Exit Eden – Pop Goes MetalTuesday, 1st August 2017
There are certain lines that most don’t have the gusto to cross. When heavier bands start to pull in more pop references, it can often be a death sentence, or at least alienate a portion of the potential fanbase. Some immediately critique a band for merely choosing to cover a more mainstream song as a bonus track. The powerhouse squad of Amanda Somerville, Clémentine Delauney, Marina La Torraca and Anna Brunner have not only crossed said line, they more or less pole-vaulted it in forming Exit Eden, a band originally intended to showcase pop covers in a symphonic metal setting.
A bold move, but if one is going to go for it, may as well go all in. Their debut album, Rhapsodies in Black, sees the four women covering everything from Depeche Mode and Madonna to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Not mere cover songs mind you, but sometimes completely re-imagined versions that meld pop and metal in a symbiosis that is an explosive mix of bombast and sheer fun. Of course, there’s a lot of questions concerning a brand new band, so we were lucky enough to chat with both Clémentine Delauney and Marina La Torraca to get the inside scoop on their origins, series of videos, doing original material together, and if they’ve had any fan requests for future covers (FYI this scribe thought it fit to suggest Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around” for future consideration).
Dead Rhetoric: How did the idea of putting together a band that will do metal covers of pop songs come together?
Clémentine Delauney: It started in a studio – musicians who were exploring a new way of practicing their instruments, having the idea of making pop and metal collide in a nice way…that would make each style enhance the other and take the best of both styles. This is something that has been done before. For example, Northern Kings did it as well. But it was never a question of doing a female Northern Kings.
So they started to play around with the pop songs they liked, just one or two, and re-arranging them in a modern heavy metal style with new arrangements and sometimes a faster tempo. They were happy with the results and said, “Now we need singers. We need voices in there to bring the metal and pop alive – voices that could bridge those two styles.” So they called in two voices they used to work with for studio work – Amanda Somerville and Anna Brunner. They made demo recordings for the songs that were done and loved the results. It was impossible to imagine not releasing it. They were very enthusiastic with how it sounded. They totally felt the potential of people liking the music – it’s fresh in a way, it’s metal, it’s very catchy, and some of the pop songs sounded like new songs. That classic metal voice on the choruses – it had epicness that you never would have envisioned. So they said let’s make something bigger – let’s make it a band, and let’s make it a record that would be a milestone of metal and pop together.
Dead Rhetoric: Were you afraid of any sort of backlash? It’s not very “metal” to cover pop…the metal underground is very finicky about that sort of thing.
Marina La Torraca: [Laughs] Of course that thought crossed our minds. I’ve also been there, being a teenage, super-metal underground fan. Anything that would sound like Rihanna I would just kick in the face back then. We saw that part of it, but as a grown-up now, I personally find it very interesting to take pop songs, because I am a pop music fan, and they are great pop songs, not just some shit on the radio. Metal songwriters who can do their thing, found some great songs and we transformed them into metal. I like the concept personally, I thought…okay, bring it on! If you don’t like it, or aren’t pop fans, that’s fine. It’s a good product and I’m pretty sure there is enough people that will like it and want to connect to it, which is great.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that they are more than just ‘covers’ considering the amount of restructuring/alterations that some of the songs have had done to make them symphonic?
Delauney: Yeah, I definitely think that some of the songs in there really have a different approach to the basic melody and progression of the original songs. If you take “Unfaithful,” “A Question of Time,” “Fade to Grey,” or even “Incomplete” – these songs don’t have much to do with the original. “Unfaithful” is sort of a mid-tempo pop song…a bit laid back in the rhythm, and we made it faster, with an aggressive cello in the intro. I think this was something very ballsy in a way [laughs] to try this out and to turn it into a faster and darker song. I think that’s the case, for us, it just felt like new songs. We had to adapt our way to sing them. When you start to sing classically on a pop song it sounds totally new and different. On many levels, it’s more than just covers and we are more than just a cover band. I think the future will even surprise people in that matter.
Dead Rhetoric: So do you see yourselves doing original songs with the band or is it just a vehicle for providing that outlet for pop songs to be covered and turned into metal songs?
La Torraca: You know, I think that’s a real good question for us. We are having fun with the proposal of the project. It could very well be that we want to do a second one with the songs that we didn’t cover this time. I think all of us are songwriters as well – we would also have fun doing our own stuff. We just don’t know. We need to see what comes out of it.
Delauney: For our first album, it was clear to us that we wanted to explore the cover approach and the way that metal and pop could collide through covers. There were so many songs that came out of our collaboration altogether that we thought, “There is so much material. Let’s just make one record with this material.” When it comes to making our own songs, or exploring the concept further on, the future will tell if we can do it or not. For now, this album was meant to be a cover album and we are very happy with the diversified choices of songs that were done – it makes it rich and interesting in our opinion.
Dead Rhetoric: How’d you figure out who was going to sing which parts in each song?
La Torraca: It was more like, we didn’t know [laughs]. We were singing the songs, trying it out as it went. That’s what our incredible team of producers did. It was actually up to them to decide, in the final master, who was going to be singing what and where. I think we all agreed to it, because they have the experience and it also took a weight off our shoulders. Maybe we would be in a fight or something saying, “I want to sing that! It’s my fucking part!” [Laughter]
Delauney: I think it was way more comfortable for us to have other people really involved in that regard. Being the ones to say: we need to try different things, see how she sounds here and how she sounds there. It was also changing the direction of the song itself. Depending on who was going to sing which part, the song would take a different turn. We obviously have very different voices and we wanted to use them in the best way, depending on the feeling and emotions, and the surprise we wanted to bring in the song. We all understood why it was meant to be [a certain way]. Amanda was our epicness diva…
La Torraca: And me!
