Ardours – Reflections from the Last Place on EarthSunday, 25th August 2019
Some argue the relevance of the use of electronics in heavy metal today, but with the changing of the times, it’s inevitable. We can all enjoy the benefits when a band like Ardours enters the scene as well, who take a gothic and symphonic metal approach and infuse it with some well-done nods to ‘80s new wave and more modern electronic spins and make it into something emotive and endearing. Last Place on Earth is a moving release that hits some unique notes, and should be the beginnings of a bright future for the band. We were fortunate to chat with vocalist Mariangela Demurtas on release day to dig a bit deeper into Ardours as a whole, as well as some reflection from Demurtas on her time in music in general.
Dead Rhetoric: Where’d the idea for Ardours come from initially?
Mariangela Demurtas: Kris [Laurent] and I always agreed on musical tastes, and talked about how to write songs. We were very similar in many ways. But we never thought about doing a project together until we had a moment where we both needed to do something new. We spoke about it in the beginning, and then afterwards it became a reality once he sent me some of his ideas. I found it to be very easy to build up some melodies on his stuff. We had a connection, and that was very fortunate for me. It’s been quite easy to work together. I’ve never had such a good connection with someone else that plays music.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you explain the meaning behind the title itself?
Demurtas: We felt that Last Place on Earth would represent the album best as a title. We felt it was the perfect title, because it represents where we would end or start from if we were in a situation where we were disappointed and could only see the end. Instead of being extremely dark in some ways though, we could always start from where we end. But that doesn’t mean that it has to mean that for everyone. We give some freedom for interpretation, and give people the opportunity to see if they actually feel that way when they are told stories from the lyrics. They can interpret the lyrics the way that they want, but in the end, it brings up the same question: are you going to go through it? Are you going to go down [because of it]?
For some reason, the world can seem black and white in some ways, but people can always decide which way to go. Nowadays, where people are confused about what our future might be, we can also choose to live optimistically or not. In doing the album, I wanted my vocals to keep an optimistic vibe, because I think the energy can really help in seeing a solution to things. The vocals could be a good way to convince people that they always have a way out of [a situation].
Dead Rhetoric: What was the most important thing you thought about when making the record?
Demurtas: Honesty. I didn’t want to follow a formula. I didn’t want to do a band that followed the way that the music business goes, or followed the direction of a trend. I was very important to me that I didn’t belong to something like that, or something that was replacing/imitating other things. Of course, people will hear resemblances to other artists or previous albums – that is normal because we also listen to music and are influenced by it.
The important thing was that we didn’t want to pretend to be geniuses or better than we are – we just wanted to be ourselves. I think that really transpires in the songs. I really gave the lyrics an interpretations that is out of respect for who I am now, not something from when I was in my 20s. The way I feel right now, after being a mother and working my ass off my whole life and following music forever, means that I’m a different person. I see things in a different way. Perhaps a bit more grown-up, and that’s what I wanted my vocals to sound like.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s funny that you bring that up, as I wanted to ask you about what things you find get tougher as a musician as you get older.
Demurtas: What I feel is tougher – if I wasn’t a mother, it would be easier for me of course. But I also think about something that I often think about that has become very important to me: women have been classified in a certain way – once you [have children] you become less interesting. All that I have achieved in the last 2 years, it has been so busy. I’ve raised this child and I’ve also made this album come out in the best way I could. I feel like as women, nobody stops us. We can do anything we want. We can be mothers, and we are free to do that, and to do what we want to do and experience life in full without being overly judged because you image is changing. We have to break through, and we have to stand up and state who we are without being forced to change.
Dead Rhetoric: So do you feel like being a mother as well, in terms of the way that you write, has impacted the way you write? In terms of, as you were saying earlier, more adult in a way?
