1.Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the musical project since the recording and release of the new album?
- After the release of «Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone» on the 2nd of November 2018, we have done a handful of shows with Sylvaine, in addition to working behind the scenes on making further shows and tours happen for late 2019/early 2020. I have also been working on new material for the 4th album, and already have a couple of tracks ready. There’s also been a few other projects I had the pleasure of working on, that will be revealed shortly.
2.In November you had released a new album, musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
- As I see it, “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” has a more focused expression than the previous two albums. At the same time, it holds a stronger variety and pushes the dualities even further, creating a greater balance between the opposing forces found within the music. Where “Wistful” was an incredibly somber and downright sad record, I feel like “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” carries a bigger darkness to it. In those moments where there’s no hope, you really can’t find a glimmer of light left within the music, yet, there’s still an uplifting vibe to some of the other melodies, letting a bit of light in. It’s more contrasted. I think this record is a natural progression from “Wistful” though.
3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you have explored over the years with your music?
- My music functions as a therapeutic catharsis, and lets me deal with issues and struggles that otherwise would have been suppressed. Like many other artist, I use music to express those issues I find difficult to put into words, offering some temporary relief. I suppose I tend to speak about more existential thoughts and struggles and the relationship I have with the human form. On “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone”, I also got inspired by the outside world for once. The record represents the feeling of decline, when something unravels before your eyes. Little by little, something is worn down or broken, until it finally disintegrates completely. I believe the human form tends to temporarily sever us from our origins, at the same time that our society tends to corrupt the innocence we naturally hold, as time goes by. “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone” not only refers to my personal relationship with life, but also how the human world is destroying everything; nature and man alike.
4.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
- I got in touch with my brilliant, illustrator friends in Førtifem in Paris and they worked their magic to come up with the cover we know today. I wanted to have something that was more graphic than my previous cover for “Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone”, made by the great Sylfvr. The cover needed to be striking, yet it had to keep the atmospheric touch that the music clearly gives. The idea of a crystal cluster being the perfect embodiment of something that is breathtakingly beautiful and deep, yet still harsh and dangerous was very intriguing to me. I have a distinct memory of having been shown “The Sea of Ice” by Caspar David Friedrich, featuring aggressive icebergs that almost looked to take on the shape of crystals, which became the starting point of the artwork. I’m so happy with Førtifem’s work on this album - It truly represents the music in a perfect way.
5.With the exception of a few session musicians you record most of the music by yourself, do you feel this gives you more room to be creative with your musical style?
- Absolutely. The whole reason I decided to keep Sylvaine a solo project, was to avoid artistic compromise. I wanted to be completely free to express myself however I needed at any given time, to really keep the music and emotions as personal as possible. That’s why I decided to try to record all the instrument in Sylvaine myself, back in 2014, when I was making my debut album “Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart”. This without sacrificing the quality of the takes of course, which is why I brought in session guys for the main drum parts. I know my own limits.
6.On the new album you also had a few session musicians, can you tell us a little bit more about who they are and also their contributions to the recording?
- Yes, I have been working with my dad Stephen Shepard and my dearest Stéphane Paut (Alcest) for the drums of all my albums, in addition to a few other session musicians on “Wistful”. As I said, I know my limits, and knew early on I wouldn’t be able to fulfill the drum duties completely on my own. Therefore I wanted to share this experience with people that are not only excellent musicians, but also that are very dear to me. It all seemed to come together perfectly.
7.What are some of the best shows that you have played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
- I absolutely love being on stage myself. The direct connection you have with the audience is just magical. To be able to convey the emotions behind Sylvaine, and communicate with the audience face to face is a gift, really. My favorite show recently was when we played together with Saor in Glasgow. Was our first time playing in the UK and it was just amazing for us! We felt so humbled by the kind reception by the crowd and their enthusiasm…… This was an evening to remember for us for sure! We also did some really cool shows in Belgium last year, starting with a special performance in the Amuz cathedral in Antwerp and ending with a intense show at La Botanique in Brussels. Every show holds a special place in my heart though.
8.Recently you were nominated for a Norwegian Grammy, did you ever think you would of made it this far when you started out as a musician?
- When I first started expressing myself thru music as a teenager, I had no belief whatsoever that I would do anything of what I experienced with Sylvaine so far. I’ve always lacked confidence when it comes to this aspect of my life, so I haven’t really had many expectations for it. I did however know it was something I had to do, something I needed to pursuit, as it’s just one of those things that keeps me alive. To have a small audience worldwide for my music is already completely surreal to me, and when I received this nomination for the Spellemannprisen (as the Norwegian Grammy is called), I was really positively surprised! Norway is a small country of course, but this is the highest recognition you can get as a musician over there after all, making me feel so humble and happy to be the first ever female nominated in the metal category! It was a true honor.
9.What are some of your non- musical interests?
- Every single day I practice yoga and meditation, something that has taken over as the number one interest I have outside of music. Spirituality as always been very present in my life, something I also use Sylvaine to explore, but it’s only the past 1,5 years that I have been cultivating a daily practice to get more connected to myself, my spirituality and the present in the shape of yoga and meditation. It has really changed my life quite a lot if I’m honest, which I am forever grateful for. Other than this, I’m also a huge fan spending time in nature, retro gaming, cooking, watching movies/tv-shows, reading, going to museums, traveling….. There are endless amounts of cool stuff to do with our time.
10. Any last thoughts for our readers?
- Thank you ever so much for this opportunity to speak to the readers of OccultBlackMetalZine! I truly hope to see you guys on tour sometime in the future; hopefully sooner than later! Until then; stay creative, be mindful and take care!