In Your Face!

Xandria

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, how are things in your world?

Good, good! Me and the men are very excited about our upcoming album, which is releasing pretty soon!

Yes it is! It’s your seventh studio album, and it’s the 3rd release you’re a part of, if we count the Fire & Ashes EP from 2015, so what can you tell us about the new album?

Yeah, let’s count that one. *laughs* Well, you know, I think it’s our best album ever. Of course I’m obliged to say so, but in this case I truly think so! There was just much more time for me to prepare as a vocalist, but also as a co writer. We wrote the album with the three of us, Marco Heubaum, Joost van den Broek, who is our producer but also co wrote this album, and me. From a very early stage on we focused on the voice and where to put it in the music, and which keys the music should have, so we resulted in different keys than the previous albums. Once my voice was in good position, you could basically throw every riff at it and it would still work together. Once I’m fine, I can take on the boys! *laughs*

*laughs* I bet you can, yeah. Did you do things differently this time around with this album?

Well, I only came into play with the last album when everything was already written, so for me it’s hard to say. What I do know that is different, is that this album is completely produced by Joost, which meant that we could really focus on our instruments and our performance, which took a load off us, to help in the producing process. I think everyone just focuses on what he does best, and the end result really benefits.

How big is your creative input in the music at this time?

You wanna hear numbers? *laughs*

*laughs* Sure, why not!

Because then I would start calculating them! *laughs* I don’t know. If you look at the booklet then you’ll see that in half of the songs my name is also there for songwriting. I did more, but yeah. You can’t put your name down for every single line, so I would say half of the numbers are really influenced by me in songwriting, and the other parts are mostly Joost’s and Marco’s.

So you have a substantial role, that’s what I wanted to hear!

I think so! I’m happy with that. It makes my job on stage so much easier.

I bet! Then you have a better feeling for the songs as well.

Yeah, because you know where it’s coming from, where it’s going to, why you wrote things like that. Also, the other songs that Marco and Joost worked on, I wrote all the vocal lines. There’s no vocal line that I didn’t study or try out at first.

Yes, but that’s your thing, so I understand that.

Yes, definitely!

You actually studied classical music for seven years at the Conservatorium, in what ways does that impact your songwriting?

A lot! A funny thing is that I would come up with classical techniques in songwriting that I have learned and that are normal to me, to implement in music, and I would name them and I would get two very surprised faces. Then I would start explaining what I meant and Joost would recognize some parts of it, but mostly Joost and Marco think out of vibes and feelings, and harmonic scales and patterns, where I am very technically educated. You know, we have a different point of view, a different basis to start from, but I think that’s a really good thing. Then you come to different conclusions.

You bring something new and exciting to the mix!

Precisely, yeah.

I’ve been listening to the new release for a few days now and I really love the bombastic sound of the band on some tracks, and how it then flows into the most subtle ballads on other tracks.

Woohoo!

*laughs* Yeah, I like that. How would you describe your current sound?

Ehm, like, in your face! *laughs*

In your face *laughs* Nice and short!

Yeah, I think that’s basically it!

I think that describes it pretty well! In-you-face-metal *laughs* You might not remember, but we actually did an email interview with you last year that kind of fell between the cracks, and wasn’t published. Sorry about that! Back then you were still writing new material. It was in the days leading to the FemME festival, and all you could say about the new material back then was “This will be sweet”. So my question is: mission accomplished?

I think so. I definitely didn’t mean sweet like in flowers or sugar *laughs*.

I gathered that much.

*laughs* Yes, but like better keep an eye out for this one. Yes I think mission accomplished. Someone in another interview asked me, what if the fans don’t like it? Ha! That was a pretty bold question. Actually the only answer I can give is that I’m so happy with the songs we wrote and the music as it is now, that even if no one else would like it, we, the five of us, we are so much into it that we just wouldn't’ care I think.

That’s the right attitude! The album sounds really well put together, everything fits together very well. What did you set out to do when you started writing and recording this album?

Of course we wanted to keep in line with the sound that the band had ever since Neverworld’s End. That’s very important because then the band has adapted a new sound which really fits everyone’s interests. That was very important. Also of course to follow the steady line that we built from then and through Sacrificium. Fire & Ashes is only an EP, and I have to say I don’t only love that work because there are awesome songs on there that I hope we will continue to play live. I think our goal was to continue this line and just write music that we ourselves love. For me it’s very important that the songs we perform on stage are songs we would love to listen to. That’s the only way for you to keep it real.

