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The Sirens Interview 2014: Anneke + Liv + Kari

The Sirens Interview
(via Skype)

“Siren” is a word that is often overused in the female-fronted metal arena. But when you’re talking about three women who pioneered a new sound -- Anneke van Giersbergen (with The Gathering), Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull (with Theatre Of Tragedy), and Kari Rueslåtten (with The 3rd And The Mortal) -- calling their collaboration The Sirens could not be more fitting. The Sirens are hitting the road for live shows that will include a mixture of classics and brand new material from their solo albums and current projects. Check out “Embracing the Seasons” and “Sisters of the Earth” for a taste of what awaits!

The Sirens


Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker had the pleasure of a four-way Skype interview with Kari, Liv and Anneke to chat about The Sirens. The chemistry between them, their appreciation for each other’s accomplishments, and their sheer joy at performing together was truly heartwarming. Dive in for all the details on The Sirens, how diapers paved the way for the project, their first in-person meeting, and much more!

Sonic Cathedral:  Each of you has been a forerunner in the female-fronted metal scene for 20 years. When you hear terms like “legend” and “pioneer” used, does it seem real?

Anneke:  Yeah, I don’t know know, because I just see myself as a singer. I sing in a band with heavy music, and that’s how it all started. So that’s my “modest me”. But on the other hand, I’m really super proud that this whole scene came about, and we were at the beginning of it. To see it all grow, that’s really nice to just follow around. In the end, it’s about music, it’s about singing, it’s about being on stage, and being together in band. For me, that’s the most important thing.

Liv:  Music has always been a very important part of my life. I had this sort of strange thing going on when I was a kid, and that was: I was a very, very late talker, and they thought there was something wrong with me. <Kari laughs> But I was singing all the time, so they thought “there is DEFINITELY something wrong with this kid!” <all laugh> Yeah, it’s been going on like this ever since.

Next to my family, music is the most important thing in my life, and I happened to come into metal because of my parents. They were only 18 when they became parents, and they were still in party mode. There was a lot of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, and ABBA going on at that time, and I got everything on the spoon. So, that’s why all of this is a part of me. Then, Theatre Of Tragedy happened when I was 17, and here we are 20 years later!

Kari:  It actually seems unreal because I never thought it would be like this when we started out. It’s flattering to hear, and it’s very nice to hear that what you did so many years ago … and like Liv said, it’s 20 years ago … meant something to somebody, and people use that word “legend”. It’s really sweet! But as you say, it’s surreal, and it doesn’t really feel like it is for real. <laughs> It is good to think about when people say nice things, but it wasn’t at all our expectation that it was going to have that impact. We never, ever thought that it would be. We hoped that we had something good going; something fresh, that we had in mind. But we didn’t really think it was going to influence so many people.


The Sirens

Sonic Cathedral:  The Sirens’ Facebook page has a blurb on how the three of you came together. What I’m curious to know is why you decided to team up, considering that each of you has a recent (or upcoming) solo album, other projects, and are in demand as live performers.

Liv:  I had been thinking about making some kind of “originals” thing for a long time, but I thought: “Well, I don’t know …” And then, all of a sudden, Anneke and my roads crossed in the Czech Republic about a year ago at the [Masters Of Rock] festival. Last time I met Anneke, we talked about Pampers. <all laugh> But this time, I went straight to her bunker, and asked her about doing something together with the “originals”. I asked: “Do you have any contact with Kari?”

Anneke:  I did!

Liv:  It was just the perfect time and the perfect place! The universe heard us, and we came together.

Anneke:  Yes!!!

Sonic Cathedral:  The Sirens are about to head out for a run of shows throughout Western Europe. What can fans expect at your live show?

Anneke:  We have a huge show planned, where we do the old songs of our previous bands, and we will also do our solo stuff that we are working on now. Liv has an album coming out right now, so it’s REALLY NEW stuff. Like I said before, we come from different genres within the Metal & Rock genre, but these songs -- the old songs and the new songs -- they fit so well together. We recently heard that our voices also match really well, because you can’t control that. It is just a voice, and it’s a natural thing. But we are very much in tune, and it’s great. It is going to be a massive show, I can promise!


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Sonic Cathedral:  Anneke and Liv are veterans of Metal Female Voices Fest, where The Sirens will be headlining. But I think this will be Kari’s first time. What are you looking forward to most?

Kari:  I am definitely looking forward to meeting many people who are into that kind of music. Just now, I get all these messages on Facebook from people who are coming to Belgium. They request songs, and they are looking so forward to this. It really makes me look forward to it too! I have heard so much about that festival, and I just feel really lucky that finally I get the chance to visit and to play there. So, it’s gonna be great! Definitely.

Sonic Cathedral:  For each of you, if you had a time machine and could go back and give your just-starting-out-self advice, what advice would you give? <Anneke laughs> Liv, you’re making the best facial expression, so that means you go first.

Liv:  <laughs> Oh dear, oh dear … 20 years back!

Sonic Cathedral:  From your experience of 20 years on the road, what would you want to tell yourself?

