Eleine – Empowerment and HonestyThursday, 3rd December 2020
An act that this scribe has found to be one of the more original sounding forces in the gothic/symphonic soundscape, Eleine has also been skyrocketing their way up the metal ladder in recent years. With a vibe that can embrace heavier elements as well as bring in more angelic ones, all without feeling contrived or cliché, it’s easy to see why they are gaining a foothold. Their most recent release, Dancing in Hell, is their strongest yet with even greater cinematic feelings and powerful performances all around. We had a jovial chat with vocalist Madeleine Liljestam and guitarist/vocalist Rikard Ekberg to discuss the band and their latest, how they are handling quarantine, hobbies outside of music, and more.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that you are coming in with a lot of momentum due to last year’s EP?
Rikard Ekberg: Yeah actually. The EP was like a bridge between Until the End and Dancing in Hell. We have gotten question of if we had done the EP to test the waters and I don’t really get that question. That wouldn’t be true at all. It was more of a little bridge to show what was coming, whether you like it or not [laughs]. We just went from there.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view Eleine’s progression into Dancing in Hell?
Ekberg: It’s a lot darker and also heavier. The progression to get there was very natural.
Madeleine Liljestam: It was. I really do think that the sound reflects what the songs are about. We’ve been through some stuff since the second album. We just started to write, and we always write from the heart and what feels right. So we just went on. It was pretty natural.
Ekberg: I think that for Dancing in Hell, we had a lot more time to really dive into the orchestral arrangements since I’m doing them. I had always written them, but we had some help before with arranging them since I didn’t have the time or programs. But it came to the point where our guy couldn’t help us out anymore and I was forced to do it myself. So we got the programs and I just learned everything from scratch. But that way, we got to do it more close and personal, and exactly the way I wanted it.
Liljestam: And it’s closer to the vision of how it should sound from the very beginning. I remember what I told Rikard when he did one of them pretty early on, last year sometime. I was like, “Oh my God! Now it really sounds the way it was supposed to from the start!” It’s been a natural progression, and it was time for this now. I’m very happy about it, and I think you did a great job!
Ekberg: Everyone has done a great job! This album has been the most challenging. The tracks on this album, no track is a filler in my opinion. Each track is true to itself, it’s true to us, and it’s also very relevant. Many people who have heard it, reviewers like yourself, say that it’s very relevant now. You can draw links between the tracks and how the world is right now. Many people have asked if we wrote it now, but we started writing it in 2018.
That just goes to show that if you are true to yourself, and you speak the truth through your medium, it really fits in any time of struggle. Since we write a lot about personal struggles, and with Dancing in Hell, it’s about personal hell and getting out of it alive basically. Those kinds of struggles are there all the time. Everyone struggles now and then. You need some guidance or something to empower you, or just have a friend by your side. That’s what we are trying to do.
Dead Rhetoric: When I hear the band, it’s a more unique sound with Eleine. Many bands in the symphonic realm don’t bring that heaviness to it. What do you feel that Eleine brings to the table in terms of being unique?
Ekberg: To be honest, we haven’t really thought about it. The more you think about it, the more forced it gets. We just write what feels right. We said this in another interview, but the thing with standing out and sounding unique is up to everyone else to decide. We don’t really think about it, we just go with what feels right.
Liljestam: Yeah, when I am sitting here thinking about it, perhaps it can be the atmospheric, heavy, and a touch of the oriental vibe – it’s very cinematic but pretty heavy [laughs]. I don’t know if it’s that, but I really agree with Rikard. It’s hard to say yourself.
Ekberg: It’s up for everyone else to decide. As long as we are just staying true to us, I think that more people can relate to our songs and actually get some comfort/guidance from them in a way that they wouldn’t, if we just sat down and wrote what we thought people would like.
Dead Rhetoric: So what do you feel is the core or an important element to your sound? Is there something specific, or is it like what you were saying with going with what’s true?
Ekberg: It’s always been going with what feels right, actually. Both Madeleine and I have been through personal hells in our own different ways. Writing songs is a way to get that out, and to help others. You don’t want people to go around feeling bad. But we don’t only go around writing music to empower others, it also helps us.
Liljestam: We write what feels right. When you walk into the studio, you can just feel it. As it goes on, the song itself, you just feel more and more empowered. It’s beautiful to know now that the fans have told us that they do feel empowered. We write because we want to let it out, so that’s a beautiful thing.
Ekberg: The core of it all, I don’t know. I think it would be staying true. Maybe it will sound a lot different the next album. Who’s to say?
