Penumbra plays at Kraken Metal Rock Fest 6 and will be one of the bands who will also bring a show and as a lot of people seems to be unsure if they are still alive, I decided to simply ask them.
First of all: from where does this name come?
Max (Jarlaath): Penumbra is a name with Latin origin which is very important for us as French is also a Latin language. In some ways, it symbolizes our cultural origins. More precisely, Penumbra means in French, ‘’la pénombre’’ (semi-darkness), the mix between brightness and absence of light. It’s impossible to know which one has the upper hand on the other: sometimes one, sometimes, the other. In my opinion this name perfectly fits with our music and we are very deeply attached to it.
Can I say you are influenced by bands like Xandria & The Gathering? What other bands do we have to mention?
Max (Jarlaath): In my vision, Penumbra is above all a mix of various musical styles. Obviously, the spine is definitely metal including Gothic, Black, Heavy, Doom,… but all these metal oriented styles are also significantly mixed with classical music, ethnic music, electro, celtic.
Of course, some bands like The Gathering, In Flames, Theatre of Tragedy, Therion, Nightwish, Dimmu Borgir,… strongly influenced us in the past and should continue to do so. But our influences are also simple things of life that we try to set to music. Perhaps it’s the best way to propose more personal and original creations even if it’s also important to see what other bands are doing.
I am fundamentally convinced that Penumbra has its own style. Of course, some people may be hermetic to our music but I think they would admit that we have our own metal personality even if a few songs sound more formatted. Despite everyone's best efforts, a band can’t avoid musical clichés.
If I got it well, you stopped performing for a while but somehow you restarted? How come?Max (Jarlaath):Yes, professional imperatives, new family constraints, etc led us to put the band in a stand-by mode. But since always, music runs in our veins especially metal. We knew that one day we would come back. A lot of things have changed (new talented bands, Music’s dematerialization, social networks,…) and it’s clearly a big and difficult challenge, even if we released several albums in the previous decade which had a lot of positive echoes. In a few words, we are nearly starting back at square one… But our passion for metal music is stronger.
Valérie, you are also a vocal coach. Did you manage famous people?
Valérie: Not at all! *laugh* . I will not have this claim while I still have myself many things to learn!
I give singing lessons in a music school in Lille, but not for advanced singers. It's a great recognition and pride to see my students progress and build musical projects. My pedagogy is to understand needs, blockages, emphasize how the student feels, feels things and help him find his way. We feel all things differently, and the psychological approach takes a very important place in my lessons. We also learn a lot about ourselves by learning from others, that's why I like teaching. it's a perpetual exchange.
You are also in Hexagon, doesn't it take out a lot time to combine it all?
Valérie: I think not. I always did a lot of things. I take full advantage of life by being busy. The most important thing is to be organized, which I am without any problem. Penumbra and Hexagon are two very different bands but they bring me both a lot of things. Very rewarding human experiences that will remain in my memory and the desires to surpass me even more.
How is the voting for Hellfest contest going?
Max (Jarlaath):We passed the first selection phase. However, Hellfest is a dream for all metal bands and all of them do their best to encourage their respective fan base. Competition will be very tough and success of Penumbra to take part of this great event is objectively very weak. But a band must keep hope, it’s an implicit game rule.
What was Era 4.0 about?
Max (Jarlaath): Era 4.0 is Penumbra’s fourth album. The term Era in some way symbolizes our come back and our commitment to get back the gothic metal scene. The number “4” trivially highlights the fact this album is our fourth one. At last, the mathematical term “.0” materializes the fact that we tried to in-depth rethink our music to start off on a new musical basis… somewhat like a musical “reset”. Like all our previous albums, our songs are all very different to build a global picture, a musical story and experience.
The album cover looks a bit like a Terminator, was that done on purpose?
Max (Jarlaath): Penumbra's music is a blend of several metal styles and influences. With Era 4.0, we decided, among other things, to take the concept to its logical conclusion by bringing other influences including more modern/electro sounds with the difficult challenge to keep a musical identity. The cyborg woman in the flames on the cover symbolizes this aspect. We like using and disseminating symbols, as they are like pieces of a puzzle which add meaning and value to lyrics or music.
Penumbra will play at Kraken metal Rock Fest 6, what can we expect?
Max (Jarlaath): You can expect a band really happy to play here and aware of the privilege of expressing itself musically. For most bands, a concert is an achievement. We should not forget that to have the chance to live this moment is also to the detriment of another band. By respect for all bands and for the organization of this event, we will do everything to give our best, wishing that some people who did not know us before will keep a part of our music in their heart afterwards.
Are you working on a new album?
Max (Jarlaath): I would say yes and no. We continue to compose but today, we think that the best thing for a band like us is to release songs on a sequential way. Without making value judgements, the way of listening to the music is radically changing, as most of people tend to skip from song-to-song when they listen to music. They regularly want new materials. They are less and less able to immerge themselves in a band’s world,…. I know there still are a lot of exceptions especially in metal but in my opinion, it’s a strong and inevitable trend. To adapt to this new trend but also to be consistent with our personal constraints, the best formula for us today is to release song-by-song. But to be fully honest, we also would like to release a new album. Things can change.
What will the future bring?
Max (Jarlaath): We hope more and more concerts and to conquer new hearts through all metal generations. We are realising that despite a long pause, the name Penumbra is still in the mind of a lot of persons of our generation who used to listen to gothic metal music. It’s a chance and a strength which will continue to keep the sincere flame we have inside of us, despite all the difficulties a band like us can go through.
Any last words to conclude this interview?
Max (Jarlaath): A big thank to the organization of the Kraken Festival. This kind of event involves passionate people who don’t keep track of their hours, just for the passion of Metal. It’s a treasure. That’s why we are proud to be part of this musical family.