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VOLA (JUNE 24, 2021)



Vola is the band in vogue at the moment thanks to a third album that seems to embody the quintessence of modern metal. Music Waves met Asger Mygind to tell us more about "Witness".
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With "Witness" Vola seems to confirm its constant progression since "Inmazes" with its mix of sophisticated metal with pop or even hip hop accents that offers both an accessibility through bright choruses and a dark side through hard riffs in the verses. Meeting with the singer Asger Mygind who reveals us a little more about this new offering.

We usually like to start our interviews with the question that you've been asked too much and that you're tired of answering, what is this question?

I don't know if I'm tired of it, but I think what I've been asked the most is how this new album is different from the last one. It's always nice to find new ways to explain it.

So your news is the release of "Witness", did the pandemic impact your compositions and the recording of this album?

We wrote the album just before Denmark went into lockdown mode. So I would say it went pretty well. We also managed to record the drums just before everything came to a halt in the studios together in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the end of February. And then everything stopped. But luckily for us, we were able to finish everything afterwards thanks to the internet and computer file exchange.  That didn't stop us from doing it and producing the album anyway. We weren't really dependent on being together physically. The pandemic didn't affect us much for the recordings. We were very lucky in that way. Just the fact that now that we have the album out, we are looking forward to performing the songs live, but it's still a problem because of the restrictions.

So did it have an impact on the subjects evoked in the album?

I don't think so. I wrote some of the lyrics after the pandemic. But I don't think it consciously figured in the lyrics, but maybe it can be interpreted that way. A lot of the songs deal with relationships and solutions to problems encountered in those relationships, in different ways. I really like to write about sociological things that are close to people, to their daily life. It is an artistic vision from a very sociological point of view.

Vola is often labeled as a progressive metal band while there is almost nothing progressive in your music. Do you assume this label ?

I think we have a lot of different influences. We like Meshuggah, for example. That's where the really heavy riffs come from. We also like the clean vocals and having good choruses. That's also what I've been listening to a lot before and we like different atmospheres in the same song like Porcupine Tree did. Those are bands we had been listening to growing up. And now years later, that music is just there in our minds and is an unconscious inspiration. It's just mixing all kinds of different styles. We make music to entertain ourselves and we don't really see any limits to what we can merge as long as we like the songs.

You mention Meshuggah and Porcupine Tree as influences in an unconscious way but how do you manage to break away from them to create your own sound?

That's a good question. I think we took a lot of different sounds in terms of arrangements where other artists might be more focused on one specific sound. I also like when the chorus manages to create the feeling of suddenly being on top of the mountain or something like that, a really great feeling and causes a kind of shiver in the body. So that's something we often try to achieve. We also like when there is a big contrast with darker verses versus brighter choruses which then become even more striking.

For us, your music reflects the best of modern pop metal and djent, and "Witness" is a showpiece of the genre. How did you approach the composition of the album ? With the idea of injecting everything you know best to make "Witness" sound more modern and heavier than your previous albums? Was it your idea at the beginning or did this modernity evolve with the contribution of Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Evergrey, Katatonia) on the production?

I think that knowing what the album was going to sound like was a big influence in terms of arrangements. It came very early in the process, right from the beginning of writing the songs. So I think we came up with a very modern sound because it was something we envisioned for the songs and it became an inspiration in the way we were going to set them up.

But you needed an external help to do it, you didn't have enough confidence in yourselves to achieve this result?

I think so, I mixed the first two albums and I think they sound quite different, more old school. So I feel like I did what I could and we needed someone from outside to take it to a more contemporary sound. And yes, that role fell to Jacob. I'm very, very happy with what he did to the recorded tracks. Our previous album sounded more like sounds from the early 2000s and in some ways albums I grew up with. But after deciding that, he felt excited to help us to create something very modern.

The previous album "Applause Of A Distant Crowd" explored your melodic aspect, "Witness" with its power is close to what you did on "Inmazes", can we see in this new album a certain form of synthesis between the first two albums from which you would have taken the best?

Yes, I think there are elements of both albums like more djent passages and some keyboards, and then there are new elements, for example rap voices. So for us it's a kind of synthesis but at the same time we dared to bring something more because we really like to experiment including in the electronic and choose in a pool of sounds.

As always with Vola, the choruses are particularly neat and very catchy. Do you compose the vocal lines first and then the riffs?

