Epica: Quantum Of Solace
Dutch symphonic metallers Epica have a new opus (the follow-up to 2014’s The Quantum Enigma) and a return to Australia in the pipeline. Simone Simons tells Brendan Crabb about being a rock star who also changes nappies.
What’s the latest on the band’s next album?
It’s already being recorded, and we have all guitars, drums and I believe the piano has been recorded as well. After the Australian tour I will hit the studio together with Mark [Jansen, guitars/vocals] to do the vocals. So it’s going really fast.
Do you typically enjoy the process of creating fresh material?
For me, I guess as a singer, I’m not a composer, I don’t write the songs, so for me there’s a smaller job to do. I write half of the lyrics and vocal lines together with producers. But I can tell that from the guys that have written the songs, they are so deep into it, they want to make it perfect and they all work very closely with the producer. Guitar recording is very intense for our guitarists. The drum recordings went super smooth, because our drummer, he’s one of those little Duracell battery bunnies, he’s got energy forever [laughs]. He goes so fast, it’s amazing. I enjoy seeing everything come to life. Not just writing it but then the recording, because it will sound so much different from the demos. Then to finally have the CD in my hands with the artwork and everything, have the fans hear the new songs, it’s a very exciting, intense process.
Does being a parent nowadays alter your lyrical outlook much?
Not just lyrics, more with everything basically. Lyric-wise we often pick topics, so you have something to kind of hold on to when writing lyrics. But it did give me more inspiration as I went through a life-changing experience; being pregnant, giving birth, then becoming a mother. I guess I changed a lot myself during this whole experience. I kind of grew up really fast [laughs].
“Being pregnant, giving birth, then becoming a mother… I kind of grew up really fast.”
That must make it more difficult to head out on the road, though. Is it largely a matter of being more selective about which tours you accept?
Yes, both. It makes it harder, but I also push both more than before. Being on-stage, knowing that it is a very unusual job being a musician and being able to pay the bills by doing what you love. We do try to organise things that we are travelling more efficiently. By that I mean being away from home less; it will be more intense travelling, but therefore I’ll be home more. Our keyboard player also has two kids and it’s important to see them grow up as well. We try to find a balance, and it’s kind of a struggle sometimes.
You form a band having all these “rock star” aspirations, and at some point real life gets in the way.
It’s hard, because whenever I’m home for a long time and then I’m on tour, I feel out of place. Then when I’m home again, I’ve been doing dishes, changing diapers, grocery shopping, doing totally normal things. Then I’m standing on-stage and people are yelling our name, singing our songs. It’s a very strong contrast. It’s sometimes hard adjusting. I talk to other parents in the music scene about this as well, and they say, ‘The moment the plane lands in the territory where you have the show, then you’re a rock star. But before that, you’re a mummy or daddy or a housewife’ [laughs]. That’s funny.
On the touring front, are you likely to be road-testing any new material throughout this Australian jaunt?
No, not yet. It’s still top secret [laughs]. But we are basically still doing these Australian shows on The Quantum Enigma, which is about to be replaced by another successor. So the songs will be from The Quantum Enigma and all the other Epica records. But the seventh studio album is still top secret.
That’s understandable, because if you perform a new song live you’re effectively releasing it anyway as someone will inevitably film it and post it on YouTube.
Yeah, especially because a lot of people record with crappy cameras, and what if you have shitty sound that day, and the song doesn’t sound the way it should? When people have heard the CD then they know the songs, they will probably recognise it more and can appreciate it more for what it is supposed to sound like. But a live show, a lot of things can go wrong. If you record it with a phone and then the microphone is always distorting it, that’s not fun to spread it like that. It should be released in a special way I think.
“All the guys in the band are true metalheads, so you can definitely hear that on this record… They are definitely going to kick arse again.”
Is there anything else you can tell us about the next LP, such as a title? Or how it compares stylistically to previous releases?
The title is also still top secret; I’m very sorry to be such a pain in the butt [laughs]. But it’s definitely in the same line as The Quantum Enigma, maybe even more brutal I guess. We definitely kept the metal part very strong. It’s still very melodic, very dynamic, but overall, probably even more metal than The Quantum Enigma.
A common criticism of female-fronted heavy bands of a similar ilk to Epica seems to be that there’s plenty of focus on melody and theatrics, but not always on the actual metallic elements of the compositions. That doesn’t sound like it’ll be an issue on the next album.
No, we definitely didn’t go for the commercial route. All the guys in the band are true metalheads, so you can definitely hear that on this record… They are definitely going to kick arse again on this record.
Who are some of your primary influences as a vocalist?
I really enjoy Adele, I think she has great voice. She’s just born with this big arse voice and she can belt out anything [laughs]. And I like her personality; she’s fun, she’s very beautiful. She touches me with her voice, her melodies. I really like Imogen Heap. She’s totally not metal at all [laughs], but I just love the voice and the melodies she creates. Not all the songs of course, but I guess music is music. I fall in love with the melodies, and not with the genres.
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