I first heard of this band when I was looking stuff up for Leaves’ Eyes and read that Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull had a younger sister, Carmen Elise Espenæs who was in a band called Midnattsol. Since I am also a big fan of Liv Kristine, I wanted to check out her sister’s band as well. At that time Midnattsol only had their first album out. I got my hands on it, listened, and I was very impressed. I liked what I heard a lot. It was like a folk meets metal sound. When their 2nd album came out, I got my hands on that one too. And wow, it was even better! I was afraid I wasn’t going to get to talk with Carmen. The first time we were scheduled, there were phone problems, which do happen from time to time. But Carmen called me the very next day and re-scheduled a time to talk. I am very grateful she was able to do that. I’m also very glad I got the chance to speak with Carmen about Midnattsol’s new album and tour. She was great and a lot of fun to talk with!
Chad – Hey Carmen how are you?
Carmen – I am fine and you?
Chad – Yeah, I’m doing petty good today because I get to talk to you.
Carmen – (laughs) Oh that is nice Chad! I was looking forward to it all day.
Chad – Me too! I’m so glad we got a chance to reschedule and everything. I guess my first question here is: How did Midnattsol come about? How did all of you get together?
Carmen – I moved to Germany in 2002 from Norway. My sister lives there. And I wanted to study. So I went there and I started to think I would love to have my own band. Make music by my own and sing by my own. And after a couple of weeks that I lived in Germany, I got an e-mail from Christian Hector, our ex-guitarist. He asked me if we may talk about forming a band together. And I was like wow what a coincidence. And we met at a local metal disco and we found the tone immediately. We found out we had the same goals and wanted to do the same kind of music. He had played in a band called Penetralia before with the other guys of Midnattsol back then. So we called them and they came in our old rehearsal room. Chris also had a friend named Birgit Öllbrunner, our bassist, and so she came as well. So we met together and back then it was Christian and Me, Birgit and Chris (Merzinsky) our drummer and Daniel our keyboard player. Immediately we played so great together. We since found out we had the same kind of music taste. Yeah we started to make songs quite early. A couple of songs were finished after a short while. And then we made the demo. Soon after that we got the record deal. But a couple of things changed now. It’s been 9 years since then. I think it’s quite funny because you know, the time goes really so fast. So now we have a new guitarist Alex (Kautz). Christian and Daniel (Droste) they are playing in Ahab. They are focusing on their band Ahab now. So they are not in Midnattsol anymore.
Chad – Oh ok. Yeah I was going to ask because I did read about your new guitar player. How is he fitting in with the line up in Midnattsol?
Carmen – Oh he is fitting so well that it was as if he was always a part of us from the beginning. I think it is so amazing that he has been in the band now for a year and a half. I think it’s really fascinating that he has these great Midnattsol ideas and his personality is just so fitting to ours. So, you know, it’s not only the musical thing that has to fit in a band. He is such a cool guy and we all just love him! Now with time, he really has become a close friend. Yes, we are very close friends in the band. Nine years working hard and close together and he is exactly as good a friend as the other ones. We couldn’t be more happy with him. And when he came to the band, he had so many ideas. So, he was like a fresh shower for us, you can say; a new beginning for us. We where feeling a bit down after Christian left the band. We needed something new. It was such a shock for us after being together for six years. And we had told every interview ‘yeah, you know no one has left Midnattsol, we’re so close’. And suddenly it happens to us too. So we were very down and thought ‘where is the next road to follow‘? And then Alex came and we got the new motivation. And the end of it was The Metamorphosis Melody ( the title to Midnattsol’s new album).
Chad – That’s great. I’m glad all of you are still around. I know line up changes happen all the time. I know that’s got to be difficult to deal with sometimes to readjust. Some bands don’t make it, meaning they disband and everything, but I’m glad people keep trying. I really like Midnattsol’s music. I hope all of you continue for a long time. What can we expect from The Metamorphosis Melody? Any major changes to the music other than your new guitar player?
Carmen – Yeah. I think you can hear the changes on the new album. And like the tilte says, ‘Metamorphosis‘. I think we have gone through metamorphosis our selves actually. I can’t describe it actually or why, but during the song writing process we noticed step by step that something has happened. Musically, the songs and ideas were just more mature. And we played in a totally new way together. The band was also getting so much better. It was good before but it was even better now. And I think that reflects on the music as well. We are feeling so great together as a group and that we grew more together. I think the harmony between the vocals and each of the instruments are so much better on this record. And I think that the songs have so much more to offer to the listener. There are more songs that have the great melodies that you just want to sing along with. The atmospheric beautiful melodies; lots of that. But still there are more of the classical heavy metal elements, cool rocking parts and also mid tempo songs. You can say it’s more variation and mix of different kinds of songs. So, I think you won’t get bored of the record.
Chad- I’m sure its going to be a great album. I did read there will be a limited edition. What can fans expect on that version of the new album?
