A Talk With
NICOLAS SPREUTELS (Drums)
Questionnaire by Stefan
Belgian based, female fronted ProgPower Metal band Ethernity unleashed their new cut “Obscure Illusions” late March 2015. The result became a masterpiece, easily comparable with famous international masters of Power Metal music. It’s Ethernity’s second effort, still unsigned and that’s a shame to me. Enough topics to discuss so let's start the conversation right on...
Q: First and most common question, give us a picture of by whom and how the band was formed?
Nicolas: The band was formed in 2000 by my brother - Julien (keyboards) - and I (drums) along with our cousin, François (bass) as we were teenagers. As our fathers were playing in a heavy metal band, that’s how the virus was spread. We wanted to play some music too!
We were quickly joined by Thomas (guitar) and played a few years as an instrumental band, learning music together. In 2005, Julie (vocals) joined us and we recorded our firsts demos and started to play a few gigs. In 2007, we welcomed Greg (lead guitar) and Ethernity’s music started to sound more like it is nowadays. We played more gigs between recording 2 more demos and before starting seriously to work on “Obscure Illusions” in 2013.
Q: Where the name Ethernity comes from, what does it means… which significance hides behind a name like this?
Nicolas: The name of the band came quite fast after its creation. A the time, we were kinda into the theme of angels and the sky. Ethernity is a combination of the word “ether” - which means the upper region of space, the sky and the heavens - and “eternity” - which refers to the infinite time or the timeless state into which people’s soul passes after their death.
It sounded cool and we kept it from the beginning!
Q: Observant fact, the name Spreutels is very well represented so I’m pretty sure that Metal lives within the family, right?
Nicolas: Yes! Like I said, the 3 Spreutels of the band are sons of heavy metal musicians. When we were kids, our fathers brang us to their rehearsals and we were watching them with our eyes wide open! Of course, along the years we started to ask our parents to buy us some instruments to make our own noise! So, we had this idea to start a band and learn music all together. Now, metal music is a common topic of discusion within the family!
Q: Due to the lack of a singer, you’ve played only but instrumental songs during the early years of existence. Can you tell us some more about that period?
Nicolas: Even if we were still beginners, we knew already what we wanted as a vocalist for the band. In our region, we really had some troubles to find somebody able to sing in a proper way. We just prefered keep on going as an instrumental band than having a bad singer. Also, we were really beginners and it was really the first steps of a band of teenagers. We wrote a bunch of songs like this that we were recording on audio cassettes not to forget them! Those songs were already structutred like if we had a singer. It wasn’t full of leads and solos everywhere. When Julie joined us, she just sang on some of those songs which ended on our first demo in 2005.
Q: Than you came in touch with Julie Colin, feel free to give a background history on her musical activities?
Nicolas: We were all in a school called “Rock’s Cool” where we were learning music. One day, at the annual end-of-the-year concert where all students were playing in front their families, we saw Julie on stage and were impressed by her. We asked her to come to one of our rehearsals. She was 15 at the time!
Her father used to play bass guitar, that’s how she get in touch with music. She sang in one or 2 other bands during a few months before joining us but she had no real experience. In the end, it was more like the other members, she really learned within Ethernity and made her first steps on stage with us.
Q: Why the search took so long, it is because of the daintiness?
Nicolas: It was about finding someone being able to sing clean vocals and being in tune! It didn’t matter to have a male or female vocalist. The only thing we knew was that if we had a girl behind the mic, it shouldn’t be an operatic style of singing. We wanted something direct and punchy. The thing is that most of metal bands in our area are on the more extreme side of metal. The melodic singers are very rare and when you find one, you have a lot of chance that he or she sings out of tune. This is something that we couldn’t deal with: go on stage with a bad singer. We tried some guys and girls here and there but we weren’t really searching actively, we were having a good time playing music in our garage and we just waited to find the good person.
Q: “All Over The Nations” was introduced as Ethernity’s first demo, my total ignorance leads me to the question: what about the style this demo had to offer?
Nicolas: The band’s music back then was way more cheesy than what we did on our current album. Of course, it’s not so well produced and way less tight played. As we lacked a lead guitar player at the time, it was more keyboard driven. It was just more… “happy”. We were influenced a lot by Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica.
Q: So this was actually the real start for Ethernity, more demo’s and a debut full length album were created… more info on this is welcome. Who wrote the songs and who’s the one behind the recording/producing duties?
