FeaturesDVNE – The Jumpstart to Creativity

DVNE – The Jumpstart to Creativity

Photo: Alan Swan

An amalgamation of post-metal into progressive angles of sludge and doom, DVNE produces music that captures multiple spheres of emotion song by song. Their latest album Voidkind may be a bit more stripped down in its attack, yet still contains the rich diversity on the vocal, lyrical, and musical fronts to deserve deep dives to tackle all the information present. We reached out to guitarist/vocalist Victor Vicart to bring us into his world of musical discovery in childhood, how his instrument preference moved from the harpsichord and piano to guitar, the work behind the latest album, the sources used for the lyric content and how they mirror the twists present musically, what DVNE tries to get across live, and future touring plans.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? And at what point did you start discovering heavier forms of music and eventually the desire to perform your own music in bands?

Victor Vicart: Music has always been there, like for a lot of people. My parents put me in a music school. My love for punk, hardcore, and metal came through skateboarding. I used to skateboard all the time, with skateboarding there was all this music. I got exposed to Motörhead, Black Sabbath, all these kinds of things. Other styles of music, a lot of interesting underground music that is also happening with skateboarding. Heavy music came through that, and my discovery of other underground music.

I ended up picking up the guitar when I was sixteen, seventeen. I wanted to play Metallica, Black Sabbath, stuff like that. I learned all about the different worlds of different tunings, and you keep digging and digging. More recently, when I was 22-23, I started getting into bands like Neurosis, Mastodon, Opeth, Tool, bands like that that maybe I overlooked in the past. Maybe it requires a little more maturity as well. Not necessarily accessible bands, but all of these bands have albums that grow on you. It takes you a couple of listens to start understanding things. It informed me what I wanted to do musically.

It’s interesting with the other guys in the band as we all have our roles in shaping the songwriting. We have more or less the same approach to things. Heavy music has always been there in some way.

Dead Rhetoric: What came easier to you – learning the keyboard and guitar, or your singing?

Vicart: My first instrument is the piano, more specifically the harpsichord. My uncle used to build them, so it was a good way for me to have quality instruments and get into a music school. The teaching was excellent. I played the keyboards for years, but I got sick of them because being on the harpsichord and piano, you play classical music, and you study a lot of music theory. It’s not really fun or necessarily a good way to stay with music. You get force fed a certain type of music. A lot of this music doesn’t necessarily push people to become creative with music, if you understand what I mean. Around 16 I left that and picked up the guitar naturally. The guitar for me was really freeing. I didn’t have to look at music theory anymore, I had it in the back of my head, but I could have fun with it. I took on open tuning, and the guitar was liberating. Guitar is my first instrument now; I play it all the time. I like stringed instruments, they are convenient, the opportunities open up all different kinds of worlds.

I have a real passion and love for music. I recently fell back in love with the keys, through the synthesizer. It’s like the electric guitar of pianos. You can make sounds out of voltage; it’s magic in its own way. Play around with so many things. You mentioned vocals, I used to sing when I was a kid, but I let it go for a long time. When we started playing in DVNE, Daniel used to start with the vocals, I did a bit of back-up vocals. As time has gone on, the roles have reversed, I do most of the clean singing. We also have Max adding things in there. Vocals are very interesting. It’s probably the hardest thing to get right. You can sing okay, but they require the most practice. I went on tour a year ago in the UK, we had a really good show in Bristol, we were all very excited, and I had too many drinks after the concert and got a bit rowdy with my friends. Let go too much, because the next day we had a big show in London. I really struggled a lot, my voice was breaking up when trying to sing. Personally, I will always remember that – I didn’t drink for the next few shows, I just thought about knowing that vocals are a lot less forgiving of an instrument, that you have to be focused on your well-being and in good shape.

Dead Rhetoric: Voidkind is the third studio album for DVNE. How did the songwriting and recording process go for this set of material – where do you see this record sitting in the catalog of discography for the group compared to previous efforts?

Vicart: Obviously, you don’t want to compare things to the previous album. Or if you do, you want to see what you want to do in a way with your next record more than anything. When we finished Etemen Ænka, it took us a while to get this album ready. Luckily, we had a gap for us because nobody was going on tour. Selfishly for us it was good, we had the time to really prep for this album. We wanted to be ambitious, so we wanted to make things great to sound good live. We did that for three to five months, and by month six we were ready to go. We got better at playing our instruments, better at touring. We toured solidly for a band that is really part-time as we still have our day jobs. It’s all systems go. It gave us time to reflect on what we’ve done and what we wanted to do on the next album.

The main thing that came out of this was, we layered the last album a lot. It was too layered, I think. I wouldn’t change things, but this album had less distinct guitars. There were so many things that had so much weight from the synth, the layers of guitars, the bass. We wanted to make things a touch clearer and livelier. We approached this album with the thinking of not putting forty layers of guitars on things all the time. We would have one left guitar, one right guitar, one clear take. We wanted the bass to sit right in the middle. We freed space for the drums, we recorded the drums in a big room with a nice acoustics. We rented a place where we recorded the drums, guitars and bass, a big space – we got an enjoyable and three-dimensional sound.

