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Sojourner - Interview


The international melancholic and atmospheric black metal phenomena Sojourner have entered a new chapter to bring us some breathtaking dark metal music. The band, formed by the extraordinary songwriter/multiinstrumentalist Mike Lamb and vocalist Emilio Crespo in 2015, already released three full-lengths, a couple of singles, and just recently a new EP entitled Perennial. The new EP paves the way for another undeniably impressive next chapter - connecting the future, past and present of the band. Mostly because the band went through a big line-up change this year. Female vocalist/guitarist Chloe Bray left the band in 2020, and bassist Mike Wilson did the same in 2021. They found their substitutes in vocalist Lucia Amelia Emmanueli, guitarist Tom O'Dell, and bassist Scotty Lodge, who was their tour musician since 2018, joined the band as a permanent member. Sojourner, who is now signed to one of the biggest metal/rock labels in Europe, Napalm Records, is now ready to write another chapter in its marvellous book of atmospheric black metal tales. Throughout their meaningful lyricism, erupting in Emilio Crespo’s intense growls while being carried on through the ethereal vocals of new vocalist Lucia Amelia Emmanueli, Sojourner reaches the innermost soul to leave a long-lasting impact. With the colour of their own and unique musical identity and every note of this exceptional progression created by songwriting genius Mike Lamb, we can expect nothing but more mastery in the future. The first proof of that is Perennial, and you should read everything the vocalist Emilio Crespo explains.


Interview with: Emilio Crespo
Conducted by: Tomaz
Edited by: Jerneja

Tomaz: Hi Emilio. Sojourner just released a new two-song EP Perennial. Is this release meant only to introduce new members, or is it connected with bands slight return to the roots yet offering new sonic dimensions?

Emilio: I would say both actually. When it comes to the new members, we didn't want to do just the typical Facebook post as almost everybody does. "Hey, we have new members, and that's it, and you will have to wait a year or two to hear something new from us." We wanted to make something special, to present new members but with new music as well. We wanted to offer to our fans something special and so they don't have to wait for too long to hear what the new members can do. The EP was also done with the goal to present Sojourner's past, present and of course future. We are always evolving - we will never release Empires Of Ash three times - there will always be new things with Sojourner. Two members have departed from the band, and we wanted to show that we are still here. Mike and I are, as we have always been, the core of the band, so nothing is really going to change. So, those reasons are the main thing behind the EP.

Tomaz: The front cover artwork is very similar to the one of your debut album, Empires Of Ash. Ok, the castle is more destroyed, and two spectators are watching it,... There's a lot of symbolism on it if you look close enough. What does this kind of artwork concept mean, and how did you come up with it?
Emilio: Since we wanted to combine the past, present and future of Sojourner, we wanted it to reflect on the artwork. The best way to reflect on the past is to have the artwork of the first album. Yes, of course, the castle is much more dilapidated, much more ruined. Moss, flora and other stuff has begun to grow on it, much more than before. You can also see the two, so to speak protagonists, arriving in the scene. Yeah, it's a lot of symbolism to present the past, present and the future of the band, all combined into one entity. We know before that we thought about the cover that music-wise is this all we wanted to do. There's more Empires Of Ash and The Shadowed Road flavour, but it's still mixed with what we were doing on the Premonitions album. So, once we were decided on the music, we already knew in our minds what's the cover going to be. We contacted Jordan Grimmer, the guy who did the cover of our first album, just to basically do it again.

Tomaz: The main song, "Perennial", especially shows the connection between your old and new stuff. I read its lyrics, and there's a lot of talk about nature and how humanity is destroying it. What kind of a message did you want to give?
Emilio: Since we were tapping into the past, I looked into two songs, "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" and "Trails Of The Earth", and I decided to draw inspiration from that. The lyrics came out quite easily because it's a topic about something that hasn't happened yet, but I do feel that at the same time, it's already happening. Decline in the natural realm due to humanity's ill and unwise actions, or maybe it's the purpose of our species causing these declines. Do I think that we will completely destroy it? No. The earth has in the past many times renewed itself, and it'll do it again. When I'm talking about the decline of nature, it's more to appoint how we could co-exist and live in it. Nature will renew itself, whether it be for the super harsh conditions like the ice age, extreme heat and all that stuff. I mean, we can only live in certain ways on the planet. It's more like killing our own habitat, than murdering the earth, which is not really possible.

