I stumble upon this collaboration between guitarist Juha Raivio (Swallow the Sun) and singer Aleah by chance. Don’t really know how and why but for some reason I just had to interview TREES OF ETERNITY singer Aleah. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
Is Trees of Eternity considered a real band or is it a project? What is the main idea behind it all?
-Well, in the sense that a project often refers to a “one off” thing this would be more of a band, as we will definitely be releasing more than one album. Also, we will be giving Trees of Eternity the same amount of energy as our other musical endeavours – even if it may never be a fully “touring band”. But we do often refer to it as a project as so far Trees of Eternity has mainly been two people, Juha and myself, and not a full band. We will have a full lineup on the album and also for live shows, but we aren’t yet sure if the album lineup and the live lineup will be exactly the same etc, so we aren’t really a properly “welded together” band yet. Perhaps in the future, when we have more or less permanent band members with more playing time behind us, we will stop calling it a project.
How is the word tree in the band name used? As a metaphor for something else or more in a descriptive form?
-The whole name is definitely a metaphor, but not for one specific thing, it has more of a multi-layered meaning. The tree is a symbol of many things on many levels, but the simplest description would be that WE, as human beings, are trees of eternity, links between earth and sky so to speak (body and consciousness).
When you come from different musical backgrounds, where do you meet? What does each individual bring to the band?
-Well, though we have both experimented with different musical styles along the way – Juha has, aside from Swallow the Sun, had progressive and stoner type metal projects, and I have explored ambient electronica and acoustic “singer songwriter” type music – we have one thing very much in common, that we always have loved slow, melancholic metal.
For years I had a vision about creating a band like Trees of Eternity, that combined beautiful and dreamy clean vocals with heavy, slow and melodic guitars, so when Juha and I met it just fell into place at once. Our roles were never in question, as we had loved each other’s music even before we met, so each had/has total trust in the others creativity in their respective area.
Most of the time I first write the backbone of the song, the vocal melody and the lyrics, and then Juha dresses it according to how he hears it and adds some more parts to the structure. But in some cases we have done it the opposite way, that Juha has presented me with a more or less complete arrangement, that I have then written something on top of. But that method is difficult for me, cause unless the existing chords are exactly the way i would have chosen to do them myself, I just can’t fit my own sense of melody into it and i go on strike.. haha! Poor Juha, but luckily he is so familiar with my harmonies by now that he pretty much knows what will work.
When you play as doomy music as you guys do, what kind of challenges does that bring with it? Does one have to think differently compared to if you play more up-tempo music?
-I guess one does, but I have never really played uptempo music.. Even my acoustic stuff is not that different to the T.o.E songs in mood and tempo. But I know what you mean, the world in general is more after a feel-good experience, rather than facing their repressed misery, so we are up against a tough market ;). But I must say I respect our fans and the people who understand this type of music, cause it takes a certain amount of self-searching and willingness to face the sorrows we carry inside in order to relate to it. Perhaps that is why people either love or hate this type of music. But it honestly won’t make a difference to my writing how the general public respond to it.. as long as I write from a true place in myself I know that it will touch the right people that naturally resonate with that. Even though we have not launched the band yet we have some very dedicated fans which feels like a beautiful confirmation that we are on the right path.
Do the lyrics have to fit specifically to a song’s mood? How do you write lyrics for each individual song?
-Absolutely, the mood, the lyrics, the instruments.. they must all become as one entity.
Writing happens in different ways for me during different phases and with different songs. Most often the general essence of the song comes across, just a few words here and there, while I am writing the melody, and then when the melody is in place I sit down and write the whole lyrics. But sometimes, when I start writing the “real” lyrics, I myself get surprised by what comes through on paper, as I may have had a different plan. Sometimes it actually feels almost as if the song already existed on another plane in its entirety, and i am just downloading it.. it feels more like receiving than creating! I know it might sound strange, but I have actually tried sometimes to change a line that I personally don’t really understand or like that much, and it feels impossible.. I just can’t find anything to replace it, no matter how long I try it just falls flat, so I just have to accept it the way it came across. Creativity is a mystical thing..
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you see only misery and pain all around you that you can use as inspiration?
-Well, I always write from my own inner experiences, but as we are all connected somehow, what is around me is also inside me. It is impossible to separate ourselves entirely from the pain of people and the world around us, especially if are empathetic by nature. So when I draw out the pain from inside myself and let it become a song, I may well be tapping into the repressed misery of the world in general. I think as human beings we by nature carry both light and darkness within us, but perhaps the difference between myself and some authors in this genre is that I don’t see this pain, suffering and darkness as something to revel in, worship, or aim for in itself. I see it more as a passage, a part of ourselves that we must all face, embrace, integrate and pass through in order to reach our full potential as individuals. Before we meet and merge with this inner darkness we are only living in half of our being. And of course the same applies in the other direction, that people who only revel in the shadows and shun the “light” are only hiding from themselves. I think this journey is, in different ways, what almost all my lyrics are about.
Is there any truth to the myth that pain and misery creates the best artists? How much of a cliché is that myth?
-Haha.. that is not a myth!! No, well, I guess it is highly subjective, who we find to be the “best” artists. I think there is something that strikes a chord in many people, when an artist really dares to share their innermost, and doesn’t cover it up with attitude or fabricated emotions. “Fake” dark music is as cheesy and shallow to me as “fake” cheerful music, so it is really about honesty I think – rather than misery – what creates brilliant art that leaves a lasting impression. But then again, I believe that those who have at least at *some* point in their lives had to face real loss or emotional pain, they deepen as individuals, and therefore also in their art, so perhaps it comes to the same thing in the end…
What kind of reactions do you get to your music from people not familiar with this kind of melancholic music?
-Actually, surprisingly good, many rather unlikely people have expressed that they are quite blown away. Perhaps because of the clean vocals and absence of growls it is easier for some people to relate to, even if they are not previously familiar with such doom-metal orientated arrangements. But I have also heard a few people say it is “too sad”.. haha, so I guess it is not for everybody.
What is it that you expect to gain by releasing an album? Do you have any goals set for what you want to accomplish?
-Well, I guess the point of releasing an album is always to reach out to more people. It is not so much about the album itself, as theoretically an online release could have the same effect, but the distribution and other forces around it to give the music that extra launch. I have written music for most of my life without ever really caring about trying to get an album deal or anything like that, as I really write as a form of “self-therapy” and meditation.. (and because it is simply the best feeling in the world!) However, with Trees the aim has been all along to follow this through and get it out there. I don’t know what the difference is, perhaps the time is just right now, and it feels as if there is a place somewhere in the great puzzle for music like ours.
The album aside, what plans do you have for Trees of Eternity?
-The plan is basically just to make beautiful and genuine music, and hopefully to get it heard by all those who might resonate with it.. As everybody in the (full) band are also in other bands we don’t plan to do a lot of long tours or be the type of band that spends half the year on the road, but focus more on well chosen shows, opening for bigger bands that we like and maybe some shorter tours. My dream is to get our music into some film scores etc, but let’s see how that goes, cause I guess every band in the world wants that! 😉
We have fairly recently signed a publishing deal that includes some extra management etc. with Andy Farrow (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Paradise Lost, Katatonia) at AMF publishing in the UK, and luckily he is really on the same page as us when it comes to the aims of the band, so I think we will be a good team when it comes to getting the music out to the right people, in the right creative ways!