DATE OF INTERVIEW:
24th August 2016
METAL DISCOVERY: You manage to convey so much emotion through your clean vocals, and that’s really prominent on ‘The Raven Eyes’, with its laidback, almost jazzy, lounge music feel. It really sounds like you’re feeling every emotion you’re singing. Is that the case? Is singing a profound emotional experience for you?
VICKY: Well, the thing is, I find the difference with acoustic songs, or bluesy, jazz… just songs where the instrumentation isn’t overpowering, is that the vocals can really shine. While I do enjoy singing metal music, it seems like you always have to be on ten; it always has to be aggressive or pushed or… you know, it has to match the music. So, the difference with ‘The Raven Eyes’ is the instruments are so much in the background and they’re not doing much that the vocals can really go from very soft, almost quiet vocals, to very intense, aggressive, and you really feel those dynamics. So, you feel that’s the case, maybe, with that song. Again, like for the rest of the album, when it came time to record, it was all very natural. I just feel like, maybe, it portrays more in ‘The Raven Eyes’ because of the instrumentation, because the centre of focus are the vocals and you’re able to hear every little detail.
(Vicky Psarakis on The Agonist's forthcoming new album, 'Five')
"...it’s a very emotional and diverse album and I feel like, even if you’re not a fan of the genre, because it’s so diverse, you’ll probably find one or two songs in there that you’ll like...There’s something in there for everyone. "
The Agonist - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2016 Deepti Suddul - FAYA - www.thefaya.com
Interview by Mark Holmes
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Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview
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MD: You have more breathing space within the context of the song to be able to express yourself in different ways, I guess.
VICKY: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You’re able to hear every little detail, every little breath or anything.
MD: Definitely. Your growls are great once again, as well, on this new album. They’re very unique and full of character, so do you deliberately try to avoid mimicking other growlers, to have your own style?
VICKY: I think so. The thing is, the way I scream or growl, like my technique… I don’t know if it’s the right way to do things, but I feel like you can hear my tone and always know it’s me because, yeah, I don’t do the Cookie Monster type of thing where I try to, like you said, mimic other growlers or screamers. There is a little bit of variety there, like there are parts where the growling might be a little bit lower or a bit higher pitched, but I feel like it’s the same tone, overall.
MD: I think, like you said, when you can hear tonality through the growls, that makes them more unique. I think someone like Tomas Lindberg from At The Gates is a good example of that because it sounds likes he’s growling in tune the whole time, which is what you do, I guess.
VICKY: Absolutely, and I think what it has to do with a lot is the fact that, when I was a teenager, I would listen to a lot of Swedish death metal, like At The Gates as your described, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and Opeth. And, all these singers, their growl is that sort of thing that you’re talking about, whereas I feel like a lot of bands that originated later on, from the States, like the whole metalcore genre, they’re more on the other spectrum of using that vocal technique where everyone almost sounds the same.
MD: Absolutely. Production was handled by Mike Plotnikoff this time, so was it felt a change was needed from Chris Donaldson, or was he just not available to produce the album?
VICKY: It was a mix. It wasn’t that we were dying for a change, because we absolutely love Chris and he’s great at what he does and keeps getting better and better. But, at the same time, I’m new to the band but, the guys, they’ve done four albums with him, so they did feel like they wanted a change, just for the sake of change, you know… [Laughs] And they also wanted to live the experience of going somewhere else as a band, living in a studio for a month and recording an album, because that’s how it’s done; that’s how bands used to do it; like, the proper way to record an album – not having to work your day job and then having to go to the studio after working for eight hours and tracking guitars, you know. So, it was for those reasons, mostly, and how we came upon Mike was actually through Napalm. They knew him and they contacted him; they played a couple of songs of ours from ‘Eye of Providence’, and he came back saying he’d be interested in working with us, so that’s kind of how we came into contact with him, and we decided to work with him.
MD: He’s done a great job; a fantastic job. Also new, as you just mentioned, Napalm, your new label home… was it a case of your contract expiring with Century Media and shopping around for a new home?
VICKY: Yeah, that’s exactly what it was. Our contract with Century was done and we had the choice of either renewing our contract with Century and, basically, on the same exact terms that it already was, or going to a different label. And we got a bunch of different offers from labels, and Century as well, and from what we had, it just seemed that Napalm was the best offer at the time.
MD: You have a new video just released, for ‘The Moment’ – how was the shoot? Looks like it was pretty wet from your perspective!
