German symphonic metal group Xandria has been in existence for the better part of two decades, but a fairly inconsistent lineup (outside of founding guitarist Marco Heubaum) has kept the band mostly in the underground. The band’s latest album Sacrificium is their first to chart in the US, and it also made a big impact internationally, signalling that the band is on the rise. Xandria is currently on tour with Sonata Arctica and Delain, their first time touring in North America. When the tour stopped in New York at the beginning of the month, we had the chance to chat with the band’s new singer, Dianne van Giersbergen, about the band’s latest progress, her other projects, and what’s next in Xandria’s rising career.
First of all, thank you very much for joining us!
You are very welcome!
Two days into the tour, you can’t really say how the tour is going so far, but still, how’s it going so far?
(laughs) Well, we’ve been here a few days longer. We’ve done some sight-seeing in New York, and that plus now two fabulous shows combined have made it one hell of a trip so far!
Fantastic! This is, as I understand it, Xandria’s first tour in the US.
What’s it like compared to your touring throughout Europe and other areas of the world?
Well, everything is much further apart here, so we have the tour van. That makes a whole different day. It’s just completely different, sleeping in the van at night. I’m used to hotels, but both are fine. I’m not that kind of a diva that I need a hotel! (laughs) But it just gives you another daily rhythm, and I’m one who can easily adjust. Furthermore, I think the crowd tonight was really amazing. Where I come from, Dutch people tend to stand with their arms folded and give the impression of, “I paid for this, so give me something.” Here, everyone is very enthusiastic and I love that! You’ve made me feel very welcome!
We try our best to do that. A lot of singing along, cheering, etc…
I like that! Whenever I forget my lyrics, I can just hand the microphone to anyone, and they have to fill in! (laughs)
You’ve been with the band now for close to a year.
Yes, the 25th of October will be a year.
What’s the experience been like so far?
I love it! The band is such a bunch of sweethearts, incredibly sweet men. Which of course, I’m not allowed to say because we’re a metal band. They are all very fierce and angry! (laughs) It has been a dream come true! Of course, the guys are really nice, and we have a wonderful crew that we work with. The fans have very warmly accepted me into their arms, and I just feel blessed for being able to have this position.
Was there any sort of pressure or anxiety of filling the previous singers that have come before you?
No, I get asked that question a lot, but I have so many experiences in this area, due to my other band Ex Libris. Also, I studied music for seven years. I did my bachelor’s in four and a double master’s in three. I’ve been around. With classical music, when you’re stepping into a show or a program concert, in the afternoon there is the rehearsal, and that night, bam, first show. I’m used to the process of quickly learning everything, just stepping in, and going.
What was the recording process like for the new album, Sacrificium?
I loved it! I went together with Marco Heubaum, who is our main composer. We went together to the recording studio of Sascha Paeth, who also did Rhapsody [of Fire] and Epica. We went to his studio, and we were there for nine days, which is quite a short time to record a full album as well as the harmonies. We had a recording marathon, but I think we managed. I’m very proud of the result, and the people are so happy about it. It makes me happy too!
It was the first album from Xandria to appear on the charts here in the States, which is quite an achievement.
I’ve heard that today as well, yes.
What are your plans once this tour with Sonata Arctica and Delain is done?
Well, we have the Metal Female Voices Festival, which is a very famous female-fronted festival in Belgium. We also have a headlining show in Switzerland, which is actually the day after we get back. This is going to be hardcore!
No rest for the weary!
No, we’re going to fly into Germany, and from there, get picked up by another tour van that leads us straight to the show, we go on and play, and then the day after, MFVF. And the day after, I will be dead! (laughs) After that I have one weekend off, during which I will sleep, and then we will have two Russian shows. And there’s loads to come after that, but that’s not yet released, so I can’t say anything.
What are some of the plans for Ex Libris in the future? You are staying active with the band, as I understand.
Well, it’s a very different kind of music. We’re making progressive metal with classical influences, not only because of my voice, but also composition-wise. We released our second album, Medea, in January, and we’re very excited to bring it to the road! But of course, we have to plan, because Xandria is also taking off, and we have to see how to combine everything. But we have a few shows coming up that are already scheduled. I’m very happy to be able to keep doing that, because Ex Libris is really my baby, and I wouldn’t want to leave them for the world.
You’ve been a part of the band since the beginning, right?
Ten years now already, yes!
Probably no chance of a joint Xandria and Ex Libris tour, though, because that would be a bit too much for you!
Yeah, because then I would have to cut back on what I give on stage, and it wouldn’t be fair to the fans.
It looked like quite an intense stage show just from what we saw tonight.
Believe me, being on stage is a workout for me. I really give my all, and I wouldn’t want to have it otherwise.
What do you do to cool down your voice after shows?
Well, immediately afterwards, it’s just keeping quiet, keeping it short. Maybe humming a little bit along, but really taking my moment to exhale and come to myself again. After that, well, we’re together with Delain and Sonata Arctica, and I really like watching their shows. Even the song they [Sonata] are playing now, I’m kind of distracted by it, because I love this band! It’s from the new album!
Their new album came out right around the same time as yours, during a nice stretch of good symphonic and power metal.
And Epica too, which came out on the same day as ours! Delain also released their album the month before, and also Stream of Passion in May.
There’s been quite a surge of symphonic metal and power metal lately. Do you think there’s any chance that those styles might start to come to the forefront of metal in the future?
Who knows? I would like that. I’ve been playing with a Polish power metal band, Pathfinder. I did a few live shows with them. I just love power metal – it lifts me up, and I become so happy!
Well, Dianne, thank you so much for joining us. You’re doing a phenomenal job, and we hope the rest of the tour is just as good for Xandria.
I hope so too! Thank you!