Almost one year ago I saw Soror Dolorosa live in Madrid, and after that I was hooked by their sound. They are one of the bands I play a lot in my radio shows. Soror Dolorosa has become a classic in my programs. Here is the first part of the interview with Andy Julia, who talks about the beginning of the band up until their debut album Blind Scenes, made by our collaborator Francisco Camacho from Laletracapital. ► by Oskar Terramortis
The French music scene has always been as thriving in bands as unknown outside the country (mostly). Why do you think this could be?
Andy Julia: Even inside of the country you know! I don’t know, I think French people are really complicated and exigent…in this land, we never had any big magazine or eminence who illustrated himself of any fact with something could have been really dark, harsh or eccentric. French mentality is a bit closed to innovation, avant-garde and most that everything Rock’n Roll attitude.
For French people, it’s bad, it’s not normal and for us, it’s absurd and unbearable. For example, people who where listening to bands like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple the 70’ were perceive like black birds or marginal one. The musical artistic tendencies never be found in France, except recently with the new school electro vibe. That’s why bands like us have nothing to do here except drink good wine and enjoy one of the most beautiful land of Europe…
You have been active since 2000-2001. However, you have just released your first record (after an EP). What’s been going on all this time?
Andy Julia: It takes time for a band to find its own definition, his particularities and nuances. When you begin to do music, it’s often in copying bands you’re listening on the moment in a worst way. Soror Dolorosa is a band made with musician from different horizons and it takes time to learn to know each other and to manage to completely merge our influences and our skills.
When you’re musician, life treats you hardly, you don’t have positive signs often, ad more in a land like France, everything here is made to make you stop your band if you don’t follow the trend or the expectation of the major. So, those whole years had been like a challenge with our proper life to see if we were able to handle a Rock band, and yes, here we are. I think a lot of bands or musician story is made of that, especially in Rock music and dark sounds. You need to have something to say to make rock music, something that you want to say loud or deep.
Why did you start making music? Moreover, why this kind of music?
Andy Julia: I started to play drums to make a Black Metal band with my brother in the middle of the 90’. This band is called “Nuit Noire” and have just celebrated its 15 years recently. I was 15 years old and few months after I made my first live performance. This period was really intense for me, I used to play in many bands and do a lot of concerts, for certain periods, many per weekend. I really turned to be a musician at this moment, learned how to keep position onstage or in studio, not matter what’s happening.
It’s very important transition, cause learning is easy when you’re young and not that much after time passed away…Listening and playing Black Metal when the legendary bands were making their kult albums was, I think, the best period, I washed by brain from all the insipid things society tried to put inside and gave the choice to do music in my own way, as a real accomplishment.
Since “Severance” (EP), your sound has evolved quite a lot, getting more personal and melancholic…
Andy Julia: Yes, Severance has been made only to see what we would be able to do all together, a friend of us helped us with his home studio and we spent 6 months to mix it at home with a computer. At this time, we never spent more that 3 days in a recording studio. After this experience absolutely positive for us, we signed with Northern Silence – Beneath Grey Skies for three albums, Blind Scenes was the first and now No More Heroes follows the line.
It’s very important for a band to have a contract with a label cause it gives you a temporal grid to follow and an goal to reach somehow… it’s easy to get lost in your different desires and inspiration and finally to do nothing. Have a contract forces you to honor it and gives you much more possibility with the production of the music and merchandise. Even if it’s very difficult to sell a lot of disc today, musicians have to continue to do music, because people need it and it’s one of the best things on this planet.
Your image comes through pretty strong. What’s its importance in relation to the music, etc.?
Andy Julia: Our image is just the representation of what we are, we don’t have any rules in the band or in life to fit to any trend or shit like this, we do just what we feel. We follow the same line than for the composition of the songs, without asking us any question and always trying to do better and go higher…our music is intense, it’s made with the heart and it should be inappropriate to not be like this onstage, as strong as we can and always keeping in mind the fact that people pay to see a show and we give them a show to see and to feel with every senses.
I don’t like the fact that nowadays, all bands look the same or be into a comparable mood. Every band should have its universe, its codes, its own world. Being a musician is create an entire world and another perception of the reality, thought something immaterial, floating in the air…the images is the only thing that could engrave the band into the reality and make it have an heavier weight.
