After their debut EP Unveiled earlier this year served up a good mix of Eastern influenced progressive symphonic metal, the Turkish group Listana took some time to answer some questions for Swirls of Noise:
Hello and thank you for taking the time to speak to Swirls of Noise.
Hi, we thank YOU for giving us the opportunity to speak about our music, many greetings from beautiful Istanbul
Firstly, as Unveiled is your debut EP what can you tell us about the history of the band to date?
Listana was founded a couple of years ago by current members Fulya and Alp and ex-member Kaan. Essentially we (still) see ourselves as amateur musicians and all we wanted in the beginning was to develop our musical skills further by playing covers. Our meeting up is an ordinary story: internet forums, Facebook, the search for missing members, you know… The extraordinary part of the story unfolded when music sort of transformed our lives: we ended up being great friends who shared everything and endured hardships together. Just to give an idea about how important the band turned out to be for us: Fulya and Alp ended up falling in love and getting married. Meanwhile we recorded demos and performed in many local and international concerts. As many a band, we had to change lineup often, drummers and singers incidentally. Fulya was originally our keyboardist but we had to push her forward after changing singers for the fifth time, when we were lucky to recruit our excellent keyboardist Ali.
Unveiled combines progressive and symphonic metal influence while using some traditional elements too, which artists would you say are your biggest influences?
Some bands start their career directly with songwriting; it did not evolve that way with us. Our own music emerged in time from the endeavor to assimilate whatever we see as good music into our sound world. We needed the hands-on “feel” to decide about the sound we wanted to have, that is how we’ve arrived at a combination. The ethnic elements you mention are simply in our blood, so to speak, our music is multifaceted like the city that provided the name and the inspiration to us, with both its Eastern and Western aspects. We cannot really cite a singular artistic influence, starting from Dream Theater and Symphony X, the list would come down to Pentagram, the legendary Turkish folk/prog metal band. Of course bands like Pain of Salvation, Myrath and Stream of Passion should be mentioned too. We were happy to read in your review and others that we’ve managed to find a unique identity among all these inspiring musical entities.
Do you have a favourite song from the release?
All the band members love the proggy Hasret more than our three lyrical numbers, we are actually planning to include its extended English version in the upcoming album. That one is really fun to play, with the alternating solos and unpredictable musical shifts.
Singer Fulya sings in both English and Turkish on the release. Do you find certain lyrics work better dependent on the language they’re sung in?
Language is just a matter of rhetoric and expression, and overall sound. We do not think it puts a strain on the meaning. We’ve been publishing translations of all our lyrics into both languages on our Facebook page, please take a look and give us your opinion. As a matter of fact, one could argue a song like Hasret works best in Turkish, since it is akin to Turkish folk music, and the language helps to create the atmosphere. You have been mentioning Fulya’s exotic accent, well, she’s doing her best not to have a Turkish accent but it is unavoidable it seems, maybe she should embrace it instead!
And following from that, what themes are there behind the album’s lyrics?
In terms of themes and discourse, there are epic themes, a lot of dream/alternative reality stuff and some reflections in the EP songs but they are not connected. We could say that they are connected by what they are not: we do not dwell much on depressive, darker themes or very personal/ subjective themes like a love affair. We are more interested in locality and narration, “storytelling” rather than a leading lady who tells about her own life experiences and feelings.
Turkey isn’t a country that instantly springs to mind when you think of metal music. How is the metal scene there, and what bands do you recommend from the region?
Well in Turkey we have limited opportunities for live shows for Turkish bands; much too much competition among bands for limited venues and opportunities. We have a lot of good performers and groups, but in order to have shows, you need connections. Our favourite Turkish band nowadays is Murat İlkan, they make immaculate, international style prog metal, you have to give them a listen!If you have good and strong connections you will have the chance to play regardless of your stage skills. It is also very hard to get significant progress because everyone is trying to compare your band with larger, more established bands with international careers. Nevertheless, there is a thriving audience, though, especially for visiting bands. This summer was especially rich in terms of metal fests, with major artists like Metallica, Aerosmith, Manowar, Dream Theater and Megadeth playing for thrilled audiences. To go abroad is often on financial grounds not possible for many Turkish bands, though there are bands who tour around Europe and Russia. We have played at an international festival in Ukraine, for example, and hope to come to Britain as well.
You will be releasing your debut full length in 2015, what can we expect from that?
We are planning to publish the single at the end of September, we are almost finished with the recording and the visuals, but there is still mixing and mastering due. The single is called “Persona non Grata” and is on a much more progressive rein than the more symphonic Unveiled. The upcoming album will be a concept album that explores Istanbul, this time from the eyes of historical women who have left their mark on history. There will be seven tracks and an intro. We are hoping to begin recording it next spring, but we intend to look for a label this time, which may extend the release period.
And finally, is there anything else you would like to add?
We cannot begin to express how much our audience means for us and you are helping us to reach them. The adventure has just begun, and we would need every boost. All we know is that we deeply love what we do and we need the listeners’ support. It is thrice as difficult to make music in Turkey as it would have been in other places and every bit of enthusiasm: (constructive) criticism, support and who knows, perhaps eventual admiration, will enlighten our path. We thank everyone involved, especially John for this very stimulating interview. May music always be there to beautify our lives!
Listen to Birth of a Dream here:
Read the review of their debut EP unveiled here