VICKY: Yeah, it was pretty intense. Chris, our bassist, who actually shoots our music videos now, he had the idea of creating this box out of flexi-glass, that could fit just my head inside, so that we could then fill up the box with hoses or buckets of water or whatever and, because it’s flexi-glass, he’d be able to shoot without you seeing the glass. So, he built that box and put a rubber thing on the bottom that I could fit my head through and pull it out again, and that’s basically what we did. We had a couple of hoses connected to the sides of the box and we would crank them on full, and water would be shooting everywhere, and I would do a take, then we’d stop, take a break, and do another take. Then, for the shots that we wanted to be completely under water, we had to use a couple of extra buckets, as well, because the hoses, they can’t fill the box really fast. We had two hoses running and two buckets in there at the same time… it was pretty crazy! [Laughs]
MD: There’s not a great deal of that footage in the video, but I’m guessing you filmed a lot of it…
VICKY: Yeah, well, that’s the thing – when you’re shooting a video, the best way to do it is to shoot as much as possible and, in the end, you’re only going to use, let’s say, one tenth of the material. But it’s always better to have more than to have less.
MD: So, it was worth being half-drowned for a whole day just for one minute of footage!
VICKY: Yeah, that’s basically what it is!
MD: Out of interest, there seem to have been quite a few comments on social media in response to some of the new promo pics, where people have been questioning if it’s actually you in the photos. Did you expect that kind of reaction from the look you have there?
VICKY: Yeah, I did a little bit, to be honest… maybe not that much! But, I did a little bit because just the styling of it is very different, obviously, than usual. But, I guess a lot of it, as well, is Photoshop, the colour correcting and stuff like that where, sometimes, people think it’s too much. And, I guess, that’s what it is. I mean, when I look at the picture, I know it’s me because I went through the process of putting on the makeup and fixing up the hair and shooting the photos, so I know that it’s me, but I can see how someone who didn’t see all those steps and just looks at the final picture, and they’re not used to looking at me that way, having that response.
MD: It was quite a funny reaction, I guess.
MD: You have some European headline shows booked for October, but no UK dates as yet. Are there any UK dates in the pipeline? Can we expect The Agonist back over here soon?
VICKY: Well, that’s the thing, we’re not coming to the UK this time around…
MD: Oh noooo!
VICKY: Oh noooo! I know! Unfortunately, we could only fit in a short European tour because we have a North American tour right after that, so we didn’t have the time to book a full Europe tour for a full month, or even longer. So, we kind of just got a few offers from a couple of cities and we went along with it. I think we actually did have an offer for London but, the thing is, if we’re gonna come to the UK we don’t just wanna play London and then just take the ferry back and leave. We want to, at least, visit three of four different cities. So, we decided to postpone that date and, I think, sometime in 2017, we’re gonna do another Europe tour and we’ll definitely try to get three or four UK dates in there.
MD: Good answer! Too many bands come over to the UK, play London, and that’s it. It’s like, what about everybody else?!
VICKY: Yeah, and it’s also out of the way, to be honest. To play the UK, you have to be able to take your van or bus or whatever, and ride the ferry, land there and then go back. It’s like, why would you do that just for one show?
VICKY: Yeah, it just makes no sense!
MD: Okay, my final question then, which I’m sure you’ve already been asked many times, but back to the album’s title, what are five good reasons people should buy ‘Five’?
VICKY: Five reasons?!
MD: Yeah! It’s called ‘Five’ so, on the theme of five, five good reasons?
VICKY: Well, that’s the first time I’m actually being asked this. Okay, I have to find five reasons. Alright, well, the first reason is because I feel like it’s a very emotional and diverse album and I feel like, even if you’re not a fan of the genre, because it’s so diverse, you’ll probably find one or two songs in there that you’ll like. You know, it’s not like a full death metal album, or like a full melodic album. There’s something in there for everyone. The second one would be to support the band, obviously, if you’re a fan. You should always support the band by buying the album. Erm… that’s two reasons…
MD: You don’t have to think of five, by the way!
VICKY: It’s quite a challenge!
MD: I know! I just wanted to end with a question about five! You’ve already given a very good pitch with two very good reasons, so we can leave it at two, if you like…
VICKY: Yeah… or, I could ask you, what do you think should be a reason to buy the album?! [Laughs]
MD: Well, I haven’t written my review yet, but I will be scoring it very highly. I gave ‘Eye of Providence’ ten out of ten but I’m finding this one more of a grower, but the more I’m listening to it, the more I’m thinking – maybe this is perfection, as well. So a ten out of ten album is a good enough reason to buy an album…
MD: Maybe that’s my good reason to contribute to yours… that’s three good reasons between us!
VICKY: Oh, that’s fantastic and I appreciate it. I’m really happy you feel that way.
MD: Thank you very much for your time, it’s been a real pleasure chatting.
VICKY: Yeah, same here, thank you.