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Light Field Reverie - Interview

Light Field Reverie might be a new name, but everybody knows gothic/doom metal masters Draconian, and their female vocalist Heike Langhans, also known as Lorelei and now an ex-member of the mighty ISON. As well everybody by now should know the atmospheric black metallers Sojourner. So, Light Field Reverie is a result of what happens when the two ends meet - Heike, guitarist, keyboardist and producer Mike Lamb (Sojourner, Lysithea,...) and bassist Scotty Lodge (Sojourner) - and they go on a completely new musical trip. The first release of this newborn band is the exceptional album named Another World, which was released on 20th November 2020 via Avantgarde Music. Another World is a collection of songs moving liquidly between gothic and doom metal, with a robust injection of synths and drones, so much that there are moments where metal is nowhere to be found. You can very well hear every past and present experience from Heike’s music career: her personal darkwave project Lorelei, the melancholic drones from ISON and the gloomy atmosphere of Draconian all merge with Mike’s melodic and layered songwriting we’ve been able to enjoy in Sojourner. Heike and Mike in this interview reveal many things regarding Light Field Reverie, their debut album, we also talked about their influences and inspirations, plans for the future, about the pandemic, and many other interesting things.

Interview with: Heike Langhans and Mike Lamb
Conducted by: Tomaz
Edited by: Jerneja

Tomaz: First I must congratulate you on your debut album Another World. It certainly is one of the highlights this year, at least within the atmospheric/gothic metal fields. So, how are you satisfied with the final output, and how were the reactions from media and fans?
: We couldn’t be happier with how amazing the reaction has been! On paper it feels like the variety of styles we incorporate could alienate some listeners of our other bands, but we knew that if we wrote what we loved, and we just let it happen naturally then what comes out is going to be a genuine reflection of us as musicians and the passion that we have for the music. We’re just so thankful that people have embraced it and related to it.
Heike: Overjoyed, really! We didn't know what to expect, considering our background and listener base is mostly doom/black/gothic metal oriented, and our sound has many modern elements. I'm nothing but grateful for the lovely responses and support from everyone! It really serves as a great motivation to work on the next release!

Tomaz: Light Field Reverie was announced as a surprise for many earlier this year, and the album came so quickly. I believe that the idea of forming the band/project was born some time ago, I have kind of a feeling that it happened when Draconian and Sojourner toured together...
Heike: Indeed! We became good friends on tour and thought of doing something musical down the line, but both had to get through a hell of a year and many life-changing events before we could re-ignite the idea. I'm not really surprised we ended up doing this as partners, because we clicked in a big way that just seemed to amplify to the next level once we met again under different circumstances in life. Sometimes I truly feel like we were meant to meet each other and that the timing of everything is the kind of coincidence that comes along once in a lifetime, if at all.
Mike: Heike, Scotty, and I just bonded so much on that tour, and we had such an amazing time. Once Heike and I realised very early on in the tour that we shared a mutual love for basically all of the same stuff, be it music or art or love of Space, we knew that we had to make music together one day. It was one of those -it would be nice someday- ideas, but at the time I was so tied up with the writing and recording of the latest Sojourner album and Heike was busy with Draconian and ISON. As Heike said though, the rest of 2019 turned out to be an incredibly strange, and difficult year for both of us in our personal lives, and the friendship that we formed on the tour was so solid that it ended up putting us on the path that led us here.

