I Legion – Assembling the LegionMonday, 28th September 2015
All too often we as writers thrust the “supergroup” tag down listeners throats. It’s an easy way for people to identify with the group at hand since there is some familiarity with the members. While I Legion is indeed a solo project (of the vastly talented Frederic Riverin), in some regards it can be honestly looked at a supergroup collaboration. Where else could you hear Bjorn Strid, Jon Howard, Chris Clancy, Sabine Scherer, and Ashe Austin O’Hara sing on the same album? That’s just scratching the surface, with the number of guitarists (and Nate Rendon on keys) making the project a list of who’s who in melodic metal.
If the sheer volume of names doesn’t convince you to check out I Legion, the quality of the material certainly should. Shifting gears from blast beats to acoustics, I Legion is as broad as it’s pool of talent. If one element connects it all, it’s melody. From the heaviest to the softest tracks, hooks bombard your ears from beginning to end on the sophomore effort Pleiona. With much to discuss, we were able to contact mastermind Frederic Riverin, who provided us with some passionate responses to the music of Pleiona, how he chooses who to collaborate with, and comparisons to the debut Beyond Darkness – as well as giving us a little nod to the future.
Dead Rhetoric: First, could you explain the concept of I Legion to our readers, who may not have heard of the band?
Frederic Riverin: I Legion is basically a musical project on which I’m writing all the music (guitars, leads, bass, drums) and I’m inviting artists that I love to participate, either on vocals or on lead guitars. I often refer I Legion to a solo project, as I’m not only writing all the music, but also leading the whole thing, taking every decision and of course supporting every expense on my own. But in the end, I like to see it as a collective work, as I love to allow each artist to shine the way they want to.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve got a number of people that you worked with on Beyond Darkness back on Pleiona. What do you think drew so many back to I Legion for a second round?
Riverin: Bjorn [Strid], Jon [Howard], Chris [Clancy] and Angel [Vivaldi] were my first picks when we discussed about doing a second album. They were a huge part of the first album’s success and there was no doubt they had to be a part of Pleiona, even if it was just for one song. They accepted right away; I didn’t have to strive really hard to bring them back. Of course, doing Beyond Darkness created a more friend-based relationship between us, so now these guys aren’t just music contacts, but also real-life friends, which really helps too!
Dead Rhetoric: How do you go about finding talent for each song?
Riverin: It really depends. Some artists are from bands I’ve been listening for a long long time, and some others are new discoveries or friends I have made since the Beyond Darkness release. The first album opened a lot of doors for me and let’s say it was a good introduction when it comes to ask someone to participate. But it’s very important for me to “feel” the artist. I won’t pick someone because he’s popular or anything. On the other hand, I got a few requests from local musicians, but I turned the offers down as I really want to allow myself to play with idols and heroes of mine, while I still have the chance to do it.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it ever floor you when you reach out and get certain people to work with you on this project?
Riverin: Of course! To this day I can’t believe that Bjorn, Jon and Chris are still with me and become friends. You know, I’m buying Soilwork albums and I’m like “holy shit, I play with this guy! We ate at restaurant together”…it’s pretty unbelievable if you ask me!
Another good example would be Sabine Scherer and Sebastian Reichl. I have been a huge fan of Deadlock since 2005 and I never thought (and that’s the truth) that we could work together one day. But when I approached Sebastian for a guest guitar solo, I took the chance to ask if Sabine would be up for some guest vocals. It wasn’t in my plans at all to have her; my initial plan was to get Sebastian only, which was already awesome. But I was so surprised when he came back saying she would participate. Come on, I’ve been watching videos on YouTube for 8 years, listening to the albums in my car, and now she’s gracing one of my songs with her vocals? Woah!
Dead Rhetoric: In grabbing both established and rising talent, do you feel there’s anyone in particular that you have gotten to work with that will be “blowing up” in the near future?
Riverin: I’m pretty sure big things are waiting for Viky Boyer. Female-fronted metal bands are rising everywhere, but she has something that is better than the others. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her popularity growing pretty fast.
