Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 81: Interview with Leprous

LEPROUS

Interview by Mike Ainscoe

As Leprous prepare to release 'Malina', the follow up to 2015's 'The Congregation' and the subsequent and incendiary 'Live at Rockefeller Music Hall' album, Fireworks grabbed a few words with guitarist Tor Oddmund Suhrke and main writer, keyboardist and singer Einar Solberg. The two constants in a band which has evolved into an exciting and forceful unit over the past few years.


Leprous

It's a friendship that goes back to the two knowing each other from being very young. "We actually went to kindergarten together!" explained Tor. "We were in the same class in junior high and then we made friends and started to play together aged 15 or 16. We were a couple of friends that started the band in 2001 and have been doing it ever since. I've been playing in Leprous more than half my life now!"

The 'Malina' title emerged from an interesting story about taking the word from the old Slavic meaning 'raspberry'. "We were both at Einar's brother's wedding in Georgia and spent some time there afterwards. On a day walking in the park we saw an old woman – one who looked like she'd had a hard life – and the lyrics to that song were based on the impression we got from her. When we needed a name for the song we'd composed, we remembered the woman shouting the word "malina" and thought it would be a cool name for the song and also the album title because I liked the word!"

While Einar takes on the biggest workload of composing to present to the band for them to work on, Tor has become the main lyricist. Some of the song titles are very evocative and on similar lines: 'Captive', 'Coma', 'Weight Of Disaster' all suggest some sort of despondent and sombre mood, although Tor clarified, "None of the albums are really concept albums, although I get inspired by things such as events in my life or something I hear about in news or maybe a cool phrase or word to use. In general they are usually not very optimistic or happy – not that we're miserable people, we're happy guys − but the inspiration leads me to look on the more depressing aspects of life because the music tends to be melancholic and dramatic. The song 'Illuminate', for example, is one I wrote which can have different interpretations. If you're having difficult times in life it's about a way out, although that way could be covered by obstacles so it can be difficult to find the way out of the situation. The words are about lighting your own way – the road is already there but you have to find the right light to walk it. It's a road you have to walk yourself but with help from people around you. Before the first chorus there's "you can have my torch" to help illuminate your own way – that could go for many situations you find yourself in."

The last track on the album, Einar's 'The Last Milestone', is very regal – almost like a classical piece. "It's a very personal lyric; a very emotional track that can give chills because of the music and the lyrics and the voice. You can hear an emotion that's very sincere. It's one of the most intense tracks and you get the feel without knowing exactly what it's about. The interesting thing is that we were considering not having it on the album as it's so different and maybe using it somewhere else but then we realised it was a good way to end the album with the lyric being about ending something – it's a very meaningful, complex and emotional way to end an intense album."

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Listeners may hear an unexpected beginning to 'Malina'; the choice to open the album with 'Bonneville' suggests we're going to hear something very different. Tor admitted that it wasn't the typical way to open the album with what he called "a calm but daring opening track" when usually Leprous open albums with an 'in your face' song. Einar going on to explain how "it was a very deliberate move to put 'Bonneville' as the opening song, showing that okay, we're continuing to do our thing and push our boundaries into new directions. That song is very very atmospheric compared to anything on the previous album and represents where we're at today as a band. We wanted to challenge people by putting that first. It's that kind of song that people hear as different but it's intriguing so they don't want to turn it off – this is not what we expect! On the previous album you have 'The Price' which is straight to the point but this is a much more floating and atmospheric sound."

Ace engineer Jens Bogren has also been involved in mixing the album although Tor talked about how the band were keen to have quite an 'unmastered' and more natural sound to 'Malina'. "We did most of the work on the sound of the album in the recording process. The main technician was David Castillo who also did the recording on the last album and the live album last year. It was after that recording that we realised we would like to get more of a live feel into the new album. 'The Congregation' sounded almost perfect and we wanted to get more of a live feel in the studio and turn down distortion on the guitars to open the sound. It's an improvement as it doesn't sound as edited or as synthetic as it may have sounded before. Now it's more about the vibe rather than trying to get it perfect and over producing it and aiming for a more organic keyboard sound by using analogue effects and re-amping."

"When we sent it to Jens, who's an amazing mixer and who's done all our latest work, we told him we didn't want him to necessarily do what he'd done before but make it sound more like the raw material but tweaking where he needed to. It went a couple of times back and forth but ended up with a nice end product. With Progressive Metal it's meant to be tight and precise but we picked up from our live recording that when it's played live it has more of an organic feel. And it felt quite original for a Prog Metal band to go in that direction."

There's also a new member in Leprous with guitarist Robin Ognedal, although he's well known to the band. Einar explained, "He did the US tour last year with us and we've known him since we were teenagers. When Oysten (Landsverk) couldn't continue with the band for various reasons Robin was the obvious choice for us. He's a super technical guitarist but doesn't showcase it in any way. He plays with a lot of emotion and soul and it sounds great but not too perfect either. He met all our expectations with all he did. It's one thing to find a really good guitarist," he added, "but he has that extra touch and adds a new dimension to the Leprous sound."

It's a sound that's set to go on the road with a headline European tour already lined up to start in late October with special guests Agent Fresco from Iceland, plus Australia's AlithiA and fellow Norwegians Astrosaur. The tour includes an appearance at the Damnation Festival in Leeds and a headline London gig at The Dome.

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