Interview by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy
Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine’s music deals with the extreme range of human emotions and the music portrays this wonderfully, creating a unique and intriguing sound which needs to be heard by the masses. With Sylvaine’s third and upcoming release “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” due on November 2nd through label Season Of Mist we caught up her to find out more about the new album, her inspirations, how she got into music and much more…
You have a very interesting beautiful yet dark sound, how would you best describe your music?
I would say it’s a work full of contrasts, inspired by duelling emotions, sounds and impressions. I always loved the balance between melodic and harsh, so I try to incorporate this into my music. It’s interesting to set the light and the dark up against each other. The meaning behind the music in Sylvaine tends to be on the darker, as I’m using it to process issues I struggle with, so I like to balance it out with an atmospheric and melodic touch in the sound.
What are your biggest inspirations, musically and creatively?
I’m inspired by a lot of different impulses, from visual arts, music, emotions, to places, people, atmospheres or written words. This life might be challenging, but it has so many incredible things to offer us while we are here.
At what age did you discover that you wanted to play music and what was the process of learning to play like for you?
I was surrounded by music ever since I was a child, due to both my parents being a part of the music business, so I was exposed to that way of living early on. The moment I realized music was a unique way for me to express myself and that it was something I wanted to dedicate most of my time to, would be when I was around 14. Since I always had low self-esteem when it came to music, even though I truly loved it, it took me quite some time to develop my own thing. It also took me many years to muster up the courage to start my own solo project, dealing with highly personal matters and doing everything on my own. The first instruments I started with was singing and playing drums. I always considered singing to be my main instrument, as it’s such a spontaneous match. After that I picked up piano/keyboard and then bass along the way, before finally ending up playing guitar and falling in love with it for composing a few years ago. I also try to learn the Theremin these days, but wow, that’s a complicated instrument….!
Your third album “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” is due for release November 2nd, what can we expect from this and what was the recording and writing process like for the album?
The writing process for this record took me longer than the two previous ones, making the delivery more difficult. My focus was spread out on the live side of Sylvaine, the business side of the project and the creative process, which really wasn’t a great mix…. The struggle to find the calm to engulf myself completely in the music was real, which slowed the composing down and also made for a lack of confidence in what I was making. The recording process on the other hand, was the complete opposite of the writing; it was the best studio experience I ever had. Working with Benoît Roux at Drudenhaus Studio in France was really something special…. Everything came together, without much effort, and just sounded right! I’ll cherish these memories from the recording for many years to come. After all, is said and done, I am very happy and proud of this album and feel lucky to have worked with a team of so many talented people for it.
How did you arrive on the name “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” and what does it mean to you?
“Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” became the natural choice for the title, embodying this feeling of decay and destruction you can find within the emotions and also the lyrics of the record. For the first time, I drew direct inspiration from the outside world into my music, trying to paint a picture of how it feels to stand on the outside, watching as everything is unravelling. As well as my own feelings of how the human form and society chips away at the purity of our soul, I also felt a need to reference how humans are destroying this world and tearing each other apart while they’re at it. I feel this more than ever these days…. Too many things have happened in recent times to look the other way.
How do you think the latest release compares to your previous material?
It’s a natural continuation of my previous album, “Wistful”, but with a bit more maturity somehow and a stronger focus in terms of sound and style. I really poured every inch of myself into all the elements of this release, both musically and visually. I really hope people will be able to feel it.
What are the main lyrical themes, if any on the album?
In general, Sylvaine functions as an audio-diary for me, meaning it allows me to deal with matters from within I otherwise tend to suppress. I always felt somewhat out of place, experiencing a longing for something or somewhere else, without knowing why or for what. It’s a strange thing when I think about it, but it made me try to captivate that in my lyrics. Exploring the restrictions I feel come with being in a human body and the potential problematic sides of that, is also something I tend to write about.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest single from the upcoming album ‘Mørklagt’? Also what was it like to work with Neige of Alcest on the track?
“Mørklagt” was the last song written for my upcoming album. Half of it was born in Oslo and the other half in Paris. Wanting to explore the Nordic inspirations I had from my hometown further, I wanted to make “Mørklagt” the longest cut of the record, featuring multiple layers and expressions, leaving it as the closing song of “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone”. It didn’t end up being the final track of the album though, as it became clear it needed to arrive sooner on the record to tell the story I wanted for it. Working with Neige is always an incredible honour and the biggest pleasure, so it was fantastic when he once again wanted to be my session drummer, along with my father Stephen Shepard, for this record. He is a wonderful individual and beyond talented…. The fact that he was so enthusiastic about being a part of “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” and also that we share a lot of things when it comes to how we see music, made it very inspiring to work together.
How did the artwork come together for “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone”?
I have a distinct memory of having long walks during my days off while recording “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone”, where I would listen to my demos and try to picture the artwork more clearly. I had been shown some beautiful paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, featuring aggressive icebergs that almost looked to take on the shape of crystals. I agreed that the idea of crystals, which are both deep, beautiful, but also jagged and dangerous in a sense, could be the perfect embodiment of the music on my album. I got in touch with my brilliant friends in Førtifem in Paris and they worked their magic to come up with what you see on the cover today. I was beyond happy when I received the final result…. It truly represents the music in a perfect way.
Will you be announcing any tour dates soon in line with the new release?
We have a few shows already announced; one in Paris with my good friend Emma Ruth Rundle and her husband in Jaye Jayle and two dates in Dunkirk and in Brussels with the French post-metal band CELESTE. Other than this, we are working on making some tours happen next year, as well as some festivals. We absolutely can’t wait to be back on stage, playing these new songs for people!
What else do you have planned for the rest of 2018?
Just waiting for the release of the record in November and preparing everything that comes with that, as well as a couple of shows towards the end of the year as mentioned. I’m also trying to finish some new material, in a slightly different style, that I have been working on lately. Hopefully, some of it will be ready for recording by next year!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you ever so much for the opportunity to speak to the readers of Dark Art Conspiracy; it has been a real pleasure! I hope to see as many of you as possible out there at our upcoming shows and wish you the very best for the rest of 2018!