About Me

Interview with Sojourner

Not all Black Metal sounds the same. Inside it, we have Atmospheric Black Metal and one band that is important for this genre, is Sojourner. “Perennial” was released on June 4th 2021, through Napalm Records. And Emilio Crespo, vocalist, chatted with us, to talk about what is going on with the band: new lineup, revisiting the old material, partnership with Napalm Events and more. If you missed the past of the band, but want to know about the present and the future, listen to the record!!! You’ll enjoy it!

M.I. -  Hi there, mate. It’s been a while since we had our last interview. How are you and how is the current situation in your country?

Sweden never really had too much of a lockdown or everything like that! Life has pretty much gone on as normal, here! Yeah! Work is going on and everything! So, not much changed! It’s mostly just outside situations and stuff. Don’t allow travelling and touring and all, as you know!

M.I. -  A new 2-track EP, named “Perennial”, was released on June 4th 2021, through Napalm Records. Amazing work, guys. When did the songwriting process start? Right after “Premonitions” was finished?

No, because a few months after “Premonitions”, Chloe left and then we, of course, held auditions for the new singer, new guitarist and stuff. It didn’t have to be one person that did both, so we left the position open, in case of two people, which was what happened in the end. 
The writing process for “Premonitions”, pretty much started around October, I’d say. Mike and I had already started working on ideas about what we could do, but it was kind of moving a bit slowly of course, because we were going through the whole motion of getting new members in and everything. Making sure they were settled into the band and stuff. So, pretty much “Perennial” is just me and Mike on the writting effort. I did all, of course, lyrics and he did all the writing for it. So, yeah! Around fall/winter 20/21 started.

M.I. -  When you approached the songwriting for this EP, you wanted to do something special and combine two worlds (where you began and where you are now, as a band). What has changed in the past 6 years, that made the lyrics so unique? Do you think that you’ve achieved the goal you wanted? Was it difficult to combine those two worlds?

During the past 6 years, of course, we’ve had 3 albuns up until now. We basically never wanted to be stuck in one thing! So, we didn’t want to do “Empires Of Ash” three times or “The Shadowed Road” three times or “Premonitions” three times! So, we’re always constantly evolving, but we did feel this time that with the members chases and everything, we wanted to still display that evolution, but really bring back some of the vibe that you hear on “Empires Of Ash”. So, those were basically two worlds we’re talking about: past and present of Sojourner. With “The Shadowed Road” and “Premonitions”, we decided to take another path, in terms of lyrics and stuff. Maybe a bit more personal experience and other type of themes, that wasn’t just nature and fantasy! But, of course as I said, with us wanting to kind of revisite “Empires Of Ash” and combined with “new” Sojourner, I decided to go back to the lyrics that you could read it: “Trails of the Earth”, “Empires of Ash”, “Heritage of the Natural Realm” and so on! Because this EP was like a continuation of, at least in terms of “Relics of the Natural Realm”, being a sequel to “Heritage of the Natural Realm”, I decided to go back to that theme of lyrics and just make a part 2, essentially.
Not at all, because Mike from the very beginning, has always been our main guy! The guy who writes most of the music! Everything you hear on the records, for example, he records pretty much everything! Mike knows what the Sojouner sound is and I know what the Sojourner sound needs to be, in terms of vocals and, of course, on the lyrics. It’s always been me and Mike! That’s been the chord since the very beginning! We started it together and that continues still until this day. We know what the band requires and what is asking of us! So, it wasn’t really difficult at all! We just did what we do, which is create more Sojourner music! Just of course, with a slightly different concept of combining the past and the present of the band! 

M.I. -  You wrote the lyrics and recorded this EP, the same way you did on “Empires Of Ash”and “The Shadowed Road” and you recorded all of the instruments back in New Zealand again, in the same room, where you wrote "Heritage Of The Natural Realm". Why did you decide to make this EP, like you did on your first single, musically and lysically speaking? How important and relevant do you think "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" still is for Sojourner’s history in this new era and EP?

