"It's the beginning of a new era"

Fabienne Erni and Jonas Wolf about how they have given Illumishade a new lease of life despite their commitments to Eluveitie, how to emerge stronger from band turbulence - and whether US fans will be able to enjoy swissgerman songs.

Florian Dünser

FLORIAN DÜNSER

16. Feb 2024

Illumishade
Fabienne Erni
Image

Fabienne, how does it feel to be sending your Master's thesis into extra time - and now to be releasing the second album with your band Illumishade, which grew out of a school project?

Fabienne: It's a bit crazy. I think we've only really realised it since this year, because we've been on tour with Illumishade for the first time. Even though we've played a few shows before, it has a different quality now. And I can tell you: it feels very good. (laughs)

As an outsider, you ask yourself: How do you manage to reconcile two bands? Especially as one of them is Eluveitie - and therefore the most successful live band in Switzerland.

Jonas: I don't know. (laughs) It's going to be fun.

Fabienne: It will be easy to combine this year, as Eluveitie are more into writing music this year - and Illumishade are more into live shows. So they complement each other quite well. After that it will certainly be a bit tricky, as Eluveitie will also be more active live again. And hopefully Illumishade will continue to do so. We'll have to juggle a bit more - but with good communication, we'll manage. We're not the first people in an established band to form another one.

Illumishade, Fabienne Erni

Illumishade

Illumishade is a modern metal band from Switzerland. The band was founded in 2019 by Fabienne Erni, who is also the front woman of the folk metal band Eluveitie.

Members

Fabienne Erni - Vocals Jonas Wolf - Guitars Mirjam Skal - Orchestration / Synths Yannick Urbanszik - Bass Marc Friedrich - Drums

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Speaking of touring: You've just returned from your tour with Delain, in April you'll be travelling to North America with Korpiklaani and Visions of Atlantis. Many musicians talk about a love-hate relationship with touring. How do you feel about it?

Jonas: Only people who are old or have families say that. (Fabienne laughs) Neither of those apply to us. So we are still looking forward to touring.

Fabienne: And it's also a different kind of touring for us. Illumishade is a different band, we have different fans than Eluveitie. We are also the first of three bands on stage - with Eluveitie it's usually the other way round. We're gaining a lot of new experiences now. In any case, I'm really looking forward to America.

You've already played songs from your new album live on your tour with Delain. How were the fans' reactions?

Fabienne: Very good. Especially with 'Cloudreader' - I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went down live.

"Another Side of You" is your second album. You are taking a more modern approach, if you like, than on your first album. Was this a conscious decision - or a logical consequence of the four-year gap in between?

Jonas: I think you can also see the development of the band within the album. There are songs on it that were written at a time when we didn't know whether they would ever appear on an album or remain standalone singles. There are even two more on the vinyl release, including their overture. We also wanted to give all these songs a physical release because we felt it would have been a shame if certain songs had only been available online. So the album is a kind of "anything goes" collection.

When you write an album over a longer period of time, as you did with "Another Side of You", is the judgement on songs that were written at a certain distance in time different today - or does it still all come together coherently?

Jonas: I think everything is very coherent. The result is exactly what we wanted. The idea was never to make a concept album - neither lyrically nor musically. "Alles geht" was and is the programme. It's an album that all the band members had an influence on. That was a conscious decision - and that's the best thing about it. As a result, the album has become extremely diverse. Something I miss in many bands. The courage to not just want to serve a certain genre.

Musically, you're travelling on completely different paths than with Eluveitie. You describe your music as modern metal, but you also have symphonic, cinematic and pop influences. Some people even describe you as musical metal. We don't have to think in pigeonholes - but how would you sum up what makes you special, what characterises you?

Fabienne: The creative output unites us. There is room for all the ideas and different influences of the band members. We all really appreciate that.

Image of Diva

Fabienne Erni

Fabienne Erni (born March 11, 1993) is a Swiss singer and has been the lead singer of the folk metal band Eluveitie since 2016. Eluveitie comes from the Celtic word Helvetios, the Helvetians. Fabienne completed her master’s degree in pop singing at the Zurich University of the Arts in 2019.

Switzerland

Nationality

Switzerland

Residence

11. Mar 1993

Birthday

There are already three ballads on your debut album - and as a metal band, you don't shy away from very calm tones on "Another Side Of You" with "Fairytale" or "Verliebt", for example. Fabienne, you've already revealed in an interview that you love singing ballads. Is this a purely musical preference - or do you have a romantic streak?

Jonas: The songs all come from Fabi, that's her terrain. But you're not really romantic at all.

