DATE OF INTERVIEW: 2nd September 2019
Formed in just 2014, trad-metal Romanians Scarlet Aura have already achieved far more than most bands within a such relatively short time period, with the release of four full-length albums and a fifth on the way, as well as a string of tasty support slots for the likes of Rhapsody and Tarja Turunen, and a lengthy run of headline shows in China. They’re not merely a band who are going places but a band who’ve already been places, through a clear sense of ambition, passion and unfaltering enthusiasm for what they do.
Opening for SOTO on their 2019 European tour, Metal Discovery met up with the band’s vocalist/lyricist, Aura Danciulescu, on the first show of the run, in Manchester. After a lengthy wait in the rain, due to Jeff Scott Soto’s insistence that no one would be allowed to enter the venue until doors (thanks for that, Jeff), it’s 45 minutes after my scheduled interview time when we eventually settle down to chat, when the tour bus becomes available. And a most interesting natter it transpires to be…
METAL DISCOVERY: Am I right in thinking this is only your third ever show tonight in the UK, following a London date supporting Rhapsody last year, and another London show in 2016?
AURA: Yes, actually. In 2016, it was the first big show we had in the UK, because after we played in Romania since we were born, we played in Bulgaria and the Ukraine and Hungary. And then, when London came, it was a huge event for us. But we’re happy to be here and, also, the next few days, in the towns that I’ve never stepped on. So, it’s not just the adventure of playing and meeting new people; it’s also the personal touch of travelling.
(Aura Danciulescu on 'The Book of Scarlet - Ignition')
"Being my first book, I think I should be proud of it… and I am!"
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: Yeah, coming to Manchester… in the rain… British summer time!
AURA: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s not a surprise. In Bucharest now, it’s almost forty degrees, so I took my leather jacket, being prepared for the UK. I actually checked AccuWeather to know exactly what clothing we should take, but the weather is unpredictable!
MD: Exactly! Considering you have a whole load of influences drawn from traditional heavy metal in your music, do you see the UK as an important market for the band because the birth of heavy metal was over here, in Birmingham, of course?
AURA: It’s interesting how it’s the birth of heavy metal here, but then the growing of the genre didn’t happen here. It’s a good start that it got itself born here, but then it grew in Germany and the northern countries, and Romanians are big fans of heavy metal, and Bulgarians, too. They are huge, huge, huge fans. I’m pretty curious as to what will happen with Scarlet Aura along the years and I’m really following the growth of the band here and I’m happy to experience this.
MD: Yeah, and more fans after tonight’s show, hopefully.
AURA: Yeah. definitely.
MD: Despite the overt influences in your music, you’ve created a sense of your own musical identity through your songs. So what would you say is the essence of the Scarlet Aura sound?
AURA: It was about time to have our own personality because it’s like in life, right? You grow up and you’ve got to have your own tastes and own personality; this is normal. I really envy the ones that got a strong personality while they were young as artists. When you’re young, you really don’t know what you want and who you are, but also being an artist, you know shit about that, right! [Laughs]
What I can tell you now about Scarlet Aura, as the media said, “the rising star of the East in heavy metal”…. because it’s older but with modern touches and a heavy spirit, with lots of energy. We want to bring people back in front of the stage… the ones that left, or the ones that never got the chance to hear this kind of thing with a girl, and to love it. It’s a genre that everyone can love. Our sound is heavy, the riffs are hard, the drums are insane… you’ll see for yourself, tonight. It’s everything we do and everything we love and we dedicate ourselves to it. We’re the best female fronted rock band in Romania.
MD: Metal can get quite serious at times, but Scarlet Aura seem to be about bringing back the fun and entertainment into metal.
AURA: Yeah, well, our purpose is to make the public feel better and get them out of their shoes; get them out of their normal state of mind. It’s about entertaining the public and also to give them a good performance with really good instrumental writing in the songs and compositions and a strong sound. So, we are doing our best and I think, in the last four or five years, we kind of did a good job and we’ll keep on rolling!
MD: With the band called Scarlet Aura, are you trying to create a particular aura between both band and fans at gigs?
AURA: Yeah, we do that; we are really good friends with our fans. We keep in touch; we answer in private. They are travelling from Germany, from Sweden, from Italy, from Bulgaria and other countries when we have shows, and that is amazing. But then I wanted to get more than the music part with the fans with the ones that are interested in the music we’re making. I found another way to do that and I started to write ‘The Book of Scarlet’, which is a fantasy trilogy. Volume one was released with our newest album, ‘Hot ‘n’ Heavy’, and the first volume is called ‘Ignition’.
