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Whyzdom Interview 2012

Whyzdom Interview
October 7, 2012 (via Skype)

Whyzdom’s sophomore album Blind? is a mighty fine choice for fans of metal with lush orchestration and choirs. Mastermind and orchestral arranger, Vynce Leff, approached the album as a unitary opus, and it shows. But of course, the birth of Blind? was not without its set-backs and heartbreak. On the eve of recording the lead vocals, Whyzdom’s vocalist announced that she was leaving the band. Alas, recording ground to a halt while the band searched for the new voice of Whyzdom, which they found in French newcomer, Elvyne Lorient.


Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker sat down with Vynce Leff (guitars/orchestration) and Elvyne Lorient (vocals) for a long chat about all things Whyzdom. Dive in for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Blind?, what made Elvyne the perfect vocalist for Whyzdom, their plans for world domination, and much more! Many thanks to Vynce for translating back and forth between English and French. Hearing “when I was a little girl” come out of his mouth was priceless!

Robin:  Sonic Cathedral is so happy to welcome Vynce and Elvyne from the French philharmonic metal band, Whyzdom! Jumping right in, what is the difference between a philharmonic metal band and a symphonic metal band?

Vynce:  Very interesting question! Well I think that, in the metal scene, there are a lot of bands that call themselves “symphonic metal bands.” When we created Whyzdom, we wanted to have a big, huge orchestral sound that sounds like a real orchestra. I mean, we don’t use real orchestras because they are very expensive and it is very difficult technically to record them, and we don’t have much money. But I am a composer and an orchestral arranger, so I wanted to have something that sounds REAL with real parts for each instrument, like flutes, violins, brass, bassoon and all the orchestral instruments.

I wanted to distinguish Whyzdom from the other bands that just use some synthetic strings sounds from the keyboards, and then call themselves symphonic metal. I wanted to do it differently and make it more real, so I found this term … actually, a fan found this term, “philharmonic metal,” which is a bit different than symphonic metal because it implies something bigger and more real. So, that’s why we use this denomination “philharmonic metal.” For example, bands like Nightwish with a real orchestra or Epica are philharmonic bands for me. But other bands that just use some synth sounds to simulate some very poor orchestral parts, they’re just symphonic metal bands for me.


Robin:  I hate to delve into painful memories, but it would be rather strange to talking about Blind? without at least touching on one of the darker moments in the band’s history. Earlier this year, Whyzdom had finished recording the entire album, except for the vocals, when you vocalist announced that she was leaving. What did you have to do to regroup and finish the album?

Vynce:  That was a shock, of course, because (as you just said) everything was almost done. We were just entering the mixing stage to finish the album, so at that time, we decided to find a new lead vocalist. That’s why we just stopped any concerts and refused many dates, because we decided to just focus on finishing the album absolutely before summer.

So we just began searching for new singer, and we were absolutely delighted and happy to find Elvyne very quickly. The funny thing is that we found her the week after the announcement … maybe the same week. I don’t remember exactly, but we saw this girl on YouTube, and we said: “Whoa, we want HER!” So things went very quickly, and we finished all the recordings in June.

Robin:  Elvyne, what were you doing when you first heard about the available vocalist position in Whyzdom?

Elvyne:  I was a student, and at the same time, I had a job. I didn’t have a band, but was just singing alone at home, and wasn’t particularly looking for a metal band, but rather for a Celtic one.

Robin:  Vynce, it sounds like you had one or more weekends full of auditions. What was it that made Elvyne stand out from the other undoubtedly talented vocalists that you heard?

Vynce:  What made Elvyne stand out is clearly and definitely her musicality. I don’t know if that is an English term, but in French, we say musicalité. It is maybe better translated as “musical feeling.” It is not about technique; it’s about a feeling that everything is in place -- all the songs seem to be flowing and seem to instantly belong to the vocalist.

Some have that talent to elevate the songs they are singing, so when you listen to them and watch them, you have this feeling that it is their song. When we saw Elvyne, we had that feeling IMMEDIATELY. There was a video on YouTube that she recorded by Owl City called “Fireflies,” and it was incredible. We immediately heard her musicality (musical feeling), and she was really great!

