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DATE OF INTERVIEW: 12th November 2019
For every band that succumbs to genre regurgitation and stylistic stagnancy, another band comes along seemingly intent on trying to push metal's parameters into fresh, new territory. And every once in a while, such a band will capture the imagination above most others; standing tall through their naturally conceived innovation, with an arsenal of songs that convey a profound sense of emotional sincerity and genuinely progressive proclivities. Moldova's Infected Rain are everything a modern metal band should be through both their music and shows - passionate; exhilarating; captivating; innovative; atmospheric; and with a rousing emotional depth. Following three self-released albums, they inked a deal with Napalm Records for their fourth, 'Endorphin', unleashed in October this year. Ahead of their very first UK show, as opening support band on Lacuna Coil and Eluveitie's 2019 European tour, Metal Discovery met up with frontwoman Lena to discuss 'Endorphin' and all of its invigorating delights, in an interview that transpired to be as emotionnaly sincere as the songs on the album…
METAL DISCOVERY: ‘Endorphin’ is incredible. I gave it 9 out of 10 when I reviewed it, but I’d up that to 10 out of 10 after further listens…
LENA: Ah, thank you.
(Lena Scissorhands on experiencing catharsis through her emotionally personal lyrics)
"I did have a few situations when I needed to stop because I was overwhelmed with emotions while I was recording... And even on the stage, very often, you will see me cry because I live through those emotions every time, over and over again… which is good; it’s not a bad thing. I take it as a therapy."
Lena Scissorhands in her dressing room at The Ritz, Manchester, 12th November 2019
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Do you feel yourselves that you’ve created a masterpiece, or are you too close to the music to judge it in that way?
LENA: Well, I think we are too close to the music to judge it that way, but we definitely feel like what we did with ‘Endorphin’ is a different level. It’s the same Infected Rain but more mature; maybe more wise. And, me as a lyric writer, I feel like I touched some topics that I never did before, and I went very deep into certain emotions because that’s exactly how I felt when I was writing. I do that all the time with my lyrics, actually, but it’s just I had a really rough year/year and a half, and I think, despite the fact how rough that was on me in my life, it gave me motivation to write those lyrics, which I’m very proud of.
MD: They’re very poetic, I have to say. Very metaphorical, and I think the emotions come through in the metaphors, which is the essence of all good poetry.
LENA: Thank you so much, that’s a big compliment.
MD: ‘86’ was also a great album, but ‘Endorphin’ feels like a big step forward - not only compositionally, but also in terms of the arrangements of songs, and performances, as well. Do you feel like you’ve taken a big step forward with the new music, as songwriters and musicians?
LENA: Yes, we did, for sure. But I think it was because we worked way harder and I think it’s because we are getting more wanted and more needed every year; our fan base is growing so fast because we are touring non-stop. And I feel like this connection with people, this non-stop touring and so many shows, that also gives us an extra experience, and we also get to meet other musicians, and we listen to so much music. All that put together, gives us that experience and made us maybe see music or see the procedure of writing in a different way. Does it make sense?
MD: Yeah.
LENA: I feel like that’s what’s going on.
MD: I always think that genuine progression in any artist’s output can only really result from when they challenge themselves, and leave their comfort zone … so did you set yourself any particular challenges out of your own comfort zones?
LENA: We didn’t really with this album. I feel like we started doing that way earlier because, you can see yourself, we have certain songs that are heavier and certain songs that are more melodic or even electronic pieces. I think we challenged ourselves with that way before and I love doing that. I know it pisses off some of the fans but it also makes some fans love us, because they know we are not afraid to get out of our box. Whenever they ask, “What’s the genre of Infected Rain?” I don’t really know, and I don’t really want it to be a genre. I want to be free to paint…
MD: There are only two genres of music - music you like and music you don’t.
LENA: Yeah, exactly, thank you! I think that was amazing. Well said!
MD: There’s a lot of experimentation in the songs, but it never sounds just for the sake of. It all feels 100% natural. Everything feels like it’s bound together by the sincerity of the emotions. Did you have to dig deep, emotionally, to progress with your creativity?
LENA: Okay, so there’s one procedure when you actually write the lyrics and you feel them and everything, and it’s a completely different procedure when you put a melody to those lyrics on a song. So I felt like, when I was working on the vocal parts for our songs… because this is the way I like to work; I take a song that is already almost done and then I work on the vocal melody… I think that there, when I feel the connection between the emotion through the instruments and the emotion through the lyrics, I want to deliver that emotion properly.
So, when I go in the studio, the fact that we’ve worked with the same producer for so many years helped me a lot because he knows exactly what I’m capable of. And he will be like, “Okay, I need you here to go deeper because I know you can say more with these notes or those notes.” I did have a few situations when I needed to stop because I was overwhelmed with emotions while I was recording, I will be honest, but that’s more because I visualise everything. And even on the stage, very often, you will see me cry because I live through those emotions every time, over and over again… which is good; it’s not a bad thing. I take it as a therapy.
