Sunday, 30 September 2012

Interview with Soph from Alunah

White Hoarhound cover art

Today on Sludgelord I am interviewing Soph Day from brilliant UK Doom/Psych/Stoner Metallers – Alunah – who have got quite the reputation for their intense blend of Doom/Stoner Metal Music mixed with Psych and Occult Rock through out their music.

Alunah have just released their superb new album – White Hoarhound which is receiving praise all over the place. This is a must have album which I reviewed very recently. Well Soph (Lead Vocalist and Guitarist) kindly agreed to talk to me.

Q1 – Hi Soph. Firstly, thanks for doing this and taking the time to talk to us at Sludgelord. We really appreciate it.

No worries! Thanks for the support, anyone who knows me will tell you I love to talk.

Q2 – For People not in the know – Can you tell them how the band came about, When you formed etc...

We started in 2006 by accident really, Dave (who's also my husband) used to play in a band called Sonic Lord and we always used to see this couple at their shows. During one of my drunken episodes I started chatting to them and kind of signed Dave up to have a jam with the guy (who is now our drummer Jake). I went along with him, tried some vocals out and the band was born. Gaz replaced our previous bass player in 2009, and we met him from playing gigs with his other band General.


Q3 – How would yourselves describe your sound.

We used to call ourselves "psych, blues, doom" but you tend to get pigeon holed then and people turn up expecting a psychedelic band or a blues band. We have doom, blues, stoner, rock 'n' roll and psychedelic elements to our sound but when it comes down to it, we're just a straight up heavy rock band.

Q4 – Which bands influence you on your music.

We each have many different influences, and we don't always agree with each other's view of what makes a great band hahaha. Between us we're influenced by a broad spectrum of music including Alice in Chains, Acid King, Soundgarden, Goatsnake, 13th Floor Elevators, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Pink Floyd, Bottom, Cream, Sleep... I could go on forever. For me personally, vocalists that inspire me include Janis Joplin, Lori S, Grace Slick, Tairrie B and Joni Mitchell.

Q5 – Is the band a full time project or do you have full time jobs to contend with.

Unfortunately we have full time jobs as well, without them we couldn't do the band but they also get in the way of doing the band, it's a vicious circle. Between us we work in marketing, electronics, design and printing, so some great skills for being in a band haha. I'm chuffed that Orange Goblin have recently announced that after 17 years they are finally giving their jobs up to go full time with the band, that's the dream right there!

Q6 – What is the song-writing process like in the band. Is it a whole band collective or individuals that write the music.

Generally the whole band write the songs, we each have our own sections but it usually starts with the riff which Dave usually comes up with, then we build the song around that. Melody and lyrics come last, and that's my job. Having Gaz (who is primarily a guitarist), in the band, really helps as he's an awesome song writer and comes up with great riff and song ideas. For example, White Hoarhound was Gaz's riff and you can really tell the difference from Dave's more doomier and more bluesy riffs. It's cool to have that variety.


Q7 – You have received a whole load of great praise for your first two albums that most of took you by surprise. Are you happy with the response you have got so far.

So happy, like you say we did well from reviews for Call of Avernus, and have done so far for White Hoarhound. The second album is so important, especially when your debut was so well received, and I hope that people can see how Alunah have grown and even more importantly, like the album. To be honest, even if it was poorly received, we made it for ourselves and we're happy with it, anyone else enjoying it is a bonus. The most nervous we've been was when Mark at PsycheDOOMelic Records listened for the first time, he's the one investing in it and he loved it... phew!

Q8 – Can you tell us a bit more about White Hoarhound. What it's about as it's got a lot of creepy vibes going on.

I think there's a lot of melancholy on this album, probably a lot of it subconscious. This is the first time I've explained the idea behind the name and title track, the name was originally conceived in Llandudno in North Wales. Dave (our lead guitarist and my husband) and I were there on holiday and my Dad had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer. 

We went up the Great Orme which is a huge, beautiful headland which I've been going to since I was in the womb! We were reading some info about the plants which were natural to the area. White Hoarhound (normally spelt White Horehound) was one of them and was used by the monks to treat coughs and general lung conditions. In my head there and then I wrote the song. 

