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21st October 2011
Releasing a career best album back in April this year with the heavily folk-infused 'Meredead', a lavishly melodic beast of a record loaded with an abundance of epic tunes, Leaves' Eyes' popularity in the UK has hit an all-time high with said album reaching number 41 in this country's indie charts. Over here for a couple of headline shows ahead of their trip to Belgium for an appearance high up on the bill of the Metal Female Voices Fest, Metal Discovery hooked up with the band's thoroughly delectable and radiantly charming frontwoman, Liv Kristine, backstage at the Underworld in London to chat about the sonic grandeur that is 'Meredead'...
METAL DISCOVERY: So you played Bloodstock last year and the Koko too, supporting Kamelot, but Manchester last night was your first UK headline show in quite a while?
LIV: It definitely was, yes, exactly. But the place we played at…I had a kind of déjà vu; it was the same place as we played at with Paradise Lost five years ago. I really love it; it’s a kind of university campus. It’s a very nice place and it was packed…it was as good as sold out and today’s gonna be really full as well.
(Liv Kristine on deriving inspiration from the folk genre)
"I’m a big fan of folk music. I think I listened to every album a hundred times, to every Clannad album. When I was pregnant it was Clannad all the time!"
Liv Kristine and Alexander Krull backstage at the Underworld in London, UK, 21st October 2011
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2011 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: Ah right, presales are pretty good then?
LIV: Presales are great, four hundred already. I’m very happy about this and it’s so good to be back in the UK. Next time we need to do shows in Scotland and Ireland.
MD: And Wales.
LIV: And Wales, yeah.
MD: Everybody forgets about Wales!
LIV: I know, I know! I actually know Wales pretty well because I was an exchange student in Wales so I’d love to play there and see some friends again.
MD: What part of Wales did you live in?
LIV: It was somewhere between Cardiff and Swansea…it was lovely. I realise that the UK gothic metal audience is a very reliable audience. If you play a gig, everybody will come who came last time.
MD: Absolutely. There seems to be a crowd that thinks there’s a genre called “female fronted metal”…there isn’t because it just happens to be lots of metal bands with different styles who happen to have female vocalists. But they will turn up to every gig going over here as long as there's a female vocalist.
LIV: They will. And even going by subway today, there were a few fans already travelling to Camden…so yes, I’m really, really happy to be back here.
MD: So Sander, Roland and J.B. have been in the band for over a year – are they all permanent members now or still live session players?
LIV: They’re permanent. I told them a couple of weeks ago that I would love to have them as members and they were really happy about it.
MD: So you feel more established as a band again now?
LIV: Definitely, yes, it feels good. Sander, actually, he’s been living at our place for almost six months now and J.B. is travelling from Friesland to Germany as often as he can, and J.B is also working with me for my solo album. So everything is developing in a very nice direction.
MD: So one nice, big, happy family.
LIV: Absolutely. That’s it! [laughs]
MD: The latest album, ‘Meredead’, is, for me, your strongest album so far…
LIV: Thank you.
MD: Yeah, absolutely amazing. How do you rate it against your previous work? It’s quite different.
LIV: It’s different but it’s a continuation of everything we’ve done so far…but it is a big step. As soon as we finished three or four songs for our demo for ‘Meredead’, we realised that, okay, there is something new to our music now…new influences or whatever. Everybody’s different within the band; everybody has a different taste in music. So, what happened was, we just said, “right, let’s just see what happens.” Thorsten, my guitar player, he ended up with calling all the people, trying to get hold of people who could play all these exotic instruments. He plays a couple of them by himself and he’s able to, luckily. It was very interesting, the whole recording process, and the most inspiring one; the most inspiring composing and recording process so far.
MD: Obviously you have a lot of guest musicians and vocalists on the album so was it primarily intended to be a studio album where you won’t play some of the songs live or do you have plans for a special show, perhaps, with guest vocalists and guest musicians?
LIV: When we get the chance to invite guest musicians to some of our shows, we do so. Like tomorrow, in Belgium, John Kelly’s gonna be there and Maite Kelly, his wife; my sister Carmen as well. So tomorrow we’ll have some guests but to fly in people for one gig, that’s very expensive and everybody is occupied. John has his own band with Maite, Elfenthal, and they’re on the road themselves. But I hope everybody’s fine with the situation where I’ll do all the vocals myself but, of course, it makes it much more fun to have John, Maite, Carmen and Anette.
MD: Did you decide at the start of the songwriting process that you wanted to diversify your sound and bringing in extra vocalists and musicians would help you do that?
LIV: Actually, John Kelly and Maite Kelly, I met them at Metal Female Voices last year, so a year ago. Our roads crossed and John Kelly said, “hello, my name is John Kelly, this is my wife, Maite Itoiz, and she would really like to get to know you as she’s a fan of yours.” Maite?...Maite?...you know, I love her voice. In my opinion, she’s one of the best singers ever.
MD: Really?
LIV: Yeah. She is so talented and all the instruments she’s able to play, and she taught me a lot. So that’s how we met Maite and John and Maite said, “yeah, I would love to sing on some of your songs, just send me the files.” And she did…even the phrases in Old English, no problem. And then I heard the vocals…I had already recorded mine and I thought, what the hell, I think I can do better. So she inspired me to record those songs even better from the very beginning. And Carmen, of course, my sister, she’s at our place every now and then, every time she’s practicing with her band, Midnattsol. And Anette is a good friend of mine; she often comes to visit us. So, yeah, at the end of the day, there were less phrases or parts left for Alex. We realised that at some point of time…“ohhh…errm…”
LIV: But it was nothing planned, it just happened. So what we did, we released an EP called ‘Melusine’...I don’t think it’s released here in the UK…
MD: I’ve heard the track on YouTube. It needs to be released here!
LIV: Yeah, and that’s more into your face.
MD: More punchy.
LIV: Punchy and that’s Alex’s song. He’s fine with it; he’s not sad.
MD: Obviously, you’ve always had a folk influence in your songwriting but it’s far more prominent on ‘Meredead’ – why did you decide to bring in greater folk elements on this album?
LIV: I’m a big fan of folk music. I think I listened to every album a hundred times, to every Clannad album. When I was pregnant it was Clannad all the time! [laughs]
MD: Nice soothing music!
LIV: Yeah, soothing music, exactly! There are lots of fantastic Scandinavian folk bands, metal bands including folk elements to their music. It’s great. Gåte from Norway is one of the bands but, unfortunately, the singer left the band but they’re fantastic. Yes, and it’s the kind of music I grew up with.
MD: I think the best thing, for me, about ‘Meredead’ is that you’ve made a folk metal album but it’s not folk metal as the genre. So it doesn’t sound like Korpiklaani, it doesn’t sound like Skyclad, or any other folk metal band. It’s folk and metal but without being part of that scene.
LIV: Exactly, yeah.
MD: It’s more of a natural fusion, more organic.
LIV: It is more natural, yeah. If we would take a step into the Skyclad genre, that would be a step too far to take. That would be…well, I experienced that in the past with my ex-band, Theatre of Tragedy, from gothic metal to electronic.
MD: Of course, that was a big jump.
LIV: That was too big.
MD: But they fortunately went back again for their farewell album.
LIV: Yes, they did, but most of our fans couldn’t understand that kind of…
MD: …a big change too soon.
LIV: Yeah, exactly.