Beatrice Bini; the name well-known to fans of Italian symphonic/progressive metal scene. Songwriter and singer of Constraint, Chocobo Band and EGO – Everything Goes On. Supertalented, creative, charismatic and a little chaotic human being. That’s her. Back in May, we reached out to her and spent over an hour discussing all-things Constraint: second album “Tides Of Entropy”, line-up changes, songwriting process, music videos… And we even got to talk about Chocobo a bit, too. To celebrate Beatrice’s birthday today, we publish this open in-depth chat for you to read below.
MG: Beatrice, let’s talk about Constraint first. Constraint is a symphonic metal band but for me, there is a huge difference between you and a thousand other symphonic metal bands music-wise. For people who do not know your band and its sound yet: Could you talk about your take on this widely popular subgenre? What makes your band stand out?
Beatrice: I think it’s the fact that it has a female voice, sometimes operatic. But it has a lot of elements that are more progressive, like the guitars. They do very complicated lines, very complicated harmonic levels, and so it makes it sound a little bit more progressive and a little bit more elaborated. And also the presence of a real violin. In many other symphonic metal bands, there are keyboards that do a lot of different sounds and sometimes virtual instruments that are very, very good nowadays. This sounds really good, but they are virtual and they are all together. We have a violinist who is a soloist, like a guitarist. So he does a lot of melodic lines and also rhythmical stuff, which is maybe different than the one made by the orchestra because it is just one instrument. It does something on its own that mixes like a dialogue with the other instruments. It is not just in the background, it stands out. So I think these elements, the progressive guitar and the solo violin, are the things that make us different from any other symphonic metal bands, and also the strange structure of songs.
I read a review in Italian. It said our characteristic is diversity and variety in structure. Which can be both a good thing and also something that maybe can cause people to be unable to focus on the theme. Maybe it distracts the listener. We have to grow as a band and as composers. Each of us has ideas. There is not just one composer. But this is difficult as we sometimes tend to put too many ideas in one song.
MG: So you cannot decide what is important? What does (not) work?
Beatrice: Yes, you hear a beautiful melody and it disappears, but there is maybe another section with a completely different melody and maybe this distracts the listener because the theme doesn’t repeat enough times. Some people told us that in one song they could hear three different songs. There are different sections which maybe shouldn’t be in the same song. It is a matter of taste. Some people are accustomed to pop structure verse-chorus-verse-chorus. It is easier to follow for the ear. And some people are accustomed to more complicated structures like in classical music. We also have classical influences and, additionally, we like a lot of soundtrack music, like Hans Zimmer. And we put this kind of sound into the first song of our new album “Remanent”, which is instrumental. We wanted to make it sound a bit cinematic, like a soundtrack with a huge orchestra. We like this kind of music which combines classical elements but also very modern sounds. Classical composers usually use only the orchestra without amplification, but more modern composers use also synthesizers and rock instruments. I saw a very beautiful concert of Hans Zimmer and there was a very huge orchestra on stage, a very huge choir and also a band with a drummer and guitarists. A lot of people on the stage, like a pyramid of musicians.
MG: Your latest album “Tides Of Entropy” came out in March. First, congratulations. What’s been the reactions so far?
Beatrice: I think the reactions were really good because people noticed our improvement a lot as musicians and also as a band. We had to find different musicians and it has been a really good thing. We had a lot of requests from musicians from our town. And this one guitarist [Matteo Bonfatti] was a friend of mine when I was like 15, and I didn’t see him in years. And then he asked if he could be our guitarist, and I was really happy because he is one of the best guitarists in my town. It was a surprise and a really good moment.
Also, there was a new keyboardist [Enrico Bulgaro] who was the cousin of our drummer’s girlfriend, so he felt like a family friend. He’s really young, he joined our band when he was 18, but he’s really good at playing. I wasn’t really convinced but when I heard him playing, then I said: “Yes, you’re perfect for us!”.
And then also the bass player [Gabriele Masini]. The old bass playerleft the band, and we had to find another one. And he’s perfect because he also plays the cello. He recorded some cello lines on the album, but he’s very shy and doesn’t wanna play it live. He says he’s better at bass and cello is not his main instrument, so he’s not so sure about it.
And then the violinist [Davide Borghi] was our guest musician on “Enlightened By Darkness”. He’s really good, he’s a classical musician, very trained. I remember it well because it was my 20th birthday when he was in the studio, and he came and recorded everything like in a half an hour and went away (laughs). Then we became very good friends. But at that time, it was like he didn’t care about us (laughs). He just played and went away… but then we became like a family. So we have these new elements that made the album the best possible one for us.
