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The Great Discord On New Album "Duende": "We Do Hope....That People Actually Give [It] Some Time And Afterthought"

“Duende” is a term derived from Spanish mythology, which represented a fairy like creature. It basically means “having soul” – or a heightened state of emotion, expression of authenticity.

“Discord” is defined as a “lack of agreement or harmony” or a “combination of musical sounds that strikes the ear harshly.”

“The Great Discord” is a band from Linkoping Sweden that has a style and a name that are very much in accord. With elements derived from bands like Meshuggah and Opeth with a touch of Voivod, there is a soundscape of wonder that waits on the smash debut album “Duende.” With a deliberate inharmonious approach that keeps the listener on his/her toes, one can never predict where each song takes you. Imbalance, disharmony, discordancy, disunion are all words that describe the mix of sounds on “Duende,” all which center around the strong vocals of Fia Kempe to create a beautiful work of art.

Co-founders Fia Kempe (vocals) and Aksel Holmgren (drums) took out some time to answer questions about how the band got started and exactly what is at work on “Duende.”

CROMCarl: Tell me the story about how The Great Discord was started.

Fia/Aksel: The Great Discord, or rather, the idea and the music started with the collaboration between Fia and Aksel. We had always talked about doing something together, probably for the entirety of our time knowing each other, but never really gotten to the point where we did something about it. We've always shared a passion for the same type of music and through lengthy discussion about music we've come to know each other musically. What started as a playful writing session, in the beginning just as an experiment to see what would come out of our combined musicality, very quickly turned into something alive, vivid and very exciting. The first week we had together writing spawned four or five songs, many of them even ending up on our debut.. The premise was always to let any and all ideas flow, never to rule anything out and just try to get a close representation of what we as musicians want to create. Then came the visuals, something that just sort of jumped out of the music. It needed a strong visual focal point. A focus in the sometimes chaotic. That focus became Fia's on stage persona, the entity, the physical vessel of carrying and representing the themes.

After an initial period of writing we decided to make this into a band, and a search was initiated to find suitable members who were willing and able to play this type of music, and to add additional elements. We found our members after a short search and we've been digging deeper and deeper into this idea ever since.

CROMCarl: After checking out the highly impressive “Duende” I can only imagine that the name “The Great Discord” has more to do with the “lack of harmony between notes” more than a giant disagreement between people. Tell me about how that name was chosen?

Fia/Aksel: Well, it's actually a two-parter. Both descriptions apply in a way. Obviously there are a lot of dissonance and discordant harmonies on the album, hence the first description suits the music well. The other aspect, which is a disharmony in people, applies as well. Since the themes of our music in a lyrical sense is about the existential, the psychological and the extremes of life, it also fits your latter description. Life is in essence The Great Discord, always changing, always challenging and full of discordance. We are merely trying to describe the human condition, and psychological ailments that affect people, in whatever form they may come.

CROMCarl: How do you define your sound? It’s easy to just slap the “progressive” label on a band and move on, but there is so much at work here that calling it “progressive” is kind of limiting.

Fia/Aksel: The sound is very much based in prog like you said, and it's suiting umbrella genre. The quirkiness, the storytelling, the odd songs, the willingness to explore whats outside of the norm. But there are also a lot of other genres we identify with, like death metal, jazz, elements of funk and even pop. It's always difficult to pigeon-hole, especially you own music. We understand the reason for it as it allows other people to get a better idea, at least initially while unaccustomed to your band, and it allows more people to find you. We've said on occasion that we like the label Progressive Death Pop. It makes sense to us, and in the end, that's what's important. If people identify and understand with what we do then hopefully they'll get the mix.

CROMCarl: Tell me about the writing process for the band. When I listen to this album, there is so much “discord” I find it hard as a non-musician to see where the origin of some of the songs comes from. I’m pretty sure there likely isn’t a real “formula” for how you write a song. Is the writing involve the entire band or start with certain members?

Fia/Aksel: Well, like we said, we always start the songs out with a very open palette. Ever so often it begins with a melodic passage, usually on the piano or on the guitar, and we just start from there. The melody usually tells us where to go from there and the song gradually gets built piece from piece. There are of course instances where members have a slightly more fleshed out idea, but we always complete the songs together. Since we all have very different ways of writing for ourselves it's very interesting to write together as we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We wouldn't say there is a specific formula, but we have developed somewhat of a modus operandi when we write, based on our now slightly more established sound. It's usually a feeling, an indication that gets our attention, and we worked from that feeling to get it across in the song. When we get a little further into the writing process we start to think about what the album lacks, for example in terms of intensity, or for the live format. It should be dynamic, both on the album and live so we always try to think about how we can improve it having that in mind.

CROMCarl: Unlike the typical “progressive” metal albums – the band tends to get right to the point without then need to stretch the songs out into 9-12 minute pieces. I actually appreciate the fact that the majority of the tracks run in the 4-6 minute range. Is it important in the writing process to put a cap on things to keep the typical listener interested?

