Alvenrad is a new folk metal band from Gelderland in the Netherlands that will soon release its debut full-length album “Habitat“. Mark Kwint and Jasper Strik are the founding and only permanent members of the band. Let’s see what they have to tell about their new project and the beginning of this musical journey.
- Hello Mark and Jasper. First of all thank you for your time for this interview. Alvenrad is your new band. Before Alvenrad though, you were both involved in two other bands, Faelwa and Stormsterk. Are these bands still active? Would you like to tell us a few words of your first music steps and influences?
(Jasper): Hi Dimitris! Thanks to you for the effort and interest in our music. Mark joined the metal band I played in, about ten years ago. Still exploring the metal genre, we left the band together after a few years to start our own thing. We actually went back to our basics and started Faelwa, playing acoustic guitar and piano. Bands like Empyrium and Tenhi influenced the music. After making these introvert acoustic landscapes we began exploring the folk genre, combined with some rock spirit. Inspired by bands like Otyg, Storm, Folque, Jethro Tull and Folkcorn we continued our musical labour with the project Stormsterk. Still playing mostly acoustic, we added more rock elements to the music and at the same time we explored the folklore of our home regions. Driven by our metal hearts and encouraged by our current label manager, we then picked up metal again, including every style within rock and metal that we like. Both Faelwa and Stormsterk are currently on hold, although we already have a lot of material for new albums ready. There will be more coming from those projects, but for now we focus on Alvenrad and that takes a lot of time and energy, being, as you said, with only two permanent members at this moment.
- What made you begin Alvenrad? When did you first got the idea and when was the official formation of the band? Where does the name of the band comes from?
(Mark): We’ve been playing together for years and the ideas for Alvenrad were ripening for years as well. At a certain point we had two projects to work on, Stormsterk and Faelwa. As an enthusiast of those projects and a big metal fan, our current label manager was more than interested when I told him about the metal project that we had in mind. He pronounced his trust in us to do the metal project and probably release it through his label. This gave us wings, so to speak. It came naturally to do this project with only the two of us. The name means something like the wheel of the elves. It is a free Dutch translation of a kenning for the sun used in the Edda. Sometimes I read on the WWW saying the term is an old word our Germanic ancestors used to call the sun. But that’s simply not true; it is poetry and the origin is still shrouded in mystery. I like to meditate on that one though. The poet spoke, but does this reveal something about the way our ancestors experienced the sun? Anyway, we like the name is rooted in the mythology which had its manifestations in our home region the Veluwe too. Moreover it is good to focus on the sun, speaking in spiritual, intellectual and emotional terms. With Alvenrad we want to focus on a positive strengthening course.
- Both of you are multi-instrumentalists. Can you tell us what instruments each of you plays in the band? Are you both composing the music / lyrics?
(Mark): I mainly take care of the vocals and guitars. I’m both composer and lyricist in the band. Sometimes I experiment with other instruments like the flute. I played some flute on our debut album too, but I’m really not an expert.
(Jasper): In Alvenrad I limit myself to playing keys, whereas in Stormsterk I also took up the bass. In addition to that, I am responsible for all the drum programming and the music production, including recording and mixing. I contributed my share to the composition, mainly playing the part of producer. I like to arrange vocal lines, key parts and orchestral stuff so that’s mostly of my doing.
- How would you describe the music of Alvenrad with your own words? What is different compared to your previous bands? What new has Alvenrad to offer in the overcrowded folk metal scene that will attract the listeners?
(Mark): I think we differ on a content level. We do not rave loosely about mythology, do not bellow about beer and stuff. Instead, we write on a very personal level in the search for meaning of our existence, where we come from and celebrate life. We don’t offer something radically new, but still something fresh and hopefully our course inspires others to find their own way too. Our music is a mix of the stuff we listen to. We mainly play heavy metal mixed with 70’s rock, black metal and folk music as well. You’ll probably hear we’re also influenced by classical music.
