The Phoenix Rises – An Interview with Nemhain
The field of female-fronted goth-influenced bands seems to be one that’s growing almost by the day recently and it’s safe to say that when you’re in a densely-populated musical field, you need something to make you stand out – a combination of good tunes and the right attitude.
It’s this which separates the good bands in this particular genre (Patchwork Grace, Obsessive Compulsive) from the not-so-good ones (insert your own choice here).
And it’s this that brings me on to the band I’m interviewing tonight at the Crobar just next door to the Borderline where they’ll play a storming gig later, Nemhain. Led by former goth fetish model Amber Erlandsson and featuring her husband Adrian (ex-Cradle of Filth) on drums along with guitarists Lakis K and Sam Astley and bassist Lisa Dickinson (aka Lisa Witch), the group are now in their fourth year of existence and have had a long hard route to the top, slogging round the toilet circuit venues of Europe and converting people one by one. They recorded their debut album “From The Ashes” nearly two years ago now and it finally saw the light of day at the start of this year when the band signed a deal with German label Tiefdruck records.
Listen to “From The Ashes” though and you begin to realise that Nemhain’s undoubtedly slightly gothic image is actually a bit misleading – the songs on it contain a ferocious punk anger more reminiscent of the Distillers in their prime both lyrically and musically. If you’re one of those people who’s still a bit upset at Brody Dalle calling time on her rather magnificent old group for the more measured approach of Spinnerette then it’s safe to say that Nemhain might just be the very band you’ve been waiting for. Intrigued? Read on and find out more…
PR: The album’s been out for about nine months now. Are you guys happy with the reception it’s got so far?
AMBER (vocals): We’ve been really really pleased, it’s got a good reception especially mainland Europe and places like Germany and Greece. I think Tiefdruck have done a fantastic job with helping us get noticed out there.
PR: You recorded the album way back in 2008 but it only saw the light of day this year. Looking back, was sitting on it for so long the right idea?
ADRIAN (drums): It was more a case of working out what we were gonna do with it. When we finished writing it, we went in the studio not knowing if we’d release the album ourselves or if we’d be able to find a label to do it. When we were recording the album, we really didn’t know which way things were going to go. Then we sent out a four-track demo to several labels and basically, the gap between the recording of the album and the release is just the amount of time it took us to do that!
PR: You eventually signed to Tiefdruck records in Germany – are you happy with the job they’re doing?
AMBER: Definitely. Mona at the label has been absolutely amazing with the job she’s done in getting the album out and promoted.
PR: Going back to the album, the lyrics on a lot of the songs like “Girls Like Honey” and “Heroin Child” are pretty dark – do these come from personal experience?
AMBER: It varies. Some are like stories or other people I’ve known’s experiences and some are my own experiences, it’s a bit of a mixture really.
PR: You’re signed to a German label and seem to tour over there a lot – would it be fair to say that Nemhain seem to be catching on a bit quicker over in mainland Europe than here in the UK?
SAM (guitar): We’ll be able to answer that when we get the figures from the label! (laughs) We’ve sold out of the copies they gave us so fingers crossed! But I think we’re doing alright here as well
PR: This is the second tour you’ve done in support of “From The Ashes” – are you looking forward to getting back on the road again?
AMBER: Definitely, it’s gonna be really good fun. At the end of the day we really just wanna get out there and play as many places and to as many people as possible.
SAM: I’m really looking forward to getting back to Germany and eating some more currywurst!
LISA (bass): That’s the last thing I wanna do! We had a really bad experience with currywurst last time we were in Germany – we ended up ordering the hottest currywurst in the shop we went to near the venue and ended up wandering down the street back to the hotel crying, it was that bad!
AMBER: Now Jagermeister on the other hand…
PR: Well, you might have timed it right to make the Oktoberfest…
AMBER: Unfortunately I think the tour’ll be over by then.
SAM: Ah it doesn’t matter, we can be early…
ADRIAN: It’s a beer fest wherever we go with this band anyway, October or not…
SAM: Seriously though, we are really looking forward to this tour. Last time we were on a great line-up with some great bands, this time around we’re doing some new venues, quite a lot of punk ones actually. So it’s gonna be a lot more stripped back.
AMBER: With it being a headline tour as well, it’s gonna have a different sort of feel – we’re all really looking forward to it.
PR: The London gig tonight is the only British one on the tour – any plans to do some more gigs over here in the near future?
AMBER: Probably not this year unfortunately but definitely next year, we’re planning to do a full UK tour then. We’re really looking forward to the gig tonight though, it’s always good to play the Borderline.
SAM: The next thing for us really is the new album, we’ll be starting work on that once this tour’s over.
PR: So you’re planning to get started on your second album before the year’s out?
SAM: We’ve already got started on it. At the moment we’ve got a lot of new ideas for riffs and lyrics – once the tour’s over we’re going to have a serious sit down, work them all together and really get stuck into it.
PR: So the next few weeks are a case of touring and recording then?
LAKIS (guitar): Well, touring and recording inbetween really. We’ve got a lot of stuff written, it’s just a case of getting it nailed down really.
AMBER: The album’s our priority right now – once we’ve sorted that out we can start thinking about more gigs.
PR: The band’s been going four years now and it seems you’re finally starting to pick up some real attention. Has the slog been worth it?
AMBER: Yeah, everything seems to be falling into place really nicely right now. It has been hard work, we’ve had a lot of people involved in the band but when you look back on it, it really feels like we’ve been progressing the whole time. But we’re here now and I really feel that this band’s now the best it’s ever been.
Header image (c) Falk Hagen 2009