Hailing from Pennsylvania in the USA, Vindensång
are a definitely not an average metal band. Blending influences from a range of styles, Vindensång create beautifully crafted music that combines ambient with black metal and post rock. After two free-to-download EPs, they released their first album late in 2008. The album impressed me a great deal, so when I had the opportunity to conduct an interview, Vindensång were the first band that came to mind. I approached Vindensång's founder, Jeffrey Neblock, and fortunately he agreed.
M: Hi, and thanks for agreeing to this interview. To start with, how would you describe Vindensång to somebody not familiar with the band?
J: Vindensång is the aggregate of a wide spectrum of influence, but the sound is more focused in the areas of ambience and soundscapes. With this in mind, I tend to describe the sound as "Ambient-Rock", although this tag doesn't fully cover the array of influences that are coming together in the music. The primary influences range from Ambient, Neofolk / Folk, and Post-Rock, to genres like Black-Metal and the like, while still incorporating influence from much more than just those genres. The older material shows much influence from Ambient, while the new material demonstrates what I affectionately call "Soundscape-Metal", where vast, sprawling ambient soundscapes meet the aggression and power of metal- something largely unexplored in both the world of ambient music, and the metal scene.
M: When you started Vindensång, did you have any particular goal in mind? If so, has this changed as you've progressed with the group?
J: I didn’t have any significant or long-term goals in mind when I formed Vindensång; however, and perhaps more importantly, I was simply consumed with the overwhelming desire to create and to express myself creatively. When I started the band, I was fifteen years old, and working in the basement of my parents' house. If you would have asked me to predict all of what has happened between the formation of the band and the present, I would have had no clue what to tell you or what to expect. I really didn't have much as far as equipment is concerned, but I would experiment with synth programs for hours on my computer, and eventually my experimentation turned into pieces of songs, which later grew into full pieces. However, after I had reached that point, the goals began to appear, and I've let them take me to the point that I'm at today. Now, the band and the music that we create are driven by goals that we've set- primarily, we strive to reproduce and capture atmosphere and emotion in our music, while blurring the lines between an infinite array of various genres. Secondly, we strive to preserve spirituality in music- not religious music, but rather music with spirit and music for the spirit.
M: With ambient and neofolk styles, I have always found it easier to pick up on non-musical influences, when compared to other musical genres. I guess this is a result of the abstract nature of the music. What do you find inspires you? Have there been any main influences, either musical or non-musical, that have been instrumental to how you create music?
J: As I've stated before, the spectrum of influence for Vindensång is nearly infinite, and that includes the array of non-musical influences that find there way into the music. A lot of the non-musical influence for this project is from the natural world, and this natural influence includes all aspects of the earth and also includes space and the cosmos. One particular instance of this influence is in the way that I capture and manipulate what I call "natural drones", which can be found almost anywhere in nature, but often require manipulation to draw out the resonant and droning qualities in these sounds. For example: one of the particular sounds that I've turned into a "natural drone" is the sound of a waterfall; after making the field recording, I edited the sample and applied a low-pass filter, various other equalization, reverb, and, lastly, used a time-warp tool on the sample to produce some of the ambience that you can hear in the track "Return my Flesh and Bones to the Earth" on "Terminus...". This is just one of the many different ways that "natural drones" can be made, and they can be made from nearly anything. Other influence simply comes from my admiration for the natural world, and my attempts to try to replicate various aspects of nature in the form of music. Lastly, I'd like to cover another important area of influence; with the ambient nature of my music, I am always trying to include new and obscure influences into the music, but mainly focus on interpreting and capturing new concepts, places, and emotions through music. It's basically as if I'm using the music as a lens through which these concepts, places, and emotions become visible, or in this case, audible.
M: I've noticed that you recently recruited a new member into Vindensång. Had you always been looking for extra musicians? Also, how has this impacted how new music is written, if at all?
J: Initially, I experimented with attempting to incorporate other members into the band, but I was consistently disappointed in working with other musicians. However, I've been working with D. Hussar for a long time, and he contributed a significant portion of session work to "Terminus...". After that album was released, and we performed together at the CD release party, we discussed the possibility of simply writing all of the music together, and he eventually decided to join the band in the winter of last year. Now that he's a permanent member of the band, we are writing all of the songs together, and each contributing half of the work. I suppose that the initial problem wasn't that I couldn't work with other musicians, but rather that I hadn't found the right ones to work with.
