Alcest’s latest offering, Spiritual Instinct, is their most personal record to date as it captures the revolving emotions, many people experience. The group’s acclaimed 2016 album, Kodama, led the French duo to sign with Nuclear Blast and opened new doors for their latest effort, which was released on October 25th (order here). We caught up with Neige to discuss their new album, overcoming personal demons, touring plans, and more.
I read you took a darker approach for Spiritual Instinct, can you talk more about that?
It all started because we’ve been on tour for a very long time, with Kodama, the previous record, and touring life is very difficult. You are always surrounded by people, and you lose yourself in the process. You don’t really have time for yourself, or to reflect on things. I like to sometimes be on my own, and think about stuff. Even for a band like Alcest, that is very dreamy, and otherworldly, touring isn’t something like that. I really miss the more spiritual side of my life, and it disappeared for a while, and I really needed it back. That’s pretty much what this album is about, the darker feelings that I can have, and on the other side, this need for something higher and more spiritual. It’s quite unusual for me to put a little bit of my darker side in Alcest music, but that’s what happened this time.
Musically, how would you compare the new album to your prior efforts?
Musically, I think it’s more direct because the songs have been made in a much more spontaneous way. They were written quite quickly, because usually, I am slow to write stuff, and changing small details all the time. But, this one was written in a direct way, and the riffs are more aggressive, very epic. I will say, Kodama, is more like a concept album. It’s something that has been thought through a lot, whereas Spiritual Instinct is more connected to very raw emotions and strong feelings. Also, I think Spiritual Instinct has a very European type of style and melodies, whereas Kodama sometimes sounded a little bit Japanese, so I came back to my own culture for the new one. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
Can you talk about creating the “Sapphire” video?
We wanted to have a band video, that was the first time we actually appeared in a music video. Of course, we wanted to be different, not the usual four guys playing music together, and because all the band videos are the same. We wanted to have something different. We had the same guy who did the video for “Protection,” the first single, Craig Murray, and he has a very strong vision, so he has his own style, and I told him a lot about what I like visually. He took a mix of both our artistic visions and I’m very happy that he could translate this into a video. I think the video is great. I’m thrilled with it.
For this record, you mentioned how people should face their own demons, in order to be a better version of themselves. A lot of people have difficulty coming to terms with this, and I feel you expressed this through your music. I wanted you to talk more about this.
It’s not easy, especially when you are starting a spiritual journey. You expect everything to be bright, and everything is going to be fine, and life is beautiful and stuff. But actually, there is always a darker side to things, and a darker side to people. We all have this side in us. Nobody is just one thing. We are very complex. We have, like I said, a lot of different sides to our personalities. And if you want to grow as a person, and to improve, it can be spiritual or not. It can be just to be a better person for the people around you. You first need to be completely honest with yourself. You first need to have the courage, because it takes a lot of courage to really look at yourself in the mirror, and see yourself as you are. Yeah, it’s not easy, but also, the danger is to be too critical. Because I know sometimes, I am very, very hard with myself. I tend to have low self-esteem, and that’s also a part of my darker side. So I’m also trying to be aware that I have low self-esteem, and trying to be better at being kind with myself. Yeah, so in fact, it’s not pleasant things that you have to dig in. That’s what this album is about, but the end of the journey is, I think, something more bright, something brighter. The goal is, as I said, to evolve.
Since this album appears to be a spiritual, self reflective journey, can you talk about your spirituality with nature?
Nature is, of course, a part of spirituality. It’s not everything, but I would say it started as a kid. I had a spiritual experience, so I’m lucky enough to have lived something spiritual at some point in my life, and this has more value than any book you can read, or any religion, or anything. When you experience things by yourself, it’s the best possible way. That’s what got me interested in all of these subjects. It’s a long individual path that you have to take, and you are not going to get the answers to your questions. Because opposed to religion, nothing is already written in a book. You aren’t going to listen to someone that is telling you what to do in your life. Or tell you what to believe in. In spirituality, you have to find the answers by yourself. It’s a more difficult path because maybe you won’t find an answer. But I think it’s way more realistic, because people who say, “Oh, I know about the nature of God, I know about the essence of life, and I know what’s the meaning of this.” I think it is very presumptuous and very arrogant to pretend that you know what God is. You know what life is. Spirituality is also being very humble, and admit that maybe, you won’t find your answers, but at least you are brave enough to not listen to anyone, and listen to your feelings, and listen to your intuition. For example, I got into meditation and yoga for a couple of years now, and this forces you to look inside. To look at what’s inside you, as opposed to looking on the outside. That’s also a very good way to have access to something that can be, I don’t know, more spiritual. The thing with nature, I think nature is a great way to connect with these things because it would be the same for religious people when they go to a church. They need a place where they can be in contact with something higher. Nature has this role. You can be in the forest or by the sea, and you go to this contemplative state, and you feel good. You feel like you are yourself, and maybe you have access to a more, higher version of life. Maybe you can get some revelations, and it’s good. For me, nature is like a bridge between our world and the otherworldly part of life.
Are there any songs on Spiritual Instinct that you thought were more challenging?
There was this one song, “L’Île des Morts.” I think it’s the 4th track, the one that’s very, very long. All the songs have been written quite fast, but this one took me ages. Because it’s a very long song, and it has a lot of different riffs. The challenge with this type of song is that you don’t get bored in nurturing the experience. So even if it’s like that 10 minutes, you need to be connected to the song for 10 minutes, and the attention doesn’t have to slip away. Yeah, that’s a big challenge, of course.
You guys seem to be on the road a lot in Europe right now through next year. Do you have any plans for a North American tour?
Yeah, of course. We always tour in the US. I mean, when we release a new album, so of course there will be a tour in the US. We are working on it now. It hasn’t been announced yet, but we are working on it, and of course, we are going to come back.
Is there anything else that you want to say or add about the album?
I would say that this is maybe one of my most personal albums and that it has been a real struggle to make. I hope people will feel how meaningful it is for me, and I hope they will like it. Of course, I hope they will come to see us play when we come to the US.