Here is another band that needs to be checked out. So go and do so now with HEATHEN FORAY. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
A band name says more than thousand words, or does it? How important is a band name to get people interested in your music?
-I took us a long time to find the right name. I remember that we called ourselves “Run for the night” for a couple of week or so. Then we decided to go with a pagan/heathen theme for our lyrics. We were very impressed with the works of the band “Falkenbach”. Especially their song “Heathen Foray” struck a chord with us. We decided to name the band after it to harvest some of the song’s energy for our band.
As you said, it is also a great way to tell people what music is awaiting them when they see the band name. Sometimes, people discover us by searching for the “Falkenbach” song online and finding us instead.
When you finish a recording and then sit back and relax, what kind of feelings do you get? Are you glad it is finished? Does the anxiety grow, not knowing if everybody will like it?
-It’s sometimes hard for me to grasp that there are thousands of people streaming our music, listening to our albums and actually liking it. They like it so much that they buy T-Shirts, write us messages and come to concerts. It’s still hard for me to grasp it sometimes.
When an album or song is done, I am usually super self-conscious about it because I will never experience it as someone hearing it for the first time. By the time a song is being heard by someone outside the band, I have listened to it 100 times already. You are not in a position to judge the song anymore.
I always compare our songwriting to other, much bigger, bands than us and try to reach new highs with a song. I usually end up saying something like “We could have written that smarter” or “There should be more guitars there” when the song is already done. That drives me to write a better song the next time.
The relaxing part is not very easy for me. My “secret” is that I am always anxious about people not liking our songs and try super hard to write better and better stuff. It thinks that is the essence of being an artist. The continuous struggle and self-doubt. This is what drives great art.
What is it like to be in a studio recording your music? What kind of feelings and thoughts race through your heads?
-I don’t particularly like being in a studio for recording. There is always a clock ticking and money is always an issue. For the next album, we have built our own small studio where we can take our time writing everything and recording everything. For the final recordings and mixing we will hit a professional studio, but at this point all the “creative” parts are done and we will just record. That takes a lot of pressure off the whole process. I can’t concentrate on the recording if I think about the money it costs us while being there.
Having someone that is not part of the band in the studio, like the producer or recording engineer, gives you a fresh perspective and a lot of great ideas. I would say a lot of our songs got an extra 10% better from their feedback.
Today I get a feeling that the promotion of a band lands a lot on the bands themselves so how does one promote oneself the best possible way in order to reach as many as possible?
-You are right. Especially in metal you have to work hard to get heard. If you are lucky and have a label that takes big interest in you, they will do a lot of promotion for you. However, most labels today are interested in releasing your music and leave the promotion to you.
We had the pleasure to have a very motivated label behind our first two albums. Their engagement made a big difference for us. If you are in a band and looking for a label, always sign with the one that has a true interest in you as a band and not just the money they can make of your music. For us this was a real kick start in the beginning.
Before you spend money on anything else, invest it in a good PR campaign. If an album is done, it needs to be promoted or nobody will even know it exists. We already have a great fanbase, so we know that if we post about the new album on Facebook, our fans will listen to it. Outside our fanbase? Not so much. You need reviews, interviews or magazine ads etc.
For that we work with a great PR agency called “Metalmessage”. Markus Eck, the owner, is a longtime fan of Heathen Foray and is doing an awesome job promoting us.
I would rather spend more money on PR than on an album recording. The best recorded album won’t help you if no one knows it exists.
Today we have all these different sub-genres in metal. How important is that you can be tagged in one of these? Why isn’t metal enough as a tag?
-For us as artists it is not important. Also, not every song of ours fits into the same sub-genre. It is important form a marketing or business perspective, so reviewers or labels know what to expect and how to sell it.
Many listeners are searching for specific sub-genres on YouTube or Spotify. If you want to get heard, you need to know into what niche your music fits the best.
For us, starting out as “pagen metal”, “viking metal” or “folk metal” was great to find our niche. We have a very strong following in those sub-genres. As you grow as a band and artist, you start exploring new genres. You evolve into other parts of the metal spectrum and find new fans in those.
