In this second interview with one of the Journalist’s from Demon Reports with Vocalist Sofia Schmidt from Danish symphonic metal royalty Ethereal Kingdoms by Svetlana Koruga. Svetlana has talked with Sofia about her thoughts on the upcoming live shows of the band in March, her passion for the unusual instrument Kantele, how to incorporate growls with clean vocals in her opinion, about the possible official upcoming new record by the band, more exclusive details, below:
Photo by: Nikolaj Brnasholm Photography
1. Beside your role in Ethereal Kingdoms, you also had your own personal projects like Power-metal symphonic live streaming event recently, as well as you personal singing projects – like your cover songs. Can you tell me what motives you the most to do them, also do you plan to work on possible new projects?
”What drives me to do music, is the ability to create something extraordinary, something that takes you out of everyday life, something I can experience with others through art or entertainment or the intersection between those two. I’ve worked with anything from musical theatre to singing at funerals over to extreme metal, lots of features both live and in studio, choir… For me, the format is just a new exciting vessel of expression and genres don’t feel like a limitation for me. If the music feels good, if it interests me, I’ll do it! I am always on the go, doing lots of stuff. I’ve put a few things on hold for now, so I can catch up on the backlog of stuff I’m doing on my own or with others. I’ve got some really exciting live show features lined up for this year, that will hopefully be a thing!”
2. Tell me about your upcoming events on March 13th and 26th one with Anoxia and Archangel, the second one with Trold, are you prepared for the events and excited to see the audience in person as well after all of the Covid-19 restrictions? What can fans and the audience expect from your set-lists for the concerts, are there going to be some surprises maybe?
”Oh man, I can’t wait to get back on stage! For me, live music performances happen in a space between the audience and the performers, it transcends the boundary of the stage and the individual and is a synergy with everyone in the room, in the venue, bringing in their energy to the events unfolding. That’s an almost addictive rush, haha! The last real live show we did with Ethereal Kingdoms was in summer 2020 with a seated outdoor audience, so we’re a bit rusty you could say. But I’ve been keeping sharp in honing my performance skills in other ways, diving into the storytelling and the staging aspects of our musical universe. Since we’re the headliner of both events, we are making something special out of it. Due to the lockdowns, preparing a big setup with a lot of guest soloists and so forth is a bad idea, so we’re running on a very minimalist setup with more focus on some cool, new special effects and a nice light show! The setlist is gonna be a bit of the old, a bit of the new and with a few songs, that haven’t been heard for a long, long time.”
3. You play an unordinary instrument Kantele, beside you being a Vocalist, what inspired you to play this instrument and motivated you as well, to play it from the start?
”Anything that can make an interesting sound can be an instrument for me! I have a cultural connection to the kantele and its odd and magical sound have always drawn me in. I have had it for around 8 years and it’s built by the Finnish instrument workshop Melodia Soitin. It’s a very meditative and relaxing instrument and although it has its limitations in regards to tunings etc, it’s very enjoyable still!”
4. Since you have covered some songs from the Ghost Ship Octavius “Delirium” and the ”Far over the misty mountains cold” from the movie “The Hobbit”, tell me how do you choice the songs to cover, is there any criterium for it, or is it your personal intuition to choose this songs to cover?
”Yeah, my YouTube channel is a bit all over the place to say the least! I like to create something that entertains, inspires and gives people an experience. I generally just sing what interests me or when I get an idea for a fun or novel arrangement. Sometimes, it’s just because I really like the song, like with Daze of June’s “Black-Eyed”. Sometimes, I just post some of my homework from my classical vocal education. Sometimes, the visual idea comes first, like it did with some of my Danish song arrangements, where I wanted to capture the beauty of the landscape with some music set to it.
I am working on a little something from Apocalyptica right now, where I’m really diving into making an interesting video to tell the story as well. For the video aspects, I usually film it myself or I collaborate with my good friend Anders Groos Mikkelsen, who’s a great videographer with a clean and elegant style, that nicely contrasts my very chaotic approach to things. In the sound department, I’ve worked a lot with Christoffer Valentin Hildebrandt of Sunless Dawn, who’s an absolute genius behind the mixing desk and I’ve had some help from Patrick Simon of Northfall, as well. It’s all an opportunity for friends to get together to create something fun and beautiful. In the future, I have some plans for genre-bending and making some more unusual arrangements, but it all depends on how busy I’ll be with studies and Ethereal Kingdoms in 2021.”