It seemed so apt to my current situation fuelled by my interest in mother nature, and was just a great name. After chatting to the guys we decided that was the name of the album. That's the only personal song on the album, and perhaps the most emotional. The rest of the songs are about moments in English pagan history and just generally about witchcraft, sacrifice, myth and magic. I love reading about those subjects, I can escape into a different world and it helps explain things to me - I suppose in a way other religions do to other people.

Q9 – Now your partner Dave is in the band. Is that a hard dynamic to contend with having your partner being in the same band as yourself. Does it cause any extra stress at times.

No its totally cool, no stress or dramas at all. Dave's my husband of almost a year and we've been together for 14 years. I love being in a band with him, when we're doing band stuff we're just band mates. He's my rock and best mate, he was the one to encourage me in the first place to have the confidence to be in a band. He gives me guidance on the best equipment to buy as he's a complete music geek, and indulges my interest in paganism and the occult (and pretends to look interested when I explain my lyrics). 

As I said earlier, my Dad has been very poorly recently, and we've gone through a very tough time of late, I couldn't have got through it without Dave - as well as Jake and Gaz. Dave went through the same with his Dad when we recorded our Fall to Earth EP, and we were all there for each other then. Jake was our best man, his girlfriend Liv was one of my bridesmaids, Gaz and his girlfriend Michelle (and the lady who recently tattooed some Alunah artwork onto me) were also at the wedding. This is going to sound cheesy, but we're all extended family - we know when to be there for each other, and when to back off.


Q10 – What has been the reception like to your live gigs. Has it all been good responses. Any major live highlights so far.

We have a great response from most of our live shows, of course any band will tell you that there are amazing gigs and shit gigs, but generally we have a great time. Our early shows were a bit hit and miss but we were all trying to find our feet and a lot of people in the 'scene' didn't get what we were about. Our 3rd gig was supporting doom legends Trouble, and we were quite frankly shit! That didn't do much to raise our profile amongst fans, but the venue asked us back to support Paradise Lost so not too bad overall! 

My personal highlights have been supporting Acid King and Fu Manchu as well as our numerous tours including my favourite with Italy's Doomraiser. That tour should have been Solace headlining but because of Visa issues they couldn't make it and Doomraiser stepped up from main support - such an awesome band! We've also played with Witchcraft, Karma 2 Burn, Graveyard, Nebula, Firebird, Orange Goblin... amongst many other awesome heavyweights! We've worked very hard and have had some amazing opportunities.

Q11 – Do you get many gigs in your home town. Or do you have to travel around a lot.

Not so much our home town as between us we live in Solihull, Coventry and Brownhills, so the closest place to all of us is Birmingham. Bearing that in mind, we do play Birmingham a lot - especially our home from home, Scruffy Murphys. We do also travel around a lot, but so far only in England. In 2013 we have plans to get out of England, and are currently planning for a couple of tours.

Q12 – When you started the band what were your original hopes and dreams for the band. And have they been met yet.

When we started we just wanted to make great music that we enjoyed, then as you develop you have fresh hopes and dreams such as playing with certain bands, getting a record deal, having an album in the shops etc. We've achieved the majority of what we originally set out to do, and have met so many amazing people along the way whilst doing it. The next step is to give up our day jobs and go on tour with Black Sabbath!

Q13 – Now I know Gaz is involved with the brilliant Sludge/Stoner Rock Band – General. Are any other members involved with any other projects of any kind we should know about.

Yeah, General are awesome and that's how we met Gaz initially. Jake and I aren't involved with any other musical projects. Dave used to play guitar in Sonic Lord and bass in Godsize. Unfortunately, both bands have now split up but when Alunah started he was busy with all 3 bands.


Q14 – What are your favourite bands around at the moment. Do you listen to modern day rock/metal or do you just listen to the classic era of Stoner Rock/Hard Rock

I tend to mainly listen to classic bands and artists such as The Doors, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and Led Zeppelin. I also love more modern bands such as Red Fang, Jucifer, The Black Keys, Blood Ceremony, Big Elf and Ghost. We're lucky to be part of a great scene in England which is busily bubbling away under the surface, getting ready to blow up and hopefully make a massive mark. We're lucky to have friends in awesome bands such as Gringo, General, Dead Existence, Trippy Wicked, Gurt, Grifter, Desert Storm, Burden of the Noose, Bastard of the Skies, Selfless, Berserkewitz, Sally and Undersmile! That's a very small list amongst some top bands, we're very lucky to play amongst these guys.

