Sibyl Vane just launched their third album. I reviewed them all and aparently I'm the first foreigner who reviewed all 3 of them. It's my 4th interview with an Estonian band (happy to mention Metsatöll, Freakangel and Herald, but missing Ewert and The Two Dragons). I loved all their albums so far and as they launched their new album during full Covid-19 ear I decided to give them a little push in the back. I hope you take the time needed to discover them!
From where does your name come (a film star is my guess)?
Heiko: This actually comes from a book The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Sibyl kills herself since she doesn’t find love from Dorian. When we started Sibyl Vane we had to come up with the name quite quickly for the gig poster. Our previous band was called John Stuart Mill, the famous British thinker, so we chose something more feminine and easygoing. Helena picked Sibyl Vane, since she had just finished the book. And I liked it from the beginning.
How did you all run into each other and decide to start a band with vocals in English?
Helena: We knew each other before we started doing bands together. I was a total fangirl of Heiko’s previous band. And then he invited me to play with them and the rest is history. We started by covering some songs from our previous band and some covers from other bands that we liked (Judas Priest and Stone Sour). We moved on from there and kept singing in English.
Heiko: I think everything changed one day when we were in rehearsing room. When we started Sibyl Vane we used to have long rehearsals that lasted up to ten hours. It was so great to play together and there was mutual chemistry between us. So one day Helena said that she has one song written, but not sure if it fits with Sibyl Vane. It was “What’s My Name”. We played it together and since then it has always been her songs or the songs we write together.
How did you get signed to I Love You Records (next to Ewert And The Two Dragons)?
Heiko: It was quite a wild period. Coming from small town and being unknown in 2011 and playing on the stage in Baltics biggest outdoor festival Positivus in 2012. It was hell of a jump for us and I remember we actually signed the contract after the show in Positivus in the backstage. I think the main architect behind it was Toomas Olljum who was the manager for Ewert and asked us to support them in the beginning on 2012.
Helena: I was thinking that it was some kind of a joke at that time. Now I understand how incredibly lucky we are. I still think that we have had so many awesome opportunities and I hope that we have used them all to their fullest.
The label send me your first record when it was still fresh. How do you look back at that period?
Heiko: It changed everything. We had only occasionally played shows outside our hometown. Suddenly we found ourselves driving all over Baltics and Scandinavia. It was very intense and interesting time for us. We were chosen to support Garbage their only show in Baltics. That was impressive moment and a real game changer mentally. In this period we had to learn so many things artistically, technically and business wise of course. Since then we know that Sibyl Vane is the most important thing in our lives and we work every day for this dream.
Helena: We learned so much during that time and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Best band schooling ever. When I think about that first album period then it seems like we were really fearless and just went with the flow. We knew very little about music industry and how this are really done but it never stopped us. It was important to us and it felt like we were on a some kind of a mission.
The second album had no title, what was the reason?
Heiko: As I see it today we had strong intentions to reinvent us or try to find a new path. This album was written and recorded through many years and it was minimalistic in many ways. If you look at the design, name and music, it all comes together I think. Partly we were grieving the loss of our 1/3, but Hendrik (our drummer now) solved this and I think that “Duchess” is our best album so far. Really!
You toured a lot and played great gigs. What was that one special gig for you (where, when, …)?
Heiko: In the summer of 2018 we played in Haapsalu in front of 20 000 people. The venue was built inside a medieval castle and it was really cool place to play. Sibyl Vane has never played in front of so many eyes. The venue was sold out and this was a memorable moment. We are used to play in small venues. I actually like to feel the audience. You see the impact of your music and energy and you get something back. In larger venues its there, but its different. And I remember when we played in London 2014. Sold out show in a small rock club and it was Monday evening or something. That was really special too.
Helena: Each and every one of them is special to us. I´m the most nervous when we play live in our hometown Pärnu to all our friends ad loved ones.
How bad is it for you not to be able to perform on stage at this very moment? How bad is the Covid-19 drama in Estonia? How hard does it affect your life?
Heiko: Estonia has made quite strict rules and statistics show that hopefully we managed to secure the situation and we really hope pandemic gets under control. It has changed a lot since we were supposed to be touring from April 4th to end of summer. Shows in April, May and June are already postponed and it’s very uncertain when we would be able to play the shows. But we are optimistic.
Helena: We opened our webstore www.sibylvane.ee/shop and people are supporting us with ordering the new album and merch we were supposed to sell on the shows. It helps us to stay in touch with our fans and we are happy to have such strong fanbase. There is a silver lining to it as well. Our fans get to listen to our new album and be prepared when we are allowed to do live shows.
You now have a new album called Duchess, from where this name?
Helena: “Duchess” is an album we made thinking of our mothers. “Duchess” is a veil that covers all the hard times and celebrates the beautiful what our mothers went through raising us.
