Exit Eden – Breaking the MoldSunday, 7th January 2024
Debuting in 2017 with an album of pop-turned-metal covers in Rhapsodies in Black, and composed of all-star vocalists from the symphonic and modern metal scenes, Exit Eden hit the ground running. But when you have 4 very busy vocalists in their own right, it might take a bit of time for a second round to come through. But low and behold, here we sit eight years later with Femmes Fatales, their second full-length. Now composed of three members, and a mix of both covers and original content, Exit Eden returns as impassioned as ever. We spoke to vocalist Anna Brunner about all of those changes, including the departure of Amanda Somerville, the band’s processes, as well as look towards the road ahead.
Dead Rhetoric: In speaking to the other members since your debut, it seemed like between albums, there was a will to create more but some roadblocks along the way. How are things now for Exit Eden?
Anna Brunner: You just said it perfectly. There were quite a few roadblocks. From the label and from COVID, and with us having our own bands that take up time too and take up your spiritual and songwriting energy. But the crazy thing is, when we released the first song [“Run”], I remember being on WhatsApp with the girls and being like, “you know what, I can’t believe it. That we are releasing the first new song, the first original song – after all this time and all of these ups and downs. We are back!”
I am so happy and so excited about this! I’m so glad that people are still interested. It could have been like, “oh Exit Eden, I don’t even care about that anymore,” but that’s not the case. Thank you guys for waiting, for being there, and this second record is beyond everything the first one was!
Dead Rhetoric: Was there ever a thought about finding a new fourth member with Amanda’s departure?
Brunner: There was a thought, but not from our side, to be perfectly honest. On the business side, it was like, don’t we want to try to keep it as four and just replace Amanda? That’s when we were like, “stop right there. We can’t replace Amanda!” She’s amazing, she’s a wonderful singer and a great person! No matter what other singer would have been…I don’t even want to say take her place, but would have been the fourth member of Exit Eden, they would compared [to her] and it wouldn’t have been fair to them.
So we felt it was more real to just stay as the three of us. It’s not like we don’t like other people [laughs], but we didn’t want Exit Eden to be like, ‘oh we can just replace that person, and then maybe next year we can have three other singers!’ So it was really important to us to stay as three of us.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s cool that you could stand your ground like that. I could imagine scenarios where it’s out of your hands and just, “oh well, we are getting a fourth person.”
Brunner: Yeah, right. We had good arguments too. It’s not like it’s a stupid idea. It’s hard enough to get three people together who have their own bands, and adding another person just makes it harder.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the challenges you face as a group that you feel are more unique to Exit Eden?
Brunner: For me, sometimes a challenge is like an opportunity. So I was going to say, it is challenging that we all have our own bands and are on tour with our own projects, and we come together for Exit Eden. But it’s also great because everyone has their experience and their ideas – being with girls, they have more creative ideas than the guys I’ve been working with so it’s really special. It’s hard, but in some ways it makes it easier, and maybe even better on a different level.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the concept of femme fatale as the title of the album.
Brunner: The first big difference compared to the first album is that there are original songs on this record. The crazy thing is that the first original song that we started to lay out and to produce and write was the song “Femme Fatale.” It was interesting to me as a songwriter that it was the first creative new thing from Exit Eden, and we had other songs after, but it kept pulling us back to this title.
To choose this as a roundabout concept, it was super cool. It has so many facets to it. Femme fatale as a symbol from art and movies. There’s this term femme fatale in Germany and Europe, which is probably the same in the West. You have these seductive women – taking this symbol that people are aware of, and turning it into a positive empowerment. We stand together. We use our femininity in this world. We are proud to be three frontwomen in this band. That’s one of the many facets to offer with this record.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you feel were the necessary ingredients to making original music that would tie into the idea of Exit Eden that was already established with the cover songs? When I listen to the album, I know the cover songs pretty well but it doesn’t feel like there’s a huge transition between ‘oh this is an original and this is a cover song.’ How did you blend it all together?
Brunner: That was absolutely our goal – we didn’t want people to say, “this is the cover, this is an original.” So in the production, and in choosing the songs that we covered – we put more thought into that this time. As a songwriter, it was hard because we didn’t have references from the first album. So it was like starting something totally new. Sometimes when you have all the options, it makes it harder because you are wondering how to even start [laughs].
Comparing our original songs to pop/hits that are well known and have been successful meant that they had to be good. It has to be as good as the song it follows! So that was a challenge, but we worked with our producer Hannes Braun, and he is a really good songwriter and musician. We were able to send him ideas and he worked on them with us or for us. He really understands the concept really well. It was great to get the original concepts together and just to see what we would choose.
Dead Rhetoric: Did it seem like a natural progression to write original songs to go along with the covers? It seemed that there was also a want to write songs within the band before.
