We had the honour to have a chat with Fabienne Erni, singer and harpist from Eluveitie as well as singer and pianist from Illumishade, talking about the behind the scenes of a busy summer of comeback to live music, the upcoming new material from Eluveitie as well as the beginning of a new chapter with Illumishade. Fabienne also shared with us her experience with starting Patreon during the pandemic period and the development of her collaboration with Anotherkind, together with many other interesting topics around her musical career…
Hi Fabi! Thank you so much for your time and availability. It is a great pleasure to have you here with us today and we are really delighted to have the chance to talk with you about all your projects. But first of all, let me ask you how are you doing and how has your summer been.
Thank you so much for having me! I am really excited for things to come now as we are finally a little bit more back to normal! I am enthusiastic for the tour that is ahead, the first real tour after this corona time! I just can’t describe how much excited I am to finally tour after almost 3 years since our last real tour that we did in fall 2019 with Lacuna Coil and Infected Rain… it’s crazy! So now it is really time to go back on the road! (laughs). Summer has been very nice! We played some really cool and unforgettable festivals like Hellfest for example, where we had also the live stream for our set. It was really exciting as you know that when you play, not only the already huge amount of people at the festival can see you, but also everyone else online as well! Hellfest was really special for me because last time Eluveitie played this festival I wasn’t there yet, so it was the first time for me. The whole location and everything the organization sets up for this one of a kind festival is absolutely incredible! The cure for every detail really makes Hellfest special. It was very nice to be back at these festivals again in general, especially that I could meet friends and bands that I haven’t met for more than 2 years! The whole summer feeling with festivals was very nice. I think everybody appreciates it more now, we don’t take it for granted anymore that these things are happening right? That’s a nice aftereffect of this difficult period I would say.
It is very true! Also from a crowd point of view I have to say that everyone was particularly happy to come back to these types of events. Everyone wanted to be at the front row and everyone wanted to attend as many concerts as possible as we have all missed them so badly! Everyone sharing the same passion again after more than 2 years was the best feeling!
You have played with Eluveitie a huge number of shows this summer, mainly festivals but also some headliner shows together with Epica and Ad Infinitum. Even if Eluveitie was among the few bands that managed to play at some gigs also during summer 2021, this year finally marked the definite return to regular live music shows for Eluveitie as well. How was it to come back to a full summer of live shows again after more than 2 years?
We had quite a full June but July and August were quiter I have to say. I was happy to see on social media for example that some friends from other bands were very active in July and August as well. Just knowing that all these festivals were happening again, even if we were not playing some of them, such like Wacken, Summer Breeze and all the smaller festivals as well, was a nice feeling! In June we really had an intense period of shows and it was very cool because we were in the nightliner, with the whole Eluveitie family again, we had our own routine and we were feeling that we were getting back to shape, because also last year, when we played a few festivals like you said, I felt a little bit out of shape when I was singing… and I think and every musician can relate to that a little bit. You get excited again, you get a little nervous again before the set because it’s not routine anymore… now I think that we will be able to do good rehearsals before the tour but it’s only after a real tour that you know all the songs, you know what to do, you know what to expect and that everything come back in the body again. But if you don’t play for more than a year, and you come back all together after such a long time, it’s not easy at the beginning… I remember when we played our first show after pandemic last year, it was at Alcatraz Festival in Belgium… you go from nothing in one and a half year to Alcatraz, which is a big festival that was being broadcasted in live streaming as well… everybody was nervous because it was a huge comeback to live shows!
I can imagine! Not having smaller gigs to prepare more in confidence for such a big event after a long time must have been really challenging!
On June 2nd you have released a new song with Eluveitie called “Aidus”, which is the first new song Eluveitie has released since the huge success of the previous album Ategnatos. This song is extremely heavy and very powerful, both from a musical point view and the lyrics as well, combining a Celtic Gaulish kids choir with your stunning vocals together with Chrigel’s growls. Can you guide us through the meaning of this song and what’s the message behind it?
