That nobody hasn’t used the name SNOWMAIDEN before is a mystery to me. But hey, that allowed for this band to pick that name. Interview with Alina Gavrilenko & Eric Amshukov. © 2016 Anders Ekdahl
How important is the band’s name in giving out the right kind of vibe?
Eric: It’s been an interesting guideline for our imagination. The band name and theme is inspired by the Russian folktale Snowmaiden, written by Alexander Afanasyev. The lyrics that Alina writes are also heavily inspired by the lonely traits of the character dubbed “Snegurka”. She finds that she can relate her own feelings to this character which I think is pretty cool. I feel like I can too sometimes! Alina: I think it’s very important. Our music has this wintery feel to it that the name represents well. Snowmaiden is a female folk character who’s heart is literally made of ice. She’s the daughter of Winter. Moreover, there is also a Russian opera written by Rimsky-Korsakov named Snowmaiden which is based on this tale. I can relate to this due to my own experiences in Opera.
What was it that made you want to do the band?
Alina: I still think it was fate how we met! It was mind bog gling how two of us literally lived one block away from each other and we didn’t know that for the longest time. Eventually, Eric and I met up a few years ago through a mutual friend and, at that time, he was working on a fresh new metal project. I was happy to find him because it turned out we shared a common interest in a number of bands. It was astonishing meeting someone who listened to the same Finnish metal bands — like Wintersun and Kalmah — in the least metal town you can find! The music he wrote was so melodic and catchy that I often found myself listening to even the most rawest instrumental tracks made of midi for joy. I was actually digging the music that much! I am also happy I joined at that particular time because it was just starting to grow. I feel that I was able to help cultivate it in my own way. I had the chance to affect the band by shaping the concept, art, band name, operatic style and melody. I spent so much time doing that, so this band has become a part of me. I have big plans for this team. Now I can say this band literally is my child as well. Of course, it’s daunting to start something from the very beginning rather than just joining a band that’s already established. But, I felt like I should give it a try. It is has been a bumpy road so far, but the hurdles have improved me as an artist, musician and my character. It makes me appreciate what I have and pushes me to fight for something I sincerely believe in. This has truly been a profound life lesson. Eric: Creating stuff has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. This is especially true with music. Ever since highschool I’ve been jamming with guys trying to build some projects here and there. But we weren’t very serious gents back then so it never worked out! After a long phase of doing covers with friends, I eventually decided to write some original stuff again. At this point I learned more musical theory and gained fluency with midi editors. When I started on the first songs for this band, I found myself spending endless hours tweaking stuff that I thought sounded cool and met up with some friends that saw the potential in what I was doing. They decided to strive with me which provided an ample amount of motivation to create music. But, this band didn’t fully ignite until Alina joined. I realised the potential in her musical abilities the day i met her and it was beyond anything I expected! With her, we finally reached a consensus on a theme and a serious project followed thereafter.
What is your definition of the metal you play?
-Progressive Symphonic Slavic¬Canadian metal.
How do you arrange the tracks? Is there a method to how you arrange the songs on a record?
Eric: I usually start off conceptualizing elements on the guitar and then transpose them to other instruments. Then I use midi editing software to lay down ideas. This might be on Guitar Pro at first, but then I would import the midis onto something more sophisticated like Logic Pro. Here I’d utilize better sound samples for orchestras and synths. As you can hear by one of our demos, I’m also technically the drummer!
Where do you find your inspiration to create?
Eric: I enjoyed playing a lot of RPGs and computer games when I was younger, and so, most of my inspiration comes from the glorious soundscapes of games such as Final Fantasy and Runescape — the nostalgia is strong in these ones! Music of all kinds compliment my mood. But the most impactful genre, one that’s been around with me since junior high, is metal. Since then I’ve grown a particular attachment to European anthemic metal acts such as Wintersun, Arch Enemy and Dragonforce. Needless to say, I’m also a big fan of a variety of power and progressive metal bands! Most notably, Symphony X really hits the sweet spot on my ears; where profound riffage meets soaring vocal melodies. I’m also a big fan of anime from the old days which are super epic! Lastly, I also get inspired when I play an instrument. As I jam on the guitar, I’ll begin by noodling around in some key. Sometimes I’ll hear myself playing a peculiar riff, but once in awhile I’ll even stumble upon something that really matters in the moment — that’s the best feeling! Alina: I am a very naturalistic and a spiritual person. Thus, nature is my number one inspiration. I often go out to forests to meditate and tune in to my inner self. Moreover, I come from a place in Russia called Kamchatka — the lands where “fire and ice unite” (BBC). It is in the northeastern part of Russia surrounded by a cold ocean, active and dormant volcanoes, earthquakes, a frigid winter and untouched nature. This home of mine shaped the way I am and fires up my lyrical inspiration. Living there was like living in a metal fairytale. I am in love with winter! Also music is an inspiration in itself. Being involved with it is crucial to my happiness and inner peace.
How important is the graphic side of the band? How much thought goes into art work etc.?
Alina: I think, in this day, it’s insufficient to just have talent as a musician if you want to stand out. One needs to have a whole other skillset for people to notice them. In my opinion, graphics go hand in hand with the music. I am also a photographer in my other project called Northern Luna so in the band I take responsibility for our photoshoots, editing and art works. I think it accurately visualizes the atmosphere of our music. Furthermore, in order to find the best logo designer we searched far and wide to find Tiron Costin, all the way from Romania, to design our current logo.
Do you find that there is greater freedom in working with digital than working with physical?
Eric: Yes, digital production has enabled us access to an array of tools that are traditionally reserved for professional producers. In terms of digital marketing, I believe that in this day in age there is more opportunity to make it big than there ever was. From our experience, digital formats have enabled us to promote our music over social media and peer¬to¬peer, accelerating our marketing efforts to a rate that would manually take way longer to achieve. We use sites such as Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, in particular. They all serve a distinctly valuable purpose when it comes to communicating with our fans. Incidentally, there is an endless stream of distraction bombarding us every day from the media. But, I believe perseverance is the key to staying on course — something that we’ve been doing for a while!
Are there any limitations to digital? Can you do everything you like?
Eric: I’ve been able to do everything I wanted to with digital production so far. I’m still learning something new everyday, so I personally haven’t reached any limit yet. Perhaps I’d still choose to hire a real orchestra if I knew one!
Is there a scene to speak of for a band like yours? Where do you fit in?
Alina: I think there is a niche for our sound. Recently, metal has seen a rise in female fronted vocalists. Today, these vocalists can be heard in virtually all subgenres of metal — from power and heavy to black and doom — and especially in symphonic metal acts such as Nightwish and, more recently, Xandria. Our style tends to reflect symphonic elements while at the same time leaning towards progressive patterns with the story like flow in our songs. Even though the genres are very similar, and sometimes even intertwined, I believe that there are some subtle differences that we’ve actually united in our music.
What does the future hold?
Eric: We have enough material laid out for at least a full concept album. It will revolve around a fictional saga with legendary characters from slavic folklore. It’s going to be a wild ride for sure! But, the album will also hit the listener hard in the feelings department as they’ll be able to tragically relate to the music. We’ll release some singles in the next month while the album as a whole will be released sometime in the depths of winter…