is what we want to do. Dave and Dan just fed off each other with the riffs, and then I had the book of lyrics, and I could go that riff will suit this bit, and that became the song. As easy as that really.
R13: Really organic.
SD: Yeah, once we have got the basic structure of the song then we try and think about it a little bit more. With a few of the songs….for example Scourge and the Kiss, that’s had four different song versions. Each time we have gone this isn’t how we want this to sound, lets start again. It can be frustrating, but we are a really close band. I think that any other band would fall out. Because it was our first album for Napalm and it was going out to people who weren’t necessarily into doom, we didn’t want to categorise ourselves too much. So we were trying to be influenced by other sorts of things.
R13: That definitely comes across.
SD: Thank you. I had gone through some horrible things, losing family members, and I think I started thinking about things a little bit more, and appreciating nature, of what’s around me. Being here in Scotland is consequently incredible, the landscape is so lovely.
R13: The vocals on the album have this amazing emotional depth, and seem to convey a sense of searching and yearning for something. Do your vocals on the album reflect your feelings and mood, at the time the album was being recorded?
SD: I basically lost my Dad, and then I lost my Nan and my Granddad, all within a few months of each other. This was all while we were writing the album. So for me while it was a sad thing losing parents and grandparents, for me it was almost like I can't let it get to me. I had almost to change my view on life. This may sound pretentious but it is actually what happened. Me and my husband have got a dog and we were walking through the forest one day, and I suddenly had this thought that the last place I was with my Dad was this place in Wales, and I thought that was the last thing of beauty that he saw before he got ill, and couldn't go out to see things. What if I went home now and just died, this forest would be the last thing of beauty, and have I really appreciated it. So I went home and wrote Awakening the Forest. Then that became the theme, about birth and death and rebirth, but not being depressed about it. Appreciating what you have got. Because so many people moan, when they are healthy, they have a family, they have got children, they have got a job, they have got a nice social life, they are well off; and they are just on Facebook moaning about things, when they are so lucky.
R13: It sounds like you began to see things through a different lens.
SD: Yes definitely. You still get caught up in day-to-day moans, but generally yes. We were taking the mickey out of our drummer. We have just been to Europe and we are driving through the Swiss Alps and in awe of these beautiful mountains, and our drummer is sitting watching an AC/DC DVD! (shared laughter). A lot of people don’t see what's around them and are focused on one thing, and that’s cool, but losing my Dad made me realise that I have to start opening my eyes a little bit.
R13: Thanks for sharing that.
SD: Its all good.
R13: The lyrical themes on the album, of nature, ancient magic and mystery, and loss, create a very atmospheric feel on the album. Could you say something about the process of writing lyrics for this album? From what you said earlier it sounds like you brought a book of lyrics to the recording?
SD: Yes I did. I am always writing things down and scribbling things out. I am quite fascinated with English paganism. I don’t practice paganism. I do though appreciate nature, and I would love to go back to a time when you lived your life through the seasons, by the harvest, with fruit and vegetables only available at a certain times of year. I don’t call myself a pagan, but it does fascinate me. A lot of Bricket Wood Coven is an English pagan story and some of the themes are about things that have happened in history. Scourge and the Kiss is based on a ritual that happened with the coven, that were part of Bricket Wood. Just through reading things and thinking that’s quite a cool story, and using bits of it.
R13: That’s fabulous, and gives a real insight into the lyrics.
R13: ‘The Summerland’, on the new album, is a beautifully atmospheric track, and has a very gentle post rock feel, and feels less heavy than the rest of the album. As a band do you feel yourselves wanting to be open to a wide range of musical influences and possibilities, and to follow your musical instincts rather than be tied down to any particular musical genre?
SD: Oh definitely. We get called doom metal and we do call ourselves doom. Sometimes you need to apply a tag to situations, but generally we are just a heavy rock band. I'm not actually a massive fan of doom bands, the type of music that I love is 1960s psychedelia, folk, and my favourite bands are the Doors and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Janis Joplin. There are doom bands I like, and for the rest of the band, the guitarist’s two favourite players are Eric Clapton and Tony Iommi. So you have got a real mix. There are fans in the band of Iron Maiden and 13th Floor Elevators. We do tend to say this is what we like to listen too, rather than we have called ourselves a doom band, so we can only play that.
R13: That’s my sense of the music, and with the new album. Yes there is doom there, but it’s taking you in new directions with different influences.
SD: I’m glad you’ve said that, because we have read some reviews where it’s been said we are not do anything knew. We think we are doing something a little bit different to other bands. We get lumped in with the female fronted thing; there are doom bands with female singers that I love, like Witch Mountain and Windhand. However, there is no other band like Windhand, and there is no other band like Witch Mountain. I think some people assume because it’s a girl on vocals, and there are heavy guys backing her, the bands all sound the same, and its not like that. If you really listen to it, it’s really not the same.
R13: There have been some very positive reviews for the new album. I was particularly struck by the review in Zero Tolerance magazine, from a reviewer that didn't appear to be a big doom fan, but really loved your album, and gave it 4.5/5, which is not given out lightly in that magazine! (Sophie laughs) What impact have such positive reviews had collectively on the band?
SD: Yeah it’s really nice. I do the website, so when we get reviews I do all the Facebook and website links. Napalm will say you have got this review in this magazine, and I'll say to Dave look at this its really cool, and then will put it on the website. I tell the rest of the guys, and they just say “that’s good”, because with them it’s all about the music. They are also not bothered if they get a shit review. The only thing that wound them up was a review in Powerplay magazine, where first they got Dave’s name wrong, and then made a big point of me being married to Dave. I think I would be in this band if that weren’t the case, it’s just the fact that we were lucky enough to have found each other, and we are into the same thing, and we make music together. That’s a positive thing. Its not just I'm the girl that’s here because of her husband.
R13: Continuing with that theme. In the metal world women seem to be having an increasing impact as musicians, and positively shifting what perhaps in earlier times was a more male dominated musical culture. What do you observe from your own experience?
SD: We were having this conversation on the way over actually. I have never encountered any negativity. We had a time years ago when we played Newcastle and this man, not in as an eloquent way as I am going to put it, asked me which member of the band I was in relations with. You can imagine how he put it. That’s the only to my face sexist thing I have ever had. We don’t very often play with bands with women in, the bands and the guys are always welcoming though, and I don’t get any jeering comments There are things I have read where they have made comments about my appearance in live reviews, but I hope I project myself as someone who says don’t even try it with me, and I don’t make a big thing of my appearance. You get some females in bands that are very clearly the focal point, the decoration, and I try not to do that. Its as bad for me as it is for the other guys, its downplaying their role in the band, if I'm the focus. We are four equal people in the band.
R13: It’s a really thoughtful answer thank you.
R13: Where are the musical ambitions for the band looking ahead?
SD: At the moment we all still work full time. We don’t want it to become a case of this is our full time job, and we are bored of it, it’s drowning us. We would like to dedicate more time to it though, as at the moment we have to do tours around holidays. There might be a really cool tour happening for us this year with a band from America, and we are literally in the early stages of talking. Last year we got offered two amazing European tours and we had to turn them down, because one was while we were already in Europe, and the other one we got literally offered the day we got back from Europe, and of course because we work full time it wasn’t possible. You spend all this time building the band up and having to turn things down because of your job. It would be nice even if we could all go part time, that would be nice.
R13: Hope that happens for you.
SD: Really hope so.
R13: Really looking forward to the gig this evening……
There is a pause as people appear outside the tour van and Sophie tries to signal them, to no avail, that we are locked in. Much shared laughter and we continue.
R13: What makes for a great gig for you guys?
