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ESPERFALL’s Nora Sima: “We knew that our style will divide the audience, some will be really into it and some will really hate it. But we took the leap of faith and followed our instincts.”

Interview with Nora Sima, Laszlo, Zsombor from Esperfall
by Thomas Kumke at 29 June 2022, 5:49 AM

Hello ESPERFALL, it is a real pleasure, and I am grateful to perform an interview with you for Metal Temple magazine. First of all, I hope you all and your families are safe and well. It seems that the world stumbles from one global crisis to the next one. How is life currently in Hungary?

Laszlo: Restrictions and lockdowns are obviously bad things in general, especially for bands, not to mention the tragedies of the people who lost their loved ones due to the pandemic, but to be honest I experienced a lot of positive aspects of this period in my personal life. I liked that the world has slowed down a little bit, and also, finally home office became a thing. I was able to adapt to a much healthier lifestyle with less traveling, more exercise, healthier eating habits, and more time to play guitar. It may sound weird, but I feel that my quality of life has improved because of these things.

The last two years were driven by the pandemic and restrictions. That affected especially musicians and artists. Now with all the restrictions gone, touring and festivals are restarting. Are you ready to go?

Zsombor: It surely did affect us musicians to a great extent. But I think we got the best out of this situation: since we couldn’t perform live, we were able to finish our debut LP and its promotion without being “interrupted” by live shows. So we cannot complain, but I was really sad to see how many musicians gave up their aspirations during these two years.

Nora: Hell yeah, we are ready to go, absolutely!

Let is talk about the band’s history. ESPERFALL are a melodic Metal band and was formed in 2016. How did it all start and what was the idea behind forming the band?

Zsombor: Well, Esperfall started in 2016 but our roots go way-way back. There were two predecessors Leaf Storm and Riverlust. Attila, our drummer, is the original member who played in each band. I joined Riverlust in 2012, and Nora joined us I think in 2015? Then the three of us decided to go our own way and founded Esperfall. While playing in the aforementioned bands was a lot of fun, we weren’t really on the same page in terms of goals, that’s why we decided to start another band instead. However, musically speaking, Esperfall is definitely a successor of these bands.

Prior to releasing your debut full-length album, ESPERFALL released two EPs. “A Leap Of Faith” in 2018 and “The Leaf Legacy” in 2019. How were those first releases perceived by fans and public?

Zsombor: I think it was very well received by both, but in retrospect I have to say it didn’t reach as many people as it could have. What can I say, at that time we were kinda clueless about how to promote a release efficiently, haha! But we learned a lot and with “Origins In Darkness”, I think we did a much better job. In terms of music, I recently re-listened to them, and I was pleasantly surprised, I think both records aged well and I’m still happy with them.

The period around 2018 and 2019 was very important for the band in terms of the line-up. Both guitarists from the original line-up left and were replaced by the current ones…

Zsombor: Agreed, those were important years. The departure of Hümér and Vili were because of the same reason Attila, Nora and I left Riverlust a few years earlier:  we were just not on the same page regarding the goals and vision for the band. But it was all for the best, because we were able to find just the best guitarists for the band :) And there really wasn’t and isn’t any bad blood because of this.

There is only little known about the band members. Zsombor, when did you start your music career and how did you come to Metal?

Zsombor: Thanks for the question! I started to play the piano at the age of 9 and kept going throughout elementary school. I played classical music, which I didn’t really like at the time, and didn’t practice a lot. What can I say, I was really stupid back then, haha. When I started listening to music, I was a big fan of Linkin Park’s “Meteora” album, so that’s how my gravitation toward rock music started. Then, when I was about 14, my brother showed me Children Of Bodom, and I was completely blown away. I heard what a keyboard can sound like in metal, and it was so inspirational that it made me start practicing like crazy. I begged my parents to get me a keyboard. Luckily for me, they got me one (thanks again Mom and Dad!), and they couldn’t stop me practicing any time I had some free time. In a few years I joined my first band, Bastards Of Bodom, which was the Hungarian Children Of Bodom tribute at the time. I loved every single second of playing in a band from the get go, and I just knew this was my way. My parents always supported me in my music career - which could hardly be called “career” at the time - and since I was in my middle teenage years, they thought it was just a phase. Well, now that some 15+ years have passed since then, they realized that no, it is more than that, and there is just no hope for me, haha!