Liv:  Over the years on the road …. uhmmmm … “be sophisticated on the road”. I don’t want to sound old or anything, but we’re past 20; we past 30; we almost past 40 … or we already did. I see now (and it’s a tragedy, actually), people around me, who’ve been following me on the road within the crew or in my surroundings, and excessive partying is not good for you. You have to take care of yourself, especially if you do this for a living, which all three of us do. So, you have to take care of yourself, and you have to choose your colleagues carefully, especially if you travel with your family. If you have a family on the nightliner, you have to be double-extra-careful. And drink a lot of ginger tea with honey, and all this kind of stuff! <laughs>

Kari:  Hmmmm, it was a nice memory lane because I always think a lot about things. I think I would have given myself the advice: “Keep on thinking. But things are going to be alright; things are going to be okay. Just keep on believing and finding motivation in music.” I worry a lot about things, especially when I was younger. I think that, once you’re there, things are going to be okay. I think that would be my best advice. I think that is also a thing with girls. We are more oriented about cause-and-effect. I felt like I had to carry that burden. Like when we were six people in The 3rd And The Mortal, I was the only person who actually cared about things like: “Are these tires on the van actually prepared for this ice that we are on tonight? Maybe we should wait here until tomorrow …

Anneke:  You are so right!

Kari:  … We don’t have to drive tonight.” These type of worrying things. But things went okay, and I think it wouldn’t have helped. I could have just relaxed, instead of worrying.


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Anneke:  I almost never watch anything from the past, I never watch YouTube, and I don’t read the critics because I am very much in the here and now. But as I am a bit older now than 20 years ago, it is interesting when you do look at something from the old days. When I did the other day, I saw a The Gathering show when I was really, really young and innocent. And I saw myself being completely relaxed about everything. <Kari laughs> I had a super-ugly sweater on, my hair was three colors, and I wasn’t dancing or whatever. In the big parts where I didn’t have to sing, I was just standing there, looking around, and enjoying.

Nowadays, I sometimes think: “Oh, you should do THIS. You should wear THAT.” You know, we’re very conscious about everything. And then I thought we should go back to being kids, in a way -- being fully conscious of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and being very good at what you’re doing, but to have a little bit of an innocence back. Just enjoy. Maybe like Kari said, just don’t worry so much because it was alright. It was just alright with the big sweater on. <laughs> Although I like my clothing now much better. But sometimes you can look back and learn from it even, instead of the other way around.

Sonic Cathedral:  You all look so joyful in the promo pictures that you took for The Sirens, when you got together for the first time. Taking us back to that day in May 2014, what was it like for the three of you to finally meet up?

Anneke:  That was actually a very nice day because it was the first time that we all three met. We were together, and we had a very good photographer who makes you very comfortable. It was a great atmosphere. You know, girls and make-up. <laughs>

Kari:  And black dresses!

Anneke:  Exactly! We talked about that a lot. We talked about our music, and we made some pictures. It is really important to have a good start to these kinds of things. And usually, making pictures is kind of an ice-breaker in my opinion because you decide: “What should we wear; what should we do?” So, you are already immediately involved in what you’re going to do together. Later comes the music, I suppose. So that was just a very, very nice day!

Liv:  It was definitely.


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Kari:  I didn’t really have being the catalyst for all this in mind, I must say. I was just really … it is awesome to have this memory lane. Maybe it is different now, but back then, there were no girls ANYWHERE. After the gig or something, perhaps there were, but not in the industry, so to speak. So, I really looked forward to meeting somebody who is a colleague -- somebody who is doing many similar things, but you haven’t met yet. Also, I admire very much what Anneke and Liv are doing, so I just felt really lucky to finally have the opportunity to meet them, particularly, to also meet somebody who is doing so many similar things as me because that is not very common to have the same background and all.

Sonic Cathedral:  With such extensive and deep discographies, how in the world did you come up with the setlist for The Sirens shows? Even with shows that are 100 minutes, that is barely scratching the surface of your collective bands, solo work and collaborations.

Liv:  <sighs> That was a quite difficult task because each of us had to go home and actually sit down and look through our own history. And the even bigger task was to make a setlist out of it! Which song comes when? When does who join whom? That was a difficult task, but I think we found a skeleton for it now. It is going to be amazing! It is going to be a historical journey, as well as we are going to give you new, modern input. So, we are getting there, thanks to Anneke who has been sitting night and day trying to figure it out.

Anneke:  Ahhhhhh, together. We do it together! <laughs>

Liv:  You did it; you nailed it!

Anneke:  Thanks, Liv!

Sonic Cathedral:  Anneke, is it correct that your band is actually going to be the band for The Sirens shows?

Anneke:  That is correct, yes.


The Sirens


Sonic Cathedral:  So they had to learn your material from The Gathering, as well as a really long set of tracks from Kari’s and Liv’s discographies?

Anneke:  Yes, and they have been rehearsing already DAYS here in the studio in our home. So, I am the only Siren who actually hears the progress of the band, going from Day 1 (when everybody was still searching their parts) until now. They were here the day before yesterday, and it sounds awfully good! So, that is cool. The boys already know their stuff. Before the tour, we come together with the girls as well, and we’ll make the whole thing happen. But it’s really good to hear those songs come alive, really, especially the songs of the other girls, because I know my own songs. And then we kind of decided which songs we do duets and trios, so those songs come alive even more as well.

Sonic Cathedral:  When will you all get together in person to rehearse for the shows?

Liv:  Next weekend! We will meet up in The Netherlands (Holland) next weekend.

Sonic Cathedral:  What final words do you have for your fans at Sonic Cathedral?

Anneke:  Go to the show! <laughs> Kari:  If you can, then you are very welcome to come to the show.

Liv:  I’m back! Thank you so much for always being there for us. We are really looking forward to (hopefully) being on the road nearby you very soon. So, you take good care, and it’s been an honor talking to you!

Sonic Cathedral:  It was my honor! Thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral today.

Much metal love to Iris Bernotat for setting up the interview! You ROCK, sistah.

Photo credit: Stefan Heilemann

The Sirens on Facebook
Anneke official site
Kari official site
Liv official site