SD: For me, if I can hear myself, and if I can hear the whole band really well on stage, it gives me confidence. Where as, if everything sounds a bit dirge like, I am not confident, as in my head that’s what the audience is hearing. We have got our own sound guy and he always assures me that it’s fine out front. For me if everyone looks into it that’s great, as there is nothing worse than looking into the crowd, and just seeing people disinterested. We are not the sort of band that tries to gee the crowd up. We just do our thing. I talk to the crowd, but I am not like 'come on let's rock!'. Not that kind of thing. If we see that the crowd are into it, that’s cool.
R13: Thank you so much for a great interview.
SD: Thank you. Thank you very much.
A very thoughtful interview, which says much about the honesty, integrity and inspiration in Alunah’s music and philosophy. This is a band that symbolises all that is good about metal. Listen to the new album and catch them live, and you will be smitten by some great music.
Life On The Road With The “Smuttiest Band In Doom” | Maximum Volume Alunah Interview | The Rainbow Venues, Birmingham
Glam rock gods Cinderella seem like an odd place to begin an interview with Doom Metal gods in waiting, Alunah, but at the start of their 1991 album “Heartbreak Station” there’s a track called “The More Things Change.” “The more things change,” sings Tom Keifer in its chorus, “the more they stay the same.”
The reason for this musing is that it is exactly four months to the day since MV last chatted with Alunah. We did so in the back of a pub prior to their album launch show. Now, we are sitting in the front of another pub just a few hundred yards away with them for a little catch up before their latest outing in what is basically their home town. Time flies when you are in a heavy metal band it seems.
To recap on our last meeting. We had learnt a few things. First, that frontwoman Soph Day has a dodgy pop past involving Take That. Second that drummer Jake – rather like MV – likes Belinda Carlisle a little too much.
Today the bombshells just keep coming. Jake – who had told us when we tried to round the band up for a chat, to “go and find Soph as she’ll make more sense” – has a bit of a Status Quo thing going on and moreover that he emailed Soph the cover of their latest album “Aquostic” (for reference it has a picture of a naked Rick and Francis with only a guitar covering their bits). The singer recoils at the memory: “I mean, ewwww,” she laughs. “There was a little bit of sick in my mouth.”
More importantly though, there is another issue about being in a rock band on the road. There’s no nice way to put this. Farting. Time spent in a van with guitarist David, it transpires gets a little bits smelly, which is kind of a problem when you are on the road: “we’ve been all over Europe and it’s not been pleasant. I mean he does it as soon as he gets in the van,” say the band, giggling.
If all of this seems a world away from the music of Alunah, which is heavy, dark and oppressive, then it’s supposed to be. The four are relaxed in their own company – Soph and David are married – and along with Jake have paid their dues in this band for years. The one exception is bass player Dan Burchmore. The latest in a long line of four stringers to pass through the ranks over the years (“I think we’ve had about eight, but Dan can stay,” grins Soph.) but he has very obviously fitted in seamlessly.
We’d best put our serious faces on and get down to business, then. The day after the album launch on the first of October, the quartet got in their van and headed to the continent. They had spoken with genuine – and rather touching – excitement about going to Paris for a concert, so did it live up to expectations? Happily yes. “It was a great gig, in a beautiful room, where Picasso and Toulouse Le Trec used to go,” says the singer. “There was a good crowd too, so everything went really well.”
Or should that be everything went really well when they eventually got there: “It was a bit of a worry at one stage,” admits Soph. “The Friday night traffic in Paris was horrendous, and we were in the little van, still we got there in the end.”
Transport issues seem to have dogged the band, as they explain: “First the bus broke down, so the hire company came and gave us a new one.” Everything was fine, until that one went wrong too, with Jake adding: “4000 miles over the Alps in a broken van!”
Whilst in the Alps they were supposed to play the second stage at the Swiss Up In Smoke Festival, but one bands misfortune was their gain, as touring partners Lonely Kamel couldn’t make the gig, they asked Alunah to take their place on the main stage. Which brings us round neatly to touring.
There was a time back a few years ago, that you couldn’t go a week without seeing Alunah playing a gig somewhere in the West Midlands, now those appearances are much, much rarer. This is their first gig in the city since that one in October. It turns out that this has been a conscious plan. “We didn’t want people to get sick of seeing us,” admits Soph, with David adding: “I just think if you want to be big, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself. Play gigs everywhere, get people to know you, there’s no point in playing the same places again and again.”
To that end the night before our chat, the band had been in Glasgow, “It was a great show” but cold!” says David. MV suggests that despite bringing the subzero temperatures down here with them (the interview is conducted with us all wearing coats) they must be glad to be home. Sophie Day’s honest answer is a little surprising: “I’ll probably enjoy last night more,” she admits. “I’ll know a lot of people in here, last night I knew one person. I’d rather play to a room full of strangers than a room full of friends. It feels more of an accomplishment.”
In a little under three hours after our chat, Alunah do take to the stage, in the freezing cold back room. And they do so with considerable panache and skill. There is a confidence about them, and if the music doesn’t quite demand a swagger, it is certainly a cut above the norm in terms of its delivery.
Soph described the music a little before: “Someone said to me last night,” she recalls. “That we sounded like all the things we like, a bit of doom, a bit of psych, Janis Joplin, Sabbath but we’d put our stamp on it. I thought it was really cool. I hope we have done that.”
Alunah, for all the laughing and joking are absolutely serious about music, Sophie talks about her pride in playing with the French psych Lords Mars Red Sky (“my album of last year” she declares.) The band give every indication that were they not playing here tonight, they’d be here watching.
But they know they’ve got work to do too. Last years brilliant “Awakening The Forest” – their third album but first for Napalm Records – needs a follow up soon, but there’s no rush: “I’ve got some ideas for things, and there’s a track that didn’t make “….Forest” that we’d like to use, but nothing is really laid down yet,” says the front lady.
Instead the plans for this year involve touring – the band say they are hoping to go out later in 2015 – and they also speak of wanting to play Scandinavia, which would be a first for them.
The dumb thing that everyone thinks is that life on the road in a rock band must be glamorous. According to those that know, not a bit of it! “We’ve never been a druggy band, so there’s no drugs. There’s rock n roll I suppose, but no sex. Definitely no sex,” says Sophie laughing, before asking: “I’ll bet you didn’t know we were the smuttiest band in doom, did you?!”
ALUNAH is a band that is, by rights, on the lips of many a metalhead in the UK scene, and those savvy with the Doom/Stoner/Psychedelic echelons of Metal. Fronted by the charismatic Sophie Day, they bring something a little different to the Doom palette - female-fronted Stoner; far more straightforward and Rock-oriented than the spacey and fuzzy WINDHAND, of similar proclivities, ALUNAH's set is nonetheless enchanting. Danny Sanderson recently had a chance to speak with Sophie about the new album, the new record deal and plans for the future.
The last time that we spoke, when you were playing the Star and Garter in Manchester last May, you were finishing the recording process for "Awakening the Forest". How do you feel that the album has been received both critically and by fans?
From what I've read, and from what people have said to us, I believe it's been received really well. It's gone out to a wider array of people this time, so non-doom/stoner fans are picking up on it. Because of that we've had a few negatives, but mostly people who are coming to us after discovering this type of music. On lady messaged us saying "I don't know what doom is, but if this is it I like it". The existing fans seem to be really into it too which is great.
Which is your personal favourite song on the album?
To listen to is "Awakening The Forest" and to play live it's "Scourge and The Kiss".
Where did the title "Awakening the Forest" come from, and how does it fit into the themes on the album?