Essentially, because when somebody leaves and the band gets a new member, all there is, is a Facebook post or press release. And that’s it! Then you have to wait another year or two, to actually hear those new members do something! So, we knew that we actually were brainstorming with our former product manager, Markus Jacob. He kind of came up with this idea: “How about, you guys, do a single?”. I was like: “How about we do an EP, instead? We do two songs!”. Turn into a real release, because like I said, we didn’t want just want put up a Facebook post and say: “Hey! Here’s two new members! There you go and you’ll see the next album!”. We really want to offer the fans something more and specially with the time we’re living, there’s no touring, there’s no nothing, we rely on having more stuff to release, whether it’s just videos on YouTube, live streams or music itself. So, we felt this was the best way to really offer something to the fans and automatically, as soon as we announced the new members, they also had music to go with it! And that’s the goal!
Well, "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" was of course, our first song! Mike wrote everything on that song and I wrote the lyrics! So, again it’s going back to the whole start of the band and stuff. Now, it’s me and Mike again. Just us, as the main team! More so now of course, but "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" is a very important song, because when we released it, we didn’t really have expectations! We just wanted to realease something within the Atmospheric Black Metal genre, so to speak! And that’s it! If people liked it, cool! If not, then also cool! We just wanted to release it for us, but it got so much attention, it led to us getting picked by Avantgarde Music, and still to this day, it is a song that people like to hear live and the few times we haven’t played it live, there’s been some disappointment (laughs). So, "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" is still a very important song, of course! People still listen to it. It’s still our most streamed song to this day! And yeah! When we thought about this EP and how we were going to approach it, Mike just really thought: “Let’s do a sequel to "Heritage Of The Natural Realm"! It’s how we started, how everybody discovered us and we were a brand new band at that time!”. Now, six years later, we had one major lineup change and so it’s time, let’s say, as if it is a return! So, it felt fitting to have "Relics Of The Natural Realm" and “Perennial” based this whole EP, be like that new beginning for the band! We’re still us of course, because it’s me and Mike. It’s always been the main team, but we really wanted to make sure that people knew that we’re still here to stay and offer them something from the past, as well!

M.I. -  “Perennial” follows the thread of nature and its loss at our very own hands. In what ways, do you think that we are responsible for that?

In many! Environmentally speaking, mainly of course! Natural disasters, nowadays, made by Men. The animal industry, for example, has huge carbon footprints, such as many as fishing and many other things. The fossil fuel industry, I mean, pretty much a lot of Humanity does, while of course, we are capable of extraordinary feats and amazing things we’ve accomplished and stuff. But many times it doesn’t come without colateral damages and usually it is Nature itself. You see all the time now tornados in places that are not supposed to be, hurricanes being able to get stronger and travelling further. Forest fires going insane, throughout the World and just many, many other things. Pollution, etc., etc. So, what I want to tap into “Perennial”, and also why I did the video that way, with this footage, was to basically show the World how it is without humans! The damage that basically can be caused as we’re still here! Now we can learn as we exist, but we need to really do better and confront the situation, in a more practical and sustainable way! 

M.I. -  This theme was prevalent in several songs, so you decided to revisit them. “Empire Of Ashes” is the album, where we can hear it. How important was it for you to revive these songs and is this EP a second part of that record?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the whole EP is a continuation of that record! "Relics Of The Natural Realm” definitely is a continuation of "Heritage Of The Natural Realm". “Perennial”, for example, it’s a clear single, showcasing the past and the future of the band. So, of course, “Perennial” has lots of elements of “Empires Of Ash”, but still has elements of “Premonitions”, for example. So, yeah! “Relics Of The Natural Realm” can be considered a continuation, but “Perennial” is more a stop, between back then and then what we are going to come up within the future. Sojouner will never stop evolving! We’ll always be having new elements, new types of formulas and stuff, but of course, our core sound will always be there!
In terms of lyrics, it was definitely important, because it’s a belief that I’ve had for many years now about Humanity, it’s an impact that caused the decline of nature. I felt that, because we’re doing the whole past and present combined, that I should revisit that!

