Interview with Hiraes — “There’s a certain power in letting go and in standing up.”

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From the ashes of German melodic death metal act DAWN OF DISEASE rose HIRAES, a new melodic death metal band who are soon to release their debut effort, “Solitary,” via Napalm Records. We spoke with vocalist Britta Görtz and guitarist Lukas Kerk about the upcoming release. Watch the interview here or read it below…

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, how are you guys doing?

Britta: Thanks so much for asking! We’re in a very exciting phase of the album promotion right now and doing lots of interviews, and it’s so much fun. We really enjoy it.

Lukas: I agree. Absolutely.

Has it been fun for you guys to talk to journalists? I know that you get asked the same questions so much that I guess it can be a little bit annoying sometimes.

Britta: That would be too much. I mean, for us, as a new band – we are all experienced musicians – it’s the first time that we get feedback from the outside and the questions that we’re being asked allow us to kind of see the other side of the mirror and show us how the people view us, so it’s super exciting. In these times that have been behind us or we are maybe still in it, it just feels like being in a band, you know, it just feels really rewarding to be out there, even if it’s just digitally!

Speaking of reactions, how have they been so far, as you’ve released two singles?

Lukas: The overall impression I’ve got is that all the reactions have been very positive so far. We are pretty much overwhelmed due to the reactions of our very first music video, “Under Fire”; maybe you have seen it. It has reached already more than 110,000 views and we released it only in April, so within 2 months. For a band that is starting right now, this is really a huge thing and we were really happy about that. In general, we are receiving many positive reactions, of course, from fans, from friends, from family, and everyone else, but also from the press and you talked about it just a minute ago – we really did a lot of interviews already. It seems to be that people out there like our album too, including the press, and everyone who has an online magazine or YouTube channel. We were really happy to get such good feedback and that really triggers us to go on with what we are doing right now.

You mentioned that you’re experienced musicians, of course, but with the debut album of a new band, does the release bring a lot of pressure or anxiety?

Britta: I wouldn’t say that… it’s pure excitement and not pressure, it’s just like a certain kind of, I don’t know, electricity in the air when you release your baby to the world, and then you get critiqued for it, and you hope that people like it. It’s a very exciting moment, but we’re not anxious. Probably the pressure will rise with album number two, because we had such great feedback.

Let’s continue maybe with the beginning of the band. You mostly exists out of members of DAWN OF DISEASE, which was disbanded in 2020. Was it important for you, Lukas, to start a new band, and not continue with DAWN OF DISEASE?

Lukas: It was at the end of 2019 when it was clear that we will no longer continue with DAWN OF DISEASE and initially, we planned to play some farewell shows, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that was impossible. So, instead, we disbanded in early 2020. It was pretty clear after the split-up of DAWN OF DISEASE that four remaining musicians wanted to continue making music, so we were looking for a singer and we already knew that we wanted to have someone who is experienced who knows how it is to be on stage and in the studio. We knew Britta from the past, from her band CRIPPER, but also from CRITICAL MESS, where she still sings. I wrote her an email [asking] if she was willing to join us and it took us some months to do the first rehearsal due to the pandemic situation, but then finally… I think it was last year in May or June, we met for the very first rehearsal where we also played the very first song we wrote together and it was just a magic moment to be in the rehearsal room for the first time all together. We realized that the chemistry between us all was just right, so we started working more intensively on the new album. Then we finished the recordings in January or February of this year and will be released just next week.

I was going to ask you how you ended up with Britta, but you just explained that you knew her already. Was she also the your first choice, in general?

Lukas: Actually, we did not really talk about many other options. We just had some [options] from from Osnabrück. We all live in different cities but DAWN OF DISEASE was always an Osnabrück band. So we thought about maybe the singer and bass player of this other band, EMBEDDED. He’s a good singer but maybe that would have been be two steps backwards then one step forward. So it was pretty clear that we wanted to have Britta and we were so happy and also overwhelmed when she said, “okay, I’m willing to do this.” She was completely engaged in everything and wrote the lyrics for the very first song, and it was a really cool feeling to have her on our side.

Now, Britta, as a singer you probably get a lot of requests to join bands. What was the reason you said yes to this project?

Britta: That’s a good question. Definitely, I get asked a lot, probably not so much of joining a band, but more for collaborations. I’ve done a lot of them during the pandemic because, what else can you do? The only thing that really matters to me is whether I like the music, and then there’s the setting, do I like the people? Because it’s one thing when you like the music and you have a good time while writing the music, but you have to ask yourself whether you want to sleep with these people in a tiny tour bus for 3 weeks, where there are stinky socks everywhere and you can guess which person just walked through the bus by sniffing their farts [laughs]. As Lukas said, we met for the first time and the chemistry was great, and what was especially cool to see is that even though those guys have been playing together for such a long time, I couldn’t feel any bad vibes between them, so it was very obvious to me that they were getting along just great. I felt very welcomed to the team and the decision was made on that day, there was like electricity in the air, so I decided this is going to happen.