Nicolas: That’s right. Most of the music is written by Julien, our keyboard player. He makes full songs that he proposes to the band during rehearsals. From there, we play it all together. Sometimes we change some riffs or the structure. I write sometimes a song or two and it’s the same process. Some songs are also born during improvisations than we work on it aftewards. Most of us have his own little home studio so we’re able to preproduce the songs by ourselves. When we have a bunch of tracks recorded, we work in our studios to do some arrangements, chosing the right sounds for the tracks’ themes and mood.
For “Obscure Illusions”, Julien and I recorded most of the tracks in our home studios and we produced the album. Some guitar parts were recorded by Greg in his own home studio. After we put all the pieces together, we send the tracks to Simone Mularoni (DGM) who mixed and mastered the album at Domination Studio in Italy.
Q: What determines the content of the texts?
Nicolas: When we write a song, most of the time we have an image in mind right after. Like a movie poster. Than, we create a little story for each of the songs. That’s how the themes are determined and then come the lyrics which are writen by our father, who sings in his metal band too. He’s really better than us at this and he’s always able to tell the main idea we had but in a beautiful way.
Q: So far, you’ve shared many stages with world famous Metal bands, names us a few and speak free about the most unforgettable live performances.
Nicolas: Along the years, we had the chance to participate to a few festivals or shows where we opened for some cool bands. We shared the bill with Evergrey, Jorn Lande, Rhapsody of Fire, Girlschool, Edguy, Gamma Ray and Tarot to name a few. When you play at such events, it’s always a good opportunity to meet people and make some new contacts. You have the chances to play on bigger stages in front of a larger audience. We had some of our best gigs at the PPM Fest or Metal Female Voices Festival! Of course, it’s good memories!
Q: Late march 2015, Ethernity’s new album “Obscure Illusions” saw daylight as an independent product. My first impression was frankly very positive but there’s one things I really don’t understand… why is a great band like Ethernity’s still unsigned? This is due to the good taste of the today's record companies or what? I don’t get the picture… what’s your reaction on this?
Nicolas: When we finished the album, we started to contact and talk with some labels like most of the bands I guess. We were in good talk with a good record company for almost a year. In the end, they told us they didn’t want to do it. It’s true that at the time, the band’s activities and actualities weren’t that good. Maybe they were a bit afraid of that.
We were left with a few contracts form smaller record companies on the table. After talking to them, we didn’t really feel comfortable about what they were proposing us. We started to think about releasing it by ourselves and don’t waste our time anymore. We started to work on that album 3 years ago and really wanted to move on with it.
Having graphic designers and marketeers within the band, we made all our promotion ourselves and for the moment we still don’t regret it even if it’s a lot of work! The funny thing is that now, labels are coming back to us! So we’ll see how things will turn out for the next one.
Q: But you’re working with Demon Production, I’d like to know about the way in which you are working together.
Nicolas: We’re friends since many years, even before they created Demon Productions. So we’re talking about best practices together and when they have a good idea about the merch, the promotion of the album or whatever, then we try to apply it. Same goes for the booking. As simple as that!
Q: The Progressive Power Metal scene here in Belgium is at a very low level, we can’t deny that. As far as my knowledge reaches, there are only a few Belgian acts delivering their way of Metal in a purebred progressive way. Besides Ethernity, my own dignity for Dyscordia runs very high as well. What about the mutual appreciation between your band and this killer sextet out of West Flanders?
Nicolas: It’s true that there’s not a lot of bands in our category in Belgium. There’s also another band called Max Pie in Wallonia. Dyscordia is a very good band! We shared the bill 2 months ago with them in Diest for the first time. They’re doing a good job and the guys are cool too! They seemed to like what they’ve heard/seen too! We should do more gigs together for sure! It worked very well!
Q: “Obssure Illusions” sounds stunningly good - which names can be mentioned related to those in charge for the overall finish of the album?
Nicolas: Thank you! Of course the 6 Ethernity members are not the only ones who worked on the album. Julien and Nicolas’ father, Jean Pascal Spreutels was in charge of most of the lyrics. Kelly Sundown Carpenter (Beyond Twilight, Firewind, Darkology) and Magaly Luyten (Virus IV, Beautiful Sin, Ayreon), who helped us out during the vocal recordings.
Then, of course, the guest singers on the title track: Kelly again, Tom Englund (Evergrey) and Mark Basile (DGM). And to finish with, you have Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios) who did a superb job with the tracks during the mix and mastering.
Q: Who’s the creator of the delightful, dark artwork?
Nicolas: I made the front artwork and the booklet together with Julien (keyboards). Both of us are graphic designers. It helps to have some in the band!
Q: While listening to “Obscure Illusions”, darkness lingers on and on which I like very much. Where the dark character of the album comes from?
