Delain’s new album, Apocalypse & Chill, was released on Friday (7th) via Napalm Records (read our review here). The follow-up to 2016’s Moonbathers marks their darkest and heaviest record to date. We caught up with vocalist Charlotte Wessels and keyboardist Martijn Westerholt to discuss the album as well as learning more about what happened when drummer Joey de Boer’s visa was delayed for their fall 2019 North American tour.
Apocalypse & Chill seem a lot darker and heavier than some of your prior works, what led you guys go into this direction?
Martijn: I think a lot of interviewers ask us, “Do you have a goal or like an aim before you started?” We always say no, but there’s also always one exception. We always say, “We want it more heavy, hard, or loud.” And so we always aim for that part and then let me start with just go, literally go with the flow, so to say. And it really worked out well with this album. What also helped is that our guitar player, Timo [Somers}, he normally always arranges what we write. So when we were done writing, we gave it to Timo and he tweaked it and then we recorded it. But this time, he also really contributed some material himself. And that also helped very much in the heaviness. And then there’s of course, how you mix and produce it. And yeah, we’ve always tried to make that as heavy as possible.
I enjoyed the contrast in the album artwork, which represents the title very well. Can you talk more about how the title and concept came together?
Charlotte: Sure. We started exploring album titles when we were about six, seven songs in, that’s usually when I feel like there’s enough flesh to the bone in terms of the music and the lyrics to discover whether there’s some kind of theme or a thread going through the album. And in this case I noticed that there were some songs that had a strong dystopian, apocalyptic. And then the other part is calmer, there’s love songs, there’s nostalgic themes, and that kind of worked as a mirror for the time that the album was written because for the last few years it’s been really striking how if you open a newspaper or you look at the news, then you see the world quite literally being on fire. And then if you look at your socials, you see everybody living their perfect lives and it’s hard to grasp that those worlds exist at the same time or are actually the same world. So that topic and that contrast, was really interesting. And then apocalypse kind of came up as a play on words on Netflix & Chill.
I really like the theme and the contrast as you described. What was the overall recording process for this record? Was it any different from your prior efforts?
Martijn: Yeah, it was. I was kind of thinking that this time it would be better to do everything fragmented. So normally the old fashioned way of doing it, so to say, is that you write everything first and then you record and mix everything. And this time we kind of wrote a couple songs then recorded and mixed those and then went back and wrote more songs and recorded and mixed those. And an advantage of that is you are way more flexible. You can go back to your song, which is already mixed and tweaked things even, while in the old way of working, when everything is mixed, it’s done and there’s kind of no return. And that makes things way more flexible. It always makes it more inefficient in the process because you have to build down and build up drums over and over again, and in the studio, and record over and over again instead of in one go, but it also gives you more flexibility, and I think it really benefits the process very much.
Charlotte: It also becomes easier over the years to do it like this because the drums, well, the drums and the choirs on this album, but they’re one of the only things that really cannot be recorded at home, while earlier would also be studio time for vocals.
Martijn: Or guitars.
Charlotte: Yeah, exactly. So parts have become more efficient and parts have become less efficient, and it definitely gives a lot of freedom.
Martijn: Oh, also a nice note is for example, Charlotte did all her vocals, recorded them at home and she also edited most of them herself, and I think that’s also really cool that she can do that, and in general with technology you can do that nowadays. It also really helps. Yeah.
I understand that technology is very helpful. Are there any particular songs that were more challenging for you guys to put together or for you, Charlotte, any particular tracks that challenged your vocal range?
Charlotte: Quite a few of them are. But I kind of enjoyed the challenge of going to new heights or going to a more distorted sounds like the grunt parts on “Burning Bridges” on this record. I have to kind of keep myself aware of the fact that I will have to reproduce this on stage at one point. Usually during the writing process and the recording process, I just see how far I can go and certainly have to keep in mind to throw in some lines that are easier to sing as well, just to be able to make the live shows not as exhausting. Fortunately, we also have an instrumental track on this records. So that helps.
What was the experience like for creating the video for “Burning Bridges?”
Martijn: That was a great experience. We went to Snowdonia in Wales, it’s beautiful there and the company we have really good cooperation with, and you know, we like it when we don’t get scripts thrown at us and we have to choose from that, but that you develop a script together with those video producers, so to say, and you ping pong back and forth with ideas. And I think it was very rewarding and we were also really happy with the results.