M: On that note, could you describe your writing process a little?
J: My writing process is fairly straightforward for the most part. I normally take a melody, and either expand or simplify it to suit the purposes of the song. "Terminus..." involved more subtle and evolving melodies, which are created by slowing incorporating new parts to existing melodies and layering them on top of one another, but the new material that we're currently writing is taking a slightly different approach to our writing style. For the new material we're infusing those "Terminus-esque" structures that slowly evolve with more prominent and structured parts to create evolving soundscapes that are, with any luck, much more powerful without losing the organic qualities that "Terminus..." had. I suppose the most important part of the writing process is getting myself in the right "mindset" for writing music. This can involve anything from meditation to creating a similar atmosphere in my writing space- for example, if I'm writing about fire, I'd gather as many items around me that produce those feelings in me. It's all about the atmosphere you immerse yourself into during the writing process.
M: You recently released your début album, 'Terminus: Rebirth in Eight Parts...'. As a first full-length release, its maturity is impressive, especially considering the mixture of styles that have been employed. There's everything from field recordings to atmospheric black metal in there. Was it a difficult album to make? How do you feel about it now that it's finished and available to the public?
J: I feel very relieved to have that album finished, and also very accomplished as well. It was a tremendously difficult album to create for numerous reasons, the first of which being the fact that when I started the album I had significantly less songwriting experience, and was trying to wrap my head around a good way to capture the concepts and sounds that I had imagined for the album. The most difficult part of writing "Terminus..." was perhaps the abstract nature of the album, and the sheer volume of influence. I spent a great deal of time simply searching for a comprehensible way to work out everything that I had hoped to do. Altogether, the album took me just about three years to write, record, mix, master, and have released, but it was absolutely worth all of the time and effort. Now that it has been released, the reaction has been almost universally good- it has been well accepted by many different fans of various genres, and in all sorts of "scenes". It was important to me that I make the début album of this complexity and nature because it represents the scope of all the things that I'd like to do with the project more accurately than a half-decent début like some bands release. Lastly, the writing and recording process for "Terminus..." was especially painful for me; given the amount of energy and emotion that I had invested in the album, it was very cathartic to finish it and move on. It was almost as if the album captured an entire stage of my life, and once it was finished I could move on, both in my music, and my life.
M: At the release party for 'Terminus: Rebirth in Eight Parts...' you played a live set. How do you feel your music translates as a live experience? Do you plan on doing more live shows?
J: With the proper equipment and preparation the music can translate well as a live act. As we did with the release party, our live sets often involve other sensory elements such as visual cues to accompany the music and to intensify the experience as a whole. For the release party, we had prepared an entire film to compliment the music as we played, but for future live performances we will not limit the sensory stimulation to music and visual, but rather we will add in other sensory cues such as scents to really complete the whole experience. We definitely plan to start doing more shows in the near future though, and instead of a more stripped down two-man set (like the release party) we will have a whole five-piece band for these performances.
M: Lyrically, 'Terminus...' deals with the cyclical nature of life, and transcendence. Would you say you are a spiritual person? If yes, do you find it plays an important part in how you create music?
J: I am a highly spiritual person, and I find that it plays a very important role in the music that I make; however, I don't try to make my music overtly spiritual, but rather I try to have the music subtly resonate some of the beliefs that I hold. This makes it more palatable for a wide range of fans, and also for those who appreciate music that is made with a careful attention to detail and the world around them. The music mainly embodies my belief that the natural world should be held as something sacred, and the music also contains many other metaphysical qualities that make it "spiritual". It's that I am going out of my way to create spiritual music as much as it is that I am making music that happens to embody my own spiritual beliefs.
M: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think 'Terminus...' also deals quite strongly with the concept and nature of death. Although this subject matter is often considered clichéd, I always find it interesting to see how it's portrayed in art and music. Was death a deliberate concept for this album? If so, how did you decide to approach it?
