Alcest, the pioneering post-metal/blackgaze band from France are heading to Australia in a week. They released ‘Kodama’ late last year which was a welcome and triumphant return to the sound and style that Alcest fans have come to love and expect. It takes the listener on a journey out of themselves to places they perhaps never knew existed, a place of beauty and healing. Our Sydney warrior Daniel Jaramillo had a quick chat the mastermind Neige. Here’s what happened:
- It’s been 17 years since you formed Alcest, when you look back at those years and all the band members coming in, what have been some of the highlights in the bands life span?
We definitely have some highlights with Alcest. The release of the first album « Souvenirs d’un autre monde » was a really important moment for me. You know when you release a debut album it’s always so exciting. On top of that I’ve worked for many years on this record and I knew that it was going to be something special that would divide people, so it was an important moment. Otherwise, all the travels we’ve done with this band, the people we met, the places we visited, etc… Working with great musicians too, just like Neil Halstead from Slowdive for example. There are many great things that happened to us within the years.
- Alcest is known for pioneering blackgaze which is a fusion of black metal and Shoegaze. Was your intention to join together these styles or did it come as a consequence of just experimenting musically and finding your unique sound?
Actually it was not intentional, just like you say it was just a consequence of musical experimentation. I actually wasn’t very familiar with shoegaze at that time. My goal was to take some elements from metal and use them to deliver a really ethereal, otherworldly nostalgic and uplifting sound.
- The album “Shelter” was one of the softest albums in your discography, was Shelter just a one off for the band or can you see yourselves going in that musical direction in the future?
I think « Shelter » was a one off for the band but it’s really difficult to predict what directions we will decide to explore in the future. For example just before « Shelter » I said that there would not be any more screaming in Alcest and then I changed my mind for « Kodama ». Creativity is unpredictable, and I guess that’s the beauty of it.
- Kodama musically goes into a more intense direction, with darker tones and some growling vocals but it’s still a diverse sounding record. Where do you see this album in the bands musical evolution?
I think it’s one of our most mature albums, as we always try to improve our sound. If not metal (because as you said, Kodama is very diverse), It is unusually dark for being Alcest.
- The concept of your latest album “Kodama” (meaning Tree Spirit in Japanese) explores the idea of the human world and the natural world being in conflict with each other and finding out where we as people belong, a concept influenced by the Japanese anime “Princess Mononoke”. Do you think the human race is finding it challenging to live in harmony with nature especially in the 21st century where our big cities are so reliant on toxic energy? And do you think westerners can learn how to be at one with nature from eastern practises?
I think we have lost our connection with the nature world and we are too self-centered in general. People in western countries don’t take the time to connect with this side of life anymore and they are pretty lost as individuals. I think we are in a transition period…Things just can’t keep on this way.
- As one of the more recognised French rock bands today, do you think alternative French music is getting more global recognition through the internet than ever before? Or is it still a challenge to find a global audience for the kind of music your making?
I think French music is getting a lot of recognition lately, and not only within the metal genre. Of course in metal there are bands that are recognized in a global way, just like Gojira, or Alcest. But there are many other popular bands, especially in the electronic scenes. We’ve got M83, Justice, Daft Punk, Air, and now this new retro wave bands like Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, etc.
- With blackgaze now being recognised as a heavy metal sub-genre and many bands falling under the category, how do you see the genre progressing? Are there any bands you admire in blackgaze or would like to go on tour with?
I don’t really know! I feel that a lot of these bands are way more « black » than « gaze » if you see what I mean. I hope some bands will include more of the alternative/indie sounds in the balance because for me blackgaze at this point is just regular black metal with a few post-rock riffs here and there. Well, our friends from Deafheaven are a band that I like and respect a lot. Otherwise there is Sylvaine, a new female fronted project that is excellent.
- As you like to explore spiritual themes in Alcest, what does spiritually mean to you and how does it influence your music?
Spirituality is the starting point of Alcest, the main element of our music. It’s present in all of our songs, melodies, lyrics. I don’t have a conventional approach to spirituality but my beliefs certainly have an important role in my life. And I insist on the word « spirituality », not « religion » in any way, which for me is an absurd and dangerous thing.
9. Having just started your Asian tour, will you have time to explore the countries you’re visiting and what sites are you looking forward to visiting?
Usually we have some time to explore, and we love to do it. But this tour has been so intense that we didn’t really have the opportunity to do it as much unfortunately…
- You are touring Australia and New Zealand for the first time in your career, what can fans expect when attending an Alcest show down under?
Actually it’s the second time we go to Australia. First time was in 2011 and we had a great time there. Really looking forward to be back! As for New Zealand it will be the first time indeed. Fans can expect a band giving everything they’ve got on stage and a music that can transport them outside of down-to-earth reality for the time of the show.
Catch Alcest on the following dates:
Wellington – San Fran – April 23
Auckland – Kings Arms – April 24
Brisbane – Crowbar – April 25
Sydney – Newtown Social – April 27
Melbourne – Max Watt’s – April 28
Perth –Badlands – April 29