Can you talk more about what happened before your North American tour with the sudden visa delay for drummer Joey de Boer?
Charlotte: His visa had to get additional processing, and you know, we can maybe pinpoint some things that have caused this, but in all honesty, they have never said like, “Okay, it’s 100% this or that, that went wrong.” There was additional processing needed. I actually Googled on bands cancelling and tours canceled and people were not getting to do their tours and they all have the same story with the additional processing. Yeah. He couldn’t get the visa in time for the first half of the tour, but he was able to join us halfway and Jan [Rechberger] from Amorphis was gracious enough to perform double duty on the first half of the tour. That must’ve been such a workout every night for him. But yeah, he helped us out there.
It’s awesome that Joey was able to make it for the end of the tour.
Martijn: Yes. The second half actually. So he still did 12 or 13 shows if I’m correct. And we had I think 27 in total, so he did half of them. We were at least lucky with that. So yeah.
Charlotte: It was kind of a rollercoaster because when he did finally get his visa, we were not in the US anymore, but in Canada, and then it turned out he also had to get a Canada visa, which he didn’t have. So that was a stressful moment. And then when he finally hopped on the plane, he’s stranded in Reykjavik because the weather was too bad to fly. So his flight was delayed another day, which was stressful, and then he got a hotel, but there weren’t enough hotel rooms. He had to spend the night with a stranger. And it was quite a challenge to get him back on the bus. But he made it. And that’s the bottom line.
That shows Joey’s devotion to the band and fans. That’s insane what he had to go through, it sounds like an apocalyptic experience.
Charlotte: Yeah. I wouldn’t want to be an issue.
I was at the New York show and you mentioned to the crowd how you guys never had these visa issues before since you seem to always tour in the States. And has the overall visa process changed for you guys within the last few years to tour out here?
Martijn: Actually, it didn’t. The process is the same, but how it’s digested by authorities maybe a little bit more difficult or something. That’s the only explanation I can come up with. And also I think in America the culture is very procedural. You know, procedures are very important and it has its advantages but it also has its disadvantages because it makes the process more inflexible.
Charlotte: One thing is that this year, for the first time, I don’t know if I thought it was the first time, but correct me if I’m wrong, Martijn, this year, you also have to fill in all your social media accounts?
Martijn: No, because I didn’t. No, you could ignore that.
Charlotte: Okay, but this was the first time they asked for it, I think?
Martijn: Yeah, but you can say no, and I did.
Charlotte: Yeah, I didn’t know that.
Martijn: I ignored it and that worked just fine. Of course, Joey also didn’t fill out, he also made a mistake filling something out, but it was such a small mistake and he wanted to rectify it and it wasn’t possible. And that’s where it started.
Martijn: But that’s a ridiculous reason to make this a problem, you know? Just, “Hey, I filled out something wrong, can I redo it?” And they say, “Yes, you can.” And then you do that and then, “Yeah, but we need two additional processes for a month longer.” And yeah, that’s kind of ridiculous. But yeah, it’s what it is. And yeah, we survived, so to say.
The US audience are very thankful for what you guys have to do now to book a tour out here and go through the extensive processing just to perform live. It’s very much appreciated.
Martijn: Well, thank you very much. Yeah.
Is there anything else that you want to say or add about the album?
Charlotte: Well, I do hope that people will enjoy Apocalypse & Chill. We thank the audience for taking the time to pick up the albuml and for the continued support that we’ve experienced from the US over the years. It’s, you know, one of the countries that we toured the most these days, and yeah, so much, thanks for the support and we just hope that they enjoy the new album.
Martijn: I completely concur. American crowds are always very enthusiastic. They’re very supportive and I think that’s one of the reasons that makes it very enjoyable to do a show for such a crowd. So I’m very grateful. And in general, I love the States anyway, my partner is from the States. We’re going to get married next month in Vegas, so I love to be in America.
Martijn: Thank you very much.
Vegas is awesome, so that’s going to be an insane wedding.
Martijn: Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Thank you guys so much. I’m sorry for the apocalyptic noises in the background, but thanks for staying chill with it.
Apocalypse & Chill is available to order at this location.