MD: Catharsis.
LENA: Absolutely. It’s a very good way to… I’m not saying no more to my past, I’m accepting my past, I’m singing about it, or a problem I wrote about… or whatever it is. So I feel like all those emotions are so vivid in this album, especially.
MD: You can hear that emphatically in the songs.
LENA: Yeah, it was my goal, to deliver the proper emotions, more than all those albums we did before. Because, as you said before, I write with metaphors very often and a lot of songs are open for interpretation so, with my voice, I try to underline certain phrases or words in order to make people feel… I’m saying that right now and I’m having goosebumps! Yeah, I don’t know, I hope I succeeded with that because I know I’m not the only one like that on the planet and I know a lot of people can relate. So, if my vocals or our music or songs in general can make people feel, mission accomplished.
MD: As all good art should do.
LENA: Yeah.
MD: Everything sounds incredible but, in particular, the vocal lines for the clean singing parts have even more emotional depth than ever before.
LENA: Thank you.
MD: Particularly the melodies in the vocal lines, which feel fresh, spellbinding and sublime. Did you spend a lot more time working on those this time around?
LENA: As I said, I didn’t spend more time than before; I just think that the themes I chose for these songs is just so painful for me… still. Unfortunately, or maybe not unfortunately, I had to go through very, very difficult times in my life, in my personal life. Some emotions and some things I was not ready for and they hit me very hard, so I think that is the reason why these songs are so emotional and why these songs are so different.
MD: I think part of the essence of the album, too, is that there are so many contrasts and changing moods - light and dark; hopeful and cynical; calm and aggressive; certainty and uncertainty; assurance and anxiety, and so on. Life is obviously all about contrasts, so it kind of makes sense now, you saying it’s from your life's experiences…
LENA: Yes it is, everything comes from my life’s experience and I know everybody goes through similar stuff… I know. I’m not special. All I think, I have the power to put it down on paper and to then sing it. That’s the only difference. But we are all the same; we all have our issues; we have family problems; we have relationship problems; friendship problems; work problems. You know, all those things that overwhelm us and make us want to give up very often, at least once or twice. I don’t know a person who can’t say that.
MD: Was ‘Taphephobia’ written out of a fear of being buried alive or is that metaphorical?
LENA: It’s metaphorical, and I’m glad you brought it up because it’s actually my favourite song on the album.
MD: There’s a very weird kind of melody over the clean singing parts in the second half of the song, and some interesting growling over those parts, too. But the weird, beepy melody, it’s sort of discordant but totally fits.
LENA: Absolutely, it’s a very weird song. But, at the same time, if you listen to it a few times, you understand how deep… in fact, when I heard that song, it was my first choice, right away, for those lyrics. Right away, I was like, this is so cosmic. And the problem I am talking about in ‘Taphephobia’, it is huge; it is depression. Unfortunately, it’s something that hovers over us for so many years, over the planet. I think our planet is depressed, not just us. It is sad because it’s very difficult and we see people killing themselves, like famous people even. We see giving up on the friendships and relationships and families. We see kids being abandoned. We see so much and it breaks my heart, to be honest.
And I have to also be very open and honest about my depression because I know it’s something people have to talk about and, unfortunately, I had this feeling before in my life when I was a kid; I had a very difficult childhood. And, as I said before, unfortunately, over the past year/year and a half, I’ve been very depressed and I really hoped that would never come back to me when I was a kid, but it did. Basically, I am blaming myself a lot that I let it happen, because we can let happen a lot of things and we can stop things from happening, also, even if we’re in the worst situation. And I was not strong enough, or I was not awake enough to see what’s happening in my life, so I’ve been buried in very deep depression with very bad thoughts.
And the only thing that helped me was music. The only thing that helped me was the band; touring; the fans. I never put it online openly, but even little hints about the fact I didn’t feel very good or I’m not feeling in a good mood, already was an alarming sound for some of the fans that are closer to us, and they kept messaging and emailing, and making sure that we understand and that we know how much we’re loved, appreciated and needed in this world. And I’m super thankful. I can’t thank enough our fans for doing that. And ‘Taphephobia’ is about that.
MD: So that song proved to be particularly cathartic, then?
LENA: Absolutely. I’m dreading the moment when we are going to be ready to play that live, because we are not yet.
MD: It’s not in your set yet, then?
LENA: No, it’s not.
MD: Personal reasons, obviously…
LENA: No, it’s mainly because we had to have a very short setlist with this tour. We had to choose a smaller setlist, unfortunately, because we are the opening band for this tour. But, in spring probably, we are going to be ready to headline with our newer songs and everything is probably going to be easier as well, but I’m still dreading that moment.