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Cardamon Interview

The Dutch melodic rockers, Cardamon, are in it for the love of music … so much so, that they are giving away their new album, Sun as Never, as a free download with no strings attached. (Get it here.) Fans of Cardamon’s 2007 release will instantly recognize the rippling harmonies and twining guitar work that made The Primrose Path a favorite with Sonic Cathedral readers.

Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker sat down for a long Skype chat with vocalist Floortje Donia and guitarist Kevin Storm to discuss Sun as Never, the birds and bees of creating an album, what gives them the greatest thrill as musicians, and much more. Don’t forget to download your free copy of Sun as Never!


Robin:  Hello, Floortje and Kevin, and welcome to Sonic Cathedral webzine! Thank you for joining us today to talk about your new album, Sun as Never.

Floortje:  Hi Robin, and thank you!

Kevin:  Hi there!

Robin:  I understand that Cardamon intentionally took a different musical direction with Sun as Never than you took with The Primrose Path. What are some of the differences, and why did you decide on a change?

Kevin:  As with any band, if you stay together for a long period of time, you grow. I think this album is kind of like a culmination of these last few years, where we’ve been trying to get our own sound and trying to get the message across a little more clearly. And I think that reflects in the music. We’ve certainly taken our time to do that. You can say that! (laughs)

Floortje:  As well, after releasing The Primrose Path and playing it live extensively, we realized that there were quite a few songs on it that might not be as suitable for live performances as others, so we decided that for the next album we would like to have a stronger live sound, with more up-tempo songs.


Robin:  One of the things that will be surprising to people is that Cardamon intends to give the album away for free ... it will be on your website, and anyone who wants it can download it for free. What was your thinking behind that?

Floortje:  To be honest, we did it a little bit out of frustration, firstly. We realized that, after all this time with our last album -- we even had a digital release label -- nothing came out of it for us, physically. We didn’t make any money out of it, we have no albums left, and we have no idea what happened to our music worldwide, or where it went to begin with. So we kind of decided that we were done with having to deal with other people who decide for us HOW our music should reach the public.

Basically, we decided to take matters into our own hands, and ignore everything else. We’re not going to be on iTunes, we’re not going to press any CDs, and we’re not going to be on Amazon. No one is going to be able to take advantage of our music, except us, in the way that we feel is most important: We just want people to love what we do, because WE love what we do.

Robin:  As a music fan, I love going to concerts, buying a CD, and having the band sign it. If you are not pressing CDs for Sun as Never, what will Cardamon fans have as mementos when they attend live shows?

Kevin:  We can sign other bands’ t-shirts. That’s no problem! (all laugh) Well, we just had the album release party, and we had 100 of these USB drives that we did make. On stage, Floortje decided to explain a little why we were doing things this way, giving away the album as a free download. We really noticed a big response from the crowd, that they get it and appreciate it. And yet, they bought all the USB’s we had on us that night!

Even though we did spend A LOT of money on making the album, it’s still not about getting profit. The reason we spent the money to get the album done is because we wanted to get the album done, and not to make a profit out of it. As long as people realize that, I think it’s not about the CD and the artwork. You can talk to us on Facebook, and you can have your picture taken if you like, or whatever. You don’t need a CD to talk about music … nowadays, at least.

Robin:  I did buy one of the limited edition USB sticks because it is such a cool little gizmo. Who was the mastermind behind designing it?

Floortje:  That was a joint effort as well. We realized that CDs are … I dunno … a little outdated? Because everyone is listening to music digitally, a download fits the era. So, if there was going to be something 3D from this album, then it should be something that also fits this era. We looked for something that suited Cardamon, and the tree theme is something that has been with us since the beginning.

Cardamon USB

Robin:  We started reading news of Cardamon working on a new album, back in early 2010 … probably March or so. For those of us who aren’t familiar with what goes into making an album, would you walk us through the process of creating Sun as Never?

Floortje:  Of course, we had quite a big line-up change, meaning that Thomas [Kalksma] left the band. Besides drumming, he was also an important songwriter for us at the time. So, we kind of had to reinvent ourselves at that point, and restructure the songwriting process. (There are actually still some songs on Sun as Never that have Thomas’s input in them.) Of course, we all have full-time jobs, so it has to happen in the evenings and on the weekends. Kevin or Koen would come up with ideas, and then in the practice place, we would just go ahead and play everything that the guys brought, and make songs out of the best of it.


Robin:  Once you’ve gotten the songs written, what happens next? For example, what does it mean to go into “pre-production”?