M.I. -  Beautiful, melodic and death, is the perfect sound to describe it. How did you compose the music and melodies? And what kind of instruments did you use?

Mike is always writing. Constantly! Many times, he just has ideas, that pops into his head. A riff, a piano, a melody! Just something! Usually, he starts from the bass! Whatever instrument it might be and then, he builds upon that! Then, once it becomes a bit more of a structured idea, he’ll send it to me and then I’ll listen to it. We’ll talk about it, see if we take it further or if it just gets tossed into a folder and maybe never to be left out again! “Perennial” was the first song we wrote for the EP and the way that we write, has never really really changed, because of course as I’ve said, him and I have always been the core team. So, we always worked together and worked in exactly the same way as on “Empires Of Ash”, “The Shadowed Road” and “Premonitions”: he writes some stuff, shows me the idea, I think it’s awesome or we talk about it, and then after that, he’ll keep on going and I don’t hear it again, until it’s finished. Of course, once it’s finished, we’ll still be looking into to see if we can change it, but generally, Mike just builts upon a based idea. Builts up the song and I come in after! 
Mike only wrote and recorded on this EP. So, of course Mike did everything! Scotty did the bass guitar! He’s our bassist! Mike did the guitars, tin whistle, piano, keys, synths. Pretty much everything! Riccardo did help cowrite the drums, but, due to the situation, there wasn’t a studio that he could go into! They weren’t recorded in a real studio! But basically, Mike pretty much did everything, except bass!

M.I. -  "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" and "Relics Of The Natural Realm", which is the second track of this brilliant work, are sequel of sorts and you decided to bring back these cycles all together. What sequels are we talking about, that made you reinterpret your first single and do this track?

Essentially again the whole past and present thing! We wanted to revisit "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" of course, being our very first song, how Mike and I started writing together. Now, of course, with the member’s change and stuff, it’s me and Mike again as the full core, 100%. We just stated it was fitting and then he started writing "Relics Of The Natural Realm" and I knew of course obviously already, that I was going to just build upon the lyrics of "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" and then just roll with it. It’s a direct sequel! The very beginning of the lyrics of "Relics Of The Natural Realm", do take the last couple sentences from “Heritage Of The Natural Realm" and just kind of continue as a direct part.

M.I. -  After several departures in the past year, you welcomed vocalist Lucia Amelia Emmanueli and Tom O'Dell on second guitar/backing vocals as the new full time members. How did you make the auditions to find the perfect voices and how many candidates applied for the job? What kind of voice were you looking for and what magic did you think that Lucia and Tom were bringing?