J: The cyclical nature of life and death was a deliberate concept for the album, and I decided to take a more balanced, and less clichéd approach to applying it. Most of the music that I've come across that deals with either life or death in any manner tends to favor one over the other, or at least not accurately represent that both life and death are equal parts of a whole- or better yet, that they are one in the same. My approach to covering the topic was more metaphysical and more of an Eastern approach to viewing life and death. The album isn't meant to fixate on death as many might think that an album about dying might, but rather it was meant to serve as a guidebook for living properly in order to come to terms with the ultimate realization and nature of death. I had been reading heavily into The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and it's American reinterpretative counterpart, The American Book of the Dead, while working on "Terminus...", and I'd like to think that it serves a similar purpose as both of those works do- to prepare the listener for death, and to ready them for passage into whatever is next in store for us after dying.
M: Previous to 'Terminus...', you've released two EPs that have been available free to download. What are your feelings on the role of the Internet in distributing music, and how do you feel this affects you as an artist?
J: I feel that the internet has both aided and hindered my progress as a musician. In many aspects, I wouldn't be nearly as successful as I am now without help from networking sites and the internet, but the availability of free downloads makes selling legitimate albums much more difficult at times. However, the benefits of the internet seem to outweigh the negative aspects for me at this point. Recently, "Terminus..." leaked to the internet, and because of the leak the fanbase has grown significantly, and I have sold more albums because of it. With all that being said, I plan to strategically employ the use of free downloads for certain releases to help build the fanbase, and also employ the use of simultaneous downloadable / purchasable releases in the future. I suppose that if the times are changing for musicians and the way that music is obtained / listened to, we might as well change with them!
M: These two EPs: 'Themes of Snow and Sorrow' and 'The Descent of Man' are both rooted in quite varying styles, with the former being a strictly ambient work and the latter containing strong elements of martial industrial. Despite being so different, neither sounds out of place next to the other or 'Terminus...'. Do you think the underlying ideas behind your work lend themselves to being interpreted in many different styles? Is this something you have to work hard on, or is it more of a natural process?
J: I think that it's important that the music suits the topic that we're dealing with, and that means that the styles will be constantly adapting and changing. While certain aspects of each album will seem drastically different in comparison to one another, there will always be common elements that each album will contain- mainly the soundscaping aspects of the music. With each new album we're trying to find different ways to give life to the music and create soundscapes that constantly evolve. While it takes a certain amount of work to figure out which style(s) would suit a particular idea best, it is, for the most part, natural. Once the idea comes to mind, the rest usually just "falls into place".
M: You have also contributed a song called 'The Reaper and the Seed' to the 'Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer' compilation, which also features -- among others -- groups such as Agalloch
, and October Falls
. How did your involvement with this project come about?
J: My involvement with the 'Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer' compilation came about due to my friendship and communication with the organizer of the compilation. He had taken an interest in Vindensång from the start, and had purchased the demo album. When he organized the project, I was one of the first to be contacted, and also one of the first to commit to contribute to the compilation. I don't need to explain how good of an opportunity it is to be included on the album with such class acts; it will probably do wonders for our fanbase.
M: 'The Reaper and the Seed' sounds quite distinct from the music on 'Terminus...', with a strong element of neofolk. Is this a direction you're planning on taking further?
J: There is always the possibility of adding more elements of neofolk into the music, however, I don't see the band fully taking a turn toward the "realms" of neofolk. Given that folk and neofolk are great influences to me, there will always some elements in the music though. I do plan to explore more of folk and neofolk in a new project that I plan to create, which is tentatively called "They Shall Have Stars". In this project I'll embrace a more straight forward singer-songwriter type of sound, with various other influences. In this project I can also focus more on "everyday life" themes, as opposed to the lofty concepts that I seem to cover with Vindensång; it should be a refreshing change of pace, and a perfect compliment to my other works with Vindensång.
M: So, what's in store next for Vindensång?
J: The two of us will be working on writing new material for the next few months, and then we'll be in and out of the studio for several more months after that. We plan to be all finished with this new album in time for release in Summer 2010. After that EP is released, we'll probably focus on performing live for a short period of time before returning to working on the next full-length.
M: Well, thank you very much for your time. Any parting thoughts or messages?
J: Thank you for taking the time to interview me, and for supporting my musical endeavours. I'm very much looking forward to the chance of doing another interview with you in the future! Your questions were all very poignant and quite engaging. Also, expect updates regarding new Vindensång material in the near future. Ad astra per aspera!
Official Vindensång website: http://www.myspace.com/vindensang