Coming from Oslo, Norway the multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine (http://www.sylvainemusic.com) conceived an album that is of stunning beauty. The new album “Wistful” came out on May 13th, and Sylvaine created an excellent slab of blackgaze for the masses to hear. In the interview below she goes into more detail about the Sylvaine concept as well as the motivation behind writing “Wistful”. She is a very interesting and unique person and has taken the time out of her busy day creating music to chat with me.
What was your inspiration for the Sylvaine moniker?
Always having had a strong connection to nature, I really wanted this to be present in the title of my new project. I was thinking of the world “sylvan”, but figured it might be a bit too generic, so mixing it with another word, to create something new and more personal for the title, seemed like an interesting idea. As poetry always inspired me a lot for writing lyrics and music, I thought maybe the project name should reflect that as well. So I choose “Verlaine” for that. In other words; “Sylvaine” is basically a mash-up of those two words. Later I also discovered it is a type of butterfly, haha…. Guess it could be worse!
What ideas helped you conceptualize “Wistful”?
Wistful” is an album that holds extremely personal moments to me, conveying a heightened state of alienation, frustration, resignation and restriction, showcasing a more aggressive and darker approach to the Sylvaine universe than on my first album “Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart” from 2014. Along with being in a completely new environment when moving to Paris during the writing process of this album, where everything known was far away, making me feel more lost than before and with elevated emotions, one of the ideas that brought “Wistful” to life would be that our soul doesn’t come from this planet, but is only placed here for a certain amount of time, inside a “car”, which takes shape as our human bodies. This new vessel restricts the soul, causing the connection between our human world and the spiritual world to be more or less broken. This makes for a feeling of being trapped, of being restrained; the feeling of not belonging to this place. It also causes a primal longing for something, without our human mind understanding exactly what or where we are longing for. You could also say it would be the idea of belonging to a different time I suppose. This is something I spoke a lot about on “Wistful” and that shaped big parts of the album.
Describe your writing process, are you more spontaneous or methodical?
Definitely more spontaneous than methodical. I tend to write music in a spontaneous way, trying to always write in a purely emotional way, not over-thinking my process too much, but just doing and making choices intuitively. The only important part is that the music expresses something real, something I think is most easily achieved by just letting your mind flow and work with whatever comes out at the time. That being said, I of course have some habits or systems that I tend to follow, as it seems to be the natural way to do things for me. In general though, there are no rules when it comes to writing music and each album seems to take shape in a different way.
Do you feel the Norwegian black metal scene helped influence your music?
I think you can feel a slight presence of this scene in my music, yes, especially when it comes to the atmosphere and certain elements, such as the screaming vocals, tremolo guitars, but also the sound choices of the different instruments. I really like a lot of the bands from this scene, so it’s natural that it has inspired me somewhat for my own project.
What are some of your non-metal influences?
I adore the whole shoegaze/dreampop scene, as well as the darkwave scene, the post-punk scene, and the more modern post-rock and post-metal scenes. I also draw inspiration from classical music, with minimalism being one of my favorite directions. I was always very fascinated by the concept of taking the smallest pieces and evolving them slowly over time into something else. This is something I try to do in my music, to really create those hypnotic, meditative patterns that lull the listeners into some sort of trance.
What types of books and movies do you tend to like? Do you think they play a part in Sylvaine’s music?
Both movies and books definitely inspire me a lot. For my first album, I drew a lot of direct inspiration from books, more specifically poetry, by artist such as Baudelaire and Verlaine. I wanted to pay some sort of tribute to them, as they have inspired me for many years before this record too. On “Wistful”, I was inspired by literature in a more indirect way. Movies inspired me a lot to write lyrics actually. Sometimes I will be sitting with my notepad while watching one and just writing throughout the whole film. Any movie or book that has an interesting story or a meaningful story, with good characters can be of interest to me. Lately, I’ve been in a horror movie phase for some reason, which is not exactly the best genre for interesting, deep stories, haha…. You still have some gems though, and the rest is usually good for some light entertainment.
What other interests do you have?
Music is pretty much what dominates my life most of the time, and it has been like that since I was about 14, but I also enjoy spending time in nature, taking long walks, watching movies, playing games (boards games and retro video games mostly), cooking, doing small arts and crafts projects, reading, traveling, hanging out with friends and family and so on.
What are some ideas you have for future albums?
I don’t really have any precise ideas at this moment actually, as my music tends to be more a direct result of whatever is going on with me at the time the song is written. The only thing I can tell you for sure, is that I am pushing myself to make better and better songs and to make more of them, so for my third album, I will be able to choose the absolute cream of the crop. I think the sound will be in the same vain as “Wistful”, but at the moment, I only have about 4 songs ready for the third album, so nothing is set in stone yet. We’ll see what happens I suppose! I would like to make some more energetic tracks in the future, like “Earthbound” from my last album.
What was the story behind working with Neige of Alcest?
I first discovered Alcest in 2011/2012 and immediately fell in love and connected to their music. In 2012 I had the pleasure of seeing them play live a couple of times and I ended up meeting them one night. After that, I stayed in touch with Neige, we became friends and I started to show him stuff I was doing with Sylvaine. He was very positive to the music and basically became a supporter of the project. This eventually led to the tour I did with them in South America in September 2014, and after that, Neige playing drums on “Wistful”. I really like his style of drumming and his attentiveness as a drummer, so we both felt it could fit really well with the music in Sylvaine. After that we basically tried to play thru the songs and both agreed it sounded amazing! I know Neige was in the mood of getting back into playing drums again at that period too, so it was a golden opportunity for me to take advantage of that, haha. It was a huge pleasure to work with such talented musicians for “Wistful”, including Neige, and I really feel it added another dimension to the music on the record.
And finally do you plan to tour the United States at all?
I would absolutely love to tour the US in the future! Hopefully, it won’t be too far off in the future either. We’ll see if we have any opportunities coming our way for next year. Being an American citizen, it would be very easy for me to do a tour, but of course the rest of my band will have to deal with the standard visa procedure, so its always a bit more of a hassle than playing in Europe. Either way, we’ll be coming over at some point for sure, as the US is a great and diverse territory that we would like to be present in!