Visions of Atlantis – Embracing PiratesThursday, 16th June 2022
Austrian act Visions of Atlantis have come out of the pandemic resilient considering the tragic derailing of their 2020 North American tour opening for Dragonforce less than a week into March of that year. Thankfully a crowdfunding campaign received massive support from their fanbase, offsetting major expenses already forwarded at the start of the tour – enabling the group to return earlier in 2022 for a full North American run with Dragonforce again that was very successful. Now releasing their eighth studio album in Pirates, the band feel confident striding into more symphonic metal waters than ever before. You can expect a great array of material – expansive at times, catchy, full of stirring melodies, heavier strides as well as moving ballads, plus the atmosphere and aural odyssey that captivates listeners to another galaxy.
We reached out to vocalist Clémentine Delauney who filled us in on the latest touring excursions, thoughts on successful crowdfunding during the pandemic, the worries and boldness to embrace the Pirates theme musically and visually, plus discussion on her voice and where she sees things going in that regard, the see-saw effects between making music for art versus money, and a quick update on Exit Eden.
Dead Rhetoric: You got the chance to come back to North America for the Dragonforce tour that you just completed recently that originally took place in 2020 before COVID-19 shut everything down. Tell us about your memories regarding this run in North America as well as your recent European run, the reception from the fans, and how did you get along with the other bands on the tour?
Clémentine Delauney: The North American crowds are absolutely amazing. We were one of the first big tours after the pandemic was over, people were really excited to get back to the shows and I think they really missed that as we did. We had several mosh pits when we were playing our music in the US and Canada, and I can tell you this never happens when we are playing in Europe (laughs). Our music is not hard enough, but we could really tell the excitement and it was an absolutely amazing experience to play in front of these large crowds. Dragonforce is able to pull a lot of people over there, and it seemed like their fans wanted to have a great time, so we made a great impression. We think we can come back, and we want to come back soon as so many people are asking us to play a full show. We are working on it; we hope to be back next year while our visas are still valid.
And then the shows in Europe were very different. In the US we were one of the support acts playing thirty minutes, and in Europe for nine shows in a row we were the headliners playing an hour and a half. It was way more demanding in a way; it would get really warm in Europe. This leg was originally planned in 2020, the sea towns that should have happened after our big tour. We are doing the opposite, so we did the short run now, and then we have the big tour in the fall. We still could see the consequences of COVID – a lot of people had their tickets, but a high percentage didn’t attend the shows. We talked with the promoters from all the countries we visited, and they said this is a phenomenon, they say the people in Europe are not all ready to go back to the venues. Which we did not notice in the US – it really was a contrast. We loved playing those shows in Europe- we gathered with our hardcore fans plus people who just discovered our music. It was a good way to start headlining with this new Pirates era. It was a great way to get back to this, after this whole pandemic.
When it comes to the other bands, especially in the US tour – Dragonforce, they are fun, welcoming dudes. We knew them from 2020 as we still managed to play a couple of shows before the pandemic hit. It felt like we were gathering with comrades we already knew. Then we met with Seven Spires, who are really fun and super talented musicians, we had a great time with them. Then our European neighbors from Firewind, we had met at other festivals before. It felt like at the end of the tour that we could all hang out with each other pretty well.
Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel to raise over $21,000 through a GoFundMe campaign when the previous North American tour got cancelled? Does this speak to the strong community and togetherness of your followers?
Delauney: I think that definitely contributed. It was not an easy move for us to make – because the moment that you admit to yourself that’s the only way the band can survive this. It’s not like we turn to our fans easily – we try to be like how can we absorb that huge loss? How can we face this thing, and the label support this? We were not the only band in this situation, and the label could not just open the money tank and be like ‘yeah, take my money’. We sat down and found a solution, no one had this cash available to help the band like that, so we made the decision to do this. Beyond being a support campaign, we were left with the entire stock of merchandise that we were supposed to sell on that tour. And we know when you have the tour dates on the back of the t-shirt, it’s only good for that tour, you can’t really sell it on another tour. People want to have the t-shirt with the date where they can tell their friends they were at that show. They were doomed to lose their value once we took the merchandise back to Europe. We wanted to have that merchandise sell to be able to make back the costs we put up front. Some of the people who were supposed to see us, gave us money.
