Aonia recently released their new EP Sunchaser – you can check out our review of it in our upcoming issue on September 1. We caught up with the band for a chat.
Can you introduce yourselves and tell me a little about the band?
Slick: I am Slick (guitar)! The band is the awesome Aonia. I’d describe it as symphonic, with a double singer – metal with powerful music.
Tim: Tim – keyboards.
Jo: I’m Joanne, one of the vocalists. Aonia is a 7 piece operatic metal band and we rock!
Gary: I’m Gary the bassist. I joined Aonia in January 2012 and since then we have played many gigs, including some pretty high profile ones, and since then the band has also evolved from a standard 5 piece line up to 7 of us, including dual female vocals, and a male keyboardist! The most recent exciting thing about the band was the release of our 5 track EP Sunchaser.
Tony: I’m Tony and I hit things.
Carrot: I’m Carrot and I play guitar.
Mel: I’m Mel, also a vocalist! I’d describe Aonia as a metal band with diverse influences, from opera to power metal to prog metal to classical music! Also, we are trying to be bigger than Slipknot. Not in terms of popularity but in numbers onstage. I think it was Tim who suggested adding a horn section. Or possibly a hurdy-gurdy player!
You recently released your new EP Sunchaser – can you tell me about the writing and recording process?
James: The writing process is a complex one! For the ones I wrote, I tend to write songs to a nearly finished standard – then lyrics are added and people adopt their own styles to the lines I’ve written. Recording was extremely enjoyable and a fresh experience for me. Working with [recording engineer and mixer Simon] Gimli [Cliffe] was a pleasure and I learned a lot about the process as a whole.
Gary: I created my parts bit by bit, so that over time they have become pretty much second nature to play, and my parts were recorded using the DI out from my Ampeg SVT Pro-7 amp and also a second DI box that Gimli provided.
Jo: As I was one of the last to join the secret seven (lol) most of the writing had already been done so my job was to work with Mel to create some awesome harmonies for the completed songs. Reflections was the one track that has been written for dual vocals so working from scratch with Mel on the melodies and harmonies was exciting stuff! It also makes me feel a little closer to the song as I worked on it from the start. The recording process was very exciting for me as this was my first time in a professional studio. Gimli made the whole process so easy, which made the singing and listening back to it a lot less painful!
Mel: Yeah, Gimli was fantastic! Working with Jo has been an absolute dream as well and has forced me to really grow as a composer after she joined – before, I’d play around with melodies, singing along until they ‘felt’ right over the music but since Jo joined I’ve thought a lot more carefully about the structures of the melodies and the meaning behind them. We’ve even started writing out our own vocal scores!
Slick: A couple of songs were already written and we have just rearranged them slightly to have more “new” Aonia feel . The others, mainly Reflections, were done during rehearsals, and writing sessions. James wrote Echoes and we have added a little bit here and there to it. Recording was a bit more divided into stages. Firstly we met in my house and did some trial recordings, which allowed us to prepare better for the major recording at CMStudios in Coventry, where Simon did the magic.
Tim: I haven’t got much to add here! I would just say that it was a joint project done on a shoestring and wouldn’t have been possible without Gimli.
Were there any songs that were more of a challenge to complete?
Tim: All of them.
Jo: Nightmare was a complete nightmare! Although it is one of the oldest tracks and we have performed it many times….ahhhhh….It just took ages!
Mel: Oh yes! We started with Nightmare thinking it would be a breeze – it’s the one I’ve been singing the longest and actually has the first lyrics I ever wrote on it. So I thought, ‘Ooh, we’ll ease in slowly’… nope. It took twice as long as any of the others, maybe because the fast verses were just so fast or maybe because I was finding my feet in the studio. I’m really happy with the end product of it though.
Slick: Not really for me, each song has its own “moments”, which created funny situations, but at the end of the day we did the best that we could have!
James: For me, I think Echoes was probably the hardest one to get finished because it has a very special place for me and I wanted to make sure it sounded just right.
Which one are you most proud of?
Tim: All of them.
Tony: I’ll answer the previous question and this one together – when we started working on Reflections, I really didn’t like it. But as we worked on it together, it started to gel and suddenly something just seemed to slot into place and now I really enjoy listening to it and playing it.
Carrot: Echoes, linking to the previous question. It was my baby from the beginning.
Jo: I’d agree – that would have to be Echoes. It was one of the songs that was already written but the harmony lines that I sing came so easily to me and it was one of the songs that just clicked straight away for me…and I love singing it!
Mel: Yeah, Echoes is the song I’m most proud of too – the lyrics and the melodies have different layers of meaning, so on one level it’s a song about Echo and Narcissus but on another it’s about unrequited love in general. I’m really proud of the literary aspects of the lyrics here, like using lots of water imagery since Narcissus eventually drowned…though that might be the English teacher in me coming out!
Slick: My solo in Sunchaser and the whole of Reflections.
Any interesting tales from the studio?
Slick: I love the sound of my Druzkowski Guitars. That is the best tale!