Carmen – There is a bonus track sung by Daniel Droste, our former guitarist. So I think it’s kind of special. He left the band and now you still have a chance to hear him sing. And another part is that for the first time ever in Midnattsol history, we have a live DVD. So this is a great part of the limited edition. It was recorded in Belgium in 2009 at the Metal Female Voices Festival. And the thing is we didn’t plan it that way. It came out to be a very special event because shortly before the concert we talked about asking the audience if they want Alex as our new guitarist officially. And when we asked the audience about Alex they were like YEAH! So he was totally shocked on stage. And there was just this great atmosphere where the gig was. Afterward, when we wanted to go off the stage, the crew came with an award for us called “The Best Hope”. So, it was one of the best and most unforgettable evenings for Midnattsol. You can kind of relive this moment on the DVD. It’s our first one and I think it’s kind of special.
Chad – Wow, I totally would like to see that! The only clips I get to see are the ones on Youtube and they’re pretty good too. Is there any particular theme for the new album?
Carmen – There are quite different themes. Because the lyrics have a lot of different inspiration sources, you can say. On this album, I have taken more inspiration from books or stories. Like the Norwegian fairy tale Kvitebjörn kong valemon (in English also known as The White Bear King Valemon or The Polar Bear King.) It’s about a prince that became an ice bear because of a spell that was caused by a troll. And also the book The Metamorphosis. The German book by Franz Kafka on the song “Forvandlingen”. There are also these Nordic elements or Nordic folk themes inspired by the old sagas like in the song “Motets Makt” or also in the song “Spellbound” where you can,..well at least in my head, I see these elves leading you on your way. But more than before, each band member’s experiences through the last few years has also inspired the record. So many things have happened to each one of us. I write about these concrete happenings in text as well. For example the song “The Tide” has a very special place in life for one of the band members. Also “A Poet’s Prayer” reflects on the actual situation of the world today. I get so frustrated when I see what happens. ou want to do something, you feel this anger inside, so this comes out in this song. But still being about different themes it’s like a red line for all of the songs. And as reflected through the title, the metamorphosis, so every song is about some kind of transformation or change or development: personal development or global development. And so that is the main topic theme, you can say. So yeah the whole record is inspired by change but what kind of change is up to the listeners.
Chad –What are your musical and writing inspirations in general, like bands you’re into and stuff that maybe helped influence you.
Carmen – There are so many different factors and I think not all of them I can describe. It’s my consciousness . But other bands’ music, of course, is one thing. For example, we all love Amorphis. All of us have a special different musical background as well. So each of the band members bring their influences and experiences into the music, and that make it so interesting. It’s a good mix and it’s also the personal experiences. It could be a magical moment in the rehearsal room when we are jamming together. And like I said, on the lyrics, there is also everything from books, personal experiences, nordic folk sagas, history…and nature itself is a very great inspiration. I just noticed today when I was running through the woods, how some melodies are coming to my head. This happens a lot of times when I go into nature. Its sounds cliche but yeah, it’s like that. So different factors.
Chad – Here’s what I’d like to know, are all of you going to plan to play in America anytime this tour?
Carmen – Oh we so want to! We talked about in the band a couple a weeks ago in the rehearsal room. Oh, we just want to go to the USA, that would be so special. We really want it but, unfortunately, there is nothing planned concrete yet. Sorry! But it’s sorry for us as well because we really want to! So let’s hope that they will organize something soon.
Chad – Well that is a bummer, but I think it will be worth the wait when all of you do come here. That will be great. Are you looking forward to be on tour with your sister’s band Leaves’ Eyes?
Carmen – Oh yes! That’s a dream come true for both of us. We wanted it for so long, and the two bands wanted it as well. But it was difficult to find the perfect match of time that everyone is able to, because we are all working, you know? But this time it was just a good match, so this time it could happen. It’s so special to go on tourwith your family, and of course the others are all close friends as well. So it can only mean great parties, a lot of fun, and joking. Also of course sharing the stage. So, we talked about it and we knew that we wanted to give a special gift to the fans. So yeah, we are going to sing together!
Chad – I know you and your sister are both busy with your bands but have you and your Liv ever thought of or talked about doing a project together? You know, like a side project band or something?
Carmen – We have not talked about doing a big project or band together because we are both so busy, it would be difficult to find the time. But what we have discussed is, when we find time for it, singing one song together or a couple of songs. We would really love to. We are sisters and also so close friends like soul mates. Singing together and doing something together is so special. I think we would be stupid if we can’t make it once in our lives doing this together. So we are hoping to find time for it.
Chad – Yeah, that would be cool. I would go buy it.
Carmen – Oh yeah. I sing on the Leaves’ Eyes song “Irish Rain,” the acoustic version. I have done some other guest vocals there. For me it’s like I’m here in Norway and I’m listening to these songs. When I hear, I get so emotional, because they lead her closer to me when I listen to them. She is so far away and I just want to be with her. It’s special
Chad – What has the overall response to the new Midnattsol album been?