When I checked your website, there’s an explanation for your band’s name, HIRAES: “Derived from the Welsh word hiraeth, which stands for the nostalgia and yearning for lost places of the past or a home that maybe never was, a deep sense of gloom hovers above the whole concept of HIRAES. Touching yet strong lyrical themes reflect this thrilling atmosphere.” Now, I was wondering, whether you are trying to go back to the roots of melodic death metal or did you have any clear goal of the sound that you wanted to have with this band?

Lukas: That’s a difficult question, because usually I sit down and write the songs without an aim really to make this song sound this or that way. I think the music is not really that much rooted in this old-school melodic death metal. We also have modern elements and it’s a mixture of different styles, different kinds of music, and different influences, in general. When it comes to the band name, I think it also fits the music because we also have this melancholy in our music, these melodies, and everything is pretty epic and gloomy. We chose this name because it really fits our music and also partly the lyrical themes that Britta writes about, so I think it’s a well-fitting package, all-in-all.

Did the music come first, or did you pick the band name first?

Britta: It was right in the middle of things. I don’t know how many songs were already written…e at the very least, I would say, three. We started to play around with some words and then some things we didn’t like, some things felt like 80% right, but then when the name comes that will be it, you just know. Plus, HIRAES is nice and short, it also looks good, as a design, and you don’t have much trouble fitting it in [designs].

Now, talking a little bit about the lyrical themes, what can you tell us about them? What are the songs about and is there kind of a red line in what you wrote for this album?

Britta: Probably not so much of a red line, in that I plan it out. I just let it flow. We wrote the album within a pretty short time span of 10 months, which might sound like a lot, but it isn’t, especially including recording and everything, it’s not much time. So I got the demos with guitars and drums and I just played it as loud as I could in my rehearsal room and started to very freely phrase over it with gibberish. All of a sudden… I know that there’s this process that you just don’t want to touch but sometimes these words just emerge. Then, you kind of spin the rest of the story around it. I would say that all the lyrics are inspired by personal experiences. I didn’t experience them all personally, but sometimes I witnessed them. I tried to find an essence for every single song and tried to write about it from a very narrow perspective, to make it dense. I don’t want to explain the world to everyone, I just want to focus on one thing, a single slice of cake. So I would say that the red line is probably to overcome something bad that has has happened in your life, in that very moment where you know that you’re going to make it to the end of the tunnel, you know. That second where you’re not good, you’re not well, you’re not healed, but you can see and sense the light at the end of the tunnel, so in that very special gloomy dark position. From that [place], I was looking into the world.

That’s interesting because I thought that you have a melancholic sound, but it also sounds a little bit hopeful. Was that intentionally put in there?

Britta: Yes, definitely. That was my absolute goal… especially in a time like this, where everyone on the planet has issues with keeping things together and keeping things running, I thought, well, I should use this chance to just bring – not a shiny happy album, because that just felt wrong… a ray of hope for someone who’s looking for that, for someone who has a need for that. There’s a certain power in letting go and in standing up. When you know you’re bruised and bleeding everywhere, you think you’re not going to make it like this, you become very aware of your own power and your own strength. This is a universal, global feeling. I think that is something that makes the album also easy to access, because you will know something from your past when you have felt this way and you can relate to that. So that’s a nice thing to do.

Now, you also mentioned that you wrote the album in 10 months. Why the rush? Did you want to make the most out of this bad situation for everyone, or did you just get really inspired to write music?

Lukas: I think it was just the wish to release an album, so when we talked to our label, Napalm Records, [about] what time might be good for us, we started working on it and somehow it worked. I think we could have waited a bit longer, since we’re in the same situation as all the other bands who are releasing albums right now. It’s hard to go on tour, but it’s a debut album, so it’s completely okay because we wanted to say: “Hi, we are HIRAES, a new band, we have an album out right now, you can listen to it and maybe in a few months it’s possible for us to hit the stage.” We are also working on new material, so maybe our sophomore album will come out soon. There was no real pressure from us and also not from the label, but we chose to release it now because, we could also have said no and waited 2 or 3 years, but it’s good to have it over with, because it was really good for us as a band to do the whole working process, to get used to it, and to get to know each other when it comes to the songwriting and working on the songs. I think it was the right decision.

Britta: I totally agree and maybe would like to add that as a newcomer, looking at the wave of new albums that are going to come out before the end of the year, you probably wanted to release something at the beginning of that wave, because otherwise we would be one of so many, as everyone was releasing unexpected albums, so it’s good that we did that, otherwise we should have waited a year or 1.5 years and then I don’t know, albums have a shelf life and when that is over, you just want to want a new snapshot of what you’re capable of.

Do you feel like, in general, people also have more time to listen to new music right now?

