If it weren’t for the current pandemic, VINTERSEA, a Progressive Metal band from Portland, Oregon would’ve probably been announcing a very exciting Spring tour right about now. While it hasn’t officially been cancelled, it’s certainly up in the air.
The band (made up of Avienne on the vocals, lead guitarist Jorma Spaziano, Riley Nix on the guitar, bassist Karl Whinnery and drummer Jeremy Spencer) have been fortunate though, telling us “We are all very lucky to have the jobs and relationships we have that allow us to survive this pandemic in relative comfort. That said, it has definitely thrown a wrench in our year! We just released our newest full-length at the end of 2019, and 2020 was going to be our year to really get out and promote it. We are also riding high on a huge promotional effort behind our newest music video, ‘Befallen’. It would be a great time to be out there hugging our new friends and fans, but that is still frowned upon!”
Besides the new norm of lots of cooking, paying more attention to their gardens and making loaves of artisan bread, VINTERSEA have been also staying in regular contact, getting things lined up in anticipation for when all of this settles. This, I believe is part of the reason why I got lucky in getting them to agree to an interview with Gendang.
After a close friend dropped me a text asking me to check out this Metal band from Oregon, I didn’t pay it much attention at first. Then I read the part where he said the singer is from Penang. My priorities shifted and I immediately checked out the first music video that showed up, the abovementioned ‘Befallen’. What I heard and saw warranted a quick e-mail query to the band, asking if they’d be up for an interview and you wouldn’t be reading this right now if they had said no.
And before we get on with the interview that the band and Avienne graciously agreed to, let it be known that on top of Penang’s amazing, nein… best food and beaches, and a whole bunch of other glorious attractions and talented folk, we now have an amazing female Metal vocalist added to the list! So there. Okay, wait no, the beach part even I have to admit isn’t true lah.
But don’t let that fool you. Putting aside the Malaysian part of the band, VINTERSEA’s debut full-length album, ‘The Gravity of Fall’ was recorded by Justin Phelps (who also worked with names like Joe Satriani and The Mars Volta) and to date, they’ve been touring the world and have even opened for the likes of The Ocean Collective, Arkona, Sirenia, Tengger Cavalry and more! You can check out more of their stuff at the end of the interview.
Hello, Avienne, female vocalist from Penang who’s the lead singer of a Progressive Metal band in Portland, Oregon. I think it’s clear why I felt the need for this interview to happen. So, pengyou, did you grow up in Penang? Where exactly?
Yes, indeed! I’m a born and raised Penang-kia! I lived all over Penang, from George Town to Batu Ferringhi.
Did your family influence you into music in any way?
Absolutely. My parents noticed that I loved to sing as a child, and they would encourage me to sing in front of others at birthdays and house parties. I also grew up singing karaoke with my lively extended family during Chinese New Year, and that made me realise that I loved to sing for others and that it was very fun!
You’ve been singing for a long time now. What were you involved in (musically) back home in Malaysia?
I always looked for a platform to sing in some shape or form growing up. I entered singing competitions during my secondary school years. During my college years, I auditioned for a metal band, but that didn’t pan out because I left to continue my tertiary education in America. The lad I auditioned with turned out to be their lead singer, so I’m glad it worked out for them!
Now… a female metal singer and Penang is something of a rarity. How did your Metal journey begin?
I stumbled upon Linkin Park in the early 2000s, and their music shaped my interest in heavy music. I remember jumping in front of the TV with my sister when I was 7 to their single “Crawling”. My obsession with the metal genre didn’t begin until my late teens, when my boyfriend at the time introduced me to chaotic mathcore. I knew then that I was hooked, and from then onwards I kept on searching for different bands to listen to.
And at what point did you think, “Hey, I could totally be the lead singer of a Metal band!”?
It felt like a natural progression. I was recording myself doing metal vocals to my favorite tracks. It started out as a fun hobby that quickly became serious when the band and I started writing original music together. That’s when we realized that we had something very unique, and we wanted to pursue music seriously.
What’s your pre-screaming regime and what do you do to practice?
Actively refraining myself from spicy food before a show! Which can be tough because I LOVE spicy food. I do regular vocal warm-ups, and stay hydrated.
How aware were you about the local Metal scene back then?
There wasn’t a metal scene in Penang that I knew of growing up. I started going to local metal shows when I moved to KL.
Oh, cool! What were some of the places?
I’ve discovered some of the best, chaotic, and energetic local bands at venues like Rumah Api, Beatnik, and Blackbox MAP at Publika. I still listen to local bands like Virginia on Duty and Daighila after watching them live years ago.
Were there any local bands that influenced you? What was the first Malaysian album you remember picking up?
One of the bands that blew me away was “Blood on Wedding Dress”. I remember receiving a CD from their guitarist at a gig in KL and I was absolutely starstruck.
And what do your parents think about all this? Have they been supportive?
They are my band’s biggest fans! They had to endure years of me screaming in my bedroom to my favorite bands, so they are glad that my effort (and their tolerance) is being put to productive use.
Haha. What made you move to the US?
I moved to the US to continue my tertiary education at Oregon State University.
And we read that you saw the recruitment ad for the band on Craigslist and that’s how you jumped in?
You read that correctly! I was searching for people to go to metal shows with. When I saw the ad on Craigslist, I immediately took that opportunity (with caution!).
Glad you added the “with caution” part. What made you do that? Were you prepared at all?
I saw that the band and I had a lot of overlapping music influences. I sent some recordings of me singing and screaming, and we agreed to meet up. I was more excited than anything to meet other metal heads!
How did the piecing together of all you different individuals materialize? Was your vision for a band already aligned with theirs from the get go?
We spent many months free-styling in our gig space. During one get-together, things clicked and we produced a song that we couldn’t get out of our heads even after practice was over. We then realized that we wanted to continue refining our craft and vision.
And you’ve been together for how long now?
Six whole dang years!
What would you guys consider to be your biggest accomplishment (as a band) thus far?
One of our goals as a band was to be signed to a label. In mid-2019, we signed a worldwide deal with M-Theory Audio, which has helped us go further in getting our music out to the masses. Our journey has only begun.
Have you ever thought of performing back here in Malaysia?
Of course! It has always been a dream of mine to perform our music where I grew up.
You guys should! And lastly, anything you’d like to say to your Malaysian fans?
Thank you for your support and for sharing our music with your peers. Your support shows that metal is alive and well in Malaysia. Be your most authentic self, and continue to immerse yourself in things that inspire you no matter what other people think. Let’s keep metal alive in Malaysia. METAL TERUS!
Have a listen to ‘Befallen’ below:
And don’t forget to give VINTERSEA a follow:
Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/vintersea/1197256733