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21st October 2011
Taking another step away from their Arjen Lucassen side-project roots and consolidating their 'band' status further still, Stream of Passion delivered another impressive album earlier this year, 'Darker Days', the second in their current guise. With much of the music press lumping them in with the female fronted symphonic metal movement, in one sense, it seems they are now regarded as a fully-fledged band in their own right but, in another sense, it's ironic that the point has been missed entirely as Stream of Passion have continued to diversify their sound and style, and retained the progressive roots initially established by Arjen. Sure, they have symphonic elements and a female vocalist, but their songwriting is far from generic. Over in the UK as a last minute addition as support to Leaves' Eyes after Visions of Atlantis pulled out, Metal Discovery met up with the band's Mexican frontwoman, Marcela Bovio, backstage at the Underworld in London an hour before they were due to hit the stage. Running to a tight schedule, Marcela chats away while applying her makeup. With a previous failed attempt at playing the UK, I begin by enquiring whether everything was fine in actually getting into the country this time...
METAL DISCOVERY: So you had no problems at customs this time then?
MARCELA: No, it was brilliant. Basically, this time, I took more papers than necessary.
(Marcela Bovio on Stream of Passion diversifying their style for latest album 'Darker Days')
"‘The Flame Within’ was a little bit more straightforward, a little bit more energetic and, at this point, I think we wanted to just see what else we had in us and just basically open our horizons to incorporate more different kind of stuff."
Marcela Bovio backstage at the Underworld in London, UK, 21st October 2011
Photograph copyright © 2011 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Just in case!
MARCELA: Just in case! And they didn’t even have to see anything!
MD: So how did it feel to break your UK gig virginity in Manchester last night?
MARCELA: Ah, it was brilliant. It was so great and so crowded. The audience was very enthusiastic; they were amazing. And the town was lovely. I’ve never been to Manchester before so we took a look around and hung out in the little student area around the Academy. It was brilliant.
MD: Last time we spoke was just before you toured Canada and you baked a Canadian cake with a maple leaf on.
MARCELA: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: Did you get as excited about the UK?
MARCELA: Oh, definitely! The thing is it was such short notice that I didn’t have time to bake a cake for it. Believe me, if I had the time, I would have made a two storey cake!
MD: I remember you saying before that you felt like you were becoming the house band for the P60 in Amstelveen because you’d played there quite a bit and I noticed you had your album launch show there as well this year. How did that go?
MARCELA: It was brilliant. We were also a bit nervous because it was the first time we were playing the new songs and, of course, there’s always the question of how people are going to react to them. Yeah, the audience was great and the whole concert ended up on the internet because someone was filming it. It was also great because people from all over the world could see it as well.
MD: So obviously ‘Darker Days’ came out this summer – a great, great album I think – and everything seems more emphatic this time around. The heavier parts are heavier, mellower parts more mellow, more prominent symphonic elements, some world music influences and it’s much more progressive too – did you set out to expand your songwriting in these ways at the start of the process?
MARCELA: Yeah, definitely. That was one of the main goals of the album, I think. ‘The Flame Within’ was a little bit more straightforward, a little bit more energetic and, at this point, I think we wanted to just see what else we had in us and just basically open our horizons to incorporate more different kind of stuff. Which is something that I love; I love to experiment and try out different things.
MD: With band members living all over Holland, would you say that distance and each of you working on the material discretely before you got together to rehearse and record has added to the greater diversity?
MARCELA: I think so, yeah. And it’s also especially very important into giving those songs a little bit more of the band sound that we were looking for which is also something that we really worked for on this album. After writing the songs, and before going into the studio, we had a couple of months period where we just rehearsed everything to death. So, basically, to get it into our system and to make sure that when we went into the studio we actually sound like a band.
MD: So you feel more like an established band the second time around now away from the Arjen roots?
MARCELA: Yeah, exactly, and that’s something that, I think, is always gonna be with us. It’s fine, you know, because Arjen was the one who made the band in the beginning but it’s nice to see we’re getting, every time, a little bit more of a different audience that knows us from the albums we’ve done without Arjen. So yeah, it’s great; it does feel like we’re doing our own thing.
MD: Obviously there are some dark and melancholic parts on ‘The Flame Within’ but they’re a lot more prominent on ‘Darker Days’. What led to the darker vibe on this album; the more sort of melancholic feeling?
MARCELA: A really big part of that is when I write about stuff that I’m going through at the time. For this album, I took a lot of inspiration about this whole transition that I went through from moving from Mexico to Holland. You know, the longer winters and the colder days, and missing my family and my friends. I think that triggered a lot of darker and doomier kind of things.
MD: So blaming the weather then!
MARCELA: Yeah, but not only the weather but the whole change.
MD: So the whole emotional experience of that.
MARCELA: Yeah, exactly.
MD: For a couple of tracks on the album you sing in Spanish but have you ever considered singing in Dutch?
MARCELA: Well, you know, the thing is I have. I love languages and I love learning them, and I think they tell you a lot about the people themselves. For some reason, I think Dutch bands don’t think it’s really cool to sing in Dutch and I think the audience as well…there are no bands that sing in Dutch because all music sung in Dutch is more popular, commercial kind of music.
MD: It can be quite a harsh sounding language with the throaty noise – would that translate well to music, or the music that you do anyway?
MARCELA: I think, for me, that wouldn’t be a problem because I would pronounce it a little bit different anyway. But we’ll see. I would like to.
MD: There are so many sublime melodies in your music through the vocals, so are the vocal melodies sometimes conceived before the music and the songs are actually written?
MARCELA: Yeah. I start, a lot of times, with a vocal melody and build the rest of the song from that. And, sometimes, it’s interesting for me to take a structure of a song and then build around it because then you don’t take the easiest way – you have to be a little bit creative.
MD: When you’ve written particular lyrics, do certain themes in the lyrics inspire you come up with particular vocal melodies?
MARCELA: No, usually I have all the music and the melodies ready and then I come up with the lyrics. What I do have is, when I’m recording vocal melodies, I sing gibberish…
MD: What kind of gibberish? Is there some standard gibberish that you sing?
MARCELA: No, it’s just like really total bullshit! [laughs]
MD: Whatever’s in your head at the time.
MARCELA: Yeah, exactly, and that inspires me sometimes to write them in English or in Spanish, or come up with a theme.
MD: I heard that ‘Darker Days’ was featured in Aardschok’s top ten list in July, obviously the biggest metal mag in Holland. Does it feel important to get that kind of recognition on home soil before anywhere else in the world?
MARCELA: Yeah, definitely. Aardschok is the law in metal in Holland so, for us, it’s just like a nice big thumbs up from the local press and a really big thing for us after Arjen’s left the band, which is getting ourselves established as our own thing, which is great.
MD: Yeah, and Arjen’s sacred in Holland and in the Dutch music press so…
MARCELA: Yeah, exactly.