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Nocturna's Federico Mondelli: "The beautiful thing about music is that it could give people the answers they're searching for, but these answers are always very different from person to person…"

Interview with Rehn Stillnight & Federico Mondelli from Nocturna
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 March 2022, 9:40 PM

Darkness and light, two forces that are constantly in each other's throats. So, who is evil, and who is not, probably a matter of perception? Coming forward with an imagery that is part of something bigger, and yet to be revealed, the Italian Nocturna band was made. Built under the existence of good and evil, as mere elements in a play, the Symphonic, and Gothic, fused Metal band take lead with their debut album, "Daughters Of the Night", signed to Scarlet Records. Steinmetal had a great chance for a talk with vocalist Rehn Stillnight, and guitarist, Federico Mondelli, about the new release and the band  

Hello guys, it is a pleasure to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Rehn: Hi, thank you for having us here with you at Metal Temple! It's a real pleasure for us.

The foundation of Nocturna is fairly new, yet I bet that the vision behind the formation of this band, surrounding you two, was probably in the works for some time prior to its launch. What can you tell about how Nocturna came to be? What was your motivation to start something new that is totally yours?

Rehn: Yes, we've been working on Nocturna for all the past year while we announced it only in October. Myself and Grace knew each other and were friends in the last four years, while we came to know Federico for his work with Frozen Crown and his other bands. We finally met at the beginning of 2021 and the idea of making something together was born, so we started working on it right away!

The band’s image entrusts itself on being anonymous in a way, establishing a front of stage names, engulfing a veil of mystery to who you really are, as if playing a part in a play of sorts. What stands behind these identities, whether yours, using stage names, and the faceless band members?

Rehn: I've been using a stage name since I started singing. I find it more international and mysterious than my real and very Italian name! Yes, it's like I'm a different person on stage and in my everyday life, in the music I'm “Rehn Stillnight”, while for my friends I'm just Serena. The other members decided to wear a mask in order to be just a character, a role they're playing in the band.

With darkness being your guide, and it stands right there within your songs, what is that magic that you find in the reality that you created in Nocturna? What makes your personal universe tick, ignites its spirit?

Federico: Everything gothic. Decadence, darkness, obscure poetry and art. That's the magic around us we gather inspiration from to create our music.

The celebration of the two, as you, the pair of frontwomen, in command, what does your duality stand for? Does it symbolize two different personalities in a constant struggle, perhaps the famous battle between good and evil?

Rehn: We're both good and evil in different ways. We have very different voice types, and we use different techniques while singing. For an example, I'm much more comfortable in using my higher range while Grace sings more using her full chest voice. This, combined with our looks that are obviously different, is our true duality.

Signing locally with Scarlet Records, led the world of Metal to your debut album, “Daughters Of The Night”. This type of title is pretty straightforward, at least from my end, it doesn’t tell too many secrets, however, I have the feeling that there is more to that. Can you shed some light on it please?

Federico: Daughters Of The Night was a title that came out pretty naturally (actually at first as a line in the song with the same title). It's meant to describe the feminine and obscure nature of this album at once. Somehow suggests a sort of inner circle, and it brings a mystic and magical atmosphere with it. It was just the perfect title to describe our two singers Rehn and Grace.

You are driven by romance, literature and mysteries that lay right under our noses. Is there any relation between the reality that you created within “Daughters Of The Night”, and our everyday life? Are there any morals that you believe that the listener should take into account while listening to the songs?

Federico: The most satisfying feel for an artist is knowing people are actually giving their own interpretation of your songs. So, I would never think about what the listener “should” do while listening to our work. The beautiful thing about music is that it could give people the answers they're searching for, but these answers are always very different from person to person, because everybody can see different things and have its own personal take about one song, which is going to be his own only.

As a matter of thought, and concept, do you find any relation between the album and what has been going on worldwide in the past two years? 

Federico: Definitely not. Writing music is a way to escape from reality, to forget what's going on in the world around you. Somehow, it's about creating the world you would like to live into. Of course, we, as individuals, and artists, are always influenced by everything that happens around us, other people, happenings etc. But I see this work extremely distant from that feeling of isolation and frustration the pandemic period brought to many people.

On the contrary, this album is pregnated with freedom and love. Rehn, Grace and me (but also our producer Andrea, for example, and later our bass player and our drummer Antares and Deimos) have been very close during the creation of this work and shared our inner feelings with each other (which is actually the only way you can create something authentic), so I could say DOTN is very far from representing the individualism and isolation the pandemic forced us into. It represents all of us, our unity and our common purpose.