Tomaz: For me Light Field Reverie is like listening to a special mix between ISON, Draconian and Sojourner, with some softer touches that could remind even to The Birthday Massacre. Critics and reviewers apart, how would you describe the music of Light Field Reverie in your own words?
Mike: The Birthday Massacre is actually a huge inspiration for both Heike and me, and they’re a band we’ve adored since we were teenagers, so they were definitely a huge influence to us both… not just in Light Field Reverie, but as musicians in general! A lot of other bands such as Sleep Token, Loathe, Midas Fall, HEALTH, Empathy Test, Mr. Kitty, Sidewalks & Skeletons and many, many others have helped shape what we wanted to do with this. A lot of 80s and 90s music as well, along with all the usual suspects like Katatonia and the metal that we love. Though, the influences and inspirations behind the band come just as much, if not more, from visual arts and games, movies, novels, and TV series. Putting a genre on the band is difficult… some sort of progressive post-metally post-rocky dreamy synthpop melodic doom? Haha, I don’t really know, but I kind of like that. Rather than Light Field Reverie being an "X genre" band, it’s a very pure distillation of both of our writing styles.
Heike: For me personally there are more elements of LOR3L3I: than ISON, since my own influence on that particular project firstly derived from my solo sound. The melancholic electronic synth melodies are definitely more prevalent in my own work than the more drawn-out ambience of ISON, so I was happy to be able to include more of that going forward. We really wanted a fuller and more modern, well-produced sound that incorporates our love for different styles and genres, as well as hints of nostalgia from the music we listened to as teens.

Tomaz: There's also present some kind of an 80s spirit, especially the synths in many parts have that kind of a hint. Are you fans of the 80s?
Heike: Massive fans! There's something about the way melodies were written in the 80s that are unmatched by any other decade. Simple and slightly melancholic, but so catchy and memorable. There was something goth about it, even in the mainstream. It was the only era where I can honestly say pop music sounded better than anything today, apart from the 80s revival bands. I've noticed, at least with my own writing, that everything from vocal to synth melodies automatically come out the 80s/90s sounding, as it's probably the sound and style I innately enjoy the most and want to hear more of.
Mike: I definitely agree with everything Heike said, music from the 80s was infused with a kind of inherent melancholy and dreamy atmosphere that survived for a while into the 90s and sadly gradually died out or slowly migrated over into the indie scenes over time. Though I think that specific brand of nostalgia is something that we invent when we view the 80s retrospectively through a modern filter, we create this kind of halcyon image of a time that never was. It’s a fiction with just enough of an element of truth, which lives on through music and film from the time, that it makes the 80s this surreal time capsule of a place where life was basically what we wish it was now. In some ways, it’s another world, and that actually factors into one of the many reasons we called the album that.

Tomaz: Another World was released via Avantgarde Music, a label that is better known of black metal releases. How it came that you make such a decision? Yes, I know that Sojourner was signed to it in the past, so you must have had a good experience?
Mike: Oh absolutely, we had an amazing experience on Avantgarde Music with Sojourner, and it was with great difficulty and debate that we actually left the label. Roberto, the owner, and Andrea are just some of the greatest people I’ve come across in the industry and the fact that Rob took us on even when we don’t fit the label’s usual mould at all just speaks volumes about what a great guy he is and that he’ll judge potential not on maintaining a certain outward image in the scene but on the merit of the work. I’m not usually one to gush about labels, I think there’s a lot to be said for bands being independent in this day and age, but in this case, I absolutely stand by it.
Heike: Apart from Sojourner, ISON also licensed some releases to Avantgarde Music, and we had a very positive working experience with them. Roberto and Andrea are fun to work with and generally seem different to other people we've dealt with in the sense that, for them, it's truly about the passion for music more than anything. We're definitely not their usual offering, but I think they personally enjoyed our prior work enough to sign us after just one listens to a very early demo.

Tomaz: Tell me about the title Another World. Does it have to do with the current situation in the world, or it's more like fiction? Is the album meant as a conceptual one, since many lyrics deal with similar things?
Heike: I'd say it's a total escape from the current situation, as the title reads. There are some references to current affairs, but only in the sense that there is light to be found in all the darkness and there are dreams to manifest. We were greatly influenced by escapism in the form of books, films and games we found inspiring. The final track encapsulates the effects of longing for peace of mind and respite from all that has taken its toll on us through the last year of our lives. It's a way of bringing it all back to reality after a journey through the dreamy landscapes.
Mike: The name is also a reference to a game of the same name that we grew up playing, which actually perfectly encapsulates the nostalgia that I mentioned about before. I think escapism is important for all of us, not so that we ignore what’s going on in the world necessarily, but just to find some joy and peace in these surreal times.