Brunner: Yes, I would say so. We do love to put ourselves into a cover song and make it really original and special, but it’s also a different thing to have a really original song that no one knows. You can really pour your heart into the writing as well as the performance of it. To have your own verse or your own part that no one has sung before. I think that’s something that means a lot to the three of us. This was a great first step and I’m so happy that we also got to do that instead of just having covers on this record for the second time.
Dead Rhetoric: So is the plan moving forward to always keep some sort of balance of originals and covers, or would you like to shift towards just original music in the future?
Brunner: I think the covers will be a part of it, that’s my opinion right now, but it’s always nice to have some covers. To have that special Exit Eden vibe to a pop song, maybe even a bit more crazy again here and there in the future. But we do want to focus on original songs as the majority.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s the trick in turning a pop song into something that’s heavier, while maintaining what the original stood for?
Brunner: I wouldn’t call it a trick, but people have asked if we have tried a cover song and it didn’t work out, and that didn’t happen to us. We and our producer thought about the songs – Hannes is a great musician and he can really hear how something might sound in a more bombastic style. So he had the imagination of hearing a song that way. Sometimes I would have some suggestions and he’d be like, “Ahh, no! I don’t think that’s going to work!” So that was one cool thing that he had in his mind when we started the pre-productions and he actually chose the covers with the label together. But he, as the musician, had in mind the songs that had good material – an interesting chord progression or a slight orchestra in the background that could be empowered a bit. I also loved that we had many male-sung songs being sung by women, which makes a difference too just by being sung by a different person. I think those were the guidelines that helped to decide for each song.
We also wanted the album to speak the same language. It had to have a similar vibe, like “It’s a Sin” or “Poison,” or from the lyrics it had a more darker, symphonic metal vibe to it that you could make fit into the Femmes Fatales record.
Dead Rhetoric: With the covers coming from a collaboration between your producer and the label, did it ever lead to any challenges on the vocal standpoint when you hear that you are going to cover a particular song? In order to put a certain twist on it, per say?
Brunner: Not really. I do trust our producer a lot, since we also write songs together for my band League of Distortion too. He also has a band called Kissin’ Dynamite and I write for them, so we are a close writing team. I trust him when he has an idea and thinks it will be good. So I have a listen and I will mostly always say, ‘yeah, you are absolutely right, that’s amazing!’ We were also able to inject our ideas and say who is trying to sing in certain parts in the arrangement of the vocals. So in the studio, when we are trying the songs and parts, we could try to figure things out. That makes it more unique and makes it feel more personal too.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that metal and pop can be intertwined, considering the concept of the band?
Brunner: I don’t know, I think they can be very different too. You do have to change up the songs, from the songwriting view, from the structure and a strong chorus – that can be a similar song in every style. But I think that pop songs are a little more simple, than a metal or even symphonic metal song – it’s bigger, it’s more bombastic, and it has more parts. There’s more chord changes or modulations, or things like that. You do need to change a basic pop song in order to fit it into a metal style. I wish, because pop music means popular music, I just wish so much that metal music becomes popular music some day. It’s a small goal that I have that some people will listen to metal the way that they do Taylor Swift or someone like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Given that all of you have your own bands and other projects going on, what do you get out of being involved with Exit Eden?
Brunner: First of all, it has a real nostalgic feeling to me. Exit Eden was the first, really successful project I have done. It was eight years ago – I had my own rock band with no label and I was playing bars and pubs. That’s what I was doing before stepping into the professional metal world. This is something I hang onto because it means a lot to me because it showed me my path and where I wanted to be. I wanted Exit Eden to continue because it shouldn’t just be that [one album].
Also, with the girls, I remember Marina helping me with my eyelashes the first gigs because I had never that. All of those types of things. We have had so many experiences and moments that we shared. Even through COVID and not seeing each other for years, we were on WhatsApp and Zoom calls just to talk for 2 hours. So our friendship is special, and the emotional friendship I’ve shared with Marina and Clementine. Those are the two personal things.
I also really love the music. I love the symphonic metal – the kind of true/original without so much modern input. It’s different from League of Distortion music, but that’s actually what I like. It’s more natural. It has this symphonic metal vibe, and I really believe that there are plenty of people craving new music in that style too.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your plans for 2024 with Exit Eden?
Brunner: We are kind of just waiting and seeing. We are doing a lot right now, and we are looking forward to sharing the new singles, especially the new original songs. We can’t really share any live plans yet. We are kind of waiting on the reaction from the people. On the label side, they are waiting on those reactions to see how people like the new original songs and the second album. I hope we will be able to play live and that there are requests from people for us to play at different festivals. Or maybe a small tour to keep it special and exclusive, but give people a chance to see us live. Also for us to finally play some new songs together on stage. So nothing concrete yet, but I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and encourage everyone to request Exit Eden everywhere they can [laughs]!
Photo by Stephan Heilemann