I had the chance to interview Soror Dolorosa before their amazing show at the SGM Festival, Madrid. Andy Julia (vocals), Frank Ligabue (drums), Hervé Carles (bass), Nicolas Mons (guitar) and David-Alexandre Parquier, called DA (guitar) squeezed in the tiny backstage of the Gruta 77 to answer my questions. Thanks a lot to the band, here is the interview…
You’re touring since the release of the second album, I would like to know what are your impressions on this tour compared to the previous one.
Andy: “No More Heroes” has been a transition for us. We moved from a not really looked at band to a band that people are expecting. We clearly felt the impact of this album. Now we have much better conditions on tour, the feedback of the public is multiplied by 2 or 3. We took time to make an album, we put everything we could into it, so it’s good to have such feedback. The album has worked for himself, with the press and with the fan-base, which has grown, people have started to cling more to our music. So for us it is a transition album… and we also learned to compose music in a different way. All this leads us to consider things to a larger extent, the scene as well. It has expanded our vision.
You have made mostly festivals this year, is it a formula that suits you better than a proper Soror Dolorosa tour?
Andy: Yes, for now festivals are good for us. Our fan-base is not large enough for us to be able to tour alone and make shows in front of 200-300 people, as we have done it in all the cities that we have visited. The festivals are a great way to get the public to know you, to meet other acts, there are many people in the same place at the same time, it creates a special atmosphere. And the afters in festivals are also nice, because there are a lot of people and we like to party, we like people and in festivals you get to meet people, it’s nice.
Which songs do you prefer to play on stage? How does the public respond to these songs? Are you sometimes surprised by the audience’s reaction to a song?
Frank: I enjoy playing all our songs, although there are some songs I would like to take a break from, because we have played them so much, but people expect them, so they stay in our set. All the songs from the last album are very enjoyable to play, they are punchy, they are catchy and it is a pleasure for me to play them.
DA: All the songs give me the same pleasure when I play them. We use more or less the same setlist and the songs are more or less in the same order since the beginning of the tour, and the transition songs in the set are the one I appreciate the most, like “Silversquare”, which comes at a time when I have had time to warm up and this is when I totally get in the show and forget all the rest. I discovered Soror when I was 16-17 years , with the first EP , and became a total fan, so playing songs like “Beau Suicide” is amazing for me. I used to listen to it with my little headphones on my way to high school! Regarding the “hits” I can understand Frank, but in general we get such a fucking good feedback of the audience that I personally love playing them.
Andy: It also depends a lot on the public’s reaction , and it’s something you can’t foresee. Sometimes we play a song like “Autumn Wounds” , which was a hit on dance-floors, and when we start playing it I think “Well, ok, let’s go, let’s play Autumn Wounds…” and then I look at the people in front, they start dancing, people are waiting for the lyrics to start singing along. It lifts you up and you rediscover the song through the public. We don’t want to do all the time the same concert, we adapt, as we are a live band. The songs don’t sound always the same and the reaction of the public affects our behavior and our perception of the concert, and we like that.
This is the advantage of not working with programming…
Andy: We work with samples on two songs, but it is light enough.
DA: There are samples on the intro and the outro, the first and last songs. During a concert, both the band and the audience make the song come to life.
Andy: That’s why we still like to go on stage like the first time, each time is different. If the audience is cold, we try to make some more. When the public is hot it’s the best time.
Have you thought about releasing a bootleg?
Andy: It’s a very good question, because this project has come to life by itself during this tour. People have recorded our shows without telling us, and over ten days, I have received three different very good live recordings which have been mixed (note: Berlin , Milan, Vienna). We are considering doing a live album, either of a single concert, or bringing together several concerts, and perhaps releasing one LP of it. Live vinyls are always something special when you like a band, and I think the fans would like it. We are thinking about it, it takes time to listen to the recorded shows, and decide whether it ‘s what we want to leave behind… We also have a good live recording in Burg Sternberg and another one in Paris during the show we did for Le Boucanier, who organizes parties in Paris since 25 years. We have to select the songs, remaster and polish the outcome in order to release something really worth it.
