Birmingham based Doom/Stoner quartet ALUNAH proved to be a sturdy choice to co-headline the Dooms day at The Firehouse; their stage presence was incredibly enchanting from the word go and their music was remarkably charming, with these two aspects within their show it’s no wonder they are slowly growing a fan base. Their sound provided The Firehouse with heart-pounding beats, riffs and solos fused incredibly with Soph Day’s captivating, relaxing vocal work; this provided an extremely psychedelic, brutal and chilled environment. The perfect ambience for the Doom Metal head.
There were relatively few people in the audience for tonight’s gig and while I felt quite sorry for the support bands, a few bars into Alunah’s first track, ‘White Hoarhound’, I no longer cared, such is the transcendent magic of their live performances.
Tonight’s set list took songs from all three of their albums, which made me reflect on how they’ve progressed as a live band. I first saw Alunah back in 2009, when they were very passionate and had great songs, but were still quite raw and not too experienced in the ways of stagecraft. Tonight was a perfect example of four musicians clearly enjoying what they do and doing it exceptionally well, but the resulting performance was even greater than the sum of their parts. They were incredibly tight (in particular ‘Belial’s Fjord’ has never sounded better or doomier), and they seemed relaxed and happy to banter amongst themselves and with the audience.
Their set list tonight included a cover of ‘A Forest’ by The Cure, which got a great reaction from the crowd. The highlights of tonight’s show for me were ‘Bricket Wood Coven’ thanks to its uplifting chorus, and the encore, ‘Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’ from their underrated first album.
All of the bands that played tonight deserved a bigger crowd, but I hope that those of us who were there made up for the lack of numbers by the power of our enthusiasm. This was a perfect gig – intimate, friendly, loud and heavy.
Listen to Alunah's Bloodstock interview with The Midlands Rocks:
Alunah receive 7/10 from Metal Hammer UK. Also featured in the other Team Rock group magazines, Classic Rock Magazine and Prog Magazine.
It’s with the most excitement of the weekend we head for the Sophie tent cautiously early to wait for (relative) locals Alunah to take-over the stage. Their casual emergence belies the majesty of the sound they go on to radiate from the speakers: crashing waves of doom riffs, oscillating under Sophie Day’s hypnotic voice. The uncanny reverberations of Bricket Wood Coven, the hypnotic Heavy Bough, the climatic vocal force of Scourge and the Kiss and of course, the brain-melting, ground shaking, mesmeric White Hoarhound are paragons of music’s capacity to transfix and transcend. Sheer magick (9/10).
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 >>
Local band Alunah came onstage to Leadbelly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night, which perfectly set the scene for their bluesy, doomy, classic hard rock. The first track, “White Hoarhound”, was the perfect set opener, its immediacy and popularity engaged the crowd and drew quite a few people forward.
Singer, Soph Day, has never sounded better – her powerful, haunting vocals, particularly during the Scourge and the Kiss, seemed to reach beyond the back of the tent all the way across the field to the New Blood Stage, but she never sounded impersonal, and the combination of her vocals and lyrics with the melodies was electrifying.
Alunah have worked with several excellent bass players, but in Dan Burchmore, they seem to have found someone who really understands their sound and who elevates them to even higher musical planes. Like many of the excellent bands I saw at Bloodstock, the set seemed to be over way too quickly, I was left wanting more and I was not alone in this, judging by the size of the crowd they attracted and the overwhelming response.
With the sun beating down on hard on this years Bloodstock, it takes a moment to adjust to the bottom of the ocean, melodic doom, that emanates from the Sophie Lancaster stage, as Alunah (4/5) begin their set. The Birmingham outfit quickly fill the tent with their hypnotic, layered groove and attract dazed punters like moths to a burning light. Vocalist Soph Day’s vocals ring out across the Sunday afternoon crowd and it makes for a perfect soundtrack to what has already been an epic day of music.
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.
