Leprous – The Benefits of Hard Work and Deadlines

Wednesday, 20th May 2015

A band that has been rightfully generating a lot of buzz over the past few years is Leprous. Doubling as Ihsahn’s live band for a few years, it’s high time that the band is completely established on their own. Seemingly rather calculated, there is a purpose to everything that the band tries their hand at, from their suits to their music. All of which is generated to captivate an audience.

Their latest album, The Congregation, is a labor of love. Already nailing down a quite rare 10/10 at DR, Leprous is at their best. But it didn’t come easily, as you can read below. Vocalist/keyboardist Einar Solberg walks us through the amount of pre- and post-recording work that the band went through to deliver their album. He also discusses the environment and sustainability, the essence of prog, and more.

Dead Rhetoric: With each successive release, is there pressure to deliver something to stand up to the rest of your discography?

Einar Solberg: No, when we go through the process of recording, we don’t think about the past or the pressure at all. When we do the songwriting, we have to isolate ourselves. It’s the only way to truly deliver something that’s heartfelt and true. That’s what we have done on the later albums, and especially on The Congregation. I didn’t think a single thought of pressure. I tend to forget about the pressure and expectations when I’m writing.

Dead Rhetoric: Viewing the studio diary for The Congregation, it seemed it was a long road to get through the recordings. How thorough is the process of taking the first notions of a song until you get to the final product?

Solberg: It’s very, very thorough, especially this time. I can’t even think about the number of hours I spent on the composition process before we even went into the studio. It was more thorough than we’ve ever been before, and the reason for that was that I knew that this time around, I wanted to reach the full potential of what we were doing. I didn’t want to leave anything to coincidence. So it demanded me to have tons of deadlines for myself. I set two deadlines for myself every week. I forced myself to do it in that period. So we got tons of ideas out, such as 30 sketches for songs. Afterwards, it was countless hours of listening and planning in my head what I wanted to go with it. Which sketches I wanted to keep and what we didn’t want to keep. When we did the vote for it, we threw out 15 of the sketches, and we started really going deeply into each song. Almost every second I had, I spent going through and trying to perfect the songs and steer them where I wanted. It’s an album that we really planned down to the smallest detail.

Dead Rhetoric: Going along with that, are you ever truly satisfied with your songwriting, or is it important to push boundaries and parameters from album to album?

Solberg: There are those satisfactions along the way, especially after the album was mixed I was very happy with it. But then of course, after a few weeks, I started thinking, “ah, if I had done that…” – it’s an ongoing thing like that. It will never end if you go on in that way, which is why you need to set deadlines. There is always something that can be different, but it doesn’t mean that it needs to be better. I feel already that there are a few areas that I would have changed a few things, but moreover, I am very satisfied with the album as it is now. So I can now move on to the work of performing these songs live.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you take the live aspect of it into consideration when you write or are you just trying to do the best job you can and then worry about presenting it live?

Solberg: It was like the last thing you said, we decided to face that problem later. There is always a way to do it. It’s going very well so far with rehearsing, I think we are going to get there. This album was written, not considering how it would sound live, but just to make it as good as possible.

Dead Rhetoric: Could you explain a bit about the concept behind the artwork of The Congregation?

Solberg: I can speak of the lyrical concept, the title, and the artwork in one because they are all tied together. The title, The Congregation, it covers everything we are trying to express with this album. We don’t think of it in terms of the religious context, but more like a congregation of people following something blindly, without evaluation. Just following the expected. It’s really about how today’s society forces you into that mode. No matter how hard you try, even if you are one of those few who really makes big sacrifices and efforts to make things better, you are pushed back immediately. It’s like “okay, I made this effort, but there are still tons of other things I should have a guilty conscious for.” If you dig deep into the subjects of mass production, clothing, food, electronics. Everything that you own, if you dig deep into it, there’s something you should have a guilty conscious for. It’s more like pointing out the fact that this society is pushing us towards those destructive choices if you look at it in the long term. It’s not sustainable how we live today. Everybody knows it, and yet we continue to build and build until the tower collapses.

So to speak about the artwork, because you are still probably wondering, “what the fuck does the artwork have to do with this?” [laughs] The artwork is representing the deformation and destruction, almost like it’s kind of a scientific experiment with disasters following. It’s just representing that, it’s kind of a very negative album if you think about it that way in terms of the message. But it’s a perfect arena to get the darker things and fears out through music and art.

Dead Rhetoric: I’m actually a science teacher and I feel like I say that kind of thing every day to students.

Solberg: Absolutely. For example, I’m a vegetarian. And I’ll come up to people that say, “yeah you’re a vegetarian but you do this and you do that…” so I realize that I am kind of fucked no matter how hard I try to do the right thing. The only thing I could do would be to move into a cabin and grow my own vegetables and go nowhere. But I wouldn’t be doing anything good for other people, I’d just be minding my own business. But I wouldn’t be a big threat to the environment. I feel very hypocritical myself when I travel. I travel so much per year, probably ten times the average person. You can do the math and figure out how much of a carbon footprint I leave. So despite all my efforts being a vegetarian, which the biggest part is for animal rights but also for environmental reasons. But the environmental parts don’t matter much when I travel the world. So yeah, we’re fucked.

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