First of all, I would say I honestly don’t know how many candidates. I can’t remember (laughs)! But there were quite a few, for both positions, because it’s kind of hard nowadays to find, of course, a female singer and guitarist doing both! So, we knew that we might end up with two new members, instead of one! So, we were accepting of course, also guitar auditions and actually the first few days, from when we put up that post for the auditions, we got tons of people, trying up live for the guitar position! And even some people from bigger bands (of course I won’t say who), but we got some crazy interest and it was actually very humbling to see that people that we were fans of, wanted to join the band! So, we held the auditions: Tom was the first one to be chosen, after listening to plenty of different ones! Then Lucia came in, kind of at the end, because we had quite a few ladies audiotioning: sending their videos, tracks and everything! We had one in mind, aside from her, but then when Lucia just sent her audition, we knew it was her! She has that type of timber, that really fits with the first three albums, to be able to sing those live and stuff. Plus she brought her own range and registers, which are far beyond than anything that we had so far! So, she basically will be able to do the whole songs justice, but she also has more power and more range, to do new things for the band! 
We knew that, of course, we wanted a voice that could sing the old songs live and wouldn’t sound too different, but we also at the same time, wanted a singer that had their own personality. We never ever thought: “Oh! We need to get a singer, who sounds exactly like our previous one!”. Because that just seems like you’re becoming like a parody of yourself or you’re trying too hard to capture that same magic and magic comes in different forms! We definitely wanted somebody that could pull off the old stuff live and do it justice, but also bring her own stuff to the table! And Lucia does that plenty! You can hear on “Perennial”, in the piano parts, she sings so beautifully and so powerful there and that’s something that we felt was missing, in previous Sojourner’s records. So, we’re really happy with the magic she brought! And as for Tom, we’ve been friends with Tom for many years and of course, we know him from Dwarrowdelf, which is an Epic Atmospheric Black Metal band, in the same genre as us. Even though Sojourner, we don’t consider ourselves Atmospheric Black Metal anymore... for over 3 years! We knew Tom from many years! We knew that he knows the style! He’s been a fan of Sojourner, since the beginning! So, we knew that he would be able to contribute in the future to Sojourner, in a way that will make us happy and add more to the band! 

M.I. -  Emilio, you’re the master in growling. How did you work with Lucia and Tom, to make sure that every tone was in place? How did it feel to sing and revisit the old style of Sojourner?

Well, thank you! I had to think a second, because it was actually a surprise to me! So basically, with Lucia, I was definitely working very closely with her. We had a lot of Skype sessions, because of course I wrote the lyrics. I had a certain way that needed to be and being in charge of vocals, at least this time, I really wanted to be on top of how it should be, while still giving her, of course, freedom in terms of the tone she uses and everything like that. I didn’t have any control over how she sang it. I just had control over where she was going to sing! But she had total freedom to sing, how she wanted, because I specifically wanted her to blow us away! And the best way for a singer to really spread her wings and fly away (so to speak), is just letting them do their thing! So, it was very important for me and of course for Lucia as well (she likes to have freedom). For her to just be able to do what she does! And then for Tom, that was actually a surprise, because the song was pretty much finished and then we still felt something was missing. We needed to give that touch of old-school Sojourner and of course, that little touch of Epic Atmospheric Black Metal, like Caladan Brood, which is one of the bands that made us want start Sojourner. So, Tom and Mike spoke and then Tom was like: “Let me put some vocals in there!”. It was Lucia and Tom doing that very epic ending, to “Perennial”, which, again, goes a bit more back to the roots of Sojourner, but also has that Caladan Brood vibe. That super epic atmospheric aspect to it! Couldn’t be happier when I heard it! I was blown away! I didn’t know it was going to happen! 
It was good! I mean, I liked that I was using the themes again, in terms of lyrics. But when it comes to my actual vocals, I didn’t really revisit the style on “Empires Of Ash” because, I have to be honest, when I listen to “Empires Of Ash” now, I wish I did much more, in terms of the vocal style, because “Empires Of Ash” is only rasps! There’s no highs, no growls, no mids! There’s not really anything, except Black Metal rasps! So, of course I don’t want ever go back to that! My rasps now, with three albums in, they’re more aggressive and more flamy-sounding, so to speak. Of course, I use my highs more now! I put in like a Doom Death style growling and I use my mids as well. Post Groove Metal, kind of a vocal style, or what most bands use! So yeah! I will keep progressing and using more and more stuff! But who knows?! 

M.I. -  With two new voices added, how will you restructure the songs, so you can sing them live?

