News of unknown forces… it all started with this simple yet complicated teaser back towards the end of 2019. At least for us. The works on Illumishade – the new project of Fabienne Erni and Jonas Wolf and their amazing crew – began way earlier. We sat down with Fabienne and Jonas before one of their December shows with Eluveitie and asked all about their new musical and conceptual world. The realm of Illumishade.
It’s not a secret that Fabienne and Jonas had known each other before joining Eluveitie. Actually, it was Jonas who introduced Fabienne to Eluveitie. The two of them met a musical school – Jonas in the position of a teacher and Fabienne in the position of a student.
“We didn’t know each other really well. I just knew who she was because when she started studying I was actually already teaching. So we knew who the other was but not like really knew each other,” explains Jonas.
As Jonas was already involved with Eluveitie at that time, he accepted the challenge of presenting her skills to the band. And it ended up being a Disney song that won her the place in these folk metal giants.
“I just knew that she had a great voice and then the only thing I found was this song,” he continues. “It was a performance of this Disney song from Frozen. I looked up on Youtube what kind of a song I could present to Chrigel. And that was the only thing I found… and the rest is history.”
So how long has been this new project of theirs in the making?
“When did we start? Like in February/March…” pauses in thought Fabienne. “In March was the first time when we sat together and did some work together.” And it was Fabienne who came up with the idea to join forces, under special circumstances.
“The thing is that she had to do it, in the first place, for graduation from the university,” says Jonas. “And she knew that the schedule would be very very tough because this year we’ve been touring nonstop. So I think you,” he says as he turns towards Fabienne, “figured like “Okay, I’m on the road all the time so why not just team up?” Because I’m there as well,” he adds with a laugh.
“Yeah, all the time so…,” laughs Fabienne. “And yeah, then it developed. I asked him if he wants to be part of it and then we started just working together on it.”
Throughout their teasing campaign, we were promised heavy riffing but also some ballads. However, music-wise, Illumishade is a very complex and layered unit that is nearly impossible to describe using just words.
“Basically we just took our influences and put it into a pot and cooked with it,” laughs Fabienne.
As previously teased on their social media, we are gonna hear strings on the record. Nothing new for fans of Eluveitie. Yet, they’ll be used in a very different way.
“It’s maybe more of a film music/soundtrack thing,” tries to find the right words Fabienne. “It’s not really the folk strings but more like epic film music style as a sweetening mostly.”
Jonas quickly points out: “One thing we want to make sure is that it’s really different from Eluveitie. This is the main thing. We want to make sure it’s not a copy…”
And that’s only understandable. It wouldn’t make sense to do the same thing over again. Now, would it?
“I actually really hope that people cannot categorize it right away,” expresses his hopes the guitarist. “I can see some people like maybe even have a hard time with it because it’s like – This is here. And then now it sounds like this. What’s this now? – And I really like that because I want to surprise people.”
“But of course there’s metal /rock,” assures Fabienne. “But also other stuff. I mean… it’s all about that we are creating this new world and it’s all about that fits into this world. So everything will kinda fit together but there are different aspects of the world and also musically and story-wise.”
Yeah, this is not gonna be just any album. They’re working on a huge project that involves a lot of graphical elements and aspects as well.
“We are working together with a Canadian concept writer,” reveals Fabienne. “It’s all about creating a whole new world that people can dive into not only musically but also graphically and story-wise. There are different tribes… The world has many different landscapes or something like that so we also have different song styles.”
As already revealed, the world of Illumishade is populated by different tribes – Hallusia, Faeva, Yagun, Vaiyna and Teshay. And as Jonas says, there’s “a connection between band members or the group that you see on stage and the actual tribes”, Fabienne being the mighty Guardian, the physical protector of the heart of the world. Sounds cool? Not really. In case she fails her life’s purpose in protecting the crystal, and the heart of the world falls apart or fades, her immortality fades as well and she will perish. Hopefully, this won’t happen and she saves the world.
Back in December, we knew very little about album details. It is still unclear to this very day, but we for sure know there will be three singles prior to the album release. They debuted with “World’s End” in early January, and the second one, the ballad titled “Rise”, dropped on Valentine’s Day. But it wasn’t that easy to choose what we’re gonna hear before we get to listen to the full album. During our interview, only two singles were set. “We’re still fighting for the third one,” joked Fabienne and we all completely get the struggle. Imagine having eight songs connected through a certain concept… Not an easy task to choose three pieces that would introduce the band, the story and amaze an audience. Luckily, the third one is coming out soon. On March 20th!
“We wanna make the right impression, I guess. And show an overall thing about the new project. It’s important to not lead people in the wrong direction,” explains Fabienne as Jonas continues on the diversity of the material: “I don’t think it’s in the first place about leading people in the wrong direction. Because there’s a lot of stuff that could lead people to one direction, but the next song wouldn’t be like that. Which is the fun part and that’s what I enjoyed the most,” he admits. “Because I think it’s very important when you start something new, it’s not about trying to narrow yourself and be like “this is our brand”. Of course, there are some elements that will endure, but I think for the first album you should be able to just put it all up there and just see what happens.”
