SOEN – Memorials
It is not so easy to describe SOEN‘s music. It happened more than once that my wife walked into my room while I was listening to them, and her reaction was indeed ambiguous. “How strange is this band? Who are they?” I could tell you that they remind me of Katatonia or Anathema from the last records, but it would still be a big limitation to make you understand what we are talking about. Anyway after Imperial, I never thought I would hear a record of equal if not higher level (it is very personal). I am very sorry I was not able to go to hear them in Bologna, where the sold out show was more than deserved. A name like this is coming up even in our dull (often) peninsula, and this means that we are finally paying more attention to certain groups, perhaps also accomplice to the presence of an unusual, but high-sounding tricolor name in the only collaboration on this record. We are talking about our own Elisa. Curiosity also expressed by yours truly as to how she came to this dimension so dark and metallic. Therefore, I decided to grill Cody Ford, the band’s guitarist, for a bit of trivia about the Swedish lineup in the face of the new release MEMORIAL.
“I think there are a lot of things quite different with Memorial. Joel using new vocal techniques, the introduction of faster solos, a guest vocalist, a ballad that is quite a new colour for Soen, exploring the use of new synth sounds and so on. It is definitely more in the realm of a “metal” record with some cool prog moments. It’s a good summation of where we are musically at the moment.”
The titles of your songs almost always consist of one word. Do you think this is enough to intrigue the listener or is it a system to accentuate a certain topic you want to cover?
“That’s the intention! Keep it simple, let people in and discover what the song is about themselves. Interpretation is important.”
Speaking of lyrics, do you have a common thread with this Memorial? You are always very attentive to topical, somewhat political and refined topics. What did you pay attention to this time?
“Soen will always have some common threads, such as injustice, corruption, nature and so on. With the war in Ukraine present, we really delved into the topic of war from different angles. The effects of social media, and addiction are some others.”
In the last 10 years you have played in Italy 15 times. You are therefore highly appreciated in our country I understand? And after the June concert we will meet again in September at a very short distance. What is playing in Italy for you and what connection do you have with the Italian audience?
“Some of my most memorable shows in the early days of joining Soen were in Italy. I remember Rome one year – coming out on stage and the screams of the girls were so loud I felt like we were a boy band in the 2000’s! Italian audiences are always so passionate and warm. They have an energy about them that makes every night really memorable.”
Speaking of Italian. You chose our very famous Elisa for the song Hollowed. That’s a great combination. A well-known pop singer here in Italy, but her voice fits perfectly with your music. How did you arrive at this musical marriage?
“Our tour manager is Italian and had worked with Elisa before. We were searching for the right vocalist for the track and we were glad to make the connection. Her voice fits the song perfectly – her raw emotive way of singing left us with big smiles on our faces the first time we heard it. We knew it worked right then.”
By the way. How are you viewed outside the “heavy metal” context. Have you been able to reach a more diverse audience that appreciates you despite not listening to heavy music? I think you are perfect for so many contexts by not being easily pigeonholed into any genre.
“ I think we have a pretty wide variety of listeners. We do get the “I don’t even like metal, but I really like you guys!” type of comment a lot. There are a lot of sides to Soen so there’s something for everyone to cling onto before delving into the rest. Doing the Atlantis session/record really broadened the audience as well.
So many people have referred me to names like Opeth or Tool trying to make juxtapositions to you, probably because of your early sound. What influences do you see most juxtaposable with your name today?
“Those comparisons were made in the early days of the band as you told, and it’s kind of insane that they’ve stuck around this long. Cognitive and Tellurian had Tool vibes, no doubt. But the band really started to find its essence after that. Nowadays, there’s a pretty vast cauldron of influences between the 5 of us. They all creep into the music a little bit. I think at this point we’ve created a fabric of what Soen is and we’re just excited to keep building off of that.”
I have a curiosity. Help me understand the meaning behind a video like Memorial. Who are these two characters and what is the clear message? I have an idea of my own but would like to hear the official explanation!
“Ah but interpretation is key! We love seeing what listeners get out of it and feel like spelling it out for others ruins some of the magic.”
You are the guitarist of the last 3 records. What do you think is your imprint for Soen compositionally and musically speaking?
“I’m just trying to serve the songs the best I can. I try to soak in the emotion of a song and add another 15% to it. It would seem that guitar solos have become a mainstay in the Soen sound since I joined so I’ll take that as a compliment! I really enjoy composing them.”
One more question about Imperial. On the cover are two individuals, man and woman in an aseptic, plausibly post-apocalyptic setting, wearing gas masks connected by some sort of artificial heart. What does that represent?
“You could ask all of us and you’d get a bit of a different answer. To me it signifies the poisonous dangers of the outside world and a glimpse of where we’re heading. The people and the heart represents our resiliencey through love and strength through unity.”
Artistically, it seems that the covid period was very influential for many groups, which they claim changed many ways of seeing things and approaching music. How much do you think this has affected your compositional process.
“Our compositional process became a lot more efficient and professional because we were forced to learn how to do everything remotely during covid. We all learned so much. Now we’re all savvy at recording ourselves and sharing files and working on projects while we’re at home and it really streamlines the process (and saves money in the studio!). The difference between what our demos sounded like on Lotus and Imperial is actually hilarious!”
The last space is yours, and I ask you to tell me something that has not yet been said about this album or thank those who you think have been important to you these past few years
“Our Italian fans have been important to us! You have no idea how much your support means to us, especially after these tough covid years. We always look forward to coming back, each time with a higher anticipation. Looking forward to more memorable nights with you. Let’s goooo!”