Fabienne: (laughs) You're probably right. There are also love songs for the first time, we didn't have that on the first album. Personally, I just love singing ballads. The lyrics - I can live with that. (everyone laughs) I like the part where I can compose melodies and harmonies. And I have the feeling that if you're not a totally accomplished pianist, a ballad comes out quicker than a fast uptempo song when you're jamming. However, we also have a few songs that were piano ballads in the demo, but were then developed differently as a band and totally transformed. That's an exciting process.

Speaking of "Verliebt": Will your US fans get to hear the Swiss-German song live?

Jonas: You mean the Swedish song. (laughs) The Americans like to confuse Switzerland with Sweden. Actually, we should do that, it's a good idea. Then you'll have the exotic bonus.

Fabienne: I wouldn't have thought that there would be room for it on the setlist, as we have a very limited amount of time on stage. But if we could play it for longer, I'd think it would be really cool because it stands out. Realistically, the song will probably be left out. But Jonas, I'm open to that. (laughs)

Jonas: Maybe as a special somewhere.

Most metal bands from German-speaking countries shy away from singing in German - let alone dialect. Is this due to the fear of not being recognised internationally otherwise?

Fabienne: That's a good question. Somehow it just happens that way. I felt like singing in another language now. We've already had experience of this with Eluveitie. And it just goes down well. When I did this feature with Feuerschwanz, the reactions were very positive - even from Americans who said: 'I don't understand a word, but I think it's great'. But I think it also has to do with the frequency. A few songs fit well. But if Illumishade only sang in German, it would probably be difficult.

Jonas: I've now started learning Japanese on Duolingo. My goal is to write a song in Japanese. But that will probably take some time. Maybe with the twentieth album.

How did the collaboration with Epica keyboardist Coen Janssen come about?

Fabienne: We know Epica from various shows and festivals. Jonas has a very good connection to the guys there. The 'Verliebt' demo is already quite old, from 2017. I played the song to the band and we then decided that it had to be on the album. However, we then thought that it would be good if there was a 'real' pianist on the song who could also add his own touch. Then it was somehow clear to us that it should be Coen, as we also really appreciate him as a musician. And I think he took the song to another level.

If you were both pinned down: what is your highlight on the new album?

Long silence

Jonas: I have a really bad connection here. (all laugh)

Fabienne: Yes, Jonas. For sure. (laughs) But I also find it difficult to emphasise a highlight.

Jonas: My highlight is that this album saw the light of day at all. The story of its creation also includes band turbulence and moments when we didn't know whether we could manage it all. And when you hold the vinyl in your hands because it's turned out so beautifully, that's a special moment. And it will be a huge boost for us for what's to come. It's a kind of beginning of a new era.

The band turbulence you mentioned: was this triggered by the pandemic?

Jonas: I wouldn't relate it to the pandemic. On the one hand, the question kept coming up: are we a side project or a studio project, because Eluveitie absolutely rightly demands a commitment. And on the other hand, the turbulence was also due to the individual search for a place in the band. For me, the last phase in the development process was like a moment of clarity. We found ourselves as a band there.

And your highlight, Fabienne?

Fabienne: I can subscribe to what Jonas said. It's like I mentioned before: Illumishade feels more like a band now because we can also play live. That's certainly one of the highlights of this album. We can really step on the gas on stage now. That's hugely important for everyone.

Fabienne, you studied music - and most of your former fellow students at the Zurich University of the Arts will be more at home in classical music or jazz. As the front woman of two metal bands, were you perceived as a kind of "foreign body"?

Fabienne: You can study pop in Zurich. That's a different world. But it's true that metal isn't very widespread there. So I certainly stood out a bit there. It was a special time for me. I finished my bachelor's degree and I was already in Eluveitie. I then studied for another two years, but at the same time I was on tour in America, Australia and China. The headmaster was really supportive and said: 'If you're not there, then that's the way it is - at the end of the day, it's about making music. If you have this chance, then go. And of course that made things easier for me and made it possible for me to complete my Master's degree in the first place. And ultimately also the founding of Illumishade.

What's next for Illumishade after the North American tour? Will Illumishade remain a side project - or do you see potential for more?

Fabienne: That remains to be seen. After the Delain tour, we're all really excited and I think that Illumishade has now taken on a big place for everyone in the band. We're playing live, also at festivals, we have something cool to announce in autumn, we're even talking about the third album - we'll get a little closer to that in the summer. I think it's still too early to say whether it will become a second mainstay. It's best if we talk again in a year's time and see what happens then. (laughs) But it's clear to us that it will continue.

Fabienne, Jonas: Thank you very much for your time and all the best for the release of "Another Side of You".

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