Robin:  Elvyne, obviously people are very curious about you, since there has been only a small amount of information released about you. Would you please introduce yourself, and tell us about how you became interested in music?

Elvyne:  Thanks to my father, he initiated me to music and to singing at home when I was a little girl. At the age of six, I was beginning to try singing along with karaoke … really, just repeating the words that I saw my father singing. I continued singing with my brother, who is 12 years older than me and who initiated me to metal music, and then my father had me singing in front of many people because it was his passion. So that is when I became used to singing in front of people. Then I began to record myself singing and putting some videos on YouTube. You know the shows like America’s Got Talent? Yes, well, I tried to participate in those types of TV shows here in France. It didn’t work actually. (laughs)

I started to play in a band at the age of 16, and we had some shows in Paris. But then the band plateaued, and I wanted to have a more serious one. At times, I was a bit desperate about music because the band wasn’t working very well, and so I thought about just stopping singing altogether. Instead, I tried to find a band via the internet, and that is how I found Whyzdom.

Robin:  There was a lag of several months between when Whyzdom announced that you had found your new lead vocalist and when you actually introduced Elvyne. What sorts of things were you doing during that three-month period?

Vynce:  Well, we found Elvyne very quickly in February … we had many singers to audition, but we took the decision in February, as far as I remember. Prior to telling the fans, we wanted to have some good photos because we didn’t have anything good in that regard at that time. But we didn’t want to stop everything about music, and focus on image and pictures and all that stuff. We wanted to focus on music.

So, during these three months, we did rehearse with the band, and we began directly working on the songs we wanted to record because we knew that we had to finish everything for June, which left very little time to get ready. Showing the fans Elvyne was not a priority at that time. So it was essentially musical work, and at the same time, we had a plan to shoot the video in April and to make a photo shoot, so we decided that the pictures from the photo shoot would be a nice thing to introduce Elvyne to the fans. That’s why we introduced her only in May.


Robin:  Elvyne, you had just joined a new band, and there was so much to do -- such as learning all the songs, a photo shoot, a video shoot, dress designs, and so on. What was that like for you?

Elvyne:  (laughs) It was fantastic, and also absolutely new for me! Shooting the video clip was very interesting for me as well. There was a lot of work, and I felt the passion in everyone in the band. It was a great experience that I will remember all my life!

Recordings were difficult … interesting but very, very difficult because I had to get ready very, very quickly on that challenge. As you can see, English is not my mother tongue, but Vynce helped me a lot. I LOVE the lyrics of the songs because they touched me deeply, and I think they will touch the fans too. Meeting the guys in rehearsals was really great too, as I was discovering a new world with musicians who are both serious and cool. It was also a great experience.

Oh lala, the dresses from Vultus were absolutely FABULOUS. I never had the possibility or occasion to wear such beautiful dresses as from Vultus. A great style! I still have in mind some scenes that we have shot with that dress, and how it made me feel strong at that time. It was really fantastic to wear it. Meeting Magali, who creates Vultus dresses, was great too! She is a great person, who is very kind, and we had a great feeling together.

Robin:  The lyrics and themes of Blind? seem to have a lot to do with literally or figuratively seeing or refusing to see. What was it that grabbed your interest in making that the overarching theme for the album?

Vynce:  It was more of a flash. You know? I was preparing some lyric bits for the album, and I didn’t have anything special in mind. I was just working on phrases, and it just struck -- the word “blind.” Then I began to think about the concept of blindness from several viewpoints, and I thought that everything I was building at that time could be linked with this concept. So that’s why I kept that idea, and while finishing the lyrics of all the songs, I tried to make it consistent and have a link between the songs.

I think there are two viewpoints that are quite evident in the album. The first is about Cassandra’s Syndrome, from the myth of Cassandra – a character from Greek mythology. She can see what other people don’t see. I’ve always been interested in mythic characters and in trying to know what they feel. I found the story of Cassandra very interesting because she can see what is going to happen, but there’s nothing she can do to avoid disasters.

