Interview with Lost Society — “Keep me on the road. I’ve seen my house and it’s not fucking amazing.”

0
38

Modern metal act LOST SOCIETY are once again back with a new album, “If the Sky Came Down,” on September 30th, 2022, via Nuclear Blast Records. We talked with frontman Samy Elbanna about the upcoming record. Watch the complete interview here or read the transcript below…

First of all, thank you so much for having me. How are you doing right now?

I’m doing fantastic, thank you. It’s been a terrific summer. We’ve finally got back to our perception of normal. We’ve been doing pretty much the biggest festivals both in Finland and abroad. We just did Wacken a couple of weeks ago. We did Bloodstock last weekend. The reception from everyone has just been great and just looking at people at festivals, seeing people so happy and hungry for the music, and truly appreciating the whole situation is just beautiful. So I’m doing very good, thank you.

Yeah, if I read it correctly, it was also your first time at Wacken. How was that?

It’s crazy because it’s one of those festivals… obviously, we’re always very grateful for every opportunity we get to play at any festival, but of course, we have these childlike dreams, you have to have [those]. Wacken was definitely one of those for all of us, ever since we were kids. Oh my god, that is the place… one day, one day. Every year that we continue with the band, we find ourselves checking these things off of our bucket lists and this summer was finally the time for Wacken. I must say, it couldn’t have gone better than it did. The crowd was incredible! We had a slot at 13:00 on the Wet Stage, and we just found ourselves in front of about 10,000 people. So we were speechless, it seemed like we gave the people exactly what they needed. [laughs]

Yeah, I guess playing at Wacking is crazy, especially if you compare it to Finnish festivals.

It is and it’s cool, because I really appreciate the fact that, especially abroad… I’m not going to say that no one in Finland can do this, but you find yourselves in situations where, even if you play super early, you’re gonna have the same amount of people as you would have, say, 3 hours later. Obviously, I feel like one of the greatest things about festivals has always been the fact that it enables you to find bands that you’ve never heard before, or it might be that you heard the name somewhere and you’d love to see what they’re all about. These people waking up early, coming to see the shows, it really means a lot to us and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people who find new acts that they get hyped up about.

Have you also been able to play some new songs there?

We have, yes. This past summer, as we’ve been releasing songs, we’ve been debuting them live. Right now, the setlist consists of a bunch of other songs, but we were doing “112,” we’re doing “Stitches,” and we’re doing “What Have I Done,” which has been mind-blowing and it’s been incredible to see, for example, “What Have I Done,” we debuted it at Wacken and it was the day that it came out. Seeing people literally singing the words already at that point, was like, “what’s going on in here?!” So it’s been really cool, the reception has been fantastic, especially for… I mean it’s hard to say especially for which song, but “Stitches” is definitely shaping up to be probably my favorite track of all time.

Now, the new album is coming out in September, obviously, and you already had some reactions to the singles. Are you excited for it to finally be released?

It’s one of these things I’m super grateful [about] that I haven’t overthought it. Having this record, which is super personal. It’s a very personal and honest album, it could make me super nervous or [could make me] very prone to negative comments, but I feel like… because I haven’t thought about it throughout the whole process, throughout the writing, recording, and now releasing process, I just have not thought about it. I’ve been just happy to be able to share my story and I think it’s a privilege that I have, that I’m able to talk about things that really matter in this world. If I can make even one person feel like they’re in a safe zone, anywhere they are, and that they’re able to admit to their loved ones that they’re not okay because of what I have said, then I’ll consider myself the luckiest person on earth.

You’re actually really open about going into therapy and having had depression recently, you mentioned that this is the most personal record… was it a hard thing to do when you wrote the lyrics?

I’ve been saying this all the time that the “funny” thing is that it ended up being so that the pandemic was the least of my worries. I’d say that 1.5 years of my life is put together in this record and honestly, the amazing thing is that, when I was writing it and when we were recording it, I didn’t think too much about the fact that this was going to be difficult to put this out there, it just came out of me. I feel like it’s one of these things that every single musician… it’s like when you have a story to tell, you should tell it because you have that outlet. For us, music, it’s always been the thing where we pour our negative and our positive energies, where we put all of us into, it [bleeds into it]. For me, having a situation where I find myself questioning everything, I would feel weird if I wouldn’t put it all into music. That being said, I do have to give the biggest thank you to my brother, Joonas [Parkkonen], who co-wrote the record and produced it. He was there throughout the whole process, holding my hand and telling me it’s 100% okay for me to tell everything the way it is. Now that I listened back to the record, it’s bittersweet in many ways, but I also just… I find myself, just having my jaw open like, “Wow, this is exactly how this all happened.” Now it feels like half a year of my life is just a big blur and I can’t remember anything about it. You have this product, it’s the whole thing in one package, and I think it’s beautiful the way that music enables you to create something very beautiful out of something that has come from something so traumatic.

