I am truly fulfilled when a band I have been following since early on makes it big. There is no better example of this than the epic Sojourner. On paper, you would think having members in multiple countries would never work but they have persevered and to great success. A signing to Napalm and a 3rd album out this year with “Premonitions” has made for a larger audience to finally hear what many of us already knew… a multi-faceted project that is ushering in a new era in symphonic metal with tangents into other genres. Two of the band member tackled some questions for us regarding the album, the signing, the process and some other things. Vocalist Emilio Crespo and guitarist Mike Lamb tooks turns at answering them and here is what they had to say… check it out…
Congrats on your latest album “Premonitions”, how has the response been to it so far?
Emilio: “Thanks for having us! We are really proud and happy with what is happening with this album already.”
Mike: “Thank you! And thanks for having us along to chat. The response has been amazing so far, it’s been so humbling to hear all the amazing feedback and some of the incredibly kind things people are saying.”
Let’s go back to your previous album “The Shadowed Road”…. were tracks already formulating for *Premonitions” already at that point?
Mike: “Not straight away, we tend to take a bit of a wind-down period after we finish an album so we can go into the next one fresh. But you do kind of get a feel for what you want to do and don’t want to do on the next one by the time the album gets a release, so we were formulating the general approach at least.
Did you have a discussion of what you had planned for the album as far as an overall sound/direction before tracks started coming together? Was there a “philosophical” direction you wanted to take with the album?
Mike: “I definitely knew that the next album needed to be a darker, more intense album than ‘The Shadowed Road’ was. We all agreed that after the light, more ‘epic’ and almost folk/power metal vibe of ‘The Shadowed Road’ that we wanted the next one to have hints of the atmosphere of ‘Empires of Ash’ while pushing forward in the direction we were heading in. Big production, tighter songs, and generally a more sonically ‘powerful’ approach…if that makes sense. I don’t really want to say ‘heavy’ because that implies it’s at the expense of melody and atmosphere, but something that has the weight and punch of heavier stuff without losing what makes Sojourner what it is.”
Why did you decide to call the album “Premonitions” and how did you arrive at the artwork for the cover?
Mike: “Honestly, I had a weird dream about two people coming across a giant owl statue covered in constellation etchings in the wilderness. It was one of those dreams that made no sense, but it visually really stuck with me, so I posed it to Bast (our artist) and he absolutely nailed it. I felt really strongly about the blues and yellows, those colours were very prominent in my head during the writing of the album as well. No matter what the art ended up being, those colours were vital. In terms of the title, it was a really rough year in several of our lives…and ‘Premonitions’ summarizes some of the foreboding, unease, and unhappiness we felt over the year that we produced the album. Thankfully we’re all doing a bit better now, but it was a really bad year.”
I feel that the overall feel is much more subdued, less frantic and more thought out… were track tempos, simpler song structure and easier to grasp tracks planned or just coincidence? Have you become more confident as a band that you didn’t feel you needed to be as complex?’
Mike: “I definitely aimed to have the songs feel more focused, I think we definitely have become more confident as individual musicians through playing as a band, and learned a lot as songwriters through the experience of producing the music that we have. Album by album you start to see where you fell down on various aspects, what you could do better etc. and a couple of those things were that the songs could do with slightly less meandering passages, and more varied and dynamic structures. I write the drums as well, Riccardo adds a few tweaks, but they get written during the writing process, and I really focused on more driving, powerful rhythms which I think really helped focus the tracks. Riccardo did an amazing job bringing those to life in the studio! And he adds a lot of interesting rhythmic flourishes in there too.”
How has the signing to Napalm altered the writing/recording/promotional process of Sojourner? Are there more/less obligations or has nothing really changed?
Mike: “It definitely affects the promotional process, they kind of push us to be a lot more active, which is a good thing. Writing and recording-wise though, nah, nothing changed at all. I spoke with them before we signed and felt it out make sure we still maintained full creative control musically and artistically. Visuals and full musical control are really important to me, and it’s something I couldn’t have signed over to a label. If you’re not doing the band for fun and making the music you care about, I don’t see the point anymore really.”
Now being on a label, are you more conscience of how downloading may affect not only the band but the label?