The other side of blindness is that, in my personal life, I find that many people (and myself too) sometimes we are blind because there are things around us that disturb ourselves, and we don’t want to be disturbed. We want to keep our comfort. Sometimes there are people who are playing with us, fooling us, and we don’t want to be too aware. It is more comfortable to ignore them. The question mark in the title is because sometimes we’d rather be blind, but we are not really... we just want people to think that we are.

Robin:  When you are thinking about mythological characters, do you tend to be drawn to the tragic characters or the heroes?

Vynce:  Hmmmm, when I write lyrics and songs, it’s important to me to work on emotion and feelings. For example, there are concept albums that tell entire stories of one character or another, and they just tell the story. I am not interested in telling the story of mythological characters … everyone already knows the story, and I’m not going to tell it once more. What is interesting for me is to try to understand and feel what these mythical characters are feeling, because through them, I think you can learn a lot about yourself as a human being.

Being the one who writes, I learn a lot about myself when writing this kind of song because it makes me think a lot. For people who listen to the songs and listen to the lyrics, I hope it can create some emotions and feelings that makes them think too. And that’s what I like to focus on when I write songs -- not really on the stories themselves.

Robin:  Elvyne, what did you do to tap into the feeling of the songs to reach those emotional heights that Vynce was looking for?

Elvyne:  I asked Vynce to translate all the lyrics into French to be sure of their meaning. For each song, I had to find what emotion I wanted to transmit and what emotion I should feel myself before transmitting it. It was quite evident for some songs. For example, “The Spider” was something that I felt myself. So it was not a strange emotion; it is something I know very well.

When rehearsing the songs before recording (and during recording, of course), I tried always to FEEL that emotion when I sang the song -- for example, sadness in that song or another emotion -- and I tried to feel it for real myself while singing it. The music prepares very well the vocalist to create that emotion. They are of great help. Every song is very different with different kinds of emotion in each song, and that’s a very good thing in this album.


Robin:  Vynce, which song was the most challenging for you to orchestrate?

Vynce:  Hmmmm, I have to think … (laughs) the answer is “all of them were.” It’s always difficult to orchestrate. Seriously, the answer is the following: I think that I took the orchestration of the album as a whole. Meaning, that I can’t say that the orchestration was different on THAT song than on THIS song, because I was working on them all at the same time. It is kind of a symphony, so there are very different emotions in different parts. I felt like it was a single work, and I had to make an orchestration for a song of 80 minutes. So really, I couldn’t say which was the most difficult to orchestrate.

Robin:  What can you tell us about the upcoming video for “Cassandra’s Mirror”?

Vynce:  Well, we put online recently the video trailer for Blind?, which is a two-minute video. What I can say is that this trailer actually consists of bits of the video shoot from “Cassandra’s Mirror.” So I guess that normally the overall ambience will be in the same vein.

In the video, you’ll see Elvyne singing with that gorgeous, gorgeous dress, and you will see more of the musicians playing the instruments. We had a very good time shooting it, and we are very happy with the images that were taken there. Hopefully, the fans will like it. (laughs) We hope.

Robin:  I have been quite interested to see how some bands have branched out into other media, like the comics by Within Temptation and the upcoming movie by Nightwish. If you were to combine Whyzdom’s music with another medium, what would you like to see?

Vynce:  There are two things that I would love to combine. The first thing is a musical thing -- I’d like to make a concert with a full orchestra, just like Within Temptation did. What’s the name of that DVD?

Robin:  Black Symphony?

Vynce:  Yes, I would like to do something like that, with a great show and fireworks! I also find that Nightwish’s idea of making a film with their music is really great! This is something that I would be very happy to do myself, because when I write songs and music and lyrics, I always have images in my mind. What we did with “Cassandra’s Mirror,” and what we will do for other songs, is already in my head. I would like to shoot films. It is something that I find very interesting! It is something that I like very much, and I am very impassioned to see that Nightwish film. So now, see what Elvyne would like.

