Interviews

Rena Hellzinger (Siren’s Rain): “Music is a participation sport, and I want the listener to intuit and make their own meaning and figure out what it means to them personally.”

Siren’s Rain is a dark melodic folk metal band hailing from Tacoma, Washington. These self-described storytellers of the macabre know how to weave an enthralling tale with melodies and arrangements that invite the listener to get comfortable and stay a while. Soon they will unleash a full-length album upon the world. We got to talk to the talented Dr. Rena Hellzinger about the upcoming album “Rise Forth”, the impact a pandemic can have on one’s creativity, and slowly getting back to live shows.

MG: Your new album “Rise Forth” is set for release Oct 8th. That has to be so exciting. How are you feeling, how has that process been in such a strange time for musicians?

Rena: I was so glad when production was over because it was not a smooth process at all. With the other EPs we went in, we did it, it was good, and we knew what to expect. But this was such a long process. We had written some of the songs in 2018 and then some of them in 2020 and 2021. We started recording in 2020, and we were like, “yea, let’s have it come out in 2020”, and that did not happen. Then there were several times people had to be quarantined, and then we had the big quarantine. So it felt really modulated and disjointed because it wasn’t like our regular – we go in for a couple weekends, it was very much like – we’re recording this, and then you go in privately, and then you go in privately, and then listen to it and so many different mixes and different takes. It is longer, it’s a full length album, not an EP, but it just felt like it was never going to end. That’s hard for me to say because enjoy the journey, enjoy the process. But it was just like, ‘are we going to be done?’ And then we were done… and I’m like, “okay, now what are we writing next?”. So I’m just really excited for everyone to hear it. It’s a shift, it’s definitely more polished, very solidified. If people didn’t really like our previous stuff, I think they will like this. It’s definitely on the more metal side. It’s very fast, it’s very galloping. There are a lot more extreme vocals, but the folk element is still very much alive, but it’s very nestled and layered, and the compositions are crafted very well. 

MG: So have you felt like these past couple of years have kind of fueled any upcoming songs in your mind, or do you kind of just want to leave that behind? 

Rena: There was a point last year where we were practicing after quarantine and we just kind of stopped and were like, “we are playing doom metal”.  It was so doomy and gloomy. Usually, we’ve got some jigs and the upbeat nature of folk metal, and there was just this part where we stopped, and we were like, “oh god, we’re depressed”, and we didn’t realize it until we were like, “this isn’t us”. It still feels really apocalyptic. We have the nyckelharpa now, which is a very drone-y sounding instrument and the harp again. So I think the stuff that we have been teasing out is very sinister, and we are still playing with that Wardruna type of drumming and the frame drums. But I think there is that element of when can we be happy again, when can we be jiggy and do the folk metal party thing, but I don’t think we are out of that yet. 

MG: Your first single off of this album is called “Keepers” and it’s everything a folk metal fan could want. Lyrically, musically… and I wonder, are you the one who writes most of the lyrics and what was the inspiration behind “Keepers”?

Rena: I really feel like music is a participation sport, and I want the listener to intuit and make their own meaning and figure out what it means to them personally. So I do leave things a little bit vague. But it was really about this idea I got about the oil pipelines and the water defenders. First Nations and other people coming in and protecting their lands from horrible corporations that are destroying our economy, they are raping the land, they are causing global warming. And I got this idea about the defenders of the earth and how noble that is to be a water protector or an earth protector, and that’s really where that comes from. We are keepers of the earth, warriors of honesty. A plague has fallen across our birthright and existence. 

MG: So you’re also a harpist, as we had mentioned a bit about the harp earlier. What came first for you in life, instruments or vocals? 

Rena: My mother is a piano teacher, and my sister is two years younger than me and also plays. My sister always kind of got things a little bit faster than I did, and so we would start to play the piano, but she would push me off the piano bench. So I stopped playing for a little bit, and then I started playing drums and percussion. But I was always very much a vocalist. I always knew I was going to play the harp at some point but didn’t know when. Originally, we had a harpist in the band, and she was this amazing person that played eight instruments, and she could pick up anything. She let me pluck around a little bit, and it was so inspiring, but I knew it wasn’t my time to play yet. Then last year, I decided to take lessons, and it all came very naturally. I’ve played keys, I’ve done percussion, but this, I just felt in my heart, I was able to pick it up a lot easier. Most people play the piano or something before the harp because it is a very different instrument. But I feel like for me, playing and singing at the same time is easier. So singing and music are intertwined for me, if I do both at the same time, I get it, and it clicks in my head more. 