Dead Rhetoric: I know the band is big on putting out videos. How has your approach to doing videos been altered due to quarantine?
Ekberg: It has been altered, we were planning on doing 2 or maybe 3 singles. So we did more [laughs].
Liljestam: We just felt that from the day we announced that the album would be released in November, it would be a few months until the actual release. So we felt that we had the time so we did four singles and music videos. It’s fun for us. It helps us stay active and focused. But we also know it has been pretty rough for our fans. Most of them live for music. They go to concerts and everything. If they also had something to stay focused on and look forward to, they would feel better.
We try to stay in touch as much as possible on social media, but we also have our Patreon too. That’s where we can really confirm how they feel because we stay in touch even more. They told us that they feel like they are staying focused and really looking forward to the release. It’s very sweet to know that you can actually help someone during this pandemic. It really is a key to do this and stay focused. You can lose your mind when it is like this – it’s hard to stay sane some days.
Dead Rhetoric: Eleine does do a lot with social media, with things like Q&As on YouTube and things like that. In an age where there are no concerts, is that the best route for you to make sure you maintain that connection with the fanbase?
Ekberg: It’s a great way to maintain a connection with the fanbase, even if the pandemic wasn’t happening. We started doing these things before the pandemic – it’s like an old school fan club. You pay a small fee and you get access to these little things, and extra things. With an old school fan club, there was no way at all that you got to talk with the actual artists. Maybe some sweaty dude in the basement that could maybe get you in touch with James Hetfield or whatever [laughter]. Now you are talking directly to the artist? If I was a teen or whatever, and I got to do that with say, Dave Grohl, that would blow my mind! We get to interact with our fans directly. We don’t really do Q&As with our Patreons. We do live meet and greets, and it’s a lot more relaxed. We talk about everything on heaven and earth, like everything.
Liljestam: We are hanging out!
Ekberg: We put up posts with upcoming merch, with like 3 different variants. They get to vote which one they like. We actually just launched a Discord server like three weeks ago. Everyone is starting to build this community. Everyone that likes Eleine is a part of the Eleine Legion. We see that legion growing insanely strong on Patreon. It’s beautiful to see we are connecting people from the US to the UK to Australia, to France and Belgium. It’s amazing to see! They are talking about meeting up after the pandemic, which is so cute.
Liljestam: Patreon, financially I don’t know if we would do without it at the moment. Seriously. I have been thinking about it a lot. I don’t know what we would do. Not only that, they stay focused with the posts and music we are doing, but that’s also for us. Somedays it really has been pretty heavy to try getting out of bed. It’s kind of depressive some moments. But then I know that I always have that. We have our Patreons and I need to stay creative. I need to post something, and that has kept me going. Seeing everything that they are posting as well. It’s a nice two-way street. I appreciate it a lot.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel has been most successful in helping to get the band off the ground?
Ekberg: I would say the same boring answers – staying true [laughter]. To be honest, it always come back to that, and working hard. Madeleine and my work ethic is through the roof. This is what we do, day and night. 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
Liljestam: Something else connected to staying true – we promised ourselves way back that we would never say no to what our gut is saying. That gut feeling is so important. Every time we went towards it and then didn’t, it has been bad [laughs]!
Ekberg: Every time we didn’t listen to our gut, it went south or slightly the wrong way.
Liljestam: So if it feels right we do it. I’d rather regret that, then not doing it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel that you’ve learned in undertaking the band so far?
Ekberg: There’s a lot! We have learned how people can be, as well as work ethics. Having discipline in that manner. Right now, we aren’t allowed to work. Honestly, this is what we know, do, and love. We can’t really do anything else, without destroying what we are. Our soul gets destroyed by doing something else. I have done it. I was a security guard years back. I worked my ass off, but I wasn’t happy at all. I got money, but I was miserable. When I met Madeleine and we started working music full-time, let me tell you. We had it worse off than we had now, like no money at all [laughter], but I was happy! It sucks right now, and it sucks for everyone. That’s why it is so important for everyone to not feel alone, and know that it will blow over. It will be back to somewhat normal, to absolutely normal, to past normal later on.
Liljestam: I’ve also learned that I am supposed to be a little bit mad before I go up on stage, because I feel like I perform better, due to our manager [laughs]! Now I am always a bit mad before going up, I like it!
Ekberg: Some of us like it, some of us don’t [laughter].
Dead Rhetoric: Is there anyone you’d love to work with as a guest in the future?
