Sonic Magic is something that some bands conjure without trying, and one band that achieves this effortlessly is Belguim’s AMENRA. I think of them as more than just people that create music, but as a collective of humans that manifest many creative entities. They have made music that really speaks to the human condition, from the darkest twilight to the brilliant sunrise. AMENRA recently signed with Neurot Recordings, and are in the process of working on their next album Mass V. CVLT Nation had the opportunity to interview them about their inspirations and creative spirits, so after the jump, read this mind-bending interview with AMENRA!
Photos by Thomas De Sweertvaegher
Yes yes y’all…how are things in the Amenra universe right now?
Hey man, well good…we’re trying to wrestle ourselves through a new album. Pretty much rehearsing writing and throwing away pretty much whatever material we come up with. The new album is scheduled for 2012, but we never work with deadlines. We believe that a record shouldn’t be written against time. A record should be released when the time is right, written when necessary. writing a new Mass album just for the sake of ‘needing a new album’ would kill everything we ever stood for.
Besides that we’re preparing everything for the artwork, installations, compositions etc. for live visuals clips photographs for the artwork whatever. We want this one to be ‘real’, instead of an artificial creation. We want to be able to touch everything we use, everything we put out there. It now needs to be a real part of our physical life as well.
Still slowly but surely writing a second book. Re-releasing our first album, so doing artwork for this one too. Doing a hell of a lot of side projects, such as Kingdom, Syndrome, Oathbreaker, Sembler Deah, Caan, Blind to Faith and the list goes on and on. Then there are some interesting co-operations coming along. Our next art exhibition is scheduled for February 2012.
When I listen to your music, it expands my imagination – visions of darkness, caves, bursts of light & huge cliffs fill my mind…what do think it is about your songs that evokes these kind of thoughts?
The music and lyrics are drenched in some sort of solitude, aloneness…It’s a heart and soul driven vehicle, we try to materialize our ‘truth’ through the ungraspable medium of music or sound. We try to tell it like it is, no means to act tough or look cool. When you’re down on your knees, we want you to
feel comfortable in that place. We want to stand there behind you with our hand on your shoulder, telling you it will all be alright.
I guess it’s the sheer honesty of it. The pain, despair is just real.
Whatever imagery comes before your eyes, that’s all different for everyone. The essence here is emotion, it is heart.
Heart, and the magnitude of it.
I’m amazed at the depth of your lyrics…is it important for the words you write to be a voyage into & around the human condition?
Yes, to me it pretty much means everything, since i am the one writing them. I see it as a privilege to be able to put a huge ‘personal’ stamp on the whole thing. Out of respect, I try to make it abstract so that everyone can see their own truth in it. I want everyone to be able to recognize themselves in it, or themselves in a certain time and place in their own life.
Song lyrics are like diary entries for me personally, if you will. I don’t know exactly where they come from, but they help me understand myself. And sometimes they help me realize what’s living inside of me, and doesn’t always surface on their own. It is in a way a journey through my subconscious.
There is no point in doing something without trying to get as much out of it as you can. And here I mean spiritually. I feed on these things; it makes and has made my life bearable. It cleanses and heals, salves and embalms the wounds you think will never heal. We all have them, we all have to learn them and live with them. So why not help each other in doing so.
When you are performing live with Amenra, what is your physical & mental state of mind?
It depends, sometimes when the stars are aligned, I can completely lose myself in it, then it feels like I am standing there just by myself. I know it’s the same thing for the others in Amenra. The best shows are the ones where you are lost, we’re there together, the five of us, but at the same time we’re thousands of miles and lives apart. We’re individuals meeting on a higher level, carried by music. It’s a beautiful thing really It never matters how big the venue was, how many people are attending it…there’s always the same ‘goal’ if you will.
Sometimes I feel like I can take on the world during a show, I’m unbeatable, immortal. Nothing can kill me. Sometimes I feel goddamn miserable and alone in the world, even though I’m surrounded by my best friends, it all just hurts. I always fight, with whatever and whoever causes harm to the ones I love. My family, my friends. Darkness. I’ll never give up.
Other moments, things that are happening on stage or in the audience keeps you from getting into ‘that’ state of mind. They keep you on earth. Unfortunately.
How did Amenra performing in a cave come about? What have been some other interesting places that the band has played?
