Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 46 - Alyson Avenue

ALYSON AVENUE

When Anette Olzon became the new singer with Nightwish, many must have thought that it could spell the end for the Swedish AOR band Alyson Avenue. However, much like one of their own rousing anthems the band is back sounding bigger, better and stronger than ever on their new album “Changes” (click here to read the album review on Rocktopia). Duncan Jamieson caught up with keyboard player and song writer Niclas Olsson to find out all about the changes in the band including new singer Arabella Vitanc and their rockier sound.

What was your initial reaction when you found out Anette Olzon was going to leave?

I was really happy for her. I actually cried a little when she called me and told she had got the job! Alyson Avenue called it a day in 2006, so she didn´t actually leave the band. I helped Anette with the recordings for ‘Ever Dream’, the Nightwish track, playing all the instruments except for guitars which are played by Patrik Svärd (Cloudscape) when she was auditioning for Nightwish.

When you originally started out you were a male fronted band. Did you consider that option again after Anette left?

Not as Alyson Avenue, no. But I wrote some AOR songs which the rest of Alyson Avenue recorded with a male vocalist. Our thoughts were to start a traditional AOR band with the Alyson Avenue guys and a male vocalist. After a few rehearsals we started to jam old Alyson Avenue songs and we all enjoyed it. That gave me the idea to search for a female vocalist, which of course the others agreed to.

Arabella Vitanc is a great fit for your band. How did you find her and can you tell us a little bit more about her?

Thanks a lot! We think so too! Thanks to the huge exposure caused by Anette joining Nightwish we received a lot of demos from girls around the world. Unfortunately, none of them were what we were looking for. One day Patrik Svärd (former guitarist with the band) called me up and told me he had seen the perfect replacement for Anette who fronted a cover band in our hometown. I called Arabella up and we agreed that I would show up at their next gig. I did and I was blown away! Arabella is very down to earth, smart and funny who fits in both socially and as our vocalist. She is very likeable.

It sounds like you locked Arabella in a room and made her listen to Robin Beck’s back catalogue! Was this the kind of music she was into before joining the band?

Ha-ha...Robin Beck is one of my favourite together with Ann Wilson so it could be that way, but no, we didn’t! She had been listening to a little of this kind of music and they play some well known melodic hard rock songs in her cover band. I have tried to coach her while singing my songs without destroying her personality. Like Anette she is a very quick learner.

You co-produced the record with Chris Laney, who always brings a touch of class to the proceedings. What was it like working with him and how do you think his input influenced the sound of the record?

Unfortunately, Chris came in rather late in the process. He had shown he was interested but we felt that we couldn’t afford him. The plan was to have Chris mixing the album. Chris is a very talented and humble guy that I would love to work with in the future as well, hopefully at an earlier stage. He gave that extra quality to the whole album.

It’s a rockier affair than either ‘Presence Of Mind’ or ‘Omega’. Did you set out to make a rockier album?

Yes it is. It wasn´t the plan from the beginning but while I wrote these songs I started to think about the re-invention of the band. I didn’t want to write a new ‘Presence Of Mind’ or ‘Omega’. I wanted a rockier approach to the band without losing the melodies.

Did your song writing change in any way having to write songs that fit Arabella’s voice?

It has changed but not because of Arabella. She has a very powerful voice that I like a lot. We haven’t changed key on any old Alyson Avenue song. She does a darn fine version of Vixen’s ‘Edge Of A Broken Heart’ at our gigs in the original key. The biggest change in my writing is that I have never had so much fun writing music as I do now, I think.

Michael Bormann pops up on a fine duet with Arabella. I know you’ve played on a couple of his albums in the past. Have you ever considered doing some kind of project with him?

That would be awesome! Michael is one of a kind and an incredibly great guy but he also likes to do his own thing. If we would do such a thing I would have to be sure to set all other things aside to work intense til it´s done, haha. But writing with him again, Yes!

Not many bands invite their previous lead singer back to sing backing vocals, What is your relationship like with Anette now and how did Arabella feel having Anette back her?

We still love Anette and her vocals. Me and Anette do have a lot of contact and talk about everything, not just music. It was Anette´s idea to help us out with backing vocals but only if Arabella agreed to it. Arabella has no problem having Anette backing her. She thinks it’s fun! She knows she has a safe position in Alyson Avenue.

I notice from your website that you’ve been busy preparing for live gigs. Where are you playing and what can we expect from Arabella as a front person?

We have done some club gigs in Stockholm and Växjö but we have also cancelled a couple of gigs due to the recordings of ‘Changes’ getting a little delayed. We will not be a band that travels around Sweden doing a lot of gigs all the time, that wouldn’t work for us. Interesting gigs in Sweden and abroad we will do of course.
Arabella has a great stage presence and sings flawlessly up there.

‘Changes’ is an apt name for the record with the change in the ranks, but in other ways it business as usual as it’s still your signature sound of infectious 80s inspired female fronted melodic rock with big layered choruses that lodge in the brain after a couple of listens. Until the recent re-issues of your first two albums they weren’t always easy to get hold of. Do you think ‘Changes’ is the record that’s going to raise your profile to the level it deserves?

I think I will stick to 80´s inspired rock as long as I live, but I am not afraid to develop with some new fresh touches into it. None of us are. ‘Changes’ is a part of a plan we have for Alyson Avenue. This is the first step and we hope people will like it. We have never had any plans before; we just did what we did and got away with it. Hopefully ‘Changes’ will raise our profile even if it’s different than our previous albums.

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