- On April 4th 2014 your debut full-length album “Habitat” will be released via Trollmusic. Tell us a few words about this cooperation. It’s not easy for new bands to sign to a label nowadays.
(Mark): Trollmusic spokesman Thor Joakimsson wrote praising words about our other projects and was more than interested in our plans to do a metal project. He spoke out his big trust in our metal project and so he more or less motivated us to concentrate on Alvenrad as a main project instead of a side project. One day we decided to head on a trip through Germany, to meet some friends, but mainly to visit Thor in person. This marked the beginning of a friendship, so our cooperation is not the typical label-band relation. It exists by the grace of doing the things you love and believe in, really. Trollmusic is a unique and inspiring platform with a strong force in the back with Thor Joakimsson at the helm and we’re thankful to be able to work this way!
- Would you like to give us some info about the recording facts of “Habitat”?
(Jasper): With pleasure! Mark and I like to work in a studio kind of way, composing and recording the musical base at the same time. We work with the advantages of modern technology, making use of software instruments for the drums and keys and recording the guitar to be re-amped later. The vocals were recorded with our tube mic at Mark’s place. All the bass parts were also recorded directly to the computer on various home studio locations. The remaining acoustic instruments were recorded at Mark’s place as well. The guitars were re-amped in MilkMark Recording Studio, using the guitar gear of Arjan, our bass playing guest and friend. Thanks to my background in music production, I could take care of the mixing of the album. Parts of the mixing was done in MilkMark as well, the rest I did at my own place. So you see it is all pretty DIY and low-budget work, which is to be expected for a debut album. Another nice fact is that we recorded some reverbs ourselves in the woods to use in the mixing of the album.
(Mark): To speak about the latter; this is the summum of the cooperation between Jasper and me. When I wrote the lyrics of “Woudakoestiek”, which means ‘wood acoustics’, Jasper told me it is actually possible to record those reverbs. And so we did! People can watch photo’s of the process on our Facebook.
- I know there are also many special guest musicians participating in the album. Would you like to introduce them?
(Mark): First of all, we asked an old friend of the band Koen de Graaf to add grunts here and there. We are impressed by the things he did in the past for Thronar and Burning Hatred; he’s got an unique sound, very sonorous and harsh! For some guitar solos we asked Ancient Rites’ guitarist Erik Sprooten. As a unguided missile he’s the one to add some rockin’ solos in the following of rock giants like Uriah Heep. There was one song which needed female vocals due to the lyrical content and we worked out our ideas together with Hanna van Gorcum; she makes her advance with her folk group AmmA. We worked with her before on the Stormsterk album with her doing both vocals and violins. The first formation of Stormsterk was with me and her by the way, both taking care of vocals and folkloric instruments – but we never released anything. Later I took on the project with Jasper. Last but not least at all, Arjan Hoekstra turned up to do great bass playing. As a multi-instrumentalist+ he is known from bands like Mirna’s Fling, The Good Hand and Sidius. In the beginning we discussed the possibility of Arjan doing drums and me handling the bass guitar, but in the end the way it turned out was the best way to go. His role in “Habitat” turned out very present for his outstanding and non-typical metal bass playing.
- Is “Habitat” a concept album? What are its lyrical themes about? Is there any message you’d like to share with your music?
(Mark): It’s not a concept album pur sang; the themes are too divergent for that. Divergently shining like the sun, so to speak, haha! You know, the album is being advertised as a more or less folkloric and mythological enterprise to explore our home area the Veluwe. But there is so much more going on throughout the album, like cultural exploration via Gustav Mahler and Thomas Mann. You know I’m a fervent nature lover, reader of books and music listener. I projected multiple reflections and celebrations on this project. Therefore one of the lyrics is about me and my father stalking wild boars at the time I was a little child. One another is a celebration of Thomas Mann’s novel “The Magic Mountain” and I also wrote a lyric that meditates on the deaths of Gustav Mahler and Gustav van de Wall Perne. The title track tries to deepen out the term “Habitat” with projecting it on actual circumstances with the wolf returning to our country. The cohesion is one of authenticity. The message is to strengthen people to find their own way. Be curious, open minded and focus on something you believe in. Therefore “Habitat” is mainly a resume of where I come from, my course in life.
