As she stepped into the limelight in 2017, when she joined famous metal folk band ELUVEITIE, Fabienne Erni already had all it takes to start her own solo project, although it’s circumstances, rather than ambition, which led her to create ILLUMISHADE… But we shan’t say anymore and invite you to discover our exchange with the talented multi instrumentalist singer, a few days before the release of « Eclyptic: Wake of Shadows » (15/05!), whose fantasy world is described through modern rock songs.
The project ILLUMISHADE, apart from the record and the video clips, is a well-developed concept, with the quiz and the enigma on the website, among other things related to the story… How long have you been preparing this project, which seems like a lot of work?
Fabienne – Basically, everything started because I had to! (laughs). I had to build a project for my master degree at the music school of Zurich to become a singing teacher. The master thesis required that we built a project and played a live show.
I was quite free to do whatever I wanted. I really love fantasy and musicals, and it was my biggest influence as a teen. So I chose this for the concept. Besides, having a story to rest on helps me to write songs!
Once I had the idea in mind, I contacted my best friend Tamara Schön, who thought it was cool. She is now very much involved, although not a band member. But she takes care of the management and the social media, and she does everything a label would do. We help out as much as we can.
Although we developed the idea together, it was too much work, so we asked a concept writer from Canada to help us, called Chrisy Berryman. She’s also a metal fan, so it matched perfectly! She helped us with the texts, and also with the enigma. Everything is taken care of within the ILLUMISHADE team. This way, we are completely independent and we own all the rights.
Would you have started the project even without your obligations at the university?
I think I would have not dared to do it! (laughs) That was actually the push I needed. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have had enough courage… As soon as I started out, I thought: « Why didn’t I do it sooner? ». It feels so great to be part of a project where you can build the world and its image, where I’m very much involved with the composing. I have many different roles, and I learn a lot.
I teamed up with Jonas Wolf (guitarist in ELUVEITIE), as we were at the same school in Zurich, and since we toured together a lot and he liked the project, I just told him that he should get involved.
I have a very different role in ELUVEITIE, where I give life to the lyrics and melodies written by Chrigel (Glanzmann, singer and composer). But with ILLUMISHADE, it’s also the first time I really compose and write songs. So it’s such a nice balance!
How did the presentation go eventually?
Everything went well, and I passed! It was actually a lot of stress, back in September, mainly because of the busy year ELUVEITIE had, and I was like “Holy shit! How am I going to do all this?”… So it was stress, but everything went so well. Thinking back, I would have never thought that we would take it that far, as it all started with that thesis I had to do for school! (laughs)
There are many symbols in « Eclyptic », among which the crystal, which appear on the cover. What do they stand for exactly?
It represents the heart of our world that needs to be protected. Every member of the band belongs to the Illumi Order, and each of us is the chosen one of their own tribe. Each tribe has also their own symbol. In the story, we need to protect the balance of this world, which is the crystal. But then, worlds end! I already have so many ideas of new topics for our next work…
The last track actually just consists in 40 seconds of instrumental. Is it something that would open up for a sequel?
Exactly! I didn’t want to end the album just in the dark, with the death of the guardian. We wanted to have a glimpse of hope, a sign of life. That’s why we did this quick ending track, which is actually the melody from the first song. It means that this is not “the end”… (laughs)
Your vocals, along with a couple of ballads, seem to be strongly inspired by famous popular singers and love songs…
I think it sounds different because it’s a different world. When I sing with ELUVEITIE, I’m in this celtic world, where I sometimes sing in gaulish. ILLUMISHADE is a different style of music, maybe a little more modern indeed, and everything is sung in English. All this influences the voice, and I’m very happy that I get to explore.
You mentioned Chrigel before, your bandmate in ELUVEITIE, who guests on Tales Of Time. Was it planned to involve him in the album?
No, but this is a song where I thought it would be great to have grunts because it contains a more traditional vibe. Since Chrigel has been excited for us since the beginning, when he learnt we wanted grunts on this song, he immediately wanted to join us! (laughs) That’s how it happened.
We were surprised to learn that Anna Murphy produced and recorded your backing vocals. How did you two end up working together?
I first recorded the vocals with Tommy Vetterli. But then, everything took longer than expected, and he didn’t have time anymore. We had such a tight schedule! So Anna took over for a few days to finish my backing vocals since everybody knows each other, even though it was my first time working with her.
It was such an amazing experience, and I guess it will not be the last one! We had a lot of fun playing around with the backing vocals, especially since we’re two singers, so « more is more »! (laughs) We even went a little bit crazy sometimes… I’m grateful I could do it with her because she brought many great ideas that wouldn’t have ended up that way on the album otherwise.
The release party that was supposed to happen in Zurich in a few days will be streamed on Youtube. Do you plan to do everything as it was supposed to be in the first place?
We are going to play exactly how we wanted it. We’ll probably have more interactions since it’s going to be a “ghost show”, and we’re still figuring out how to do it. But it’s going to be the same setlist. As I said, we already played one show in September at my school during the presentation, but since then, the songs changed a lot!
ELUVEITIE organized the “corona talk” sessions on the social networks, where you invite an artist to talk with you about the current situation. Who initiated that?
Chrigel and Michalina (Malisz, hurdy gurdy in ELUVEITIE) thought about that. Michalina is taking care of social media now.
I really love the idea. For me it’s important not to talk about the bad stuff too much, but more about the positive things you can take out of this. It’s just nice to connect with singers that I’ve never met before!
(First « corona talk » interview with Lena Scissorhands, singer in the band INFECTED RAIN, by Fabienne)
Finally, could you say what the hardest thing was for you to overcome when you joined ELUVEITIE in 2017?
There were actually many! (laughs) I joined the band without a lot of band experience… I was singing in school bands, but it’s not the same of course: you play covers, you’re in the school setting…
For me, there were so many challenges, like playing for so many people… (laughs) Also, singing and playing with in-ears, connecting with the audience, being on the social media… Touring was new for me as well, playing so many shows, and recording an actual album in a big studio… I was thrown into the cold water! (laughs) But I’m super happy they thought that I was the right one for them and that I took the challenge.
I remember our first show together was at the beginning of January 2017, during our own festival Eluveitie & Friends, which lasted two days. There was around a thousand people each night, and I was so freaking nervous! We didn’t rehearse much because of lack of time. But everything went pretty alright for our first time!