Only two weeks after Prognosis in Eindhoven (the Netherlands), during which LEPROUS gave the best show of the festival, we had the chance to attend yet another show, this time in France! Together with six other bands, they performed at Heart Sound Metal Fest, near Paris, and gave us all a night to remember.
Fun fact, both performances were very special: while at Prognosis, LEPROUS played the entirety of “The Congregation” (2015), the audience in Paris, on the other hand, could witness what the band called a “shuffle” show. In other words, the setlist songs were to be picked out of a hat at the very last minute!
A few hours prior to the show, we had a very insightful and honest interview with Singer Einar Solberg…
Are you ready for the shuffle show tonight?
Einar – Yes, although we had some issues this morning, it was awful! But it will be fine, because it’s just songs that we’ve played before, almost 40 on rotation in our setlists…
The true challenge wouldn’t have been to include all of the discography in the hat?
That would be a terrible waste of time in the middle of the recording process to rehearse everything… There are just too many songs that I don’t like, or rather that I don’t relate!
What tracks, for example?
Mostly the whole “Tall Poppy Syndrome” album (2009), although we selected some of the songs, but I hope we’re not going to pick them up! (laughs) I don’t relate that much to anything until “Coal” (2013), and even a part of this one I don’t always relate…
Because of the lyrics?
Not at all! It’s more because of their “all over the place” atmosphere… I prefer things to be more focused or mellow somehow. If I want to do something really big, then I prefer to build it gradually.
Like many songs on “The Congregation” (2015)…
Actually, I relate more to “Coal” than to “The Congregation” these days, because it’s so calculated! We had new members at the time, and we didn’t have enough confidence to let things go. That’s also what I like and what I dislike with this album. It’s by far our most technical album, way more technical than “Bilateral”, even though people might think the opposite.
It just feels a little bit too stiff sometimes… I prefer when things are not so sharp.
During Prognosis, as I had a clear view on Baard (Kolstad, drummer), I had the impression he had eleven arms and legs for songs from “The Congregation”. On the contrary, his drum play on songs from “Malina” (2017) like Stuck or From The Flame seemed like a walk in the park for him!
The funny thing is you might think that it’s a walk in the park, but the truth is, the more experienced you get, the better you are at camouflaging that they’re difficult to play: it turns out From The Flame is super difficult on the drums. It’s just that he’s making it appear easy!
That’s what I mean when I say that “The Congregation” is stiffer and “prog” in a way, which is the part of prog that I personally don’t like too much, when you make people say “Wow! That is so impressive!”… But that is not what I want to achieve with music: I want to see people cry or smile – although we don’t give people that much reason to smile! (laughs) All in all, they must feel. That’s the important thing for me, not just show off technical skills, which is just one parameter out of many others, and it’s definitely not the most important one. I can love music that is absolutely not technical, while I can hate the one that’s super technical.
In the end, the songs that we like to play from “The Congregation” are usually the songs that we play quite a lot, like The Flood or The Price… With this one, we feel like we don’t have much of a choice, because after From The Flame it’s the most requested from the audience.
Why didn’t you ever play Within My Fence before Prognosis?
I would rather ask why we put it in the album! I like it, but for me, “The Congregation” is packed with too many songs. We could have cut away a couple.
The weird thing with the show at Prognosis, it’s that all the hits or the crowd pleasers were on the first half of the setlist. The second half is more oddball! So we felt there was a great flow at first, and then, there was Red, and Moon, and Down, Lower, Within My Fence… (laughs)
That’s why we wanted to end the show with something a bit safer like Stuck and From The Flame… If the show had ended with Rewind or The Price, then it would have been fine, but it felt weird to end the show with Lower and Down.
Have you thought about changing the order of the songs?
No, because I think an album in its entirety should be played as such. That’s my opinion.
I went to see MASSIVE ATTACK when they played “Mezzanine” (1998) live in its entirety, and I’ve never been more disappointed! I realized it was actually three or four songs that I really like from that album, and I was missing the songs from the other albums that they usually play. (laughs) It’s actually a mix of all the albums that I enjoy, and I think their audience does as well.