- What are your ambitions and expectations of your first album? What would you consider as success / accomplishment for it?
(Jasper): It’s very hard to predict what our album will bring about, especially when looking on the state of the music industry and society in general. We can only hope that people see what we’re trying to accomplish. I reckon it will be successful when we can help broaden the view on metal music and its listeners by showing that it’s not about segmentation or compartmentalization, but more about connecting and including. It is not about being folk metal or black metal, but more about being enthusiastic and incentive.
(Mark): We hope people will talk / discuss about us! Indifference is the worst reaction to an artist IMHO.
- What is the feedback you got so far from listeners and press?
(Mark): So far, we are praised for our authenticity, looking beyond the paved paths and coming up with some very lively stuff. We have been criticized for my vocals, be it because of an alleged accent / dialect or my technical limitations.
(Jasper): There have been a lot of positive reactions on our songwriting from a very broad spectrum of listeners. It seems to appeal to people throughout different genres. Some remarks were made on the overload of things going on.
- You have already released the official video for “Woudakoestiek”. Would you like to give us some info about it? How was this experience? Are there more videos to follow?
(Jasper): The video was shot in the woods of the Veluwe by our label manager Thor, who also edited the whole thing. It was literally our first video clip experience so we figured it out as we went. Only having a day in total, we basically hauled our gear into the forest and started shooting. We had loads of fun in spite of the fact we had to get used to the camera in our faces. You get a nice idea when watching the ‘Making of’ video. There is more to come indeed. We recorded the video for another song which shall be released pretty soon, also there are some studio reports that will give a nice look inside the process of recording and mixing.
(Mark): Well, it was decided and recorded spontaneously; worked out in a DIY way with the biggest argument being fun! Personally I think it turned out a bit too jolly, but fukk it, at least we will make people smile with it and our word is spread the better with YouTube.
- How do you plan to support your album? Is Alvenrad a studio project, or will you be active on stage too?
(Jasper): Yes, there are plans for playing live, yet this will take time because we still have to find the right people (drummer, guitarists, etc) and practice a lot. We are used to doing studio projects, loving the creation and growth of music, so the stage part will be a whole new chapter with lots of challenges. For now, we expect to play live before the release of our next album. The support of “Habitat” will be mainly dependent on social media and the help of our label. We hope to find lots of people who like our music and are enthusiastic enough to spread it among friends.
- Are there any thoughts of expanding your line-up, or will you continue as a duet?
(Jasper): Continuing on the previous question, we do have plans to extend the line-up. Still I reckon we work pretty well being a studio project so it would make sense to keep that as the foundation of the band. Both Mark and me have got some control issues when it comes to our brainchildren, hehe. I think we’ll just have to figure it out as we go!
- How do you see the future of Alvenrad? Is the band here to stay, or is it an one-album experiment? Maybe it’s a bit early, but are there any future plans?
(Jasper): It’s never too early to look ahead! We signed a multi-album deal with Trollmusic so there is definitely more to come. Indeed, we’ve already lay out the musical base for an entire new album. And of course there are the plans to go on stage, so enough to look forward to!
- Do you watch the folk metal scene of your country? Are there any other new bands worth-mentioning?
(Mark): No, not really. But I had the opportunity to listen to new songs of Mondvolland which are surprisingly strong, fresh and original!
(Jasper): Also, there are some projects going on like Wederganger and Nodfyr with ex-Heidevolk and Mondvolland members. I’m not actively watching the scene but sometimes, something nice surfaces on social media.
- Thank you very much for your time. I wish you all the best for your new band. Last words are yours!
Thanks to you as well! Rock on and check us out!