Passionate, hard-working, lucky - it looks like all three adjectives are more than fitting in order to describe the German outfit Neaera, according to the band's axeman Stefan Keller.
Even though his band had only just returned from their most recent European tour, supporting Caliban, the friendly guitarist did manage to find enough time to answer my questions regarding the band's second album "Let The Tempest Come", their tendency to stay away from trends and their plans for the future.
Hi Guys, and welcome to our website. It sounds as if you are ready to take on the world with your second release. How is the spirit within the band nowadays?
Stefan: It's brilliant, thanks! We have just returned from the Darkness Over Europe Tour with Caliban. It was a great fun and successful for everyone. At the moment we are waiting for the final cut of our video clip for the title track. We are really curious.
You seem to be living every band's dream, seeing as in only three years you have managed to sign a contract with one of the biggest metal labels, and you have released two studio albums. What is the secret of your success?
Stefan: That is a tough question. When we got the record deal, we simply were at the right place with the right music at the right time. I don't say that we do not deserve the contract. I think we do. But there was definitely some luck involved. It is quite rare that a Record Company signs bands that have only played three shows. Apart from that, the music comes from the bottom of our hearts and is a means to express what's in ourselves. I guess we are just motivated by
everything that happened to us.
It is quite natural, especially seeing as I am from Greece, to be quite intrigued to find out the reasons that made you choose Neaera as the name for the band. It definitely sounds as if you have put quite some thought in choosing it.
Stefan: Well, we have found the name in a book called "Paradise Lost" by John Milton. We liked it right away. Only later, we got deeper into the meaning, which is a story of oppression and injustice, but in the end a metaphor for freedom and hope. That's something we still like about our name. The only disadvantage is its pronounciation and spelling, too. I guess we have underestimated that a bit.
To me, metal music has always been all about artistic freedom, the need of sharing thoughts, while opposing prejudices and rusty/dangerous ideas. Do any of the previously mentioned characterisations represent Neaera's lyrical approach?
Stefan: Totally! Artistic freedom in Neaera can be found in our attempt to combine different styles of metal, no matter where they derive from. We put a lot of opposing styles in our music, like US hardcore and Black Metal for example, and that is a statement of freedom in a way.
Lyrically, we put political lyrics in Swedish death metal songs, which is a bit opposing, too. We also mention good things about issues we sing against, which is also not very common in metal. We also write hope giving and encouraging songs sometimes instead of painting everything black.
Well, music journalists tend to use the term "metalcore" in order to describe bands that have a similar style and sound with yours. Do you agree with that description?
Stefan: Metalcore or hardcore about Neaera is probably our looks, our lyrics and the audience we are mostly playing for. Metal about Neaera is probably our music. There is still both of us found in the band. We can identify with both. So we leave that to others then , I'd say.
It only took you guys a year to come up with the eleven compositions that are featured in "Let The Tempest Come". Is that part of your contract with Metal Blade records, or was it a conscious decision on your part?
Stefan: That has nothing to do with Metal Blade Records. They pretty much give us all the freedom we need. Which is great. Songwriting in Neaera is a constant process, which does not begin nor stop. It is going on and on, as Tobias and myself are playing guitar and developing new ideas for songs. It's just the right working process for this band.
Were any of these songs based on ideas that were left over from the previous album? Is there any musical link between the two albums?
Stefan: One riff is two years old and stems from our old death grind band MALZAN. Everything else is new. I guess there are lots of musical links to be found. The Tempest simply is the next logical step.
Is there a main composer in the band? How would you describe your
Stefan: The songs on the Tempest were written by Sebastian, Tobias and myself. It turned out to be more personal, relaxing and effective. The lyrics on the second record were mostly written by myself, which is another change compared to the first record. Usually Tobias and me have new ideas and then we arrange them together with our drummer in the rehearsal room.
Well, I am not sure whether you are going to agree with me on this, but "Let The Tempest Come" sounds much "thrashier" than its predecessor. Is that an attempt to separate yourselves from bands that seem to be following a more predictable or "commercial" direction?
Stefan: We definitely do not want to become commercial or something. We are not making music to make money. There is no other way than making what you want in this band. We have to remain honest to ourselves, you know. I guess we wanted to sound rawer and faster and meaner. Maybe that equals thrashier in a way.
Now that you can listen to the album with a much "clearer" head, are there any compositions that stand out in your opinion?
Stefan: My favourite songs are 'Paradigm Lost', 'I Love the World' and 'HeavenHell'. But even on hindsight, we are still very proud of the new record.
I am not sure if you have been asked to make a video for "Let The Tempest Come", but if that is indeed the case, which song will you choose?
Stefan: Oh, the video for "Let the Tempest Come" is already finished. We are simply waiting for the final cut.
How have you envisioned the ideal visual representation for a Neaera song? Any particular "stories" that you would like to tell?
Stefan: Well, our video is a quite solid and simple video. The expression visual representation sounds like somthing very expensive to me. The video is simply us playing and moshing and we didn't put a story or anything in it, simply because that is really expressive when it should look good.
I am sure that you must be quite busy doing interviews at the moment. Have you selected any alternative ways of promoting your music? How satisfied are you by Metal Blade's support in this field?
Stefan: You are right, we are doing a lot of interviews at the moment. It is simply too much at the moment. But we are also thankful for so much interest and Metal Blade Records are doing a great job here and in general.
Last year you have toured with bands like Heaven Shall Burn and Agents Of Man. Did you find this whole experience profitable for the band? Were there any lessons learned?
Stefan: The Hell On Earth Tour was an amazing experience. It was the first tour for the band and it was one of the most important steps in the history of the band. I'd say it was more than just profitable. Personally and musically. We gained a lot of necessary life experience and made real good friendships.
Have you made any touring plans for the support of the new album? Which are the bands that you would like to share the same stage with, this time round?
Stefan: We just toured with Caliban, which was also a great tour. A dream is definitely a The Black Dahlia, Unearth or In Flames Tour in the US or Japan.
Do you enjoy being on stage? How would you describe a typical Neaera performance?
Stefan: Well, we are trying to give our best of course. Fortunately, our singer is crazy and this is really good for our life performance. The feeling on stage is something very special. It is also a feeling, which never seems to change really. It always great.
It is quite early yet to ask you about any long term plans, but what is the next big target that you have set as a band?
Stefan: The next big target is trying to play the US this year, as this is very important and difficult for European bands. I hope this works, but we really don't know yet. Apart from that, we are writing the third record, of course.
Guys, thank you very much for this interview. A message to your fans.
Stefan: It is always easy to say thanks, especially when you are saying this to a group of people you don't know personally. I say it anyway and hope that you guys believe that it is honest. Without you and your comments in our guestbook and on shows this whole thing would senseless and pointless.
Interview © 2006 John Stefanis