MG: With two more songs to be released off the album before the full album is out, can you tell us anything about them or when they may be dropping? 

Rena: “Rise Forth” is the title track, and it is our battle song. It features frame drums, and we had a voiceover artist who is also a metal singer. That was really rad. It’s very much the drumming and the war party. When you see folk metal, I think there is this fraternity or sorority, you’re together, and you’re singing, and you’re banging the drums. That’s what that song is about, conquering personal challenges – the mountain – whatever that might be. And “Corporeal Chains” is coming out, I think, the week of the release. That was really inspired by my having Lyme disease, about feeling like I’m infested with little monsters, like I’m infested with little bugs. The like – what do you do when you have a disease that won’t go away, and you are the disease, but you’re not that disease, and you shouldn’t identify with it, but you can help identifying with it – That song is a little on the poppier side. The chorus is something I am so in love with. I don’t know if you find this as a vocalist, too; do you ever write songs that you need to hear personally, like songs for yourself? 

MG: Yes, one hundred percent, yes. 

Rena: It is one of those. I envision myself on stage at Wacken being like “RELEASE ME” and pumping my fist, and wanting everyone else to sing this anthem song with me. I think that people who like a bit more of the poppier, catchier things, or who don’t admit they like poppier, catchier things, might like that song a lot. And I don’t find your stuff poppy, but “Might” is that song for me. I listen to it on repeat, honestly, when I’m doing my makeup or trying to hype myself up. So that’s my “Might” song. “Corporeal Chains”. 

MG: That’s so awesome, thank you! I’m excited to do the same when “Corporeal Chains” comes out! “Might” definitely was that song for me, the song I needed to hear. 

Speaking of songwriting, what is your ideal creative setting for writing or creating? If you could be anywhere in the world to soak up some energy, where would you want to be? 

Rena: I read an interview with Nightwish about writing one of their albums. They basically all went to a secluded place in Finland and got snowed in for six months. They were all in this cabin together. They woke up early, and wrote and then after 6pm they just stayed in the hot tub. That sounds amazing to me, to just be able to not have to have a day job and just to be able to go write somewhere scenic and then spend the rest of the time in a hot tub. 

MG:  Will we be seeing any music videos with the new releases? 

Rena: Yes! We are filming one for “Keepers”. We are trying to figure out what we can do ourselves and what we need to hire experts for. We have some lyric videos, we figured that out. For “Keepers”, things are still open, and we will probably do a couple of live videos as well. I am really excited for the “Keepers” one. Our director really likes it when they throw water on me, so for all of our videos, I get wet… so there will be Rena in the water again.

MG: You have a live show coming up. That has to be such an emotional feeling. What have you missed the most about performing or about live music in general? 

Rena: I had a realization that I wouldn’t say that I am a diva, but I need attention. I feel like I get depressed when I don’t get attention. As a performer, it’s not just about creating the music; it’s about interaction and seeing people. I remember we had one show a couple of years ago where there was so much fog, and with the way that the fog hit the light, I couldn’t see the audience. I felt very depressed afterwards because I couldn’t gauge the reaction, and I didn’t know if they were enjoying it. I felt kind of deflated when I got off stage. Usually, if people are flat, the front person can hype them up, but I couldn’t do my job. With mental health too, I need that interaction. I need that reaction and to know you’re having a good time and that I’m having a good time. I definitely feel like that was a realization. I need some attention, I need some love, and I want to perform for you. 

MG: So what’s around the corner for Siren’s Rain, aside from the release do you have any other plans? 

Rena: We are hoping to go across the USA next summer. For the last couple of years, we have been planning a trip to Europe. We are gonna get over there eventually, and that’s our main goal. That’s the bucket list thing. It doesn’t stop until that happens.

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