Tomaz: For the video of "Perennial", you used only images taken from nature. There is no story, no band members or other actors playing or showing up. Tell me why, in the first place, did you use such a concept for it?
Emilio: To be totally honest, it was the lack of budget. We didn't have the budget to make the full line-up band performance video as we did it for "Deluge". Not to mention the lockdowns, and everything was more strict around that time. There was no way to get people flying and get together just to film the music video. So, the alternative was to make something that is keeping up with lyrics. You know, different landscapes, different seasons in different areas and stuff like that. We just took high-quality original stuff and edited it together. The material was chosen meticulously; it was not just to take some pictures and put them together. We spent many hours looking at different things that could fit the mood of the song, and at the same time, we wanted to portray and summarize it in a nutshell. It's very symbolic with the lyrics because these landscapes are something that we can still enjoy unless we will keep going on the path we are now.

Tomaz: And what about the second song, "Relics Of The Natural Realm", which is a sequel to your very first song "Heritage Of The Natural Realm". Why this song needed the sequel, or it did just came up spontaneously?
Emilio: I guess kind of both. The first point was like a quick idea that we should make a shorter version of "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" to showcase the folkier, calmer and more atmospheric side of the band. Then it turned into a symbolic thing. Obviously, we went through a major line-up change; the band is now revitalized in many ways, with Lucy and Tom joining. Since "Heritage Of The Natural Realm" is our very first song, "Relics Of The Natural Realm" shows a new era of Sojourner, even though, as I said before, the core of the band was always Mike and me, with Chloe being a big part back then. Yeah, "Relics Of The Natural Realm" is still kind of going back into the past of Sojourner, but at the same time, we wanted to show that we are back now, and we give you the blast from the past.

Tomaz: The song has the same melodic pattern as "Heritage Of The Natural Realm"...
Emilio: Yeah, we wanted to, not necessary rehear it, but more to make it a direct sequel; it starts where the last song left off - at least that was the initial idea. Still, of course, when you once get into the song, things do change.

Tomaz: We already talked a little about new members. Lucia Amelia Emmanueli, Tom O'Dell and Scotty Lodge recently joined the line-up of Sojourner. How it's working with new members, and how did you find them? Were there auditions or something like that?
Emilio: We had a process for that. We knew that females who can sing and play the guitar don't fall right off the trees. We knew that it'll be hard to find somebody like that again, and because of this, we were open to splitting that part in two. We held auditions for both positions. Many people were auditioning for the guitar part, even some guitarists from the bands that we actually grew up with, which was mind-blowing. In the end, we felt that Tom would be the best fit. He actually started his band Dwarrowdelf because of Sojourner some years ago. We knew that he knows the band since he's a big fan of Sojourner and we are friends for years. You can have the chaps and all the amazing guitar playing technics you want, but we need the chemistry as well. We knew that with Tom we would have that, so that was an easy choice for us. As for the female singer, we had quite a few auditions also but not many of them caught our ear that much. Then our drummer Riccardo said that he has a friend named Lucia who is interested in trying it out, and of course, we agreed. Once I heard her vocals, I was blown away, and I immediately knew that she's the missing piece of the puzzle. She has that timbre tone in her voice and she can easily do justice also to our older songs when we'll play live. She has a way broader vocal range and can do much more with her voice. It's something that I always wanted to have, higher registers and more dynamics, and she brought that. I adored her vocal performance in the piano part of "Perennial". It was something that we couldn't do in the past. And Scotty - he has been in the band since 2018, to be honest, but officially credited as a live bassist only. Only when Mike Wilson left the position as the studio bassist that Scotty assumed the full role as the bassist in the band.