Fia/Aksel: Well, focus is important to us, and like you said, we try to make the album as immersive and to the point as possible in terms of content. There shouldn't be any space left to chance in that sense. This is probably more of a pop mentality than metal traditionally. Don't get us wrong, we never try to stifle the feeling of playfulness but we always try to keep the listener (and ourselves of course) at the edge of their seat at all times. We do love the lengthier songs obviously, as we cite Genesis, King Crimson, Opeth and the like as influences, but we ourselves like the concept of keeping things to the point for our own band.

CROMCarl: One of the biggest highlights for me is the amazing versatility of Fia’s vocals. In a time where most female vocalist choose the more operatic or soft “girly girl” approach, it’s so refreshing to hear a vocalist that can add so many different styles – all grounded in kick ass strength without losing the feminine aspect.

Fia/Aksel: Thank you very much! Fia sends her love! Her approach has always been very multi facetted, with a strong focus on vocal arrangement and harmonization. She's covered most of the genre's out there, soul, funk, pop, rock, r'n'b, jazz etc. This allowed for a lot of experimentation and playfulness in terms of what type of vocals we wanted. Fia is a very powerful vocalist so the powerful stuff are very much center stage so to speak, and given she is the main mouthpiece for our visual thematics as well, this made perfect sense for us.

There was never really a question of what type of vocals we wanted for this and the vocals featured on the album are exactly what Fia always wanted to write and perform.

CROMCarl: There are also many times that Fia’s vocals go against the grain of the music (perfect example “Eigengrau”), but it works so well. I cannot help thinking that bands like Voivod or Opeth have had a profound influence in the writing. What do you cite as the major influences for the band?

Fia/Aksel: Thank you! Yes, like we mentioned previously, Genesis, King Crimson, Devin Townsend and Opeth are indeed big influences. The Dillinger Escape Plan are huge to us as well, their energy, chaos and playful, almost jeering sound is amazing and has definitely shaped the way we think about music. The Mars Volta are also big influences. Meshuggah has definitely played a part as they are truly a one of a kind band that completely turned the rhythmical aspects of metal music on it's head.

CROMCarl: Despite the complexity of the material “Duende” – I can’t help thinking that it is still very much geared for live performances. Is it an important aspect of the writing for it to segue into a live setting without too much complication?

Fia/Aksel: Indeed, nice catch! The live element has always been in the back of our heads when we wrote this, hence the visual aspects that came along into process at an early stage. The live situation should be treated with an equal amount of attention as the music itself, as it's such an integral part of what you do as a band and as a musician in this type of music. Making sure things flow, that the dynamics work and that the live situation is seamless. Hence our visual emphasis, our little intros and outros, and the way we look on stage. We can't wait to get this show on the road.

CROMCarl: Lyrically, the band touches on very real life topics while still telling a story. I mentioned “Eigengrau” – which deals with drug addiction, but there is also “Ephemeral” about depression and “Woes” about sorrow and “The Aging Man” about dealing with death. All the topics are relatable to us all. Was it important to keep the lyrics reality based, but force the listener to think a little deeper about things?

Fia/Aksel: Well, like we explained in the initial question in this interview these are elements that people struggle with in their everyday lives, albeit some more than others. Our aim has always been to tell an enticing story, to try to paint a slightly bigger picture, and to make the music and the image of us relatable, even when we deal with topics like dissociative identity disorder. These are of course topics that are rare(er) than sorrow or anger but they are still there, and make up important parts of how people function, or dysfunction. We are not here to judge it, we are merely here to try to paint a picture of how we perceive life, and hopefully make people realize that the world isn't black or white, good or evil. It's a dynamic, ever changing and evolving thing that needs to be scrutinized and thought about. There are no simple answers, and that’s the fun part.

CROMCarl: What are you hoping that the listener takes away from “Duende”?

Fia/Aksel: We do hope, apart from appreciating the actual music, that people actually give this some time and afterthought. We're not trying to convert everyone into a philosopher or a psychiatrist with this, there has to be limits to how megalomaniacal you can be, but if a few of our listeners actually take away a satisfying musical experience and a thought or two then we are very happy campers.

CROMCarl: Are there any live plans for the band in the near future?

Fia/Aksel: Well, we have lots of plans, as we are longing to take this thing on the road. Nothing concrete as of yet but we are slowly making things happen. Watch this space!

CROMCarl: Well thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions! Congrats on the album, it is definitely one of the most interesting album’s I’ve heard this year and in recent memory!

Fia/Aksel: Thank you very much Carl! This is indeed music to our ears, and thank you for the splendid interview!

"Duende" is available everywhere right now via Metal Blade Records at this location.

CROMCarl's avatar

From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.

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