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Nergard's Andreas Nergard: "Tony (Mills) had a huge impact on Nergard during the first three-four years. He even came up with the band name. “Nergard, that sounds metal, like a guard or something”."

Interview with Andreas Nergard from Nergard
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 06 May 2021, 11:12 PM

It is never easy to get back at it after being consumed by the needs of life, sustaining one's own in favor of continuing a project that started something that is a prospect. However, once the block is lifted and the efforts are concentrated for that one goal, everything is possible and simply waiting to be completed and sent out. Andreas Nergard, and his brainchild Nergard, returned to action once again, ascertaining a pack full of drama with a melodic intensity, whether musicianship wise or vocally. Set to release "Eternal White", after a long period of time, Steinmetal talked to Andreas on his return, his tribute to the late vocalist, Tony Mills, the album and its story, new lineup and more…

Hello Andreas, it is a great pleasure to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Hi Lior, it’s an honor to be featured in your magazine. I've been doing great despite of Covid-19. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands throughout the past year to work on songwriting for Nergard as well as writing music for commercials and small independent films. I’ve been a touring musician throughout the past four years. That is obviously not possible anymore but I’m of high spirit and hope that we can get back to playing concerts sometime during this summer.

A long time has passed, I believe it is already eight years since your debut album, “Memorial For A Wish” that simply changed my perception in regards to multiple singers projects. Also the following “A Bit Closer To Heaven” showed tremendous promise and lived up to it. However, afterwards, as if you went under ice. What were you up to all that time?

Eight years indeed. God I feel old haha…I actually remember your review, meant a lot to me. Well, after A Bit Closer To Heaven I was not completely sure where to go. I remember writing material that was leaning heavily towards AOR instead of metal, wanting to focus on one direction instead of having such a varied sound on every album. We put out the song “One of these days” in 2016 that really showcased what the new style was going to be like but then I faced a writing block, couldn’t squeeze out any proper ideas. In the same time, I started touring with a cover band called Melody Market which became my main occupation up until Covid-19, doing close to one hundred gigs every year. The Nergard project was basically put on ice as you say. I wanted to get back into working on Nergard material when I was properly motivated and had figured out what direction to go for. In the meantime, while working on material for the new album Eternal White I re-wrote and re-recorded my debut album Memorial For a Wish.

Recently, Tony Mills, certainly one of the greatest vocalists in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, passed into the next world. However, his passing made you reappear once again, back in the spotlight, along with a magnificent single. What do you remember most of the late Mr. Mills?

I remember Tony as a warm-hearted man with a great sense of humor. He always had a funny remark ready. I especially remember the first time meeting him, way back in February of 2011 when I was 22 years old. We had just finished writing and recording “All I Ever Wanted”. He was staying at a friend's house in Stjordal, Norway, less than an hour from where I was living so I went to meet him. We ended up drinking beer and talking about everything for seven hours. I was basically drunk when I left haha. Tony had a huge impact on Nergard during the first three-four years. He even came up with the band name. “Nergard, that sounds metal, like a guard or something”. The direct translation of my surname Nergård is Downfarm and we both concluded that it wasn't very metal haha. It was a lot of fun working with Tony and I learned a lot from both studio and live sessions with him.

That single, “Under Fire”, had you returning to work on Nergard, which I hope that it would remain on a permanent basis. What did you feel out of that single that motivated you to begin working on new material again?

I actually got back to writing “Eternal White” in 2019 alongside “Under Fire” so there was no direct motivation from the recording process of that song to keep going. But the amazing reception the single got when released was definitely a motivational boost and pretty much laid the foundation to further work in the fall of 2020 and throughout the spring of this year. I will definitely be working permanently to keep releasing music with Nergard. Fourteen sketches for the next album are ready so I’m pretty sure we get to record the follow-up to Eternal White in late 2021.

Before we delve into your new album, for the first time you decided that it was time for something new from Nergard. No more a project but a band, a steady band with a lineup that is persistent, and which I hope will remain intact for years to come. You came up with three distinguished singers, each amazing on its own. In your view, what makes these three a powerful unit that suits the needs of the band?