Well, Scott Kelly was actually the first one to play that cave. We went to that show, and were talking to our good friend Ansgar about our acoustic EP Afterlife, and he and Scott actually hooked us up with that acoustic show there. It was an amazing experience really, probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. The natural reverb there was amazing. We’ve always done our own Amenra shows on and in places where we felt the ‘atmosphere’ was just right for an Amenra show, you know. The places themselves almost ‘breathed’ the feel of unease, a heavy weight on your shoulders maybe. It’s difficult to describe…
We’ve pretty much been playing shows in abandoned chapels and churches, woods and forests, gravehills etc…The idea came to me when we were scheduled to
play an open air fest here in Belgium, that was during summer. I kinda asked myself, what the fuck are we going to do there on that stage, at noon with the sun in our eyes? It just didn’t make sense to me. Why would we want to do that?! We started our set on the festival, after 1/3rd of the first song all electricity there failed. We wrapped our stuff up again, went off and rented a generator, some lights, and we played a nearby forest that night after the headliner. People still talk about that show.
That’s when I realized the world was bigger than we thought it was, we could play anywhere, any time. It was ours.
What were the thoughts that came to your mind once you realized Neurot was your new home?
I pretty much couldn’t believe it. I cannot say we never spoke that dream out aloud to each other. But we never thought it would ever become our reality. It is a beautiful feeling to gain the respect of the people you truly ‘look up to’. Looking into their eyes and shaking their hands was already enough for me.
We’ll only be certain though when that Mass V CD will be in our hands, and that logo will be printed on it.
Do you ever feel that you are connected to a global tribe of humans?
Yes we do, be it musicians or artists in general. Throughout the years we were very fortunate to meet and work with great, like-minded people. Passionate in what they do, whatever that may be. Blood-driven. There’s always a connection on some level, you cannot explain it. A painter, musician or dancer some people are just kindred spirits, family if you will…You always know immediately, in the first encounter. You look into each other’s eyes or shake hands, and you know they’re walking towards the same light.
What is one of the coolest things that a fan has ever said to you about your music?
I would not speak in terms of ‘cool’ here. And I don’t really like the word ‘fan’, it sounds demeaning to me. Anything that makes me realize that they ‘understood’ what we were doing up there. Sometimes people write us, spilling their hearts, on how we helped them carry the weight of their existence for a while. I will always remember the story of this one man, who wrote me about our song ‘am kreuz’. How that certain song helped him carry the loss of his baby daughter. How that song felt like it was written especially for him. That might be one most memorable comments I ever got, it humbles, you know. It makes you feel like a small pawn in this universe that made something happen. However small in the universe, it warms our hearts, and love goes out to him.
What has been the greatest gift that music & this band have given you so far?
The gift of friendship and fulfillment.
I will always remember Bjorn, our drummer, and his hand on my shoulder, when I most needed it. He probably never realized it, but it meant the world to me then.
Or Mathieu, a silent companion, he saved my life a couple of times. Both physically and mentally. But here also, it will probably be the first time he hears about it.
How important is art to you, outside of your music?
Very important, and not important at all. In the sense that I don’t want to over educate myself. I’m afraid that too much info would put a veil around my gut feelings you know. We like to keep things close to us, relevant to our lives.
Obviously Art plays a huge role in the existence of Amenra, to us it’s just another means to express ourselves. Amenra always intended to be more than ‘just a band’. Whatever medium, we’re here to use it. For the purpose of telling our story, our truth. Auditive, visually. Everything is based around one idea, one truth. Ours. Whatever that may be.
Does literature or film have any effect on your sonic art?
It could or can, I mean everything around us is inspiration.
A movie a book, but also a conversation with someone, a photograph, whatever, our lives from beginning to end, and whatever comes our way
Have you ever thought that music has a physical energy & that it has the power to heal?
I would not dare to say that music can ‘heal’ but it surely can salve. It can make you mentally feel understood and therefore stronger. Which could lead to a better ‘mental/physical state’.
There is a higher force that can be somewhat summoned through certain music though, that I have never encountered with another medium. We all know that feeling when you’re watching a certain concert and a shiver goes down your spine and goosebumps appear on your arms…well that’s pretty much where our aim is set on with Amenra, without wanting to ‘force’ it, but it probably is not humanly possible to force it anyway. In rehearsals or after shows we refer to it or question it as in ”have you felt it?” and if so, we’re one step forward. It was a good night.
Would you say positive thought has the ability to alter a person’s reality? Is positivity something you try to make a part of your music?
Yes, it does. And even though I see myself more as a realist, rather than a positive or negative thinking person. I have to say that under all the dark and somber
imagery and sound there is a positive core. However bad and negative, we try to bend it into the light, the positive, and install a feeling of hope, a feeling of union. The sensation of not being alone.
There’s always hope. However low you are.
If you had to chose two emotions that inspire your creative spirit, what would they be & why?
I refuse to choose. Our creative spirit can never be pinned down to two emotions. We create what we create, wherever that feeling of the day or night guides us.