Interviewed by Chris Martin (Senior Staff Writer) Myglobalmind Webzine
Evergrey is a band well known in the metal world for making amazing music. When their Hymns For the Broken tour hit Charlotte, NC, I was honored to sit down for dinner with four of the members for a great meal and excellent discussion of the band, touring, and nearly succumbing to the heat of a chicken wing. Though I was intensely nervous about this, the gentlemen made it easy for me to get comfortable with them and made the interview come off as more of friends hanging out. For my first in person interview with a band in over two decades, it went much better than I could ever have hoped for.
MGM: So the album has been out a little bit now and it seems to be doing pretty good with the fans, the critics, everybody seems to really like it pretty good. What sets it apart from past releases?
TE: I mean first of all, we have two new members, that are two old members that are back again, so that’s, of course, the major change. Also, I mean, every album for us is super different from the others. I don’t think we’ve ever written an album thinking that we want to make the same album again. But this album has gone very well so far, so we’re thinking maybe this is the time to try making another one of those (laughs,) but every album differs from the others.
MGM: Personally, I think it is your best album to date so far. Just to be honest, I’ve been a fan a long time, but I don’t know a whole lot about the bands history, but as far as the music is concerned I’ve been a fan for a very long time so, it’s an outstanding album. Tommy (Purnil, Avalon Steel vocalist) and I were just talking about this. Usually before a show I like to go to a setlist site and kind of cheat and see what bands are playing, that way I can get an idea of what’s going on. I really, really love the setlist that you have got right now. How do you come about picking the songs for this tour, especially when you have such a deep set of songs to choose from?
Rikard Zander: It’s really hard since we have nine albums to choose from, but we felt we wanted to do quite a lot from the new album (Hymns For the Broken) since people seem to like it so much and they’re really good live as well. The shows we play the new songs on it’s like they just stick out more so we wanted to do a lot, and of course a mix of, it’s really hard because all fans have different favorite songs so it’s hard to please everyone.
MGM: Sure. A lot of bands…
TE: Says Rikard, the keyboard player. (Laughter)
RZ: Says Rikard, the keyboard player (More laughter)
TE: And Tom answered the first one! (Laughter continues)
Johan Niemann: Yes! About what?
MGM: Yeah, just the setlist…
JN: The setlist, well it’s difficult when, like Rikard said, we have nine albums and we want to have every record represented, more or less, and that makes things really difficult.
MGM: The thing that really caught my ear was, it’s like even the songs from different albums kind of fit in to a story for the whole show, the flow is what really captured me listening to the songs together. I was impressed. I’m really excited about hearing it live, too. So my next question is, and this is from a friend of mine, who I jokingly asked, “Hey you got a question for Evergrey? I’m talking to them soon.” For people that’s never heard your music before, what would you say to them to entice them to check your music out. What would be the thing the first thing to jump in your mind to tell somebody that’s never listened to you before?
TE: Well, I would tell them to come and watch us live because that is really where we sort of flourish is live, says Tom. I mean, that’s it, because they get a very mixed…they get all these songs from the albums we have made, pretty much.
JE: And they can take it from there. Jonas says.
MGM: What’s the one thing that you want your fans to take away from your music as far as the live setting, albums, what kind of connection do you want to make, hope to make, as far as with the fans, when writing songs, picking out setlists, stuff like that. What’s the number one thing you’re trying to do to connect with the fans?
TE: Keep ourselves happy. That’s the first thing.
RZ: As far as the setlists and the live shows go we always want to have, since we’re such a dynamic band we want to try and have that dynamic throughout the set as well you know. So we just, we’re not afraid to bring in the ballads because that’s what we do too, it’s one of our strongest sides. And at the same time the heavy stuff and try to parcel everything into the right setlist.
MGM: It’s interesting you say that because a lot of times bands try to avoid doing some of the slower songs because sometimes it’s hard to present them in a live setting, but a band that can do their slower stuff in a live setting, and do it well, that’s a sign of a really talented band. I suspect that you are going to nail that mark.
TE: Those songs are as big a part of our catalog as anything else. I think we have, I mean we have very many songs that are slower and just piano based basically so people love that stuff so of course we need to play them too.
MGM: Is there a band in particular or a moment in time where you heard a song or band that made you say, “That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life is make music.” Is there one moment or one band that you can think of that’s the one?
TE: Well, we have different ones. I was at a concert with Def Leppard and I saw that they had a big line of blonde girls heading backstage so I said, “That’s what I wanna do.” God honest truth. Then I bought a guitar. I’ve yet to experience the line of blonde’s (all laughing.)
