Interview: Alcest

von am 20. Januar 2014 in ...in english please!, Featured

Interview: Alcest
© William Lacalmontie

Their fourth  record ‚Shelter‚ is a huge change of style for the french duo Alcest, leaving all Black Metal trademarks from the past behind to focus on a more Postrock and even poppy Shoegaze-Sound. Drummer an Les Discrets-musician Winterhalter talked right before the concert in Vienna at January 17th of 2013 about this paradigm shifts among other things.

HeavyPop: How are you?
Winterhalter: I’m fine! I’m really excited for the beginning of the tour and the first show.

So, this is already your 5th time in Austria, right?
Yeah, I think so, we played a lot of times in Vienna; I think the last time was in 2012 with Katatonia, it was a nice gig.

Your new album ‚Shelter‚ is going to be officially released on January 21st, which is 4 days from now, yet many people have already heard it – what’s your perspective on leaks, or online piracy in general?
We already released two songs officially, ‚Opale‚ and Dèlivrance‚, and a few weeks after that the full album was leaked on the internet. So people are already listening to it and there is already some feedback. You know, it’s always difficult and this album is quite different from the other ones, so it’s kind of a big risk, but the feedback is good so far.

Since you’ve changed your style quite a bit since your last album, do you think there’ll be a change in the demographics of the audience at the concerts?
We will see. For the new album, when we were rehearsing the songs, we decided to try to make the same music but with different tools. Like, before, we were using a lot of metal tools, like blast beats, screaming vocals and heavy distortion. And we didn’t want to make the same album over and over again. We are always trying to do something different, and to do what we want. So, we are trying to move Alcest into a more rock/indie rock direction, maybe even movie soundtrack-like. Perhaps some of the fans of our early work won’t listen to our new music because it’s too soft or too different, but on the contrary there might also be new people who discover the band, so we’ll see. To us it’s still the same music, the same band. And maybe the distortion will back for the next album. For now we don’t know, we are just trying to do what we want at the moment and we’re doing our best.

Shelter‚ feels really optimistic, like it’s been written by a really happy person or band – did you feel that way a lot during the process of writing it?
Yeah, there are more happy songs on it, like ‚Opale‚. We’ve been influenced quite a lot by Iceland, where we recorded our album at Sigur Ròs Sundlaugin studio with their producer Biggie, and the studio is crazy, it#s an old swimming pool and the mood was really nice. The country is incredible, too – the landscapes are… it’s like some other planet. So, we were in kind of a bubble for the recording process… we also traveled around and were influenced a lot by the country and the people. When we were rehearsing the album,  it became clear to us that due to the change of style, we wanted to record in a different studio, so we contacted Biggie. With his help, we developed a more organic sound, and we used a lot of different instruments, too. Like piano, keys, vibraphone, and we also had strings from the girls of Amiina, who were the string section of Sigur Ròs. It was amazing to have real strings, it just sounds a lot better than a computer.

For the song ‚Away‚, you’ve worked with former Slowdive vocalist, Neil Halstead – can you tell me a little about this collaboration and how it came about?
It was a great experience. Especially for Neige, because he is a huge fan of Slowdive and he is also influenced by them. So when Neil accepted to be a guest on the song he was very happy and when he came into the studio in Iceland it was wonderful. He recorded the vocal part and Neige was very moved because one of his idols was singing on one of his songs. So yeah, it was a really nice experience and we had a really good time with him.

You’ve already announced in the midst of 2013 that the new album won’t incorporate any more metal elements – when has it become clear to you, that you want to pursue this direction?
We were already working on this album when our previous one, ‚Les Voyages De L’Âme‚ came out. As I said before, we wanted to do something different and not always the same. I think it was when we started the rehearsals and the composition, we were trying to be more organic, the rule for the drums was no double bass and no blast beats, for the guitar parts less distortion, almost just overdrive, huge layers of guitars, with a lot of reverb, more like shoegaze. That was the beginning I think.

On previous releases, you’ve always had 1 or 2 english-titled songs, how did it come about that the album title is now english, too?
We were thinking about whether the album title would be better in english or in french, and we decided it sounds better in english.

What would the title be in french, Refuge?
Yeah, right. And Iceland it felt like a shelter for us. Alcest also changed a little bit and it just felt like it was the right time to do. This album is also more happy, and when you have a bad day and not feel too good, maybe you can listen to this album and feel better. There’s a lot of meaning in the name of the record.

Is the style of ‚Shelter‚ something you think you’ll be pursuing in the future or do you already have some other direction in mind?
We started to rehearse four new songs and it’s different, we’re not quite sure, we got some demos and we are still changing the structure and move parts around a lot, so we are still working on the new sound of Alcest. But I think on ‚Shelter‚ we tried something, and because it was the first time we did something in that direction I think there are a few little mistakes, but also a lot of great ideas. I think for the next album we’ll see things differently and we will definitively try our best.

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