Kevin:  Step 1 is that we decide that we have enough songs to make a new album, and then we go into pre-production. I have a simple home studio, where I can record most of the things, except for drums of course. What we do is: we record all the songs, up until that point, to a normal standard so we can all, as a band, hear the songs back without playing them. You know what I mean? When you’re in the rehearsal space and you’re playing the songs, you’re focusing on your own guitar playing or on your singing, or it’s too loud and you can’t hear the song for what it is. Pre-production basically means you record all the songs as simply as you can to hear them back, to decide if songs are finished, or if they still need some work. After that, we chose which songs would make the final album.

So that is the structuring of the songs. When you’re done with that, you rehearse the songs, and you go into the real studio, which was Excess Studios in this case. We have a nice cooperation with Excess Studios because we know the guy that owns the place, Hans Pieters, and he’s a great guy who (like us) is still in it for the love of the music. He’s always very supportive, so if he can help us out in any way, he will always do it. That gave us the means to record the album there, as cheap as possible … with me behind the desk as much as possible, recording the drums, guitars and bass.

The reason that we recorded the vocals at my place is because, in the studio, you’re paying to rent the recording space. We really wanted to take time with it, especially with the vocals, because that is (to put it simply) your ticket to the hearts of the people. So we wanted to take our time to get it perfect …

Floortje:  Not so much perfect, as taking the time until it was good, because we didn’t want it to be perfect. We wanted it to sound sincere and have still the rock-and-roll feel to it, so we did not take out all the little slides or slips that might not be perfect. But we wanted to take the time to make sure that we had the sound that we were aiming for, and that was the most important part about not getting in a rush to do it.

Robin:  Is the sound that you are going for on Sun as Never something that will be very close to what fans will hear when they attend one of your live gigs?

Floortje:  Yes, that has been actually one of the main objectives. We want to be a live band, so we definitely tried to make the album as close to live as possible, except for some vocal harmonies that were recorded by me, but will be fulfilled by Koen or a tape recording. But yeah, it should be close.

Robin:  Of the songs on the album, which song was closest in pre-production to the final version, and which one got the most tweaking and adjusting before it was final?

Floortje:  Hmmmm, I think that, with most songs, we pre-produced them until they were final. But in general, I can say that the song “Wide Eyes” has had the most work. I mean, we’ve worked on that song since I think before The Primrose Path even. It just never made it to the stage where we wanted to record it, where it was good enough for us to record it. So usually there is not a big difference between pre-production’s final version and the actual recorded version, but yes, some songs need ENDLESS tweaking. (laughs)

Robin:  I noticed that the phrase “never meant to last” is something that comes up a couple of times on the album. What were you capturing with that ephemeral phrase?

Kevin:  That would be my fault. (Floortje laughs) I guess … and I’m just speaking on my own behalf right now, because that’s from some lyrics that I wrote … but I guess that we’re all in some stage of our life right now that we’re coming to realize the things that are really important. When you’re 18 and you have a guitar around your neck, all you want is to be a rock star, and you want people to adore you and worship everything that you do. We’re in our mid-30s now, or beginning 30s …

Floortje:  Hey hey hey, mid-30s??

Kevin:  (laughs) Not Floortje, of course … 21 forever! But no, I think that is what the title of the album comes from, because it really does reflect the way that we would like to see the world. The title Sun as Never is from the lyric “take your time to see the sun as never intended to last.” If you go outside and you see something nice or you see the sun, it’s so easy to discard it and not notice it or enjoy it for what it is. But if you take your time to see things for what they really are and try to see the beauty in simple things, it just brightens up your life. The more you realize that NOTHING was meant to last, the more you appreciate it NOW. I think that is a lesson that comes with growing older.


Robin:  You had actually done a very cool home-made video for “When Space and Time Collide” from The Primrose Path album. Have you given any thought to a video for the new album?

Floortje:  Oh yeah definitely, we’ll be doing that! We’re not planning on anything right now, no official videos like the one Framecat had produced for “Sleepless World.” But home-made stuff is going to be there, those things just happen, they come out of nowhere.

Robin:  Would you tell us a bit about your album release party on November 26, along with your fellow-Dutchies, Autumn? What were some of your personal highlights from the show? ?

Floortje:  It was a REALLY fantastic night! For starters, the response was great and -- as I said -- we sold all the USBs even though it’s a free download. So that was something that really showed the love that we were hoping to find. Secondly, Autumn was playing an AWESOME show. We love them so much, and they really like what we are doing too. We had a lot of mutual love and friendship going on that night -- both musically and personally -- so that was something that we really adored.

