Concordea – Soaring Through Wide SpacesTuesday, 18th July 2017
Remembering the struggle to hear any metal bands coming from Russia during the 1980’s, it’s exciting to now be exposed to newer bands who are enjoying the limitless possibilities of exposure through affordable home studios and internet/social media access. Concordea is a power/progressive metal outfit that currently exists as a studio endeavor, fueled by the songwriting and performances of guitarist Daria Piankova and keyboardist Aleksei Turetckov – and filling out their lineup with session players including an Italian vocalist in Felippo Tezza. After issuing their debut EP Before the Sunrise in 2014 on DeFox Records, the band choose to go the DIY route for the full-length follow up Over Wide Spaces – an impressive effort that keeps the arrangements lean while the performances and intricacies sharp, a rare feat in the genre where sometimes excess and shred rule the roost.
Firing off questions to Daria and Aleksey, prepare to learn more behind Concorda in terms of their goals, their shorter songwriting outlook, the work/life balance, and hopes for possibly becoming more of a live, active band versus staying as a studio act.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about your musical development in childhood- what memories do you have surrounding music, when did you first get into metal or progressive music, and how did you make the progression into picking up an instrument?
Daria: I can’t say I was involved in music during my early years. I started to play piano when I was 10 and back then I didn’t have any favorite artist. I liked random songs of random bands, but there was no particular interest towards specific albums or artists. When I was 4 or 5 years old, my father liked to play some vinyl, so I listened to Deep Purple, Queen, Pink Floyd and some famous Russian bards, for example, Vladimir Vysotski. Later my brother let me listen to Symphony of Enchanted Lands, the second album of Italy’s Rhapsody and then my interest to the music and to metal in particular immediately started rising. This interest brought me to guitar playing.
Alexey: One of my first musical memories is a vinyl record player, which we had in the family. I started to study music when I was in primary school, the first instrument was an accordion. At that time, I listened to some classical music. Then there was jazz, when I studied the saxophone. After that I started listening to metal and bought a guitar. And then, at the university, my friend asked me to play keyboards in his metal band. So since then I play keyboards.
Dead Rhetoric: Concordea developed in 2011, what can you tell us about the beginning days of the group – and how has it turned out to be more of a duo in terms of a permanent lineup with guitarist Daria Piankova and keyboardist Aleksei Turetckov while hiring session people on bass and vocals?
Daria: The starting period of the band was pretty long, but full of dreams and good presentiments. When I was searching for bandmates, I just wanted to play some beautiful melodic metal songs, but to find someone who wants the same is rather an option than a rule. So, the first complete line up came together in the middle of 2012, at that time Alexey joined the band.
Alexey: By the end of 2015, we were still looking for a suitable vocalist. At the same time, we accumulated some material for music, so in order to not waste the time, we decided to go to the studio and start recording the album.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you attain a deal with Italian label DeFox Records who released your debut EP Before the Sunrise in 2014? What are your thoughts overall on the songwriting, performances, production, and overall final product for this EP?
Daria: As for the label, it was the idea of our previous guest vocalist Andrea Bicego. As far as I know the director of DeFox Records is his good friend, and when they met, Andrea introduced Mirco to our first mini-album and Mirco liked it. I can’t say for everyone but back then it seemed everybody was working on the EP with great enthusiasm. The material we wrote and arranged was very nice and we had cool demo versions. But by the end of mastering I felt general disappointment and there were those who completely lost their interest, because the result wasn’t what we needed. We discovered that we have really different approaches towards everything, including songwriting, performances and production. But still it’s our first valid mini-album, although it sounds a bit ‘childish’. It’s already part of our history. It contains a lot of dreams.
Dead Rhetoric: Over Wide Spaces is the latest Concordea release. Where do you see the major differences between the two efforts? Do you feel like you made major improvements in terms of focus and performances, while maintaining the need for hooks and melodies within the power/progressive metal framework?
Daria: The first thing we changed is the recording studio. This time we decided to take total control over the recording sessions of the instrumental parts. The second thing is that we changed the studio which mixed and mastered the material. It was a real pleasure to work with Anton Vorozhtsov from TA Production (Ukraine): his approach is very correct, he did his work taking into consideration all our inquiries, and believe me, it’s not so simple to withstand all the big and little requests we had and to comply with it as well. Besides this our material is quite complex and we had his technical support during the recording sessions. From the musical point of view the album turned out more intense and ‘grown up’.
Alexey: Since we decided to keep everything under our control, we recorded the instruments by ourselves, and we decided to publish this independently without a label. In addition, we released our album on a physical CD, unlike the previous one. We took seriously the approach to the design of the cover and the booklet. The album has more progressive components in terms of the music and more variety in the melodies.
Dead Rhetoric: Unlike many bands in your genre, the focus upon shorter songs greatly intensifies the ideas, probably causing them to catch on quicker than a more intricate, technical-oriented act. Are you conscious of this in your songwriting, to not become too shred or purposely intricate as to appeal to more than a musical-inclined audience?
Daria: Every day our life becomes faster and faster, do you think a lot people want to get into a long 10- or 20-minute composition of an unknown metal band? You always have very little time to catch somebody’s attention. You need a perfect balance between technique and ideas.
Alexey: Personally I don’t have a target to write songs of a certain duration. What is really important is to pay a lot of attention to arrangements. I don’t think that we need long songs now, maybe the future material will have some longer tracks.