Once we asked Lucia to join the band, we knew that she was not going to play an instrument live, because on the first three albums, the female vocals were just to accompany my vocals. So, it was me as lead and then, the female voices only as just for chorus here and there! They weren’t a lead vocal! But with Lucia joining, we knew that we wanted to actually start evolving them more! So, now Sojourner does have two lead vocalists! Both Lucia and I! So, you will hear more female singing on future Sojourner studio material and live as well! We are already thinking of ways that she can, because we have songs on previous albums, that have no female vocals! So, we’re thinking of ways, we’re working on it, trying to include her vocals! Maybe she can sing like something of “Titan” or maybe a “Fatal Frame”, for example. I don’t know. We’re still working on that! But for old stuff, she will be more on it and of course, like I said, she’s a lead vocalist now as well, next to me! There will be kind of 50/50!
And Tom is more just backing! Just a help-out with atmospheres, vibes and stuff!

M.I. -  You released the oficial video for “Perennial”. Who directed it and where did the footage take place? Will you release a video for “Relics of the Natural Realm”, with the new members singing?

Well actually, we didn’t film any of the footage, due to budget constrains, of course. Not having a director, that could come fly to us or not to mention, of course, because we all live in different countries. Obviously with Covid, flight restrictions, different tests from different countries, it was going to be impossible for us to film a music video! So, instead we just decided to get a copyright free stock footage. So, no violation or anything! But we picked the footage very meticulously! The footage had to go with the song, the attitude and the atmosphere of the song at that particular moment, when that footage is being shown! So, it was picked very meticulously, but we didn’t film any of it ourselves! And I honestly wouldn’t be able to say where, in what countries that footage takes place! I only know that one of them is Japan, because you can see a couple of the traditional lanterns, from Japanese gardens! It was stock footage and our new member Tom, he edited everything together, to create the music video!
Well, maybe, maybe! I can’t say it right now! We’re working on a couple of ideas and stuff! But, yeah! Maybe! Maybe you’ll just have to wait and see! Unfortunately, I can’t say (laughs)! 

M.I. -  Mike Wilson was with you since your first album and left. Due to that, Scotty Lodge has been with you for live shows since you started hitting the stage and he will now take over the full recording and live bass position. Any resentment between both parts? And what about Chloe?

No! Between Mike Wilson and Sojourner, we’re fantastic friends! The only reason why Mike had to go, is because he’s living in New Zealand. He has a family, he’s expecting another child and there was just no possibility for him to come and play live with us! Of course, it didn’t seem correct to have Scotty just there, only as a live member, but not on the records! It was kind of a difficult decision to make, but it was one that Mike Wilson understood himself and it was a very amicable split. We’re still very, very good friends with Mike Wilson. 
As for Chloe, it was something she needed to do! I won’t go into why she left, because it’s personal, of course. It doesn’t need to be said! But it was something that she felt she needed to do and of course the band was sad, but we’re ok with it! In the end, I think it was of course, for the best, because now we have Lucia, we’re really excited about our future and feel we can do a lot more! So, that’s pretty much all I have to say about that!

M.I. -  Jordan Grimmer, who was the responsible for the cover of "Empires Of Ash”, made magic with this one. It meets the past and present of the band. Can we say that the castle is a Sojourner’s trademark, since it’s what the fans know you for?

Yes and no! Of course, for that “Premonitions”, we had the owl, because we didn’t want another castle! We don’t want to have all of our covers look exactly the same, all the time! The only reason why we decided to use the castle again for “Perennial”, was, just like you said, because of the past and the present! It’s only because of that! And of course you can see the two protagonists, from the “Premonitions” cover, on the album artwork. Of course, further signifying past meets present and future! And you can also see that the castle is much more elaborated now! Much more moss and plants have grown and it’s kind of basically, to show that this is many, many, many years later, that cover! So, we decided to use for this EP and who better to ask than Jordan, because since he did the first one, he would know exactly what to do and he did amazingly! But on the next album, will we have a castle? To be honest, I don’t think so! I personally don’t want to (laughs)! I don’t know about the other members, maybe we’ll include Ruence somehow, but I personally don’t want to have another cover that looks just like "Empires Of Ash”, “The Shadowed Road” for the next album! For “Perennial”, it was because it served its purpose and it was necessary! But for the next album, I don’t see see it being necessary!

