Sweet Ermengarde are a gothic rock band from Bochum, Germany. With two albums under their belt, ‘Raynham Hall’ and 2016’s ‘Ex Oblivione’, the five-piece is comparable to darkwave heavy weights of old and yet skillfully manages to be fresh. You can catch them live at the Dark Spring Festival in Berlin on March 24th.
Your debut, ‘Raynham Hall‘, was released in 2013, almost five years ago. Take us back there, how did Sweet Ermengarde come together?
Daniel: Lars formed the band out of the ashes of a progressive rock band called Rake’s Progress back in 2012. Our first singer Kuba, now dropped-out guitarist Marco and our drummer Rafa played in that band as well and they slowly transformed into Lars’ brain and heart child Sweet Ermengarde. People came and went and were finally replaced again by now guitarists Danny Elevator and Garden Of Delight’s Mike York. After meeting the guys in 2014, in England, I started to get in contact with Danny. When Kuba left Sweet Ermengarde he asked me to help out and so I did. This actual line-up is the longest lasting one since the founding of the band. That is basically what happened until this very day.
Listening to your albums out of chronological order on first listen, I think I’ve become a witness to reverse evolution. How would you say the band has modified itself from the release of ‘Raynham Hall‘ to ‘Ex Oblivione‘ and straight on into today?
Daniel: I can’t agree here even though I see what you mean. Most bands get more mellow and easier to grasp with the passing of time. When it comes to mellowness and being catchy your observation of the reversed evolution is right. ‘Raynham Hall‘ is easier listening than ‘Ex Oblivione‘. Since it was never the goal of anyone in the band to write dancefloor fillers or tunes you can clap your hands to this was like a natural development. In our case, I’d say the songs themselves, the transported emotions and the lyrical content are getting more complex and deeper in its meaning, which usually goes hand in hand with being less easy to get into. I think the XO- songs have more to offer on a more profound and deeper level. Our new material differs again. We work with less conventional structures, partly, and a wider field of expression.
Your lyrics are lush and intense with tracks such as ‘From Beyond (Sleep Is Better Than Prayer)’ being a perfect example. Where do you gather inspiration for your poetry?
Daniel: Well, thanks for that! The lushness, you’re referring to, is something I may have developed with writing for the ‘Ex Oblivione‘ album. Usually I tend to write shorter and more abstract lyrics – by trying to say a lot with only a few words – in the manner of a stronger unconscious symbolism which corresponds with my own perception of things. Since they are older than the XO-album ‘Drain‘ and ‘Nigredo-Clad‘ are so to speak closer to my typical writing than most of the other lyrics on the album. Nevertheless, you can have your fun with a lot of metaphors, allusions, suggestiveness, intertextuality and some rather crude humour.
What inspires me? For me it is existence itself and how to cope with all the things happening around and within you. When it comes to some kind of tradition it is the German expressionistic decennium I feel a connection with. As a songwriter and lyricist it is Scott Walker who amazes me the most.
“Sleep is Better than Prayer” is a phrase I stole from Austin Osman Spare, who is a strong inspiration as well.
What’s being used for gear? Your rhythm section is quite tight, might I add.
Daniel: Thanks for that! Rafa and Lars will be pleased to read that.
When it comes to equipment I myself use a Shure microphone. Since it doesn’t reveal that I am a pretty shitty singer, I additionally use some feedbacky blue device to add reverb and delay to my voice. Our guitarists both play a Jazz Chorus, of course, with different guitars. Lars has like 20 bass guitars, but for Sweet E he usually plays two of his 5-stringed ones and a huge Ampeg stack. Praise the lord, Rafa doesn’t play a computer but a real kit. It is a white. To obscure our bodies from the eyes of the audience we ask for a lot of fog, which we usually don’t get even when bringing our own fog machine. The quality of our performance – or at least mine – corresponds directly with the amount of fog on stage by the way. Keep in mind!
Your guitarist, Danny, has recently released a debut album with his band Leaving With Ghosts which features a little bit of drumming from Rafa and backing vocals from Daniel. On the subject of side projects, it was stated on social media you all have your side pieces, “some of them brood in secrecy.” Well, I can’t let a secret lie… Give us one!
Daniel: Even though there are even more I’ll give you two: Lars is known for being into dark ambient. So, it was just a question of time for him to lay his fingers on the matter. Soon he will release a recording of his project called La Fin Absolue du Monde. There is also the chance to listen to a new project consisting of Mike and Gonzo, the first singer of Love Like Blood.
If stuck on a desert island with only a record player and one vinyl as company, what would it be?
Daniel: I think I’d choose a record with only one single drone sound. Then I’d start building my own instruments to jam along with it and the natural sounds of the environment.
This Mortal Coil Vs Fields Of The Nephilim?
Daniel: Coil. (The one with Jhonn and Sleazy)
What can concert-goers expect from you at the upcoming Dark Spring Festival on March 24th?
Daniel: A lot of fog hopefully. We will premiere two new songs on the festival as well.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store for Sweet Ermengarde? Can we expect a new album any time soon?
Daniel: Haste makes waste. But yes, if the gods are with us, we will release a new album in 2018.