Following on from her sensational debut, Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine has returned with another breathtaking long player! Tomatrax caught up with Sylvaine to ask a few questions.
It’s been a year and a half since our last interview, what have you been up to over this time?
A lot of stuff has happened since we last spoke. It’s quite crazy how fast time has gone by actually, but since we last spoke I basically wrote my second album, recorded, mixed and mastered it, got signed to the great French/American label Season Of Mist and started up my live band for Sylvaine. There are so many things that go in to making and finalizing an album, that it really is time consuming, especially when you are doing a project on your own. Now I am in the final process for my second album, doing interviews and promotion for it, at the same time that I’m writing my third album. In a few weeks I will start rehearsing with my live band again, for some shows that we have planned during this summer.
Your latest album sees you use a range of vocal styles, how do you work out which approach to use on which song?
It happens in a quite natural way, in the sense that I tend to use whatever vocal style I feel the song calls for. On some tracks, the clean singing just didn’t reach the same extreme level of emotion that the music and lyrics were trying to express, therefore I decided to add screaming vocals, as they seem to communicate the outer edges of the emotional range in such a primal way, showcasing everything from extreme frustration, anger, fear, restriction and so on. It’s quite interesting how much of a difference it can make for the overall feel of the music and for the way the emotions are perceived
What made you pick ‘Wistful’ as the album’s title track?
I have a very special connection to the song “Wistful”, as I feel it embodies one of the main reasons of why I created Sylvaine to begin with. Every time I listen to this track, it takes me back to those moments when I first made it and makes me feel exactly the same as I did then. All of those sensations are still with me and still things I write about in my music today, so listening to “Wistful” still inspires me and connects me to one of the vital parts of Sylvaine. When the album was done, I really felt the word “Wistful” reflected the intentions of the album and the overall feel of it too, so I decided it would be the perfect name of the record and a chance to highlight the right track on the album.
All the songs on the album are longer than 5 minutes, was it the intention for all the songs to be long?
That happened very accidentally actually, as I tend to write music in a spontaneous way. I try to always write in a purely emotional way, not over-thinking my process too much, but just doing and making choices intuitively. The only important part is that the music expresses something real, something I think is most easily achieved by just letting your mind flow and work with whatever comes out at the time. This time it resulted in long tracks, as that felt the most natural to me for this record. I actually tried to force myself to write shorter stuff, something that resulted in the track “Earthbound”, which in the end, actually isn’t that short. I took it as a sign that this album was meant to consist of longer tracks, haha…
Where is the front cover taken from?
The cover artwork was made by a great, young, French artist from Bordeaux called Sylfvr. I found him quite randomly while searching around the Internet one day, and instantly fell in love with his work. The image for “Wistful” was made specifically for the album and I am extremely happy with the outcome. I think the image reflects the music on the album in a very correct way, so I’m thankful to have gotten in touch with Sylfvr for this project.
Your parents were also involved with music, do they have an influence on the directions you take as a musician?
I would say that their support is something that allows me to take the direction I want and need to as a musician. The fact that they both have been involved in music most of their lives, makes for a very understanding and supportive attitude towards what I have chosen to do with Sylvaine. I am super thankful for that and very happy to share this with them. I couldn’t have asked for better parents or done this without them!
Given you’re from Norway, why do you sing your songs in English?
A lot of people asked me this question, and the answer is simply that English seems like the right language to use to me. It feels more natural to express my lyrics in English than in Norwegian at this period in time. It could be due to the fact that English was the first language I spoke as a kid, as I’m born in the US, just like my father, and Norwegian was something I started to pick up a year or so later. In fact, I already started incorporating Norwegian in my music, like in “Earthbound” on “Wistful”, so who knows if it will develop further in the future.
Have you ever written songs in Norwegian?
As far as I remember, I only once wrote lyrics in Norwegian and it was for a kind of featuring/guest performance on a song a friend of mine wrote. Using Norwegian really doesn’t feel natural to me at this point, so I seem to default to English. It’s quite interesting how a language can change the feel of music quite a lot, so I suppose it also depends on what works best for a song.
What is the music scene in Oslo like?
It’s very much alive and thriving, with a whole lot of musicians and bands emerging all the time from all the different scenes. Every night of the week, you’ll be able to catch a concert live somewhere in town, in one of the many venues Oslo has to offer. We have a lot of indie pop/rock, electro-pop artists, EDM artist and also quite a few jazz musicians around these days. I definitely think these genres are dominating the scene in Oslo at the moment, even though the metal scene is still quite important too, but in general you can find pretty much any genre of music in the city. Most of the bands never make it beyond the Norwegian boarders though, as I think the music business in Norway is a bit too introvert and not connected with the rest of the world.
You’re releasing the album on vinyl, what made you decide to put it out in this format?
I always wanted to release my albums on vinyl, as I really love this format. Not only do you get the whole musical piece presented with the characteristic, vinyl sound, that usually is a bit more alive than other formats, but you also get a piece of visual art in the cover itself. I really wanted to release my first album “Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart” in this format, but it wasn’t possible at the time. Therefore I’m very happy that Season of Mist wanted to release “Wistful” on vinyl, as well as digitally, on CD and digipack. It’s very cool that this format has become trendy again, as I think it truly has something special to it. Hopefully, one day I will be able to print “Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart” on vinyl too.
Given you perform all the instruments yourself on the album, is it hard to transport the music from the studio to the live stage?
Seeing as my music is quite layered and lush, making live version of the tracks meant I had to boil the songs down to the essentials, to make them playable by only 4 musicians. We discussed using backtracks for some of the material played by other instruments or that we are not able to incorporate in our playing, but we are trying to avoid it for now as it brings in another element of insecurity to the whole stage experience. I would say the hardest part about bringing the music alive on stage was to find musicians that would be willing to join the band under the circumstances that I was offering. As all the parts are written already and I tend to want to keep the songs as close as possible to the originals, I was basically asking my musicians to play exactly the parts that were given to them. Of course I want the musicians to add somewhat of a personal touch, as this is something that will make the songs more alive during concerts, but it’s not necessarily a situation everyone would be comfortable with or happy in. Luckily though, I have been able to find some really great guys to work with for the live band, that are doing an excellent job so far, and the music is sounding really good in their live versions. I’m super thankful to be working with these guys and can’t wait to show the world what we have been up to since last spring!
What do you have planned once the album is out?
The plan is to start playing live and tour after the release of “Wistful”, to promote the album and Sylvaine. I will also keep writing my third album that I already started working on some months ago, which I have some finished tracks and a lot of ideas for at the moment. Other than this, I will just keep working as hard as I possibly can to make Sylvaine go as far as possible and to reach as many people with my music as possible. I’m very excited to see what the future holds for Sylvaine, especially after the release of “Wistful” the 13th of May!
Check out Sylvaine’s website to find out more!