We got a moment to talk with Avienne and Riley of Vintersea about the new album, touring and everything in between.
MPM: Can you please introduce yourself and what you do in the band?
AVN: Hello! I’m Avienne, and I am the vocalist of VINTERSEA.
RN: And I’m Riley, the guitarist of VINTERSEA.
MPM: How did the band form?
AVN: We formed at a top-secret underground facility that assembles progressive death metal bands. I kid, I kid. Our guitarist, Riley, and drummer, Jeremy, played music together since they were in high school. Jorma, our lead guitarist, and I joined around the same time. I met the band a month after I moved to Oregon, USA from Malaysia for school. We played for a couple of years before meeting Karl, our bassist, who was involved in the making of our first music video.
MPM: How did the name Vintersea come about?
AVN: We took a couple of elements that inspired us that joined them together to form a new word. “Vinter” is the Scandanavian word for “winter”, and “sea” is the english word for “ocean”.
RN: No doubt, we are very inspired by the natural world around us. The churning grey waters of the Pacific Ocean in the dead of winter is a great visualization for a lot of our music!
4. What influenced the band’s sound?
RN: I always like to say that we want to create the music we want to hear. We all listen to slightly different genres and sub-genres, and blending those sounds together in a way that is emotionally and physically overwhelming is always our goal.
AVN: We were inspired to create larger than life soundscapes; what we call “the wall of sound”. We strove to create something beautiful, majestic, and epic.
MPM: What is the story behind “Illuminated“?
AVN: The “Illuminated” album is a post-post-apocalyptic concept album based on the continuation of the human race after humanity has been wiped out on earth. It follows humanity’s birth from being born in an artificial pod that grows and raises people, to humanity’s discontent with the conditioned environment they grew up in.
RN: Ultimately, our characters realize that the conditioned environment they grew up in, even though it is safe, isn’t a life worth living. By living a real life, complete with pain and beauty, our characters begin to understand the human condition.
MPM: What differs “Illuminated” from past releases?
AVN: We continued to build on our sound, songwriting, and musical ability on this release. This album sounds more like us more than ever, and we are very happy with the result!
RN: I would say that with our first album, ‘The Gravity of Fall‘, we were still doing a lot of searching for the VINTERSEA sound. With ‘Illuminated‘, we had a clearer idea of where we wanted to go with our sound from the beginning, which informed every step of the process from conception through production.
MPM: Which song is your favorite Vintersea track and why?
AVN: Each song on the album has become my favorite at one point or another. If I had to pick one track out of the whole album, it would have to be “Crack of Light”. I love the emotion it delivers, and dark jazzy undertone in the track.
RN: What she said! Every song has been my favorite at some point, but I can’t wait to see what people think of “Crack of Light”.
MPM: Which bands or albums have personally influenced you?
RN: Speaking for myself, I can say that Devin Townsend, Ihsahn, Ne Obliviscaris, and TesseracT have had some of the most profound impacts on my writing style. We had the opportunity to work with Xenoyr from Ne Obliviscaris on the artwork for ‘Illuminated‘, which was a real honor!
AVN: Ihsahn’s “Arktis” and Ne Obliviscaris’ ‘Portal of I’ are a couple of albums that inspire me to this day to create music that is both beautiful and crushing. I’m also a sucker for good movie soundtracks as well, namely the soundtrack for “The Lord of the Rings”.
MPM: If you could plan a dream tour, what bands would you want to tour with?
AVN: It would be insane and an honor to tour with some of our biggest influences, namely Ne Obliviscaris, Ihsahn, and Devin Townsend to name a few.
MPM: What was the best and worst moment you have experienced with Vintersea?
AVN: Favorite: One of my favorite moments was when we kicked off our first tour. We were all traveling in the same van, and I came up with a silly pun for the tour – “Vintoursea”. As we drove off to begin the first leg of the trip, we all yelled “VINTOURSEA, VINTOURSEA, VINTOURSEA”. I thought it was both silly and lame, but fun. That tour turned out to be so much fun because we made so many friends along the way, and visited so many new places together.
Worst: When we had to clear out our practice space because one of the guys ripped ass way too hard in that room during practice after eating too much broccoli. That stench still haunts me to this day.
RN: Favorite: There have been a lot of great moments, from listening through our first CD when we received it to opening for Ne Obliviscaris last year, but the memory that always pops into my head is when we went out to film our first music video. We all trekked through the snow together with camera equipment to help get those beautiful shots of Avienne in the snow during “Skies Set Ablaze”, and it really solidified our bond and brought Karl into the fold as a permanent band member!
Worst: In the middle of our tour last year, we detoured to stay a night at my house because we were passing through Oregon. When we got to the house at about 4 AM after playing a show and driving through the night, a tree had knocked out all my power. No showers. No heat. I thought the whole band was going to kill me.
MPM: What are your views on bands now getting labeled with “female fronted” or “female vocals” but not labeled on just their sound like we do with male fronted bands?
AVN: There is a growing community of listeners that love female voices in metal, and that “label” helps connect listeners to the bands they want to listen to. Female vocals are still more uncommon in metal music, so it makes sense that they are mentioned as a descriptor for metal bands.
RN: Absolutely. We would never define ourselves as a “female” band, but we believe that representation is extremely important, and seeing women get excited about a genre that has been traditionally exclusionary of female voices is really an incredible feeling.
MPM: Do you believe female fronted bands do get treated differently in the metal scene?
AVN: Yes. There are times where female-fronted bands receive negative preconceived notions on why they reach success in their genre. Female vocalists may not be taken as seriously, or be accused of “faking” their vocal techniques. Even though those notions exist, I personally choose to focus on creating the best music I can and being the best I can be. I love changing people’s views that way.
MPM: How is the metal scene in your area? Any local bands that you would like to recommend?
AVN: Portland is fantastic, and we have had the pleasure to share the stage with amazing bands in the area. Some bands I would recommend are Von Doom, Within Sight, Ligature Marks, and Dead Animal Assembly Plant.
RN: We love our Portland scene. It has ups and downs, and like everywhere the real challenge is in keeping great venues open and successful in an expensive market. We love you Portland!
MPM: If you could give advice to any musician or band coming up, what would you say?
AVN: Focus on being the best YOU you can be, don’t hold yourself back on discovering different styles and techniques, and have fun!
RN: A rising tide lifts all ships. Music isn’t a zero-sum game, there are a LOT of ears out there ready for exciting new music, and if you help support the scene and lift up your fellow musicians, it will help your band reach new fans as well. It isn’t a competition, it’s a whole world!
MPM: Any plans for Vintersea in the coming future?
AVN: We have a lot of plans on the books for 2020! We will be releasing more music videos, and will be taking the stage to share our new album with our fans.
RN: We have so many incredible fans around the country and around the world, and our top priority for 2020 is to bring this new album to them directly. If you want to see us come to your area, reach out and let us know!
MPM: Any last words or thoughts?
RN: We couldn’t do this without you all, and we really appreciate the endless support and the push to be better. Our new album, ‘Illuminated‘, comes out on September 27th. Pre-orders and first week orders will determine how much touring and promotion we get to do over the next couple of years, so go check it out!
AVN: We want to thank our listeners and supporters for joining us on our journey so far. We are so excited to share our new music with you all, and are looking forward to the next chapter of this journey!
Interview by Neil Andersen