American people when it comes to showing solidarity in critical moments, are super amazing. They really don’t hesitate. It’s the reason why were able to invest in another US tour again. Otherwise, it would have been a huge loss that we would have had to compensate for years to invest to get the US again. It’s a huge investment for a European band to tour the US at our level. On the latest tour, we met people that contributed to our campaign, people who came to our meet and greet, there are people who we touched hard in their heart, they are sticking around, and we are so forever grateful for them. We just hope that we can come back and build a sustainable presence. It’s an amazing audience that we have there, indeed.
Dead Rhetoric: Pirates is the eighth studio album for Visions of Atlantis. Do you feel like as writers, composers, and performers you know where you want to go with each new set of material – or do you trust the muse and creative flow that occurs until you reach the finish line?
Delauney: We definitely were a little lost when we started writing the new album. Especially when we started to write right after the pandemic struck all over the world. We had a couple of weeks of trauma response, shock. Let’s take the bright side of this and use the time to write. And then in the beginning, with the mindset that we had no idea when we would be able to release this, when would be the next show – it took us some time to get away from those first panic attacks. To feel like we were still a band. We took the time to redefine ourselves and our sound. How we want to show up in the world and what we want to say, and how we want to say it. And this is from that step back, which is painful in a way. We decided to look at the assets of our band, this is what we can bring, this is what we love, this is what we should do more of.
We took the decision to be more of a symphonic metal band, embrace the pirate theme that we were flirting with but was not completely fully ours. And this is how we started to write songs that felt more in line, felt more genuine, felt more powerful – and we kept a lot of diversity in the format of these songs. Some were super long, some super short ones, we ditched a couple of songs that we felt didn’t fit or we felt didn’t bring our message any further. It was a very intense process which led us to know now who we are and what we want to do.
Dead Rhetoric: Did it seem obvious to release “Melancholy Angel”, “Legion of the Seas”, and “Master the Hurricane” as singles – and what can you tell us about the video shoots? Do you enjoy the chance to express yourself in this medium that may differ a bit from what people can expect on record and through the live shows?
Delauney: Oh yes. I remember actually, I always felt a very strong desire to be an artist and to express myself through art. And being an actress is something that I would have loved to do when I was younger. When I started to realize that was a large cinematic aspect to our music, coming through the pirate theme, the lyrical themes, and the ambiance that we have created, we thought that let’s bring that in pictures as well. Let’s create that visual universe that embraces this as well. Whatever videos that we make, I wanted to make sure that we play the parts. We embrace the characters of the songs; we are two storytellers. This is something that belongs to the world of musicals, which we both love. I decided that makes us stronger to not just be a metal band and have a performance and some action scenes with other people, but us, who we are, let’s make a step and embrace the meaning of our songs.
I think it was very appreciated. Obviously not every band goes for the acting parts themselves. It also goes really well hand in hand with how we approach our stage performances. Michele and I perform that way, we interpret the songs and give them meaning, create dynamics through different characters along one show. This goes together in a way. I wrote scripts that would reflect the meaning of the songs. It makes us a little bit bigger than just being a regular metal band in my eyes.
Dead Rhetoric: Being a part of the Napalm Records roster since your second album Cast Away, how would you assess their work and the promotional aspects they’ve given to elevate the status of the band on a global scale?
Delauney: I can only tell you through the last three records because that’s when I’ve been around. Napalm took trust in us, even if it took a couple of records to arrive at the level that we wanted to be in terms of the quality of our production. They trusted us, not more nor less than any of their other promising bands on their roster. We are not the biggest band, but we are not the smallest on their roster. Everyone has been a little surprised with what we’ve done with Pirates and the response from the fans. Hopefully this will lead to have them understand even better the kinds of needs we have for touring, image, videos. We will see.
Dead Rhetoric: Embracing a sound that traverses symphonic and power metal styles, what do you consider key elements that need to be present for the collective band to be satisfied? How do you balance the bombast or cinematic scope of things with the proper instrumentation and vocal performances?
Delauney: That’s two questions in one. We decided for ourselves that we wanted to be a real symphonic metal band. And that means two key words: symphonic and metal. We had to think about how to make the orchestrations bigger and that’s why we hired Lukas Knoebl to help us with that. And then when it comes to being a metal band, we had to get into a little more riffing, more intricate parts, and for that we have to thank Michele and the metal culture that he has with the heavier tracks on the record. And also, the ones that go a little prog-ish with “Master the Hurricane”. This is all his influences. We also take into account the limits of our band. We are not the biggest technicians. We aren’t going to write songs that are too fast for our drummer to follow on double bass, or too intricate of riffs that no one can perform. We do things within the range of what we can do, because we want to be authentic from the recordings to the live performances. We keep the live show in mind, we want people to enjoy this as well, coming to the shows, we want to share our music with people and not just send it out online.
