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Interview with Vola (September 2015)

'Inmazes' is the title of the debut album by Danish experimental rock band VOLA. VOLA's music exists in a borderline area of rock, that is as high-flying and melodically fulfilling as it is itchy and heavy. The band forms quirky trails of distorted bass and guitars, entangling synth lines and constantly groove-driven drums that play up against wide vocal harmonies and deep-blue-textured electronica.
The Copenhagen-based quartet grew out of a common interest in eclectic, groove-oriented music which draws inspiration ranging from 70's progressive rock to modern day electronica, industrial and extreme metal. VOLA features Asger Mygind on vocals and guitar, Nicolai Mogensen on bass, Martin Werner on keyboards and Felix Ewert on drums.
'Inmazes' was released digitally worldwide on the 2nd of February 2015. The album features artwork based on a watercolor/acrylic drawing by Danish artist Anders Thrane, mix by Asger Mygind and mastering by Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studio. "Gutter Moon" is the first single of the album. The video for the song is animated by 'Sammenervilunkne', which is a new animation studio established by Anne Noerkjaer Bang and Nicolai Mogensen.

First of all, thanks to have accepted my invite; I would start asking you to give us a short presentation of your band. 

Nicolai: We are a quartet from Copenhagen who play groovy experimental rock/metal. We have been playing together in this constellation for the past five years making an EP called “Monsters” and a full length album named “Inmazes” which we released February this year. (VOLA have previously recorded the EP “Homesick machinery” but that is with different band members).

It is strange the choice of Vola as moniker: you use this word taking it from Italian (means flying) or is there something more beyond this word?

Asger: We are very fond of big soundscapes, so the idea of flying corresponded quite well to us trying to paint musical pictures that has a sense of large space. It’s a also a designation from medicine for the palm of the hand. But basically we really like the simplicity of the name in itself.

In my review I stated that your album, 'Inmazes', could be elected as summer release, due to the freshness of its melodies, what can you say about that? And what about my describing your music as a mix of Meshuggah, Devin Townsend and Raunchy? Do you agree?

Nicolai: I have never really thought about ‘Inmazes’ sounding like a summer release. But having fresh melodies is definitely something we strive for. So thank you!
We are inspired by the bands you mention, but if I had to choose three myself I would probably say that we sound like a mix of Meshuggah, Porcupine Tree and Mew.

How 'Inmazes' was born, where it was recorded, how was the studio experience? And what about the sound progression in comparison with the previous release?

Asger: 'Inmazes' was written partly at our respective home workstations and partly in collaboration. We are not really a jamming kind of band, so it was more a process of us sitting around a computer discussing and putting parts together. We recorded the drums at my parents place just outside of Copenhagen. They have a big common house that is shared between several houses, and we put the drums up in there. All the rest was recorded at my place in Copenhagen except the keys, which Martin did at his own place. Finally I mixed that album and sent it to Jens Bogren for mastering. The studio experience was very comfortable, but also a bit drawn-out due to us never having done a full length album before. I’m sure it’s gonna be a smoother process the next time.

I think 'Inmazes' carries a lot of similarities with the 'Monsters' EP in terms of songwriting, but I think we managed a more organic sound production-wise with the album. Basically we have gotten better at dialing in the sounds we hear in our heads and we are very picky in terms of getting the mood of the songs just right. 

The word 'Inmazes' gives an idea of 'images', am I wrong? What about the choice of this title? What about the lyrics? Is there any relationship between 'Inmazes' and the particular (and amazing) cover cd? Could you tell more about the man of the cover cd?

Asger: 'Inmazes' is basically a contraction of “in mazes”. The title refers to the feeling of being trapped in mental mazes. All of the lyrics deal with this entrapment in one way or another, and the point of view varies throughout the album. The drawing we used for the artwork was actually made prior to the album by an artist named Anders Thrane, but we all thought it fit well with the mood of the songs. I was puzzled by the haunting facial expression of the person in the drawing, and that fact that it looks kind of like an xray with all the visible lines inside the persons head. To me it’s threatening and welcoming at the same time, which are elements we also like to work with in the music itself.

I’m very interested in the idea of happiness and how we can get lost trying to achieve the state of mind that we think will make us happy.

I have mentioned other influences in the review of the cd: Korn style vocals in the opening track, djent a la Born of Osiris and space rock in "Starburns", Depeche Mode in "Owls" and even Massive Attack, Archive and Portishead in "Emily". Was I drunk when I wrote this or do you agree with my analysis?

Nicolai: I can see where you are coming from. I have seen quite a few people mentioning Depeche Mode when they write about us. But I don’t think that anyone of us have actually listened that much to them.
It has to be said that influences are not something we consciously think about when writing music. I think most of what we have listened to in our life so far, somehow finds a way in the music we make. Even some of the music that we listened to as children.

What should we expect in the future of Vola? Is there already new material in writing? Or any video planned?

Nicolai: We have a few ideas for future songs. But they are all still on the early demo stage and need sometime to flourish. Writing 'Inmazes' was kind of a long process. So I guess we needed some time getting inspired again. But the urge to write its starting to come back!

If everything goes as planned we are going to release a live video or two in the next couple of months. My girlfriend and I are also working on another music video for one of the songs from 'Inmazes'. So there is something to look forward to.

Any concert in this hot summer, festivals or whatever? Will be there the chance to see you in Italy one day?

Nicolai: Our next shows are going to be in Hamburg the 25nd of September, at Progpower in The Netherlands at the 2nd of October and at the Euroblast festival the 3rd of October. It’s going to be our first shows at festivals, so we are really looking forward to this.

Playing in Italy is definitely something we all want to do at some point. Hopefully sometime next year?

My last question: during my face-to-face interviews with bands in my radio show, I am used to ask the "Desert Island List": three books, three records and three movies you can’t live without, what about yours?

Nicolai: Books: 'The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear' by Walter Moers. I have read the book a bunch of times. I love the imaginative plot and writing. I am also going to choose 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel García Márquez. I’m reading this one at the moment, and I like it so far. The last book is probably going to be a book I haven’t read yet, so I have something fresh on the island.
Records: 'Ballads' by John Coltrane, 'Nothing' by Meshuggah and 'Frengers' by Mew. Then I’m pretty good covered vibe-vice.

Movies: This one is hard but 'Howl’s Moving Castle' by Hayao Miyazaki comes to mind I also love the atmosphere in 'The Prestige' by Christopher Nolan so I’m going to choose that as well. The last one is going to be 'Tale of Tales' by Yuriy Norshteyn. It’s an insanely well animated film.

Asger: Books: 'Slaughterhouse 5' by Kurt Vonnegut, 'Oracle Night' by Paul Auster, 'The Innocent' by Ian McEwan. Records: 'Catch 33' by Meshuggah, 'Deadwing' by Porcupine Tree, 'Abbey Road' by The Beatles. Movies: 'The Lives Of Others', 'Sideways', 'Big Fish'.

Thanks a lot guys, hope to meet you soon here in Italy. 

(Francesco Scarci for The Pit of the Damned)