As you may already know, Illumishade is a DIY project. It’s not backed by any label but fans – or if you wish, supporters of unknown forces. What is the hardest part when you set on a road of independence?
“The money”, says Jonas without hesitation, which is not a surprise at all, and Fabienne agrees: “Yeah, the money is the hardest part. Time is doable, work as well, but money…” Jonas goes on: “It is a problem, of course. You know, this business is still changing, and it’s interesting where it’s going, but… it’s just tough. You can do a lot when you can also do the whole publishing thing and I think we have a lot of great content. I think it’s good to not try to reach a label too fast. And maybe if everything works out actually make them come to you.”
But on the bright side, Fabienne points out some cons of being unsigned. “There are also good sides. We can decide everything and make our own deadlines, have creative freedom… Everything. But without this amazing team and the band, alone, this would be… super-super tough.”
These two have come a long way since joining Eluveitie. They’ve released not one, not two, but three records with the band so far. So what’s the difference between working on an Eluveitie record and on Illumishade’s debut?
Jonas takes the word: “Well, for me it’s quite clear. Of course, every Eluveitie album is Chrigel’s vision. He has like vision for the whole concept and it has to fit this vision. But in the end, we basically ended up writing the album together. So my position was like giving options. He told me about his visions and I was like: “Ok, I’m gonna try to write in this style. Here is something and here is something. This is an option- a, b or c- what do you think?” And then he took it and he… you know, did something with it. And here it’s completely different. You bring stuff,” he points at Fabienne, “and then I just basically make the whole arrangement out of it or I bring sounds from scratch. Basically the whole thing- drums, bass, everything. And of course, I think about vocalizing. Sometimes we need to talk about a vocal range… But that’s, of course, a good learning process. For me, it’s completely different. For this project, I can decide more what I want to do and Eluveitie is more about offering options. And I just try to write in this kind of style, which for me, is Swedish melodic-death metal style. And for Illumishade it’s everything. “
He goes deeper into the songwriting and explains: “Fabienne does probably more melo songs, which I don’t do, so it’s like piano and voice-driven. And I do the other stuff which she doesn’t. And we both just like the idea, so it’s actually a really good combination. We just throw it at each other.” Both of them laugh. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The band came up with a quite tricky and clever name. Who came up with that and how did it happen?
It’s time for Fabienne to explain how they played with ideas and words: “Actually, in the very beginning we’ve just had a brief talk about what I could do for this project. We had the idea about the mountain and snow and ice. That was the very very first talk we had. So I always thought about mountains and ice, so it was like “Ok, let’s find a cool name in any language”. So we’ve found “snowfall” in Finnish. I was trying to change the spelling a bit. It became more fitting with the concept, with the light and dark, like a balance in between.”
“I want to say, for the whole thing, it’s a classic theme,” contributes Jonas. “Light and shade, beauty and the beast.”
And then, the topic of touring was brought up. Are they going to bring this project on stages or is it just gonna be an album release show (Zurich, Switzerland on May 22)?
Fabienne’s answer will surely make happy all of Illumishade fans: “This is still in the making, but, of course, we had fun and the goal is to bring it to the stage and make it fit in with Eluveitie’s schedule, As we said, we have a really good team and a person who is really into this. We will work very closely to get this done and will achieve it.”
A little bit more about their achievements with Eluveitie…
As already mentioned above, Fabienne and Jonas have released three records with the band so far. The latest one being a live album recorded at Masters of Rock festival in the Czech Republic. How do they recall the show? Do they have any special memories?
“I remember that I was really nervous because I knew it was gonna be recorded,” admits Fabienne, and Jonas goes on: “To be quiet on stage is impossible while you know it will be recorded.”
“But I have to say by the time once I was in, I kinda was trying not to think about it anymore and just tried to enjoy, because I know when I enjoy I do my best,” laughs the singer. “It’s not about hitting every single note but it’s also about the feeling that you get.”
“Plus, it wasn’t my first time with Eluveitie there,” recalls Jonas. “I knew it would be something special. The festival was super nice. You feel the vibe and it’s amazing! Also, there were some friends from other bands to show up, so I had a good time.
And how do they look back at all they’ve achieved in such a short period of time – three years – with the band?
“I’ve never thought of it,” reacts Fabienne with a smile, clearly surprised and amazed by the fact. “Yes, three albums, that’s really cool! We should release a DVD and then we have everything! It is really crazy, I could have never imagined that about 3,5 years ago.”
Speaking of live shows, both of them shared their favourite Eluveitie songs to perform live on stage. Fabienne paused in thought before answering: “Well, one of my favourite ones is “Quoth The Raven”. I didn’t know this song before I joined, but this is one of my favourites.” On the other hand, Jonas didn’t hesitate for a moment: “King. Absolutely.”
And here are is a message for all Illumishade fans from the mighty Bound himself, the one and only Jonas Wolf: “Nice to have you with us on this journey. We hope to see you on shows and we hope you like it!”
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