Tomaz: Since you are all living in different parts of the worlds, or not anymore (?), I wonder how it was working on something so big? Who did the music, who's behind the lyrics, and so on?
Mike: Heike and I live together these days, we’re both back in our respective home countries over Christmas seeing our families, but we’re usually in Sweden and Scotty is in Scotland. Heike and I wrote and recorded it all together in our flat in Säffle over the course of the year, so from that perspective it was quite easy to put it all together. We would go and use Johan from Draconian’s studio to record vocals since we couldn’t do that bit in our building due to noise, but otherwise, it was all put together at our home studio. We write a lot together, so what you hear is basically the perfect union of our natural writing styles gelling together. I do all of the engineering and production, and Heike does the lyrics. We both have a shared vision on the visuals and themes, the visual approach of the band is incredibly important to both of us, and it’s something we work on and plan before we even touch the music since we’re very visual people. Though, Heike is a graphic designer, so the amazing artwork and layouts you see is all her work! All three of us will catch up on Skype and discuss the direction of things and make plans and work through the various tasks that come up, and then once the songs are ready I’ll get Scotty to slap some bass on and he sends that over, I process it and re-amp it and work it into the tracks, and we’re good to go! The production and engineering process at the end is where I’ll sometimes make a few tweaks or changes on the fly, and I spent the production phase of this album in a quarantined hotel in New Zealand waiting out the 14 day quarantine period while finishing up the mix and master.

Tomaz: It seems that just like in Heike's other band ISON, there's a lot of emphasis on cosmos/universe, and questions about space and time, intertwined with life, emotions, searching,... I know that Heike is passionate about such stuff, but what about the other members?
Heike: This album delves deeper and goes even further, I'd say. The emphasis is on otherworldly and mysterious concepts in general and how it affects or manifests itself in our minds and bodies. "Ultraviolet" is an endearing metaphor for being stuck in different worlds (literally and figuratively), doing everything in our power, no matter the cost, to find each other and create a better world. "Dreamwalker" was written entirely from a dream and the heart-rending impact it made on me as a human being. A seemingly unreal occurrence that felt more real than reality itself. As mentioned before "All Roads Lead Home" deals with very personal feelings of being lost and weary after an inexpressible journey which reflects on all lost and gained in the process. Inevitably we seek a place to rest our heads, to feel familiarity and comfort. The power of emotion is beautiful to me and in many ways far more impactful than simply turning a gaze into vast spaces we may never be able to comprehend. That which hits closer to home hits harder, and Light Field Reverie crystallizes that within many different concepts.
Mike: In terms of the interesting in space and the cosmos, and the nature of time, that’s something that’s very close to my heart and one of my main interests in life. It was something that Heike and I bonded over on the very first day because I actually have a Master’s degree in Science Communication and wrote my thesis about the future of humanity in Space, the theories of terraforming for future colonisation, interstellar travel and the Fermi Paradox. So the cosmos and the questions of the Universe have been a lifelong love and deep interest of mine, so Heike and I couldn’t possibly have been better matched for this kind of thing! Regarding the remaining songs, "The Oldest House" we wrote about the masterpiece of a game Control by Remedy entertainment, which is hugely influenced by Weird Fiction which is a literary genre that one of my biggest passions, and Heike and I had an amazing time playing through it several times. "Ghost Bird" is a song I wrote as a tribute to my favourite book of all time, Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach / Area X trilogy, which holds a very special place in my heart and I would go as far as to say it has actually profoundly impacted the way I approach making my own art. Heike absolutely nailed the lyrics and vocal melodies on it she truly captured the essence of the books. Finally, "Another World" can be taken on the surface as a song about wishing to escape to somewhere other than the reality that we’re living in. As you can probably guess by our inclusion of the quote from The Neverending Story, we chose to do that by referencing the film and, in particular, the incredibly poignant idea of "The Nothing" which is essentially a creeping void swallowing Fantasia and is a powerful metaphor for the loss of imagination or the encroaching hopelessness of losing yourself in the insurmountable tide of the modern world.