What’s your relationship with the rest of Beneath Grey Skies bands, groups quite different from you, such as Alcest and others?
Andy Julia: We have excellent relation, with Heretoir for example. We planned to share stage together, maybe a tour. If we can really merge our audiences it would be really nice and create the era of today. For us, it’s a challenge, it’s true that if you manage to create a incredible show, even people who are not familiar and near from your sound will turn the face and watch you with interest. In the 80’, after year and year of misery in playing in all the most creepy clubs of UK, a band like The Sisters of Mercy managed to play at the Royal Albert Hall for a show that everybody would remember. I don’t think they was only goth people in the crowd, as true as the world goth didn’t really exist at this time…it was something, dark, dreamlike and deep. I think the all bands and label have the same idea, the problem is the number of bands, there is too much and press must put styles and divide it to speak about it clearly.
The awesome artwork from Blind Scenes somehow reminds me of Klimt, even if it does not really resemble it that much. On the other hand, it is rich in symbolisms…
Andy Julia: Formerly, it’s a tarot card drawn by Koloman Moser, a contemporain of Klimt. The french designer Metastazis, modified it and gave it the color of the band and created one of our ephigy. If you note it, the one of Severance is Margeritte Carré, an actress from the beginning of the 20th century, dressed in nun…the second is this eyes banded Neo Egyptian mystical figure of death and the third is an real person made of flesh and blood, who lives today in this world….all of this is logical in the evolution of the band and the affirmation of our music.
How important are lyrics for you? What do you talk about? What do you want to express through them?
Andy Julia: I feel inspired by different kind of things, elements of situations… the only things that gathered it all, that I speak about things that I could die for, always keeping a kind of feeling of absolute. Even if Soror Dolorosa is a show on stage, it’s not a entertainment for us.
The lyrics are attached to very important things we have in our hearts and I’m not the only one writing in the band. Our topics are also a kind of communion in between us all, things we cannot say with common words and needs to be made in music to be shared. The lyrics are soul shivers; I’m personally very attentive to that when I listen to a band, some sentences can mark you forever in a song. At the beginning, it was Hervé (bass) who was writing poetry and Soror Dolorosa became a way to make it understood by people because I never searched to share it as books or publications. Now, as I’m vocalist, I more or less took that place but I every songs are not poetry. Today, lyrics of the band are most diversified and directly issued from our experiences in life.
Why did you chose English for your music, when you are French speaking?
Andy Julia: French speaking is definitely not made for typical rock energy and vibration…as I was speaking in the question about why French bands are not popular in France, it’s the same answer, it’s because it’s not the land for that…the French language is extremely complex and beautiful and you cannot find more interesting to write novel, poetry or philosophy. When you do cold wave or Post Punk, it’s about something else, you need words cutting like blade or say the things in a shorted way. English is perfect for that, and the Beatles who invented everything in Rock/Pop music were using English language, it’s a part of the heritage of this style. A band like Norma Loy always sang in English or Corpus Delicti and they were French. It’s two of the more interesting dark scene bands we ever had here.
How do you compose your songs? First the music and then the lyrics, the other way round, all at the same time?
Andy Julia: It depends, we have absolutely no rules in composing and the inspiration comes from everywhere. Words and note always flirt in music, like in love. You cannot split if without doing something sterile. Now, there are songs that are made by only one of us, or tracks composed in jamming during hours in a kind of trance…words are often coming on lonely days, glass morning or never ending nights…
Which artists, musicians or otherwise do you consider have influenced your style?
Andy Julia: All the artist who wanted to create a world of feelings and passion mixed with a sharp sense of kaleidoscopic aesthetic. The cold wave bands have always been influenced by the 19th century decadent era, it contains so many jewels. As true as we are inspired by the same things, I think I should say the Symbolism painters and poets for their vision of life, love and death…and the music bands, I think I already said enough about that, speaking of influences in cut the way to the readers to make their own analysis and I don’t want Soror Dolorosa to be compared anymore to the bands of the 80’ as a homage or revival bands, it’s fucking not.
No More Heroes is all you can find of most contemporary and have been inspired by the energetic changes we know now, the recent situation of the world and things I had in front of my eyes. I’m sure one day, people will understand that, maybe in seeing us playing live.
We’ve always (or at least since the late eighties) heard, both within and without the scene, that gothic rock is as well as dead.