I had a moment in a forest whilst walking my dog where I suddenly thought that this could be the last thing of beauty that I saw, I could die that day without really appreciating the beautiful world we live in. Things like that weigh heavily on my mind, so I went home and wrote the lyrics. The main themes on the album are that of death and rebirth, as well as paganism and an appreciation of nature, so I'd say it's at home with those.
You are, of course, now signed to Napalm Records, a major label, and you have been doing far more headline shows. This has given you a chance to play with some of the best up and coming Doom/Stoner/Rock bands. Have any of them caught your eye?
Recently we played with Pyre of the Earth and Buried Sleeper in Glasgow, both of those were great. We're playing Edinburgh soon and we asked the promoter if Pyre could play with us, as they were coming to the gig anyway and we all really enjoyed them. Also, we played with some really great bands this last weekend in London, and one which stood out to me was Famyne, a bunch of young lads playing great riffs, great vocals and loving every moment.
One of the upsides of the exposure you have received with this album is that you now have a chance to play further afield than you might have before. Are there any countries, venues or festivals that you hope that you will be able to play in the future?
We've been playing Europe for the past couple of years now, and we're looking at getting over there again this year. We've visited some beautiful countries such as Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, Poland, and Austria. We're also playing Malta Doom Metal Fest which is a first for us, and doing a few more dates in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are the obvious metal festivals that we'd like to be a part of, but I'd be really really happy to tour the Scandinavian countries as apart from Denmark we haven't visited them yet.
This is your third full length album, and obviously that means you now have more material to play live. Has it been harder picking songs to put into your set, and are there any songs that you've had to drop from your usual setlist?
I wouldn't necessary say it was harder, it's actually nice to have a decent selection of songs to choose from, and playing different songs each night keeps us from getting bored. There are times when we have to drop something that's someone's favourite, but we just include it another night.
What are your plans for the immediate future?
We're re-releasing our first two albums "Call of Avernus" and "White Hoarhound" on CD on PRC Music Canada as they are both sold out, "Call of Avernus" is also getting a vinyl release on Hevisike Records. We've got some dates in Ireland and Scotland, a few festivals (Red Sun, Cardiff, Siege of Limerick, and Malta Doom Metal Fest) and are planning a European tour so pretty busy at the moment. We're also working on a lyric video for one of our new songs, and starting to write for the fourth album.
Before Alunah’s first ever Scottish gig, James from Moshville Times spoke to Sophie and Dan backstage at Audio: http://www.moshville.co.uk/interview/2015/02/interview-sophie-and-dan-of-alunah-jan-31st-2015/
Paul Castles caught up with singer Soph Day and the rest of the band at their recent hometown gig at The Rainbow: http://www.themidlandsrocks.com/interview-with-soph-day-of-alunah-2/
Printed reviews, features and adverts from magazines as we have them.
In 2014 they’ve awoken the forest, they’ve toured Europe and they’ve stayed true to their doom metal roots. Here, in an interview that was conducted back in October, Alunah tell us all about it. Sitting in the dank back room of Birmingham’s venerable Scruffy Murphy’s venue might not seem the most glamorous of things to do, but Alunah don’t seem bothered.
In a few hours they are to take to the stage that is yards away in the basement bar to launch their superb “Awakening The Forest” album, but there is little sign of any pre-gig nerves.
That might be because, despite their tender years, Alunah are old hands at this. “…..Forest” is album number three (and their first on the major metal label Napalm) but the band have been playing gigs like this for as long as they have been formed. “We’ve made it a plan to get out and play with as many people as possible” friendly frontwoman Soph Day tells us. “We hadn’t played very long at all and we supported Paradise Lost. We just wanted to get out and get the experience.”
MVM mentions to the four piece that we can remember seeing them years ago support Stone Axe not far from here and has followed their career since. Soph smiles at the memory: “They were great shows,” she reminisces. [Alunah supported Stone Axe again the following year too - Ed] “And were part of our journey to get here.”
Alunah are as much a product of the West Midlands as the music they play. Invoking Sabbath and their smokey early overtones, lacing the lyrics with tales of witchcraft, this is authentic heavy metal it it’s very core. With “Awakening The Forest” the band have refined their sound with Soph calling it “the best album we could have possibly made at this point.”
Watching Alunah play the show later that evening it’s hard to disagree. Yes, both literally and metaphorically they are amongst friends, but there is something special, something confident about the alchemy they have put together here. Like they said to us some five hours ago: “We can’t wait to get started".
Dooms best kept secret, Alunah, have just released their 3rd album, Awakening The Forest, via Napalm Records. I spoke with the woman steering this mighty ship, and we talked about the new album, and brutal things to do with hair straighteners.
As you do.
First up, how would you describe Alunah to a complete noob?
Soph: Well, I don’t want to say the ‘BS’ words, but you know, Black Sabbath. But if I’m talking to say, my mums friends, and they ask ‘what’s your band like?’, I’ll say ‘You know Black Sabbath? Kind of like that, but with a girl singing’. But if I’m talking to someone who knows their stuff, I’d say its a little bit doom, classic rock, psychedelic, even a bit pop. We’re labelled as a doom band, but there’s more to it really. We once got described as Black Sabbath with Blondie on vocals. I don’t know whether that was reference to my hair, or what. *laughs*
So you’ve just released ‘Awakening The Forest’, how has the feedback been so far?
Soph: Yeah it’s been good. When we released our last album, it was all pretty much good feedback. The majority on this one has been good, but there has been a few criticisms as well. I think that when you send it out to a wider array of people you’re always going to get more of a mixture. Rather than just stoner and doom press, there’s been wider range going out, but the vast majority have been happy with it.
If it makes you feel any better, I really liked it.
Soph: I read your review actually, thank you so much for that.
No worries. Now,forgive me if I’m wrong, but this is your first album with Napalm, correct?
Soph: It’s the first album, but they did release the second on vinyl. But yeah, first with new releases.
How are you finding your new home?
Soph: Well, we released our first album on our own label, then the second on psychadoomelic, who paid for everything, did a little bit of press, but we did a lot of the work ourselves. So it’s been nice this time to have someone invest so heavily in your band. Not just paying for it all, but also sorting out a tour and sending the album out to different areas of the press industry, it gives you an extra weight you didn’t have before. Some magazines and websites take you more seriously if you’ve got a label behind you, and that’s something we couldn’t of done by ourselves, but Napalm really helped us with that.
As a band though, we do like to do most of the things ourselves. We do most of the designs, most of the t-shirt printing, that kind of stuff. We book all the UK gigs, but it’s nice to have some of the jobs taken off your hands. They act like a, I really hate to say this, but a business partner, which they are really. I mean if I have this idea that I think is great, I can go to them and say “I’m thinking about doing this”, and they’ll tell you whether its beneficial or not. It’s free advice really, it’s like having an expert on your side that makes sure you don’t do anything shit. *laughs*
We interviewed you earlier in the year. Apart from the new album, what have you guys been up to since then?
Soph: We went to Europe for a couple of weeks, did some really good gigs over there. Getting the video sorted for the new album, as that’s something Napalm like to do. That was a big deal for us. We also got a new bass player last year, he helped writing the new songs with us, but we also had to get him up to scratch with the older songs, because we obviously played them live. So just practicing as much as we can for that tour in October, and making sure everything was ready for that really.
What’s the plan going forward into the new year?
Soph: We’ve got a label from Canada called PRC, who approached us about re releasing the first album, as it’s sold out. That’s coming out in April with new artwork. White Hoarhound just sold out too, so they’re releasing that as well, also with new artwork, but that won’t be out until the end of the year. It doesn’t affect our relationship with Napalm, as it’s not new releases, so that’s cool.
