Before Lid Ar Morrigan IV started, I had the opportunity to interview Zino and Bram who are respectively the singer and the drummer in Vanaheim !
Hi guys ! How are you since last time we met in Ghent ?
Zino : We’re fine, we’ve been pretty busy! We are focusing on booking a lot of shows together because now our album is out, we’re also taking a little bit of breath between the last ending of the writing process and the starting of the new one.
Bram : A lot of things are happening, because when we have finished the album, which was very intense, immediately after the promotion, we are trying to get our album out of there, out to the world, but we are really happy with how it turned out, the music… We’ve got some shows in the agenda.
Zino : And the reactions on the Internet have been overwhelming. First of all we write the music the way we want but when we get such an amazing feedback from the crowd and nice reviews…
Bram : Including one from you yeah !
If I’m right it was your first gig in France yesterday since Cernunnos Pagan Fest in 2019. I suppose you’re glad to get back to the French audience !
Zino : Yeah ! First we always love going abroad because we know that when we step to the car together and we go over the border, we’re gonna have a great time ! Because we’re a great team and it’s always nice to talk with each other in the car. But when coming to France, people act very nice to our shows, they are really active, supportive ! And of course, cheese ! Yesterday we had the best camembert, they put it in our van and it was super melty and we ate it on some bread.
Bram : We put it on fire, it was « flambé ». Yeah it was awesome ! We just wanna be on the road as much as we can, but it’s especially good, I’m not sure if we have so many fanbase in France but it’s always nice to connect with people after you put so much time into the album, and yeah, here people are great !
And today, after two deferments we finally see you at Lid Ar Morrigan IV with plenty of great bands ! Do you plan to attend some gigs ?
Zino : I have a personal favorite, this is Svartsot. I really like them, I’ve already listened to their new album several times and I never had the chance to go to a gig because they never were around us when I was available. And also Trollfest, we saw them some weeks ago and we know it’s gonna be a lot of fun. But we will miss them unfortunately because we have to go early, we’ll drive back ten hours tomorrow so we can’t go too long. But we’ll try !
Bram : And also for me Svartsot, I think it’s the first time for me ! But I’ll hang around to try to see everything, have some fun, we like to check bands, the atmosphere of being at a festival and hearing music.
At the moment you are promoting your first album Een Verloren Verhaal which was released at the beginning of the year. It was really ambitious to write a concept album, was it a challenge for you ?
Zino : Yes ! We really worked very hard, when you enter a process like that you don’t work alone but with the group, you’re all involved with what it’s gonna be and how it’s gonna get there. So we started with the song writing and we knew at an early state that our songs were pretty challenging. And along with that, we decided to go for some orchestrations, on which I spent a lot of time. And it took some years, because in total we worked on the album during four or five years, and it’s not full time working on the album because we had to combine our jobs, also study, so it’s pretty heavy to still contribute that much energy in a project like that.
Bram : The other thing is that it also grew like a beginning stage, we actually were not all expecting the same thing I think in terms of production, how good it would be, some of the songs were already written before we decided where we will record, how it will sound. We’ve just started enthousiatic and it became a really big thing, and we all wanted to be at a certain level at a certain time because of those kind of decisions, we said « ok, we want to make an album that you can put next to an album of for example Ensiferum, Wintersun, Equilibrium or at least former stage, former shape of these bands. And it was really a challenge, we skip kind of where those bands went up once step at a time with every album, and we tried to make one twist after the same time and that gave a lot of delays. That’s why we were like invisible to the scene because we were working so much on really detailed work. But we feel like we know because of that we can move also this big step forward when people hear us, they’re really turning their head because they love music and if you release something, everybody’s waiting for it, you really have to convince them by bringing some very quality work, and that’s what we try to do.
Zino : I think that you have to show you are willing to work hard for it because there are many, many bands worked very hard for it, and we see that around, because all the time and the energy we put. It was a long answer !
Bram : It was a very big challenge to come back to the question. It was beyond the challenge.