Sure! First of all, I can say that there is a lyric video that Chrichel did that I can recommend to anyone who would be interested in understanding this Gaulish kids choir and learn what it is about. In the end, it’s all about gathering together as a generation and making our way through whatever happens as we are the change and the change to come. It is like an awakening. We wake up and we change whatever happened, as now it is the time where we come together as a pagan generation and we make a change.
The music video that you have released together with the song is impressive as well, with stunning costumes, an amazing location in nature and a very suggestive black & white effect. Can you tell us where have you recorded this video and how you guys worked together to achieve this amazing result?
That was something! It was recorded in a period where we still had corona restrictions and we even had to postpone it at some point because we were not allowed to have so many people in the same place, and we really needed a lot of people involved because of the concept of the song! In fact, we really had a lot of people coming together in this video, especially at the end of the song where we all walk in the same direction. It was a huge challenge to do such a video during these times. Not only to find a date where everybody was available but also to make it possible with all the restrictions. We had a really cool team of makeup and stylists. They were so quick in the preparations and so professional! They did all the creations for the costumes as well, with all the amazing ideas that Chrigel and Matteo had. They are both so creative! It was really cool what they managed to do, and it was really a crazy job that had to be done in a very short time! It was recorded in Germany, we had outside shots for all the parts related to nature and all the performance parts were shot in studio, just with the band. So there, there was less people to manage, but as you know there’s 9 people in the band so it’s always intense! (laughs). That’s where I did also the scene with the blood in my eyes, but everything else was in nature, in the middle of the forest in Germany.
Is this a song that anticipates a forthcoming new album? If yes, can you tell us already something about it regarding the musical style of this album compared to Ategnatos? Can you potentially tell us also when can we expect this album to come out as well?
There’s definitely stuff in the making that is coming… in the near future I would say. As you can imagine, I can’t tell you much but for sure there are sessions in the making… songwriting sessions and stuff… it’s definitely coming… very soon you will be able to hear new things… there’s stuff happening for sure, this I can promise you!
That’s very interesting! We definitely can’t wait for it!
May I ask you only if it is going to be a mix of Celtic Gaulish and English lyircs like Ategnatos or is it going to be a more Celtic Gaulish language oriented record like Evocation II: Pantheon?
I can’t really answer this at the moment… not because I am not allowed to say it, but just because it is not totally defined yet… but my feeling is that there will be a lot of English lyrics with just the right amount of Gaulish… not only Gaulish like in the Evocation II: Pantheon album. I feel like it’s going to be similar to the “Aidus” single in terms of language of the lyrics, with this little amount of Gaulish that is always needed in Eluveitie songs… but at the same time, everything is still open and not totally defined.
I totally understand that Gaulish parts have to be there, it wouldn’t be an Eluveitie album without them… it is really one of the gems of Eluveitie’s songwriting technique and what makes your band extremely particular, I love it!
In fact, one thing that has always amazed me, is the fact that when you and Chrigel sing in Celtic Gaulish language you basically sing in ancient language that is now extinguished! I would be very curious to know how you approach this way of singing in Gaulish… did you have to learn the language first when you firstly joined Eluveitie and can you therefore now say that you speak Celtic Gaulish? Or do you just learn the meaning of the actual words that will be then in the lyrics?
I can’t fully speak Gaulish unfortunately… I think there are not many people in the world that can do that. I know that there are some professors in Europe that are really into it that can speak it like Latin for example… but for me, pronunciation-wise, I can say that I have quite an advantage as I speak Swiss German as a native language and it’s therefore my mother tongue. Since Gaulish is an ancient language that was spoken in the regions of what today is Switzerland, I can say that both languages are really close somehow. It’s not that hard for me then to use some specific vocal pronunciations that for some other people would be much more difficult, depending on your native language of course. It comes more natural to me just because of my native language. The roots of many words that we use today in Swiss German come from Celtic Gaulish, so this made it easier for me to learn these words and pronounce them. Of course I can say that now I know a few words what they mean but I can’t fully speak the actual language… I just learned want I needed to sing in the songs and of course what these words mean, so that I can put the right emotions behind it.
