Thursday, March 28, 2024

Interview with Under The Shadows by Dave Wolff

Interview with Elias Negrin of Under The Shadows by Dave Wolff

How did you develop your latest EP "I Before You" and promote and distribute it since its release? What do you believe are the most important things people should know about it? 
Hello Dave, really happy to talk to you!
The drive for me since my school years is to make music, and this project is no exception! It developed really fast, within a few months actually, from inception to completion! I decided to undertake full production responsibility this time except for songwriting and arrangements, stretching myself a bit more but was fun too! Gained more confidence in the mixing-production part as well.
As far as line-up is concerned, I tried a different model too. Instead of trying to find permanent band members in a more traditional setup, I tried collaborations with musicians that I already know (have worked with them before) or by networking with new ones and seeing how it turns out. This also gives me more possibilities for the future. It did save a lot of time but brought more responsibility on me to explain properly what I want and still give musicians some freedom to express themselves within the boundaries of the songs. I am also very happy that my son Aris has helped with drums, this is absolutely cool and look forward to taking it further!
Distribution for now is only digital, started small and simple to test the waters a bit, EP can be found on all major digital platforms, Spotify, Youtube, Applemusic, Napster, Bandcamp etc. In the future I might press some vinyl and/or CDs. Promotion is done via an agency. I have worked with Kostas (Salomidis) before (with my other band Julian’s Lullaby) and I am happy to work with him again.

How does the name Under The Shadows represent your vision for the band and why was chosen in that regard?
I believe it encapsulates the general music direction of the band, a bit mysterious, somehow dark, not heavy metal exactly in a more traditional way but still a good fit, could make someone think and it creates a mood.

Who are the musicians you've collaborated with? Which of them appears on your EP? Provide a brief description of how the EP was recorded and mixed, as well as what songs are included.
I have collaborated with Eric Castiglia from Italy on vocals, he has quite an extensive experience and a number of releases in the melodic death/groove/gothic metal and related genres which makes him quite versatile as a singer. For lead guitars, I’ve worked with Dimitris Koskinas from Greece, an awesome player both in terms of musicianship and personality. We have worked together in my other band Julian’s Lullaby, which makes him a really credible and professional partner. On drums, as mentioned, my son Aris has contributed which is great of course but challenging as well since it takes a lot of effort to provide the necessary direction. Last but not least, Anna Spanogiorgou has contributed with her beautiful lyrics. We have a long lasting friendship and collaboration since 2009 if I recall correctly. I appreciate her both as a person and an artist, she is also a fantasy novels writer and definitely can get inspiration from her work.
Recordings and mixing-mastering were done at my home studio in the Netherlands, all collaborations were done by exchanging files online which makes it very convenient nowadays. It all worked quite well given I had the songs at a pretty much completed stage so I knew what I wanted more or less. Of course, while laying down the vocals and lead guitar parts we tried a few things and did a couple of revisions until we got the best possible version.
The tracklist of “I Before You” contains four songs; “Black Butterfly”, “7 (Sweet) Sins”, “The Emperor and The Nightingale” and “Blue Dragon”. The style of the songs is a mix of 90s metal with an in-your-face sound, short, tight compositions mixing some more modern metal elements. Lots of experimentation and things I didn’t try in the past. Future songs can be somewhat different; it's all based on the mood.

The process of finding musicians to work with seems to have been relatively straightforward. Initially, did you think it might be harder to track people down?
The process was indeed fast in terms of execution, I did flirt with the idea of finding long-term/permanent members but that would basically take a lot of time, tried with a couple of acquaintances and it didn’t work so quickly pivoted to finding professional musicians which is a general idea I have for many years now.

How does Eric Castiglia's training in vocals contribute to Under The Shadows' ability to expand their range?
Eric is a professional session singer, musician and songwriter with far too many collaborations under his belt to mention. Did approach him through a web portal after listening to some of his work and thought his style could match what I was looking for. We did the first song “The Emperor and the Nightingale”, it worked well and decided to move on with the rest of the material. I like the fact that his voice is versatile and can do both clean and brutal/growls.

How much experience does Anna Spanogiorgou have as a fantasy novelist? How does she obtain inspiration for characters and storylines, and how does it influence her lyrics? How does this affect the songs of the band?
Anna has already released a trilogy and she is very active in this community of writers, sharing her own reviews about other books, joining events and other activities. Fantasy and mysticism are the main sources of inspiration. Her lyrics though come from a different, earlier era where they more fit into dark and romantic fields I would say. I like both aspects a lot and I am glad we have this cooperation going on for many years.

How does Anna incorporate fantasy and mysticism into her recent trilogy? In what events does she share her work and her thoughts on other literary works?
The trilogy is a fantasy story where the protagonist is a girl called “Katia”, she possesses magical and mystical powers that she is not aware of and has a mission she doesn’t know anything about in the beginning. She lives a quiet, peaceful life and suddenly things turn upside down when she is dragged to an adventure beyond belief visiting imaginary places out of this world, places and people she never thought of or dreamed about.

Are Aris's musical tastes similar to yours or do they differ? When working on material together, what is the process?
We share a lot of common tastes in music and go to concerts together, but he is also listening to a lot of modern stuff that I do not resonate with necessarily. Working together is great and challenging at the same time. Exchanging ideas is easy as we have all the equipment at home. The challenge comes in terms of organizing our time, difference in mindset (and age haha), managing expectations, things like that. In general we communicate quite well, and it is fun which is most important.

