It should come as a surprise to no one that we at Musicalypse are rather interested in the up-and-coming career of newcomers EMBER FALLS. With the release of their debut, “Welcome to Ember Falls,” in mid-February, they did a short tour with SONIC SYNDICATE in Finland before embarking on their own headlining tour in their home country. Since it has been 9 months since our first interview with them at South Park 2016, we thought that this was the optimal time to grab a couple of the guys and ask some questions about the album. To our luck, it just so happened that Jake E. (ex-AMARANTHE, CYHRA) was willing to join in on the conversation!
Just to get us started here – the album is out at last. How do you feel about the final product and how has it been received?
Thomas: [sings] Everything is awesome.
Ace: Yeah, I think it turned out really great and the reception has been really good. Obviously there have been two or three reviews that weren’t super enthusiastic, but most of them have been really positive, so that’s great.
Jake: That’s the funny thing with reviews. I remember when I released my first album. You were all into, like, “No, someone wrote a bad review!” but you guys will learn along the way that not everyone can have the same opinion.
A: Yeah, I don’t care, as long as all of them aren’t two stars out of five.
J: Exactly. That’s the most important thing, absolutely.
T: I think it’s the best thing if you have these 9-10/10 reviews and then you have a few of these 1-2.
J: You need them as well.
For Jake, how did you get involved in the album?
J: Funny thing. I got a question from Spinefarm/Universal, the record company, saying that, “Do you want to co-write a couple of songs with this band that we just recently signed called EMBER FALLS?” I was like, “Maybe? Send me some songs.” I got the songs and I loved them from the first moment that I pushed play. I’m like, “This is really good material,” and I think I got the files and I was sitting in my studio. I recorded some bullshit vocal lines and then I threw them back again, and the band – I think, at least – liked them.
A: Yeah, yeah.
J: So we started to co-write a little bit on the music and then I got the question again, “By the way, would you like to produce the album,” and I said… I didn’t even think about it. I just said, “Yes, absolutely,” because I loved it. That’s the way it all started for me.
You kind of answered my next question already, but what was your first impression of the music when you heard it?
J: Amazing! Amazing. It was a new approach on Finnish metal. That’s a cool thing with EMBER FALLS, that you so directly hear that the music is from Finland, which could only be heard in like SONATA ARCTICA and CHILDREN OF BODOM before. You have this imprint, this is the stamp that we are from Finland, and I really love that, but with a modern touch with other influences.
One of my favorite things about the album is the lyrics, because they give it a lot of depth. You’ve got certain themes that are pretty obvious, like in “The Cost of Doing Business,” but what about some of the rest of the songs? Do you have any themes that are being covered, in general?
T: Religion is one thing, right?
A: The last song, “The Lamb Lies Down in Sacrifice,” is I think… a little bit before I started writing that song, there was a terrorist attack somewhere in Europe and I was really frustrated that these kinds of things were happening, so that was a direct… I think that was one of the more obvious things that you referred to.
T: I think there are other songs also that cross a bit into religion. Not much, but…
A: Yeah, I mean most of the stuff is just things that I think about. Some of them are about myself, some are about relationships, and some are about societal things.
You mentioned in our last interview that you are creating a world with your music, this dystopian world. How do these songs fit into the EMBER FALLS universe, if at all?
T: I think some songs fit more than others. For example, “Freedom”; from the start it has this story going on and it’s pretty straightforward that it’s in some sort of dystopian future, where it’s happening. I don’t suppose we have too much of that stuff on the record.
A: Yeah, that’s actually one thing that I want to do more of on the second album is have more of a through-line through the lyrics to make it fit into our whole concept.
“Falling Rain” has a clear nod to Blade Runner – is it about Blade Runner or is it just taking some ideas from it?
A: It was just influenced about the whole concept in Blade Runner about humanity and being and other lofty words. It’s not directly about Blade Runner itself, but it’s borrowing from the thematics.
Do we get to know what “COE” stands for yet?
A: No. [laughter]
I thought that might be a stretch, but I had to try. You’ve got Niko Moilanen (Nc Enroe) from Blind Channel as a guest vocalist/rapper on “Open Your Eyes” – how did you arrange that?
T: We have played many gigs with BLIND CHANNEL and we had that song in a demo stage. It wasn’t fitting into anything. We couldn’t get any good vocal melodies and we didn’t feel that it was moving anywhere good. Then we asked Niko if he could think of something for it and he threw some demos he did and we were like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” Then we went to our rehearsal place and recorded everything.
A: Actually, the whole rap thing started from an idea Mikko (OneOfHaze) had. Like Tuomas said, we were really struggling with the vocal melodies because nothing seemed to work, so he tried a kind of goofy rapping over it and I was immediately like, okay! Because Mikko isn’t a professional rapper, so we had to hire Niko instead [laughter].