Yeah, I get that.

If you start writing music that you think the bigger audience wants to hear, then you will just lose your touch, your personality. I don’t think music should be composed like that.

It would be betraying your own values.

I think so, yes.

You mention a style change. What would you say are the biggest changes from before Neverworld’s End and after?

Well, I can only judge that as a listener, as I wasn’t in the band, but what didn’t change!

*laughs* that’s also a valid question.

Yes, it’s like the band just… Actually the boys tell me the story like this, they decided to keep the name but to just go in a completely different direction.

What would you say are elements that are still alive from before that time?

Maybe the folky influences, storytelling..

Storytelling is an important one.

Yeah, I think maybe those two come to mind first. Maybe if I think on this, or even better I would ask the boys *laughs*, that would be much easier.

Yeah, I bet. You mention storytelling. What I noticed is that this album at times almost sounds like a musical. One almost expects all the songs to be connected in one big storyline, is that actually the case?

No, it’s not a concept album. It’s not, but in the end, if you look at how many sounds and styles are in the album, one could really say that the album is built on different dimensions. You could call it a theatre of dimensions!

Yes, the leap from theatre to musical isn’t that big!

Yes, but lyrically there’s no concept, no.

I like it very much. At times it even reminded me of musicals like Les Miserable, with the choirs in the back, the voices in the back.

Ah yes, I get where you’re coming from.

I was wondering how well that will translate to a live set!

Well, you will just have to come to our release shows and find out, right?

I will! *laughs* On the track We Are The Murderers we hear the voice of Soilwork singer Björn "Speed" Strid, how did that come to pass?

Well, we were searching for someone who could do  a mean grunt, but also a good neutral voice, and Björn just came to mind. Joost was already in contact with him, or had been in contact with him for other projects and he said yeah, I can give him a call. Let’s see if he’s up for it. So he did, and he was! And we are very thankful that he was willing to sing on our album, because he just completes the song, you know? Without him, or maybe with a different vocalist, it would have been a different song, and I really like the way it now turned out.

I’m a really big Soilwork fan, so I loved hearing him on that track! He’s got a unique voice, absolutely.

True, yes.

I also loved watching your first official video for the song Call Of Destiny!

*Laughs* this one is cool, right?

Yes! You had a lot of fun shooting it, it seems?

O yes! I never thought that I would ever be in a video where I would be sword fighting *laughs*.

Well, there’s a first time for everything.

That’s true. You know, the circumstances were so hard, it was minus five degrees celsius the whole day, and it was a real suit of armor so the whole thing weighs a total of 20 kilos. It was a lot. With the freezing cold, and this armor of course doesn’t warm at all, so they had a hard job keeping me warm. At the end of the day I couldn’t feel my hands anymore, I couldn’t feel my legs and my feet anymore, and they put makeup everywhere because I was turning red and blue *laughs*. It was so hard, but if you now see the video, it’s so worth it!

Absolutely. What I loved the most about it is that you’re wearing an evil queen dress and a huge smile. That combination, epic!

That works, right? *laughs*

Absolutely, that works. If you look at the Xandria material over the last 13 years, including the stuff that was made before you joined the band, which are your favorite Xandria songs?

Phew. You know, a very beautiful song, one I really, really like, is A Thousand Letters. It’s a song we don’t perform, because it’s very personal to Manuela Kraller (former vocalist), so out of respect to her we don’t perform this one, but I really love listening to it. That’s actually the first one when they asked me to join, that really stood out for me.

If songs are personal then they usually have more emotion in them, and you can really feel that.

Yes true. You can instantly tell.

Are there more songs in the catalog that you haven’t performed live yet, that you would love to play at some point?

Of course, on Sacrificium we have Temple Of Hate and Betrayer, which are both epic songs, but as I understand, really heavy for the guys to perform. And of course, there are the covers we did, like I Would Do Anything For Love, and also Sonata Arctica’s Don’t Say A Word. This would be fun to do live!

Those will be very fun to play live, yeah.