Tomaz: Chloe was an important member of the band, and I'm wondering why she decided to leave?
Emilio: This is the question that I'm not going to answer. It's a situation personal to her; she felt that is the best for her to do. For sure - we were sad about her decision at the time, but now we are happy with the results in the end. We are extremely happy with the new members.

Tomaz: Do other members also contribute to the writing process of the Sojourner's music or is this only Mike's and your domain?
Emilio: On this new EP, it was just the two of us. Like I said before, Mike and I are the core of the band and that's not going to change, but we hope that on the next album there will be heard also some of Tom's writing. We hope that he can bring some new stuff to the table. Still, if something doesn't fit Sojourner, it won't be there, but we do not doubt that Tom will bring some killer stuff and that Mike will be able to translate that into the Sojourner thing. Of course, the majority of the writing comes from Mike because he's the one who truly knows the Sojourner's sound better than anybody.

Tomaz: Now some words about the Premonitions album. For me, it is one of the best releases of 2020, and I'm wondering how do you feel about it now?
Emilio: First of all, thank you for your words. I'm very proud of everything we've done until now, but at the same time being a part of the band. You know, before the audience actually hears it, we hear it hundreds and hundreds of fucking times. Let it be when we are writing it, between the demo process, when mixing and mastering, and of course, before it gets released. We are all happy with the final products. To be honest, I don't really listen to our three previous albums that much, but as I said, I do feel extremely proud of all of them. We would never release something that we wouldn't feel proud about.

Tomaz: Premonitions was, in a way, your breakthrough album. It was released by a big label Napalm Records, and I'm curious to know how this story with Napalm Records started in the first place? Were you the one who contacted them, or were they the ones who found you?
Emilio: They contacted us. We were negotiating with them to get on the tour with Draconian that happened in 2019. We got on that tour, which was announced in October 2018, and one week after we got an e-mail from Sebastian, the A&R of Napalm Records, who told us that he heard our stuff and absolutely loved it. Then we were negotiating the deal. It was quite surreal, at least for me, since I'm a fan of Napalm Records since 2005/2006 when I discovered Draconian. Napalm Records has always been a label where I looked for new bands. After speaking back and forth for a while, we closed up the deal, and already in December 2018, we announced our signing to them.

Tomaz: And, what everything changes for a band like Sojourner after making a deal with such a label like is Napalm Records? Before you were signed to Avantgarde Music, also an esteemed label, but a much smaller one...
Emilio: Of course, there's much more exposure and more distribution. When we released Empires Of Ash and Shadowed Road, we talked only with Roberto, the boss at Avantgarde, but at Napalm Records, we got our own product, press and PR manager. There are many different departments and such stuff. But actually, I like doing this kind of business stuff on my own. I really enjoy managing the band alongside Mike, of course, we both manage it behind the scenes. Yeah, now it's more about more distribution, press, wider audience, but in terms of creative stuff, nothing changes. Many people think that when you sign to a major label, your creative freedom is gone, that might be even true for some, but we were very specific about that. We thought a lot about this back then. We were afraid that the label would put its claws into the final mix, or whatever, so we made it clear that Sojourner is Sojourner and what we decide to put out, we will do it. Creative freedom is 100% retained by us. Obviously, they had zero issues with that, and what we give to them they will release, which is fucking amazing, and so far, they love what we do. It has been a really great partnership so far.

