Interview with Vesperia : On The Road To Wacken 2015

Vesperia. Photo Kyle Lapointe. Vesperia. Photo Kyle Lapointe.

The Canadian metal scene is intimate, and it happens often that bands you meet across Canada turn out to be friends with each other. I journeyed to the grungy St. Catherine metal hot-spot Piranha bar to see Torontonian folk metal band and winner of the Road to Wacken contest, Vesperia. At the bar I ran into some friends from local Viking metal act Nordmadr, who happened to be performing that night as well. I spoke to both bands before their performances.

KL (Kyle Lapointe): Hello Morgan, it’s great to meet you. My friends from Nordmadr are playing with your band Vesperia here tonight and are fans. Have you ever gotten to tour or play alongside any musicians you really looked up to or were influenced by?

MR (Morgan Rider, vocalist of Vesperia): Oh yeah, tons and tons of people. I remember the first time I saw Haggard. We played Wacken in 2013 and I was able to watch them. They’re a symphonic metal band and have nineteen or twenty people in the band with full pyro. It was pretty incredible. I was also able to hang out and drink with them.

KL: Have you ever met someone you were incredibly influenced by who heard your music and didn’t like it?

MR: (laughs) Probably. No one’s straight up told me they didn’t like our music, though. Maybe it’ll happen soon.

KL: Maybe that’ll happen this summer- You guys won the Road to Wacken Canadian competition. For the second time you’ll have a chance to play at the world’s biggest metal festival. What’s that mean to you?

Two years ago I’d won the competition with my other band, Crimson Shadows, while Vesperia got second place. I had to wave goodbye to my guitarist while I was jumping on a plane to play a festival they’d always dreamed of playing. Now it feels like it’s come full circle and it feels like my guys have worked their asses off for this.

KL: Is it that much of a different experience playing a big show in Europe to here?

MR: Absolutely. I mean, it’s just so much bigger over there. Everyone’s much more critical over there. People go out to hear the music instead of to just party and to use it as excuse to drink.

KL: Could that be bad though? Playing for an audience that’s more critical of your music?

MR: If someone shows up to a show there, it’s because they’re genuinely interested in seeing you, hearing you and talking to you and becoming a part of it. A lot of shows here, people come early to see the band they’re coming to see and they just sit through the openers and get drunk, you know? I’d say that the crowd is much different over there in that sense. It’s a different kind of support.

KL: So European fans don’t like getting as drunk?

MR: I wouldn’t say that, but it’s less of an excuse to go to a bar to drink. When people go to a festival here, it often becomes a bunch of people doing drugs in a field, while there it’s a listening experience.

KL: It’s funny that you’d say that, I recently saw an Onion article titled, “New Music Festival Just Large Empty Field To Do Drugs In.”

MR: (laughs) Well, that could be a side to Wacken. I don’t think I saw many bands when I was there- I was more blown away by the sheer number of people there just drinking in the field and swimming in mud and running around naked.

KL: Does the name “Vesperia” have European origins?

MR: Actually, Vesperia is Latin for “Land of the evening star.” Apparently it was a candidate name for Canada actually, when they were naming it.

KL: Imagine if you guys were called Canada and our country were called Vesperia.

MR: We would be Vesperians instead of Canadians. I think Vesperia sounds a little more ‘metal’ than Canada.

KL: Speaking of metal, your last album, “An Olden Tale” came out two years ago. Have you guys been in the studio working on new music since?

MR: We’ve finished recording an EP we’re planning on getting pressed when we go put on our western leg of the tour. It’s just something to showcase what our new stuff sounds like. Honestly, we haven’t released anything in two years and we’re long overdue.

KL: are you going to be playing any of your new music tonight?

MR: Actually, everything we play tonight’s going to be new.

KL: So people who come see you aren’t gonna know any of your music?

MR: It’s exactly that.

KL: Is that problematic?

MR: We’ve been approached about it over the last couple months because we’ve been playing our new stuff so frequently. There are a couple of songs now that people recognize through live videos online. At the same time, people come up and ask, “Why didn’t you play this song or that song?” Well, we just wanted to try out our newer songs. And we’ve never gotten anything negative back. Playing so much new music is just a way for us to find ourselves musically, and as far as our image is concerned. Our music now has a lot less of the prancey folky stuff and has lots of big epic orchestras and is a lot more evil sounding. It’s a new beast.

KL; When you say “epic orchestras” you don’t mean you play along with full orchestration; violin, cello, etc?

MR: I definitely mean that. We don’t play live with it obviously but it’s pre-recorded and we have it mixed with our live sound.

KL: Is it a problem playing along with the track? What if one of you falls off? Can that completely derail the whole song?

MR: We play to a click track. Our drummer gets counted in — he hears the click track and we follow him. There’s been a few times we’ve fallen off the track and we’ve had to cancel out the orchestration. We definitely have to be rehearsed in it. The whole live set is one continuous track. We never stop. We used to have a seventeen-minute song we’d play live all the time, and come in and out of it real smoothly.

KL: Is it hard balancing being a touring band, maybe not getting all the sleep you’d ideally want, and being so on the ball in your performances, playing 45 minute non-stop sets on a click track?

MR: Well we rehearse a lot. Every show is a different degree of difficulty depending on the live setting and the sound and crowd. It is hard to jump in a van and play a handful of shows, travel for thirteen hours a day, eat nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and sleep on the floor, but you find your energy when it comes time.

KL: What feeling do you get when you’re up there onstage, subject people to such blasts of energy and sound all at once?

MR: It’s an amazing feeling. I definitely do it for me — I love seeing the reactions people give when they’re being subjected to our music.

KL: Positive and negative?

MR: Oh definitely. If someone shits their pants I think, “I did that.”

Taking to the stage, the band attacked the listener’s ears with ferocity. So much so that for a moment I scanned the crowd, pondering which lucky listeners had experience Morgan’s foretold forced defecation. The band went song to song like a runaway train, only stopping briefly to shout out to the audience. During these short breaks, the symphonic track behind them often continued and sometimes faded song into song. The band didn’t miss a beat.

Guitarist Frankie Caracci’s hands maneuvered across the fretboard extremely quickly and easily, to the point that it was mesmerizing to watch during their solos. I watched as his fingers zigzagged about, always hitting each target exactly on point.

As quickly as it had begun their set was over. I stood with the members of Nordmadr and applauded.

Catch Part II with Nordmadr tomorrow.