THE GATHERING - SOUVENIRS - PSYCHONAUT
Holland's The Gathering is the kind of band that will either appeal instantly or induce strong contempt: there's seemingly no middle ground with the group, and no fair-weather fans. At the end of the day, that's the hallmark of a great collective, and The Gathering is indeed one of those, releasing such modern day classics as If_Then_Else and Souvenirs. In June 2007 Anneke van Giersbergen, vocalist in The Gathering for 13 years, announced her departure from the band and quickly informed the world of her new recording project, Agua De Annique. The act is similar to The Gathering in spirit, and if you're a fan of latter-day The Gathering efforts, Ague De Annique debut Air should be considered essential listening. Air is a dark and touching affair and much like The Gathering's best moments, is able to draw out a fervent attachment based on a mutual understanding. What the hell does that mean, you ask? Only that Air is a sad, contemplating (with flourishes of the positive, mind you) record that will affect immediately and directly if you let it. Metallian's James Tape spoke to the friendly Anneke van Giersbergen about her new band.
METALLIAN: What are the goals for your new band? What are you trying to accomplish?
GIERSBERGEN: I wanted to release my own songs. I have so much and so many songs lying around. I write too many (laughs). I had an overload that I could choose from and I just really wanted to release them and record them in a really nice way. I wanted to do something nice with them. So that goal is already accomplished. I'm super happy and proud of what we did and how it turned out. To do the album was my biggest goal and now we're going to go out and do interviews and play. Of course, I hope everybody likes it. But that's actually secondary to what I planned to do, which was just to release this music.
METALLIAN: The band name incorporates different languages (note: Spanish and French). How did you come up with it?
GIERSBERGEN: I wanted it to be a band name because I like being in a band and I didn't want to use a solo name. The Anneke van Giersbergen Band doesn't really sound right (laughs). But I wanted to make it symbiotic between a solo artist name and a band name. Annique is a different form for Anneke, and it sounds a bit nicer. But I wanted a band name too because it's a group thing even though they're my songs. So it's kind of an in-between thing. And 'agua' is the Spanish word for water. Water is a metaphor and you can use it in so many ways and it has so many forms. It can represent things like go with the flow, or the beauty of water. And we consist of water and the world consists of water. There are so many metaphors possible. So I thought Anneke's water was nice (laughs).
METALLIAN: And the name is sort of exotic because of the different languages.
GIERSBERGEN: I'm Dutch so maybe if you're Spanish or French it's not exotic (laughs), but for me it's nice to combine them.
METALLIAN: What about the record title, Air... where does the title come from?
GIERSBERGEN: The elements, water and air, are appropriate for this part of my life. It's about going with the flow and being up in the sky with my head in the clouds. I get a lot of my inspiration from wondering with my head in the clouds. I really like the aviation themes in the promo pictures with the stewardess stuff, and that's all up in the sky.
METALLIAN: Where does your inspiration for this dark music come from?
GIERSBERGEN: I think just life. There are songs that are a bit more dark and melancholic and romantic. I really like this feel. I'm a happy person and positive, but we all have our moments. There's always some sadness and dark stuff going on your life. To out this and to write about it, that makes the music dark. But there are also songs that are happy and not very deep at all. This is a side to life, as well. It's a balance between all these character aspects of being a human being.
METALLIAN: Some people find it harder to write dark music as they get older. Do you find that's happening in your case?
GIERSBERGEN: I understand that might be the case because when you're older you're wiser, if everything goes well (laughs). And then you're more balanced. The good and the bad stuff are not so far apart anymore, I think. In my case, when you're young everything is black or white. You're either very happy or very sad or very angry. When you get older, there's a whole big grey area in-between that you try to find balance in. So you get milder. And then your music is milder, as well. And that's happened in my case. Things are not as dramatic as they used to be.
METALLIAN: You were in The Gathering for 13 years and left the band recently. What caused your departure from the band?
GIERSBERGEN: It was a process of about a year or three-quarters of a year. And a feeling occurred to me that after 13 years in the band -- which was forming my life, because it was a very intense group”¦ your daily life has to do with The Gathering - I wanted a change in my life. And by that I mean in my musical life and my personal life. You get the feeling and then it goes away and it comes back and then it comes back stronger: it was a process. One day I thought, 'Well, this is it.' It was time to change. I have a son who's two and a half years old and it's getting harder and harder to be apart from him when touring. I wanted to develop some different things in my life and the biggest thing is to be with my family and to do everything that I want to do. The one goal is to combine my music as much as possible with my family life and with my son. I also wanted to work with other people. And I wanted to make this record of my own, and I was just ready for it.
METALLIAN: After that much time in a band, a lot of people would get very comfortable in the situation. Was it difficult to leave The Gathering?
GIERSBERGEN: That's exactly it, it gets comfortable. Musical life is really outrageous sometimes, and nothing is ever the same. But, then again, it is. You tour every year and every year you make a record and so it gets comfortable. But it's kind of a weird lifestyle. And with The Gathering, because I had been in the band so long, you knew exactly who everyone was and what they do. And when you're on the stage and in the studio, you know exactly what ideas are happening. So this is a very, very nice and comfortable thing. It's can be a choice never to leave that because it's so nice, but because of that I also wanted a change. It's kind of a double thing. You want a change, but you're also going to miss being so comfortable and being with people who you know so well.