Gary: Erm, I got to meet the bassist from Beholder, after seeing them play on the main stage at Bloodstock last year!
Tim: Mass choir for Warrior’s path featuring my daughter, Amy? Something about shoes – can’t remember? I had to go straight from a gig to a recording session as we were running out of time.
Mel: The story about shoes came about because I did something Gimli particularly liked and he said, ‘Mel, you fox, you!’ But I struggle with accents sometimes, being American, and what I heard was, ‘Mel, you fuckshoe!’ So my response was, ‘What the hell is a fuckshoe?’ which caused hilarity. Then there was Gimili telling me to redo a phrase because a note I hit was ‘like a kipper’s penis – a bit flat’. Randomly shouting, ‘SAVE!’ also became a bit of an inside joke.
Jo: Carrot’s sex face….but you’ll have to ask him about that!
Moving onto gigs, how would you describe your live show to someone who hasn’t seen you yet?
Slick: Mega! Power and energy!
Tim: A mix of energy and raw power, yet esoteric with the sometimes haunting, sometimes dramatic twin operatic vocals. The music is both technical and sublime, moving from powerful riffs to serene interludes with the grace and majesty of a panther. One of the best bands you will see this year. Or you could just say we rock.
Jo: Emotionally powerful metal heaven!
Carrot: If you are looking for nothing short of raw energy, symphonic operatic goodness that will leave you with an open jaw and a shiver down your spine then, by all means, check us out! We have been working on a bit of choreography to complement the live shows too.
Mel: And boobs. Lots of boobs. Following the boobs, I’d say it’s like being smacked in the face by Wagner’s fist, wrapped in steel.
What would you say the best show you’ve ever played has been?
Jo: My first gig in Bridlington was one of the first gigs that I felt complete and an integral part of the band; everything about that gig was perfect: the atmosphere, the energy…it was awesome! And I’m not just saying that because of you, Nico!
Tim: Erm – with Aonia for me it would be last year’s Valk Fest.
Slick: Yeah, in Bridlington, definitely!
Tony: The first gig we did as a full seven-piece, at the Bloodstock Metal to the Masses semifinals in Birmingham. Everything suddenly felt right, like this is how Aonia should be.
Mel: Probably the Kobra and the Lotus support at Corporation in Sheffield. It spoke to me how far we’d come as a band that we were supporting such an amazing band – and they were really lovely and friendly as well!
Carrot: So far, it would have to be our EP launch in Nottingham at the Sal. The crowd were amazing; we were all engaged and I had an awesome stage fan which made me look epic as fuck during my solos!
If you could play anywhere, where would it be?
Tim: Download main stage.
Slick: Download festival, Wacken Festival, Woodstock festival, Bloodstock festival…a local pub!
Gary: Yeah, absolutely anywhere – actually, I often find that smaller gigs give me an amazing buzz as you are closer to the fans. Or maybe the main stage at Bloodstock!
Tony: Wacken! Or if not Wacken, then the British Wacken, Bloodstock – the only true metal festival in the UK!
Jo: After attending Wacken for the first time thing year, I would have to say it would be there. But I’m not fussy…Bloodstock, Europe…America…the world!
Mel: Can I be the odd one out here and say X103’s X-fest at Deer Creek in Indiana? I grew up listening to X103, the alternative station – well, really it played anything not in the top 40, so metal, rock, punk, indie, folk, you name it. Anyway, my first live metal experience was going to X-fest and Deer Creek is an absolutely beautiful natural amphitheatre! Failing that, Bloodstock – that was my first multi-day festival and the atmosphere at Bloodstock is just so fantastic. I’ve been to eight (though I know Tony’s been going since the first one) and I love it every year.
Carrot: Well, I’d love to play any of the major festivals and arenas! Being able to put on a fantastic stage show is something I’d love to be able to explore with Aonia.
And finally, if Aonia could put their name to a product, what would it be?
Tony! Wine! Or mead! Or our own metal festival…watch this space!
Jo: My initial thought is wine..but then it always is…ermm.. Hotel Aonia – where you and your muses come to dwell!
Slick: A VW Beetle, purple with beautiful black eye brows and a black leather inside – with a Porsche engine, with an extended back so that it can accommodate 7 of us.
James: My cheesecake! Or an Aonia branded music / guitar shop.
Mel: Our own line of clothing, though Moonmaiden Gothic have done very well for Jo and I! Or a real ale brewery. We could brew an APA – Aonia Pale Ale!
Tim: Miss World Answer – an Aonia pill to cure all diseases. Metal Answer – Aonia metal shredder – a device that links the music directly to your brain by bypassing your ears so that every riff and beat is transmitted throughout your nervous system thus saving you ear drums whilst at the same time allowing your whole body to experience the power. We could have little Aonia dolls – yours might need to have a kind of counterbalance in the back though, Mel! Aonia wine or mead works – though the Aonia brewery, distillery and Winery would be better!
Sunchaser is out now and can be purchased from here.