Alunah (13/13) with their intoxicating and creative mixture of doom and blues are making their debut at Bloodstock on the Sophie stage, and immediately demonstrate how well suited their powerful musicality and sound is to a bigger stage. It sounds fantastic from out in the audience, and guitarist Dave Day's first solo is full of the most incredible melody and atmospheric sustain. Bricket Wood Coven is another highlight with its great jazz like drum fills and the beautifully executed bass coda to the song, that is greeted with spontaneous cheers from the audience, and closes with another jaw dropping melodic guitar solo from Dave. Highlight of this great set is undoubtedly Sophie Day's mesmerising vocals on Scourge and the Kiss,, where during a gentle section in the song, with her head tilted slightly towards the microphone, she is communicating every word with pure and very moving emotion. When we interviewed Sophie prior to their set, she disarmingly said ‘I hope we get a crowd after all of this… I’m hoping it rains so everyone comes to shelter …’. It is no surprise to Room Thirteen that Bloodstock took Alunah to their hearts, and the audience loved their stunning set. A triumphant debut!
Taking shelter from the scorchio sunshine at Bloodstock Open Air 2015, we find ourselves in the Sophie tent for some doom on a grand scale from Alunah. To be honest we were expecting them to be good but not quite this good. The doomey bass lines and sheer weight were there but the icing on the leaden cake was undoubtedly Soph Day’s vocals which give Alunah an extra dimension over most of their contemporaries in the crowded UK Doom scene.
We really liked the last Alunah album, and if you’re looking for a Sophie Stage highlight for the entire weekend, then the sublime live version of Bricket Wood Coven will take some beating.
Whilst the gods of stoner rock might have just rocked the foundations of the main stage, the tree folk of Alunah were just beginning their own take on the genre on the Sophie Lancaster Stage. Having released their latest album Awaken The Forest the band performed various different cuts from the album along with the more classic material, each receiving just as uproarious approval than the last. With front woman, Soph Day having an enormous personality to match that of the crushing riffs bestowed upon the unsuspecting Bloodstock crowd today. An excellent foreshadowing of things to come from the band, particularly with their tour later this year.
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
Three years after the initial release on PsychedDOOMelic Records in 2012, PRC Music are giving Alunah's second album "White Hoarhound" a fresh release on CD.
There can be little doubt that the audience is growing inexorably for Alunah’s highly original blues, folk and psychedelic influenced doom metal. It was very evident in the large crowd that turned out to see them at Edinburgh’s Bannerman’s venue, and in the incredibly enthusiastic reception they received. Sonic Bandwagon had the privilege to hear the band while they were sound checking before the gig, on ‘Bricket Wood Coven’ from the latest album ‘Awakening the Forest’. The small gathering listening in broke into spontaneous applause at the end….yes they are that good even when sound checking! Bannerman’s, with its long tunnel like appearance, resonates of the Cavern in Liverpool, where the Beatles first paid their live dues. Alunah are similarly a hard working very talented band, who really care about their music and audience, and are prepared to work hard to get their musical vision across.
Bricket Wood Coven’ breaks in the set as the band quickly locks into their unique sound, combing a very deep heavy riff with some great bluesy flourishes, and Sophie’s characteristically emotionally expressive vocals and lyrics. Dan’s brilliant bass break adds a real snappy groove to Dave’s wailing guitar soloing over the song’s coda.
‘Heavy Bough’ follows with Jake’s effortless looking, yet complex drumming accents around the kit, establishing a fabulously atmospheric intro before the song settles into a groove laden rhythm. Sophie’s vocals on the chorus soar above the audience, and the brilliant Clapton like sounding guitar break at the end makes this a real highlight of the current live set.
‘Scourge and the Kiss‘, with its sweet dedication to the couple from Dundee, who bring a bottle of wine for the band to their Scottish gigs, reveals Sophie smiling from the stage, feeling the warmth and appreciation flowing from the audience towards the band.
‘Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’, from the first album, ‘Call of Avernus’, has a very southern sludgy feel with the band not afraid to leave a musical space midway through the song, and then gradually build the song again through letting each instrument back in again in turn. It’s also very bluesy, with Sophie singing over the top of the instruments with her eyes closed and sounding like Janis Joplin or Billie Holliday at their most poignant.