We’re looking into a few tours, just looking into whether we can do them or not. It’s a bit crap really, as we can’t say anything until its officially announced. We’ve had a few announced in Scotland, and maybe Ireland, which will be cool, because we’ve never played there before. Then some festivals in Europe towards the end of the year, but they haven’t been announced yet.
Are there any bands you’ve played with, or are listening to that people need in their lives?
Soph: Some of the dates on the recent tour, we played with a French band called Mars Red Sky.They’re really well-known around Europe because they’re constantly touring, but they hardly ever come over here. I think they played Desertfest though.
Oh yeah, I got shown them a while ago.
Soph: Then you’ll know they’re incredible! I heard little bits before, but when I first saw them live, I was absolutely blown away. We did four dates with them and are looking into doing something together next year. They’ve become my new favourite band. We got all their albums on that tour, we’d play with them at night, then on the bus, we’d have the albums on rotation and completely immersed ourselves in Mars Red Sky.
There’s another band called Monolith Cult from Bradford, they’re incredible. I’m also in love with Hexvessel from Finland, they have the same singer from Beastmilk. I’m getting into a lot of neo folk bands at the moment, there’s loads of really cool stuff out there, and perhaps an indication as to where the new album is going to go.
Last question, it’s a bit silly, so you have been warned. Alunah have been entered into a trial by combat scenario. What’s your weapon of choice?
Soph: Defiantly hair straighteners, I don’t think enough people are killed by them, an incredible weapon. When I’m pissed off with my husband, I just snap them at him, then he behaves. Definitely my weapon of choice if I was wielding them. It wouldn’t be a quick though would it?
My girlfriend left hers open a while ago and I brushed my arm against them. Fuck me, that was painful!
Soph: *laughs* I heard this story once where a woman found out her husband was cheating on her. So she got her straighteners and shoved them up his bum, cooking him from the inside out. I mean, if you’re talking instant though, then they’d be useless.
Bloody Hell, that’s grim.
Soph: Your fault, you did ask. *laughs*
Granted. Although that’s an image I can’t get out of my head. I think I’ll end on that bombshell.
Soph: No worries. You’ll be having sweet dreams tonight then. *laughs*
Following the release of their third album “Awakening The Forest”, we’ve recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Alunah’s singer Soph Day, the band’s frontwoman and singer!
Rock Overdose: Good evening Soph and congratulations for the release of your third opus, “Awakening The Forest”!
Soph Day: Hi Michael, cheers!
Rock Overdose: You’ve recently returned from a quite extensive tour. How was it and how did it feel experiencing the reaction from the release of the album first hand – amidst your tour?
Soph Day: Overall the tour was great thanks. We visited new countries, played with great bands, experienced ublievable hospitality from the promoters and venues, and met up with new and old friends. It almost didn’t happen due to a van crash on the second day in London, but our van company kindly drove a new van to us to ensure the tour continued. We then experienced more problems whilst driving through the alps, but luckily our guitarist Dave is quite handy with vehicle mechanics. The album was released during our tour so there was a real buzz, and it was great to play places such as Germany on the actual day of release. Some people had the album, some didn’t so there was a mixture of people hearing the songs for the first time and those who already knew the words. The crowds were into it regardless, so yeah it was pretty cool.
Rock Overdose: So, let’s talk a bit about the album… As we said before this is your third release. How would you compare “Awakening The Forest” to your previous two albums?
Soph Day: It’s hard for me to compare them as I know them so well, I would say that our latest album was a lot more considered writing-wise, we spent more time getting the production right, and is perhaps more melancholic and heavier than the other albums. We also have a different bassist on this album, and he has bought a completely new bass sound and style to the album.
Rock Overdose:“Awakening The Forest” is your first album via Napalm Records. How did this signing come about in the first place and how do you feel this deal moves the band forward in musical terms?
Soph Day: We worked with them on the vinyl release of our second album White Hoarhound, and they then approached us about releasing our third album. The label has a great reputation and an impressive roster full of bands that inspired us in the first place, so when they came to us regarding our third album, we were extremely excited. Up until our signing, stoner and doom fans were aware of us but fans of other genres not so, being on Napalm has opened us up to fans of other types of music which is great. Napalm are also great for bouncing ideas off, and we regularly ask their opinion on things, they’re the industry experts so it’s great haven’t access to that knowledge.
Rock Overdose: So, why “Awakening The Forest” Soph? Is there a special meaning behind the album’s title?
Soph Day: Originally it was just going to be a song title, but we liked it so much that we decided to extend it to the album title. It may mean different things to different people, but to me it is about opening your eyes and appreciating the beauty of nature. I had the revelation in a forest shortly after my father died, I realised that I could suddenly die and this would be the last thing of beauty that I saw, and if it was, had I truly appreciated it? When I released that, my senses were awakened and I became a more aware of absolutely everything. I went home and wrote the lyrics for Awakening the Forest.
Rock Overdose: How important is this connection with nature for you and how far does it go when it comes to the lyrical concepts of the tracks from the album Soph? I’m asking because nature always seemed to be a very important aspect in your music.
Soph Day: Yes it’s very important to me, in one way or another nature forms the basis for every song on the album, and almost every song Alunah have ever written. I’m inspired by it’s beauty, it’s ugliness, it’s power, it’s ability to save lives and end them, and it’s ability to lift your spirits and completely crush them. During the writing of this album I lost three close family members, and I spent a lot of time wiht my husband Dave who is also our guitarist, and my dog Olive, wandering in the woods. It allowed me time to think about my family, time to forget my troubles, time to appreciate what I had left and also gave me some physical exercise which is what I needed rather than to lock myself away vegetating.
Rock Overdose: Generally, would you say that this connection goes beyond the music and ever touches you on a personal level Soph?
Soph Day: I think I pretty much answered this in the previous question. I would say that the connection is first and foremost personal, and as a result it gives me inspiration for lyrics.
Rock Overdose: If asked to Soph, what would you say the band really stands for you?
Soph Day: Alunah is more than music for me. It takes me away from the normality of day to day life, it provides a creative channel, it introduces me to new and wonderful people, it takes me to foreign lands where I may not otherwise have visited, and it gives me valuable time with three of my best friends doing what we absolutely love doing.
Rock Overdose: I have to ask you Soph, if I were to judge by what the Alunah is all about and if we take into consideration the legacy of the bands that have come out of Birmingham since the late 60s, is there something in the water of the city then? What was the inspiration behind the formation of the band in the first place?
Soph Day: Haha yeah, I’d say there’s definetly something in the West Midlands’ water. Dave and I met our drummer Jake at one of Dave’s gigs of the band he was in at the time. We had seen Jake and his girlfriend Liv at various gigs in Birmingham, and were always supporting Dave’s band, so Dave told me to go and ask what size shirts they wore so he could say thank you, and I also wanted to tell Liv that I loved her Dozer hoody. I got into a drunken conversation and we ended up arranging a jam session for Dave and Jake. I went along to watch and ended up singing, that is how we got together. So, the inspiration was beer and a mutual love of stoner bands.
Rock Overdose: Your very first album has been long out of print, you did announce you’ll be treating us with a re-release though, right? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Soph Day: Yeah PRC in Canada will be re-releasing it, and it has been announced today that they will also be re-releasing our second album White Hoarhound. They originally contacted us due to them being Alunah fans and hearing about the album selling out, recently White Hoarhound also sold out so they asked to do that as well. They’ve been releasing music for over 20 years, and really know the industry and above all are passionate so we were really happy to do it. Avernus will be released on 7th April 2015, and Hoarhound in the latter part of 2015. Both albums will have official in-store distribution via PRC's partners throughout USA, Canada and Brazil, and limited copies will also be available worldwide from the official Alunah store.