Laszlo, you are one of the guitarists of the band. When did you start playing guitar and tell us a bit about your Metal career?

Laszlo: I first started listening to metal bands when I was like 14 or 15 years old, and despite I was really into the genre as a listener, I never really thought of playing an instrument back then, because I was more of a geek/technical guy than an artist type, and I also thought that I was already too old to start anyway. It was a few years later in 2005 (I was 18 then), when some of my classmates brought their acoustic guitars on a class trip, and they tried to teach me some chords and how to read tabs. It was a fun experience, so I decided to get my own guitar soon after the trip, just for fun, without any big plans. During the first few years I was just practicing at home by myself, and around that time I also started to take drum lessons. In 2007 I was invited to join a local cover band in my hometown as a drummer at first, and after 1 or 2 years I switched to guitar, when one of the former guitarists left. This band lasted for 3 years I think, and it was a really important period for me. I met some great friends, we had a lot of fun together as a band, and I gained a lot of stage/live gig experience. From 2011 to 2014 I was the guitarist of the Budapest-based hard rock/melodic metal band Long Road, which was another important period in my music career. I gained my first experiences on bigger stages while opening for some famous Hungarian bands, I was the composer of our original songs, and I started digging deeper into home recording/mixing at that time. As a result I recorded the first full-length album of the band. It was also during this time when I took private guitar lessons to learn some music theory and specific techniques. In 2015 I joined the female-fronted symphonic metal band Sorronia, where we did some gigs and some studio sessions together. I also started a "just for fun" YouTube-project called Hardcovered, where we did metal covers of well-known pop songs with some friends. We got some really nice feedback, especially for our cover of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons. In 2019 I was contacted by Peter from Esperfall (we knew each other from Sorronia), and he told me that they were looking for a guitarist. I liked their musical style and attitude, so I took the challenge, and here we are now in 2022 with our first full-length album. :)

Nora, when did you start singing and how did you come to Metal?

Nora: This may sound a bit weird but I don't remember when I started singing. I always loved music and I was always singing or dancing as a kid. I was about 14 when my parents asked me if I wanted to take it seriously. I said yes and that's how I ended up in music school. I really don't know what they had to endure up until that point but I'm grateful that they saw the potential in my voice and encouraged me to develop my abilities and learn. I grew up in a household where music was always present, we had TVs literally in every room and I was lucky to watch MTV non-stop. My very first childhood memories are flashes from Guns'n'Roses, Billy Idol and Smashing Pumpkins music videos. I don't have a specific "metal music memory" or turning point. It was always present in my life.

Nora, you perform growling and clean vocals. How did you come to growling? Did you do courses on growling techniques?

Nora: I was hesitant to try to scream at first because I was afraid I would ruin my voice. But there were moments in my life that really triggered the need to express myself in a different way so I started to get every information I could. Like for many vocalists, Melissa Cross was the starting point of a healthy vocal transition.

Which growling/screaming techniques do you use in ESPERFALL

Nora: I like to use my false chords maybe with a mix of fry and extra compression here and there if I'm aiming for high pitched screams. When I started to scream I wanted to go for the most instinctive, animalistic sound and I still really like the contrast between my cleans and growls.

You also perform clean vocals. Do you have a classical vocal education?

Nora: Yes I do, originally I'm a classically trained singer. I've spent 10 years in classical training which included operas, light operas and musicals (thankfully Disney soundtracks too) but I enjoyed and still enjoy practicing the lighter and more modern styles of singing.

