Serpentyne came as a surprise to me but boy did they blow my socks off. This is a really cool band with feets in both folk, rock and metal. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
What fascinates me is how you can still come up with new combinations of chords to make new songs and sounds that have not been heard before. What is it that fascinates you into coming up with new songs and albums?
Magggiebeth Sand: The inspiration comes from all kinds of sources. I’m particularly inspired by true or legendary tales about powerful female figures throughout history.
Mark Powell: I often get an idea from a traditional tune or song, then work it into a Serpentyne song. By the time I’ve finished, it may be unrecognisable, but still retains the Celtic-mediaeval flavour according to its origin.
How is this new recording different from the previous? How do you take your sound one step further?
Magggiebeth: Our previous album, “Myths and Muses” was a transition from our earlier, more acoustic sound to a style that included elements or rock and dance music. The move from that to the current rock/metal-orientated sound felt like a natural one.
When you write songs about the topics you do what kind of reactions do you get? How important is it to have a message in your lyrics? What kind of topics do each song deal with? Is there a red thread to the songs?
Maggiebeth: Our audiences identify with the fantasy – folklore element of the songs. They often come to talk to us after a gig and tell us that our music took them to “a different world,” which we regard as a huge compliment.
Mark: When writing a song you have a few choices of lyrical content; essentially, fantasy, personal experience, human emotion and politics. I think that covers just about all of them! There is nothing wrong with writing political songs, but the style of our music, derived as much of it is, from folk and mediaeval sources suggests the fantasy lyrical content. Apart from that, It’s very hard to come up with an original idea for a love song or a song based upon your life experiences- I can’t do it!
Whenever I think of you I cannot help wandering off to different bands. What bands/sounds do you indentify with?
Maggiebeth: On our first album “Stella Splendens”, we were influenced by the sound of mediaeval minstrels, (recorder, hurdy-gurdy, pipes and drums, plus chanting in old languages such as Latin and Occitain) which we heard on albums or live during our performances at various castles and medieval festivals in the UK, France and Germany during that period (2010-2012).
On our second album “Myths and Muses” (2014) we decided to add didgeridoo, flute and a drum kit, transforming our sound, still medieval rooted but more into world/folk music with a few electronic sequences. At that time we were playing often in the Netherlands and Germany, and I guess we identified with the Dutch bands such as Faun and Omnia which also combine elements of folk, Celtic and world music. Apart from these, we have also been often compared to Blackmore’s Night due to our mutual love for medieval music themes arranged in a modern style.
On our third album “The Serpent’s Kiss” (2016) we decided to abandon the didgeridoo and flute, in favour of an electric bass and a heavy electric guitar. Still keeping the medieval influences but identifing more with bands such as Eluveitie from Switzerland which are Celtic/Metal and also have a hurdy-gurdy-gurdy and flutes, and the Dutch bands such as Within Temptation and Delain, amongst other Symphonic metal bands such as Nightwish.
Mark: Many different musicians, working in all style from classical to rock to folk to jazz. The important thing, as a musician is to develop your own sound and style. It may have developed from listening to all kinds of music, but the essential thing is that whatever you do has to sound like YOU.
How did you go about choosing art work for this new album? What was important to have in it?
Maggiebeth: I wanted the title of the album to be the same as the title of one of our songs “The Serpent’s Kiss” (inspired by the story of Anthony and Cleopatra and how she ended her life with the poison of a serpent) because it flowed very well with the name of the band Serpentyne. And one day, I saw the painting of Marc Potts on his Facebook page, and I just loved it, I knew this had to be the front cover, as it depicted this very extravagant female figure, surrounded by this snake/dragon (the dragon being more of a medieval character, but close enough to the serpent!)
So I contacted Marc and asked him if we could use it for our exclusive album cover, and I’m so glad he accepted immediately as he said he already liked the music and legendary themes of Serpentyne!
Mark: It was obviously important for the cover artwork to evoke the spirit of the music, and feedback from those who have bought the CD seems to show that we got it right!
Something that scares me a bit is this I hear from more and more bands that they aren’t that bothered with art work anymore because people today download rather than buy physical. To me the whole point is to have art work that matches the music. I don’t know how many times I’ve been disappointed by weak art work to an otherwise cool album. What’s your opinion on this subject?
Maggiebeth: I agree with you a 100%, it’s like seeing a film without background music, it just doesn’t feel right! Music can evoke visions, feelings, atmospheres, colours! Imagine a James Bond film without the music? Noooo!
And how many times have some of us gone and bought an album (without having heard it before) just because we liked the front cover? I must confess, I have done so, and most of the times I didn’t regret listening to the music… there was always some kind of connection between an interesting and intriguing front cover and delicious music!
Mark: I still think that there is a place for a well-designed CD cover. When CDs took over from vinyl, people complained that there is not enough space on the CD for detailed artwork, which is true to some extent. You just have to re-think your artwork so that it works in a smaller area, which includes the minuscule scaled-down versions that you see on the likes of iTunes and Spotify.
How do you come up with song titles? What do they have to have to fit the songs?
Maggiebeth: The title is sometimes born naturally out of the song lyrics; for example, the title track “The Serpent’s Kiss,” which is derived from the story of Anthony and Cleopatra.
Mark: Sometimes, the title comes first. When we wrote “Angel of the Night,” for example, I thought of the title, then Maggie invented a theme to fit it- the idea of a vampire girl who spends each night searching for her vampire lover. We then wrote the lyrics to tell the story.
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when your out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
Maggiebeth: It’s a two-edged sword, isn’t it? The convenience of having music on tap, so that you can take your entire music collection with you to listen to on the train or in the car is great, but there is an element of devaluation; if music is so accessible, listening to it becomes less of a special experience. Sorry if that sounds a bit pretentious!
Mark: As a kid, my mates and I bought vinyl albums, and visited each others houses to listen to them. We then shared them around, so listening was, as Maggie said, an experience. Now, like everyone else, I use iTunes and buy downloads from Amazon, but I still enjoy going out to live shows. My biggest concern is how the cheapening effect that Maggie mentioned affects live performances; with more and more venues closing as they can’t afford to stay in business, as audiences expect everything for free, it’s a difficult time. I honestly don’t know how the situation will resolve.
How much of a live band are you? How important is playing live?
Maggiebeth: For me, the live show is still the most important aspect to being a musician.
Mark: It’s then that you really communicate with your audiences- and the communication is two-way. To get the feedback back from an enthusiastic audience make you feel that what you’re doing is worth the effort. Sorry if that’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s true!
What lies in the future?
Maggiebeth: A new album later this year, and more festival gigs in 2018!
Mark: We now feel that the band is firmly established on the right path, so we’re looking forward to playing new venues, re-visiting some old ones, and gaining new friends and followers.
Both: Thanks for talking to us, and thanks to all the Battlehelm readers for reading.