Dead Rhetoric: How is it to have an Italian vocalist in the band? Are you able to flesh out ideas over the internet to get things exactly as you envisioned?
Daria: It’s our conscious choice to have a vocalist from far, far away and it’s not so simple, since the band turned into a kind of ‘studio project’. When you’re talking about creative work, I think you can’t rely on something exactly as you envisioned. Of course, you have a general idea, but you never know the form an idea may reach. Thus we collaborated with Filippo. Although all vocal lines were written by me, he changed quite a few things and did it in his own beautiful way. I think it’s very cool, because sometimes when you don’t get what you envisioned, you may get something much better.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the Russian metal scene today? Do you see proper appeal and opportunities not only for the international bands who play in your country, but great support for the domestic bands in various sub-genres?
Daria: The Russian metal scene doesn’t seem to me a very power or progressive metal-oriented one. Maybe it’s because the most famous melodic metal bands here play mostly heavy metal or power metal with a heavy metal touch. We have a lot of metal bands, but most of them remain in the shadows.
Alexey: Some say that we do not have a metal scene in Russia. The popularity peak of our music style has already passed, the ‘pure’ power metal was popular in our country ten years ago. I do not know about other countries, but in Russia the band must do everything on its own to achieve something: invest in recording, promotion, live shows. And now there is only the Internet allows it, although there were also TV channels, but still they have the wrong audience. Also people do not pay for music here, everything is downloaded from the Internet.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about social media and the opportunities that sites like Bandcamp, YouTube, and Spotify present to expose your music to the world? What do you consider the advantages and disadvantages to establishing Concordea at this point in time?
Daria: Social media is a great opportunity indeed. Great and miserable at the same time, because nowadays it’s not so simple to find something worthwhile. We are happy to share our music through the internet, so everybody who wants to enjoy our work, including listeners from other countries, can do it. I don’t think it would be so available if we hadn’t such convenient tools as Bandcamp, YouTube or Spotify.
Alexey: Due to the lack of a metal scene in Russia, the previously mentioned websites give great opportunities, especially for the studio bands. Overall the whole internet gives great opportunities.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns do you have about the world we live in – what needs to be worked on most for the greater good of mankind?
Daria: What a global question! So, this will be my answer. To my mind this world needs more intelligence, modesty and responsibility to regulate everything. Until these three words remain only words, nothing good can happen.
Alexey: It’s not the easiest question since we need to understand what is good and what is bad and if there are only two of (these qualities).
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of your favorite concert memories through the years purely from a fan perspective? Have you had the chance to play as Concordea live – and what were those experiences like?
Alexey: The best of my memories (would be) my first Scorpions’ show – they were the first band when I started to listen to heavy music. In addition, I want to mention the Sonata Arctica show, which was in Italy, and Nightwish, which was in the Urals. These are the bands that I started to listen to and play power metal.
Daria: From a fan perspective, I’d like to mention the concert of Russians Epidemia in 2006 and the gig of Sonata Arctica in 2015 which we visited together with Alexey and my brother. Sonata Arctica was really unforgettable! I’m happy I was there. Yes, we had concerts here in our hometown and Ural region. And we had fun from the act of performance itself! Actually no concert we have had so far could give fully the idea of who Concordea is because of the lack of a vocalist. So, we decided to turn this into a studio project, hoping we will be able to turn it out live down the road.
Dead Rhetoric: What passions, activities, or hobbies do you like to engage in away from music when free time allows you to do so? Are you currently able to make a living from music, or do you have to supplement your ambitions with day jobs/ trades to pay the bills?
Daria: Every one of us has every day office work and even business trips! We need it to keep our project alive, but at the same time this makes all the processes very long, since we can’t dedicate 100% of our time and forces to the music. When time allows I like travelling for pleasure, cooking and even going shopping! We live a normal life of normal dudes, (laughs). One of my hobbies is studying and teaching languages. I was attending to Finnish language lessons a year ago, but due to the work on the album I had to suspend it.
Alexey: I think that playing in a band is our real work and the office work is our hobby. Well, I like to travel, quite a lot due to my office work.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of goals do you set with Concordea in the short term and long term? Are there certain bands that you look to as sort of a mentor/guide for where you want to see your career path take, either in terms of professionalism or musical output?
Daria: First we want to gain a very simple and hard goal: playing live a bunch of concerts introducing the real Concordea as a band. If it happens, we are sure new horizons will open for developing our business.
Alexey: It’s difficult to say about the long term. In the short term we want to have some live shows. We don’t look at any bands as mentors because we don’t want to be like someone else.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a good support network from your friends and families when it comes to Concordea? What do they think of your work?
Daria: I have amazing support from my family and friends! I even had some little reviews from them! A friend of mine told me she understood why there is a swan on the album cover, because ‘your songs are like a swan spreading its wings to fly through the space!’ (laughs)
Alexey: Well, many of our friends are musicians too and they support us like no one else. They praise our album and give us compliments.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next six to twelve months for Concordea in terms of activities? Has work begun on the next recording, and if so what shape are the early ideas taking? Will there be an official video or two released from Over Wide Spaces?
Daria: We’re preparing something to develop our project, but it’s a bit early to spread the news since we don’t know yet which form our ideas will take. But be sure you will hear about us in a while!
Alexey: Well, we would like to have some live shows in Russia and abroad. Also, we will continue to work on promotion. And of course, there will be new material from our band.