Zino : It became a challenge.
Bram : If we had looked back four years ago we would have said « no way for us ! ».
It was also audacious to sing in Dutch, without realising it it’s not usual ! Who had the idea to add the translation into several languages ?
Zino : It’s a very common language in the Netherlands !
Haha no ! You all speak English in the Netherlands !
Zino : This was part of the challenge because first we didn’t immediately have the idea to write in our own language, what it grew as we started to read all this folklore tales, we started to really take dive into old Dutch litterature, and also dealing with other spelling which has total different way of expressing themselves like in litterature. Then I was thinking like « ok we can write the songs again in English, by the way for the EP Mike wrote the English lyrics. But from my side, I often have very complicated ideas of how I want things to be, to look like or sound like, but I don’t have in English the vocabulary to express myself. So my English is good enough for interviews, or cheese and croissants. Furthermore my Dutch is better, I can really get deeplier and write poetic stuff.
Bram : In the end, the decision came by itself but we wanted Zino to express himself because he’s a really creative mind, in the band at least, one of the most creative.
Zino : Like basically we started to talk about it more and more and more, we recorded some ideas, some of them we said « no, f**k no », and other ones, « yes, ok, super cool ! », and we talk about how we’re gonna do it, and then Bram also wrote two of the songs which turned out insanely cool !
Bram : I think you can really hear the expression because it’s storytelling, it’s like you don’t want to have a boring narrator, and in English, Zino would be a more boring narrator than he is in Dutch. And I think you can really touch even if you don’t understand, you can still feel most of the emotion more than if Zino would have sung in English. That was for us the key pointing. Of course we know we have our main engagements from basically our fanbase, most of the people are in France, UK, Germany, also in the Netherlands. That’s why we wrote a proper translation in French so people can really experience the story in a deeper way.
Was the writing process different between your first EP The House Spirit and the album ?
Zino : Yes we can say so because for the EP some of the members were still there and we have now other ambitions, other approach of the song writing. We already learnt a lot from the EP.
Bram : We experimented a lot as well.
Zino : We all grew as musicians and as people.
Officially Vanaheim is a Dutch band but you are scattered in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Is it not too difficult for rehearsings and recording sessions ? Moreover, the pandemic mustn’t have made things easier !
Bram : Yes it definitely had an influence because when we think about the last two years which were particularly intense for each of us, and we didn’t actually see each other at that time. So we worked on the orchestrations, on the structures. We saw each other a couple of times but we haven’t seen Mike for two years at some point. We went pretty late to the recording process, to record the folk songs for example. So yeah, how did we cope with that… I don’t know but we did it !
Zino : I think we could say there were advantages and disadvantages, the advantage was that it gave us a huge amount of time since we couln’t play shows. My education still took me a lot of time. We usually don’t see each other on a weekly base because we live far away from each other. We don’t really rehearse, we rehearse before the shows and we do have a weekly meeting so every Tuesday we meet online and we talk for two hours.
You called on several guests for your first album, how do you know them ?
Zino : There’s Sandra from Storm Seeker, a collegue band. Then we have Rikke, we know Rikke from her band Pyrolysis, we played our first gig with Pyrolysis. And we stayed in contact with Rikke because she’s super friendly and talented ! Michael Gorjacev made the sounddesign intro of « Gevallen In De Nacht », he’s a friend of mine. Creia is Mike’s girlfriend. Martin made the male choirs, Micky Huijsmans as well for female choirs.
You released your first videoclip for the song « Reuzenspraak ». Why did you choose this song ? I suppose it was a nice experience !
Bram : So we tend to like long songs, so we checked which one was the least long and at the end, « Reuzenspraak » turned out to be a very romantic, emotional, touching song, it’s really optimal for promotion. It also has a very strong story, a very emotional story about a father who is reading a book to her girl, and the girl goes in the night to see giants that have risen from that book. That’s basically perfect for a videoclip. It’s a song about working hard, honouring your family, it may be qualify the sens of our videoclip.