Britta: That’s a difficult question to answer. I know that I had more time to listen to music, but that was also caused by the fact that you were homebound more or less. Now that everything is opening up again, I feel like I have less time to listen to new music… but I don’t know. In a certain way, the pandemic has taken the speed out of the ordinary, daily life and people are valuing everything that brings joy to their life more, things that they can also do independently, instead of going out with friends. So I think that the worth of music and of arts has definitely increased in the pandemic and we hope to see that reaction also when we get ready to get back on stage and play out there.

Now, in another interview I watched, you guys mentioned that you did everything remotely for this album, the writing and the recording. I guess it’s not really a new thing but I was wondering if, because of the pandemic, you felt differently about it? Would you have wanted to be more together during this process?

Lukas: Being together would have been great, at least for some rehearsals during the recording process, so that you can check out [the songs] in the rehearsal room and change a bit here and there. We did all this via the internet and it was okay. It was also a bit limited due to the situation but we tried to make the best out of it, and it worked out well somehow.

Britta: I think without the pandemic, the album title would have turned out to be a different one.

In the same interview, I think you mentioned that that song reflects you as a band during the pandemic, is that correct?

Britta: In a way, yes. Sitting home alone, without having the outlook on bringing the song to the rehearsal room to get a feel for it is… it can be a little… the energy level is drowning pretty quickly because usually you get rewarded for the work that you put in by playing your music loud with your friends in the rehearsal room, and this just didn’t [happen]. So, from start-to-finish, you’re on your own. If you don’t do the job, no one else will do it for you, and no one will really help you do things. It wasn’t a very bad experience at all, but it was a very unique experience.

Do you feel like it had an effect on the album as well? Are there songs that you, in the end, wouldn’t have put on the record if you had been able to play them together?

Britta: No, I don’t think so. I think we would have put the same songs on the record. The question is though, would the songs have turned out the way they have turned out because, when you are more or less reflecting on yourself, you write different lyrics, you have different phrasings, you’re maybe even triggered by the guitars in a different way. They just hit a different spot. So I’m pretty sure that without this way of writing and without this way of living during that time; the songs would just have a different vibe to it.

Yeah, it will be interesting to see how your second album will turn out, because you will have the chance to meet together then (I hope).

Britta: Walking on sunshine! [laughs]

At the beginning of this interview, you also mentioned your music video, “Under Fire.” I was quite impressed by all the pyros in there, so I was wondering, first of all, whose idea was it to make such a music video, and given the fact that shooting music videos always takes so long, was it difficult for you guys to perform with pyros in a music video?

Lukas: The actual idea came from me because I’ve wanted to shoot such a video since I started to play guitar, since I saw RAMMSTEIN for the very first time. We shot this video last year in August, during a very hot summer night. We just had five rounds, we played the song five times, because shooting those flames is not really that cheap. It’s a bit expensive, due to the gas flames and everything, but it was really a really great experience and we had a lot of fun.

Is that the king of energy you also want to have on stage in the future, if/when you can tour again?

Britta: Hopefully. I guess if the album sells well, we might be able to fire one pyro or two [laughs], but we’re quite a long way from bringing pyrotechnics as a regular thing into our live set. Until then, we need to be the energy balls on stage and we have played our very first show just last week at a streaming festival. Christian, our bass player, he’s not a very bouncy… kind of nervous person or whatever, but when we played the first song, he was just all over the place. It was really cool, as if someone had put a battery up his butt and he just went [laughs]. So I’m pretty positive that our live shows will be energetic.

How was that experience for you, to perform the streaming show?

Britta: Only appropriate for a band formed during a pandemic. It’s a very professionally organized festival that we played. Usually it’s outdoors, but they did it indoors for the second time and they really did the best to make the bands feel at home. They put up a big backstage tent in the yard so that we could be outside and we really had the feeling of being backstage at a festival. That was super cool and a lot of fun. Of course, it’s a little weird to play in front of no one, but it wasn’t really hard to imagine that there are people sitting in front of a screen and having a great time. We received a lot of positive feedback too and that’s good.

Speaking of shows, it seems like the world is starting to open up again, or at least will soon. Do you have any plans for a tour or are you just kind of waiting still to see what happens?

Lukas: Yeah, there’s a lot of planning going on in the background. We cannot talk about it yet because nothing of it has been announced. We will maybe have some shows in July, social distancing shows here in Germany. There is also at least one show planned, maybe one or two tours, but yeah, I cannot talk about it yet. We hope that this will happen somehow, but we do not have any influence on the situation. Maybe it will happen. We’re really hoping for it.

Britta: At least our hopes are high enough that everyone’s getting vaccinated as quickly as possible so that we’re ready when the tour is on.

Well, let’s see! I hope at least to catch you guys one day, maybe in Finland. That’s it for my questions. Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with your fans?

Britta: We are really happy with how the album has been perceived so far and if you guys out there like HIRAES, please comment! We read each and every comment and it feels so good to get some feedback. We really need feedback, we are hungry to know how you like the album and what’s your favorite song. Keep them coming!

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