Emilio: “I don’t like to spend time worrying about something that you can’t control. If you work hard on promoting and getting it out there, people will want to buy it. Luckily, we’re also in the metal industry which is still very much physical (even though physical sales have declined in recent years) so if we keep pulling, we’ll stay afloat.”
I am still amazed how you are able to write/record given all of your various locales (UK, Sweden, New Zealand and Italy)… anything different in that regard that makes it easier or just that you have a process that works?
Mike: “Thankfully nothing has really changed along the way! The writing and recording is primarily done from my recording studio, and Chloe will send me stuff and we will deliberate over parts back and forth, and Emilio sends his vocals back to me, same with Riccardo’s drums and Wilson’s bass. But it’s all been very contained and focused on my studio since the inception of the band, so as long as there’s that home base we’ll always be able to keep doing it without too much hassle.”
Around the World
The Corona virus has certainly made many challenges for everyone but most of all touring musicians… how do you anticipate being able to make up tour dates, merch sales, etc?
Emilio: “We do the best we can. Fans have continued to support our merch store even with all that’s going on so we’re eternally grateful for that. The shows were, of course, cancelled but we are working to reschedule for next year. Darktroll, for example, has already been rescheduled for next year.”
You recently moved around quite a bit… Has the change in locales opened you up to some different musical influences or ideas for future material?
Mike: “Yeah! I’m over in Gothenburg in Sweden now, which is just brimming with amazing musicians and amazing bands. It’s a beautiful city, and the people are awesome here, but I’ll admit I miss Scotland so much. Scotland is really like my second home, almost as much as New Zealand as this point, but I’ll learn to love it here once I settle in a bit more…moving right as a pandemic kicked off wasn’t the easiest. I don’t think it will affect Sojourner in any meaningful way though, we can keep doing what we do as long as I have a room and some gear haha.”
You once again had one of my all time favorite musicians in Oystein G Brun and his Crosound Studio to mix and master the album… what does he bring to the table when it comes to the sound of the album? How much do accept or reject what he does? Did he make any specific suggestions that really made a huge difference in the sound?
Mike: “Honestly, me and Oystein see eye to eye on everything and I trust the guy more than anyone else, because he just knows. He nails it, and I never argue with his ideas simply because he’s just so respectful of the music and pours himself into it. He suggests things here and there, but generally he takes the music and makes it the best it can be, he never meddles or gets involved outside of a mixing and mastering role. He did get Jostein to guest on that amazing solo on ‘Fatal Frame’ though! Honestly though, he’s just an amazing guy and I couldn’t possibly have asked for anyone better to work with on getting this album out.”
I can’t be the only one who has suggested a Napalm Records tour with so many genre connected acts, any rumors of that happening?
Emilio: “We would absolutely love to make something like that happen so let’s hope we can do that in the future!”
What are you listening to right now? Anything you are waiting for this year?
Mike L.: “Loads of Sleep Token, who have been my favourite artist that I’ve found in the last few years. They just write music that touches me on a level I’ve very rarely ever experienced, and I’m not even joking when I say that they basically carried me through some of the tougher times of the last year. Aside from that, loads of Loathe, Drab Majesty, Mr. Kitty, Empathy Test, Ulcerate, The Birthday Massacre, Suldusk, Idle Hands, Wage War, Demons & Wizards, Unleash the Archers, Cult of Fire…not all super metal, but honestly, good music is good music and I feel like I get more inspiration from a lot of these kinds of bands than I do from similar bands to us for Sojourner. We all listen widely, and that’s true of basically every metal musician I meet, I feel like there’s no such thing as a ‘guilty pleasure’…just good music. In terms of stuff I’m excited about? Man, I’m blanking, but I know there’s tonnes of great stuff coming! The new Empathy Test album ‘Monsters’ just released, and it’s amazing!”
Emilio: “A huge thanks to all fans who continue to support us and have helped us make it to this point. Also, to you guys at folk-metal.nl who’ve been there since the beginning. It’s also thanks to media and press that we spread so wide so fast. We hope you all enjoy our new record!”
Mike: “Thank you so much for having us and thank you for being there from the start! We wouldn’t be here without people like you and our fans.”