Tomaz: Since there are not so many updates about Ison lately, I wonder what is going on with this exceptional project? Is ISON still alive, and is there anything new in the making?
Heike: I'm no longer involved in any capacity, so it's hard to say. I agreed to hand over the name while keeping my half of royalties and carrying my own sound forward in solo- and other projects with Mike. At least from my end, there will always be a continuation of all things spacey and ethereal, of course!

Tomaz: In the notes on Bandcamp it's written that “Another World is full of references and tributes to some of the influences that have shaped and inspired us both as people and artists". What are those influences and to who goes the tributes?
Heike: Books, films, series and games that have impacted us in no small way and sparked endless chats and "nerding" sessions about the topics. Along with a vast variety of genres, we love such as 80s pop, post-metal/rock, modern progressive metal, doom metal, electronica, new wave and ambient. Having a great set of production tools and instruments to work has also served as an amazing inspiration to get creative and put in as much effort as we can to do justice the themes.
Mike: A lot of the references were to things we mentioned previously such as Control, The Southern Reach / Area X trilogy, The Neverending Story, Another World (the game) etc. but also to the many bands that influenced us and to the 80s and 90s music that all three of us grew up listening to. There are X-Files references, Heike and I both adore the show, and you can hear a quote in "All Roads Lead Home". Then there’s plenty of inspiration from the Netflix series Dark, which is one of the finest pieces of storytelling I’ve ever seen and just a phenomenal show. The soundtrack to Dark is also a line-up of some of the best songs that were ever written. There’s a lot that went into inspiring us with Light Field Reverie, but in the end, the album and the songs are purely from the heart, and we just followed our intuition to write the best music we possibly could to truly reflect us as both musicians and people.

Tomaz: I don't know what to say about the front cover artwork of the album, it certainly has some symbolism there, but can you explain me more about it and the connection with the music?
Heike: I always leave artwork open to interpretation to the viewer, as I want people to relate to it personally and try to figure out how it correlates to what they hear on the album. I truly think when it comes to art, it's more important to how the observer personally perceives it. We look at art and find meaning that we comprehend in our own frame of reference. It becomes far more personal then. I will, however, say there is a hint towards the game 'Another World' and the general idea of finding oneself in an unknown and dark world and having to be the light and resilience to make your way through or out of it stronger, more radiant than before.

Tomaz: I really hope that Light Field Reverie is not just a one-album project and that you will make more music in the future. Anything already in the making?
Mike: Oh, don’t worry, there’s no way that we’re going to stop now! There’s just too much potential in Light Field Reverie for us to explore all of the things we’ve always wanted to since we’re not really bound by genre or expectations. We have the second album, and beyond, already planned out in great detail, and three songs are already well underway. The song I’m currently working on makes me incredibly excited to get it out there eventually, the direction we’re going with on the new stuff is the perfect evolution of what we started with Another World but on a whole new level.

Tomaz: Almost forgot to ask, but what does the name of the project, Light Field Reverie, mean, I guess that there must be a deeper meaning, and how did you come up with it?
Heike: We chose a name that inspires visuals of a dreamscape or space where there are endless light and harmony, to offset the often darkness and nihilism we find around us. Personally, I've never been impressed by the fascination with Satan or the nihilistic worldview etc. and actively live to offer a counter-ambience to all of it. It's a form of healing and alternative that our environment needs. As a band, we are a positive and humorous bunch and find great inspiration in more otherworldy and imaginative constructs. I think the name very clearly represents those ideals.

Tomaz: Is Light Field Reverie also planning to play live when this pandemic is over or is meant to be just a studio project?
Mike: We would truly love to play live, and it’s on the cards for sure. We just need to make sure that we can meet all of the logistical needs of making sure our show was visually as interesting as we want it to be, and that we can deliver as "live" a version of the band as possible, we don’t want to put all of the synths on a backing track or anything, but that involves all three of us playing a lot of synth lines as well as our main instruments, so there are definitely hurdles to be overcome but we are confident we can do it eventually. We just need the right offers, and for the album to spread much more widely so that it ends up in front of promoters with the interest to justify putting on a show.

