"At first, I thought that I wouldn't be well-received."
Ambre Vourvahis, the frontwoman of Xandria, in chat with Dark Divas about pressure in the music industry, "The Wonders Still Awaiting," and personal ambitions.
ELENA VON DARK DIVAS
25. Jan 2023
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us despite the album release stress. In early 2022, your rebirth in a completely new Xandria lineup was announced. By now, you have toured together and got your new album "The Wonders Still Awaiting" on track. How do you get along with each other?
Ambre Vourvahis: Very well! The guys are very professional, really nice, and supportive. The energy within the team is good.
How did the band and you come together?
Ambre: Marco and I already knew each other before my time with Xandria. During the band's break, we were thinking about starting a new project. Marco was already working on a few Xandria songs at that time, and he thought my voice would fit well with the new songs. He didn't want to have just classical vocals anymore. I immediately accepted his offer to become the new singer for Xandria. Together, we then started looking for other musicians. Gradually, we found the rest of our current lineup. Through recommendations and demo listenings, we found our bassist Tim and Dimitrios our drummer. We identified guitarist Rob through social media. As a guitar tutor at the Wacken Metal Academy, we were immediately convinced of his talent.
The band's history has been checkered - you were just a year old when it was founded. There have been many changes and some disagreements in the past. How does it feel to be the head of the band as the sixth frontwoman? Does it create pressure?
Ambre: At the beginning, it did stress me out a bit. Mostly because I knew that due to the band's history, fans mostly expect classical, operatic vocals. So, initially, I thought I might not be well-received. But when we recorded the album and I heard myself for the first time, I became much more confident and told myself, "The songs are epic, I hope people like them and simply accept my voice!" So far, all the feedback has been very positive, and I'm grateful for that.
You celebrated your comeback with your first single, "Reborn" – the name couldn't be more fitting. Since then, more songs have followed, including "You Will Never Be Our God," "Ghosts," and the title track of the album, giving a taste of "The Wonders Still Awaiting." Based on what criteria did you choose your single releases?
Ambre: Oh, that was a long process! (laughs) We changed the single selection many times. Also, the order of the songs. "Reborn" was a no-brainer; for us, it was like "Nightfall" 2.0 – we knew people would like it. After that, we wanted to show the fans what else we have to offer, what this new era of Xandria holds, and also what I, as the new frontwoman, can present. Growls, heavy riffs, and such things. "You Will Never Be Our God" came next because the message behind the song was very important to us. Here, the risk was greater because the song is very different from anything we've done before. Then came "Ghosts," and after that, we decided to release a somewhat quieter and magical symphonic metal song: the title track.
We've had a chance to listen to the album already. One thing to note: the depth of your music comes across perfectly, and the range of technical skills is impressive. How do you manage the balance between angelic, epic theatricality on one hand and hardness, speed, and darkness on the other?
Ambre: It's not that easy to do live, especially when you have to switch the mood not just between songs but within a single song. I must admit that I was a bit afraid at first of having to blend so many different vocal styles. But it works. When the music matches the vocal style, it usually works quite naturally, thank God. (laughs) In the studio, it's different, you have time. I can go from one vocal range to the next, and it's just cut in between.
Switching quickly from soft tones to harsh growls takes practice. Do you have a pre-stage ritual that you follow?
Ambre: I need to warm up everything. This means a few simple exercises for clean singing. Then, through humming and singing, I open up my voice for classical singing so that my head voice comes out really well. Finally, I also have to prepare for the screams and growls; otherwise, it won't work. Balancing everything is a challenge. To scream, you need tension, but tension takes away the openness you need for classical singing. It's not easy, you can't always do everything 100 percent right, especially when the body is already tired. But thank God, it's a lot about muscle memory.
In which style do you prefer to sing?
Ambre: I like the cleans and the screams the most. The screams are somehow liberating, and the clean singing suits me the best. That's me, that's my identity, and it's the easiest for me.
Ambre Vourvahis (born July 3, 1993) is a singer from Greece. She is the frontwoman of the symphonic metal band Xandria.
You studied literature and philosophy. How does that influence your work?
Ambre: A very interesting question. Certain aspects of my philosophy studies certainly help me with songwriting, especially when I ask myself, "What things can we question in our songs?" But I also like to be personal in the lyrics and pour my heart out.
You close the album with "Astéria," a song in which parts of the lyrics are in Greek. Do you feel most at home in Greece?
Ambre: Yes, I think so, even though I feel at home in Germany now too. Greece will always have a special place in my heart.
You have Greek and French roots, speak English fluently, and live in Germany. In which language do you "think" and "feel"?
Ambre: English – even though that might sound strange. My German isn't that good yet, so we actually speak English among ourselves, and I love it! English is so direct; there are words for everything, and it gets straight to the point. I really like it.
My favorite song on your new album is "My Curse is My Redemption." Which song on "The Wonders Still Awaiting" are you particularly proud of?
Ambre: We put our hearts and souls into every one of our songs, even when they are somewhat unconventional and wild. It's tough for me to choose. But let me think for a moment... "Two Worlds" - because it's so magical and epic. And "Paradise." But I'd probably tell you something completely different in two weeks; I'm always changing my mind. (laughs)
Xandria is a symphonic metal band formed in Bielefeld in 1994.
Ambre Vourvahis - Sängerin Marco Heubaum - Gitarre / Keyboard Robert Klawonn - Gitarre Tim Schwarz - Bass Dimitrios Gatsios - Schlagzeug
The first major milestone as the brand-new Xandria lineup is set with the album. How do you envision your journey continuing in the future - do you already have a vision?
Ambre: I'd love to tour more because being on stage is the best. You can perform, sing, meet people, and feel free. Also, create more, release more, and bring even more of my personality into the songs. On a personal level, I want to continue growing because I haven't reached my zenith yet. I'm still learning and want to keep refining and perfecting my techniques with my vocal coach. I'm curious to see how far I can go as a singer.