Nicolas: From our darkened minds! We don’t really know. We’ve always been fascinated about such themes. We just find more inspiration into this. Like I said before, we have images in our minds while listening to a piece of music. Like a thriller or a sci-fi movie poster.
Even if we laugh a lot in our daily lives, when it comes to music, we like darker stuff. That’s why it’s important to us to work a lot on the arrangments of the songs by searching for the right sound or ambiance to express the feeling of the song.
Q: What songs get your preference over the rest – why?
Nicolas: I like “False Lamentations” as it’s a fast and powerful track. It’s always a good track live too. “Never Thought” is also one of my favorite as it’s softer and so we have some more space to play with different nuances. To finish with, “Obscure Illusions”, the title track. I’m really proud of this one because of the work we put into it and because of the guest singers. There’s a bit of everything in this one.
Q: Have you already read my review? Agree or disagree with my final assessment?
Nicolas: Of course I read it! Thanks for the nice words! Yes I agree with what you’ve said. Unfortunatly, we’re not the only unsigned band to release a record which is well perceived. I guess there’s a chance factor to this or maybe a lack of contact. Sometimes, I think it can be the choice of a band. It’s also true that the music business is changing a lot. I guess some bands aren’t putting all their hopes into record companies anymore and I can understand that. I think it’s all about meeting the right people at the right time. About Ethernity, I think we needed to do it that way to go further anyway. Even if we’re not signed yet, the album hasn’t been completely transparent to the press, labels and promotors. We gained some experience and get a bit more noticed than before.
Q: How the foreign Metal press/media react to this release?
Nicolas: Quite good I must say! We get as good reviews as in Belgium! Of course, we have more attention from the Benelux as it’s the target area of our press agent, but we got some very good feedbacks from UK, USA, France and Grece too. Most of the time, the comments on the album are all in the same vibe and what you’ve said in your conclusion is often said too. I guess everybody is quite unanimous about it and it’s a good point!
Q: One of the highlights to me is the title song – a great epic piece with a running time of barely 15 minutes and, most remarkable, the collaboration with three top notch guest singers, actually frontmen of Evergrey, DGM and Firewind/Outwirld/Beyond Twilight. How did this collaboration come about?
Nicolas: We had this long piece of music on which we were working since a few months. We decided to put it on the album and let our creativity flow while in recording sessions. We ended up with this 14min long track. We talked about it and came to the conclusion that there wouldn’t be a lot of chance to even play it live. So we decided to go even further and put crazy arrangments into it.
When the music was done, we then said: “Hey wait, if we don’t plan to perform this live, why wouldn’t we create different characters inside the lyrics and ask some folks to participate?” We than created a whole story around it and thought about who might be intersted in our contacts and who would fit to the different characters. We asked Kelly, Tom and Mark and they all agreed immediately!
We sent them the instrumental song with the lyrics and some ideas we had about the vocal lines. A few weeks later, they sent us their tracks we and put all the pieces together. That’s crazy what we can do throught internet! Who would have imagine that back in the days?
Q: Are you solely responsible for the distro or someone else takes the job for his account?
Nicolas: The fysical album isn’t distributed. We have no deal with distribution company. Everything is held by the band himself throught our webshop and during our shows. However, we do have a worldwide distribution for the digital format of the album on about 90 different platforms.
Q: How was the CD release show of last Saturday the fourth of April 2015?
Nicolas: Amazing! We didn’t expect so much people to show up! Of course, we were a bit more stressed than usual as it was a special event, but everything went great! We prepared an extended set with a few surprises, keys/guitar/drums solos, and Kelly Sundown Carpenter joined us on stage for the track “Shadows On The Wall”. This one will probably stay in our minds for a long time!
Q: What are the plans for the coming months, some summer festivals added on the worklist so far?
Nicolas: Right now, we have a few shows in Belgium and one in Switzerland planned. Hopefully, more will come. Unfortunatly, no metal festivals this summer. We were already too late when we decided to release the album and most of the festivals’ lineup were already complete. This is something we have to work on for next year.
Q: What is your greatest ambition at the moment?
Nicolas: To make as much people as possible discover Ethernity and promote the album live. We’d like to get more gigs of course and also it would be great to get a few opening slots like we had in the past. Also, we’re already working on some new material from time to time.
Q: Than I wish you all the best of success with both new album and future plans. Do you have some last remarks? If so, go for it and thanks a lot for the cooperation.
Nicolas: Thanks for the interview and for the review! I invite people to check us on our website (www.ethernity.be) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ethernityband) to stay tuned about our activities. If they like what they’ve heard, help us by spreading the word! Come and see us live if we play next to your place! I’d like also to thank our followers for their support and enthousiasm around the album!