Eluveitie released their 8th studio album, Ategnatos, with Nuclear Blast Records on April 5th. I managed to catch the band Live in Belfast several years ago and it proved to be an incredible and quite unique experience. The band create a fusion of death metal mixed with traditional elements and instruments bagpipes, fiddles, hurdy-gurdy, harps, violins and more that combined with harsh vocals and metallic guitars and rhythm provide for a unique juxtaposing and enthralling sound. To discuss the release of their new album I managed to have a chat with their newest band member, Fabienne Erni, who joined the band in 2017.
ANTIHERO: So, how are you? Are you on tour at the moment?
Fabienne: I am at school. Can you hear me? I hope everything works. Okay, perfect.
ANTIHERO: I’m fine. All good at this end.
Fabienne: Good. All right, perfect.
ANTIHERO: So, at school, are you working as a teacher? Or what are you doing there?
Fabienne: No, I am actually still studying. I’m doing a master’s degree. I study music to become a singing teacher, so I’ve just had some singing lessons.
ANTIHERO: So, obviously then, the band is not your full-time career at the moment?
Fabienne: Well, it will be soon, because I will finish in the summer, and then it’s just Eluveitie.
ANTIHERO: Okay, taking you back, did you grow up in a musical family?
Fabienne: Actually, no not at all, kind of. So, my brother is doing music, but otherwise nobody. Like my parents, not at all. I don’t know why we love music, but just my brother and me, we just love it. And otherwise, it’s not really a musical family, no.
ANTIHERO: So, where did your training come from? I mean obviously, you’re competent on a couple of different instruments. Did you teach yourself? Or did you engage in study to be proficient?
Fabienne: Well singing wise, I always loved to sing of course, like everybody, every child, I guess. But I started when I was 15, I had this amazing singing teacher and I studied Complete Vocal Technique. It’s the singing technique in Copenhagen. And I went there to do some studies, for like four months I was there and so I sing with Complete Vocal Technique. And I learned the piano and the guitar when I was like, I don’t know, 12, around that, and the harp I started when I joined Eluveitie.
ANTIHERO: So, how did you go from that and learning new musical skills, to actually going and joining a band, touring the world and recording albums?
Fabienne: (laughing) Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. For me, the harp is very challenging, but I really love it, especially now on the new album. I think it has great parts and it adds some, I don’t know… it has a nice vibe and it has very nice parts, so I’m happy that I can do something when I don’t think.
ANTIHERO: Is it not difficult creating an album when there are so many band members? In terms of the artistic process and of the sharing and inputting of so many people’s ideas?
Fabienne: Not really. It is a bit of a mess sometimes, but you know, most of the songs, they come from Chigrel and he was working a lot with Jonas for this album together, and then we all bring in our own ideas. And especially Chrigel, I think he loves it, the more the better, you know? So, we are nine people and eleven instruments, I don’t know, that’s maybe a little bit Eluveitie and breaking it down is hard. That’s true.
ANTIHERO: How did you first join the band? Did you have to audition? Did you know somebody already in the band? How did you get in?
Fabienne: Well, that was a little bit crazy. I know Jonas, the new guitarist. I knew him a little bit before because he was at the same school like I am right now, and he suggested me, and he showed them actually a Disney song, when I was singing on a concert and I sang a Disney song, and he showed them. And they liked it, and they said yeah, maybe. Let’s just record Call of the Mountains and send it in. And first, I was like oh no, no no no no, this is too big, this is too much, I don’t know. But I thought some feedback would be great from such a band, it’s always good. And so, I just gave it a try, I recorded it in the cellar, just on the phone, it was really raw, so they just heard how I sound. And then I met Chrigel, I met the whole band, and I went to a concert to see how it is backstage. And I recorded something with Chrigel, I recorded a song just as a tryout, like how the chemistry is going, how we can work together, and so on. And it just kept on rolling, and three months later, they said they would like me to be in the band. And I was like, oh my goodness! And then I thought, okay let’s just do it.
ANTIHERO: Had you been in a band before? Or was that just your very first band?
Fabienne: Well, I’ve been in school bands, but not in a private band or something, I’ve never, just for school projects, and so Eluveitie is my very first band, actually. So yeah, it was a huge step.
ANTIHERO: A massive step, especially when you go and you perform live before some big crowds.
Fabienne: Yeah, I remember my very first show, where it was and I mean it was over 1000 people and I really was thrown into the cold water a little bit, because I’d never performed in front of so many people. You know also with the in-ears, for example, it’s just a little detail but also singing with in-ears, it was so new to me. And we just had little bit rehearsals before, and I didn’t know how the fans will treat me. I mean it was not really easy, you know, to become the new singer of Eluveitie and Anna has huge footsteps, and to step in those it’s really hard and I struggled a lot in the beginning, but overall I got such a nice and warm welcome, so now I feel so good to be in the band.