In the story of the book, I have the lyrics of the album. So, going into the story of this fantasy world, you’ll find Scarlet as a character - who he is; how he got in this world; what is his purpose… and so on. And then, the next album we release, it’s going to come hand-in-hand with the second volume. And then the third will end the trilogy. I want them to experience not only the visual effect - usually, we also use props on stage - and give them… you know, like a good wine. You see the colour and you smell it, taste it and, when you do “cheers”, you also hear it. So, to just bring the sound, bring the sight, and to make a package out of the band. So we’ll do that and maybe the public will appreciate it. They can listen to our music, read the books and get to know us better.
MD: So, for the books, are we talking prose or just the lyrics? Have you written narratives?
MD: Do you have a background in English literature? I presume it’s written in English?
AURA: It’s written in English. And I don’t have a background. It’s my first book ever written in English. In school, I did foreign languages and so on, so I’m prepared for that. I wrote some books that were never published in Romania, but I thought I should do a book about Scarlet, because I felt the need to explain more who Scarlet is. A fantasy book is also good for youngsters and older people can also read it because it’s really, really funny, and it has contemporary problems and issues in it.
MD: So stuff in there that you can link metaphorically to what’s happening now in the world?
AURA: Yeah, and it was reviewed really well. Being my first book, I think I should be proud of it… and I am!
MD: So is the book illustrated, as well?
AURA: Yeah, it has graphics made by myself.
AURA: Look, it was easy. I asked some friends of mine to make some drawings, and they were too busy or not interested, or things like that. So I thought, fuck it, I’m doing it myself! I’ve never drawn anything in my life, but I drew those and it’s how I saw the reality in the book.
MD: The debut album was released under the name of just Aura, so why did you decide to change the name to Scarlet Aura? What’s the significance of “Scarlet”?
AURA: Well, Mihai Danciulescu, he’s the songwriter and producer of the band, and he’s also my best friend and my husband. We do everything together. We left Steelborn together - a rock band we played in. We wanted to do a more metal project, and we had a keyboard player from Romania who said we should name the project Aura, “because everybody knows you, and it will connect Steelborn to Aura.” Then he had a car crash and died. And ‘The Rock Chick’, the first album, was finished really fast because we had the date of the release already booked. But our colleague’s death affected us, and it was really, really hard for me to make a really good product of ‘The Rock Chick’ but, in the end, that’s the product and we’re happy with it. It’s not a problem.
Then we, somehow, got to participate at a festival in Bulgaria - our first concert out of Romania. And we won, and we said, “Okay, this is what we want to do from now on.” After we won the contest, we played with Gotthard, with Europe, Sabaton, Helloween… and we had two or three days, backstage, talking and exchanging experiences, and stuff like that. So we said, “This is what we should do from now on.”
MD: Is that when you became full-time with the band?
AURA: Yeah, that happened in 2010 or 2011, something like that. Actually, the contest happened in 2014, but the decision that I wanted this internationally… because, in Romania, we were already on top. We didn’t even think it was possible to go outside of the country, or even if we wanted to do that, because we thought there are so many great bands outside, and how can we compete? And, in the end, we are too lazy to do that, right? Because this is the only excuse that interferes between a band and its success - laziness!
MD: And being able to dedicate a hundred per cent of your time to the band.
AURA: You want comfort in your life. Everybody wants comfort. So I didn’t think that far but, once I saw this, I said to Mihai, “This is what we should do.” And we started doing this. We signed with a management company from London and they advised us to change our name from Aura to something Aura. We had a barbeque and brainstormed, and drank some wine and made a list. We sent it to the management agency and they picked Scarlet Aura.
MD: What were some of the names that didn’t make it? Any embarrassing ones you wouldn’t want to admit to now?
AURA: You can imagine there are a bunch of drunk people having ideas…
AURA: Actually, Scarlet Aura was my idea because my favourite movie ever is ‘Gone with the Wind’ and you know Scarlett?
MD: Yeah, yeah.
AURA: And the best scene ever is, “After all, tomorrow is another day.” Because I’m used to panic, panic, panic and “that’s not done” and “that’s not done”… and then, “Fuck it, tomorrow is another day.” That was also my philosophy so I said Scarlet Aura would be a great name. And then we had to build the personality of the band around the name. When you get to choose from a list, you don’t have enough time to put personality in the name. So we had to build it up and, with the trilogy and the books, somehow, end the circle and the band itself, although it’s really young, can be taken as professional as it can be.
MD: I’ve noticed that you address your fans as “Scarlets”, so has that been widely adopted by your fanbase? Are they happy to be called Scarlets?
AURA: Yeah, they are Scarlets and together we are Scarlets united, and we were happy when they first said they wanted to name the fan club Scarlet United. I thought it sounds like a football team but, whatever, it works for you guys. Mihai already tattooed himself with the symbol of the fan club and the name of the first three countries that made the fan club, and that is Romania, Bulgaria and Germany.
MD: And soon the UK, hopefully!
AURA: Yes, of course, this is what I hope for and he keeps the rest of his arm free. For us, it’s really exciting.