For Spark Magazine ( Czech Republic )
Answered by – Syriak
Since the music of Unexpect is based on an amalgamation of a vast range of different styles – and the songs themselves defy the restrictions of the usually employed verse-chorus song structures, how do you approach song writing? What guiding lines do you use? Doesn’t the absolute musical freedom actually make the song writing process much more difficult?
Well, we’ve been doing this for so many years that it comes very naturally to us. I think the approach to our songs
structures is very story-like. When you read a book, do you like to read the same words over and over…covering a
subject only from a single angle? Well, I don’t
I prefer long sentences and cross-references all over the story with a touch of subtlety. Instead of constantly coming back to a single “punchline” ( read “chorus”) at each and every moment, we prefer an evolutionary scheme. From the start to the beginning, the song transforms over and over, morphing musical structures one to the other, adding different chapters while keeping a theme and directional line in mind. Themes and music dialogues come back only when they really have something to bring to the section, not because they’re “supposed” to be inserted at a precise point because of conventions. In resume, we like to appeal to the musical intelligence and curiosity of people instead of force feeding them with pre-conceived musical theories.
You describe yourselves as a group of people coming from different musical backgrounds with each of you basically going your own way, which results in the unique experience that is Unexpect. With this approach, however, how difficult or easy is to make sure that you don’t cross the line dividing an ingeniously crafted chaos and a completely random mess?
We’re not really all going our own way at the same time. All our different influences are used in ways they blend together instead of just mashing up indiscriminately. Being so many instruments and different minds in the band makes it an even harder challenge when it comes to make a good use of each musician without losing ourselves in a pandemonium. Since it’s a euphemism to say that there are a lot of layers to our music, the main idea is to work together and make our instruments collaborate instead of fighting each others. So there’s often at least 3 or more instruments (or vocal lines) working along the same way in a single moment, with the others bringing counterpoint or additional rhythm/melodic layers, but not with the intention of just creating something weird and chaotic, it has to make sense and bring us total satisfaction. Every detail is fine-tuned and analyzed so we can’t say that there’s place for randomness at the end of the day. We’re obsessively perfectionist. J
Musically speaking, are there any lines that you actually wouldn’t cross? For example a certain level of randomness being simply too random? Chaos being too chaotic?
I don’t think so. For example, we’ve already covered some Noise parts in IAFA and some bits on FOTSE (though they’re not pure in the genre since we’ve blended them with other elements), and I consider Noise to be the quintessence of chaos and randomness. I think every line can be crossed as long as we don’t stay put too long. In our case, I guess stagnation is the worst enemy. We don’t want to create music just for the sake of doing something considered weird. It has to be enjoyable, contains the whole spectrum of emotions and most importantly it has to reach one’s soul. If a song doesn’t shake our inner self and make us travel at some point, it’s not ready to release in our eyes. So, I’ve got no qualms about crossing lines as long as the result is to our taste.
With ever-changing melodies and no fixed rhythm (and no conductor to guide you either), how do you make sure the songs keep together the way they’re supposed to, when playing them live? Or does it perhaps mean that each live rendition is more or less a unique version of the songs?
It’s just a matter of being used to each others. With the hundreds of shows we’ve done over the years, we’re now organically connected and know ourselves musically more than ever. We’ve also grew another set of ears to catch the slightest change in another’s playing. So to answer your question, the compositions stay the same and that’s why we now play them so instinctively. They’re printed deep in our muscles and souls. The uniqueness could come more from our mood on a chosen day.
Not to mention that there are six people in the band (previously even one more), which must make keeping track of what the others are doing on stage even more difficult. How do you communicate on stage?
Smoke signals are pretty cool, but starting a fire on stage is a bit hot for heat-generating machines like me. And those horse blankets are so rude…well…
Experience showed us through and we’ve managed to develop a sixth sense concerning the whereabouts of the other members on stage…the rest has been told in the previous question.