J: But I think that now we should send Mikko to rap class.
A: With all the royalties we get from the album.
I had asked you at South Park if there was anyone that you’d be interested in collaborating with and you had said there was someone that you were going to work with that you were very excited about, but you couldn’t say who just yet. Was that Niko or Jake, or someone else?
A: I think it was… [nods toward Jake].
T: Jake, yeah. That was what we were talking about.
J: Oh! You’re such nice guys.
A: Jake‘s input for the album was absolutely invaluable. A lot of the songs wouldn’t even have been good [laughter] so it was good to have him on board.
J: Now I’m blushing.
Were you singing backing vocals on all of the songs, or just some of them?
J: I don’t actually remember. We went in there, me and Jacob Hansen – the guy that mixed the album – and Mikko and Tuomas on a couple of songs, but I never did any lead things or anything like that, so we more or less only did choirs and so on. I don’t think it was on all songs, but it was on three or four songs.
T: We had a few songs that we didn’t do much of anything in Denmark. Three or two songs we didn’t actually touch quite as much, but I think you do choirs on most of the songs.
A: I think you ran out of time so you didn’t do all of the songs.
T: Yeah, Mikko had to do the high ones, because my voice was so fucked in the last days. Mikko did some pretty high vocals. Actually, we have been getting that a lot from, for example, “Rising Tide” – who is the female vocalist on this one? Oh, it’s Mikko there singing.
A: Yeah, in the video we have the girl there.
So that wasn’t actually her singing?
A: No. Actually, one of the representatives from our label was like, “Why hasn’t this female vocalist been credited?” Mikko‘s angelic voice in action.
Who was the female vocalist on “Freedom” then?
T: Eveliina Määttä.
Is she the same girl from the “Rising Tide” video?
T: No, that was actress Irina Vartia.
A couple of quick non-EMBER-FALLS-related questions for Jake here. What are you doing these days now that you’ve parted ways with AMARANTHE?
J: On Monday [the 13th] I’m going to release the news about my new band. I have started a new band called CYHRA [pronounced sigh-rah]. It’s me, Jesper Strömblad [ex-IN FLAMES], Peter Iwers [ex-IN FLAMES], and Alex Landenburg [RHAPSODY, ex-ANNIHILATOR]. We formed a band together almost a year ago and we start recording our debut album on Monday, so it’s really, really exciting. On the side of that, I’m also doing a lot of acting. I did two movies last year. One is going to be released this year and one released in 2018. But this CYHRA thing is my main project now and there’s a lot of people that thought… because I’ve left AMARANTHE, they thought that I was going to leave the music business completely, but that’s not the thing. I’m going to continue to make music. Hopefully I’m going to produce more as well, because this thing with EMBER FALLS made me realize that this was something that I really like to work with, producing other artists, but it’s going to be very interesting to see the reaction on the CYHRA band.
T: I did the logo for the band.
J: Yeah, I was going to say that! Tuomas did the logo for the whole thing. It’s funny how I came into EMBER FALLS and got to know Tuomas and Tuomas is a graphic designer. He helped me out, I helped them out. That’s what metal is all about. There is never any competition. We help each other out and scratch each other’s backs. It’s really nice.
Was there any specific reason that you left during the making and touring of “Maximalism“?
J: Truth be told, I left the band in March 2016. That’s when I decided to leave the band, but we had a lot of gigs, a lot of tours lined up, so we decided that I’m leaving the band in September or whatever, and the album was going to be recorded and from the beginning I just said that I’d skip the recording, but the band actually asked me to do the album, which I did. Then I did my last show in Japan. But, as the album was going to be released and everything like that, we didn’t want to ruin the whole release, so we were postponing it, saying that I was doing something else and then we waited until the time was right. Then when the “Boomerang” video was supposed to be recorded, the band said that, “Now we have to move forward,” so I wasn’t in the video, and then of course we had to come out with the news together with the video.
You mentioned in some other interviews that you weren’t really stoked on the direction the band was going in. Did you like album in the end or not really?
J: I wrote two songs for the album, which is the least that I’ve been writing.
A: Which ones did you write?
J: I wrote a song called “Break Down and Cry” and a song called “Faster.” Of course I had my input on a lot of the other songs as well, but not as a main songwriter. But the direction was… no. I just felt that because I left the band before the album was even released, so you could understand that there were more things behind my decision than just the music of course, but when it came to the music, I also felt that this is not the thing that I can stand for. I felt that I put my soul and my heart and my life into this band and I started the band, but I had two options. One option was to kick the band out, or leave myself. I didn’t want to be an asshole, so I kicked myself out.
You took the noble road of self-sacrifice.
J: I actually feel that it was the noble road. I could have done the different thing, but I would have looked like the bad guy and I don’t want to be the bad guy. I wish them all the luck and I have no bad feelings or whatever. This is my decision and not theirs.