There are always songs from this or that album you want to hear. Besides, an album doesn’t necessarily make a concert setlist. I thought it was nice to do it, but I hope we’re not going to do a show like that for a while now…
There was an April Fool’s joke on the Internet with a fake poster stating that you’d play “Tall Poppy Syndrome” in its entirety… Isn’t it something you could do one day?
You know, we have the streaming and sales’ numbers for that album, and it represents almost nothing! It has only a few dedicated fans. To play “Tall Poppy Syndrome” would be pointless, and it would be like faking and pretending that we enjoy ourselves on stage. I think it has potential, but some of the songs are absolutely awful because of bad composition, to be honest! (laughs hard) “Bilateral” has way more followers…
Ah! So playing this album live would be something to consider, then?
We already play some of it on occasions, especially Acquired Taste and MB Indifferentia, which go best with the rest of the setlist. And then there is Forced Entry, but it’s more like putting THE prog song just for the sake of it… The various sections feel so far away from what we are now.
It’s not about disrespecting our old work at all, and I can so much relate to people who like it, because that’s how I used to feel… But now, I like a song to be a song, not five songs! (laughs)
Will the new album be the continuity of “Malina” or will we again have something completely different?
It’s obviously going to be something new. The approach is actually very different from “Malina”’s, but not in a way our old school fans will appreciate… They will hate it more than they hated “Malina”, I think!
It’s by far our most reserved album, with a lot of variations. It’s quite varied in the emotions spectrum as well: it’s not only melancholic or depressive, like the rest of our catalogue (laughs). There is some light and hope in there as well, even though I wrote the lyrics when I was in a dark place…
It’s a very personal album. I sing about my own struggles, which I never wanted to do before.
If you could put some songs in the new album that are not as sad as, let’s say The Last Milestone, that would be perfect! With all due respect…
It’s definitely the saddest song I’ve ever written. But there’s nothing sad on the new album. I think “Malina” is way sadder.
There is going to be so many comments on Youtube, like: “What is this pop shit?”… I always found it hilarious when people use “pop” as an insult, whereas some of my favorite artists are pop artists: what Michael Jackson did, for example, is way more advanced than any other prog band… The singing, the dancing, everything around the show… It’s impossible to do what he did! I’d never in my wildest dreams do something like that, and I think no one could, except him.
Sometimes, I feel like we are fighting against our own fans, as some of the older fans want us to be something that we’re not. I think they should have got by now that we’re not ever going to do another “Bilateral” album, or another “Coal” or “Tall Poppy”…
You used to give singing lessons during the tours. Why stopping?
There are several reasons: firstly, I’m terrible with beginners! I have zero patience, and I’m really bad at telling people that they need to work. I’m kind of too “nice” in a way! Often, I get people who don’t sing and who just want to hang out… It’s very draining. If I were to teach more advanced people, it could be fine. But I’m not a good teacher for people who are not super into it.
The other main thing is that it was time consuming, and I need to work out on tour, in addition to taking care of the tour tasks. That’s very important for me to keep good physical and mental health.
What’s the most annoying thing you’ve experienced from Journalists?
What annoys me most is when it’s not a conversation, when it’s just me blabbering, or that I just have to answer “yes” before moving on to the next question…
Most Journalists are respectful, and I haven’t experienced a lot of bad things here. But the worst experience was with someone who couldn’t speak English at all! It was just embarrassing.
My last question for today: after so many years touring, are you still feeding on “cheering and clapping”?
Not really. Most of us in this scene are suckers for attention somehow – of course, if we didn’t like being on stage in front of many people, we wouldn’t do it.
This being said, the bigger we get, and the more people come to our shows, the more jaded I become… I think I got a little bit too used to it. It’s like everything in life: you want something, you get it, and then you don’t appreciate it anymore. It’s a typical human defect!
I’m working on it, though, as I try to stay in the moment. It’s kind of working, like in Latin America, where it’s beyond anything we’ve seen before! They get crazy, but at the same time, they’re quiet when they’re supposed to. And they’re clapping in time! (laughs) It’s not always the case with audiences.
Header photo: Clément.
Photos at Prognosis: Emilie Garcin.
Many thanks to Pauline Candelot and Claire “Petitpoète” !