It might seem strange to get a folk metal band from Ohio in the States on your turn table (smart phone) instead of a Finnish or Russian but WINTERHYMN is just that. ©2015 Anders Ekdahl
As I am not familiar with your band you might want to introduce the band to me?
-Of course! We are Winterhymn, a six piece American folk metal band from Cincinnati, OH. We have been active since late 2009/early 2010, had two releases, and have played all over North America (including on Paganfest America V). We’re leather-clad with a black/folk/pagan metal, nougaty center. This is Draug, the guitarist/clean vocalist.
You released an album in 2012. What reactions have you had to it so far?
-I believe you’re referring to our debut album Songs for the Slain (which was released in Nov. 2011). The response at the time, and to this day, has been very positive. Even after we released our Paganfest Sampler EP last year, many of the tracks from SFTS still stand the test of time. To my knowledge, it was really one of the first full folk metal albums put out by a group of Americans, and that was definitely part of the impact. People would listen and say “Wow, this is great” and then do a double-take and say “Wow, they’re from Ohio!” All that aside people have had very positive things to say about the album.
When you released an album relatively long ago how do you keep up the interest internationally today?
-Like I mentioned, last year we put out an EP, some of which will be re-recorded for the new album, and some of those songs we’ve been playing for a couple of years now. We’ve had several things (a lineup change in 2013, the big tour in 2014, etc) that have delayed the recording of the new album but as we speak we are finally scheduling recording time. As far as keeping up interest, I’d say the biggest part is playing out, visiting new areas and playing for people who all of the material is totally new to. The internet obviously helps as well, especially with the international bit.
What do you call your metal; folk metal? What is folk metal really?
-That’s a good question. To us, it’s just a style. When you hear Winterhymn for the first time, it is clearly folk metal. It has many of the trappings of the genre (violin, keys, power/pagan elements, theatrics) but is also unique to many other groups that fall under the same genre. None of our major influences are folk metal bands, surprisingly, so we don’t set out to emulate these European groups, but we use that folk metal language. We’ve definitely had feedback (some more constructive than others) from both Americans and Europeans that question HOW there could be an American folk metal band. It seems like an oxymoron to them, as though the European bands are actual vikings and we’re merely hillbillies putting on costumes haha. Since SFTS we have moved away from mythological themes and have a mythos/backstory that is all our own, whereas the Europeans traditionally utilize their native myths and histories. They use these orchestrations to lend authenticity and an appropriate atmosphere to those stories, whereas we are creating our own world and lending it its own voice through these melodies and instruments. I think that level of sonic (and sometimes visual) drama or theatrics is what folk metal is. It’s about not merely telling these fantasies, but enriching them through means beyond those of traditional metal instruments.
What kind scene is there for your metal in the States? How well received are you?
-For folk metal, not much at all. There are a handful of other folk acts, far less that seem to play out. There is definitely a large and vocal fanbase though. Naturally, most of the shows we play aren’t with other folk metal bands, and fans of other genres have generally accepted and enjoyed us nonetheless. It certainly makes coordinating shows interesting, usually being the black sheep not only in our music but because of our visually theatric show as well.
What kind of reactions have you had internationally? What is the oddest place you’ve been contacted from?
-We’ve had great reactions internationally. We get contacted pretty regularly with requests to play over in Europe, sometimes in South America, so hopefully those are things we can finally do soon! Facebook allows you to see the areas that people access your page from, and it’s always interesting to see little blips from Singapore or New Zealand, etc. We ship out CDs across the Atlantic pretty regularly! It’s really cool to know your music has reached that far.
How important is it that you look the part when you go on stage? Is image important to stand out from other metal bands?
-Being a theatrical band is both a blessing and a curse. Of course there are those advantages and you do stand out. It’s hard not to when you’re playing with an assortment of death metal bands and then you walk in wearing armor and warpaint, and honestly the shock factor is always pretty fun (especially running into local restaurants/bars before a show). The downside is that some people immediately assume that it’s a gimmick or that we do it FOR those purposes (we’ve had our fair share of ICP and KISS hecklers). We always wanted to be a costumed band because that makes so much more sense with this kind of music than not wearing it. To me it’s just like theater. A play can be good as is, but it’s enhanced when there’s a visually striking set. Imagine watching Braveheart with none of the costuming. The music is the most important part, obviously, but there’s no shame in trying to give the audience a more immersive experience. It’s far more ridiculous to sing about swords and magic and just wear jeans. And it’s for ourselves just as much as the crowd. It’s a lot more fun to be Draug than it is to be Jared, honestly. Performing and filling the role of a character like that is a truly empowering experience. And naysayers aren’t as troublesome when you’re an armor-clad resurrected warlord.
What does an album cover have to have to be a WINTERHYMN cover?
-Well that’s hard to answer considering we’ve only had a couple! Usually our artwork is done by our keyboardist Exura, including SFTS and the cover to our “Huntsman” single. We want our art to capture the music, so the next album will look striking for sure!
How easy is it to tour when you are an independent band? How DIY is WINTERHYMN?
-We’re currently unsigned, so everything is funded, created, and planned by us. Obviously it’s in no way easy, but nothing great ever is. We have a pretty good division of labor in place, so everyone pulls their weight and helps make it possible. Things can get expensive, especially touring, but we all have the band as a top priority and all money made goes directly back in to funding the Winterhymn war machine. We also had a very successful Indiegogo campaign for Paganfest that helped immensely.
What does the future hold?
-We’re entering the studio in April/May of this year, releasing our second full album, and coming to incite noise complaints in a city near you! Follow us on facebook.com/winterhymn for updates and tell us where you want to see us!