In terms of working together and exchanging ideas, how does having similar tastes in music benefit you? Are there any bands that you saw together that were inspirational to you?
Well, having some similar tastes or references when creating anything (music, or art) is always helpful in capturing the end result faster and with more accuracy. Imagine asking a jazz drummer (with no metal influences/ playing style) to record an extreme death metal piece! I recall for example Annette Olzon who had no metal experience before and she was not a good fit at the end when she replaced Tarja at Nightwish. Hm now that I mentioned Nightwish, I recall we had a very nice time actually at Sabaton and Nightwish shows some time ago in Amsterdam. And of course not to forget the all-time great Mr. Udo Dirkschneider having his son Sven on drums, how nice this is!

How much input did your band mates have during the production of "I Before You"? How many other musicians do you plan to collaborate with once your current release gets around? How do you hope working with different musicians will provide the band with a variety of musical styles?
Given that I have the overall idea and responsibility over the project, I provided the framework/concept/style I am looking for every song, then let them process it and give me their interpretation. This is the model I intend to follow for this project in general, work on my ideas as the songwriter and then based on the style I want for every song look for the right collaboration. Don’t have a pre-decided plan on how many musicians to use but definitely this model allows me to experiment with various sounds, styles and musicians.

Who is the promotion company that is helping you spread the word? Could they also promote the CD and vinyl versions of "I Before You"? Do they also promote Julian's Lullaby?
The promotion agency is called K.S. Music Promotion, it’s an independent P.R. and booking management and the plan is to work with them for all future versions of the EP. We have worked with Kostas via another agency to promote Julian’s Lullaby in the past, and possibly will work again in the future. Talking about Julian’s Lullaby, we have been working for our third album for some time now but personal and family situations have delayed the whole process considerably. Hope we can finish it this year.

In what circumstances did you first become aware of KS Music Promotion, and what events led you to partner with them to promote your music? How much effort do they put into promoting their bands?
As mentioned, I have known Kostas for a few years now and we have worked together through Julian’s Lullaby so I’m fully aware of their professionalism and effort they put in helping their bands. Communication and transparency is also something well appreciated. We are all grown-ups so no room for fuss and making things unnecessarily complicated.

How long has Julian's Lullaby been around, with whom are you working and how many releases have you made so far as a project?
Julian's Lullaby is a band I formed in 2006 while still living in Greece, we have released an EP and two full-length albums on CD format. We have changed a lot of members throughout the years but our line-up is more or less stable since 2012, currently it is myself, George and Anna on vocals and a couple of friends as session musicians on drums, bass and lead guitars plus some guests on piano and violins.

Musically and lyrically, how similar are Julian's Lullaby and Under The Shadows? What are the different ways in which these bands can be distinguished?
Hm, musically I wouldn’t say much, except for the fact that I am the main man in both! Although I would expect someone that likes one could also like the other. However this is not the idea. I also expect to attract new listeners who wouldn’t like Julian’s Lullaby per se. Lyrically you can find similarities of course, but the style of Under The Shadows is more aggressive and direct. Julian’s Lullaby is more melodic and romantic with lots of keyboards and symphonic elements. The vocals are also balanced between male and female, while with Under The Shadows things can be much more experimental. In the future though, I intend to try other things with Under The Shadows. I am not limiting my options.

Does Julian's Lullaby exchange files in the process of composing? What file sharing software is best suited for collaborating and assembling material? Are you in contact with the musicians with whom you are working online?
Since we live in different countries with most of the musicians I collaborate with, file exchange seems the way to go. The actual collaboration is online but not synchronous, if I get the question correctly. I send the file(s) using Wetransfer for example, explain what I need and then I get the file(s) back for review, asking for revisions until the result is the best possible.

As the new recording of Julian's Lullaby is completed, how do you anticipate it will sound? Is there a desire for you to continue to build on what they have created so far?
The Julian’s Lullaby material is done to a large extent already, so songs direction is known more or less. Vocals and guitar solos are still to be done but the overall sound is not much different from the previous album. As long as there is an appetite for doing more, then I can definitely build up. It is true that we haven’t been very active in the past years due to various, mostly personal and family reasons. Hope we can soon finish the album and be able to release it!

If you considered the differences between Julian's Lullaby and Under The Shadows, would you say working with them has a balancing effect on you as a musician?
Yes, this is a fair statement to make.

Back to "I Before You", could you describe what “Black Butterfly”, “7 (Sweet) Sins”, “The Emperor and The Nightingale” and “Blue Dragon” are about, and how much of Anna Spanogiorgou’s experiences are reflected in the lyrics?
I don’t personally know what every poem (they were initially written as poems) is talking about, but there is a common denominator in most of them. They are dark and romantic, for example “The Emperor and The Nightingale” is a fairytale if I recall correctly. Fairytales and imaginary places are all over the place, like in “Blue Dragon”. You can sense dark romance and melancholy in most of these songs’ lyrics and this brings a certain mood, character and personality to Anna’s writing. Sometimes, I add a few lines or change the words to fit the melody but the core concept stays mostly intact. These lyrics have been an inspiration to me. The idea is to use a variety of themes in the future but I must also admit that writing lyrics is not actually my cup of tea unless I have a topic I really like to write about. Writing music is my way of expression.

In what ways, if any, do you think "I Before You" will provide inspiration for the material you and Anna prepare for your next recording? Is it more likely that you will wipe the slate clean and begin anew? At this point, have any ideas been proposed?
I have some ideas already for new songs and plan to begin pre-production in the coming months. I have some lyrics from Anna still to use so I will see what works and if I need additional inspiration. “I Before You” is definitely a good baseline for the next release but like I said, I don't want to limit my options.

-Dave Wolff

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