Elvyne:  I prefer the idea of comics. I found that what Within Temptation did is a good idea, and I find it more personal. It is an idea that I prefer … comics versus a film, in my own opinion. The other thing that I like is that you can more easily put some humor in comics that would be difficult to put in films. That is something that I like, and maybe it would be interesting for Whyzdom one of these days.

Robin:  Random question … when you’re not working on music, what do you like to do to just relax?

Vynce:  Well, I never relax. I am always working!

Elvyne:  Never, never, never! (all laugh)

Vynce:  Never. I am always working… always working on music. If I am not working on music, I’m working on video clip ideas. If I’m not working on either of those things, I’m working on finding concerts. When not working on that, I’m working on promotion. I am a working guy ALL the time.

Robin:  Boo!

Elvyne:  I see my friends and family, and do a lot of sports like tennis, football … soccer, I think you say that in English?

Robin:  If I were to grab either of your mp3 players right now and start looking through your list of albums, what would I be most surprised to see?


Vynce:  Surprised? Hmmm, we will have to ask the question to Elvyne first.

Elvyne:  (laughs) There is some Marilyn Manson and The Cranberries. I love the Cranberries … Cranberries, Cranberries and Cranberries! I also love Nightwish, Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil.

Vynce:  But you have to SURPRISE Robin.

Elvyne:  I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. (laughs) That’s all I can say about this.

Vynce:  In my player, I’m trying to be the most surprising guy for you. Okay, I’m opening iTunes now. (all laugh) You have some time, Robin?

Robin:  (laughs) Just start at the top of your iTunes list. I have some TERRIBLE pop albums in my library that I would be mortified for anyone to see.

Elvyne:  That’s a good question, Robin.

Vynce:  I am not sure that I’m going to surprise you, because it is again some intellectual stuff. You would find something like Krzysztof Penderecki, who is a composer, and you would find that I listen sometimes to Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima. I am sorry that probably nobody can listen to these kinds of things in music, except contemporary music lovers. I must say that I love contemporary music. Something like … where is it? … music composers, I like them a lot. But once again, I feel that it is completely boring.

The other thing that you would find more funny maybe is that I like ‘80s bands. (Begins humming song) Do you know that song?

Robin:  Argh. Yes, but I cannot think of the name!

Vynce:  “The Riddle” by Nik Kershaw! Or I listen also to this song by Duran Duran, “The Wild Boys.” Do you remember this song: (sings) wild boys, wild boys! A lot of ‘80s music, I love that stuff. Do you know that band Heart? I love that! It know it might sound quite ridiculous, I fear, but I love that song … I don’t remember the title, but I love it. Ah, “Alone.” Typical ’80s sound!

Robin:  Once Blind? is released in late October, what is coming next for Whyzdom?

Vynce:  Next, we will try to find some dates for festivals and to set up some touring for us in France and in Europe. We are not quite working on this yet, but it will be our main goal for the year 2013. We want to meet the fans now! It has been a long time, because our last show was in November 2011. We want to hit the road again.


Robin:  What final words do you have for your new and old Whyzdom fans?

Vynce:  I am very thankful for our fans because they haven’t let us down. After all our problems during the last months … or maybe the last year … I can see that the interest of fans in Whyzdom did not vanish. I feared a lot, back two years ago, that fans would abandon us. I want to thank them all for remaining with us and supporting us, whatever happens. That’s what I wanted to say. For me, it’s very important to say “thank you” to them.

Elvyne:  I am very thankful to the fans for how they welcomed me in the band with so many positive things. I am so happy and thankful! I am very anxious to know if they will like my voice on all the songs on the album. I am eager to meet YOU (the fans), to talk with you, and to celebrate on stage!

Robin:  Vynce and Elvyne, thank you so much for taking part of your Sunday to chat with Sonic Cathedral. We certainly have been enjoying Blind?, and wish you fantastic reception for the new album!

Vynce:  Thank you!


Photo credit (promo pics): F. Cuaz

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