JE: But a really good guitar player.
TE: A fucking great guitar player (laughter continues throughout.)
MGM: That’s a good answer. I like that. When you’re writing music do you have a particular vision in mind? I know some of the later albums have been more conceptual, but is that on purpose because that’s what you want to gear towards, a more conceptual style of music or is it just something that happens organically, I guess?
RZ: I think in the beginning of the writing it’s more or less let’s just get started and try to do something good. And then the whole process develops the more and more you get into the writing and then when you’ve done a couple of songs you can maybe start to sense where it’s heading and, at least what I think, and that’s when you decide whether it’s going to be a concept thing or whatever, you know. Not from the beginning, I don’t think so anyway.
TE: It’s like you start creating this small universe of your own with the songs being the stars and the galaxies within it, and that of course develops and expands so it can, from day to day, and we don’t even really have a clear thought of what type of album we’re making.
JE: We just kind of go with it and whatever comes out comes out. It kind of sometimes I mean I get a kind of vibe (pauses after taking a bite of a very hot chicken wing, band mates laugh.)
MGM: I know the Heimlich.
JE: (Laughing) It was so hot.
MGM: Well, I can’t help you there man.
JE: Sometimes I just get a feeling or a vibe. I don’t really know what it is, but sometimes I do know, “OK, heavy song,” but that’s it. Or a melodic song, but then I just go from there and sometimes the heavy song might end up as a melodic slow song. You never know, you just have to just throw yourself out there and allow the inspiration to do the work
MGM: Do you write as a group or do you just write individually and then come together as a group…
TE: We do all of it. We do all of it. Always.
MGM: All the above?
TE: We write on our own, we write together, we write two and two, we write three and three. I write the vocal melodies, naturally, by myself, but other than that solos and stuff you sit and work on them on your own.
MGM: Do you come up with the vocal melodies before the song is structured or after it’s written?
TE: At the same time, pretty much.
MGM: Interesting. So when you’re on the road is there anything you like to do to break up the boredom of being on the road, because I would imagine traveling…(band either lifts beer glass or points at beer glass) Ah drinking beer I see, eating good food.
JE: Just seeing, eh, the time to find a local restaurant, we enjoy a lot of local beer, so it’s fun to try that out, and just see the city or chill out, hang out.
TE: We enjoy hanging together too. We sit in the bus and listen to music.
JE: It depends on how much time. If you have a few hours and you can make it and you’re close to something that looks interesting, you can go and have a look. Sometimes it’s like, I remember one time we were in Paris and everyone were off to like the Eiffel Tower, and shit like that, and me and Johan just went to a bar and felt like this is how we experienced Paris just sitting in the bar and feel the atmosphere you know, so it’s different how you want to experience touring. But it’s good times usually.
TE: So we really don’t experience that much of a boredom that you mentioned actually.
MGM: That’s good. I mean, I used to play music a long time ago and I never did a tour or anything, but just being on the road just always, was one of the things that I never looked forward to doing other than playing in front of people. I’m just not a big travel kind of guy, you know. Kind of a homebody so…A lot of your songs, musically and lyrically tend to have a kind of a dark theme running through it, but when I’m listening to it I can almost feel a lot of hope coming through it, is that on purpose? Is that something you strive to do, kind of a dichotomy of dark imagery and positive feelings with the music?
TE: I mean, it’s not on purpose, but I think on this, on the last album, we succeeded with it, somehow. (laughs)
RZ: I think it was the atmosphere within the group…
TE: Within the band, yeah.
RZ: That kind of made, on print on the record, because we didn’t think about, we didn’t have that intention for the album…it just came out, and lots of people have been saying that too, so that’s really cool, and I think that’s the only thing I can think of is that vibe that we had when we recorded it.
TE: And I mean, of course, lyrically, it’s about overcoming things and getting through, pulling through, seeing the light in the tunnel.
MGM: I definitely picked up on that, especially this last album.
TE: And we felt that we have, that that’s pretty much what we have been doing, or I felt that that’s pretty much what I have been writing about that, but maybe before we have been sort of further down in the basement than we are now. A few steps up, maybe.
MGM: How’s the tour been going so far?
MGM: Is there any last thing you want to say before we wrap this up?
TE: Thank you for the interview. As we said before, come and check us out live, that’s how you get the real deal from us.
JE: Thank you for taking the time to do this
TE: And thanks for driving us!
MGM: Any time! Thank you guys so much!