Andi Kravljaca has been with Nergard since the release of Memorial For A Wish. We began working together in 2012 and since then he has sung on at least half of my song catalogue, we even wrote some tracks together. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Andi’s singing. He has a characteristic voice, an incredible mid-range and is a great songwriter. And his guitar skills are beyond anything I’ve heard. I never doubted a second that I needed to have him in the line-up.

I heard about Mathias Molund Indergård’s incredible vocal skills years before we actually got to work together. We were doing a show in 2018 and Mathias stepped in on short notice as one of the singers had to cancel his performance. Mathias’ insane high pitched range and great stage performance is a great fit for the line-up. One of the very best singers in this genre in Norway.

Stefani Keogh came into the Nergard camp in the fall of 2020 when I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a female permanent singer for the band. I received two emails only. I’m very thankful that Stefani was one of the two. She is a powerful recourse to say the least. Her vocal skills are very diverse and are centered in different areas from the other two. The blend of the three together is just amazing and I can’t wait to start working on the next album with this line-up. Eternal White was originally written for an all-star ensemble and not only three singers. We pulled it off in a great way but working on new material with only those three singers in mind will be a lot different.

One obvious question that needs to be asked, what was the main reason for you to switch from a project, which already performed live, similar to others of the same stature like Avantasia, to a full time band? 

I was absolutely fed up by seeing several new all-star projects pop up every week. There’s nothing unique about it anymore and many of them have the same line-up. I also realized that I connect a lot better with bands I like instead of projects. To me, projects lack the identity that a band can create and I wanted to see if Nergard can reach out to people in a different way than before by becoming a band. Another important reason for changing the direction was that doing the all-star thing is incredibly expensive. I realized that if I put together a band instead of hiring ten singers for every album I can probably release music more often as the expenses are only centered around mixing/mastering and not payment to guest performers.

With that lineup of both singers, and great musicians, you are set to release your third album, “Eternal White”, signed to a new German label, Pride & Joy Music, to carry it forward. The story told is a part of history that is probably better known in Scandinavia. A tragedy no doubt. How did you find yourself related to that story that you found that needed inspiration to write a concept about?

The story of the “Carolean Death March” is not very known in Scandinavia either as it is just a small incident in a bigger political picture during The Great Northern War. The incident took place only one hour from where I grew up, in the mountains of a small place called Tydal. Three thousand Swedish and Finish soldiers froze to death in a blizzard, poorly dressed for winter. I’ve always been fascinated by this story and have been thinking about writing music about it for more than ten years. It’s a story that is just perfect for metal and deserves to reach a bigger audience.

I believe that you were spot on with the title “Eternal White” and I believe that listeners would actually feel that chill down their spines while listening to the songs. How do you relate to this title?

It was Andi that came up with the title actually. I had already settled on the title “Into the white” when he wrote the lyrics for a song he named Eternal White. I thought that was a brilliant title and asked if I could name the album after it, making it the title track. I think it describes the darkness of the album in a perfect way.

Not that the previous Nergard material was cheery or anything of sorts, yet, following the story that is told, unveils a patch of darkness, dished by a haunting atmosphere of the orchestration, along with the unit of vocalists. This darkened symphonic vibe has been your purpose from the get go ever since you returned to action or simply came natural due to the story told?

I’d have to say that the sound is a result of both factors actually. Symphonic Metal is a very expressive and emotional genre that was the perfect tool for me to color this story.

The fusion created due to the vocalists and orchestration are a picture of a true drama, far beyond emotive, I had tears in my eyes on one of the songs (We will talk about this). What can you tell about the process of making this orchestration to fit the image of the album?