Thousand Words was ranked fourth in Estonian Eurovision Song Contest “Eesti Laul “ back in 2017, how did that happen? How was it to be part of this special event? Can you describe it a bit for those who does not know how it happens in Estonia?
Heiko: It was kind of pragmatic choice for us. Intense touring abroad departed us from Estonian music scene and audience. So we were kind of hanging in between somewhere. After “Sibyl Vane” was released in 2017 I was sure that we have to find some new path how to write our third album. So “Thousand Words” was actually first experiment with this new thinking in songwriting and arrangement. And “Eesti Laul” is the biggest thing in Estonian music industry. It was shown to half of Estonian population, which is only 1.2 million. So for us “Eesti Laul” seemed great opportunity to see how this refreshment works out in wider audience. It’s hard when you are an alternative rock act who sings in English. There was no doubt that the song could get noticed, but when it ended up in second place with the votes of music experts I was surprised. We ended up in the forth place and it was surprising to everyone involved.
Helena: It was a really good experience and it was our luck that we had been doing Sibyl Vane for 8 years. We knew who we were and what we wanted to do there. Also it was the most important thing for us to stay true to who we are and I think that we achieved it.
Listening to the album there are a few songs of which you can tell me what they stand for: S.O.M., Boy or a Girl (am I right in my review?), I hate Summer (didn’t get why you hate summer, missed it, sorry) and White Trash?
Helena: S.O.M has been in our setlist for a while now. 8 years maybe. It stands for relationships between people and specifically where one person takes too much and thinks it’s his/hers right.
Boy or a girl is a about power and misuse of it. I think that everybody should be what they want to be and what they were meant to be. It is so difficult to understand why some people think that they can or should control others and their lives if it is not familiar to them of if they are scared. It’s a control thing and I think that some people have too much power. But that power is not used to protect people it is used to scare and to push thorough weird political agendas and personal intrests. I’m not a political person and I often choose not to read about those things because it makes me scared and sad.
I Hate Summer is quite simple. I do not like heat and it makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin.
White Trash might be one of the most personal and emotional songs for me. It is about forgivness and forgiving myself and accepting life as it is (but not giving up on myself :D). It might not be pretty and there are a lot of unsolved things and some stuff still hurts but we learn as we live. When I wrote that song I had recently that I’m really bad at identifying my own emotions and I really tried to dig deep to drag things out and recognize them.
How come you suddenly started to add trumpets to your music?
Heiko: Can’t remember exactly, but we had kind of obsession with adding more instruments to our third album. Previous two were recorded with just the three of us playing. I think it was with I Don’t Drive that we were thinking how to play that additional melody part. Trumpet was the first thing that seemed reasonable and we were really happy with the result so we added it to even more songs.
How much fun is it to create clips for your single’s? Any favourite clip and why?
Helena: With “I Want You” it was really fun. We shot it in an old part of an asylum complex near Viljandi and it’s called Jämejala. Place where we did our shoot is still occasionally used as a culture house for patients. But it is not used daily so the heating system was not working on a day we were there and it was painfully cold. But the culture house still was just as it was built back in the soviet times. The main reason why we did our shoot the was that the place was going to be torn down and our video guy Taavi Arus (Zbanski kino: https://vimeo.com/zbanski) wanted to capture it as it was. I think that the whole video is our favorite.
Heiko: The location where the video was shot has diverse meanings. If we go back in time to the Soviet period, then treating mental health had another meaning than it was in free Europe. People were locked down and diagnosed with problems when they didn’t suit with political regime. People who didn’t like Soviet regime were publicly called insane and were cured in these half prison facilities. Even homosexuality was treated there, because it was counted as mental illness. From Belgian perspective this here was another world and interesting that this place has remained as it was in the Soviet period. Really spooky and it was kind of emotionally hard place to be. I think they are going to destroy this part of the complex. So these might be the last footage how this place looked from inside.
Helena, is it ok for you if I compare your voice sometimes with Gwen Stefani?
Helena: J It’s okay. I personally do not hear it but it is always interesting to know what other people hear.
Heiko, what other thing besides being part of this band and being the manager are you doing in life?
Heiko: Last year I finished my studies in philosophy and started MA studies in political science. Helena started her studies in university too. And we are both still working in our daily jobs. I have worked in communications field for last ten years. For almost eight years I was helping Estonian police with PR and now I’m working for Emergency Response Center. For us in the band it has always been important to remain active outside of music industry and educate us in different fields.
You also have a history with mister Marko Atso (ex Metsatöll and now part of Must Hunt)? Or Am I wrong?
Heiko: We have met, but we haven’t collaborated.
How do you see the future? What do you hope for?
Helena: We want to continue our work and I see us doing Sibyl Vane until we are old and can’t do it no more. But we want to remain cool and still do our thing.
Heiko: I’m really waiting to get on the road again. And we’d really like to come to play in Belgium. Actually we have never been there, but it would be really cool to come.
Is there something else I should have asked too?
Thank You, Filip.