Rock Overdose: The first music video from the album was for the track “Heavy Bough”. Can you tell us a few words about the track itself and the video Soph? I have to say you’ve done a brilliant job on it…
Soph Day: Thanks Michael, we spent a fun weekend at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire with Rod Thomas who directed it, George Sanderon who was our man of the forest, and Michael Cowell who illustrated our album packaging. The album cover actually inspired the video, so it was important that Mike was there, pluys we filmed a pretty cool artwork video which you can find on YouTube. The song is basically about Yew Trees which sounds a bit shit, but I assure you once you start reading about them, and visiting a few, they’re magificient powerful trees.
Rock Overdose: So, tell us about your future plans now that this leg of the tour is over Soph. What does the future hold for Alunah?
Soph Day: Well we came off tour to some very nice gig offers, one of which sees us getting on a plane to play a festival, so hopefully there will be more of those offers. We’ll be doing those re-releases, and of course writing, writing, writing! We’ve released a new album every two years, and we want that to continue so the work starts now.
Rock Overdose: Thank you so much for the interview Soph! Let’s wrap it up with a message of yours to our readers and the band’s fans!
Soph Day: Thanks Michael, and thank you to all of our Greek fans. Hopefully we can get over there to you guys soon.
With their third album, Awakening The Forest out at the start of October and a European tour recently drawn to a close, Soph – lead singer and guitarist of Alunah – kindly took some time out to answer a few questions for us.
Alunah are on the cusp of re-releasing their first two albums (as Soph does mention towards the end of the interview) and you can get more details about that on the band’s own web site.
Many thanks to Andy at Napalm for organising things, and obviously to Soph herself for her time.
Three albums in and still a “new” band, only formed in 2006. Tell us a little about where you all came from to find yourselves working together as Alunah.
Yeah I suppose we are still quite new compared to some bands. Dave and I have known each other for years and we used to write and play music together. His old band were playing a gig in Birmingham, and we met our drummer Jake at the gig. We had seen Jake and his girlfriend Liv at various gigs, and were always there supporting Dave’s band. I drunkenly went over to them for a chat and we ended up arranging a jam session for Dave and Jake. I went along to watch and ended up singing.
The usual label the band is given is “stoner” metal, but you yourselves prefer to be less specific – psych, traditional metal, doom… what sort of influences have you had which have led to this mixture of sounds?
We listen to a wide range of music, and I don’t personally confine myself to being a fan of any particular genre. I’m personally influenced by anyone from The Doors, Big Brother and The Holding Company, BB King and Led Zeppelin to Ahab, Jex Thoth, Rose Kemp and Hexvessel.
Whatever pigeonhole you put the band in, female vocals in any of these genres are not as common as in others (symphonic in particular). Does having yourself as lead singer influence the way the music is written at all?
I write all of the vocal melodies, can cover between 3 and 4 octaves, and can hit both really high and really low notes. So I don’t feel that changes have to be made in order to accommodate my vocals; the riffs come first anyway, so I actually write the vocal melodies around the riffs.
Your track lengths are, on average, a little longer than the traditional average. Do you set out to write longer songs or do they just suit the mood and pace of each piece?
Both really, long songs do suit the nature of our music but we also like long songs. It sounds a bit wanky, but I think of each song as a journey, we want people to close their eyes and get lost in it. Our song writing is quite considered, and we always think about the structure of a song, rather than freely jamming it out. Of course, we¹ll jam things out occasionally, but we always like to have an idea of where it’s going. Sometimes we’ll have a song that comes in at 4 minutes, and we may feel that’s too short, so we’ll think about the structure some more and add new sections. We spend months writing one song, and most of our tracks have been re-written 2 or 3 times due to us being our own worst critics. It¹s great having a 16 track album, but the danger is that half of those tracks will be fillers and people will get bored.
Do you find it more challenging to learn these longer songs for live performances?
Not really, we practice a lot and we never go a week without having at least one big practice, regardless of whether we have a gig or not. I’m actually better at learning the longer songs, as I can break them down better in my mind.
How much of the lyrical themes come from your own personal interests? Are you guys particularly into the mythical scene outside of Alunah?
I write all of the lyrics, so anything I sing about is as a result of my own personal interest in it. Nature has always been my biggest inspiration, but I also sing about English pagan history and folk stories on the new album. In the past I have sung about paganism and Wicca in general, as well as general myth and magic. It all interests me, but I have written more of a personal album this time due to me losing three close members of my family whilst writing it.
Three albums in five years – how do you feel your sound has evolved since Call of Avernus?
I still love Call of Avernus as it achieved a personal goal for me, to release an album; I never thought I’d have released three. However, there’s no denying that our sound has evolved since then. We have each improved our playing and singing styles, we think more about the equipment we use and the quality of our production. We also have a different bass player on this album, and he has bought a completely different bass sound and style to Alunah. A combination of all this has changed our sound considerably.
You’ve shared the stage with some very well-known names in recent years. Could you pick a favourite? Or one which made you stand there and think “I cannot believe we’re here…”?
We’ve played with and been humbled by some great bands such as Trouble, Paradise Lost, High on Fire, Saint Vitus, Fu Manchu and Spirit Caravan, and all of them were lovely people. However, bands such as Jex Thoth and Mars Red Sky, who may not be as well known as those guys, were some of the nicest bands we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and playing with. I think our gig at DesertFest Berlin 2013 was a “I cannot believe we’re here…” moment, it was our first time in Germany, second ever gig outside of England, we had a huge crowd who knew all of the words to White Hoarhound, and I kept thinking about the 2006 Sophie whose only ambition was to release an album.
Your live reviews are very positive. How would you describe your show?
It’s pretty basic really, no bells and whistles, we just get up there and aim to put on the best gig we can for people. No gimmicks, it’s just about the music.
With the album just out, what are your plans? You’ve just had a quick jaunt around Europe and I spot the one date confirmed for early next year. Anything else you want to leak?
Yeah, we’ve just spent two weeks in Europe, and came back to some great gig offers which have now been confirmed. One of which is an overseas festival, however we can’t announce what it is yet. Our plan for next year is more touring, a re-release of our previous two albums on PRC Music, and writing for our fourth album.
Recently Metal Wani's (India) writer Fernando Bonenfant had a chat with Alunah's Dave & Soph Day while they were on European Tour. They discuss new album "Awakening The Forest", Songwriting, Current tour and much more!
1. Tell us a little about Alunah. How was the beginning of band?
We’re from the West Midlands in England and live in and around Birmingham. We’ve been around since 2006, and began as a result of a jamming session between Dave and Jake, I went along to have a listen and had a go at singing, I realised I quite liked it and a few years later I started playing guitar in the band.
2. You released this year your third album, “Awakening the Forest”. How was the songwriting and recording of this album?
We all really enjoyed writing this album, it was a personal process for me lyric wise due to grief in my life, writing helped me get through it. It was the first album we wrote with our new bass player Dan, so it was nice and fresh for us. We had a lot of fun recording it; we worked with Greg Chandler at Priory Studios and did it in just 5 days.
3. And the reaction of the fans, even to soon, is that you expected?
You never know what to expect when you release something new, but we’re very happy with how it has been received, and even happier that we seem to have gained new fans rather than lose them. We have a lot of support from people, and some of them have followed us from the beginning, we try to remember everyone but the older you and your band gets, the memories become a bit hazy. I think we do a really good job of connecting with fans, and letting them know just how much we appreciate their support.