It very often starts with a riff. And then maybe we use the rhythm of the riff to create a verse. Then we use that rhythm again to create a chorus, but this time with a more melodic search. So it's very often one part that leads to the next, leading itself to the next until there's the whole song. I think it's often the songs that are written then that work best, the ones that have been written in that way as an ongoing relationship connected end-to-end but it can also start by finding a melodic part and then the process is reversed as we start the song with the chorus. It is about working backwards a little bit and seeing what we can do before the chorus but it is a more unusual process for us to do that.

You were talking about contrasts earlier, is it more difficult to write a song with this shape than a more linear but catchy song?

It's important for me this question, because you talk about the contrast between the chorus and the verse, and to tell you the truth it's very difficult and very different between writing this kind of song and another song. It's always about finding that little part in the verse that you can use again in the chorus so that there's a common thread between the parts. So. for me, it's really about having been listening to and finding that connection. What can we reuse in the song to make it cohesive? In the end it creates a very dynamic song.

Your way of tackling a new album, in such a way that it is different from the previous one, reminds undeniably the vision of Steven Wilson (in particular his solo work but also to a lesser extent with Porcupine Tree), is it a totally assumed will on your part this research?

I think it's very important to keep a certain freshness when starting an album, each time. And for that to be noticeable, sometimes the album just has to sound different. If we are in a new album process with an idea that sounds like the previous album, it won't feel good because it feels like a continuity of this cycle from album to album, and getting locked in this cycle. So, to make the process in a way a kind of new journey, it's much more interesting to go to a different place in terms of style and sound research. There are people who have been listening to our music and they will definitely find it interesting because we have different albums. I like the sound that they liked the most. In our mind, it's much more fun to create something new every time, selfishly for us that's the most interesting thing as musicians.

Aren't you afraid to lose fans then along the way or critics like we did on Steven Wilson's last album?

Criticism is part of the game but I hope people have been listening to our music because they are sensitive to our songwriting mainly. I think that today we have a varied discography and these songs can have an impact with rock, metal or electronic. There is something to do and then you can reach more people. So if you like metal, you might like the electronic version. The most important thing for us is that we are happy with what we create and we are happy like this.

The feedback is pretty good on this album....

It's funny because you were alone during the composition of the album and now suddenly many people write about you and your work. We received very positive reviews and it's gratifying to have such feedbacks, as in any work a form of recognition....

Did these positive reviews comfort you in your desire to continue if you had doubts, because for musicians it's hard in normal times and even more with this period?

Being a musician, making it my profession, has always been my dream. So yes, the good, positive reviews are encouraging. A nice tap on the back, and they can be inspiring, while not making it a requirement either.

The most surprising track on the album is definitely 'These Black Claws' featuring rap duo Shahmen. This track sounds like a crossover between hip hop and indus metal. Will your music evolve towards this kind of crossover (or other surprising ones) in the future?

I think it's totally impossible to predict at this point. But I'm sure we'll keep experimenting, because for us that's what guides us. For this particular track, it was exciting to have rap vocals, to do the verse in a hip hop track and to exploit the full potential of the style, it was cool to have those vocals! So, yeah, we really put no limits on ourselves.

You did a particular work on your voice and the vocal lines on this track but on the whole album, you take more confidence in yourself in this album, in your abilities?

Thanks a lot! Yes the, singing is important to have an impact. It's just about giving something more to that other person who has been listening to the album. I don't know if I have more confidence but I'm proud of the work I did on this album. Then there is also the important aspect of the production because there are a lot of voices that are doubled or quadrupled which adds a little more depth.

The metal scene provides bands that offer albums with unbeatable choruses: Soen, Leprous... while keeping a rough dose... Is it a chance for you to bring a new audience that would be grabbed by the melodic aspect that was perhaps forgotten for a while?

Yes, I think that's where we have to go to capture the attention of the public without denying ourselves and going against our nature. Basically, that's the music I like to listen to: rougher parts to get to a chorus or a brighter and more accessible piece so you can hold on to the song. I love this duality. If other bands explore that, then so much the better. Some people will be attracted by the heavy riffs and others by other more melodic passages. We need to have a broad view  to satisfy everyone.  

How do you approach this second half of the year in terms of concerts? Any chance to see you in France?

It's difficult to have a clear vision at the moment because of the restrictions. For the moment we have some concerts planned in Denmark but we hope to be able to give some dates in Europe soon and especially in France next year.

We started the interview with the question you were asked too much, what is the question you would have liked to answer and that I didn't ask you?

(Laughs) Good question! Maybe what I like to watch. I like a lot of series especially on HBO and "The Handmaid's Tale" which is a very good dark series with an atmosphere close to Steven Wilson's one. Sometimes series are inspiring for music too.

Thank you very much !

Thank you and take care of yourself !

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VOLA: Witness (2021)

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