The process of orchestrating the album was extremely time consuming and is the only reason that it took four years to finish the album. I bought a bunch of sample libraries for orchestras and sat down, trying to learn how to use them in a convincing way. Sampled orchestras can sound like plastic if you do it wrong. I had to rewrite ideas constantly in order to make them sound authentic and that killed the motivation to work on the album again and again. As time went by I got better and started to learn the most effective ways of using the sample libraries. Making the orchestrations fit the image of the album was quite easy actually, once I learned to use the samples properly. I’ve always loved to describe a story with music and writing dark, emotional and theatrical orchestral arrangements is something I really love to do.

How would you say that “Eternal White” developed you as a songwriter? As certainly this is a different class than the previous material you released

Well, first of all it certainly lifted some sort of “writing block” that I struggled with for years. The last three songs to be written for the album (Pride of the North, Downfall and From the Cradle To the Grave) came to life easily within a couple of weeks. The rest of the album took ages to write as I had to work so damn hard for every little idea. Since writing those three songs in the first half of 2019 I’ve almost managed to squeeze out an entire new Nergard album + songs for several other projects and the inspiration is still with me. It also made me develop into a more confident writer and I think I’ve really found my style with this album after searching for years, doing a lot of different stuff.

What would you say were your greatest challenges that you had to face while this album was in the making? Were there any inner dilemmas of paths to take, as if you were in a crossroad, not sure where to turn?

Once I decided to go down the Symphonic Metal-road there were no real dilemmas actually, except for the orchestral arrangements which I mentioned earlier. That was a real pain in the ass.

Well, you were able to break my defenses and penetrate my heart with the closing song, “Erasing The Memories”. The combination of the magnificent, godly voice of Mathias Molund Indergård along with the atmosphere of the track, had me tearing. This is one of the greatest songs for the Metal hall of fame, passionate and undying. First, what can you tell me about the creation of this track that it is hard for me to let go of?

First of all - thank you for your kind words. I’m very happy you like the song. It was a difficult song to write. I remember rewriting the intro at least four times and spent ages on getting the proper atmosphere for the verses. More importantly - the song wouldn’t have worked properly if it wasn’t for Mathias’ emotional vocals. The musical atmosphere and lyrics are important but if you don’t believe what comes out of the singer the song won’t work. He really did an amazing job on this one and I’m really happy about the outcome of the song.

Second, I knew Mathias from his work with Mindtech but the vibe from his band’s music is immensely different from what is being done here on this album. I guess that he was an easy choice to collaborate with right back when you were working on “Under Fire”?

We are two different bands with different ways of writing music. I really like Mindtech, especially their latest album. There’s some great songwriting there. When we got to work on “Under Fire” we had already done a concert together so I knew he was a competent singer. The first song we ever did together in the rehearsal room was “Where No One Would Shed A Tear”, which was originally written for a woman. I remember laughing when he started singing, it was so damn good! He was an easy choice indeed.

Since all the songs of the album are amazing, would you care to elaborate on one of the tracks that you found highly dear to you?

That’s a tough one. Every song is special to me but if I had to pick I’d pick God Forgive My Haunted Mind. It was the first song to be written for Eternal White and was also rewritten several times. I must have ditched 7-8 minutes of music for this one before it became what it is today. It was also the last song to be finished as I rewrote the intro for the fifth time a couple of days before the mixing began. Andi actually finished his vocal parts four years ago this month. It’s just insane thinking about how long the process of making this album has been.

What are your plans going forward? Are there live shows that are planned for the coming future, Covid dependent of course?

I was thinking about putting up a release show for this summer but we’ll wait until next year when it’s (hopefully) safer and we won’t have restrictions all over the place. I’d also like to take Nergard out on the road. Now that it is a band, touring is possible. It never was when I was relying on guest-singers all the time, which would have been too expensive. We’ll spend this year promoting the new album Eternal White and start recording the follow-up album. Plenty things to be done.

With the pandemic still out there, what do you miss most of the culture life?

Playing concerts! I miss that so much

Andreas, simply outstanding work, nothing more and nothing less, it was an honor to listen to it. Thank you for the interview and your time mate, all the best. Lior Stein.

The pleasure is all mine. Thanks for taking the time Lior. Much appreciated. Cheers, Andreas


 



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