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Interview: Vincent – Appollonia

People that follow this website might have noticed that i’m quite the advocate of French band Appollonia. In the overcrowded doom/sludge scene they are one of the more original bands as they add hardcore and metal in that mix (or they add doom/sludge to their hardcore/metal, depending on how you look at it ofcourse) and in my opinion just write very original songs.

Another thing that makes Appollonia stand out from the crowd is the use of different types of vocals. Where a lot of bands go for the unoriginal and rather lame growl they use normal/clear vocals, almost spoken word style and a screaming and growling voice. Which makes things a lot more appealing.

Unfortunately not too many people share my enthusiasm yet, but i like to believe that’s just a matter of time. Especially when i see the piles of crap bands that do get signed by bigger labels i think that at some point one of those labels will wake up and sign this band.

So in my quest to convince all of you that Appollonia is worth your time i asked guitarist/vocalist Vincent Méry some questions. If you can’t be bothered with reading the interview i suggest you skip to the bottom where there is a link to their bandcamp. On which you can listen to all their albums. Give it a go if you like your music heavy but original!

Photos in this interview are courtesy of Live for the show

The last time I had an interview with you was in 2008 when Among Wolves was just released, can you give a little summary what happened between releasing that album and recording your new album?
 Well nothing really big happened in the meantime. We just kept going our own way. We played a bunch of shows and went back in the studio to record our second album “Blank Solstice” which came out on Maximum Douglas Records in late 2009. Then, same pattern again, we played a bunch of shows and started working on some new material when our drummer Christophe told us he wanted to leave the band as he wanted to focus on his other passion which happens to be yoga. That was a pretty big shock for us but shortly after, Michaël filled in. When we played our last show with Christophe, he came to us and told us “If you guys are looking for a drummer, I want in!”. There was no audition, no nothing, we already knew him and felt he’d be perfect for the job so we just started working on some new material with him… and that’s pretty much it. We started recording “Crimson Shades” in July 2011 and the album came out earlier in 2012. We’ve been pretty busy actually…

Your new album was recorded with a new drummer, Michaël, was the writing and recording session with him a lot different compared to before?
 Definitely yeah. Christophe used to overanalyse everything and compose drums patterns in a very… “cerebral” way. He was very methodical. Michaël is just the total opposite. He’s a jerk-of, he doesn’t analyse shit. Ha-ha! He plays whatever comes to his mind at the moment and most of the time he doesn’t play the same part twice the same and keeps changing tempos all the time. Sometimes, it’s a problem but globally, I think it’s one of his biggest strengths. He’s very spontaneous and heartfelt. He’s probably not the greatest drummer in the world but he’s got soul to his playing and that’s worth a lot. Plus he’s got an amazing voice and tons of cool ideas. Sometimes, he drives me crazy but I’d lie if I said I didn’t love playing with him…

Crimson Shades has been out for a couple of months now. How are the responses to it?
 Nothing short of amazing! I’m not bragging about anything but we got used to receiving pretty good reviews with our first two albums but the ones for “Crimson Shades” have really knocked ourselves out. We were like “you’re sure this review is about OUR record?”! Ha-ha! Sometimes it even came from people whom we were pretty sure were not gonna dig our music but surprisingly they did, and not just a little! We’ve still got a long way to go but for now, everyone seems super enthusiast about the new album and that’s brought us a lot of joy. When you hear someone saying “this is the best post-whatever-core album I heard in a long time”, it’s motivating. You know you don’t sell suitcases of your albums and you know you don’t get to play all of the cool venues with all of the cool bands but these insane reviews tend to pump you up. You’re like “After all, maybe someone out there gives a fuck about what I do”. It’s pretty soothing.