Photo by: Nikolaj Brnasholm Photography
5. You band name is interesting, what does Ethereal Kingdoms mean? Is there any interesting story behind it?
”Thank you, you’re actually the first to ask that! Well, guitarist and fellow composer Christian and I were brainstorming for a name back in 2017 when we were going to release the debut EP. We were going between a lot of ideas, but we wanted something that was kind a mysterious and could go in a few different directions, something that would give us musical freedom and not sound too much like a certain genre-based name. Ethereal Kingdoms; otherworldly realm, dream-space – that’s where the music and performing arts take you. It’s a thing that unfolds in real-time and real-time only and everyone perceives it in their own way. If I say “Think of the song ‘Hey Jude’ by The Beatles”, you can hear it in your head, and so can I – but are we hearing the same song? That’s the kind of thing we wanted to explore – and it’s also symmetric, with 8 letters in each word, which gives some nice design options. I really like Devin Townsend, so the Kingdoms-part is a tiny reference to hit smash hit song ”Kingdom”, too. On the downside, the name can be a bit tricky to spell, but hey, at least it’s unique!”
6. How do you combine your growls with clean vocals, is there a technique that needs to be learned? How much do you practice, so that the both vocal styles are in a such balance, also is it hard for your to sing in both styles?
”Oh man, I could go on about this for an entire novel, haha! In short, yes, I do practice a lot and I practice every day in a targeted and focused manner. I mainly work on my cleans, since those are my bread and butter so to speak, and a lot of the work carries over between the techniques. Without this turning into a vocal-technique and anatomy rant, I can boil it down to: Depending on the type of growls and the type of cleans you do, the basic principles of clean singing and growls are very similar, some of the stuff just happens on the false cords instead of the real vocal folds. The posture, breath support technique, laryngeal placement, articulation, all those can be compatible across clean and growl, depending on what stylings you go for. But it’s like, the voice is muscles and ligaments like the rest of our body, and you can’t be both a ballerina and a sumo wrestler at the same time. But you can find a hybrid build, that works for something in between and that’s what I am going for. You got to know your instrument really well and be very aware of your body etc. It takes just as much strength and coordination to do growls as it does to do high notes etc. My growls are kind of my weak spot if I am being honest. Right now, I’m opting for a mid-range sound with lower laryngeal placement without drawing my tongue too far back, as anything else can mess with my cleans. I’m constantly working to expand my technique of course and I believe.”
Photo by: Nikolaj Brnasholm Photography
7. Do you think that the musical platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud – help in the promotional way for the bands? Did some of this platforms helped you, achieve the goals that you are looking for?
”Well, we’re not really on SoundCloud but we are on every other platform you can think of due to our excellent distribution deal via SPV with our label Mighty Music.
In regards to Spotify, the format can be a bit confusing and hard to break into playlist formats for new artists I think. We are by no means huge on Spotify, we rely mainly on physical media (which is nice because our artist Anna Holm created the most beautiful illustrations for our CD booklet and the vinyl!).
We have seen some of our friend-bands get incredibly good results on the streaming platforms and it has really helped them! So I think it can be great, depending on where your audience tribe is located, so to speak.”
8. Who are your role models both in classical music and in metal, as well? Do you incorporate the influences from one genre into the other one?
”Oh man, I look up to so many people, also outside metal and classical! I believe that there are no boundaries between genres in music, just good music and bad music – and that’s a whole other can of worms. Metal and classical music are both inherently dramatic and theatrical genres, with big emotions and an even bigger expression, so it’s quite natural for me to be drawn to both genres, I feel. Both as a performer and as a composer and arranger. In metal I look up to Devin Townsend for the unbridled creativity, Daniel Tompkins for his vocals, Tuomas Holopainen for his drive and vision and Noora Louhimo for her energy and presence. In the classical realm, I’m into G.B. Pergolesi, Bela Bartók, Thomas Ades, Hugo Wolf and other stuff like that. I meet so many incredibly talented, passionate and visionary musicians in the scene here in Copenhagen too. It’s a very vibrant community here as well, so much drive and energy!”
9. Do you plan to record a new album with Ethereal Kingdoms in the nearest future or later? And do you plan to do new covers, as well?
”A resounding YES, to both! Currently, I’m working out the new direction for Ethereal Kingdoms. There’s gonna be a lot of changes but also a lot of new opportunities and beginnings. I can reveal that there’s some studio time booked in late spring this year and we have some extremely exciting collaborations planned for the 2nd album release! In regards to covers, I have just about a million trillion ideas for stuff to do, but only 24 hours in a day. It’s great fun, especially to play around with the video aspect and get more creative with that, so there will definitely be more covers coming out. I am planning on doing some collabs there as well, to bring some new inspiration and sounds into the mix.”
Photo by: Nikolaj Brnasholm Photography
10. For the last question of the interview – do you have a message for the fans and the audience?
”Thank you so much for this, it was a really enjoyable interview! And thank you all for listening, reading and immersing yourself in the music – your support enables me to create more for us to experience together.”
Check out the Sofia’s cover of the Ghost Ship Octavius song “Delirium”, here:
Check out the official live performance video for the “Endings” from the live streaming Slay Home Slay Safe festival in 2020, here: