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Interview - Sophie Day, Dave Day (Alunah)

Interview with Sophie Day, Dave Day from Alunah
by Danny Sanderson at 21 June 2014, 7:13 AM

Birmingham's ALUNAH are reaching new heights in their career. Having signed with Napalm Records, and with a new album on the way, Danny Sanderson sits down with Sophie and Dave Day to talk the new record, the UK's affinity with the Doom Metal genre, and their fascination with Pagan culture.

Hi there guys, how are you doing?

Sophie Day (Guitars, Vocals): Yeah, thanks, we're doing fine.

And how is the tour going so far?

Sophie: It's been really good so far, really brilliant.

Dave Day (Guitars): Yeah, it's been really good.

Sophie: We've got tonight and tomorrow left, we're coming to the end of it, but it's been really good. We've had great gigs every night, so, yeah, it's been cool.

I've been told by a friend of mine to ask you about something. Do the words "Poland" and "Toilets" ring any bells?

Sophie: Oh Yeah! \[laughs] Who's you friend, is it Adam? Do you wanna know this story?
What is it about?

Sophie: OK, last year we went on tour to Europe, and we played Poland. And we turned up at the venue and it was like a big hostel wasn't it?

Dave: Yeah.

Sophie: And they were really conscious of me and our tour manager, because we're both women, and they were asking "Do you want separate rooms?", they were quite conscious about our privacy, you know, making sure we were OK. And then I needed to go to the toilet, and this was when we'd just arrived, we were waiting to check in. And they directed me to the public toilets and when I walked in, there was a man masturbating in the sink and another one shitting in the shower!

Dave: You know, like squatting in the shower.

Sophie: Yeah, and I was thinking, "seriously, you've gone to all this trouble to make sure us women were looked after" and then this was going on in the public toilets at about two in the morning in this really seedy toilet in a town in Poland. But the best thing was that the next morning, they even gave us a private shower, probably because there was shit all up in the public ones, so they gave us this private shower for us lot to use because of the fact that me and Liv were women, basically, and I got told off by the maid. She told me off for walking in the shower barefoot not wearing any sandals, and I thought "That's the least of your worries.

Dave: You know, when there's blokes wanking and shitting in the public toilets down the street. \[laughs]

Sophie: I bet you wish you'd never asked now. \[laughs]

What are your key influences for the music you write?

Sophie: \[to Dave] I think we've got similar influences, haven't we?

Dave: Yeah, well, what got me into this sort of music was listening to all the old, original Stoner bands, stuff like Kyuss and Orange Goblin, stuff like that. But before that I was listening to a lot of Black Sabbath and Heavy Metal. And I suppose bands like Saint Vitus. Bands from a few years back, like Khang, who kind of went on and did stuff with Lazarus Blackstar. Oh, and Monolith Cult.

Sophie: We're influenced by a lot of the old bands, but we're also listening to a lot of the newer bands that are coming up. But we try not…

Dave: You know, we don't want to stereotype ourselves.

Sophie: Yeah, we don't listen too much, or it'd be harder to be original. You know, you hone in on certain bands and you tend to start writing like them, don't you. For me, I listen to stuff like Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, you know, stuff like that.

Dave: But recently we've been listening to a lot of Ahab and stuff along those lines, so there's quite a lot of different styles we check out.

Sophie: And then Our drummers a massive Iron Maiden fan and stuff like that, so there's quite a cluster of different influences. I think when you listen to our music you can tell that there's a lot of different styles. We get called a Doom band but we're not just that, we have other things going on, but I suppose people have to call you something, don't they? But, you can hear a lot of, I don't know, I guess it's a bit stereotypical, but Black Sabbath in our music. We are heavily influenced by them.

Dave: I mean their the original Metal band.

Sophie: Yeah, you can't really come from Birmingham, listen to this kind of music and not listen to Black Sabbath.
It's interesting that you mentioned Khang and Lazarus Blackstar just now. In my opinion, a lot of the best Doom and Stoner Metal in this country come from either Wales, Birmingham and more sort of Yorkshire. I mean, I'm from Bradford, and I know Rich, who's now in Gods of Hellfire, but used to be in Khang and Lazarus Blackstar in their early days.

Sophie: Yeah, he's a really good guy is Rich, we're really good mates with him.

But my question is, do you think that this kind of music suits those places I've just mentioned, and do you think that those sort of bands write that kind of music for a reason related to their hometowns?

Sophie: I think that when you look at Wales you've got bands like Acrimony. And when you listen to Acrimony songs, you listen to it, and you can picture what they're looking at, you know, stuff like the valleys, and it's clear that they're influenced by their surroundings. Black Sabbath always said that they were influenced by their industrial surroundings. So I think it really does help. I mean, it's quite rural where we live, you know, we're out in the countryside, so a lot of our songs are influenced by the things I see like that. So I think if you take your surroundings in… and a lot of people say that they don't see their surroundings in that way, and other people do. I think with certain kinds of music, in certain areas do gravitate towards those kinds of music.

How did you get signed to Napalm Records, and how did it come around?

Sophie: Well, we released "White Hoarhound" on PsychoDOOMelic Records, and I think that one of PsychoDOOMelic's distributors was also linked with Napalm Records, so I really think that they in initially received our CD's to distribute themselves. So I think that's how it came about. And so they heard us, and contacted us about distributing our stuff on vinyl. And we spoke to them and we of course took them up on that, it'd be stupid not to, and I think they wanted to see how well it sold, basically, and how we worked as a band, you know, see what kind of people we were, to see if we were busy and see if we worked hard. And they eventually said to us that they'd like to put out our third album, and they sent over a contract and we had negotiations with them. But our European booking agents, Sounds of Liberation, have a lot of ties with Napalm Records as well, so we signed with Sounds of Liberation and did the DesertFest Burning last year, which was sort of our first big gig with them, really. And I think Napalm knew about us through that as well.

Dave: And we were getting a lot of publicity in Germany.

Sophie: Our PR Girl, who now works for Napalm Records too, really propelled "White Hoarhound" for us in Europe, and we got a lot of press. Like, we weren't covered in Metal Hammer in England, but we got quite a good feature in Metal Hammer Germany. So she got us quite well known over there, and I think all of that combined to cause them to prick their ears up, basically. And now Mona's working for Napalm too.

Dave: So it's good all round.
Do you have any details regarding the new album, the writing and the recording process?

Sophie: Well, the title hasn't been released yet. There is a title though. We're doing a video in about a month's time. And we've had Michael Cowell who's illustrating the album for us, and he's coming down, we're shooting a video to introduce the artwork with him and everything, and then Napalm are going to put that out \[online], and the name will be announced in that. But we're playing three songs off it tonight, so you'll get a taste of what it's going to be like. We've literally finished recording it on Monday night, and we're starting to tour it on Wednesday, so we've had a few days off recording it. But yeah, we've gotten a new bass player since the last album, and he's coming up to having been in the band for three years. So in the last year we've been writing the new album with him, as well as him learning the old songs for playing live. It's been the most enjoyable writing process so far.

Dave: Yeah, definitely.

Sophie: And the same goes for the recording process. And he's come from bands that are a bit folky, he's done Heavy Metal bands, he's done Glam bands, he's been in a real mixture of bands, and he's a great songwriter. So he's matched us really well. Dave writes most of the riffs but Dan's been coming up with some riffs too.

Dave: You know, if one person is writing it can get a bit generic, but if a few people are writing you get a really good sound.

Sophie: I mean, with most bands, they might write something, like twenty songs and choose eight for the album, whereas we've only written eight songs, and then we've gone, OK, these are the ones that are gonna go on the album, and taken the weaker ones and really crafted them. We want this album to be made of music that we think is amazing. It's all killer, no filler. It's not meant to be background music, we want people to actually listen to these songs, because we've spent a lot of time on the individual songs. And for the recording process we've worked with Greg Chandler again, and he's the singer of Esoteric, so he really know the Doom genre; He's been doing Esoteric for… God knows how many years, and he writes soundscapes, which is really amazing music, and he's put a lot of work in with mastering it and making sure it all sounds right. And he'll suggest things too, like he'll listen to a songs and say "maybe this bit could be improved by fixing that melody there on the guitar". And he's kind of become the extra member of the band now. And we recorded this album in six days, and it's just going off to be mixed and mastered now. We wanted the recording process to be much quicker, because of course we all work full time, and we didn't want to just be stealing weekends here and there. We wanted to go "Right, we'll live in the studio for the next six days", and then work ten to twelve hour days, so the process was really intense. We'd finish some songs and certain sections would have completely changed, because Greg might have gone "Well, this bit doesn't fit here, take it out", and we rewrote things in the studio, and its been really enjoyable.

What does the name Alunah mean?

Sophie: It's a bit of a boring reason really.

Dave: We changed it because we were originally named Aluna, without the H.

Sophie: Jake  Andrew originally came up with the name because he's a really big fan of the band Mindfunk, and I think they had a song or an album called Aluna, and he liked the sound of it. So we decided to call ourselves Aluna. And then obviously we looked into the name and we found that it had a lot of connotations with the sun and there was a moon powered clock that was being developed called "Aluna", and it was the name of a God in some countries, usually a Sun God, and so we decided to adapt that to what we sing about. And then we had a letter sent to us from a band called Aluna, shortly after we released our first EP, which had literally just been sent off to be distributed, it was on its way to the shops, and this band contacted us and said that they were going to sue us, basically, because they owned the copyright for the name Aluna. And they said we could either pay them a certain amount of money or stop using the name Aluna. And when we got this letter, we had about five hundred CDs going off to HMV with the name Aluna on the cover! So we had to recall them all and re-sticker them, and after a lot of letters back and forth, they decided to let us put the H on the end, so that it sounded the same but wasn't breaching their copyright. So we had to recall everything, and re-sticker them as "the band formerly known as "Aluna""; we'd only been together for about a year or so, and then having to add the H on the end. But it's the best thing that could have happened to us really, because there's nothing else called "Alunah" now.

Dave: It's original.

Sophie: There's a lot of Jewellery shops around called "Aluna" and other businesses like that, but the new name is more original.
What are the lyrical themes on the new record?

Sophie: Well, it's based around nature, basically, but between the last album and this album, I've unfortunately had quite a lot of death in my family. My Dad died, then my Nan died and then my Granddad died, so that is also reflected in the music. So even though I'm singing about very natural themes, there's a lot of melancholy attached to it and there's certain songs where I'm singing about, for example, the plague, and about different versions of Heaven, the idea of rebirth, about coming back, so there's a lot of dark themes, but not in a dark way, it's in a much more positive way. So it's a mixture of that and Pagan matters like the Green Man of the Woods and Herne. And I'm a little bit obsessed with Yew trees, and how they have been used and portrayed throughout history. So a lot of the lyrics are very "English", very nature based, but there's also elements which discuss death, but in a positive way.

So would you guys consider yourselves Pagans then?

Sophie: No, not really. It's just a topic that really interests me.

Dave: \[motioning to Lisa] I mean, you wrote all of the lyrics on this album.

Sophie: It's just so that interests me. I'm fascinated by it. I studied religion at school for my A-levels, and read a lot about Buddhism, and I'm really interested in religions. I'm not religious myself, I mean I love reading about all kinds of religions, but paganism is the one that speaks to me the most. I don't go out and practice it, but I've got a lot of books on it, and I like the idea of living your life by the seasons, and appreciating nature, that is something that I actually do. But I don't practice Paganism. I think a  lot of the connotations to do with Paganism are naturally within me, but I don't actively go out and practice it. But it does interest me, definitely.

I noticed that you guys were selling cassettes today. Do you think that "older" musical formats like cassettes and vinyl are making a comeback?

Sophie: I think people are yearning for the olden days, aren't they?

Dave: And a lot of music fans place a lot of value on something that is physical, you know.

Sophie: I think with the tapes we were contacted by Cosmic Tomb and they wanted to know if we wanted our debut album re-released, and they kind of asked us if we'd like to release anything on tape. Because we're ties with Napalm, we can't release anything new with another label, but when Cosmic Tomb got in touch to re-release the first album, Napalm were more or less like "Of course you can do whatever you want with that album, we had nothing to do with its production", so we went ahead and decided to bring it out again on tape. I mean, none of us even own a tape player, so when we've been selling these tapes, we don't even know if the music is on there yet! \[laughs] But that's one of the things that, while we've been out on this tour, people have been buying more of, and people are really interested in it. So, fair play, you know. We've nearly sold out of vinyl's, I think we've got a few left, and the same goes for tapes, but we've got tonnes of CD's left.

Dave: Well, the actual album is sold out, we've only got seven inch vinyl's left.

Sophie: But its odd to see that the CD's are actually selling the least. It's just the retro thing I think.
I mean, I think it's gone a bit more full circle. It's evolved from Vinyl to cassette to CD's to MP3's and digital downloads, and now people are moving back to buying vinyl again.

Sophie: There was a guy in Brighton who bought a cassette tape and he was absolutely over the moon with it. He said he didn't own a CD player, but he had a vinyl player and a cassette player. And he even said that albums still sounded amazing on his cassette player and he couldn't wait to hear the album on it. But I remember tapes sounding awful.

Dave: Yeah, really horrible.

Sophie: But I probably had a really cheap tape player.

I agree. Before I set off here today I was listening to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and it is a really old copy, so it sounded really muffled and it was like listening to it with my hands over my ears.

Dave: Yeah, the tape will have deteriorated over the years.

Sophie: I mean, that's the downside of them, but they're kind of the thing of the moment for a lot of people. It's the only tape cassette we've released I think.

Dave: yeah, it is.

Sophie: So fingers crossed, we'll see what happens. It should be interesting.

And final question guys, do you guys have any plans for after this tour is done?

Sophie: We are filming a video…

Dave: We're also going back to the studio to do some of the mixing. We've just got to add some backing vocals too and the albums finished.

Sophie: And after recording the video, we'll be doing loads of promotion for the album, we're releasing it in Autumn and then we're going to Europe for two weeks in Autumn to promote that. So it's gonna be like June, July, August just doing loads of rehearsals, because on tour we'll be playing pretty much every song on the album, so it's got to be spot on. So there's a lot of promotion for that, we'll be doing loads of interviews like this. So it's pretty constant.

Do you have anything to say to your fans?

Sophie: We just want to say a huge thank you to our fans for supporting us, because we've got some pretty die hard fans out there. I mean, we once met a guy who had come to London all the way from Glasgow to see us.

Dave: Yeah, he'd been travelling around to come and see us too.

Sophie: He'd been out to every date on the tour, taken time off work and been staying in loads of hotels across the country. I mean, that feels really bizarre, really, when I think about it. So yeah, a really big thanks for all your support.

Thanks for your time guys

Sophie: Thanks for the interview!


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Edited 30 November 2022

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