Every one of us is very skilled, I think. And people noticed this improvement a lot. And we also always try to work together. So there is not one composer that says “Okay, play it.”. No. We always argue a lot, we meet and talk about the songs and this process is really difficult, but it also rewards us. We received a lot of positive reviews that underlined also some downsides, like the fact that we put maybe too many elements in one song. We have to grow, we have to improve. We know it, but these reviews told us that we have potential.
MG: The band is called Constraint but in my opinion that is a complete opposite of your music. It seems to me that there are no limits when it comes to composing and your new album is proof enough. Are you totally free when it comes to composing or do you have some boundaries that keep you focused on some direction or style?
Beatrice: Constraint is like a philosophical concept related to the human condition. It has more than one meaning. The first meaning is that we, as human beings, would like to have an infinite imagination. We’d like to fly, we have a lot of fantasies, but our physical condition doesn’t allow us to go beyond our physical boundaries. So, there is this suffering, this pain that comes from this contrast. But there is also another meaning that constraint might be something that we create, we use to forge, to shape reality and let it become art, a piece of music. What is music? It’s a series of sounds, physical waves that come together and we should put a limit, a constraint to them to shape them. So there is freedom but freedom is always limited to our image we have in our mind, the shape of the song. It’s not total freedom. It’s a freedom with a constraint.
MG: The next question is about your violin player Dave. It is known that the violin’s beauty lies in similarities to the human voice. How was working with Dave on the new songs vocal-wise?
Beatrice: It was a very beautiful process for me. Sometimes he does some rhythmical stuff but sometimes he plays melodies like me, and we shape these melodies and blend them and do harmonization. But he also does this with a guitarist. On “Omniscient Oblivion”, there is a very melodic section, very calm with just the voice, the piano and the violin. And I personally love this one. He waited for me to create the melodic lines and then he harmonized. But sometimes he also creates other stuff. He was the main composer of “Broken Threads”, which is a song with the violin as a protagonist. But in other songs, he mostly followed my melodic lines. He is one of the newest elements, so I think with the next album we will give him a lot more space to compose and create lines that just don’t follow my voice. I want to push him much more as an instrument. And I think that my voice and the violin blend well together. My vocal timbre is a bit darker and the violin is more bright. They work well together, create a better sound.
MG: If I’m not wrong, you work on the lyrical and conceptual aspect of your work with your drummer Alessandro. You two have a very different approach. While yours is more lyrical, he leans more towards rational and science. How does this alliance work? What is the usual process of creating lyrics for you?
Beatrice: I write down every poem that comes to my mind. I always write down things; on paper, on a computer… At some point, I think about a concept and I discuss it with Alessandro. As you can see, there is a sort of symmetry on the album, regarding titles, regarding structures… The first and the last song are both instrumental, and Alessandro chose these titles that represent something regarding the physics. Because he studies physics at a university. And the second one “Einmal ist Keinmal” and the eight one “Leben ist Streben” are both from German because I wanted to keep this symmetry. And “Einmal ist Keinmal” is a phrase which you cannot translate into other languages, you can kind of explain the meaning, but it’s not the same. So, I wanted to keep the essence of the concept. And then “Leben ist Streben” is not an idiomatic phrase in German, I made this up from Goethe’s Faust, which I find really fascinating. His life is based on “Streben”, which is a concept of looking for more, searching for infinity – it’s like breaking a constraint. I wanted to end the album with a positive concept after the existential crisis. As I say in the lyrics, I want to embrace all the heights like Faust himself. So, we work like that; we discuss the concept, and then I write the lyrics. I am the more literary one and Alessandro is more scientific. We discuss it together because he can help me with shaping things into something more symmetrical. Because I am chaos, basically (laughs).
MG: As we have already mentioned, the title of the album is “Tides Of Entropy”. I find this very interesting and also smart as it combines the scientific with more poetic, just like we talked about. What does it symbolise? What exactly do “tides of entropy” represent in Constraint’s universe?
Beatrice: It represents this journey that the soul, the inner side of us makes. As you can see, there is a different mood in every song. In “Einmal ist Keinmal”, the tide is something huge but also silent. The soul is not aware of the process, it’s just passive. And then in “Golden Threads” it’s just calm, a depression. Then in “Eerie Euphoria”, the tide is thunder, the tempest, almost a shipwreck. The tide in the lyrics is untameable, something that cannot stop. It’s anxiety and excitement at the same time. And there is this reoccurring theme of water in many different forms. As the eyes in “Einmal ist Keinmal”, in “The Big (B)end it’s the ocean…
MG: We can also see this in the video where you’re swimming in the ocean…
Beatrice: Yes, I also wanted to convey this concept visually with the help of a very good video maker. We discussed it a lot, and I was the worst because I insisted a lot on many things. And then at the end, I had a perfect result… So, in the end in “Lieben ist Streben”, I want to explore the unexplored. All the tides in my soul. In the beginning, this voice is afraid of these tides of entropy, entropy representing the life itself. It’s about facing these deeper emotions, fears… You face these fears, all these tides that can overwhelm you, but you can grow if you face them. If you don’t, you are just passive and life is not worth living, for me. It’s about a change of perspective to this point where you are not afraid anymore of thunderstorms, the ocean and you throw yourself into it no matter what. It’s the only way to make your life worth living, for me.