ANTIHERO: And you’ve been in the band now over two years, so you must be comfortable now?
Fabienne: Yeah. Yeah, now I am totally. Also, in the group, I was also… you know in the beginning, you never know will they like me, because I didn’t know them so well, and I was a bit scared of everything, but now it’s great. Yeah, we have a really good vibe in the group and that’s very important to me, because if you don’t feel comfortable in the group and you’re on the road and together 24/7… no, I could not handle that, so I’m happy that we have a good vibe together and we are like a little family on tour, it’s cool.
ANTIHERO: And then of course, what was it like… I mean Evocation II, that would’ve been the first album that you had ever been involved in making.
ANTIHERO: What was that like, making that? Going into the studio, and… just that whole learning process.
Fabienne: Yeah, well when I think back, that for me was very very intense. I was so nervous because we went to Tommy Vetterli, and I mean Tommy Vetterli is you know. I mean, he’s the Tommy Vetterli. I had no idea how it will go, but after the first minutes of just trying it out and getting into the song, I really felt comfortable, because he really knows how to make you feel good and really get the best out of you. Like he found the right mix of saying, “No Fabi, you can do it better”, but not putting me down, like “This is shit”. So for me, working with him, it was a huge help and I felt very comfortable, and of course, it was also just new to me. Like I got the song, and okay, now go record. I was like, oh shit, okay okay.
But I also had some freedom. For example, with Artio, this is when I sing alone, there I was totally free. I just had the lyrics and the melody, and I could just make the lyrics match to the melody and just do whatever, and that was also great experience for me. And what really helped me, and I realised that in the studio, when you really have to sing and put it on the point, that I create my stories around the songs, and this really helps me so much. Like I ask Chrigel, “What is this song about? What do I need to know? What is the feeling? What do we want to say?” And then I build my story, and then I can kind of dive in and not think, “Oh god, now I’m in the studio”. So, for Ategnatos, now I was a little bit prepared. I knew how’s it going to be, how the studio looks like, and I mean I was there for like eight days straight. I never left the building, kind of, that’s very tense. And also, it helps to get to know the people more, like the band members. So, it’s this really intense experience, and I learned so much and I grew a lot.
ANTIHERO: Did you feel more confident with this album? Obviously, Evocation was your first album, you were new to the band. Did you feel more confident in yourself on this album in terms of suggesting, making ideas musically?
Fabienne: Yeah, totally. I mean most of all, I think I’m more the interpret. I mostly get the lyrics and get the melody, and then I can bring life to it. But I always try more. And I was like, maybe we can add this and what about the last chorus, let’s make it bigger and longer. And so I added some ideas. Or one song, actually, just was built in the studio, Ambiramus, and there I could really give in some inputs for also the melody and stuff, but I’m still a bit shy with this. But I think the more confident I get now, the more I can give.
ANTIHERO: Obviously then at the moment, this is a full-time job for you. You’re currently, as you say, at school. How are you going to combine the two? Between your study and touring.
Fabienne: Yeah, well the good thing is I study music and, I don’t know what’s it called, the guy that owns the school, he was like, “Yeah, you have to do this. It’s great. And we will support you, and when you’re not here when you’re touring, this is fine. We will make it work.” So they were very supportive. But I feel it now, I’m really not that often at school. But I hope everything will go fine, and I will make my master’s degree, that would be awesome, so I would be finished in September, and then I would have the whole time for just doing music. But I have to say, I really like it, to switch between the two worlds. Like we are on tour, and then it’s just you sleep, then you get up, sound check, food, fans, talking, and show, and party, sleep. A little bit like this, overall. And then you come back to school. And this, I love it, to switch between the two worlds, but it also takes a lot of strength as well. I can feel it sometimes. Sometimes I’m really done.
ANTIHERO: What about dealing with fans? Do you find that stressful? Do you find it easy? Are you a shy person? How do you find that, because you have quite some extremely passionate fans who have followed the band for many years?
Fabienne: Yeah yeah yeah. I have to say, I love it. It gives me a lot, and I’m so happy when I can make them smile as well. Like when we talk, it’s so nice to connect. This is what I love. Also, we were in South America in February, and their fans were waiting at the airport even. And you know, although we were so tired and blah, feeling like shit, it gives me a lot when I can talk to them and when I can make them happy, they make me happy, so what more can I wish for? Yeah, I have to say, I really like it, to connect with the fans. I still think it’s a bit crazy for me, like when I get presents or they want to take selfies. I mean, I’m very happy when I can make them happy, but I still think it’s a bit crazy.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. Or people wanting to do interviews with you as well, I guess.