Do you still have a lot of upcoming concerts for this tour?
Frank: We have booked shows until September 2014.
Andy: As the tour goes along, promoters contact us. It is a slow tour, we are playing with promoters who really want us to play. They usually talk to each other, or see us on stage and contact us, and little by little we add new shows to the tour. We are planning to play in Athens and Rome, and we expect a tour of the East Coast of USA and Canada for 2014. We want to be well settled before that, to avoid blowing it.
Do you have a big fan-base in the US?
Andy: It’s starting to grow, as “No More Heroes” is doing well in the US, it is less gothic than “Blind Scenes”, less sad and nostalgic. It’s deep but with a catchy rock base. It has variety, tracks are different from one another and the Americans usually like this type of albums.
What is their reaction to the fact that a French band sing in English?
Andy: Maybe because we don’t use the English in the same way, usually they appreciate our use of their language, and they understand our sensitivity.
Frank: Native English speakers usually like the French accent in rock music. This is true for Americans and British too.
DA: They think it’s classy.
Andy: Yes, and we must accept our accent.
Any anecdote you can tell us on this tour?
Andy: We have anecdotes at every concert, we always a great time…
Frank: We did a karaoke with punks in a squat in Austria! At 6 a.m we were singing the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing with them!
How was Nicolas and DA’s integration within the band? Have you ever played together before?
Nicolas: I started because the guitarist at the time (note: Emey) was not available for the tour with Alcest in February 2012, so I replaced him at short notice. Finally he did not return, so I integrated the group.
Hervé: I had already played with Nicolas, and I suggested to Frank that we should call him.
Andy: It all happens naturally, through people we know. We could not make a casting and auditions on Facebook for example. The human side must be more important.
Frank: Things happen naturally, we need human relationships, it has to be sincere . For the integration of DA , it is difficult to explain because even we can’t remember…
DA: We had already met, and then Steph from Alcest, had recommended me to the band. Basically I had to make the sound on tour and become the sound engineer of Soror, as I am a sound engineer. Eventually it didn’t happen, which I ‘m glad of today, because I would not be a guitarist in the band now, had it happened. After the tour with Heirs, the group planned to add Heirs’ guitarist in the band, but it was complicated as he lives in Australia. So, Andy sent me a message, “I heard you’re a good guitarist, come.” For me it was incredible! I must have rehearsed once with the band, and I found myself at the Milan concert… But I had already contacted the band a few years ago to offer my services as a second guitarist…
Andy: Is that true?
DA: Yeah, you politely answered no… (laughs)
Frank: Oh, that was you ?
Andy: We’re currently working on the new album, a lot. We will make the band evolve, we follow our inspiration. The album will probably be longer, more immersive.
Frank: It should smell of more smoke and dust than before.
Andy: “No More Heroes” describes poetic, nocturnal urban scenes trapped in the city. With the next album, we will see further on the horizon. It will be more ethereal, more impersonal, but emotionally deeper, with sleeker new sounds. This is something usual, after a very “full” record as the previous one, which doesn’t give any break. There will be a greater contrast between the songs with very intense moments, and others where the intensity will completely draw back. We are giving time to the album to evolve by itself.
Frank: I think until “No More Heroes”, we have been writing songs, whereas with this new album, we started to write music. There will be more consistency , more emotion, without looking for dance-floors hits, but with more elaborate arrangements. It will be more an album than a collection of songs.
What about the production?
Andy: Same producer (note: Benoît Roux aka Mr. Xort )
You chose dark and intimate songs for your official videos (Low End, Hologram). Why did you make this choice? Catchier songs would surely have attracted more attention?
Andy: That’s true. The director who focused on our sound (note: Toshadeva Palani ), and offered to make videos, focused on the artistic side of the band. He chose the subjective side and our inner relation to music, rather than the entertainment or the “catchy” songs. He worked as a film-maker, taking the essence of the music, and that’s why he chose these songs. It seems quite logical to me that our first clips are very deep and artistic. If we ever need to make more commercial clips, we will. But for now we remain close to the point, and in harmony with the lyrics . Nothing about our work is disregarded, and that is important to us.