4. One of the great moments is the song “Awakening the Forest”. How was the songwriting of this song in particularly?
Thank you, this is my favourite song on the album. From what I can remember, I think this was one of the more straightforward songs to write. I wrote the lead part which you hear me playing after the first verse, and then the chorus and it was only when Dave wrote his twin lead part that the song really came alive for me, it didn’t seem right up until that point. It’s quite a basic song, but the subject matter and vocal melody makes it really emotional and melancholic.
5. Alunah does a great Doom/Stoner Metal sound. This is the proposal since the beginning of the band, and how do you see this scene in these days, particularly in England?
We were a lot more stoner sounding when we started, but as the years have gone on we’ve been influenced by a wider sound which includes doom, folk and heavy ‘70s bands. We are also very aware of sounding like other bands, and it’s not something we wish to do so we try to put our own stamp on our music. England is a tiny country with a massive amount of super talented bands, across all genres. Every night there is something going on in every city, and when we started we didn’t have that much choice for stoner or doom gigs so new bands really do have a great starting point. We used to put our own gigs on just so we had somewhere to play, with similar bands.
6. You’re in Tour through the Europe in moment. Tell us a little about these gigs.
We’ve just played our last gigs, and we had an incredible time. We have played Germany and France before, but it was our first time in Austria, Switzerland and Italy so it was very special for us. We had a great reception every night, and played with some great bands such as Brant Bjork, Mars Red Sky, Kadaver, The Order of Israfel, Lonely Kamel, and Brain Police.
7. Who is yours biggest influences?
We each have different influences but between us we’re inspired by Black Sabbath, Janis Joplin, Goatsnake… so many different bands from doom, grunge and 60s/70s.
8. In a few words, what do you think about these bands:
Orange Goblin: Awesome band, and a great inspiration for us to keep going. We’ve played with them a couple of times.
Cathedral: A great atmospheric doom band which have evolved over the years, and local to us too. Huggy bear OH YEAH!
Paradise Lost: We played one of our first ever gigs with these guys, and I know Jake and Dave in particular are massive fans.
Black Sabbath: The ultimate band and again, local! They’re up there in all of our top 5 bands, the band we’d sell our souls to play with.
My Dying Bride: I’m not that familiar with their songs, but we have had some comparisons.
9. Finally, please leave a message to all Brazilians who know or wanted to know much more about the song of Alunah
We have quite a few messages from Brazilian fans, and we really appreciate their support. It’s awesome to think that our music reaches that far, so we’d like to say a big thank you to them all!
Original Brazilian Version: http://www.metalkaoz.com/album-reviews/14327-alunah-awakening-the-forest.html
On the occasion of Up in Smoke Festival in Pratteln, Switzerland, La Grosse Radio spoke with a British training to the growing reputation Alunah. The opportunity for the frontwoman Sophie Day back on the show, their tour and their new album Awakening the Forest. It is a friendly artist, very accessible and passionate that I had the opportunity to meet in an interview that will remain etched in my memory.
Sanguine_sky: Sophie Hello and thank you for this interview! To start, could you introduce the band to the readers?
Sophie: Hi! My group is called Alunah, I sing and play guitar. We come from a corner not far from Birmingham, England, and we have been together since 2006 We have just released our third album, called Awakening the Forest, on the label Napalm Records. It is a very active group!
The new album Awakening the Forest has recently become available. So far, have you received a lot of echoes or feedback about it?
Yes, because our Napalm Records label began sending specials of it there are already three weeks. For now, the returns are very good! Many of our friends have pre-ordered their copy, and have received since our album will be available in the UK next week. They like it a lot, and it made us very happy because when you write an album, you do not know if people will enjoy it or not then have positive feedback, it's really good.
In your opinion, what are the main differences between this new album and White Hoarhound?
On this new album, we have a new bass player and his game, his style is very different, and ours for that matter. I find it heavier, more melancholic, too, but not depressed. Yet he retains a genuine sadness. It is massive and still sounds like Alunah. I think it's a real step forward for us.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Yes! Listen, my favorite track is "Awakening the Forest," but to play in concert is "Scourge and the Kiss." We played it tonight, and I like the fact that it is energetic but also descends into the psychedelic and powerful it is again, I love to play! But listen, it's definitely our title track.
You recently recorded a music video for "Heavy Bough." Why this title and what is the story behind this video?
Basically, we had to search for a title that is not too long and many of our pieces rotate between six and seven minutes. It's long, too much for a video. The choice was thus restricted to two or three tracks, which are about five or six minutes. "Heavy Bough" is the most catchy song, the title with which they can identify, promote our music, so a good base for those who do not know Alunah. The idea that man is alone, walking in the forest, taking bits of nature to his potions, its remedies. In the end, he kidnaps me ...! Yes, basically, this is what happens to me in the end. We really want to show the nature across this clip. There was a lot of fun to make this video. It was a very sunny day, in a castle in England and passersby walking their dog, a picnic ... So it has attracted much attention. And George, our manager, with a look scared a few people. It was great! For our first video, we wanted something special, and I think it was appreciated so we are delighted.
If you could change something about the album, what would it be? Or let you in that state?
I would put more choirs. Much has been written harmonies but we ran out of time in the studio. I had a few harmonies for "Heavy Bough" I have not had time to record. If I could change anything, I would record all these choruses, all these harmonies. But we are already very happy with the album itself. It has been rewritten lot because once the pieces are complete, often we do not happy. Now we are very proud when we love this album.
You are currently on tour. What is the public reaction to your music?
This is our fourth concert of the tour in Switzerland today. The first two concerts were in the UK, and yesterday in Paris. We are very happy every night, especially in Paris and now in Pratteln. The public is great, very euphoric and full of people remembered our previous titles album and sang with us. There the language barrier that we are able to pass through the songs. We were very well received, appreciated our music, it was great every time!
Is what you might describe a type of day tour?
Lots of travel and time spent in the van for the six of us on tour. There are usually six to seven hour trip between dates. I guess that says like that, it seems a bit boring. It is also trying to get as much sleep as possible, because your show is not as good when you're exhausted. Before the concert, we repeat a bit. It only drinks after the show because we really want to focus for a good concert.
The doom scene has become more successful at the moment and there is a real expansion. How do you explain that?
I think many appreciate groups of the sixties and seventies, and seek a respite to big names like Black Sabbath. The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan etc, and these large groups regain popularity, more young people will find them easily. This renewed success for these legends has implications, for sure. We are here only since 2006 so it is still fairly new, but we just Birmingham, like Black Sabbath, and many are influenced by them. For us it is a good thing as promoters, labels interested increasingly gender, and it allows us to access more easily concerts.
In your opinion, what distinguishes Alunah other groups of doom?
There are many groups of doom who have male voices. Personally, I do not know growler, screaming ... I do not know how to describe my voice ... discreet, feminine, maybe bluesy, which is already making a difference to other groups. Many groups are also trying to be as heavy as possible, and this is not our view. We really want to write good songs, with remember choruses, entrancing atmospheres, words that the audience can sing along with us. In a sense, it was a little pop approach, a bit like Black Sabbath ... with the right pieces, these heady melodies, these refrains. We really want to rediscover it, the "sing-along" doom doom ... karaoke!
Do you feel close to certain groups of doom scene?
Yes! There Monolith Cult of Bradford, they are awesome, one of my favorites. There is also Ki, Birmingham, they are relatively new and very very good, we played with them. Conan also, who played yesterday, Black Moth, Lord Vicar, Spirit Caravan with whom we played in the first part, they are lovely people, very friendly. It is an honor for us to play and know people like them. These are very good musicians!
Your French fans would love to see you again. Do you think the Hellfest 2015 is still a distant dream or a viable possibility?
