When a new band forms from well-known members of old favorites, it’s only natural that there are questions about how everything came together. When CYHRA was formed from ex-members of a variety of different bands, including IN FLAMES, AMARANTHE, ANNIHILATOR, and SHINING, Musicalypse had to head to Nosturi a bit early on October 27th, before their debut live performance, to learn what we could about this new band, its music, and its formation. Fortunately, bassist Peter Iwers had some time to answer our questions!
First of all, congratulations on the release of your debut album, “Letters to Myself.”
Just to get things started, can you tell me a bit about how the band was formed? You all seemed to have joined one at a time, at least from the press releases.
That’s actually how it was. It started with Jake and Jesper getting together. They both wanted to do a solo album and wanted the other guy to play and sing on the respective album, and when they started talking about influences, they just realized they should do an album together. They started writing some songs and decided, “let’s do a band,” and then they asked Alex and eventually me to join the band, and we did. I was in IN FLAMES at the time, so I was still thinking that this would be a side project thing, but then events led up to the fact where I decided to quit IN FLAMES and this became the main priority. So that’s the long story, very very short version of it. But basically, a group of friends getting together and playing and making a band, the way it should be, with people you know and enjoy.
You didn’t leave IN FLAMES all that long ago – was that in any way related to joining CYHRA?
No, I left IN FLAMES because I was ready to leave. I just felt like it was time for me to do the next thing in my life, and CYHRA was conveniently there. But it had nothing to do with the decision of leaving.
Most of you guys come from vastly different musical/metal genres. What was it like to find your own style? Was it challenging or did it happen naturally?
I guess yes and no. I think the key is not to overthink it, just to write in a way that makes you feel comfortable. This record was mainly written by Jake and Jesper, because we came in so late, so we were just there for bits and pieces, but speaking for myself, I think it’s important just to try and relax and write and not think too much about if this sounds too much of this or that. Just write what makes you comfortable and all our varied backgrounds will, in the end, create the sound of CyHra. It doesn’t really matter where we come from. We will always get together and that sound will be where we are today.
I was very interested in the music, because you can definitely hear the individual backgrounds of the musicians and singer, but it doesn’t sound like AMARANTHE, it doesn’t sound like IN FLAMES. It has its own unique feel to it.
Thank you very much! Subconsciously, that’s what we aimed for. We didn’t want to sound a certain way, but with Jake‘s voice it’s going to sound different than Anders‘ voice from IN FLAMES, but still has Jesper‘s melodies and my groove thing with Alex. Everything affects the sound. There was never any intention to sound a certain way.
I’m sure you’ve all been asked this a lot lately, but where did the name CYHRA come from, and what does it mean, if anything?
It’s the Persian name for “moon” I believe, but we spell it differently, due to the fact that it’s going to be easier to find us if you Google us. Like, Europe is a fantastic band, but it’s also part of the world, so it’s difficult. Obviously the internet wasn’t around then.
We had another name in the beginning that we were looking at, but then we found out there was another band who were actually in the studio where we mixed the record. We found that there was a band with the same name that just recorded their second album, so we changed it to CYHRA. It was Jake who found it and we changed the spelling, like I said, for that fact. But as far as I know, it means “moon” in Persian. Somebody who speaks Persian can correct me, but that’s what we think.
Tell me a bit about the album as a whole then – were there any goals in writing it, did the album turn out the way you expected or was it a surprise?
No, not a surprise. It turned out, I guess, always over expectations. I think the goal was to create music – it sounds like a cliche – but to create music from the heart and to make music that we are comfortable with, that we like. That’s always been the goal when we made music in the past as well, never to please a certain audience or to try to sound like a certain genre. You always make music that you need to make, that you have inside of yourself, and you get it out and try to mix it with everybody else in the band and get all the ingredients together. I guess that was the goal, to achieve something that we could be proud of.
The musicianship and vocals on the album are very good, but it also has quite a lot of emotion packed into it. Are there any themes or topics that you guys had wanted to express through this album? Is there any concept?
Lyric-wise, you mean? Yeah, the album is called “Letters to Myself.” My interpretation of this – and I say because it was Jake who wrote the lyrics – is basically that if you could talk to a younger version of yourself… or an older version, for that matter, what would you tell yourself. Also, there’s outside advice. It’s always easy to tell your friend when he or she should dump their boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever, or any other piece of advice, but it’s always difficult to act on [that advice] yourself. I think from that angle, that’s how he wrote.
It also has to do with a lot of Jesper’s history and his issues that he’s had in the past, a lot of stuff that he wanted to get out. He told a lot of stuff to Jake who turned it into lyrics, about his feelings, dark emotions, and all that stuff. It’s a therapy record, I’d say. All the lyrics are about healing, trying to make yourself a better person.
So it’s quite personal, in a lot of aspects?
Very personal, yeah, absolutely. It’s very dark, but at the same time, very brave, I have to say. Because [the lyrics] I had no part in, and I’ve read them and I think they’re amazing.
One of the songs that I found most unique was the last one with the spoken words, “Dead to Me.” That’s something that’s perhaps more common in hip-hop music than heavy metal. Can you tell me a bit about that song?
In the beginning we had talked about having that as the opener, the first track, but decided to put it later for various reasons. It was basically, that story was something that was meant to be… that was something that Jesper had as an idea from the beginning, something that wasn’t meant to be sung, but was meant to be spoken. The whole idea, the whole concept, was built around the spoken words in that lyrical part.
The album has been out for about a week now…
That’s right! For me, it feels really old, since I’ve heard it for quite some time [laughter].
At this moment in time, which is your favorite song on the album, if any?
I think… “Black Wings” is my favorite. I think it has a really catchy yet dark feel to it, and I love the solo that Euge is playing in it. It’s one of the best solos on the record and I’m a huge guitar nerd, so I spend my time on YouTube watching good guitar players playing and he’s a really good player, so I enjoy that song a lot.
Now with IN FLAMES you’d been playing clubs and stadiums. How does it feel to be back in more intimate venues like Nosturi?
I don’t know yet, this is the first show [laughter]. I’m thinking it’s going to be great. We did a lot of small shows with IN FLAMES as well. It’s mainly in Europe that we were doing the big ones. In America it was a lot of smaller places. I like it. I was always asked the question, which do I prefer, and I prefer them all. I like a huge outdoor stage with a huge crowd that kind of becomes one unit when they bounce up and down, but I do love the small sweaty clubs as well, where you can interact with the audience and just be there up close and in each other’s faces. So I don’t know, but I’m going to find out and I’ll enjoy every minute of finding out.
My last question then is just, what are your plans from here on out? Is there anything you’d like to do differently than in the past?
I think one thing is that we’re not going to do a gazillion shows. We’re going to try to be very thoughtful when we book our shows. When we go to one place, we won’t come back to that place for a long time, is the plan at least. A lot of times – and I’m the same way – “Ahh, I’ll catch them next time. They’ll come back soon, probably.” And they usually do. So we’re going to try to be a little bit more exclusive with our shows and make every show count. But we’ll see! That’s the thought right now.
Great! Any last words for anyone who might be reading?
Thank you for the support, throughout all of my musical career, and I hope you like the album. Check it out. Keep an open mind, because a lot of times when you listen to music where it features somebody you might know, you always have expectations, but try and just go in and listen to it and see if you like it.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and good luck with the show.
Thank you very much.
Interview by Bear Wiseman
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