There is not many bands out there that hit you the emotional depth in both songwriting and instrumentation. Their last album blew our minds and this time around they have progressed towards a whole new level. We just had to chat with vocalist and songwriter Serena about the road leading to their new album “When I Die, Will I Get Better?” and of course, polar bears.
Would you mind giving a brief overview and history of the band?
10 years ago, I (Serena) did a weird post-rock solo project and was supporting a prog band on tour. Liam, who played in a metalcore band at the time, was driving the prog band in his van. When we loaded in at the show, I noticed he was wearing a Dying Fetus shirt and like all fellow metalheads, struck up a conversation with him. He watched my solo set that night and eventually we discussed making music together that would be a blend of post-rock prettiness and heavier black metal / crust / post metal styles. Then we first heard our drummer Mark rehearsing with a different metal band in the same studio as us. Wow, this guy can play, we thought. So we asked him to jam with us and the core of Svalbard was born.
Since then, we’ve had exactly one million different bass players, signed to Church Road Records and played some cool tours.
Are there any bands or records that have been crucial for Svalbard’s sound and esthetics as a whole?
We all like different things and draw influence from different bands. I don’t think our influences sound directly obvious in our music, in the sense that we don’t try to emulate the bands who inspire us. Personally, my guitar playing in Svalbard has been influenced by Keep of Kalessin, Mono, My Dying Bride and computer games soundtracks. I’m a sucker for all that epic, soaring, orchestral stuff! Liam is really into Mew, Nasum and Converge. Our drummer Mark likes Cattle Decapitation, Fuck The Facts and Efterklang. Our bassist, Heff, is really into Emma Ruth Rundle. We’re all pretty eclectic with our music taste and it means we bring all different flavours to the writing process. For me, I am most influenced by the atmospheric black metal sound. That’s why all my riffs are tremolo picked and drenched in reverb!
You’ve been touring relentlessly, and I guess you’ve seen and experienced your fair share of interesting and weird stuff. Would you mind sharing the most memorable experience?
This is actually a really hard question, because when you tour so much, it all kinda blurs into one and it becomes hard to pick stuff out. I can think of several occasions that have been memorable for the wrong reasons – such as our first EU tour, where we slept on some guys floor in Belgium who was so hellbent on partying, he refused to let us sleep and started waving an axe around, shouting at us and snorting coke off the blade of the axe and asking if I am single… Safe to say, we left very early. And when we did he was sat in the living room watching porn at 6am. You meet some very…interesting people on the road, haha.
I feel I should balance this out with a good story, so I would also like to mention when we played Arctangent and Taka from Mono was in the crowd watching. He is one of my musical heroes, so it was very surreal for me. He came and spoke to me afterwards and it turns out we use all the same reverb pedals! That made my day.
Seeing as you’ve named your band after a Norwegian, artic island; What’s your thoughts on polarbears?
I sponsor some polar bears in Svalbard through WWF. It’s a small thing to do but I hope it helps in some way. We are all concerned about their precarious situation and how global warming is destroying their habitat, and we try to make as many environmentally-conscious decisions as possible within the band to reduce the negative impact we have on things like polar bears becoming endangered species.