Demurtas: No, not in that sense. I always feel the melancholy that I felt as a kid. When I feel music, it’s something that comes from the inside. The way that I interpret and sing a song is different from the way that I feel the music. When I write, I have that free spirit, but I always felt what I did as a kid and it’s very melancholic. I don’t know why, but it has always been like that. It’s very energetic and powerful, but also melancholic. When I interpret words and songs, I put a character on that is related to the music. For instance, if you give me a piece of music that is more related to hard rock, I build up the character out of that music, from myself. What I see is more of the music than myself in that sense – I do what the music is asking me to do.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you view Ardours as a full band or more of a side-project at the moment?
Demurtas: We are considering it to be a full band. I’m considering it that for me, as I’m putting a lot of myself into the band. I need to work, and by work I mean being mentally busy, so I am willing to work hard for this band. Hopefully we will get some more official members in the band – my intention is to have a full band with steady people. But it’s a hard decision to do sometimes. I want friends, I want people who want really like the music, and I want people who aren’t also busy with other projects. That’s very hard to find for me, because all of my friends are busy with big projects. But we are going to try out some people, and let’s see. Maybe we’ll find the right people.
Dead Rhetoric: You see a growing amount of more blatant ‘80s new wave influences soaking into music in general, what do you think is special about the sound?
Demurtas: I really like that sound – one of my favorite singers is Lisa Dal Bello, a crazy singer from the ‘80s. She was one of the best singers I’d ever heard, and one of my favorites. The ‘80s vibe has always been great for me. I also wanted something that sounded a bit ‘80s, it was an important thing for us. I liked Joy Division, and there was a time that I listened to bands like Bauhaus. There are others from the punk rock scene as well, it’s a mixture.
Dead Rhetoric: What was different about working on this compared to a Tristania album?
Demurtas: It was different because someone else was writing songs, and I had different ideas. It’s also different because I feel a bit more, not really freedom in a way, but I am the one deciding my vocal lines. I don’t have to deal with too many people, or have to change things because other people don’t agree. In that way, I felt free. It was a great feeling as well.
Tristania has always been democratic – no one was forcing anyone to do what they didn’t want to do, but at the same time, the majority chose something and the rest had to stick with it. So sometimes, I couldn’t do my own personal thing – because it may not have been what everyone else wanted. Everyone’s ego was pushed down, in a sense. But that was also cool in a way, because that’s what makes a band work in a way that is organic.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that you’ve learned during your time in the music industry?
Demurtas: A lot! The music industry is a very special place. It could be dangerous in some ways if you don’t know how to play the game. Not everyone is lucky. I feel that people don’t know that sometimes talent is not about being famous or being out there in the magazines. A lot of times you can hear someone who is good, but not good at the business side. Some people aren’t interested in promoting themselves like other people do, or they don’t know how to sell themselves. Or maybe they don’t want to sell their souls [laughs]. We have to appreciate that.
Also, as I said for women, it can be a bit dangerous. From a certain point of view, women are sold for their image. That’s something that I always want to avoid for us. Image may be important, but for our artistry, it doesn’t have to mean naked. You can work on art and express without having to be sold by the business. You have to be very careful. You have to be careful of other things like ego, which can actually destroy you. I learned that you have to be very patient with things. I also learned how to do practical stuff like booking gigs.
I also learned that your life at home is fantastic [laughs]. Touring is great, but I suffered a bit. When I moved to Norway, I didn’t have family there. I was always in and out of the country, so it was a bit difficult to even establish relationships. In Scandinavia, it’s a bit colder and that makes it harder too. For me, touring has been good, but I also thought about having this wonderful situation of family and friends who wait for me when I come back from touring. There was something missing. Then I understood the importance of having a real life, not just a life out on the road. If you can balance both things, then you can be a happy person. Otherwise it can be very dangerous. You don’t feel like you know who you are from one day to another, mentally anyway.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have for Ardours in the near future?
Demurtas: My plan for today is probably to get a little bit drunk with my husband [laughs]. I need it because I’ve been working my ass off. We are now going to be working hard at getting into as many festivals and wherever we can play, to bring Ardours live. We want to make things that make us happy and hopefully others happy too. We are already working on a second album, which I think is going to be even better. We’ve found our identity now, and we understand how we want to sound. I think it will make us very confident in the next album I hope.