Zino : I think it also fits our vision that we are not really after these heroic stuff, zooming on the characters and giving them like a personality. It’s storytelling, it’s small and epic !
I’m also curious to know who is this little girl who appears in the videoclip ?
Zino : The girl is called Rosalie, the father is Richard, he’s actually her father. She is a young actress, she’s doing acting commissions. She’s quite ambitious because in the Netherlands she also played in some short movies. She came in the location and first, everything was like getting used to other scary stuff and she loved it !
Bram : It was actually a very long day because we started at 7:40 in the morning and we left the location at 9:30 in the evening. So it was very long but once she was going, she didn’t want to stop !
Zino : She was so professional because for a young kid, it’s quite interesting that she can concentrate so much !
Bram : I was really afraid after four hours it would be difficult because she’s ten years old, we were very worried but in the end she made the job !
It’s impossible to interview a folk metal band without talking about drinking ! There’s a lot of crafted beers at the festival, did you taste some of them, and if so, which one is your favorite ?
Bram : Actually we will be disappointing for this question because we don’t really drink very much, even not at all…
Zino : Yes, I don’t drink at all.
Bram : Maybe I will try it one tonight but I don’t know what they have.
Zino : We are totally more interested in cheese !
But you also have some medieval wine hypocras and some white wine Muscadet, it’s a local wine which is made around the place ! It’s a sweet one.
Bram : I will definitely prefer beer !
Zino : But on tour we agree that we won’t drink very much.
Oh you’re so serious !
Zino : I can tell you that even without drinking, some days we have our head already pretty heavy. On top of that, we only make things harder for ourselves.
Bram : And we also drive ourselves, but it’s a really nice day, I would prefer a light beer… or cheese !
We can make a cheesy beer if you want ! Maybe it exists !
And what about your favorite drinking song ?
Zino : « Man with a plan » by Korpiklaani !
The Dutch folklore is still quite misknown, could you tell us a typical tale from your country ?
Bram : Villa Volta is located in an attraction park in the Netherlands, I think there’s a lot of bands who also get inspiration in their music. It’s a house, not really a haunting mansion, it’s cursed in the local Dutch way, it’s about the Bokkenrijders which used to go to churches.
Zino : They actually existed by the way !
Bram : Yes they existed and there’s even a movie which was released ! That’s the same guy who records a videoclip. But they used to rob churches until the day and that’s one guy was telling us about the attraction that he saw a white chimere, like a sort of a ghost of a woman, and she told him that he was basically cursed from her and that he could only undo this curse by getting a new born child and that he has to turn around his mind to go away from the criminal and get back to normal life.
Zino : He has to come back to the good side.
Bram : But he never got it and he will stay forever cursed.
Zino : And I think he also had an unaturally long life.
As you said it sooner, you have some gigs to come. Festival season is now starting, where will you play shortly ?
Zino : In two weeks we will play in the Netherlands for two shows, it will be the first time we’ll present our new stuff in our country. After that we have Mahlstrom festival in July in Germany with Finsterforst, Black Messiah, Bloody Tyrant, Gernotshagen, also international bands. Then we are going back to the UK for three shows, one at a festival, and two shows in Leicester and London. Otherwise we are booking some other shows, one in September in the Netherlands, and another one in October anywhere. For next year we plan to come back to some festivals, one in France around Lille, Paris. It will be good to be connected again with people !
A big thank you for this interesting interview ! Do you want to add something ?
Zino : At least I’m really happy to be here at the festival and I’m ready to have a great time in the festival, on the stage and to have a great party with everybody !
Bram : If you’re reading us till the very end, thanks so much for your interest for Vanaheim, and of course we hope you like our new stuff and our music, if you want to share it with your friends it would help us ! And we hope to connect with everybody in the future, but in the meantime we will enjoy our time here because there are awesome bands which are already playing !
Thanks again, enjoy your festival !
Bram and Zino : Thank you for having us !