Interview with Leprous
When we were presented with the advanced promo of LEPROUS‘ upcoming album “Pitfalls”, we were promised to have our work shaken up as it would be something unexpected. After the release of their single “Below”, we just knew we had to talk to the band about their upcoming release. So we had the opportunity to speak to vocalist Einar Solberg about “Pitfalls”. Read the complete interview here.
Hi, thanks for doing this interview. You’re releasing “Pitfalls” in about a month, how are you feeling about the upcoming release?
Very excited. More than before actually, because I know it’s a typical thing an artists says about his album of course, but for us it was the album without any compromises, so we’ve been working so hard on it for the last year so it’s yeah (laughs)… It feels amazing and we’re super proud of the results.
You mentioned in some interviews that “Pitfalls” is the album nobody expects from you”, how does it differ from the work that you have previously done?
Well, first of all, the sound is quite different. The whole production is different, it’s a bigger production than before. We went completely outside of the rock and metal world, especially outside of the metal world for mixing. We went for Adam Noble, as a mixing engineer, who has a completely different kind of sound. Most metal and rock music has a super big guitar wall, which kind of compromises other things, like for example strings, vocals, keys and bass etc . So, because it takes up a lot in the mix, this time around the mix is really different than the average, especially when I compare it to our previous albums. Also the material, the actual songs they’re diverse, when you think that the first half of the album is what you can expect from the rest, you’re mistaken. It’s really kind of an unpredictable album so to speak. Even for us, we didn’t expect the album to be like this, we expected it to be more like the first half of the album, the second half kind of took us by surprise as well.
You already briefly mentioned that you chose Adam Noble to mix the album, which was somewhat of a surprising choice. The album actually sounds very cinematographic, it reminds me a little bit of – I’m not sure if you have heard of the project – THE IRREPRESSIBLES, an alternative rock act that is known for breaking musical boundaries. Is that also something Leprous also does?
You cannot try to break any boundaries. If you try to break boundaries, then it is gonna come across as fake. So, you cannot try to be original, either you’re original or you’re not. You just do what is inside of the view you presented and that’s it, you know. So, for us, we’re not breaking any boundaries at all (laughs), we just compose the music that we prefer to compose, I think a lot of bands should just lower their shoulders and don’t be too scared of what other people think. Just do what you like and forget about opinions. Those are the only times you’ll be able to create something unique, you cannot try, you cannot force something unique. Most of the bands that I consider to be innovative, are bands that are doing it in an effortless way, you just see that it’s them, they’re not trying too hard. It takes some years to get there, to get that confidence etc. to get the actual knowledge to compose the songs properly etc. but yeah we don’t try to do that (laughs).
You mentioned before that the whole process took about one year. What was the writing process like for “Pitfalls”?
Yes, I mean, when I wrote the first song for the album, which was right after the first “Malina” tour, I was kind of in a state of mind that I was excited about the tour, I was a bit high up, but at the same time I was feeling that there was kind of something wrong as well, but I was kind of ignoring it. So, yeah, I just wrote the first song right after that tour, that was the only song that I wrote before the big depression that I had started. I never had been writing during a depression before, which maybe happened once or twice in my life that I had kind of experienced a longer period where I felt like this. The one last year was definitely maybe the longest the one, sometimes I really had to force myself to write some things. A lot of people think when you’re in that state of mind, when you’re low and feeling down, that that’s a very ideal time to write music, but it’s not because you don’t really have energy for it, and you need to have a spark. Still, I kept going, because at least I had that thing to work with. So, it felt like it took forever in the beginning to write the songs, but then it kind of was a bit better, I got out of the worst part and then for a couple of months it was a bit up and down, but during that whole process I just kept on writing and. In a way, what is unique with that kind of a writing process, is that it kind of followed me through one year that was filled with ups and downs with depression and anxiety. Beforehand I never wanted to talk about these personal things, but it was so obvious for this album, because it was so present throughout the whole writing process. It was just a big part of it this time, so that it became the album. I see it now as a very meaningful process. I know it’s cliche to say it, and cliche to do, but once I was done I felt much more prepared for life, stronger, and I definitely felt as if music was the light in that dark period somehow. We’ve always written melancholic music, but often we’ve written melancholic music without actually feeling that melancholic if you know what i mean (laughs). It’s just a mood in music that I kind of prefer, that touches me more than another kind of atmosphere. So, yeah, this time it was a bit more real, which is kind of funny because this album also contains some of the most uplifting songs that we’ve ever done, and I think that it was important to have some of these songs, filled with more hope and because yeah, when you’re in that period, you need that kind of light (laughs).
I do have to admit that the first single “Below” is very emotional, especially the way you sing. If I’m being completely honest, the first time I heard it it made me cry a bit. In the album you talk really openly about your depression, and I personally think it will also help a lot of people who might go through the same emotions. Do you find it important that your songwriting has a healing power?
Extremely important, I would have never expected it to have that power, because we, like most musicians – except for a few narcissists here and there – most composers and artists just feel like completely normal people. Maybe we’re a bit more fragile than the average person, because you have your emotions, and you kind of have to be a bit more in touch with your emotions than the average person because it’s what you do, you deliver your emotions out on a plane somehow. So, for us we don’t think of ourselves as if we’re out of the ordinary, so for us to feel that we are able to inspire other people, is amazing. Especially this time around, I’m so glad about it, because I know exactly how it is to be in this state of mind. You feel so alone somehow and you know it’s not like that, but still you feel like you’re the only one who’s feeling like this and everyone else is so much happier than you. To be able to inspire it means a lot to me actually, yeah.