Talking a little bit about the record, what I felt is that it started out quite high in energy, but as it progresses, it became somehow darker. Is the flow of the record similar to what you personally went through?

Yeah, I’d say [so] because it was a big blur of one day being like this, another day it could be like this, it’s going through the highs and lows. It definitely has a lot to do with the storyline and the timeline of my life, I feel like it also had a lot to do with the fact that we wrote about 50 songs, to be honest, for the whole thing. We demoed a lot of stuff. These were the songs that made sense, this is the story, these are the songs. I feel like actually, funnily enough, a lot of the songs or the tracklist goes in a natural way of when we wrote whatever song it was. When you reach the end of the record, you have songs like “Hurt Me,” obviously the closing track of the record and “Suffocating,” which the basis of that song was that this is the last song I’m going to write in my life, so it definitely kind of… the storyline has to do with the actual events, yes.

That last song is really intense to listen to, you can really hear your pain. What I was also wondering is – especially in that song – it seems like you were able to experiment more with your vocals. Was that also something that came naturally after “No Absolution”?

Singing has been something that I’ve done before I ever even started screaming. It’s just something that never made enough sense within the context of a song that I would pursue it, so for the first records, it’s more about the screaming aspect. Then “Braindead” got a bit more into some cleans, then we had “No Absolution,” which was me already accepting that I want to do this, I want to also pursue singing [a lot] more. Once again, because it was me and Joonas in the studio, day and night, I wanted to challenge myself to be the best singer I can for this record for these songs. You know, that’s basically what it was and it makes so much sense within the songs. One thing that we always discuss when we are making a record is, no matter what it sounds like and what the kind of subgenre or whatever the fuck is within the song, you always have to compare yourself to the best bands in the world, otherwise, you are just doing subpar material. So for me, getting into a situation where I’m like, “Well you know what, we have the best drummer in the world in this band, we have the best bassist in the world in this band, and we have the best guitarist in the world in this band, and I guess I can play guitar myself. You gotta have the best vocalist also,” so that kind of – in a very healthy manner – challenged me to challenge myself and get the best vocal performance possible. I practiced more than I ever had before this record, before the album recordings, and even during the recordings we really went at it. Doing one song a day for about 12 hours obviously creates problems for a singer, because you have the window of time that you can actually use your voice in a good way. That being said, I could not be happier with how it turned out.

Do you feel like, along with your vocals, the music progressed with the vocals in a way, because it feels like you went in a totally new direction?

For me, it’s been always super important that when we write a record, it’s basically a snapshot of what we are during that period of time. That’s what I want to look back to in 30 years or 40 years, I want to remember those emotions, I remember that period of time. I say this obviously very often, but it is equally very true still to this day, even more probably now, that I listen to so much of everything, that I think it would be a naïve gesture that we would only have a certain kind of music and I don’t want anything that I did when I was 15 to dictate my whole existence.

Definitely, the vocals, for this record, I think it was the first album that there have been a lot of songs that started vocals-first, rather than music-first, which I think is really cool. I was writing vocal melodies for choruses before the whole song was even a thing. You realize at some point, for instance, in a song like “Awake,” where there’s a very complex and very intense vocal line in the chorus, I wrote the whole vocal line and the chords on a piano, and then afterwards, I started singing. I thought I had to step up my game because you can’t half-ass this. I’d say that definitely, the music required a certain level of vocal intensity that I luckily and gratefully have achieved at this point. In 2 years, it’ll have to be even better. In 6 years, even better. As you get along, everything has to progress, because a band is just as good as their last record.

What usually comes first in that sense? Do you usually start writing the vocal melodies?

It varies a lot from song-to-song because, as I was saying, this record was the first one – at least that I can recall – where some songs were born out of a lyric. It could be just one line, it could be the last line, the punch line of the chorus, or whatever. It also started many times with a guitar riff, this time many things were created with a piano line because I had just gotten a piano before I started writing songs for this record, and there was a lot of stuff that I thought sounded really cool, so let’s kind of drift more there. This time, it varied a lot in how it began.

Going back to the music… some of the songs had a very clear Chester Bennington vibe. Were he and his story of any inspiration to you?