Let us talk about the debut full-length album. “Act I - Origins In Darkness” has been released in April this year. How was the response so far?

Nora: So far the reviews are very good and I am really thankful for that. We knew that our style will divide the audience, some will be really into it and some will really hate it. But we took the leap of faith :) and followed our instincts. So far the response is very positive and we are more than happy about it.

Zsombor, what is the concept behind the album and how do you describe the sound on the album?

Zsombor: Here’s a thing you need to know about me: I’m very picky and critical with metal music. I like bands whose music is versatile and creative, and so far the two bands that completely delivered in these two regards are Children Of Bodom and Nightwish. Obviously, there are many more bands that I like, but for me, they are the pinnacle of metal music, and they are my two main inspirations. So musically speaking I like to think of Esperfall as the combination of Children Of Bodom and Nightwish. My aim is to combine COB’s speed, heaviness and virtuosity with the beauty of Nightwish. I think so far the best example for this is our song “No Tomorrow”, I think that one fulfills this goal pretty well.

When I reviewed the album, I felt the album was a very interesting combination of symphonic Metal, Power Metal and melodic Death Metal and I was impressed by the willingness of ESPERFALL to cross boundaries. Is this part of the band concept or are you still trying to find your musical style and direction?

Laszlo: The genres which you listed above are the genres we were listening to as teenagers, and this undoubtedly shows in our music. We like all of those genres, and I think we just did not want to let those boundaries between the genres limit our creativity. For some people the result might feel chaotic, but for others it just makes the album more interesting.

Zsombor: It is definitely the concept. I like to write easily distinguishable songs, hence the power metal song (“Tempest In Paradise”), the melodeath song (“Retreat Into Dreamland”), the slow song (“Don’t Leave Me Behind”), the “Arch Enemy-song” (“Nature Of The Disease”), and so on. It’s okay for anyone to not like this direction of course, but we definitely won’t change this, because I think this is something that could be our trademark. If anything, we’ll add some more styles in the future, haha!

Laszlo, another impressive element of the album are the lead guitar solos. Where do you take your inspirations from, are there any role models for you as a guitarist?

Laszlo: I am really glad that you liked my solos. :) When it comes to guitar solos, I always try to take a melodic approach, and give them a nice "arc". I think that a guitar solo should be a "song within the song" and tell its own story whenever possible. We can learn a lot from the guitarists of the great AOR/Hair metal bands of the '80s and early '90s, like Europe, Journey, Tyketto, Toto etc. just to name a few. I prefer this approach rather than just being fast and technical all the time (yeah, maybe I only say this because I am not very good at being fast and technical, oh well.. :D).

Zsombor, how does the songwriting work at ESPERFALL? You are the main composer of the band. How do the other band members contribute to the songwriting process?

Zsombor: I always start to work on songs on my own and write them to the tiniest details. I can get sucked pretty deep into the writing process, when I feel that I’m in the “flow”, I just can’t stop working on the song, haha! In the past writing a song took more time, but recently 2-3 weeks were enough. When I feel that I cannot add more to the song, I send them to the others to have a listen and take a look at the sheet, and start thinking about adding their own touch. And I think it is great, because while all of the songs “originate” from me, everybody gave it their personal touch.

Nora, another impressive part of the album were the vocals, particularly how your vocals kept the music together and the switches between symphonic Metal and melodeath vocals. I feel you could be an excellent vocalist for NIGHTWISH and ARCH ENEMY? What is your secret?

Nora: Thank you, I'm glad you like the way I maneuver between vocal styles. There is really no secret, only emotions. I am a very emotional person and I believe in the power and tone of how we humans express ourselves. All you can hear is simply the way I could tap into the intensity of the lines, the way I channel and "translate" the message and the emotions the songs are standing for.

Nora, you write the lyrics. Where do you get your inspirations from? How does the lyric writing work?