That is one thing, and we are two singers. We work with that in mind from the start, from scratch. When we start writing a song, we know there has to be two vocals, two characters more or less sometimes. Things should happen, not just Michele sings verse A, I sing verse B. We want to make it a little bit more interesting, we are two melodic vocalists. And we started to work on that really well with Pirates, I think we can do that even better on the next one.
We love bombastic, epic tracks – from movie scores to classical music. I love music that takes you to completely different places, in a super produced, super big way. Sometimes the melody that you hear on the record, from there you decide if you want to make things intimate or feel like you are hearing a huge orchestra behind it. Even if Lukas is fine tuning the orchestration, we wrote them ourselves. Michele has a complete library of sounds – I had the demo versions with his orchestration, which is not as advanced as Lukas’. It is not Michele’s skills – he did write the lines, he wrote the harmonies, he wrote the progression. It is a part of who we are. I do think that the areas of bombast and proper instrumentation can easily coexist.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess your abilities as a vocalist from the start of your career to your approach now within Visions of Atlantis? Do you believe you are consistently striving to do more and learn more to stretch in different areas as you gain more confidence and seasoning?
Delauney: Yes, sure. Visions of Atlantis gives me the opportunity to explore my voice in many different ways. I don’t have to stick to one vocal register. My main focus is to define my placement, with a lot of possibilities I have quite a versatile voice which is a blessing and a curse. I can sing a lot of things a lot of different ways, and sometimes it works against me because I have more choices. Instead of just choosing one part and sticking to that position. Also, every album was a little bit more challenging in the technique approach, and the emotional approach as well. I’ve been improving together with the band throughout all this time we’ve been together.
Dead Rhetoric: What would surprise people to learn most about the business decisions that have to be made within Visions of Atlantis aside from your musical responsibilities?
Delauney: The problem is sometimes I think people are not ready to hear what it takes to have a band at that level or be in a band and try to have a career anyway. Some things are outrageous, and disgusting. What management will ask you, or what considerations some people have. Even now, because we are getting attention, other people get jealous. Why do Visions of Atlantis get this and this? Well, it’s because this is a band promo period, and there is interest. We made a great record, look at the charts. Instead of acknowledging that yeah, we do a great job, they blame that the label is taking care of us more than other bands. Then it’s tough to handle the egos and jealousy of this shit going on. It’s not beautiful, and unfortunately the music business is not driven by people who are often passionate about music, it’s driven by people who are passionate about money. It’s an industry, it’s a company that needs to make money like anyone else. Sometimes, people lose track of the reason why they exist. They exist to support art, instead you support what works and you create products to make it work. We could talk a lot about this.
For every band there are sometimes conversations and discussions that are not really nice. So far, we’ve been okay. We’ve managed to do our thing without having to compromise too much. And we are pretty happy with where we are right now.
Dead Rhetoric: When looking at your career within Visions of Atlantis or any of your other bands/musical projects, can you think of a time when you had a setback or failure that in retrospect set you up as a learning experience for a future win or success in the long run?
Delauney: Yes, of course. My collaboration with Serenity didn’t turn out great. We did end our collaboration on not good terms. I stood firmly on my terms; I was impatient. Also, I was not always treated very respectfully, there were problems on both sides. I took my responsibility for how I decided to show up in that band, it was quite an experience. I had to learn, this moment where I had to leave felt like a failure. I took the time and opportunities in my life to work it through and see that it taught me to be a little more patient, a little more open to other people’s perspective and understanding of things. As you said, I don’t believe in the world failure per se, I think it’s about opportunities to learn from things.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so shaping up for Visions of Atlantis as far as touring and festival action? Plus has work begun on the next Exit Eden effort?
Delauney: When it comes to VoA, 2023 will be a very heavy touring period. We are already discussing several more tours. It’s the natural response to opportunities that open up after a record that is successful. We want to have an intense year, touring grows, and reaches a point where we are more comfortable. We want to bring more props to the shows, that is my dream, taking the people to a real complete, full experience. Not just watching a band perform but entering a new journey. I would love to go deeper into creating that.
As for Exit Eden, we are going to release a brand-new record next year, and I hope we will have a chance to talk about it when it will be the right time for it.