Ekberg: We have answered this a few times lately, and I’m going to go with the same answer – Michael Amott from Arch Enemy.
Liljestam: I’m going to say Sakis from Rotting Christ.
Dead Rhetoric: How important is the songwriting relationship between the two of you when it comes to the band’s identity?
Ekberg: It varies. We do everything together. If Madeleine does more of a track, I always have a finger or two involved. If I do more work on a track, Madeleine always has a finger in it as well.
Liljestam: I was thinking about that the other day. I really feel it adds that something extra. When we work in that way – it’s never the same. The most important thing is that we never put anyone’s ego first. I have had ideas that were refused because it wasn’t the best for Eleine, and it’s been the other way around. That’s really important. Don’t let your ego get the upper hand. Eleine is most important. This is why we do everything. Eleine has an identity and that’s important to keep. I like the way we work.
Ekberg: I have a message for those who are striving to create with another person: you are going to hear that your ideas are bad [laughter], and it’s fine to say that someone else’s ideas are bad. Not all of our ideas are good. Some suck, and that’s fine. As long as you are honest with them and yourself, you will progress.
Liljestam: We are truly honest with each other when we are working. It’s for Eleine’s best!
Ekberg: Also, to admit if you are wrong later on. It’s all about being humble and not egotistical.
Dead Rhetoric: Any hobbies or things you do for fun outside of the band that might surprise people?
Ekberg: No [laughter]. No surprises. I like working out, I like playing video games. I am quite clear about that [laughs].
Liljestam: We do like animals in general. We are very passionate about them.
Ekberg: Hobbies: animals [laughter]! Turn offs: Not animals [laughter]!
Liljestam: What is a hobby? Everything we are doing is like work, and a lifestyle.
Ekberg: Yoga is a hobby, sure. But it also reflects on zen on stage. Video games for me – sure I play video games, but I play them excessively to the point that I search for errors in the game. I listen to tracks over and over again, so I get inspired to write new music. So it is a hobby. What the hell is your hobby?
Liljestam: I seriously don’t know! Do I have a boring life?
Ekberg: Are you kidding me? You are in a metal band [laughter]! One of your hobbies is to eat my food.
Liljestam: It really is. To eat Rikard’s food and to eat chocolate.
Ekberg: I don’t make chocolate, I only make the food. We buy the chocolate. To be clear [laughter].
Dead Rhetoric: What drew either of you into heavy music?
Liljestam: I always knew I wanted to make music and perform, since I was a young kid. I was 13 when I first heard Dimmu Borgir. That was when I decided that I was going to do metal! I was going to go for it. Then I got into all sorts of metal, like Arch Enemy. Angela [Gossow} was one of the first growlers, and she quickly became a role model. She made me feel, as a 13 year old girl, that if she could do it, I could too. I went for the clean vocals, but she was a woman in the business and she was powerful and inspiring.
Ekberg: She’s great! For me, it just sort of happened. I was a major grunger dude [laughs]. I knew everything about grunge and I looked the part too. But yeah, I just drifted into heavier music. Grunge is all about the feeling. I realized that metal has more of the feeling that I am. It’s so wide in different genres. That’s what I like to use when we create Eleine’s music. I take from every part of metal that I like. From thrash to power metal to progressive and old school metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Any plans for 2021? I know there’s not much tour-wise, but is there anything around the release date with a live stream or something similar?
Ekberg: We do have a release show concert.
Liljestam: In real-life, not a live stream. We are allowed to have a maximum of 50 people in Sweden, so we decided to go for that in a beautiful old theater in our home town. It’s pretty big, so 50 people in it will not really meet each other. It will be a very COVID-19 adjusted concert that follows all the restrictions and it will be very safe. We have been planning on having face masks for everyone when they arrive. It will be different, but a lot of fun. I know the fans that have tickets are so excited. Some of them are living for that date right now. So do we!
Ekberg: It will be great to play the new tracks live for the first time.
Liljestam: After that, we do have plans that we just have to wait and see on. We are planning on some internet based stuff too at the moment.
Ekberg: It’s not a live stream show, but it’s something to do with streaming. I don’t know if you saw but we just announced that we signed with Dragon Productions. It’s a big booking agency in Germany. We have wanted to work with them from the beginning in 2014. We started having discussions with them since around 2017/18 – so signing with them is a huge achievement for us. When this is all over, and it will be over sometime, everyone will be running out of the gates, but not many will have a plan. That’s what we have been doing for the last few months. Nothing we can announce right now, but we are ready to run out the gates and we have big plans!