Coming back to the question about promoting your music: It is also easier to promote your music to specific sub-genre like “pagan metal” than just “metal”. A good example would be Facebook ads. It’s better to reach 10.000 people with a strong interest in a sub-genre than 10.000.000 that like metal all around.
As you can see, running a band today is very much a marketing job (laughs).
What importance is there in being part of local/national/international scene? Does playing in a band make you feel like you are a part of something bigger? I know it does to me knowing that in some slight way I was a part of the Swedish death metal scene in the 90s.
-Absolutely! Being part of the metal scene is a great feeling. Going to a festival and seeing all these people in band shirts gives us a great feeling of belonging. I never found another community where race, religion or opinions are so openly shared and accepted. What unites us is liking metal. Everything else about you does not matter. I have experience metal heads as the kindest and most accepting people. We are very proud to be part of this scene.
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
-It plays a very important role. You said it, the artwork is the first impression people get form your album. It is still important on iTunes, Spotify etc. It’s the same with me, if I see a killer artwork I will listen to the album out of curiosity. Sometimes I see a great artwork on a T-Shirt and need to listen to the album first to be able to finally buy it. (laughs)
We usually try to have the artwork for albums done while we still write to fit the songs to the spirit of the artwork. We already have the artwork for our upcoming 5th album. The goal is always to get people to say, “I want to buy a T-Shirts with that artwork on it”. If people do that, we have a great artwork.
How important is having a label to back you up today when you can just release your music on any sort of platform online? With the ability to upload your music as soon as you’ve written it the freedom to create has become greater but are there any negative consequences to music being too readily available to fans now that every Tom, John and Harry can upload their stuff?
-It is a double-edged sword. You are right about that.
At the level that Heathen Foray is at, a label is not that important anymore in today’s music world. If you handle PR yourself, or with a PR agency like we do, the releasing of the music can be done very easily.
However, if you are not known at all, a label can give you that extra boost at the beginning that we got form our fist label. You have to keep in mind that the label will take a percentage of everything you earn with your music for their services. They are running a business too, right?
Then again, forget about earning money from the music itself. If that is your goal, you should not be doing metal. We see an album as an invitation to come see us live and buy merchandise.
Breaking through to a bigger audience is very unlikely today with metal releases coming out by the 1000s. If you do not have a label or at least a good promotion strategy in the beginning, it will be super hard to get noticed. Quality music will always find a way to be heard, but it won’t happen overnight.
In our case, we are investigating how we want to release our upcoming 5th album. We will definitely talk to labels, but if the deal is not fair or fitting to our situation, we will release it ourselves. We self-released the 3rd album and it went pretty well.
We also re-released our first 2 albums ourselves after getting the rights back from our first label. So, we have some experience in that sector.
You are asking a lot of business-related questions today. That’s great. Not a lot of people realise that starting a band is actually like starting a company. Your products are your songs and gigs. You still need marketing, PR and all that other stuff to actually “sell” them. I can recommend the book “Get more fans” by Jesse Cannon. A great reference for everyone starting a band that wants to take the business side seriously.
What is a gig with you like? What kind of shows do you prefer to play?
-It’s a lot of fun. We tried doing a serious “we are so mean and evil” version of us live, but it never works out. We like to smile and have fun on stage. We could never be a black metal band (laughs). Our goal is always to have fun and enjoy it together with the people being there. Life is serious enough, we want to have great time on stage.
The best shows are the ones where people are into the music. We don’t care if it is 10 or 5000 people as long as they are into it. The optimal show is of course 5000 people that are all into our music, but you have to be realistic sometimes. (laughs)
What lies in the future?
-A lot. We will re-release our 2nd album “Armored Bards” on September 24th. We re-released the 1st album a couple of months ago. They were not available after our first label took them “offline”. It was very important for us to get them back to the fans.
After our reunion earlier this year, we are starting our first live appearances this autumn. We are also booking shows all over Europe for 2019.
I mentioned that we are working on our 5th studio album. We are almost done with the songwriting. A release in early/mid 2019 sounds realistic.
If you want to stay up to date with all the stuff we are doing I recommend liking us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HeathenForay). We also have an Instagram account where we share more “behind the scenes” material with our fans (https://www.instagram.com/heathenforayofficial/). There is of course our website http://www.heathenforay.com to find all the info as well.