METALLIAN: Some are quite surprised that your new band is so similar in style to The Gathering. What are your thoughts on this?
GIERSBERGEN: I don't blame people for saying that. My vocal lines and voice has put quite a stamp on the sound of The Gathering. What I did with The Gathering was very much me, putting my input into the music. And I was one of five people who wrote The Gathering's music. So my music will have similarities because it's my music and my sound again. And, of course, I love the dark side of this kind of rock music. And the romantic side. Both are in The Gathering, as well. I don't blame people for thinking or experiencing similarities because there are (laughs). A difference is that this new music is a bit more raw or pure. There aren't so many layers. Only one person wrote this music, and in The Gathering it was five people”¦ so with five people there's a lot of ideas, and a lot of detail. This new music is different because it's a bit more naked. That's a difference. And in detail, it's much different. But I definitely understand the similarities.
METALLIAN: I noticed while listening that there were, like you said, less layers. Were you specifically trying to do that while writing and recording the new record?
GIERSBERGEN: Not really. Maybe that's also a big difference, I never thought about the music. My songs were already written. I write most of it on piano or guitar, so they start off being very small songs. But they're whole songs, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-end. They're very straightforward songs, but I wanted to record them with a band. The other guys in the band, the guitarist and bass player, they made these songs richer in the chords and melodies. They put their own input into it. The songs sort of went as they did. I never thought that I wanted certain sounds or that I wanted to keep this or that. I just wanted to air out the songs just how I thought of them, and how they were in my heart and mind. And then I put them on record, and that was it. And the guys made the songs richer with better guitar chords or better drum rhythms or stuff like that, but never did I sit down and produce the record. I never thought this layer should go here or there. It kind of did what it did. So that's why it's quite straightforward.
METALLIAN: Do you think you'll tour North America for this record?
GIERSBERGEN: Maybe, I have no idea (laughs). We are licensed in America with The End Records so there is a chance we'll come for some promo or some gigs, but I have no idea. People have to react to the music and then we'll see what happens. We start playing in November in Holland, and we'll see when the record is out whether people like it or will give it a chance. If so, we'll probably be booked. But for now, I don't really know how it will work out.
METALLIAN: There's a definite Radiohead and Portishead influence on this record. Are you a fan of those bands?
GIERSBERGEN: Yes, very much. I very much like English pop music, so there will definitely be some Thom Yorke (Radiohead vocalist/guitar player) influences.
METALLIAN: A tour with Radiohead would be ideal.
GIERSBERGEN: Oh yeah! (laughs) Indeed. That would be a dream.
METALLIAN: When you picture your audience in your mind, who are you visualising?
GIERSBERGEN: I think it's the alternative crowd, but the alternative world is so broad. It goes from metal to English pop music, so it's so widespread. You can't really tell. Today I had a face-to-face interview day in Amsterdam. The press was so widespread, it was from girlie teen magazines to the serious alternative music magazine and serious rock music magazines. But then I also did an interview for Playboy magazine which was very funny and then I spoke to the biggest TV guide in Holland. I'm so proud because the music seems to appeal to a lot of different kinds of people which actually The Gathering's music did, as well. But maybe with this music I can make a little bit more of a bridge to a bit more of a mainstream crowd because it doesn't have the metal stigma. And people who read the television magazine I mentioned didn't give The Gathering a chance because The Gathering was very alternative but very metal and gothic.
METALLIAN: Many bands that expand outside of metal have a difficult time finding a more broad audience. A definite example of this is a band like Anathema. They can't bring in the mainstream crowd because everyone still views them as a metal band even though they don't write and record metal anymore. It must be difficult being in that situation.
GIERSBERGEN: It's difficult. And it was difficult for The Gathering and a lot of those types of bands. It's so weird though, because all it takes to realise they're not metal is one listen. People in Holland, for instance, everyone knows The Gathering's name and everyone knows that the band comes from the metal and rock scene. And then people who understand the scene or want to give it a listen, they understand they we evolved and did a lot of stuff. All the other people will say, 'Oh, The Gathering? It's metal.' Yeah, The Gathering is metal but it's also dark rock. It's also pop. There was such a big catalogue of different sounds.
METALLIAN: My favourite two songs by The Gathering are 'Analog Park' (from 2000's If_Then_Else) and 'Broken Glass' (from 2003's Souvenirs). What are your thoughts on those two tracks?
GIERSBERGEN: I like that you say that because they're some of my favourites too, especially 'Analog Park'. It's jazzy with an edge. I love that. There are very good keyboard melodies and the mid- part really rocks and this song represents very much what The Gathering is all about.
METALLIAN: What was happening when you guys were writing those songs? Where were they coming from?
GIERSBERGEN: Those songs especially are about life. 'Analog Park', for instance, is really about sitting in the park on a bench and watching life go by. Sometimes when you're in a band and you're touring, you'll come home and everything has changed. The roads have been re-built was you were away. Like the ones right in front of your house, and you realise that you live your life in a little bit of a bubble. And then you see the rest of the world passing around you. It's really weird sometimes.
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