Nora: I usually start to work on the lyrics and melodies after the guys finished the song or after I get a basic structure, a demo version I can work with. We have a lot of titles and ideas and if a title and the atmosphere of a song matches I just dive into it, let the emotions flow and write out my feelings. I try to keep my lyrics relatable so if I have a specific topic or experience I try not to mention it because I think art is up for interpretation and this way everyone can relate to the songs in their own ways.

“Tempest In Paradise”, “Nature Of The Disease”, and “No Tomorrow” are related to each other by their title extensions first, second, and third Advent, respectively. What is the idea and concept behind?

Nora: I do not want to get into too much detail regarding this ‘mini-concept’ of three songs within the album, as we would like to give the listeners the freedom to interpret the lyrics in their own way. BUT, I can tell you that the theme of these songs has absolutely nothing to do with the Advent Sundays and the Advent Season in December :)
In these songs you should think of ‘Advent’ as recurring instances of a specific event that affects our protagonist in a bad way.

My favorite songs are “No Tomorrow” and “Cortex Breakdown”? What are your favorite songs on the album?

Laszlo: My 2 favorites would be “Plato's Cave” and “Tempest In Paradise” I think.

Nora: My favorites are “Black Flag” and “Cortex Breakdown”.

Zsombor: Mine are “Retreat Into Dreamland”, “Plato’s Cave” and “No Tomorrow”. I think the latter fulfills my goal mentioned earlier the best, as I think it combines the heaviness of COB and the beauty of Nightwish into one versatile, and still coherent song.

The release of videos becomes more and more important in Metal. So far, ESPERFALL released two videos from the new album. “Retreat Into Dreamland” is a band-plays-song type of video, while “Tempest In Paradise” adds a bit story and location to it. How does the video process work from the idea to the shoot?

Nora: I really loved the old videos I saw on MTV as a kid and I miss the popularity of the short film kind of music videos and the storytelling. I absolutely love it if I have the chance to act a bit and bring the music into life with a little acting. We always match the videos to the intensity and the concept of the songs so if I have a lot to tell, you will see it but sometimes less is more of course.

The album title “Act I - Origins In Darkness” suggests that there will be a continuation. How many “Acts” do you plan?

Nora: This album is the initial stage of a spiritual journey. A really hard one. We are planning to release Act II and Act III in the future.

When I think of Metal in Hungary, I think on EKTOMORF and DALRIADA. It seems that Metal does not play a big role in Hungary compared to other European countries. How important is Metal in Hungary?

Laszlo: Actually there is a significant metal scene in Hungary, and I think there are lots of very promising, quality bands as well, but for some reason they tend to stay underground. Maybe it’s because of the lack of PR/management know-how, I am not sure.

Nora: Metal or Rock music are definitely not the mainstream genres in Hungary, but we are proud to be part of the underground scene and stand for the - often hard to swallow pill- messages. Humans are sensitive beings and of course most people don't want to hear about harsh stuff. On the other hand there is the minority who are listening to metal because it's pure medicine.

What does it mean for a young band like ESPERFALL? Is it a challenge or an opportunity?

Nora: Both actually. This is the easiest and the hardest thing to do and to keep going but I truly believe that there are many people who want and need to hear these lyrics and to hear these melodies ,and it will reach them just at the right time.

What are the plans of ESPERFALL during the upcoming months?

Nora: Now that the pandemic-panic is over we are finally able to perform live and of course you can expect new videos and merch as well.

Is there anything you would like to tell your fans or the readers of Metal Temple magazine?

Nora: Keep those horns up and always be your authentic self. Even if no one is there, yourself and music are there for you whoever you are, whatever you do, whenever you need something to hold on to.

Zsombor: And a huge thanks for reading the interview and checking us out, if you like our music, please like and follow us on the usual platforms, it means a lot to us!

Thank you so much for that amazing interview, I really enjoyed it and I am looking forward to seeing ESPERFALL live somewhere and sometime in the future.

Zsombor: Thank YOU, we hope the same!


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