We heard a lot about Hellfest. Yesterday in Paris, we were asked if we would be. And we would really like, really, really play it because a lot of bands that we're friends have already played, and that's definitely something we want to do well. We contacted the organization, so fingers crossed! I hope they will be interested in Alunah. But even if we do not play there, we will go there as surely festival. We have lots of friends who go there and it looks to be a great festival. So if we go as a fan, that's fine, if you go as a group, it's perfect!
What are your personal influences?
The words I write are very influenced by nature. I love the story of the trees ... um, it sounds a little weird words like that. But I like to know the role that trees have had on the history of England, like France because we have many pagan cultures or wiccan, and trees have played a key role. Our song "Heavy Bough" for instance speaks of a great tree and its importance in history. They have been used as remedies against the disease. I am also influenced by the history of the United Kingdom. Musically, my favorite band is The Doors, I also like Janis Joplin, BB King. I also appreciate Hexvessel, so Finnish doomy folk. Guys them prefer Iron Maiden, AC / DC ... so as you see we have many influences in Alunah.
How did you get this urge to get into the doom?
It came naturally. When we started to write music, it is the style that stood out and many believe that coming to Birmingham played a role in our music because that's where we get Black Sabbath and that it is in our blood to doom. Our guitarist Tony Iommi fan really, his riffs are still influenced by it. Our drummer is a big fan of Black Sabbath, our bass player too, and then too. Make doom came we simply without the idea of following a movement.
Is there a group that you like and would like to share with us?
Hexvessel! Everyone should listen Hexvessel! I think I'm obsessed with them. There is also Beastmilk, which are Finnish like them, you've perhaps already heard? There Orne too, with the guy Lord Vicar, you confirm?
Oh you know them! I love this band! There also Sahg and Audrey Horne, and also the new Blues Pills, I love it. There is so much good music right now! And last Opeth too ... and the last Alunah! You know?
I guess so! It's already the end of the interview, thank you for this interview! Do you have some final words for our readers?
Thank you all for your support, for your presence at our concerts. We love to meet you, see new faces, we hope you like our music and you buy our new album ... if you like! And thank you again!
Original French Version: http://www.lagrosseradio.com/metal/webzine-metal/interview-metal/p10100-sophie-day-chanteuse-et-guitariste-d-alunah.html
For some of the bands of the new generation doom metal / stonerrock we spontaneously develop a far-reaching sympathy. Recently this was the case with – among others – Avatarium and The Order Of Israfel, but also Alunah instantly impressed us with ‘Awakening The Forest’ that comes out this month through Napalm Records. It appears to be already the third album of this sympathetic English band that mainly gets its inspiration from vintage (doom) rock, but they give it a personal twist and interpretation we really like. Time to get to know them better and female singer/guitarist Sophie Day gave us friendly answers.
Hello dear UK doomsters! How are you doing? To relish the CD review from your excellent third album ‘Awakening The Forest’, we like to have an interview with you. It is your debut for Napalm Records, so I guess the expectations are high?
Hi Vera, we’re very well, thank you. Yeah, our last album ‘White Hoarhound’ was really well received, so we were always going to feel pressure releasing our third album, but the fact that it is on Napalm Records raises the pressure a little.
I think your music is heavily influenced by the hippy few that came up with ponderous snoring and echoing guitar sounds in the sixties and seventies. Can you tell anything about your affinity with the music from those eras?
I am really happy that you can hear that influence, as some of my favourite bands are from those decades. I love The Doors, Blue Cheer, Big Brother And The Holding Company, Black Widow, Coven, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The 13th Floor Elevators, Mountain, Pink Floyd, ELO, Deep Purple, Heart, 10 Years After, The Mamas And The Papas, Nick Drake, Cream, Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, Steppenwolf, Joni Mitchell… I could go on. These bands were dark, they had the blues, were at times psychedelic, fuzzy, folky; and had amazing vocal melodies. They embody everything I love about music.
You hail from the surroundings of Birmingham where godfathers Black Sabbath reign(ed). What was the closest you get to Black Sabbath? Anyone of your family or friends that had a close encounter in the past?
We’ve seen them in concert a few times, and have met Tony Iommi. When our guitarist Dave shook his hand he claimed to have “touched the hand of god” haha. Back in the early seventies, they came to my little town which is twelve miles north of Birmingham, so a lot of my family remember them from then. One of our friend’s brothers actually did some work at Tony’s house, and planted a demo of his band in his CD collection. Whether Tony has found it or not, I don’t know!
But let us dive into your own proper history now. Alunah spent two years being Aluna (2006-2008), then changed its name to Alunah. Can you tell a bit about the foundation of the band and the early years?
Yeah, we had just released our first EP on Catacomb Records, and it started to appear in some record shops. The label received a letter from another band called Aluna, stating that they owned the copyright for Aluna to be used in a musical capacity, which after researching we found out they did. They offered to sell us the name for a silly amount of money, which we turned down. They did however let us add the “h” so that the pronunciation stayed the same. It meant us recalling all of the CDs back from the shops, buying new domain names and setting up new social network accounts, but we actually prefer Alunah.
First proper album ‘Call Of Avernus’ came out in December 2010. How do you look back at it and what was the response?
I look back at the album with fondness, all I wanted to do when we started Alunah was to release an album. I never dreamt that we would release three, and have a recording contract. We released it on Catacomb Records which is our own label, and did it with hardly any money. We were so happy with it at the time, and most of the press it received was positive. PRC Music, who are a Canadian label, contacted us recently about re-releasing it in 2015 which we agreed to, as it is now sold out. We mentioned getting it re-mastered but PRC want it to be true to the original, it is getting new artwork though. So I guess we’ll see if people still enjoy listening to it.
Second album ‘White Hoarhound’ was launched at the world in 2012. Can you tell a bit more about that album (in comparison with the new one) and the next steps to more recognition?
Those two years were spent working on our playing/singing style, live sound, and song-writing abilities. When we started writing ‘White Hoarhound’ we didn’t have a clue if any label were interested in us, we just wrote songs that we wanted to listen to, and that we would enjoy playing live. ‘Call Of Avernus’ was very sporadic with regards to song style and lyrical themes, ‘White Hoarhound’ is a lot more considered and sounds like a band who know who they are. It had a massive amount of good press, and we realised that the thing people disliked about us when we first began (big choruses, traditional song structures and melodic female vocals, mixed with heavy riffs), was now the thing that people liked about us. We’ve never changed for anyone, and it was cool that people started to enjoy listening to us. We hope that we’ve progressed again on the new album, as we’ve been working really hard at it since 2012. We also have a different bass player on this album and he’s brought a completely new bass sound.
Now you are signed by Napalm Records. How did you get into contact with them and how came this deal around?
I believe that they received the ‘White Hoarhound’ album, possibly via the distribution department of PsycheDOOMelic Records who were our label at the time, and have now closed. They contacted us about whether we would be interested in them releasing it on vinyl, which we agreed to and our relationship began there. We released the vinyl in January 2013, and we spoke again later in the year with regards to our third album, the deal was signed in December 2013.
You have quite a lot live experience. What were the highlights or important gigs until now? Which band(s) did you prefer to tour/play with and have fine memories on?
In my eyes, one of the most important gigs was our third gig which we played with the legendary band Trouble. It was important because we were not ready for it, and we learnt some pretty hard lessons because of it. In our naïve eyes, we accepted the gig because they are one of our favourite bands, not really thinking about whether we should be putting ourselves out there to such a big crowd so early on in the bands career. After a lot of practice, but not so long after the Trouble gig, we played with Paradise Lost and had a much better reception, it was one of our biggest crowds to date and after playing back rooms in pubs, it was amazing for us to play on such a big stage with such a big sound. Other highlights were gigs with Fu Manchu, Acid King, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, High On Fire, Jex Thoth; festivals such as Heavy Days in Doomtown in Copenhagen, and DersertFest Berlin; and my personal favourite which was in a small club called Morion in Szcezcin, Poland where the crowd sang every word back to me.