It’s probably more like one of those things that, as a huge fan of LINKIN PARK, I knew what had happened. Everyone obviously knows what has happened, and when you listen back to LINKIN PARK songs now, you’re like “Okay this all makes so much sense, it’s such a shame, and it’s so sad.” It wasn’t something that I actively listened [to] or thought about because, to be honest, during this whole process, I had so much more on my mind. It was one of those things that I was probably channeling without me even knowing it. That’s the kind of natural approach, that you shouldn’t put yourself into anyone else’s shoes because what you’re creating is essentially something that you are feeling, especially with this album. It’s definitely somewhere in the back of your head, but obviously, I can’t lie, there is definitely vocally a lot of influence there, definitely. Chester was one of the best vocalists of all time and I’ve listened to him so much that it would be weird if there wasn’t an influence to be heard.

I guess it’s also cool if you’re subconsciously channeling his energy. Would you say that, if you look back to this album, is it kind of an homage to all those artists, like Chester, who went through something similar?

It’s a record that’s meant for everyone in a way that, I like to always think about these kinds of things, that I’m giving my own angle to an issue, for example. However, I want everyone to form their own story around the record or around a song because I feel like everything that I’m saying is so universal, but it’s just my way of saying it. That’s the beauty in music, you have twelve notes, but it’s all about everyone’s perception and their angle of those notes and in which order they put them. This is my story, but this is something that I’m sure a lot of people will relate to. I think that’s very beautiful. We can all kind of heal together with the strength and the power of this music, but there’s definitely the angle where I’m directly talking to the people we’ve lost, there’s an angle of me talking to the people who still belittle your problems, there are a lot of levels there. I think that that’s really cool, because a person can listen to this record over and over again and find these different layers.

While releasing the singles and openly talking about your issues, do you feel like you’ve had the potential to help some of your fans who went through something similar?

Absolutely, it’s been incredible after these three singles came out, even after the first one already came out, I got so many messages from all around the world of people saying how much my lyrics resonated with them and people saying that, “oh my god, it’s like you’re talking about my life,” or “you’re talking to me.” All I can say to all of those people is thank you because it’s knowing that our supporters are out there that’s made me continue and made me fight along and prove that I’m still here. So the fact that I can help even one person, just makes my life worth living.

For every band, writing music is sort of therapeutic, but do you feel like now that this cycle is almost over and you’re going back to normalish life with the shows, do you feel like you at least healed a little bit?

Definitely, proof number one is that I am still here and that’s something that I genuinely didn’t see happening a while ago. The making of the record and recording the record, and now releasing it, definitely has been and is still a very therapeutic process, but there’s so much more because, well, the fact that I’ve been seeing a therapist for 6 months made the biggest difference in my life and for me to be able to say to everyone out there, to just openly be able to say and admit to yourself you’re not okay and seek help, that’s something I really believe in. It’s just one of those things that I feel you’re not just going to be instantly cured… never… but you have to work towards it, and I can say that at this point I’ve never had a bigger urge to fight and continue than I do right now.

Maybe a bit unrelated, but is that also why you dyed your hair blue, to mark a new phase in life?

Actually, that was something that was long overdone, in a way that I’ve always… everyone who knows me and has been following me knows that I have always had my long, curly brown hair. I’ve always been like, you know, one day, I want to do something cool. I’ve wanted to dye it blue for so long. One day I woke up I was like, “why the fuck am I just postponing something that I could do right now?” In a way, it might have something to do with that whole period of time just in that sense that I kind of see life in a very new way nowadays, where I’m like, I don’t want to be the dude who says that I’m going to do something at one point in my life, because you literally never know when your time’s up. For me, it’s super important that if I see an opportunity and I want to do it, there’s nothing that’s going to stop me. [laughs]

Going back to your music, I also noticed there were some more electronic elements in there, even though at times subtle. For instance, there was an intro in the “(We Are The) Braindead” song. So what can you tell fans about other new elements that you put in the music?

That’s definitely one of the biggest ones. I got so into NINE INCH NAILS in the last few years and that then was one of the bands and one of the things that helped me through all of the fucking bullshit. It was something that finally kind of made sense within the confines of what we’re doing. I’ve always loved electronic stuff, I love EDM music even to that level, I love dubstep, I love bands like PENDULUM and THE PRODIGY, stuff like that. It never made any sense to put it into what we were doing. That goes again to show when people are like, “Oh okay… so suddenly you’re jumping on this bandwagon or you’re doing this and that.” No, we’re just serving our songs, because if we were to do something like that on a song like “I Am the Antidote” in 2016, it would sound terrible, because it doesn’t suit the song. Same way, a song like “Stitches” – which doesn’t have a [guitar] solo – was the first song for us that didn’t feature one. Although we did record one, we were listening to it and we thought it doesn’t suit the song. You have to serve the song with everything you do. That being said, the electronic stuff is playing a key role in these new songs. I’d say that one of the things that will set this record apart, that already sets this record apart from a lot of other stuff that’s been happening, that’s happened nowadays, is the fact that we took the sound back to a very different place than where it is nowadays. With your modern metal bands, you have a lot of the super compressed and sampled drum tones and guitar tones, the wall of guitars, and everything like that, with Joonas giving his completely fresh angle on an old-school band sound. I think we achieved something that’s super special and something that hasn’t been done in a long time. It sounds like a band playing rock ‘n’ roll, which I think is super cool. I think that’s one of the biggest things also that we’re bringing back.