M.I. -  Congrats on joining forces with Napalm Events. What can we expect with this partnership? Care to tell us some details, please?

Well, thank you very much! For us, it’s actually very awesome! Up until now, we worked with two smaller agencies. But we felt it was time, with the band growing and becoming more known, we needed somebody behind us that had a bit more, in terms of being able to get us out there for shows, tours, festivals and such! So, I had one meeting with Thorsten. She’s the boss of Napalm Events and we agreed that Sojourner needs to take that next step and go out to bigger stages and do more stuff and of course, I was happy as well, because up until now we only had agencies for Europe, not for the USA, Asia or whatever! With Napalm Events now, it’s a worldwide deal! So, it’s our agency for the USA, Japan, for everywhere! So, that for me and for the band of course, it was very important, because we want to get out to new places and play beyond Europe! In terms if we have anything planned, of course we are working right now and have spoken about certain opportunities, that Sojouner could get outside Europe and stuff. But I can’t speak further than that, because things are still in the works. We’re a band, so we need to always think and choose what we do has to be worth it. We do expect that in the next few years you start seeing us a bit outside of Europe as well! And we definitely will make it happen, but for now, I can’t say what we’re working on!

M.I. -  Emilio, great job with the guys from Perennial Isolation, on the track “The Silent Solace”. Tell us more about that collaboration, please.

Thank you very much! I actually knew Albert, which is the bassist and singer of Perennial Isolation. We were talking for a little bit, just here and there, on Facebook, on Messenger, or whatever. One day, he just aked me if I wanted to guest on their upcoming album. Of course I said yes, because I’ve already listened to that, in the past and I really liked their style of Atmospheric Black Metal, which is still aggressive, very, very melancholic and heavly atmospheric! So, I said yes, he sent me the outline of the song and the lyrics were already finished! I just had to do my vocals on that part! I did it on the next day and two hours later, I had it in my email! They were super happy with it! So, of course it makes me happy, because I can be a critical of myself! I don’t know if sometimes it’s good or not! Yeah! They liked it. That’s pretty much it! I would, of course, work with them again, in the future, if they want or whatever! But that was a good experience!

M.I. -  Will we see you this year on tour, at the end of the year? In which countries?

2021, unfortunately I’m sorry to say, is completely dead! The band will not be doing anything, in terms of shows, this year, because the situation is still very weird, still very restricted! Things are starting to go a bit back to normal, thanks to vaccines and stuff like that! But we don’t see ourselves going on stage, this year, because all the festivals (maybe all of them are cancelled). So, there goes 2021 and the ones that are still going ahead, they have a queue of bands, from two cancellations already or postponings! So, it’s very hard to get into anything right now. So, no! The first time people that people see Sojourner on stage will be in 2022, when we’ll have a couple of small festivals in Spain, in March I believe. We’ll have Dark Troll Festival, in Germany, in May 2022.
We would love to come back to Portugal! We loved the last time (laughs)! It was very fun, even though we played at 4 o’clock in the morning! But like I said, with Napalm Events, opportunities are bigger! Of course, this is the same agency as Moonspell, Jinjer, Crematory! There are tons of huge bands! So, we know that the opportunities now are very much there! So, we hope!

M.I. -  Thanks once again for this interview. Good luck and all the best with this new EP and new lineup. Final words for the Portuguese fans, please?

No worries! Thanks very much for the interview, of course, and your interest in wanting to know! And yeah! It’s been a pleasure! 
Of course I’d like to say thank you guys for the support! When we had the show in Portugal, many people I know, they were tired, but they stuck around even that late, to support the band! To watch us play live! We know we have a lot of fans in there as well, that have supported us, purchasing albums, shirts and stuff! Just thank you very much, even though a band works hard and does what they do best, which is music, without people that supports, it’s all kind of nothing, because they can’t get any worse. So, of course, thank you guys so, so much! It means the world!

For Portuguese verion, click here

Questions by Raquel Miranda