April 1, 2024, 3 months ago

By Carl Begai

feature heavy metal illumishade


Vocalist Fabienne Erni joined Swiss folk metal outfit Eluveitie in 2017, replacing longtime singer Anna Murphy. At the same time, she was working on her Master’s degree, where she created a musical concept and a band to go with it. Fabienne got her degree in September 2018, and in 2019 it was decided to turn the project into a full-blown band with Eluveitie guitarist Jonas Wolf, dubbed Illumishade. 

They persevered during a time when bands 10 times bigger were being pounded by the Corona pandemic, independently releasing their debut album, Eclyptic: Wake of Shadows, in 2020 in the midst of Corona chaos, and kept their momentum going with a series of non-album singles through 2022. That led them to being signed by Napalm Records and releasing their second album, Another Side Of You, in 2024, as well as securing a European tour supporting Delain. BraveWords spoke with Fabienne and Jonas prior to their Nuremberg show.

BraveWords: We're living in the day and age where having a record deal isn't necessary to get noticed, and you’ve proven that with the debut album. Did you actively seek out a label for the new record, or did Napalm approach you based on the strength of the first one?

Fabienne: "Because Illumishade was a school project, putting the first album out independently was our way of saying 'Let's continue doing this.' It wasn't a question of whether we should go with a record label or not. We just kept it rolling, and we had a very good friend within the construct, let's say, and she took care of a lot of stuff for us that a label would normally take care of. Things that we either didn't have time for or weren't familiar with. That was during Corona times, but times have now changed, which made important to make a change in our group dynamic. Normal life is happening again and we're all busy, so we can't possibly take care of everything on our own. That's why it was natural, and for me the only way forward, to go to a record label. Looking back even now, it made so much sense to go this way. We're hoping it will open some doors, and I think it already did."

Jonas: "By the time we had started negotiating with Napalm... they reached out, and by that time we were all ready 'too experienced' from our time with Eluveitie and other projects to be freaking out about a label contacting us. We thought things through and put a lot of work looking into all of that. We knew that Illumishade is a precious thing that we have, and we came so far being a DIY thing; that was important to remember. But we made the right decision to go with a label. It was the right time."

BraveWords: You mentioned that Eclyptic: Wake Of Shadows was put together during Corona. With life getting back to normal, how long did it take to write and record Another Side Of You?

Fabienne: "The timeframe was about two years for working on this album. ‘Elegy' was the first song we recorded, but when we signed to Napalm we had a deadline to get things finished. We had fun with a few songs at the beginning, but I think a little pressure was needed (laughs), so once we signed the record deal, we had a more intense time working on the songs. We went to the mountains for a week, 10 days, just to work on these songs, and that is really where everything fell into place. We were ready for the studio and the songs we hadn't recorded yet."

Jonas: "We were always serious about the music from Day 1. There were some ups and downs trying to decide if we could have Illumishade as a legit second band because we have a commitment to Eluveitie that we take very seriously. Should it be a side project? Should it be a studio project? And when everything started happening with Napalm, we made the call and decided Illumishade could happen. It was actually Fabi that said 'I really want to do this because it's our own music.' So, I think we always took the music seriously. I think that's the really important thing about writing music. It's a snapshot in time."

BraveWords: Illumishade's sound is symphonic / cinematic is nature, but you're also heavier and more diverse than people might expect. Given you have a female singer, there's a kneejerk reaction to lump the band in with Epica, Delain, Within Temptation and the like, but there is a much different energy in the music. There are moments on Another Side Of You that are completely unexpected.

Jonas: "I really think this is the mission statement of the band: there are just so many influences that come from different places than just metal. That's what you're hearing. I like it when we can get people who listen to a lot of music, like you, to dig into the band and enjoy what they hear. The music is alive; it's the energy, as you said."

BraveWords: Has the writing process changed between the debut and Another Side Of You, seeing as how you became committed to the idea of Illumishade as a serious full-on band?

Jonas: "It's a bit of a hydra, this thing (laughs). There was a big difference in the songwriting between the first album and this one. The first album was me and Fabi, and we are still the core on the new album, but there's a lot more influence from everyone else in the band this time. Of course, if you have a band like this, it's great because everyone in the band is amazing. Not to compare ourselves to Queen, but their way of doing things, I like to have that as an inspiration. Everyone writes, everyone has ideas - of course it was mainly Freddie Mercury and Brian May - but there were so many genres in their music that they just threw in there. This new album is us branching out, and we were able to do that because we have all these influences from everyone in the band. We let it happen, and that's a beautiful thing."

BraveWords: Eluveitie is Chrigel Glanzmann's (vocals / founder) baby. Does that make Illumishade your primary creative outlet?

Fabienne: "For me much more than Jonas, in Eluveitie, I throw in ideas, but I see myself more an interpreter and giving a voice to Chrigel's ideas - to his lyrics, to his melodies, to his world - which I really love doing. I'm a singer first, and it started with Illumishade that I wanted to make my own music. I'm very happy that I can dive into this Celtic / folk world; that's my role in Eluveitie. I am there when everything is more or less done, to put the cherry on top of the cake. With Illumishade it's very different for me because it's my music, my songs, which I make with Jonas and the others."

(Photo - Manuel Scheutz Photography)

BraveWords: Has the Eluvietie experience influenced your approach to your own music for Illumishade?

Fabienne: "I didn't have a lot of experience before Eluveitie at all. I was a wedding singer (laughs)."

Jonas: "To have total songwriting freedom applies to both bands. I'm one of the main songwriters in Eluveitie, after Chrigel of course, so I try to write in that Eluveitie bubble. The stuff I do there is mostly Swedish melo-death type stuff, which I love, and the appeal of Illumishade was not having any limits on what I could write. That's why I love working with Fabi's ideas because I get the core of the song, and then I start hearing how I can flesh it out. It works really well at this point."

BraveWords: Illumishade is a young and relatively unknown band. The amount of merch you have on offer at the shows is quite impressive. You clearly have a grip on how to market Illumishade effectively.

Jonas: "We're lucky to have great friends and partners; they help us out a lot. We're also very thankful to Delain because they're the ones allowing us to sell all these different items on tour. They didn't have to allow us to have more than two items, so they've been super nice to us."

Fabienne: "And that's where the label helps us and reduces some of the pressure."

(Top photo - Victoria Wonka)

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