I’m up for that! *laughs*

I’d love to hear that.

But I think we will really focus on the new material now.

Of course. Have you already picked out the songs which you will be performing live?

Well… there is some discussion *laughs*. In the end I think we will perform them all live, maybe not the last track, the long piece because well… That’s almost impossible to do, but upcoming weekend is our final rehearsal, and then we decide which songs go into our set in the first run.

I’m curious which ones will get picked! In our email interview last year you mentioned that Xandria is a band where music is mostly written in the studio, and your other project, Ex Libris does it’s writing mostly in jam sessions. What would you say are the advantages of each method, and which method do you actually prefer?

Hmm, I think the advantage of doing it in a jam session is that it’s spontaneous, and that the vibe is already in the song. That’s harder if you compose in the studio, to create a vibe, you know? It’s just easier if you just do it in the moment. On the other hand, if you write in the studio you have much more control over all the parts, and it’s easier to zoom in and focus on a separate line. So there are advantages and disadvantages to both ways.

I mentioned your other project Ex libris. Is that still an active project at the moment?

Yes, very much so! Although we had to change our destination, or who we are. Realistically it’s simply not possible to have two touring bands at the same time.

It’s hard!

You know, also with having my jewelry business, and teaching, and hopefully somewhere a private life *laughs*, there’s just no time. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I already need more. But we decided that no way in hell we would let Ex Libris die, so it’s becoming a studio project where we will mostly focus on writing new material and releasing that, and having a few exclusive shows each year.

That sounds fun.

Yes, I’m actually looking forward to it, you know? Because Ex Libris challenges me in a completely different way, so yeah I need it. It feeds me. It’s like one cannot live without the other.

You’re actually who needs new challenges in her life.

Oh yes.

When I ran into you at last year’s FemME festival, you were selling our own Precious Metals jewelry. How is that business going?

It’s going pretty well! I’m actually at my desk now, because I’m doing interviews and then quickly putting something together and then go into the next interview. I feel very blessed with the amount of orders that I receive, and that I get to make people so happy. The thing that seems to be in fashion now is custom jewelry. I have a lot of people coming to me saying that they want to engage, and they want to do it with one of my jewels. So I’m creating engagement rings, and engagement bracelets, and they’re all custom made, so they’re not in my store. They are really designed on someone’s request.

All commissions!

Yes! I feel so special that I am part of someone’s life changing moments.

You make that special moment more unique, and that’s a very cool thing!

Yes! I just… aah! I love doing this! Yeah! I also love how many bands support me with their strings. This morning I picked up like a kilo of strings, nah, it must be more. A huge package from a Dutch rock band called Navarone. They have their CD release tomorrow, and I think I just got all their strings from the past year, so *laughs*

It’s nice to have some support out there!

Yes! Everyone’s so enthusiastic about my idea, that people just love giving me their strings. I’m just creating jewelry and people love buying those and having something to remember a concert by.

It’s a unique product, that’s really cool.

Thank you!

Talking about the FemME festival, how did you experience that festival last year? You played there twice with both Xandria and Ex Libris, and you had your jewelry stand as well!

Ah yeah, it was so hectic. I was so busy, really. After I built everything down, I took everything down Sunday evening, when I got home, that was like, I couldn’t do anything anymore!

*laughs* You didn’t forget to have fun, did you?

No, but the whole festival has been fun! I really enjoyed myself, but everyone wanted to talk to me and I was balancing talking, selling jewelry and maintaining a good voice for singing.

And all that while being located near the drafty entrance with your stand!

Yes, it was quite a challenge, but I think I managed.

I think you did very well, absolutely. Where it comes to the tour this year, What will it look like?

Well I don’t know what the FemME festival will look like, but our tour guide should be online soon. I was hoping that it would have been online already, but at this moment it’s not, but it could be like in five minutes. I don’t know.

Then I’ll just direct our readers to your website at http://xandria.de, to keep an eye out for your tour dates! That leads me to my final question and that is, do you have any last words for our readers?

Of course! I would like to thank everyone for their support and following us through the years. For me it’s very important that our fans are there. If they weren’t there then I wouldn’t be able to live my dream, and I’m just so grateful.

You are living your dream, that’s a very cool thing. Thank you so much for your time!

Randy Gerritse