You mentioned that the lyrical themes about the album are about your personal mental health, and recovering from a depression. Do you feel this is a concept album?
I don’t know. Concept albums, to me, they consist more of a story going through the album. This album is going from a to b, and then back to a, it jumps quite much. There is no exact start or end point through depression, it fades in and out and then it can come back again later, maybe it’s weaker because you became stronger. So it’s kind of hard to write a pure concept about something like this, and for me, I never write like that, I write in more random impulsed way. I don’t write very structured in that sense, so yeah, I can write a lot in two days and then I can go a couple of months where I don’t manage to write that much, it’s all pretty random. I don’t really function like that as a person to build concepts. To me it’s more about delivering emotions and how thoughts function, because thoughts often can be really random, and so is my method of writing music.
That’s actually interesting, because I never really stood still on how you write the lyrics. Can I assume that it’s more based on automatic writing then?
This time it was really different. It was the first time that I’ve written more lyrics on the album than Tor, who usually is the main lyricist. He wrote a couple of lyrics that I felt like i could relate very well to, because he knows me very well. This is kind of the first time that I’ve opened up so much and it was so easy to write like that somehow. It was really hard and really easy at the same time. It was very hard because you feel very naked to do so, you feel like okay here it is, everyone can see my most private thoughts, but at the same time it’s easy because it’s true. You just need to write something true, you don’t need to come up with something, so yeah once you’ve gotten over that point where you accept doing it, then it really came along easily. Some of the lyrics I wrote verses while we were choosing the takes from the previous verse, you know, I was just like sitting there, hold on I like this one, so I’ll just add this or that, and maybe one minute after finishing the verse I go in and sing the verse in the studio. Some of the stuff we did was really impulsive, which was kind of funny considering how much time was spent on the album. We still had a lot of room for this kind of impulsiveness. I think I spent like more than 50 days in the studio this time in total, which is like I dunno twice as much at least than what I’ve ever done before, and that was already twice as much than the previous one (laughs). It was very fun, but really hard at times too.
What do you think for your fans will be the most surprising thing about “Pitfalls”?
The diversity, because I don’t think people will really be that surprised with the sound of the songs. The second single we’re releasing is gonna be a super uplifting song, very uplifting, a very straight to the point pop song, that is like really much more uplifting than anything we’ve ever done before. So, in a way, yes, it’s kinda surprising, but at the same time, people were kinda suspecting this from us as well, because well, we kind of have been heading a little bit in that direction with some of our songs, but at the same time the most surprising thing maybe is how the album ends up. It ends up with something really experimental and also has kind of a new sound for us, but it’s definitely a prog song in every aspect. It’s just a different kind of prog song, it’s really long, it’s definitely one of the longest songs we’ve ever done. So, in a way the most surprising thing is that we have all of that diverse material on the same album, especially because we’ve been going in a direction where we have more and more consistent albums that were kind of having more and more of the same root, but this album has a lot of different roots. It’s kind of what the album represents as well… Anxiety and depression is not just one mood, that would be unbearable, imagine you’d have to listen to a whole album with depressing tunes (laughs), I mean yes, I would probably like it a little bit, but if the whole album was like “The Last Milestone” the last track on “Malina”, that would be a lot to swallow for most people. But then again, I think that’s gonna be the surprising part, and also the sound that is such a big production. This production sounds very big but organic at the same time, so it’s a different sound and a different vibe, it’s a new package I feel, but still you can hear it’s LEPROUS.
Yeah the last song… I think it’s really cool you also had the choir in there and stuff like that. It was a highlight for me.
It’s definitely a contrast, because when you hear “Alleviate” the fifth track on the album, for example, you don’t expect to hear “The Sky Is Red” the last track.
How did you guys decide on the title “Pitfalls”?
So basically, the title represents all these mental pitfalls you can fall into, and it kind of represents the album, there are a lot of pitfalls. It kind of represents almost all the lyrics of the album, so yeah, we had some different options, but “Pitfalls” is what everyone agreed upon, it sounded perfect for the album, so we just went for it.
You guys are also obviously going to tour with this album, what can the fans in Finland expect from your show with AMORPHIS and SOILWORK?
So, as these are support slots, it’s a bit hard to tell. Our production will be a bit more limited, it’s hard for me to make any promises for those shows (laughs), in general though, we are aiming for a kind of new atmosphere in the set, for example to build it more like to they build it in movies and theaters. We would like to be able to keep tension before reaching the climaxes, yet taking our time, without having to show everything right away, because I feel that a lot of bands, ourselves included, have the tendency to be a bit hasty, to rush it a little bit, you know like we brought all these lights and we have these kinds of stuff on the screen, you need to see that right away before it’s too late, before you leave the concert hall, and therefore we need to reach this climax really quickly. I think it’s important to take your time sometimes, to let the audience linger a little bit, but at the same time to deliver a complete different set, so when people go to a LEPROUS show, they shouldn’t completely know what to expect, even if they have seen one. It shouldn’t mean that they know what the next one is going to be like, that is also important to keep the tension and the nerve and the interest up from our side as well, but also to connect a bit more with the audience. In the past, I’ve had the tendency to not talk at all on stage, and you basically just come and watch the show and then you go home, now I started experimenting a bit more with speaking, with the audience, which is also (laugh) … a pitfall, it’s easy to become awkward when you start doing that, when you don’t have the right mindset, it can become super easy for a front man to become a little bit awkward if you don’t get the right vibe with the audience, but i’m willing to give it a try at least.
Alright, that sounds exciting! Can’t wait to go check out the show. I think our time is almost up. Do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share with the readers and the fans?
That’s always the hardest question, but we are looking forward to see you again in Finland, and hope to see you at the show!