Q15 – What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band.

For me the most rewarding aspect is seeing people bang their heads at our live shows, and see them get into the music. It's also really lovely to meet new people all the time, especially those who we finally meet after chatting on the net. I'd say the least rewarding is that shitty moment at 4am when you've played a long sweaty gig, driven back for hours and unloaded the equipment, only to have 2 hours sleep before getting up for work. You've got to love being in a band to constantly put up with that.

Q16 – What is your view of bands and blogs giving away music for free. Lot of bands and people have different perspectives.

If the person who has paid for the recording and pressing, whether it be the band or the label, has agreed to the giveaway then why not. If it helps to get a bands music out to a wider audience then fair play. However, when I don't always agree with free music is when someone else decides to leak the music. 

We had that with White Hoarhound when a press contact leaked the album to torrent sites, a month before the release date. Saying that however, it did actually help us out in the end, our website visits went through the roof and we had tonnes of pre-orders, the opposite could have happened though, we actually benefited from it. I have no issue with a band making the decision to give their own music away for free, it's another form of promotion and in this day and age it needs to be considered as part of the wider picture.


Q17 – I think it's great that female vocalists like yourself, Mlny (Royal Thunder), Hel and Taz (Undersmile), Stevie from Dark Castle and Sara from Bezoar are making a name for yourselves and bringing a fresh perspective to a male orientated genre. You must be proud of doing something different and unique.

Yeah I suppose so haha, I don't like to concentrate on the female vocal thing too much. We used to sell ourselves using the "female fronted doom" angle, but really there shouldn't be a separation of genders, we're just all making heavy music. I'd rather us be known for doing something different regarding how we put melodies and songs together, rather than the fact that I'm a woman. It is nice for people to recognise us for doing something different, but I'd rather it be down to all of our efforts rather than just my gender.

Q18 – What advice or words of wisdom would you give to upcoming bands and musicians who are about to start a Sludge/Doom/Stoner Rock Band.

Write music for yourself and don't listen to, or follow trends. If we listened to what people said about us in the early days, we wouldn't be here now. It's very satisfying to read comments or reviews from people now, who I know for a fact detested us 2 years ago. That's why I'm in love with Jucifer - you can't pigeon hole those guys, every song you listen to is different. 

They're doing what they want to do without giving a shit what's fashionable. Very few music fans like bands who try to do new things, it challenges them and if they don't instantly understand it they presume they hate it. If what you're doing is of a decent quality, these people will eventually get on board (not always, but sometimes), but until then, don't let their shitty comments ruin what is a truly awesome experience. You'll meet plenty of amazing people who are moved by the music you write.

Q19 – What are your views of blogs such as the Sludgelord reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines? Has your music reached the mainstream mags, at home or around the world?

Awesome! I don't care which publication writes about Alunah - big or small, or even what they say, I'm just happy anyone takes the time and effort to write about us. I've told this story so many times but it's how I see things. The artist Salvador Dali never read his press, instead he weighed it regularly and if it got heavier, he knew more publications were writing about him - job done, happy Salvador! I now have the same outlook, I do read all of our press but I don't beat myself up anymore if it's shit. 

We have had the likes of Terrorizer, Kerrang, Zero Tolerance, Rock Sound and Metal Hammer take notice which is cool. In fact, we were recently MSN Entertainments album of the week, and featured in Terrorizer's Doom issue where we were amongst Undersmile and Trippy Wicked as the "Future of Doom" which was very flattering. We're equally as happy with the more underground publications such as Sludgelord, Doomantia, Soggy Bog, The Obelisk, Metal Kaoz, Planet Mosh, Soda Shop, Ninehertz and Fast 'n' Bulbous write about us. Support is support and were very blessed to have recently received a lot of it.

Q20 - Lastly do you have anything you want to say to your fans.

Massive love going out to you Steve for the support you've shown us with your recent review, and with this interview. Thanks to everyone who has brought a copy of White Hoarhound, seen us at a recent live show, brought us a drink and just been generally supportive of us. Check out updates at http://www.alunah.co.uk or http://www.facebook.com/alunah.doom.

Well Soph thanks for answering these questions. All the best from all of us at Sludgelord. I hope to see you guys in concert one time

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