How do you look back at Crimson Shades now? Are you satisfied with how it came out, either soundwise and/or songwise.
Well, you know how it goes. Once you start being too self-satisfied you end up lazy and jaded so no, I’m trying not to be entirely satisfied with it. Ha-ha! But though I’m not entirely satisfied with it, I think it’s a great album full of good songs, cool riffs and beautiful melodies. With the tiny ass budget we recorded on, I couldn’t be happier with how it sounds. I think it sounds awesome. Franck HUESO once again did a great job on this one. It’s not perfect and, from today’s perspective, I wish I’d have done a few things differently but globally, I’m pretty happy with it. It’s pretty rare for me after such a short while but I still really enjoy listening to it. So yep, definitely satisfied with everything.

From our previous mail conversations I understand you would like to go out and promote the album live. Are there any gigs lined up?
Not many nope. It’s been almost impossible for us to book shows this year because of Michaël’s job. I hope things will get a little better in 2013 and we can visit more cities. We’ll play something like 5 shows before the end of the year and that’s probably gonna be it for 2012. I find it super frustrating… of course, we could be playing every two weeks in our hometown but that doesn’t make any sense, we need to go play elsewhere. We should be able to do that next year.

A European trip fell through recently, are you still open to that in the near future or will you be focussing on writing again first?
Well you know, since we didn’t play much live this year we already had plenty of time to rehearse new jams so it’s not like we were gonna really focus on writing at a precise moment. It kinda never stops actually. As usual, we’re gonna take things as they come. When we’ll have gigs booked, we’ll rehearse old stuff and when nothing is scheduled in the near future, we’ll work on the new stuff. We have something like four new instrumental tracks ready and I’m almost done writing a fifth one. Things are looking good so far. We’ll see next year about a full tour but it’s more likely that we’ll focus on three-gigs-in-a-row small tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. That should be a lot more convenient for us as we don’t have the notoriety it takes to manage to book ten gigs in a row yet. When I get in touch with promoters, they’re usually not super enthusiast about programming us… they’re more like “but who the fuck are you?”. Ha-ha! We need to get that changing…

Do you see a progress in the way your albums are received by either the press or ‘normal’ listeners?
Yeah definitely. It keeps getting better. I don’t know why but I assume it’s because of the way we worked on vocals this time or maybe we just got better at writing songs? I don’t know. But we definitely felt a difference. Even though it still is pretty modest, we seem to have reached a wider audience with “Crimson Shades”. The media reviews so far have been absolutely awesome and I receive interviews request from all over the world… France, Russia, Greece,… it’s pretty awesome. I know you think we should do “Among Wolves” other and other again but you know that’s not gonna happen right? Ha-ha! Maintaining that heaviness while adding a whole lot of catchiness is what we’re aiming at.

Appollonia – A Landscape On It’s Own from armandb on Vimeo.

Appollonia’s lyrics have, in my opinion atleast, always been a little cryptic. Have the subjects of them changed throughout each album, and if so could you explain the main lyrical subject on each album?
Oh yeah, cryptic is what I’m aiming at while writing lyrics. I don’t want them to sound too straightforward. I mean, straightforward lyrics sound great on Hatebreed, Biohazard or… Mötley Crüe but even though I’ve always enjoyed these bands, it’s not exactly the kind of vibe I want to develop in Appollonia. I’m by no way a poet but I like images and sometimes images can be very universal. Usually, what happens is I start writing stuff without any idea of what I wanna express. Just throwing words and sentences on digital paper and after a few lines, I start to relate to these words and they kinda give me a direction. It’s almost a half-conscious process. The funny thing is most of the time, I find meaning to my lyrics after I’m done writing them. Sometimes, they even have a very specific theme and I’m like “oh… so this is what I’ve been writing about!”. I hate writing lyrics and I’m not really comfortable talking about them but if you have specific songs you’d like to discuss, don’t hesitate to ask, I’ll gladly answer cause there’s no global theme on any record that I can really point out. Each song kinda has its own history. How bad of an answer is that huh? Ha-ha!

