Once Upon a Winter is a progressive post rock project from Thessaloniki, Greece. It began as an idea back in 2012, in Xanthi. In 2017, almost immediately after the release of the debut album, Selective Depression of the Big Bang, Ilias went back to the studio for the recording of the second album .existence, which came out this year.

Tomatrax caught up with Ilias to ask a few questions.

You’ve just release your second album, how does it feel to have it finished and ready to go?

Actually, the album has been released digitally on the 21st of February. Right now, we are in a stage of releasing it on vinyl and on CD with Snow Wave Records. It is a great feeling knowing that your music will be available on different formats, especially on vinyl, and I’m really grateful that I get to do this with the guys from Snow Wave. They are truly passionate about what they do, and really care about the music.

You received a fair amount of acclaim for your fist release, did this make you feel any pressure when making album number two?

No, not at all. There were moments that I caught myself thinking that the second album came out a little bit darker and heavier than the first one, but that’s about it. I really enjoyed recording it and taking care of every aspect. I was excited to share it with the world, and it felt right.

You started working on this album almost immediately after the release of your debut, what prompted this quick return to writing?

I really didn’t plan for this to happen. I just found myself in a very intense situation with unexpected moments, which prompted the creative process. Every song on the album came out unforced. Instinctively, as a mean to describe different moments of that particular story. Sometimes things just happen, and I’m glad that .existence came to life like that, out of the blue.

What made you pick ‘.existence’ as the album’s title track?

Well, at that time, during that intense situation, I found myself reconsidering a lot of my beliefs regarding what it means for a person to truly be alive, to truly exist and co-exist. Is it just a matter of personal choice? Are we just prey to the will of unspecified conditions, or are we the ones who define those conditions? So somehow I revisited the work of Arthur Schopenhauer “In the vanity of existence”. It may seem a little pessimistic, but I found comfort and strength within those lines. Also, the title of the first album was “Selective depression in chase of the Big Bang, describing a completely different set of stories. I found it fitting, as true existence came after the Big Bang, just like the story described on the secondalbum came after the stories described on the debut album. Maybe it’s a little bit silly, but I thought it was suitable and funny, in an ironic way.

What was the inspiration behind the album’s front cover?

That cover is a moment of brilliance from my friend Phren. We were having numerous conversations at that period, regarding everything. My story, the music itself. And I asked her if she could come up with an image for an album cover. And she created this beautiful artwork. Her creative process, behind the creation of the artwork, is described on her site.

This album explores various prog rock, metal, and classical elements, did you have an idea of the musical direction you wanted to take when you began work on the album?

The first song that was composed for this album was .existence. At that moment I knew that it was going to be a heavier album. I ended up incorporating more metal and blackgaze influences, but I don’t think that I did it on purpose. It just came out like this. I never hide the fact that besides post rock, I really enjoy metal music. I grew up listening black and gothic metal, so it is only natural to have these influences. Plus, just like on the first album, I do enjoy the use of classical elements with strings and piano melodies, in order to enrich the orchestration. I feel that these elements, combined with heavier guitars, can elevate the sound to a whole new emotional level.

What is the music scene like in Thessaloniki?

To be completely honest with you, most of my musician friends are in Athens. I know a whole lot more about the scene there, than the scene in my own city. I can talk in general about the music scene in Greece, that I do believe is thriving at the moment. We have a great post rock scene that is constantly evolving, with bands like Madebygrey, One hour before the trip, Message in A Cloud, Emi Path, Afformance etc. The main attraction, in my opinion, is theamazing prog scene with band like Mother of Millions, Need, Poem, Playgrounded, Sleeping Pillow etc. I honestly believe that the prog scene in Greece has elevated its game to a whole new level. Plus, we do have a great stoner rock scene with universal acclaims. Even though, stoner rock is not my cup of tea, I can’t diminish the popularity and impact that this particular genre has here.

Where did the name Once Upon A Winter come from?

Everything related to this project started after a strange winter. It was kind of a difficult period, but I think, overall, that period helped me a lot to find myself, both musically and in general. So, Once Upon A Winter is a tribute and a reminder of that specific period of time, as the start of a beautiful journey.

Given you’re from Greece, why are the song titles in English?

I’ve never given this much thought. Probably, because of the fact that I most of the music that I listen to is in English. Moreover, English is somewhat of a universal language, so I guess it’s a way to appeal to a broader audience.

Do you ever listen to your own music?

In both albums, I did the whole mixing and mastering process myself. So, I got to listen to every song countless times. That makes me grow tired and  forget the emotional level of each song, so after the completion of each album I find it hard to listen to the music for a long period of time. After the period is over, and I can relate to the music once again, I sometimes do return and have a listen, and I remember my thoughts, my feelings, everything that made this music come to life, but from a different perspective.

What music do you listen to?

Basically, it depends on the situation.  If I’m out with friends, I do enjoy listening to 70’s-80s Disco and Funk music, or in other cases hard rock and earlier heavy metal. If I’m in my place, which I guess this is where you truly listen to music carefully, I tend to focus more on post and metal subgenres. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of atmospheric/post black metal and blackgaze. Bands like Alcest, Lantlos, Les Discrets, Unreqvited, Falls of Rauros, Fen, Mesarthim, None, An autumn for crippled children etc.

Now that the album is finished, what do you have planned next?

Well, there are a lot of things going on. I’ve always wanted to perform all this music live, and finally I found a group of great people and musicians, that share the same passion with me. We performed on the 5th of October at my hometown in Thessaloniki as the support act for God is an astronaut, and it was truly an amazing moment. We are planning on a small Greek tour, playing alongside with bands from the Greek post rock scene. Moreover, I’m working on the third album, which seems to be a great successor to .existence, sharing the same intensity, in a deep emotional level.


Check out Once Upon a Winter’s Facebook page to find out more!