Production-wise, was there anything different in how you recorded the album?

I’d say that after doing “No Absolution,” one thing that we really kind of realized and what we learned is that you can’t achieve something truly beautiful sounding if you’re in a fucking rush. What we did is that we just tried to find time from somewhere, we just got as much time as we needed. Within those days we had in the studio, we tried to take it as easy as possible. There’s a huge difference if you have a week to do something. You can either be super stressed every single day and do as fast work or pace as you want, or you can take it super chill and you still get all of the same things done but it’ll sound much more laid-back. Those are the things that are very difficult to explain, but there is something within that. So I’d say that that was definitely one of the big learning curves that we had in the last 5 years. That’s something that we really tried to do this time also. I remember when we started vocal recordings, we were recording one song, where I thought my voice doesn’t sound okay so let’s do something else. Then the whole rest of the day, we were doing all the electronic stuff for one song. First, I was like so fucking stressed out, [thinking] we’re running out of time and Joonas said that we don’t have any rush, there’s no rush, there’s literally no rush. Here we are, we have the record on time. Everything’s fucking glorious. I’d say that that’s something a lot of people should keep in mind when they go recording. You can do stuff stressed out or you can do stuff laid-back. You obviously need deadlines, that’s just a fact of life, but you can choose to have a more laid-back attitude.

That’s actually interesting because you resigned to Nuclear Blast, which in my eyes would create more pressure.

It’s such a beautiful l thing, what we have with Nuclear Blast, because the first three records came out through Nuclear Blast and they helped us so much at the beginning of our career. For “No Absolution,” it was the natural thing to do and happen that we drifted off and did our own thing. It required so much time to find what we were doing and we literally wrote tens and tens and tens of songs during that period of 2017-2019. After we had self-released “No Absolution,” we reached out and we kind of found a fully new relationship with Nuclear Blast. Now, with everything that’s happening, it’s just the perfect match.

You also are going on a tour around Europe with BLIND CHANNEL and I guess that’s pretty exciting because they are your friends. Does that feel a little bit different than going on tour with a band you don’t really know?

It definitely does. Also, it plays such a big role with the fact that we’re both of the newer generations of Finnish rock ‘n’ roll and metal bands. It gives that special feeling and atmosphere to the whole tour because Finland has such a long history of being pioneers in so many metal bands and so many artists. You have your HIMs and NIGHTWISHs and COBs, you have all that. I think it’s beautiful that now, after a few years of not really bringing too much new stuff, to go straight into a big tour with them. We’re so excited about everything that’s going on with BLIND CHANNEL, we get along so well. We see the music industry in a very similar way, so we feel like it’s going to be a tour that is going to be spoken about, that’s the main thing. We want it to be something that will be talked about in history [for] many years to come.

Are you, in general, excited to be on a tour bus again?

Oh my god, you have no idea. The crazy thing is that our last full-length European tour has been 6 years ago. It was in 2016 and after that, we did a North American tour with CHILDREN OF BODOM, we did a headlining tour in the UK, we’ve done countless festivals and everything, but just the feeling and the liberty of being back in a bus, waking up in a new place every day, being there for such a long time, is the best thing on earth. To me, that’s the purest and the best form of touring.

I don’t think you have any other plans up your sleeve except for this record and touring?

Well, we always do. There are always, to a certain extent, things we can’t talk about, but I’ll give you the classics. There’s going to be a lot of cool stuff next year, what I’ve just told everyone in our management team to keep this whole thing rolling, I said to keep me on the road. I’ve seen my house and it’s not fucking amazing. [laughter]

Alright, that’s it for my questions. Thanks for taking the time. Any last thoughts you want to share?

I just want to say from the bottom of my heart thank you so much for the endless support, it’s been a crazy 2 years and we haven’t been able to see you in person in so long, but the fact that you stream the songs, you buy the records, you buy the merch, and you keep this band alive, we appreciate it more than anything else in the world. Thank you and I hope to see you all on tour very soon!

Interview by Laureline Tilkin