The Gathering exposed

This new album by The Gathering could only be different from its predecessor, The West Pole. The latter was the very first with Silje Wergeland behind the microphone and was already written before she joined the band. It was therefore a record that didn’t give her much of a free hand, and whose orientation had already been defined.

Disclosure is the first album truly composed by this new entity, free at last of the pressure linked to the introduction of a new voice. As the name suggests, it aims at honesty and relies on spontaneous music and unbridled lyrics. It also marks a new milestone for Silje’s bandmates, who have finally agreed to sing.

Silje Wergeland, The Gathering’s singer, tells us more about the new dynamics in the band.

Radio Metal : The previous album, The West Pole, was your first as the new singer of the band. On that album, you had to convince the fans. How did they welcome you?

Silje Wergeland (vocals) : Well, it was… What can I say? Everybody was more focused on who I was and how I would be able to do it than on anything else. But it was exciting. I got a lot of really nice feedback.

Did you feel less pressure on this new album, then?

Yeah, of course. There’s no secret around the singer now, everybody knows who I am! So this time it was way more relaxed. I could focus on singing and making music, instead of dealing with all the expectations and that kind of stuff.

« This time it was way more relaxed. I could focus on singing and making music, instead of dealing with all the expectations. »

Can you describe how the band works and writes albums? What is your implication? Has something changed between The West Pole, who was your first, and this one?

On The West Pole, most of the songs were written before they knew who was going to be the singer. Instrumentally, at least; there were no vocal lines, no lyrics. I did all that myself. But basically, most of the songs were already done, so I just added lyrics and the vocal lines and sent everything back to them. This time, they knew who the singer was, they knew my voice, and we worked together from the beginning on all the songs. For some songs, Frank [Boeijen, keyboards] and I were just working with a piano and vocals, working the songs together. Other songs were made with all the instruments first, and then I put in the vocals later. I’ve been way more integrated in the songwriting process this time.

This album is actually very different from other records. Can we say you’re the one who brought this new orientation to the band?

I think it’s a mix of everybody. Everybody was more relaxed, we knew one another better. We inspired one another, you know? It’s definitely more of a collaboration than the other one, from the beginning. It’s more of a “meltdown”, if you can say that!

You used many different instruments on this record, like on « Meltdown »…

We have violins, strings, trumpets… Frank, the keyboard player, made this song with René [Rutten, guitars], and he used a lot of keyboard effects.

Do you think you could use other instruments played by real players, and not keyboard effects, for your future records?

We do have real violins, and trumpets, and some strings. But it would be great to decide we want to have an actual saxophone player. We would do it, for sure. We don’t have any limits when it comes to real instruments, of course. We like organic sounds.

« We didn’t try to make something, we just made something. Nothing was forced, everything was pure and naïve. We just made exactly what came out. The West Pole, for example, was a bit more framed. »

On the artwork we see what seems to be a bird in a human’s brain and the bird seems to control what the person says. What is the message behind such an innocent picture?

This was made by a Chilean artist, Carlos Vega. What exactly he had in mind, I’m not quite sure! But we have our own interpretation of the artwork. When we saw this, when he made this for us, we thought it fit the song “Heroes For Ghosts” perfectly. It’s a bit messy on the outside, and then it gets into your head and creates something nice, positive and creative, if you can use that word again. It comes out as a flower, like a positive thing. It’s like a process, if you know what I mean.

What’s interesting in that artwork is that there’s a contrast between the bird, that looks very innocent, and the rest of the picture, which seems complicated.

It kind of reflects the whole album a little bit. We think this is one of the most honest albums The Gathering has ever made. For me as well, because I was in another band before I joined The Gathering. Lyrics-wise, I write about messy, complicated situations! As for the music, it’s very honest, very stripped down, and kind of brave. We put our heart out on a plate a little bit with this album. That’s a bit what you just described with the artwork.

I think this artwork fits the music perfectly. This new album has all the sweet melodies we’re used to from The Gathering, but there’s also a more complicated, progressive, almost experimental side. When I look at the artwork, I see the music inside the album.

That’s nice! You can also see there are so many layers in it, in a way. There are loads of details, and that’s typical of The Gathering. Lots of details and layers in the music. We are very happy with the artwork. I don’t know if you’ve seen the pictures from the vinyl that we posted on Facebook. It all looks just awesome.