After your self-released debut album “Utopia”, “Fables of the Sleepless Empire” is your second album released without the help of an “outsider” label. How does it feel to be independent again? Is it easier this time around? After all, the industry has changed quite a lot in the last few years and e.g. internet plays a much bigger role in promoting music than it used to…
It feels very good to manage every aspect of a release and be able to be closer than ever with our fans! I think it’s also cool for the fans to know that now, when they buy a cd or digital downloads, it directly helps the band instead of other intermediaries! It helps us a lot since keeping an out-of-the-box band like us alive is a constant financial struggle as there have always been more expenses than benefits. It’s a good thing that the reality of internet being what it is, it’s so easier than before to share information and get our music/message to travel all over the world. There are more and more tools available for the independent musicians and the future looks bright for free bands!
Is there any lyrical concept behind the songs on “Fables of the Sleepless Empire”? Or at least a reoccurring theme? With the way the songs seem to merge into each other musically, it’s difficult to imagine that there is absolutely no lyrical connection between them as well – though I haven’t been able to find any obvious connections when reading through the lyrics themselves yet…
Actually, the lyrical canvas being always very metaphorical, the songs are linked as they’re all Fables in the setting that we call the Sleepless Empire…which is a parallel to our own living system. Just like on previous albums, a lot of the double meanings concern the troubled and somewhat unhealthy relation we, as free-thinking humans, have with the establishment. The unending confrontation between power hungry forces and the peaceful creative humans who cultivates imagination. But even though I always have a main idea/theme on which I dwell in a song, I always cover my meanings behind surreal and unorthodox images and clothe the themes with playful literary digressions.
There’s already enough people speaking their minds straight forwardly, so I don’t think it’s a necessity that I do so. It leaves many possible avenues to the reader as to the true meaning of the lyrics and the choice of words. Again, more layers for the ones who like to dig! J
Speaking of which – from where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics? Creating such unique images as for example the one of pumpkins marching on mankind or irresolute shapes hopping in a giant bunny’s cranium can’t be an easy task…
All my lyrics come from the ghost of Gandhi. He’s actually talking to me at the moment, telling me what to
write…no…really…Maybe I’m just a crazy bastard.
I don’t know exactly the sources of my inspiration…when I start to write, it just flows naturally with the theme I’ve put my mind on. There’s a lot of thoughts put into them…sometimes a bit of automatism (re-worked afterwhile), sometimes pure playfulness and always a huge dose of humour! I do like to give minds to inanimate objects…don’t know why but…hey…I also like more normal things like…you know…drinking milk.
If there is one song on “Fables of the Sleepless Empire” that stands apart from the rest, it’s “In the Mind of the Last Whale”. I hope that I don’t sound too crazy when I say that now I can’t imagine a whale’s thoughts to sound much differently from the three-minute long glimpse you provided. But how did you come up with the idea for such a song in the first place?
First of all, you’re not crazy…welcome in the club ! J
We’ve toyed with the idea of doing an electro-acoustic song like this for a while and we just did it very naturally. It all started in studio, as Chaoth was playing with the deepest and noisiest effect I’ve heard from his instrument yet… We then worked with Borboën at his home studio to experiment, and when we added Leïlindel’s vocals, the whole sound structure and conceptual architecture struck me as pretty whale-ish and melancholic…inspiring the name of the song. That was quite a nice experience for us to work on such a different kind of song and experiment other avenues. Probably won’t be the last time!
And how does one actually imagine what a mind of the last whale must feel like to begin with? I find it especially fascinating that there seems to be no feeling of anger. Just sadness, loneliness and perhaps even a bit of tiredness. And vastness, of course…
I guess that’s exactly how the last whale would feel. It seems to me like those gentle titans couldn’t be angered…they could only gaze at the disappearing ranks in sadness…enduring the folly of mankind…Of course, this kind of hypothetical scenario suits the melancholy of the song well, but I can just cross my fingers that we’re not being prophets of a future that could unfortunately materialize at the rate we’re devouring our own home that is called earth.
THAT, my friend….is crazy…
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
My pleasure and can’t wait to see you guys at Brutal Assault !!