Delauney: So we were very well surrounded for that. It worked out very well.
La Torraca: They were pretty clear with what they wanted. I’m making fun of the opera diva thing, because people who know me, know I don’t usually don’t sing the opera stuff…but that’s absolutely what they wanted. They were like, “We really need to have the opera mama here” so I was like, alright! But it turned out good; they knew what they were doing from the start. We had some great teamwork.
Dead Rhetoric: So there are recordings, bit and pieces at least, of some of you doing vocals that didn’t make it because the song went in a different direction?
Delauney: Yeah, sure. A lot of stuff went into the trash. Some songs, we heard different versions of them before the entire team, and even the record label, before the final result was definitely selected. There was way more recorded material. We could have maybe done like two albums out of what we recorded.
Dead Rhetoric: We touched upon this a little bit already, but who chose the songs that you would be doing? Was it important to have a mix of songs from different decades?
La Torraca: Yeah, I think that was the point – what all the songs had in common was that they are great pop/rock hits. The fun thing is that more generations can sing along to these songs. “A Question of Time” was on the radio way before “Impossible” was. We did not choose the songs ourselves. At least when I joined the project, the songs were pretty much chosen at that point. Clémentine can talk a bit more about the choice of songs…
Delauney: It was a very long list – the more people you involve, the more ideas are brought in. We had to narrow the list down to 11 tracks, and there were a lot of criteria involved. The first one, as Marina said, is that they had to be very good pop songs that would have turned out awesome with metal arrangements. We did some tests on songs where it just didn’t work out. Then we wanted the album to be diverse. We approached it as songwriters, even though the basic material was there. The songs already existed as well as the lyrics and everything. We wanted it to be diverse, and melodies from the ‘80s are not the melodies you hear now. This really enabled us, and the musician team, to approach these songs in various ways. That led to the results that you’ve heard –songs like “Fade to Grey,” which is very unique in my opinion. So the choice of song had to make an album that would still be coherent yet diversified, and each song being a little universe on its own…a lot of personality on its own. I hope we managed that balance.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released two videos so far and I saw at the end of the last one it still said “to be continued” – how many more are still to come?
La Torraca: Many? [Laughs] There are more chapters to come.
Delauney: You will see soon. It’s to be released within the coming weeks, around the release of the album.
Dead Rhetoric: Any memorable incidents in the shooting – I gather from looking at your Facebook pages that it was rather cold…
Delauney: [Laughs] Cold is an understatement! It was freezing cold; it was horribly cold. Maybe you can’t tell the videos themselves, but in between each take, we had our amazing and wonderful make-up fairies that would just bring our clothes and gloves and coats to try to warm us up in between takes because it was so cold. We had bare arms and hands, wearing just a corset or something…it was extremely cold. We were shooting from morning until late at night, and the whole team was wearing coats, hats, scarves, and gloves and we are in cocktail dresses and pretending everything is fine. In between takes we were jumping, trying to warm up.
La Torraca: We had gas heating everywhere, and between each take we just ran to the heating! It was fun though, I don’t know how we managed to have fun at the same time. It was super exhausting! We shot for days. But there was plenty of food [laughs] and we managed to have fun.
Dead Rhetoric: So how important is the consistency in visuals with the music videos?
La Torraca: It’s definitely very important for us. We tried to create this theatrical ambiance. We aren’t wearing normal clothes and make-up. Some of the replies [on the videos] that people have said was that we are too produced. Saying, “You wear too much make-up – you don’t need that.” It’s like, “Yeah, that was kind of the point!” We wanted to make everything sort of in a Tim Burton-ish style that accompanies the universe of the band. That’s what we wanted to do throughout the whole video story. We aren’t telling the stories of the songs, we are telling one story through all of the videos, which is quite fun.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of playing live, is this the sort of thing that is going to stick to festivals and one-offs?
La Torraca: We hope not!
Delauney: We have one [show] in September, so we will see how we get prepared for that and the choices we will make for the visual aspect. For sure, we want to be able to make it a rock show, and make it powerful for the people who will attend it. The songs are very catchy; they are meant to be played live. We want to be a band. We will have four musicians with us. We all want to make it a massive rock show, because we are a metal band in the end.
La Torraca: We definitely want to go out on tour. We don’t want to do one show here and one show there. We are starting with the one festival and we’ll see how it goes. But that’s what we all want if it works out. If we can, we’ll make more shows.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you started getting suggestions from people online, knowing the whole covers angle of the band?
Delauney: No, not yet. So far, the reactions for the two videos is that the audience has mixed feelings. Some are extremely enthusiastic about what we are doing, and some are already criticizing that we are not doing any new, original material and that it’s just about making covers. But that’s a choice that we made. Now it’s about if you like the covers or you don’t. It’s not about questioning the concept – it’s there, and this is where we are for now. But yeah, I think people still need to listen to the album before they could make any suggestions. I suppose it’s a little too early for them to have an entire idea of the album. Maybe they will get more ideas when they hear more of the variety of the songs that we have been covering, and have suggestions of songs they would like to be covered in an Exit Eden way.