Paco from The Agonist should be recognized like one of today’s best guitar players too. The Agonist had often been referred to as the Alissa White-Gluz band, and that she outshined the other members. But this guy is so talented, he has everything in his hands. He just needs to get more exposure. Same things goes to Yiannis Papadopoulos. That guy is unbelievable!
Dead Rhetoric: Initially Pleiona was going to be an EP. What made you decide to go to expand it to a full album?
Riverin: Well funding the album was an issue while making it. But I had delays with some artists, which gave me time to gather some money on my side. So while I was waiting for some tracks, I added some songs over time, which led to an 8 song album. And honestly I’m way more proud to release a full album than a small EP.
Dead Rhetoric: Your initial crowdfunding for Pleiona was over two years ago. Was there ever a point where the setbacks became frustrating or overwhelming?
Riverin: Oh totally. At some point I really thought about giving up and refunding everyone, it was just going nowhere. I had many artist switches over time, which was really frustrating and disappointing. But that’s the risk of taking artists who are already established – you aren’t their priority, which I understand.
Dead Rhetoric: Likewise, how does it feel to finally have Pleiona out and able to be heard around the world?
Riverin: It’s a huge relief! Finally we see the end of a 2 year journey. Jon [Howard] really worked hard on this one, and I’m glad that the album is out. It wasn’t easy for him to always wait, then go back into the songs, wait, and then go back again. I swear that most producers would have let me down, but he didn’t.
Dead Rhetoric: When you compare Pleiona to Beyond Darkness, what do you feel is most different (other than the larger volume of musicians involved)?
Riverin: Musically this album was a big challenge. We hit new ground on this one. There’re prog moments, blast beats, acoustic guitars…the songs are very long too! Plus I introduced female vocals for the first time on my songs, which I don’t regret at all. I do think that female vocalists have their place in the metal world, just like boys.
The songs “Exhale,” “Hollow,” “Pleiona” and “Grieving For You” were all initially written for a project I had with Björn [Bear River], which didn’t work out in the end. So it’s kinda cool to hear those songs performed by other vocalists.
Dead Rhetoric: Both albums quickly made their way onto torrent sites. What’s the most frustrating part of seeing your work readily available for download, particularly before its official release date?
Riverin: Well it’s kinda disappointing because I sent the CDs the first week of September to be sure that everyone has the chance to get it in time. So a “fan” rips the actual CD and puts it on the web kinda sucks. But I knew it would be leaked the day of the release anyway. But I didn’t expect it to surface the day before though.
Dead Rhetoric: Obviously touring is out of the question for a project like this one, but given the opportunity, would you consider playing a one-off show if you could get enough of the members involved?
Riverin: Of course, it would be great to do it. Even if everyone isn’t present, if there’s enough singers to cover the most of the material, it would be something I’d do right away.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have plans to follow up Pleiona with a third album? If so, could we suggest adding Vicky Psarakis, Mike Semesky, and Ettore Rigotti to your contact list?
Riverin: Well the warm reception and positive feedback I have received since the release convinced me to do a third one, yes. So its official, I will do a third I Legion album. It’s too early to announce who will be back but I already got a lot of confirmations. This time around I won’t announce the artists so soon. I’ll wait until later in the process, to make sure everything is right for everyone.
People keep dropping me names haha! Yeah I thought about Vicky from The Agonist, although I already have my own Viky (Boyer) now, which can do the job perfectly. Ettore would be a good pick too, I love his voice!
Dead Rhetoric: Do you personally have any “big names” that you’d love to work with in the future?
Riverin: I’d love to have Jesse Leach for a song. I’m sure we could do the sickest song ever together. On guitars, Lee Mckinney would be someone I’d like to work with.
I know where my limits are. I know who I can reach and who I can’t. There’s a range of artists who are simply way too much big for a small project like mine.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you consider signing to a label if offered an opportunity presented itself or are you okay with sticking to the independent route?
Riverin: I really wanted to be signed for the second record. I tried really hard but in vain. In the end, I’m satisfied how it turned out by releasing it by myself. I think I will stay that way, unless something nice is proposed to me.
Dead Rhetoric: What are the immediate plans for I Legion now that the album is released?
Riverin: I’m gonna work on new material in the next few weeks…I’ll start approaching some people too. There’s a small hype about the project right now, so better ride the wave while we’re at it!