Carmen – We are kind of in the beginning stage. We have not gotten that many reviews yet. But the feedback that we have gotten now is just so overwhelming. We are so surprised. We gave our best for this album. There is no doubt. We like our other albums but this is the best one! And of course you have high expectations for the feedback. I’m sure there will be some negative response. There always has to be. So, of course we have to live with that. But for now it has been great.
Chad – That’s cool! What do your parents think about both their daughters being in metal bands?
Carmen – Oh, they think it’s so cool! My father, he was the biggest Ozzy Osbourne fan in our home town. Perhaps in Norway too! (Laughs) We grew up with Ozzy Osbourne and other metal bands when we were children. So yeah, when I was little kid, my dad was speaking to my friends asking if they knew these bands on his black metal t shirts. You know, it’s not the typical clothes that parents dress. And my mother as well, she is very open minded and likes different kinds of music. She is very into folk music and dance, folk dance herself. She thinks it’s very cool we have these influences as well in the music.
Chad – That’s really neat. My parents were big into music as well. It’s really great when your parents are supportive on what you’re doing. Yeah, that’s’ one thing I like about Midnattsol. For me, you were one of the first bands I heard that kind of bring in folk metal. I know there are other bands that do different kinds of things, but folk music into metal, I think is a great mix. When I first heard it, I said to myself now that is a neat concept and I’m going to be watching this band for a while. So yeah, the first album, I was like wow, that’s some good stuff when I first heard it. Then the second album comes out, wow that is even better! So now I know the third album is going to blow me away.
Carmen – Yeah, that’s great. You know, the first album has a lot of folk influences and folk touches. It’s more quiet, I guess. And the second one is having more complex song structures and stuff. The third one, I think you can hear kind of like a mix of these two. We brought both elements on the third record and of course new elements as well.
Chad – Is there anyone out there you like to duet or some project with, besides your sister?
Carmen – Yeah. Vincent (Cavanagh) of Anathema, the singer. I have something for him. He just has this beautiful voice. When he sings, he means every single word of it. I have loved Anathema ever since the first time I heard them. So, that would be a dream to sing together with him. And of course Amorphis. Like I said, everyone in the band adores Amorphis. I think it would be so amazing to go on tour with them. I think they are so cool! They are so professional and they have these great melodies. So, that would be a dream come true to go on tour with them. One of the band members there, he shares his opinion about The Metamorphosis Melody. He gave a little statement about our album. And you know, when you have been a great fan for years, and you get something like that..we were smiling for the rest of the day. It was fantastic. I’m sure he is so busy and using his important time for this. So yeah, it’s just amazing. He is a really cool guy.
Chad – Yeah, that is really cool. Maybe these bands and the guys you talked about will see this interview and give you a call.
Carmen – (Laughs) Yeah that would great! Then we’d bring you too, as a special gift.
Chad – That’s cool. What do you like to do when you have some spare time to yourself?
Carmen – Oh, that’s very rare at the moment, for everyone in the band because we are doing so much with things and working besides Midnattsol. But when I think about what I like to do, I like running, like Liv. I love running through the nature. Being in the nature, training and I love languages. I’m a language teacher. I love doing this and it’s also my job. I just started teaching it. I also love to, ok this is a very strange hobby, but I love to relax and take baths listening to relaxing music and drinking green tea. (Laughs) Also just hanging out with friends, going out for a beer or two. This kind of stuff.
Chad – Is there anything you like to add about Midnattsol? I’m really looking forward to the album, I can’t wait to hear it! Once again Carmen, thanks for re-scheduling. I’m glad we had this interview and I got to talk with you.
Carmen – Oh, thanks a lot! I read something on your magazine that you are doing this on your spare time?
Chad – Yes. We love metal music and this are way of trying to be a part of it.
Carmen – That’s great! I think it is so cool, we are doing the same thing. We are working and we don’t live from the music, but we still want to do it. It takes a lot of time. We have very little spare time, but we just love being a part of it.
Chad – I’m going to keep an eye on the Facebook updates on your tour. I also keep up with your sister’s updates there too. I’ve been a fan of your sister since she was in Theatre Of Tragedy. That’s how I found out about your band. I was doing some reading and saw her younger sister has a band and knew I had to check that out too.
Carmen – That is cool. People often ask me if I think it’s annoying being compared to Liv. One thing that comes out of it is more people get to know about Midnattsol. So this is of course super positive for us!
Chad – Yeah, I would never say that is a negative thing at all. It’s a great thing. Both of you have beautiful voices. I wish both of you all the luck in your projects and your tour to come.
Carmen – Thanks a lot and I wish you all the good luck for your work further on and for the magazine. Yeah, fun stuff for you to do this on your spare time and for putting a lot of effort sharing it with metalheads.