Tomaz: That's good to hear. Now about the recording process of your music. Some things get recorded in Sweden, some in Italy, England, Scotland and New Zealand. How do you combine all this? Are you all the time talking via Skype or Zoom to put all the things together. Explain, please, how it works and how it gets done?
Emilio: It's actually one pretty easy process. As I said before, Mike is the main guy behind the music, and I'm the main guy behind the vocals and lyrics. Each one of us works in his own area. I start to work once I get the stuff from Mike, and back then also from Chloe, who was composing as well. It was easy, because back then, those two took care of the music side, with Mike being also the engineer and producer, the one who records everything, so 99% of what you hear on our records, is done by him. Basically, he takes care of most of the work. It's a pretty simple process, and even if we'll live in the same city and rehearse together, I think that the things regarding this matter would be the same as they are now. We are not a kind of a band that would sit in the rehearsal room, jam, and think about the riffs and stuff. I know that this traditional way works for a lot of bands, but for us, that is just so boring. I know that because I did that in the past, and I don't like it. Mike and also other members feel the same way. Everybody does his/her own stuff at home. When we got something, we show it, and then we take it from there. So, the internet allows doing many miracles, because 20 or 25 years ago this band wouldn't be able to exist.

Tomaz: I'm wondering if Mike - when he composes, already has the idea how the vocals would be or do you have the absolute freedom on that?
Emilio: It would be great if Mike was here to answer this question. This is going to be heard like if I want to blow smoke on my own ass, which I don't like to, haha. No, Mike trusts me, and he has always been happy with what I do, and I'm always also very decisive about what I do. The moment that I hear the song, even if it's for the first time, I already start to envision what can go where, where it should be more aggressive and where more atmospheric, stripped back, or moody, and of course, I tell all this to Mike, who so far always loved what I brought to the table. I can recall just one or two times when he said that some other thing would fit better. And there's no problem because I always like to get input from him, and I can go back and change it, but that happened only a few times. It's actually all very simple in that regard.

Tomaz: When you manage tours, live shows or festival appearances, how do you deal with all the logistic stuff. Is that a problem for a band like yours?
Emilio: It's not such a problem, maybe sometimes from the financial aspect it is. You know, when somebody books us or when we go on a tour it must be financially feasible, we can't allow being in the red in our personal lives, because we all still work for a living. If there's not at least 10000 or 15000 € for a tour, it's not worth it, no matter who we are supposed to tour with. Luckily enough, so far, everything was ok, and the promoters were very cool. It's actually very simple, we get an offer, and we say yes or no. If we say yes, then we start looking into our flights. Before the shows, we have some kind of an acoustic style of rehearsals in our hotel room, or if there's a chance, then we rent a space and have a full rehearsal. Actually, we haven't rehearsed that much as a band, and I'm happy to be in a band with people who know their instruments so well that can play together even if we are not a typical band that rehearses five times a week. We are still able to put up a great show without fuck things up severely.

Tomaz: I guess that the pandemic crossed your touring plans?
Emilio: It sucks, of course. We had ready a full European tour with Lucifer's Child, Countless Skies and Finsterforst, which should start in April 2020 and obviously, it got cancelled. We had to play a bunch of festivals, which have been rescheduled again for 2022. We will be playing in Spain in March next year, and in May and June at a couple of festivals in Germany. But about the planned tour - it wasn't spoken of anything anymore. We are also no more with In Fiction Entertainment since we signed with Napalm Events, and even if that tour gets rescheduled, I don't think that we will be on it. With all those cancellations, of course, it does suck, and nowadays with all the festivals is a huge question, because all of the bands that were supposed to play have priorities. Festivals need to take care of the biggest bands before booking new ones. It is a bit tough at the moment, but Napalm Events has already pitched us some ideas and that stuff, so, in 2022, you'll definitely see us on the stage. How many times and where exactly, I don't really know, but we'll be there.
Tomaz: How would you describe your live show? What can the audience expect from Sojourner when playing live?
Emilio: Fun! I mean, we are not a band that wants to be in corpse paint with serious faces on the stage, which is fine. I actually love some of the bands doing that. We are just a bunch of friends writing music that we love, and we just want to enjoy ourselves on the stage. Especially Scotty is a funny motherfucker. We call him our resident high-train; he's a dude who can really get the crowd pumped up. I also do my things, you know, I don't go that far to insult the crowd, but I don't take a no for an answer. So, we just like to get the crowd pumped up, headbang, and have a good fucking time while feeling that they are a part of the show. Yeah, just have fun, enjoy, because if you're a band, which is too nervous or fixated, you don't have a good time, and the crowd feels that. We just want to have a good time and transmit that feeling to the crowd.