Kevin:  It was also local, so we had a lot of friends there as well. That always helps to get the mood going. If there are a lot of people in the audience that you know, it makes you rock all that much harder!

Robin:  For the people who heard songs for the first time at the Sun as Never release party, which ones did it seem like people were really getting into?

Floortje:  I find that a difficult question really, because I can’t listen to them anymore objectively. So I wouldn’t know which ones would be the more popular ones or the more easy listening ones. I think what we put out was “Away from the Light” and “Masterminds”; wasn’t it?

Kevin:  Yep.

Floortje:  I think those two go well. But honestly, I can’t say if response would be any different to the other songs on the record.

Robin:  Kevin, during the concert, did you notice a response to any particular songs when you were playing them live?

Kevin:  Well, during “Masterminds”, we had Jens from Autumn standing on the side of the stage, and he gave me the horns! I think that was one of the first songs we played at the release gig; wasn’t it?

Floortje:  I think fifth or sixth.

Kevin:  Whatever ... but I just remember seeing his face, spurring me on to keep doing what I’m doing. That really helped! As musicians (like Floortje said already), Autumn and us mutually appreciate what each other does. If you get respect from people that YOU respect, that means a lot. So that was “Masterminds.” The people liked that song. I also heard a couple of great things about the song “Antithesis,” as well. (laughs) We’re still figuring out how to pronounce that.

Floortje:  (laughs) What would you say? What would you recommend?


Robin:  (pronounces “antithesis”)

Floortje:  Antithesis, yeah. We’ll say that, but none of us can really pronounce it at the speed that it should be. (all laugh)

Robin:  What will the band focus on in the upcoming year?

Floortje:  Well, we’re hoping that this album is going to generate some momentum, and that we can play as many live gigs as possible. And I don’t mean every day and week-long tours. But we just really hope to play a couple of nice gigs with cool friends and bands, and get this thing going because basically that is all we want. We just want to play and have fun.

Robin:  Between being on stage playing live and maybe hearing your song on the radio or getting feedback on one of your songs, what excites you the most?

Kevin:  I think that is personal for everybody. To me, it’s more of an emotional thing, so I’m mostly looking forward to hearing what people feel when they listen to it, what they think of the lyrics, and what kind of emotion the album portrays for people. I don’t know. I think that is different for everybody in the band. I LOVE being up on stage and playing this music live, just as much as the next guy does. But that’s my opinion. I think everybody gets his own thing … his own kick … out of this. It might be how well the album is produced or you want to hear how great the lyrics are or you want people to see that you can put on a really great live show. It varies. Doesn’t it?

Floortje:  It does, yeah! But I think that eventually the thing that gets us the most excited is when we come off a stage and we’ve done well. That energy we have among us five at those moments is really the most amazing part to me.

Robin:  With everybody having full-time jobs and being adults with grown-up lives, are you able to spend time together doing things that are not related to music?

Floortje:  Unfortunately, not enough. No. We’d really like to spend more time together, but we don’t get to hang out that much.

Kevin:   Not as a band.

Floortje:  Me and Kevin see each other quite a lot, but that is because we live like 500 feet from each other, so we hang out. As for the rest of the band, everyone lives in different places. Some of us live an hour away, so it’s not really easy to have a full-blown friendship among the five.


Robin:  We have about reached the end of our time together. Addressing your fans directly, what would you like to tell them in parting, that you haven’t had a chance to say?

Floortje:  All five of them? (laughs) Just kidding!

Kevin:  The way that we are releasing this album, the only thing that we are going to get from it is (hopefully) feedback. That can be by telling a friend or telling us. Because like Floortje said, with the last album, you hand your album over to a record label or to iTunes through a record label, and you have nooooo idea where your album goes, who likes it, who hates it, why they like it, or why they hate it. So, if you can spare a second, look us up on Facebook or our website, and drop us a line. Or visit our live show. Like I said, it’s not about the money. But we just like to know what people think about the album because it took us a pretty long time to get it done, and there’s a lot of effort and a lot of love that went into it. It would be nice to hear what people think of it. It’s the least people can do. You don’t even have to pay for it. You can just grab it, and let us know.

Floortje:  Plus, hopefully when it gets picked up a little bit, we might find a good booking agency who might put us in places where we do not normally go. And that’s something I look forward to a lot. Hopefully, we can make that happen by having this album spread out for free, as easily as possible.

Robin:  We wish you a very successful launch! We hope that many people will download the album, become fans, who support Cardamon on Facebook and spread the word. Thank you for talking with Sonic Cathedral today.

Floortje:  Thank you, Robin!

Kevin:  Thank you!


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