Fabienne: Exactly, and I’m still a little bit nervous for interviews, but I think it’s just doing it all over again and again and again. But also, it’s part of the job and I like it.
ANTIHERO: How do you feel, is it difficult for you personally to combine… obviously, you trained in mandala harp, is it difficult to combine that with the hard sort of extreme metal that you play as well? Is it difficult to combine the two? Completely different musical styles.
Fabienne: Yeah, I think there is a lot of space for the harp and for the folkies. I think when I would only play when it’s the metal part, probably you will not really recognise it, but also now in Ategnatos, I think I got really nice spots where it adds some magic, I don’t know. It just gives it a new timbre to it, so this is nice to have those spots. And otherwise, I think it also adds some groove. Like you don’t really hear it that well when it’s the metal section playing everything together, but without it, something would be missing. So, I think we found a really good middle for the album now.
ANTIHERO: What about touring then? How do you find it? Do you get much time, or is it a busy schedule? You mentioned South America, will you get time to maybe explore the culture or meet the people outside of performing live?
Fabienne: Yeah, this depends a little bit. I love it when we have off days because then I can really be… I’m still a little bit, not stressed, but still a little bit tense when I know, “Oh god, tonight is a show”, you know? And then, the thing is, when you tour around, I mean it’s great, you see nature. When you’re with the Nightliner, you can watch out and you see nature, that’s awesome. But usually you only have like two hours break, and then there is sound check, two hours break, then there is dinner, oh shit I have to do makeup, and maybe meet and greet. Sometimes it’s really hard to actually get to see some nature, like what I’m most interested in. And usually, the clubs are in the cities, maybe in the industrial area. But still, I always go for walks around the venue, and I think we still get to kind of touch the culture a little bit, like food wise, what the venue provides us or also talking to people, then you can really feel that’s different culture, and we can talk and that’s great, but I love it when we have off days.
ANTIHERO: So, what about then, you mentioned the touring schedule, are you busy then pretty much for the rest of the year?
Fabienne: Yeah, yeah, we have a really tight schedule. This is a bit crazy. Now we go to Australia, China, and New Zealand in May. And then we have huge festivals like Wacken. I’ve never been to Wacken. I’m very excited to see that. You know we do Download, and just Summer Breeze, and that’s going to be pretty epic I think. And then we go to North America in September, and a Europe tour until the end of the year. It’s pretty packed.
ANTIHERO: But I mean, on the other hand, the negative side, it doesn’t really give you much time to spend with family and friends?
Fabienne: Yeah, that’s true, but I stay connected with my two best friends a lot. I mean we WhatsApp and Skype, so that’s okay. And we are back on Christmas, this is important for me. So that’s okay.
ANTIHERO: So, you get a little time off at Christmas?
Fabienne: Yes, exactly, exactly. And it’s quieter. So, it’s just until like the middle of December we’re pretty, how do you say, stuffed with… I don’t know.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. You’re busy.
Fabienne: Yeah, busy, exactly.
ANTIHERO: Okay, that’s brilliant. Thank you very much. Actually, I think regarding your tour, you come to the UK September, October maybe?
Fabienne: Yeah, yeah. Yes, yes. I think we play a festival. Bloodstock?
ANTIHERO: Bloodstock, yeah. That’s correct in August.
Fabienne: Bloodstock, yeah exactly. And then I think in October, or November? No, it’s in November, I think, we come. Where are you from? You have this special accent.
ANTIHERO: Well, I’m actually originally from Northern Ireland.
Fabienne: Oh, I thought so, it sounds a little bit Irish.
ANTIHERO: Yeah, but I have lived in Manchester for four years now.
Fabienne: Okay. Oh wow, yeah I love the north, like England, Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia, this is the countries I really feel like my heart belongs to.
ANTIHERO: I’m actually going along, hopefully, I think you’re playing Manchester at some point before the end of the year, so I’m hoping to get along to that show.
Fabienne: Ah that would be awesome, yeah.
ANTIHERO: So, I’ll hopefully get to meet up with you and the rest of the guys in the band then.
Fabienne: Yeah, yeah, of course. If you want, we can also do another interview, whatever, you just…
Yeah, that would be awesome.
ANTIHERO: That would be brilliant.
Fabienne: Interview in person, wow.
ANTIHERO: Yeah, that would be nice. Okay, thanks very much for chatting to me today.
Fabienne: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.