It is really super interesting as just a few bands have extinct languages in their lyrics, and especially for you singers that have to learn what these words mean before singing, it is an extra step that you have to do before learning the actual lyrics so I guess it must be at the same time complicated and fascinating as well!
Very much! With the new songs that I recorded now in Gaulish, the funny thing is that I never had to actively learn them by heart because when I sing them, everything is just sticked to my brain from the studio recordings. With just a few takes, they always just stick in my memory. But I remember, when I had to learn the first songs for the first concert with the older songs that I didn’t record myself in the studio, I really had to make crazy efforts to learn them so that they would stick in my brain. I can say then that it is of course never easy to sing in Gaulish but when you practice a few times, then it just flows.
Eluveitie announced in July that you were partying ways with Michalina Malisz, your historical hurdy-gurdy player that has been with the band for 6 years and joined the band pretty much at the same time as you for the recordings of the Evocation II: Pantheon album. It has been a completely pacific separation as Michalina stated that she simply wanted to work to a more predictable lifestyle with a little bit less of heavy touring and pursue different facets of her musical careers. In fact, she announced shortly after leaving Eluveitie the beginning of her new neomedieval metal band Lyrre. She played with her last concert with the band at Rockharz and I therefore wanted to ask you your emotions about playing your last show with Michalina and what you will miss the most from her from now on.
That was very difficult for me… as you say, it was very peaceful and I joked with her by saying that it was like the most peaceful breakup in the music history! (laughs). It could not have been more understanding from everyone in the band and well wishing to her. We will miss her like crazy but we all understand her choice and wish her all the best, as she did to us. Rockharz was the last show with her and it was very difficult for me because I was very close to her and we were always together. Even if she lives in Poland, every time that she had to come to Switzerland for Eluveitie stuff she was staying at my place and we were all the time together… it was the same on tour as well, in hotel rooms, hanging out outside venues before and after the show… I will miss this a lot now, I will miss these times with her… even moments like speaking for 3 hours in hotel rooms after the shows, even if we only had time to sleep for 4 hours! (laughs). She is a very calming person and since I can be a little bit crazy, she was always the one to help me to calm down. She was a very nice pole where I could hold on to at any time and we really were a very good combination together. I can speak for everybody when I say that we all really liked her… both being in our group and being in the band. As a character and as a personality. I will miss her a lot… even all the walks that we were taking together when we were on tour… I will miss Micha. It will be different from now on and I will miss her a lot but I wish her only the best now with her new upcoming musical journey with her new band Lyrre.
I totally understand that it will be a big change for you and the band… for us fans as well as she was of course an important part of Eluveitie and we will miss the fact that she will not be on stage with you anymore… but her choice is totally understandable and the good thing is that you all parted ways in the most peaceful manner like you said. We are all very curious to see how her new project will evolve now and we wish her all the best.
Since we cannot imagine the Eluveitie songs without the iconic hurdy-gurdy sound, can I ask you if it’s in the Eluveitie plans to announce a new hurdy-gurdy player soon?
I can’t tell too much but I can say that Eluveitie without a hurdy-gurdy on stage would not be Eluveitie…
That’s what I think too! The sound of the hurdy-gurdy is such a key element in Eluveitie songs that we cannot imagine Eluveitie without someone playing the hurdy-gurdy… we are looking forward to see who will be the new member then!
Eluveitie is now going to play a huge European tour in November/December together with Amorphis, Dark Tranquillity and Nailed to Obscurity. How excited are you for this tour and what can we expect from it?
I am just so excited to finally go on this tour! I am really looking forward to it! I love tours in December so then I can go to all the Christmas markets! (laughs). This is definitely my favourite time of the year! I will decorate the tour bus for sure again… it’s a must! You can definitely expect a lot of energy on this tour and a lot of excitement that we can be back on the road again! I think this package of bands is very strong and these are going to be great musical evenings when we 4 bands will play.