MG: Let’s get back to the shooting for “The Big (B)end”. Where was the video recorded, actually?
Beatrice: In Italy on Monte Conero. It’s a place where rocks, mountains and sea meet. It’s really fascinating. I didn’t want a seaside with sand and beach…
MG: Yeah, that’s not so dramatic…
Beatrice: I wanted something a bit more dramatic. A more hostile and more neutral place with whites and greys… also the colours were important. I didn’t want the shiny beach. We shot it in May. It was cold and cloudy, so everything was greyish. I chose this place because there is both, the sea and the rocks and it’s quite dramatic. Also, I had to choose a place which was not so far away from our city. It was like three hours drive, not so far away. I was really happy about the location, it was a good compromise.
MG: Do you intend to shoot more videos for the album?
Beatrice: Good question (laughs). We would really like to do this, but the problem was that our drummer was in the USA to do research in Physics for six months and we were waiting for him. Then he came here due to the coronavirus and he doesn’t know when he comes back to the USA. So, we don’t know when to do these videos and we also have a limited budget. We spent a lot on the first one, on the album… We did a Kickstarter campaign but it didn’t cover all of our expenses. So we thought, we sell albums, merch, tour… but then coronavirus came… I have a lot of ideas for screenplays. I always daydream, have a lot of ideas about every song. If I had resources, I would do a video for every song to illustrate the concept. But we cannot, so we have to choose maybe two more songs from the album and maybe do a simple video with us playing and another video like “The Big (B)end”, with a story.
MG: Until now we concentrated on your new album with Constraint, so let’s bring your other band Chocobo into play as well. What made you join two bands?
Beatrice: I was a teenager when I recorded the first demo of Constraint. I was 15 or 16. I recorded it in the studio of Mike, he is the boss of Chocobo. And he was the guitar teacher of Constraint’s first guitarist. And Mike asked me if I could sing some ballads. But I was not in the band yet, it was just a collaboration. Chocobo already existed as an instrumental band and they did the Final Fantasy soundtracks in a progressive metal style, so their repertoire was a bit limited. Then Mike said, “I need a female voice for the ballads.”. When he heard my voice. he asked me if I could join them for a few songs, but the collaboration became more intense, and I joined the band. But on stage, I was singing just a few songs. Later, we changed the style and Mike started to sing in several songs, so there are now two voices. And now we are also working on an album with original music. The band is no longer a cover band. But working on the original album has slowed down due to corona.
So, what made me join two bands? They are both very interesting projects with a lot of potential and I believe in these two bands. They can bring something new to the metal scene and they are not just a copy of other bands. Otherwise, I would have left them. What I am interested in is this creative side of both projects. Because I am a very active element in these projects. I am not just the singer, I can shape things. And I am not so interested in projects where I just have to sing. Sometimes I do this. Some operas with a certain repertoire. But this is only occasional. It’s not my main project. My main projects are based on creativity. And currently, both bands are so small I can have them both with no problems as we don’t do three-month-tours and such things. But we hope to tour when corona is finished. In Italy. this kind of music is not so appreciated.
MG: Unfortunately. Ok, now we come to the final question. Do you sometimes find yourself in a situation, where you are with one band and suddenly have an idea and then you realize: “Oh! Wrong band!”. Does that happen at times?
Beatrice: No. It never happens because… Okay, I am chaotic but when I have to do a gig or record a song, I am really focused. So I can separate things and I am really anxious. I also have nightmares about not having a voice on stage, forgetting a microphone, forgetting my dress and I really care about details and everything to be perfect. I always check things. I do a lot of exercises before going on stage. I disappear for half an hour and my bandmates think I was not being nice and fun, but I wanted to go away and warm up my voice, and not because I am not friendly. Sometimes musicians don’t understand this. They drink beer, they talk…but before concerts, singers have to be careful. They have to shut up, and eat well and not eat too much because you know what can happen (laughs).
MG: Yes, it can cause unwanted noises. But this is sometimes fun for bloopers videos.
Beatrice: Yes (laughs). I have a lot of bloopers where I burp a lot when I eat too much. And I also have to avoid beer and stuff with gas. So no, I don’t mistake the bands because I am too focused and anxious.