Please tell us about the writing process of ‘Awakening The Forest’. How come these lengthy compositions into being? Are there pivotal song writers or is it a result of jamming?
We’re all involved in the song writing process, but it usually begins with a solitary riff which we build everything around, especially the vocal melodies. I know if we’ve written a good riff, because I can come up with a melody straight away. Sometimes we jam things out, and sometimes we sit down and try and put a structure to something we’ve got in our heads - it totally depends on the song. With these songs, most of them have been reworked a few times, if we’re not happy with the way something is going we will start again. We’d rather spend time perfecting a few songs that we think have potential, than write thirty throwaway songs that everyone else is writing and pick the best from them.
What also struck me was that the recording process was led by Greg Chandler of Esoteric fame. Please tell us how you made contact with him and your experiences about working with him?
Greg has recorded all three Alunah albums, and this time we had various offers to record elsewhere but we love Greg and his work so much, that we wanted to keep working with him. He goes above and beyond what is expected, and always gets great results. He had a real hands-on approach with this album by suggesting changes and additions to songs, and spent valuable time getting our sound just right. He’s patient, works long hours to get things right, keeps us laughing and also has given us some great business advice from his experience with the amazing Esoteric.
What were the roles of Tony Reed and George Sanderon?
We worked with Tony on ‘White Hoarhound’, and worked with him again to mix and master the album. George was our actor in the ‘Heavy Bough’ video, and plays in the awesome bands Slow Worm and Prophets Of Saturn.
The album is called ‘Awakening The Forest’. All adepts from the green party hehe? Well, tell me about your bond with nature… Sophie you are vegetarian? What does it mean in your life? Nature is a big influence on my lyrical themes;
I’m surrounded by beautiful countryside and spend a lot of my time with my husband and dog on forest walks. Since the last album I have lost three very close members of my family, and nature based teachings have helped me through the grief. A lot of what I have read about and learnt is reflected in the new album. When people hear the title track I’d like them to make their own minds up about what ‘Awakening The Forest’ means to them, but for me it’s very personal. I’ve not eaten meat or fish for seventeen years, I don’t mind cooking a fat steak for my husband, it’s just a choice that I have made and would never push it onto anyone else. I’m just unable to separate the beautiful animals I see in the fields where I live, from the meat on my plate haha. I don’t preach about it, in fact people who eat meat seem to have more of a problem with my choice. But you also like a good whisk(e)y… what brand do you like and tell me about your preference in food and drinks… I LOVE a whiskey, and I’m quite cheap in my tastes haha! I get through far too many bottles of Grants Sherry Cask Edition. However, if people want to bring me bottles of Talisker to gigs, I’ll happily take it off their hands! Lyrics are always important in the global feel of an album.
Can you go deeper into the lyrical contents of ‘Awakening The Forest’?
Lyrics are massively important to me, it’s always the first thing I listen for in other bands, and awful lyrics can really turn me off a band. I think I gave too much away with telling people about what songs meant with press I did for ‘White Hoarhound’, and this time I would really like people to tell me what they mean to them. Some of the songs such as ‘Bricket Wood Coven’, ‘Scourge And The Kiss’ and ‘Mask Of Herne’ deal with English Wiccan and Pagan stories, others are more personal.
The psychedelic artwork is another thing that leaps to the eye. Can you tell a bit more about the artwork, its creator and its possible symbolism?
This album has been illustrated by Michael Cowell, an old friend of Alunah and one of the most talented illustrators in England. There is a video on Napalm Records’ YouTube channel featuring Michael and I, where we discuss the meaning behind the artwork, but it is mainly based on some of my lyrical themes. The video for ‘Heavy Bough’ was based on the artwork, so the visual side of things is massively important to us. Other albums have been designed by me, and again we base the artwork on the lyrics as we believe the music should compliment the artwork and vice versa.
Shooting a video clip is another experience you faced now, so please tell us about the making of ‘Heavy Bough’. Grand clip by the way…
Thank you. We worked with Rhodri Thomas to film, direct and edit the video for ‘Heavy Bough’. We were lucky enough to have access to Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire, and the room we are in is also where Oliver Reed and Alan Bates filmed their naked fight in ‘Women In Love’, so we were pretty excited haha. The video is inspired by the album cover, and we were really conscious to not make a video where it is just us playing - we wanted another dimension to is, and George is amazing as our antlered man. It was a hot May day, and we had lots of people watching us through the windows, which was slightly off putting, but we kept topping our wine glasses up and tried to forget they were there haha!
What about the popularity of doom/stoner metal in the UK scène these days? Is there a kind of boom as in Europe or do English people are not convinced yet and stick to their poppy hypes?
I’m not sure if there is a boom or not, but it is definitely popular yeah. We seem to like our stoner and sludge bands a lot over here, but bands such as The Wounded Kings, Serpent Venom, Monolith Cult, Iron Void, Slow Worm, Black Moth and Esoteric are all flying the doom flag in one form or another. What music do you like to listen to these days? Are there newcomers in the scène that really blew you away or do you stick with the ‘classics’, thinking that everything has been done earlier? I listen to many different types of music. At the moment I’m listening to Hexvessel, Orne, Blues Pills, BB King, Ahab, Wolf People and Carcass. I’m not really aware of who is new to the scene because I’m so behind on it all, I’ve only just got into Hexvessel and they’ve been around for a while. Our friends’ bands Ki, Pigwitch and also Monolith Cult are fairly new, and they all blew me away first time I heard them.
Desertfest in Berlin and London must have been special events. How do you look back at these happenings?
Berlin was a massive crowd for us and was also the first time we met guys from Napalm Records and Sound of Liberation (our booking agent), who it is organised by, so a pretty special gig for us. We’re playing another Sound of Liberation festival in October - Up In Smoke in Switzerland, so we’re really looking forward to that. The London DesertFest festival is organised by our friends Desert Scene, and yeah we played the first event and had a great time. Early October you will hit the road.
Tell us about this twelve days trip? Any bands that will accompany you?
We’re doing three dates with Lonely Kamel and The Order Of Israfel, and then three with Mars Red Sky. We’re also playing dates with Conan, Brain Police and Valley Of The Sun, and will visit France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy and also a couple of English dates. The first date (first of October) will be our album launch party in Birmingham with Lonely Kamel and The Order Of Israfel, so that will be good fun.
What are the plans for the near future?
We’ve started booking gigs for 2015, and will be re-releasing ‘Call Of Avernus’ also. We’re not sure where this album will take us, and as yet have not read any reviews so don’t know how it will be received. One thing’s for sure, we will keep writing music we love to play, and hope that it continues to take us to new corners of the world, and introduce us to new and amazing people.
If there is anything you want to share with us, feel free to add it here…
Thank you for taking the time to interview us, and to everyone for their continued support. We hope to meet some of you on the road, keep watching www.alunah.co.uk and www.facebook.com/alunah.doom for updates.
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Upcoming Alunah Gigs >>
Friday 31st March
The Chameleon, Nottingham
Thursday 6th April
The Flapper, Birmingham
Friday 7th April
Saturday 8th April
Sunday 9th April
The Lounge, London
Saturday 6th May
MFC, Coevorden (NL)
Monday 8th May
Music City, Antwerp (BE)
Thursday 11th May
Coq d'Or, Olten (CH)
Friday 12th May
Bloom, Mezzago (IT)