We cannot wait for it! The Italian show will be on the 13th of November at the Live Club in Trezzo sull’Adda and we are really looking forward to it!
Moving towards your band Illumishade, you guys have now released your debut album Eclyptics: Wake of Shadows in 2020 as well as a couple of more recent singles such as The Endless Vow and Destined Path in 2021. Can you tell us what will be the next chapter for Illumishade and if there is something in particular that you can anticipate to us about what’s coming for your band?
You can definitely expect a new era. It’s the plan to do something new this year still, soon I would say. Now we are in a quiet phase with social media but not that quiet behind the scenes… it’s not always easy to keep things alive when you are busy with Eluveitie or simply life in general… I am very happy that we all decided to take a step and make a new chapter again to create something new with Illumishade… I am super excited about it! You can definitely expect something coming soon… this year and next year… it’s in the making.
That’s a great news! Very exciting! Is there going to be any live shows about to be announced for Illumishade as well?
Live shows are not easy for us as we are busy with Eluveitie and it’s of course a matter of priority as you can imagine. It’s always hard to plan ahead when we will be free. I really hope that we will be able to play shows again at some point. I would love to play more and I really want to play more. Festivals, club shows, mini tour… I definitely want to play more. Now it’s mainly about getting out new stuff and finding ways to fit in the gaps with releasing new music and then playing live. We were not very lucky with timing as we launched the band exactly during the beginning of corona and so we just played 2 live streaming shows during pandemic and 2 real shows in Pratteln when things were slightly better, but now I really hope that we will be able to play more with Illumishade as well.
I really hope you are going to be able to do so! Illumishade is a fantastic band and I think all of us cannot wait to see you playing live in Italy too. You really deserve to expand and share your music with Illumishade as well. I remember that you were actually one of the very first bands pioneering live streaming shows and I think that it still remains one of the best I saw during the pandemic period!
You started your Patreon exactly 2 years ago. Can you tell us how as your experience been with Patreon up to now and how has it been to have your own community of Patreons?
Wow! I didn’t know what to expect when I started it actually! I was looking on what I could do and mainly how to connect with people… so I decided to start and I had no expectations on what will await me and now, 2 years later, I am amazed by what a journey it has been! The community that got out of this is incredible! The cool thing is that, if you want to be part of the community actively you can do it, but you can also be part of the community without being especially active and still get all the content and everything of course. Maybe being active it’s not for everybody and I totally understand that, it depends on personality, on the situation and many other things… so there’s a little bit for everybody. Some people really want interaction between all the members and they get it for sure. It’s also cool now when we play festivals that I can meet most of the Patreons that come to the shows, and they meet each other as well! They go together at concerts, they meet at other concerts and it’s just so cool! They are all friends that are into metal and it’s very nice! There’s a bunch of people that have the same interests such as metal music, or even music in general. That was really something that I didn’t expect… that there would have been such a nice group forming from Patreon! Content-wise, it really pushed me to do things, because I really want to give the people that support me special things or early access to covers and stuff. So I need to do these things and it’s nice to get this extra push. I got into editing videos for example, before this corona time I never had a camera in my hands and I never thought I could ever edit a video, of course I am not a professional video editor but I can edit stuff and do basics things now… and this is thanks to Patreon! I really want to give people something unique on this page, it’s a win-win situation, a really healthy thing for me as I need to get things done. I think many things happened because of Patreon. There’s also some very cool inputs from Patreon too! Like suggestions on video I could do, such as the microphone I use on specific occasions for example or even suggestions on some lyrics for specific projects after sharing first drafts with people on Patreon… it’s particularly nice to share stuff in a safe place. We all know that internet is not a safe place so I really like it that I was able to share some content in a safe place such as Patreon. And really, the most important to me is when I see that it resonates to people and that what I do can give something to them, even if it is only a smile, it means a lot to me.