Andy Julia: I think it’s not really dead, it’s just the music changed, the inspiration and the using of time…we spend too much on our time with new communication. Gothic Rock is a strong manifestation of music and it takes time to find the right ideas, the good mood and the correspondent key to what people of you time expect.
I think gothic rock never been so popular as today, you cannot imagine a festival like Wave Gothic Treffen of M’era Luna 25 years before, it was not thinkable. We think Gothic Rock is dead maybe because the bands are not so inspired or talented and we are in a period of judgment and not discovery. In Soror Dolorosa, we don’t care about all of that, we’re just making that we have inside in music.
However, projects like your, or this book’s mere existence, unequivocally deny that fact. What is your opinion on this? Do you think that this scene is on a permanent downfall?
Andy Julia: I think it’s the reflection of nowadays, where people consumes too much information for nothing and meanwhile forget the principle. This scene were always something in the margin of society and now, we have the feeling that it’s lost in between piles of others things who came after… formerly, it was rock and punk who created gothic scene and the technologic evolution made the sound change and musician having much more possibilities.
But music is just a question of inspiration, of essence. If musician don’t have it in the gothic scene like before, it’s because gothic scene must be re invented and brought further and higher to fit to the world of today. Gothic bands don’t have to stay in the same mood, just copying the legendary bands… it’s not what we are doing, and following our albums and live performance, the audience will see it in motion… Stagnant waters are beautiful on a painting, but not in life because if there is not motion, living things turn rotten.
Actually, your sound is closer to those eighties than to current “fashions”…
Andy Julia: Maybe, but I wasn’t a strict position to sound like before in mixing the album. We just wanted something that breathes, where all the instruments are gathering around the same idea of power, fragileness and truth. Something that gives you this irresistible envy to get up, take your car and go far…
How important are arrangements and production in your records? You have worked with producers, such as B. Roux, who, apparently, had nothing in common with your sound…
Andy Julia: Mr Xort of the Drudenhaus Studio usually produce metal albums, but he have a real post punk / new wave musical culture, like us. He was really involved on all the steps of the studio session like if he was a part of the band. He helped us to take the good decisions and make the things happen despite of all the troubles you can have when you’re in studio…He perfectly understands our music and we have a very good relation in working and in life.
Hi studio is in the middle of nature and that’s very important to be connected to simple and real things when you do music. Being all the time bathed in the city life doesn’t give you the way to find the essence of what you want to create, because of too much noise and informations. For now, it’s the perfect place to create our albums and we surely gonna go back there for the next album.
You’ve toured all over Europe. What’s Live for you? Is it more or less important than studio work?
Andy Julia: It’s complementary, stage is a place of liberty and one of the only situation where you can be 100% and more… Soror Dolorosa is a rock band, and for a rock band, stage is the place where the magic happens. We like to play live, sharing the music with the audience is an extraordinary experience that makes you turn stronger and a kind of absolute. Personally, I’m not really able to speak after a show, I need one or two hours to take back my mind and go back to reality. I love this state of mind, to have been so far in adrenaline and emotions, that life appears different to you eyes, with a kind of ethereal filter on. In one hour, you life as much as one month of you everyday life, it’s a kind of nectar of life, the things inside are revealed and souls can communicate for real…
Do you use any specific scenography during your gigs? Do you consider it a good way to complement music?
Andy Julia: Yes, for No More Heroes concerts, we re actually going to Milan to stay in residence in the great venue with a light and sound engineer to uplift our live performances. I don’t want to say things about what we gonna do, it must be untold and be a discovery for the people who come.
And last, three questions of a more frivolous nature (not sure if the above are not so):
You have released many songs in all these years… Which three would you choose from your whole career?
Andy Julia: I think for me it would be Low End, Dare me and Sound&Death.
During the last years, I am sure that there have been a number of bands and songs that have had an influence in you… Could you choose three songs from other bands that you would have liked to write yourselves?
Andy Julia: My three songs are Mercy by Mojave 3, In power we entrust (Love advocated) by Dead Can Dance and Song to the Siren (This Mortal Coil version)
Apart from the three songs just mentioned, which three songs would you cover?
Andy Julia: The River of No Return by Marilyn Monroe, Dumb by Nirvana, Gimme Danger by the Stooges.