Tomaz: I still regret coming too late to the show of yours in Italy, where you played with Draconian and Harakiri For The Sky. You were also a guest vocalist in the song "Ghost Bird" of Light Field Reverie, the band of Mike, Heike and Scotty. What can you tell me about that, and how do you like the first album of them?
Emilio: I love them, and that's not because of the fact that three of my closest friends are in there. It's mainly because I love their music, which is very much in the style that I like to hear; there's atmosphere, dreaminess, even that space kind of feelings, it feels like floating somewhere in the galaxy. I love all those aspects, so yeah, I think that Light Field Reverie is a fantastic band, and it was awesome for me to be the guest on it. I didn't think, that just because Mike, Heike and Scotty are my friends, that I'll be able to be there. It happened that one day Mike texted me that this part needs harsh vocals and that he can only see me do it. Fuck yeah! For me on the personal level, of course, nowadays is a little bit different since I know the Draconian guys for years, we toured with them, and they are the band which I love since 2006, so, of course, on a personal level, I'm more than honoured of being on a song together with Heike. Taking away the friendship, she has a phenomenal voice, and it was an awesome experience to be on that track with her.

Tomaz: When Chloe left, I thought for a while that Heike would join Sojourner. You were or still are - I don't know, a member of two other bands, Nangilima and Historian. What's going on with these two bands?
Emilio: Oh, nothing really. Nangilima, we killed that band in 2018, I think, mostly because we didn't have any drive to make anything new, and obviously Sojourner was really starting to take off around that time and becoming the main band. So, instead of releasing something uninspired and shitty, we killed it. About Historian..., well I was in that band with Nikolay Velev, who is also my ex-bandmate from Nangilima. This guy writes so much fucking music that it's insane. He had this kind of melodic black metal Dissection kind of stuff, and he asked me if I want to do vocals on it. I agreed, and we released that first song, "Edinnu", but as I said before, Sojourner was starting to pick up, and Nikolay eventually wanted to take the band live. Obviously, since they are all based in Bulgaria, I wouldn't be able to be a part of that band on a live basis. So I decided to step out and let them do their thing. That's pretty much it.

Tomaz: Tell me now a little about your influences. You already said that you admire Draconian, but who are your other influences and main inspirations when it comes to vocals?
Emilio: The main reason that I started singing was Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. When I heard his voice many years ago, I knew what I want to do. I was a young metal kid back then, and I still adore their first two albums. Chester had a certain type of voice that was really captivating, especially his screams. Once I started doing screams and such stuff, I quickly progressed to the more extreme metal, and I discovered Cannibal Corpse, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon and many others. Naturally, I levitated more towards those extreme vocals because, obviously, my screams are nothing like Linkin Park; they are much heavier, deeper and darker. Yeah, that was the main reason why I started, and that's something you can never forget. You can never forget your first influence or your major star because you'll always feel some kind of gratitude towards that person in some way, even though they don't know who the fuck you are. So yeah, Chester Bennington, then, of course, Anders from Draconian. You know, once I discovered Draconian, that was it, doom, melodic, atmospheric stuff. Black metal, as well, was one of the big things. The singer that I also love is Corpsegrinder of Cannibal Corpse because of the intensity. I got influences from all kinds of places, but nowadays nobody influences me anymore to keep it going. I just do what I do. I like, of course, to learn new stuff; for example, the last six months, I've been dabbling with the "tunnel throat" technique, that kind of vocals which you can hear in Cattle Decapitation or Shadow Of Intent. I like to learn new techniques, but I don't have any people that inspire me anymore.

