Losing a singer in the middle of a tour is usually game over for most bands – but most bands aren’t Venues.
With their new record Solace (out August 27th on Arising Empire), the band have added a new clean vocalist and a new guitarist, while inverting some of the pop leanings of their debut in favor of a heavier evolution of their modern metal sound.
We caught up with Robin (harsh vocals) and Valentin (guitars) to talk about the new record, the ease of gigging with a Kemper, and the problem of owning “way too many guitars!”
Your original clean singer left the band in the middle of a tour following your first record, and the band found their replacement Lela in a pretty unusual way, can you tell me about that? What do you feel Lela brings to the band?
Robin: Yeah, it was pretty hard for us when our old singer left the band due to health reasons, but the rest of us really wanted to continue making music together. So we decided pretty fast to search for a new singer.
Our guitarist Constantin came up with a girl that he met on a Steel Panther show in our hometown. This girl was Lela and she actually was on stage with the band on this day and performed a song with Steel Panther where she did an awesome job on the vocals, haha. Constantin filmed her performance and connected with her after the show to send her the footage.
Later when we started searching via social media for a new singer she saw Constantin’s post and wrote to him. We invited her to a rehearsal and were blown away by her vocals. We were all very sure that we just found our new clean voice and that’s how Lela joined the band.
Lela brings a lot of ease, fun and very good vibes to the band. She’s kind of a hippie girl and being on tour with her is always a guaranteed good time! Beside that she brings some serious vocal and songwriting skills to the band.
You’ve also had a change in the guitar department, can you tell me about that? Has that changed how Venues approaches guitars at all?
Robin: When Toni (who is actually the brother of our lead guitarist Constantin) left the band due to personal reasons he wanted his best friend Valentin to join. And we were pretty happy with that idea as Valentin has been a good friend of the band for years and already played a few shows with us. After we played the first small tour with him we knew that this new set-up would work out great!
Valentin: I obviously don’t exactly know how the band operated before I joined, but I know that I got the chance to leave my footprint on the record! I definitely have a wildly different style from both Constantin and Toni (the former guitarist) and me bringing riffs and licks to the table automatically changed the way the band approaches stuff a bit.
Obviously with the various lineup changes, your new record Solace could only be different to Aspire – can you tell me about what people should expect from the record?
Valentin: It’s definitely heavier, but it’s more hopeful at the same time. It’s a lot about healing, doing what you love and it’s using the anger and heaviness to tell people that no one can tell you what to do, at least that’s what I take away from it.
Robin: Agree. It’s also a record that was written, recorded and produced during Covid and all of us had some hard times. Jobs were lost, relationships ended and we all missed playing live. The record was kind of a personal solace for everyone of us and I think you can hear this during the songs.
How did the band deal with the lockdowns in 2020? Did you guys end up spending more time on the record than you might otherwise have?
Valentin: Yeah, actually the pandemic saved our ass in a way haha… I mean not the fact that we couldn’t see each other in person for the most part, that wasn’t helpful at all!
But we weren’t as ready as we wanted to be at the first date we had booked at Sawdust Recordings. We had a few problems with different visions at first. We just needed to get used to each other, Constantin and I have very different styles and Lela is also very different compared to our former singer. There definitely was a lot of work for us to create a homogeneous record so the extra time was more than welcome!
So guitars! What did you guys use on the new record in terms of guitars/amps/pedals?
Valentin: For the rhythm parts we used a semi-custom guitar, made by Third Eye Guitars, with baritone scale and Bare Knuckle Pickups that Christoph Wieczorek (Producer) has in his studio. For the clean and lead sounds we used our stuff, my Jackson Pro MM HT 6, another Jackson I put together myself from a bunch of parts and Kostas Hagstrom Super Swede. To be honest, we didn’t use any real amps or pedals at all, we had a Kemper and a shit ton of plugins, haha.
Did you have any reference records going into the studio in terms of how you wanted the finished product to sound?
Valentin: Not really, no. We all know Christoph’s work really well, obviously from the band’s debut Aspire, which he also produced, but we’ve heard a lot of the other records Chris produced and he never released anything bad sounding ever, in my opinion! There was almost 100% trust in his ear in regards to the sound.
Are you a gear head at all? Any pieces of gear you’ve played recently that were a pleasant surprise? Anything you got to play that was disappointing?
Valentin: Oh yeah, I definitely own way too many guitars haha. Also I have a very basic but ever growing home studio.
I recently got the Neural DSP Archetype: Nolly plugin which totally slaps! Not really a surprise because… Nolly (Producer/Bass player for Periphery), but it’s just amazing in every way!
And because I don’t really like the sound of the Green scream (Kemper’s Tube Screamer) I started to experiment with pedals a bit again, which I kinda set aside when I got my first modeling amp.
And with that I divorced the MXR Dynacomp (compressor pedal), which is unbelievable, especially for single coils!!
In terms of disappointing stuff the only thing that comes to mind are Schecter Guitars, I don’t know but they just don’t feel right for me, which is super frustrating because I love the aesthetics and the components used in these guitars!
Is there any one piece of gear that you couldn’t do without? Anything that’s integral to your sound?
Valentin: I wouldn’t say integral to my sound, because I very much still try to find out what that is, but integral to my well being on stage, definitely the Kemper! Since I got this thing, gigs just got easier. I don’t need to worry about really anything but my guitars, the Kemper is always set up with my wireless, just plug in the power and the foot switch and you are ready to go! I could probably do it with something else, but I would be super stressed out, haha!
A lot of guitarists are embracing modelling and profiling amps these days, especially due to making fly in gigs much easier. What’s your take on digital amps and effects?
Valentin: I pretty much already answered that, haven’t I? Haha.
Yeah, I love to live in a time where digital stuff is good enough! It just makes life so much easier, you save every little cool sound as a pre-set and there you have it, exactly sounding the same, basically forever!
With a real amp you spend half the time turning knobs to get a good sound because they always sound different every time you turn them on and as soon as the gig starts someone kicks the mic in front of my cab and everything sounds shit anyway, haha!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a tube amp at home, with time and a space where I know the cab sounds good, but in a stressful change up with tons of people running in every direction on stage, I really don’t want to deal with a real amp anymore!
For someone who’s just discovering your band and wants to hear more music that sounds like you, what bands would you suggest they start with?
Robin: Tough question as we always have a hard time comparing our music or at least defining our genre. I think I’d recommend listening to Bury Tomorrow, Annisokay, Landmvrks, Spiritbox, Jinjer and In This Moment.
If someone maybe wasn’t familiar with you guys but wanted to learn to play one of your songs, where would you suggest they start? Any riffs/licks/passages in particular that are fun to play, or maybe challenging but rewarding for more advanced players?
Valentin: For beginners I would recommend checking the songs from Aspire you like the most, the whole album is more rock related and overall really fun to play! Not that the second record isn’t, but there are more parts that require a bit more practice. Nothing super technical, we are not that kind of band, but it’s overall a bit faster and definitely more metal related. I find “Whydah Gally” and “Mountains” to be especially fun to play!
What’s up next for the band? Any new material in the works? Any post-rona plans?
Robin: Luckily, Covid seems to be getting weaker over here right now so we just started to play some festivals again (special corona editions though) which is absolutely awesome! During the next few weeks we’ll play a big festival in Russia, in Czech Republic and two big ones in Germany. We can’t wait to hit the stage again and really looking forward to this! We hopefully will also play a tour in early 2022 without any covid restrictions.
On top of that we’re already working on new material and will soon plan to record the next singles.