You gave him carte blanche?
Andy: Yes, we talked , we exchanged e-mails , but we did not meet. He is a young director, he lives in the United States, in Providence. He offered his skills, and as he is a young director, we especially didn’t want to curb him. He put all his feelings and it is a good thing because these songs are long and slow, and not easy to transpose on video. These are beautiful stories, that everyone can relate to and in harmony with the lyrics. He focused on the artistic side, that can seem more difficult to understand, but after receiving the feedback of the public, we know that people understand.
Are you planning another video-clip?
Andy: Not at the moment.
Andy, you sing on the beautiful song “Nightshift” on the first album of LowCityRain. How did that happen?
Andy: Markus of Lantlôs, had come to Paris with Neige (note: from Alcest), because Neige was playing with Lantlôs, and he also had seen us on stage in Oberhausen. He had enjoyed the concert. When Markus started composing New Wave and enlarged his musical outlook, he asked me to do the vocals on one song. He has a very intimate and low voice, and he was looking for stronger and clearer voices. It was a pleasure for me because I think it’s a very very good album. He also asked me to make the cover of the album, it was a pleasure too, as I was very inspired by the album. Collaboration between musicians is always a good thing when they understand each other.
Do you have any other collaborations in progress, as a group?
Andy: We will certainly do a split EP with Liar In Wait, the cold-wave side project of American group psychedelic metal band Nachtmystium. They sound great, and they asked us to do a split EP. Right now it is in talks.
And each of you, do you have musical projects?
DA: During the concerts you usually meet other musicians, with whom you find similarities and connections. I work with the singer of British band cold-wave band Phosphor, on a project called Luminance and we get along very well.
Andy: I do the drums in Dernière Volonté. It is a band of New Wave-Military-Pop-Synth-Wave. I still do concerts with Geoffroy (note: Geoffroy D , founder of Dernière Volonté).
Nicolas: I have another project, L’Oeil, but I’m not the main member. Right now it is in stand-by, but we will resume as soon as possible.
You are very present on social networks , how do you use it for Soror Dolorosa?
Andy: We try to be present, and interesting , that is to say, give things to see and hear that are simply related to what we do, and not give a different image on the social network because it is reality. It allows fans who appreciate the albums to go a little further.
If you had the opportunity to reform or resurrect a group to see it on stage, which would it be?
Frank: Led Zep!
Nicolas: For me, The Doors !
Hervé: For me, the Lords of the New Church !
Andy: Me too, the Lords…
Hervé: Led Zep, and also, the Black Sabbath live in Paris 1970 , when you see the live video, Bill Ward banging, getting through the skin of the drums, this is THE sound!
What are your latest musical discoveries? Do you listen to new acts?
Hervé: I am not easily pleased by new acts. It is not often that I am excited with something new. I still listen to Deep Purple, Joy Division…
DA: You’re an old fart ! (Laughs)
Frank: With the background we have, we still have not processed all the music we know..
Andy: I listen to a lot of new stuff, I buy a lot of music and there are lots of things that have pleased me lately, especially on the American label “Italians do it better”. They make a kind of blend of Dream Pop, chill-wave, cold-wave. Cold sounds of the 70 ‘s or 80 ‘s, but with a new style, naive and straight-to-the-point. The Chromatics have made a great impression on me.
DA: I buy a lot of music too. Of the newest, I am addicted with Phosphor, I find their album amazing, I listen to it all the time…
Nicolas: My cult bands are Nine Inch Nails , Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. These are the three groups that impacted me and I am still sticking to their music…
Hervé: Marduk is a band I listen to, a metal band.
Is there anything you would like to add for the readers of This is Gothic Rock?
Andy: I would like to say, especially for readers who do not know Soror Dolorosa, that we are not an 80’s revival act, we couldn’t care less about being one, we just do what we feel at the time and if we are compared to 80’s bands, I think it’s mostly because the bands then followed their instincts. They were not trying to belong to a particular scene or get their picture in magazines, they did what they felt, and this is what makes the music interesting. We work exactly that way, and we are proud of it.