What inspires the music and lyrics of Appollonia? (Is it Nasri when it comes to the angrier songs?)
Ha-ha! Samir Nasri could very well indeed be the trigger of it all! Ha-ha! All jokes aside, that’s a tough question to answer because as I said earlier on, I believe inspiration is a half-conscious process. You don’t really know why things tend to come out a certain way but they eventually come out that way so this is all pretty fuzzy to me. I believe it comes from what I live, what I see, what I listen to, what I feel, anything really. Something’s in the air or on your heart and you just translate it to notes, rhythms and words. It seems like the dumbest answer ever but it’s true, it’s not a cerebral process so it’s kinda hard to explain from where it comes from. Or maybe it just all comes from playing guitar on my couch in front of football games, you might just be right! Ha-ha!

In our previous interview the big amount of talented rock/metal bands coming out of France ‘all of a sudden’ was mentioned, that hasn’t stopped obviously with the likes of ao. Mars Red Sky, Eibon and Hypno5e. What do you think causes that? Is it because of the internet that a lot of bands are ‘discovered’ these days. Or is it just a very talented new generation of musicians?
The level has gone up, that’s for certain yep. I don’t know what caused that because the French authorities did not do anything to promote music to younger generations in the last decade, that’s for sure. But yeah, somehow, we seem to have great bands around here. However, and I might start to sound lick a jackass there, even if the technical level and the global seriousness of bands around here seem to have gone up these past years, I tend to think that there has also been a lot of crap coming out. Maybe not crap but at least not as interesting music as it is sold to be. I think some bands out there that have been gaining a bit of attention lack soul to their music. I’m certainly not only speaking about the French scene. It’s a global, worldwide thing that’s super amplified by the Internet. Every now and then you get that “next big thing” label to a band, you go check it out and it’s like, you get the smell of it but not the taste. There’s something missing. I’ve become a bit jaded about all that because I feel some really worth full bands are getting totally drowned in that permanent name-dropping box the Internet is. Or maybe I’m just a bitter old fuck bitching all the time and that could very well be the case so I’m just gonna skip to the next question! Ha-ha!

Do you have any hidden French gems for us?
Well I might not be the greatest guy in France to discuss that cause my curiosity has been pretty damaged the last couple of years by the permanent information flow the Internet has become. But yeah, you already named 3 that rock. Especially Mars Red Sky, I totally loved their album. I’m really looking forward to the next Birds In Row record to. I find it cool they got to sign with such a big label as Deathwish. They deserved it. The “old” guys are still here to! The latest Tang, Sleeppers and Dirge records are nothing short of amazing. There’s also one dude whose music I absolutely love. His project goes by the name of Third Mirror (http://thirdmirror.bandcamp.com). It’s just beautiful soft music. He records alone in his room and it simply sounds awesome. I find it to be super moving. And there are probably dozens of other bands that I’m too lazy to name that deserve to be checked out: Selenites, Totorro, etc., etc.,… I’m just forgetting too many. Sorry guys!

What’s the top 5 in your playlist lately?
Oh… so that’s the part where after sounding like a jackass, I sound like a total redneck? Ha-ha! Oddly enough, I’ve been diving back heavily into Kiss and Pink Floyd lately. The music industry seemed so different back then. You can feel bands were given the time needed to grow. It’s inspiring. As you know by now Armand, I’m some kind of power-pop bitch and the last time I went to see Nada Surf live, they had Waters opening for them and boy, I absolutely loved them. Bought their album right away and it’s 100% badass. The latest Jane’s Addiction also really grabbed my ear. Dave Navarro’s work on it is brilliant. Classy, totally not flashy but brilliant. And Defeater. I always seem to go back to them when I’m staring at my discotheque for something that grabs my guts. So… Defeater, Jane’s Addiction, Kiss, Pink Floyd and Waters. That’s my current playlist. But that may very well be Meshuggah, Wu-Tang Clan, Katatonia, Mötley Crüe and Elitist if you ask me tomorrow. That’s the problem with guys like me! Ha-ha!

Ok, that’s it from my side. Feel free to add anything you want yourself.
Thanks for that interview Armand! That was pretty cool! Thanks to you behind your screen who actually read that until the end. Now go tell your local club they need to bring that weird French band to town! Ha-ha!

Listen to Appollonia at bandcamp!
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