You just said that this was one of your most honest albums, but The Gathering has always written very intimist albums. What makes this one so special, more personal than the others?

Good question. Musically, we had no boundaries. We didn’t try to make something, we just made something. Nothing was forced, everything was pure and naïve. We just made exactly what came out. The West Pole, for example, was a bit more framed. We were more like: “This is gonna be a rock-oriented album, so we need to do this and not do that”. This time, there were no boundaries, no limits.

Completely spontaneous?

Yeah, exactly. Also with the lyrics, I think. I didn’t want to hide anything, I just wrote what I felt like writing. Normally, I try to hide things a little bit, but this time, I decided to put everything out in the open.

Isn’t it frightening to be so honest in your lyrics?

Yes! (laughs)

« Normally, I try to hide things a little bit, but this time, I decided to put everything out in the open. »

This is the first time we hear a male voice on this album since the very first albums of The Gathering. Can we say the shows the band did with the Always line-up triggered this idea?

I’m not sure. It was something we started thinking about a long time ago. I asked the guys: “Why don’t you guys sing? Why don’t we try to do something together?” I encouraged Frank to sing a little bit when we were doing the piano/vocals rehearsals. We did a couple of songs by Pink Floyd, and we also did some other covers. I told him: “You have a great voice, it’s pitch-perfect! Why don’t we do this? It’s just another layer, another new thing”. He was like: “Maybe…” I think he kind of likes it, but didn’t dare do it before. It was never a good time for it, I don’t know. When he came up with the idea for “Meltdwon”, I said: “Yeah, this is really cool, let’s go for it!” (laughs) I hope we can do some more. Hans and René are also singing on the album, but in the background, so you can’t really hear it!

Because they’re too shy, or something like that?

They need to rehearse a bit more first. Then maybe we can hear Hans on a solo, I don’t know! (laughs)

Do you think that The Gathering could become a band with two singers in the future?

I like to think The Gathering is a band with no limits. I’m not sure, maybe. Not at the moment, though. I love it when Marjolein [Kooijman, bass] sings together with me, and I’m looking forward to singing with Frank. I think it’s just great.

The guys looked pretty enthusiastic about the shows with the Always line-up. Can we expect more shows with this line-up?

They’re gonna do a few in September. I’m not sure if there are any more plans for it. Maybe in five years, I’ve heard. They’re going to do it now, and again in five years, because it will be another anniversary. It’s very inspiring to play with other people again and get influenced.

« I like to think The Gathering is a band with no limits. »

Have you already scheduled some live shows for this tour?

We’ll be starting in the Netherlands in January, through February and March, I think. We’re working on shows to promote the album in Europe. It will come, but I can’t say anything official at the moment.

About two years ago, you played an acoustic session in a music store in Lyons (France). That was really cool. Would you like to do something like that again?

Yeah, of course! That was great, I remember that very well, actually. We actually to convince Frank to sing a little bit back then! (laughs) But it was a bit early. Yeah, definitely. We’ve done a few more shows like that, in pubs and stuff. That can happen, yeah.

Have you thought about recording a live CD or DVD to immortalize a performance with you as the singer?

We’ve talked about doing it. We don’t have any plans for it at the moment, but it could be a good idea. It might happen, but nothing is settled right now.

Do you intend to release other albums on your label, Psychonaut Records, or is it just meant for The Gathering albums?

In the beginning, it was just for the band. It was also for some other projects the guys had, like Drive By Wire, with René, and Frank’s solo project, Grimm Limbo. I don’t think Marjolein used it, but the guys released their stuff on the label. Basically, it’s only for The Gathering, because it takes a lot of time, and the members of the band want to focus on being artists, and not music businessmen.

Are you still in touch with the members of Octavia Sperati, your former band?

Yes, we are. We are very good friends. We always were, that’s why we started the band. We tend to meet up occasionally. Actually, Bodil, the guitar player, was here the other week-end.

What is the status of the band at the moment? You’ve been on a break since 2008. Are you planning to come back with a new album?

We don’t have any plans to do that. Everybody’s very busy. Gyri, the other guitar player, is in Tristania, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that band. Everybody has children, except Tone and Gyri, and they’re very busy with other things, so I don’t think that’s gonna happen for some time. Never say never, but there are no plans.

Interview conducted by phone on September 2012
Transcription: Saff’

The Gathering’s official website: www.gathering.nl

Album Disclosure already released via Psychonaut Records

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