We also wanted to have a few more songs that would be a bit more concise. Less parts on them, and not necessarily a song that builds up in energy or goes up and down, maybe more something to be a distilled version of what some of the songs were like in the past. We wanted to say different things in different stories while still taking people on a bit of a journey. When we wanted to be really indulgent for an epic song, we still did it. We felt every song on the album was different from one another previously. We took five or six weeks to finish the vocals and pre-produce them, as well as the synths. Things worked together in a committee, where everyone has the same say. Then the mixing takes a while, we are not fighting but we have the best interests of the music. The music is broken down between people – we look at everything, it’s easy to think about all the instruments.

The process is quite long from the moment we start writing the songs until the process is finished. The songs are only finished when the mixing is done, because sometimes we have a different idea at that point. We will talk with our producer about this. This took the best part of two years. It’s very fresh to us, this album. I am proud of this album and what we did as a band. I’m super excited to tour this album as well, it should be a fantastic experience.

Dead Rhetoric: You mention in the background information various sources that fuel the lyrical themes, from the Dan Simmonds book Hyperion to the Dark Souls video game and Berserk the Japanese manga series. How do you channel these various resources into the compositions and textures of your songwriting – are you conscientious of specific atmosphere, emotional, or dynamic shifts that need to take place when piecing all these parts together?

Vicart: Yes, very much so. Where does the concept start and where does the music start? We start with the music, while we start writing the music there comes an element of research, what do we want to play, and getting inspired by the lyrics. Changing the tuning of a guitar is like jumpstarting creativity. I could not agree more – I think it’s a great way to think about it. We like to try new ideas, and then we start thinking about what we want to talk about in the news, something we’ve been reading lately, we consume a lot of different cultural things. We identified that we wanted to talk about religion on this album. Hyperion came a little bit later in this process, and the relationship with death was something we wanted to talk about. We had some rough demos, fourteen demos, we had a good concept of what we wanted the album to be about. The concept helped to reinforce our decisions with some songs. We used to have working titles which were not fun, but they described the vibe or atmosphere we wanted to talk about. There are a lot of finishing touches, we have to put things that go on top. These things get more informed by the concept, thoughts related to the lyrics, the vocals will also fall into that.

On the new album there is a song called “Sarmatæ”, when we had this one, we wanted to talk about religion and the pilgrimage, these ideas of tribes walking through steps in a journey. We thought things would be a bit darker, cleaner guitars at the beginning of the song, traditional musical elements. People sitting in a town, low key singing – with a quiet element. It takes you back into the concept. “Cobalt Sun Necropolis” is the last song – the ending has this really intense, noisy thing that starts taking over. The last riff is a riff we keep on playing that we can keep on jamming on. We decided it would be cool to have this, meant to be like bees around the queen going into their nest. We wanted to have an idea of vibrating that would be more and more intense at the end of the song – it’s a good way to do things.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe DVNE in a live setting versus what people take in on the studio recordings? What have been some of the most memorable shows, tours, or festival appearances you’ve done to date?

Vicart: The differences are in the approach. We have all these crazy concepts with the albums within DVNE – we do this because we love it, we like being creative with these kinds of things. When it comes to the show itself, it took us a while to get to the point where we knew how we wanted to present ourselves. When you go to play shows, you have this misconception about what is a live gig. I would think when I was a younger, we wanted to be hard. We wanted to be enigmatic with some clouds of smoke, things like that, but it’s not really us. I don’t have that it in me, I’m a very happy and grounded person.

We are more like a band like Opeth, they are very minimal when they are on stage, it’s just them playing their music. They own it in a very enticing way, having fun and having a great time. We played with them at a festival in Norway and seeing them for a lot of us we discussed this with other people. We started moving forward, letting go, and just play based on the feeling of the day. Some days we feel rougher, quite often we are thinking of just playing to the best of our abilities and having a great time while doing it. We don’t play with a click track live, except for maybe starting the song in the right tempo. There is a lot of communication happening with the band members on stage, we are playing to each other as much as we are playing to the audience. We don’t have a crazy production; we don’t have the financial resources for that quite yet. We are focusing on the songs, the sound guy, we want a quality and consistent sound. That’s our first and foremost focus. Maybe when we get that solid, we will start bringing out more lights, thinking about creative production elements. We don’t want to rush any of this – these things will come naturally.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you define the term success for DVNE – and has that definition shifted from your initial start as a group to where you are now?

Vicart: Yes and no. We are doing this for the love of it. We love music, we love playing live. That’s the most important side of things. Success is about the music we make and are we happy with it. I don’t think we would be able to fake it. Critics I don’t care so much. There are so many movies, books, games that people say this is amazing and I agree with it, or sometimes I don’t think that way. How people vibe with our music I see that, when it happens where we see people singing our songs, it’s very surprising. We do not have the most accessible music, but there’s sort of a confirmation towards what you’ve done. It means something for people as well, and that’s really cool. That’s another form of success. It means we can look at things in the long-term.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s in store for DVNE over the next twelve months to support this release?

Vicart: We’ve got some touring to look forward to in the UK, then we are going to Europe with Conjurer, the UK will be with a band named Sleemo and we are going away again in Europe with a band called My Diligence. Some festivals as well – we will be on tour from April to mid-June. Then back home a bit, hopefully back on tour in September or October, something like that. We are going to be busy. Nothing is planned in North America, but we are really trying to make it happen. Touring in the US is extremely expensive, because of visas, flights, and all the politics behind things. We will make it happen, eventually, and when we do some (gigs) over there, we will make sure it will be for quality time. We want to be on a really nice tour and discover what your country is about.

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