Thanks for sharing that. Back to everyone then, what was it like to go to a whole other country (Denmark) to work on the album?
T: Stressful. I was shitting my pants the whole month before, because I know myself and I know that I perform quite poorly under pressure, so I knew that I had this timeline that we needed to have these songs ready, and I was like, “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” But the first day I arrived and things started rolling, it felt great.
J: That’s so funny, how people are different, because I was speaking to my friend Alex the other day and he complimented me, “I’m getting more and more great stuff from you this week,” – now I’m talking about the new band; we’re going to start recording on Monday. But before I came here, I was sitting up until 03:00 and then we were leaving at 06:00 working on the last song for the album. That song turned out to be the best song that I’ve ever written. What I wanted to say is that, I work best under complete pressure, so he wrote this complementary thing to me, “Yeah, this is fucking awesome, you’re great,” and I said to him that I should totally work in a police bomb squad or something [laughter] because under pressure, I feel calm. And you’re [Tuomas] the opposite. That’s so interesting, how people are different, but we’re working with the same thing. Then comes the other thing into consideration, is that when I met Tuomas the first time – when we met in Denmark – and I felt like, oh this is a great guy to work with, because he’s calm! This is going to be awesome.
J: No, outside! Inside you’re a complete mess, but you never showed it. So now when you’re telling me this, it’s so cool to hear.
You guys have played quite a few shows since June. Do you have any particularly memorable moments you’re willing to share from those shows?
A: A guy fainted in Oulu [laughter].
T: He was moshing too hard and probably had too much to drink.
A: He was front and center in the front row.
T: Our third song finished and he was passed out. “Are you okay, man?” Then he raised himself up and rallied to the door [laughter].
J: He was probably just the father of two and really tired.
T: It was fun, because we didn’t know anybody in Oulu. We didn’t know if anyone was coming to the show and we were kind of stressed that, is anybody going to want to show up. Then this exact same guy was shouting when the support band was playing, “Ember Falls! Ember Falls!”
A: I think what’s been the most memorable [thing] recently has been that we haven’t done a lot of headlining shows. We’ve done a lot of support shows for other bands and now we’ve had a couple of shows in a row where there weren’t any other bands with us, so it was really satisfying to see that there were quite a few people there just to see us.
T: And today, for example. Sold out show today. I think this is going to be the best thing yet for us, live-wise.
After this headlining tour in Finland, do you have any plans to go outside Finland or support any other bands?
T: Hopefully. We have one foreign gig sold.
A: In the Netherlands.
T: Yeah, Into the Grave Festival, where will be ARCH ENEMY. More metal bands than we are, but I think it’s going to be good. Hopefully we are going to get some more touring outside of Finland.
A: As you probably know, we’re supporting AMARANTHE next month [in Finland]. Too bad we don’t have this guy there. Maybe he can join us…
J: Yeah, I’ll join you guys! [laughter] I’ll be in New York then recording the vocals.
That ties nicely into my next question – I imagine that AMARANTHE and EMBER FALLS will have a great fan crossover. Do you have any hopes or expectations from that tour?
J: I have to fill in here. I actually started working on getting these guys on the Finnish tour when we were in the studio and it turned out to work for four of the shows, the biggest shows, which is really, really good for the band. I think that the AMARANTHE fanbase is going to love EMBER FALLS. I think it’s going to fit like a hand in a glove. I expect that EMBER FALLS, after the AMARANTHE tour, is going to receive a huge fanbase from the AMARANTHE fans, because I think the fanbase is equal.
Do you guys have any local festivals lined up for the summer yet?
A: One in Kotka. Dark River Festival.
T: Not anything else. We have a couple of maybes, but it’s very hard in Finland nowadays.
J: It’s also hard as a brand new band. It only takes a couple of albums to break into the market. There are so many bands. I’ll just say that I think this band has a great future ahead of them.
Lastly then, is there anything left that we should expect from you guys in the nearish future that we haven’t already covered. The album is out, so what’s next?
J: Tuomas is going to marry a mini-pig [laughter].
T: We have gotten our first new song demo from our guitarist a few days ago.
A: Jay V made a new song demo and it’s absolutely fantastic. I think it’s probably going to be… I wish it was out already.
T: New songs and more live shows and bigger live shows. I think we need to and we are going to figure out some new spices to our live show. That would be something we need.
J: And my mission for next year is to try to convince them to use me again [laughter].
T: Maybe we can go touring with your new band.
J: My new band is going to open up for you guys.
Well, thanks to all of you for this, best of luck tonight and with future shows, and good luck to Jake with the new band!
Interview by Bear Wiseman
Interview with messier — “There’s only three of us, so we have to make it count and get the sound as big as we can.”