Tomaz: Do you still check out and follow the new releases?
Emilio: Yes and no at the same time. I think that this happens to a lot of people who are in the band. When you really start working and releasing albums, you are so involved in creating your own music that you actually start to lose time to look into other things. For the past two or three years, I've found myself not really caring too much to listen to the new stuff because I simply don't have enough time. I'm stuck between Sojourner, my job, private life, I also love playing games, and somehow I also feel that a lot of stuff that comes out is more or less boring. Still, some bands catch my eye and drive me insane, like Shadow Of Intent or Jinjer have some stuff that I like. Also, Unleash The Archers and our friends Wormwood, who deserve much more attention than they are getting. So yeah, I still listen to some stuff when I have the time to discover something, but I tend to go mainly with friends recommendations.  

Tomaz: Do you also sing the clean vocals in Sojourner?
Emilio: No, nobody would like to hear that, haha. I'm terrible at that. It's actually Tom who does that. We knew that he is a good singer as well. He learned to sing before he started to play guitar and piano, so we asked him to do some backing vocals. At the end of "Perennial", that's him with Lucy, as well he sings that clean part of "Relics Of The Natural Realm". It's phenomenal, and it certainly brings another dimension and kind of a new dynamics to the band.

Tomaz: It certainly does bring even more dynamics to the already multi-dimensional and dynamic sound of yours. Are you already working on a new album with the new line-up? If yes, can you reveal something?
Emilio: We haven't started yet. Of course that Mike is always working on something new, so he might have a folder with 20, 30 or even more ideas, I don't know. Right now we are in the promo cycle for Perennial and we want that it gets all the attention it needs. Maybe this autumn or in the winter, we will start working on the new album. We want to keep that cycle we have, to release an album every two or two and a half years. We don't want to go for five or six years without one; that's not for us. The EP is a special thing, just to let people know what they can expect from us in the future, but that doesn't mean that the album will come any later.

Tomaz: Tell me who in the band is obsessed with ruins and castles?
Emilio: I think that all of us actually. We are all into ruins, nature and stuff like that, and to combine this is awesome. Many people ask this same question because we have a castle on Empires Of Ash, The Shadowed Road and now again is the castle. Does that mean that our fourth album is going to have a castle? I can already say, no. There won't be a castle again, maybe on a smaller scale, like a part of the artwork. The only reason why we had the castle this time was because of the past of Sojourner, the symbolism and all that. I think it would be very boring to have a castle for the fourth time. It might feel uninspired if we'll keep do it over and over. There will definitely be a different type of artwork next time. What's going to be? Who knows.

Tomaz: Maybe those two protagonists from the Perennial cover will be there?
Emilio: Oh no, haha. Maybe the owl eats them, or somebody shoots them out somewhere in the forest. Who knows. They are gone.

Tomaz: Thank you, Emilio, for such a nice conversation. Is there anything that you would like to add at the end of this interview?
Emilio: Yes, of course. Thank you for reaching out for this interview. It's awesome when the audience and press alike are interested in talking to us and wanting to know our thoughts and everything. People hear an album, but there's always so much behind it and to share the thoughts really means a lot. I would like to thank everybody for the support, the reception so far has been phenomenal, pretty much 99% positive, and we sincerely thank everybody for that. Stay tuned because there's going to be much more from Sojourner. We are here alive and kicking.

Sojourner links: Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, Napalm Records

Sojourner line-up: Emilio Crespo (vocals), Lucia Amelia Emmanueli (vocals), Mike Lamb (guitars, piano, synth/keyboards), Tom O'Dell (guitar, backing vocals), Riccardo Floridia (drums), Scotty Lodge (bass)

Sojourner discography:
- Heritage Of The Natural Realm [Single] (2015)      
- Empires Of Ash (2016)
- South Away (Summoning cover) [Single] (2017)
- The Shadowed Road (2018)
- Premonitions (2020)
- Perennial [EP] (2021)