You have released a lot of amazing material, both covers and original songs, with Anotherkind as well, which is Vidick’s side-project from Infected Rain. It’s an extremely interesting project that at the same time also differs a lot from Eluveitie and Illumishade as it has much slower tempos and it’s more melancholic ballad oriented. Can you tell us how this collaboration with Vidick has started and what do you like the most about Vidick’s composition style?
We met on the tour we did in 2019 with Infected Rain and Lacuna Coil. He had this idea in mind to have a different project besides Infected Rain where he could do different music. When you are in a band, you can experiment, but you have certain directions that you follow. He is one of the most creative people that I have ever met, not only with music but also on other things such as filming, painting and the way of thinking in general. And he needed another person to get this creativity out of him and he asked me to join his project. We didn’t know what it would have turned out… we didn’t have expectations in this case as well… we just wanted to try something new. He really got different ways of singing out of me. When I sing the Anotherkind songs, I sing with very different tones compared to Eluveitie for example, where it needs to be straight and out. For me it is really important to stay open-minded musically, because this is when you learn… for me at least. I am always interested in many different singing styles or different music styles because you really can get from everything a little bit out. We did now 3 original songs together, in this different style let’s say. This style of music with Anotherkind is not only related to the kind of music he did with me but he also did other collaborations, such as with Lena Scissorhands. We did also some more electronic versions of metal covers but we really like the way it flowed when we were working together on original songs… so this is also something we keep working on right now as well. But some days really I wish a day would have 48 hours to really express everything we want to do! This collaboration is definitely something we want to keep going. What I really like as well is that he left me a lot of space for doing the acoustic versions of these songs as well with the piano. And this is also something we really want to keep doing, maybe with more synth as well. We definitely want to keep working on these more chilled versions as I think there’s a lot of me that I can get into this with a lot of arrangements with the piano… and I think it is really cool that we gave each other space in this project. I am very happy to be featured there and I really think that we will do much more.
Since you were able to tour a lot this summer and attend many festivals, you probably had the opportunity to see also other bands playing as well. Is there any band in particular that you saw that has impressed you and that you have particularly liked?
I have seen Infected Rain this year quite some times this year and I always loved every single one of their sets. The energy of the band, how they perform, how they move. It is really cool to see every time how they give everything for every show. They burn for that and the emotions are always there! This is what I really like in this band! It was really cool to see Nightwish as well at Hellfest. I have never managed to see one of their shows properly before and there I could really enjoy the show as I had played already earlier in the day and I could see Floor’s energy, hear her voice and how she takes the whole stage when she sings. That was for me one of the highlights for sure!
I agree! I managed to see Infected Rain twice this summer too and it’s unbelievable to see how much energy they bring live, with a killer set every time! They played an insane amount of shows from April until September and we definitely see how they really are machines now on stage! And of course, Floor’s voice from Nightwish is always fantastic to hear!
What is the nicest memory that you will keep from this summer of live music?
Besides Hellfest, one thing I will surely not forget is our performance at Rockharz, as it was the last show with Michalina. Many friends were there such as Tamara from Ilumishade and Vidick from Anotherkind. It was a very nice festival overall, and it was a very nice last show and day with Micha so I will always remember it for sure, with a lot of emotions!
I can imagine absolutely! This is going to be a great memory to keep in your heart!
Fabi, it was as a huge pleasure to have you with us today and we are looking forward to see you in Milano on the 13th of November at the Live Club with Eluveitie. Thank you so much once again for your time and availability, we really appreciate it. We wish you all best with all your projects! Is there anything you want to tell to your Italian fans to conclude this interview?
Thank you so much for your support and for reading this interview! I really hope to see some of you at the Italian date on our upcoming Eluveitie tour! I really can’t wait to come back to your country. I actually recently did a short trip to Italy and I really loved it as always. So I really hope for some very good food and a crazy crowd!
Click here to read the interview in Italian