Interview with... Carmen Elise Espenæs - MIDNATTSOL

CHRIS STONES

 

In the frozen north something angelic stirs. She has slept through many long winters but her spirit has been awake - waiting for the moment of return. With the memories of a thousand stories told and the power of a thousand songs sung, the siren calls again as the symphonic power of MIDNATTSOL can be again heard across sea and land.

 

Bands come and go. In an industry where money is king and the record company monarchy relies on TV talent, only those with the commitment, resilience and true musical talent can step back from the industry only to reappear stronger than ever. One such band are Midnattsol who are respectful of the people who listen to their music but understand that the priorities in life lie at home.

 

Fans will have wondered where the band had gone in recent years but they had simply taken a break to focus on their personal lives. We were fortunate to speak with front-woman Carmen Elise Espenæs whilst she was enjoying the snow in Norway with some of her school pupils and she explained, “We never ended the band. It was just a bit on ice. We were writing a lot of songs and we had so many ideas, melodies and songs but we couldn’t 100% finish them together and things went very slowly. One of the reasons was we were getting children (laughs) and some were moving to different places and getting new jobs. Lots of things happened in our private lives. Of course small children need their parents and take some time.”

The band’s debut album ‘Where Twilight Dwells’ was released in 2005 when the band had been together for two or three years and that early work set the tone for Midnattsol’s unique Nordic folk metal sound. That style has been woven like a golden thread through 2 further works before appearing again in the new material features on new album ‘The Aftermath’.

The band has enjoyed a number of personnel changes throughout its journey and now consists Carmen Elise Espenæs (vocals), Liv Kristine Espenæs (vocals), Alex Kautz (guitar), Daniel Fischer (keys) and Stephan Adolph (bass).

 

The addition of Liv Kristine (Carmen’s sister) to the already accomplished line-up has added another dimension to their established sound. LK brings significant experience and a second dynamic in vocal style that she has honed through her significant career performing as a solo artist and also singing with THEATRE OF TRAGEDY and LEAVES’ EYES. Carmen explained the chance call she received from her sister, “I couldn’t believe it and it wasn’t planned like this. I knew that she was supposed to sing on one or two songs because she has done that with my other band SAVN, and I have also sung with LEAVES’ EYES a couple of times so that’s not new to us. But I was standing in the shower and suddenly my children came running saying aunt Liv is on the phone on Facetime. She wants to tell you something. I was like “Get out - I’m showering”. While I was in the shower she said “Carmen, can I join Midnattsol?” I was like “What, really?” Of course I said “Yes.” She had heard the new songs and fell in love with them.”

 

The style and genre of the new line-up spans a number of influences beyond folk metal and that breadth of feel and the song writing process was explained by Carmen, “One song could be more old metal and another song you hear is very much folk influenced. The different band members are writing different songs and you can hear the different influences. Because we are living in two different countries (Germany and Norway), we have to write songs through media, IT and social media. We are talking together on messenger every day, sometimes like hundreds of messages (laughs). We are recording things at home and sending it around. We are also meeting - especially the ones living in Germany. It’s fantastic how you can do this today - even if you don’t see all the band members, you can still write a song together.”

 

That communication spanning the north of Europe has clearly not been a barrier and the band have wasted no time in the creative process and new material is being slowly revealed on YouTube and other platforms to whet the fans’ appetite. Carmen spoke about the new tracks that are already being heard, “My absolute favourite is a song ‘Forsaken’. It’s a little teaser and you’re hearing the end of the song. That’s my absolute favourite. We have also released a music video ‘The Purple Sky’ and also a video for our cover of ‘Herr Mannelig’ - a Swedish folk song. It’s nine minutes long. And there will be another song for the fans to hear. I hope that the fans will like what they hear after so many years waiting. We’re really excited to hear what the people think - Does the album fulfil their expectations?”

The album contains another folk song that suggests a traditional duty that the band holds dear in their wish to celebrate history. Carmen described one such song, “There’s another folk song. ‘Vem Kan Segla’ - A folk song that people haven’t heard already that is a very traditional song here in Norway that I grew up with. I have sung it since I was a little child and I wanted to have it on an album for such a long time but the band members didn’t quite understand what I wanted with it and we didn’t make it. I said I really don’t want to give it up as I love the song and it means so much to me and this time it worked out. I showed it to my children and let them sing along because I think it’s important to pass it on to new generations so it’s not forgotten”.

 

The band’s fanbase is something that is intriguing given the Nordic slant to their material. Carmen recently appeared on a live Facebook stream but had been cautioned by her record company that it may be quiet on the uptake but the opposite was true. Fans from as far afield as Bolivia and Mexico poured onto the feed and commented on their love of the band (and Carmen) and urged her to cross the Atlantic on tour. This was a humbling experience for the front woman but without doubt indicates the strength of the material and the quality of the band.

 

The question of hearing the band live again is one the fans repeated across Europe too and Carmen confirmed that ‘The Aftermath’ is released on 25th May on Napalm Records and the band will be launching the album that night at R'n'P in Wiesloch, Germany where they will be supported by CORONATUS and DEATHTINY.

The under-riding feel is that Midnattsol have a fire in their belly and the prospect of even more new songs being written and future live shows is an exciting prospect for the patient fans. The respect that Midnattsol has for those who have waited is palpable and there is no doubt that will be rewarded in the new album.

 

Check the band out at the following links:

Website: www.midnattsol.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Midnattsol.Official/
Twitter: @Midnattsol_Band

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MidnattsolBand

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