Nocturna serves as a summit, the grounds where the European form of Metal, upon its Gothic, Power and Symphonic natures are in play, immersed together into a flamboyant mix that its lifespan never seems to end.  “Daughters Of The Night” is the first step indeed into the fusion. How do you find this mixture of subgenres within your music? Is there an additional appetite for further exploration?

Federico: It's too soon to know if there's going to be further exploration in our future works. Right now, we feel like the mixture of speedy Power and slow, solemn Gothic, enriched with Symphonic elements, just represents us perfectly, and most importantly serves to highlight the voices of our two singers.

Part of that duality is revealed through the difference in your singing styles on the record, operatic against a straightforward, soaring, kind of form. In a way, you complement each other, and your duets are closer to perfect. What can you tell about the production of the vocals on this record, in particular with two different voices as yours at the helm?

Rehn: We recorded our parts at Fusix Studio. It's been a full immersion, as we were far from home, recording from morning to afternoon for a few days. Yes, we have very different voices, but Andrea Fusini (the producer) is very professional and knew exactly what to do to record us in the best possible way. I'm happy of how our voices sound in the album, I think Andrea made a wonderful job with everything and I couldn't imagine the album to sound any different.

Other than your vocals, which are the main stage on the album, in your perspective, what makes Nocturna, and “Daughters Of The Night” in particular, the uncanny beast, that special kind of feature in the musical direction that you are representing?

Federico: The straightforward melodies which are often apparently easy, but often hide odd time signatures and unusual patterns. Also, the Power / Gothic dualism, I believe. The alternance between extremely fast songs and extremely slow ballads, and the way neoclassical guitar riffs, a tight bass, and drum structure and of course keyboards hold all together.

I guess that it was your first time working together, along with a band around you, how would you describe the songwriting process of the record? What were the main challenges that stood before you while working on the album?

Rehn: The album was written during a lockdown. We couldn't see each other for months, so we had to work from the distance. Each one of us did his part, starting from Federico which wrote all the music and the lyrics, then he sent everything to us. We recorded our vocal demos, made our changes and sent back everything to him… that's how the album came to life! It would have been much simpler if we were in the same room composing and writing, but the pandemic wouldn't allow us to do it that way, so we had to work like this.

What did you learn from working with one another, as two vocalists? What made the experience of this relationship within the band to become fruitful and expressive for each of you?

Rehn: We've been friends since four years now, and we actually came to know each other because we were both singers in another band which doesn't exists anymore, so it wasn't new for us to sing together. But I have to say Grace helped me a lot during the recordings. I have never used my full voice, and she made me discover it and use it in some tracks! Not only the album would sound very different if only one of us was the singer, but my own parts would sound different too.

When I first listened to this track, I didn’t really understand why it wasn't your lead single out of the album, as “Darkest Days” is by far the album’s strongest tune. I guess it was a case of saving the best for last. No doubt that this hooking track may as well be the band’s calling card, delivering a simple structure that hits right at the spot. What can you tell about this track?

Federico: I can tell we strongly disagree with that, as we don't consider “Darkest Days” to be the album's strongest tune. In fact, neither of us took that song in consideration when choosing which singles, we were going to release.

The album’s first single, “New Evil”, served its purpose greatly by delivering what you guys can do, delivering a similar form of dramatic massiveness as “Darkest Days”, but puts into focus even better the amazing duet between you two. What can you tell about the process of making this track? What can you tell about the video made for this tune?

Federico: The video was meant to show all members of the band clearly, giving them an identity (and helping each one stand out through differently coloured lights). It was our first video, and we were pretty much enthusiast while filming. Of course, we felt like making a lot of mistakes, but that's the best part of it. I mean, our very first video together, far from perfect but at the same time absolutely perfect just because it shows (and it will always remember us about) that specific, unique moment in time. We didn't know what was going to happen after that video, so you can see all our naiveness, though at the same time our will to destroy everything.

Listening to the entire album, and making it an experience, which is like every listening session for any album, what do you make of it? What does the hearing what you just made had you thinking or wondering?

Federico: It made us think “Damn, we're just SO good!”. Jokes aside, it made us think we just created an album we would have loved to enjoy as listeners ourselves.

Forward into the near future, with 2022 showing that there might be something for culture to remain alive, even with Covid, do you see yourself performing this year? Any plans were made?

Rehn: We played live at our Release Show on 19th February, in Milano, at the wonderful “Legend Club”! Of course, I hope there will be many other live shows, but we don't know yet.

Guys, once again, I bid you thanks for your time for this conversation, it was good to have you, and I am waiting for more of what Nocturna can do in the coming future, cheers.

Thank you Lior



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