Tomaz: Just like almost the entire music world also you must have been struck hard with this Covid-19 pandemic. How do you deal with it, and are there any negative consequences, since both of your other bands, Draconian and Sojourner, have new albums out this year, and they were ready to promote them live?
Mike: Yeah, I mean, Sojourner had a tour and a few shows booked, but in the end, you’ve just got to roll with the punches when the world is in such a dire state. It definitely is a shame to miss out on the chance to get out there and promote the new stuff, but I would rather everyone be safe and healthy, and I certainly wouldn’t want to irresponsibly be promoting shows until it’s entirely safe to do so. I do miss it a lot of course, but I’m just being realistic about it all. I’m perfectly happy writing and creating music with Heike for our projects and working on some new Sojourner, and just being creative while we wait for this pandemic out. I can understand that people in bands that only really had the live shows going for them are clawing the walls, and I definitely feel bad for them, but for people that write music, it’s just a good time to hole up and wait it out while being productive.
Heike: No doubt this pandemic has wreaked some degree of havoc in just about everyone's lives, especially touring musicians who seek to promote their album releases or tour to earn a living. We are in the fortunate position of not being dependant on shows. I must just say though, I feel far sadder for Sojourner since they were up-and-coming, just signed to Napalm Records, and their album got released so close to the kick-off and hype of this pandemic. It sucked up far too much attention and energy from a damned good release that I feel would have made a far bigger impact, had it been given the attention it deserved. They were almost just in time to be able to promote their album live, but the bad luck of it annoys me far more than releases where setbacks were actually expected. Draconian, on the other hand, had no choice but to delay for various reasons, so we knew what we were in for and in the same boat as just about everyone else. Even though I understand the importance of going out there and promoting the album live, I’m a bit of a recluse, and I prefer studio work, so I can't say it affected me negatively on a personal level. I'm only sad for people who enjoy going to or playing shows and meeting their favourite musicians or hanging out with like-minded people. The darkest aspect of all this is the uncertainty about the future and the sense that we never had a chance to "say goodbye" to the idea of live music, should things never be the same again. On the flip side (and I do maintain that there always is one), we had the opportunity to hunker down and create new music together and shift our focus to a venture that wasn't already marred by the postponing or cancelling of events. It was a clean slate with no limitations and created to be a pleasant experience or sanctuary away from all the current turmoil.

Tomaz: The year is coming to an end, and I hope that you can tell me which album released in 2020 made the biggest impact on you, and you would recommend it to our readers?
Heike: Mike and I can both agree we listened to a great deal of the album Diamonds by The Birthday Massacre and Monsters by Empathy Test. I listened to those albums significantly more than anything else this year, but I have to give props to my man for his stellar writing on two of Sojourner's songs in particular - "Fatal Frame" and "The Event Horizon". There are moments in those songs that unlike anything I've ever heard and it's definitely worth a listen to anyone who hasn't already!
Mike: I absolutely agree about the new albums by The Birthday Massacre and Empathy Test, both were stunning. Naturally, the new Draconian was fantastic, it is truly some of Heike’s best vocal work and the rest of the band smashed it as well. Loathe’s I Let It In And It Took Everything is probably my album of the year, I adore everything about that album. There’s a lot of amazing releases from HEALTH, Rosegarden Funeral Party, Cerulean Veins, Black Crown Initiate, Dark Tranquillity, Unleash The Archers, Countless Skies, Whale Bones,… ah, there are way too many.

Tomaz: Thank you for all the answers. I wish you all the best in 2021. Is there anything that you would like to say at the end of this interview?
Mike: Thank you so much for taking the time to interview us and for asking interesting, well-thought-out questions! And thank you to everyone that’s checked us out and supported us, both past and future. Stay safe everyone!
Heike: Many thanks to you for the interview and for always being supportive, Tomaz! And also gratitude to our listeners! Your lovely responses mean the world to us, and we have more coming, so stay tuned! Season's greetings and stay safe!

Light Field Reverie line-up:
Heike Langhans - vocals, lyrics, synths
Mike Lamb - guitars, synths, piano, drums
Scotty Lodge - bass

Light Field Reverie links: Facebook, Bandcamp

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