Belial’s Fjord’ from the second album ‘White Hoarhound’, starts with a rolling drum pattern and some feedback laden guitar work. The main riff kicks in, and midway through Sophie moves the mic into position for a completely mesmerising and immersive wordless vocal to emerge that feels like it came from somewhere very deep, hitting you right in the heart. Just spine tingling! A west coast sounding wah-wah guitar solo from Dave causes Bannerman’s to become for a fleeting moment, the legendary Fillmore West from 1960s San Francisco. Just superb!
‘White Hoarhound’ is touchingly dedicated to the sadly departed BB King and Terry Jones of Pagan Alter.
Alunah are a band to take to your heart and treasure. They make music that means something. Drawing on an eclectic pallet of influences, they ultimately transcend those influences to create highly original music, which connects with an audience on a strikingly emotional level.
They have just been announced for the Bloodstock Festival, playing on the Sophie Lancaster stage on the Sunday. If you are going to Bloodstock this year you are in for a rare treat! You absolutely must catch them playing.
It’s not often that I’ll travel to a gig outside of Glasgow. That’s mainly due to there being so many good ones in Glasgow that I’m spoilt for choice. So you may be wondering why I travelled to Edinburgh for this gig. The answer is simple. I wanted to see Alunah again after having really enjoyed their Glasgow gig. Before the gig like last time, I had the chance to chat to Sophie and Dan from Alunah. That will be up within the next few days.
Onto the headliners, Alunah. Having seen them before like Isak, I kind of knew what I was expecting. Heavy grooving riffs, heavily distorted guitars and bass and a flowing melodic vocal line. Having a set composed of songs from across all three albums along with a brand new one proved for an enjoyable set and watch. Like last time, Sophie thanked everyone for coming to listen and dedicated a few songs to some members of the audience and one to BB King and Terry Jones. It’s safe to say that they enjoyed themselves as did the crowd, with several people headbanging along and really getting into the music. That might have been due to having a few many beers, but we’ll say that it was the awesome music.
In short, the night was a bit different to what I’d normally be at. That didn’t stop me from enjoying it and all the bands from delivering good performances with a good stage sound. If you’ve never heard of any of these bands before, like last time I advise you check them out. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see any of them at a festival in the future. Particularly Alunah, but I’ll leave that to the band to announce.
Alunah have announced that they will be appearing at Bloodstock Open Air Festival, at Catton Park in Derbyshire.
"We are extremely happy to be appearing at a festival that is not only local to us, but is also one that is held in such high regard by the metal community. It will be an absolute honour to play alongside fellow Midlanders Napalm Death and Godflesh, and long-time influences such as Opeth and Orange Goblin. The last half of 2015 will be a busy time for Alunah, and we're looking forward to kicking it all off with an appearance at Bloodstock" - Sophie Day (Vocals / Guitar)
Alunah will play Sunday 9th August 2015, on The Sophie Lancaster Stage. Visit the Bloodstock site to buy tickets >>
The schedule has been published for Red Sun Festival, and Alunah play the legendary Clwb Ifor Bach on Saturday 2nd May at 8:10pm. Tickets for the whole weekend are only £20, view the Facebook event >>
"I think this is the biggest thing to ever happen to the underground heavy scene in Wales. It's been a long time in the making. Before any of us organisers even got involved in the local scene there were bands laying down the groundwork for this, but we are hugely proud to be the ones bringing it all together. We really hope our passion and hard work comes off in the form of a brutally incredible weekend of noise, riffs, grooves, and beer swilling, that will return each year!" - Owen Bowley (festival organiser)
"Alunah are extremely happy to be joining the impressive Loud Noise roster. They have a great reputation with promoters and bands alike, and from the first conversation we had with them we realised we were on the same wavelength. We love touring Europe, and look forward to a future with such an established and highly regarded agency" - Soph Day (Alunah Vocals & Guitar)
For booking enquiries contact Loud Noise >>
All blog posts by Alunah