Bands with screaming, breakdowns and overzealous double bass drums seem to struggle when it comes to longevity. This fickleness stems from not only an overpopulation of artists, but also the short attention span of today’s youth who also seem to prefer to get online and spread hateful judgment like wildfire. With a combination like that, staying relevant proves to be a constant challenge; therefore, groups like Alesana who can achieve a fruitful career backed by a solid fan-base absolutely deserve to boast, at least a little bit.
To celebrate a decade of making music together, Alesana released The Decade EP last year. This short EP allowed Alesana to take a break from their dark conceptual songwriting and create an ode to the art of songwriting itself. To further celebrate their 10 year anniversary, they have decided to record a live CD featuring a set-list of some of their most beloved songs from their insanely large discography. Substream Magazine got a chance to talk with founding front man Shawn Milke about the live CD, the soon to come end of the Annabelle trilogy, and the legacy of Alesana.
Substream Magazine: What made you decide to make a live CD?
Shawn Milke: We’ve wanted to do it for a really long time, but up until recently we’ve always signed to other labels, and there’s always people you need to get permission from and schedules you need to adhere to. One of the things I really wanted to do once I started my own record label was to eventually have Alesana on it, so that way we can do a lot of things we want to do and have talked about doing for so long. Now we only answer to ourselves, so to speak. We’re able to be setting up 2015 as a year where we have a great deal of material that we’ve talked about doing for a long time.
SM: A live CD is so rare in this scene. Making one seems like a bold move.
SM: At Revival Records, we try to apply a lot of old school mentality to a lot of what we do. We make music about making music, not just tricks and trends and stuff like that. One of the things I think anybody loves is a live record by a band that they enjoy and that they enjoy seeing live. Having done this for ten years, I think it will be cool to have our most solid live songs collected in one place.
SM: With such a vast discography, how did you pick the set-list?
SM: The ones that over the ten years of touring have sort of become the more popular songs of ours. Obviously we love everything we’ve written or else we wouldn’t have put it on the record, but we want the majority of the music, if not all of the live record, to be the crowd pleasers. I went through some of our old set lists and records and chose the 14 or 15 songs that will be the strongest ones. The ones the crowd will be the most excited to hear live. We may narrow it down to 10 or 12 for the live record, but we’ll see.
SM: Will you have any video footage to accompany the CD?
SM: We really want the focus to be on capturing the audio as best we can from that night, allowing people to paint their own picture of the evening as they listen to it as opposed to seeing it exactly how it went. When you listen to live records, you know, you put it on and you sit there and close your eyes and picture the way it would look if you had been there.
SM: Where have you chosen to record the show?
SM: The Southland Ballroom on West Street in downtown Raleigh. We’ve played there several times and it’s a nice little spot to pack out and make a live record.
SM: What else can you tell us about the live CD? Any unrevealed treats for the audience?
SM: The hope is that the live show on December 11 is that we have the new single ready to go so people can get a sneak peak of that before it comes out. We’re wrapping up the single right now, which will be another bridge to the conclusion much like “Fatima Rusalka” was last year. “Fatima Rusalka” was a character exploration of Annabel and her alter ego. This single coming out will be a character exploration of our other main character, the Artist. That way, you kind of get a background on them and their strangeness before we move into the final chapter.
SM: Now, will “Fatima Rusalka” and this new single be part of the conclusion of the Annabel trilogy or are they singles released separately?
SM: “Fatima Rusalka” is a single released on its own. There’s another song coming out, maybe in the first week of January, that will also stand on its own. We tell our stories on the main three parts of the trilogy, but there’s a lot of really cool characters that we love and by doing these standalone songs, we are able to explore these characters on a one on one basis. Different book series will do this as well, like Harry Potter. Eventually we want to put out an EP where we get to explore our favorite five or six characters from the story. Those two songs would appear on that EP.
SM: So besides the Live CD and a new single, Alesana will also be completing the Annabel trilogy in 2015. Have you come up with an ending?
SM: Dennis and I finally came up with our ending when we were on the Chaos is a Ladder tour earlier this year. We were sitting there hashing out ideas and then when we came up with the ending we got goosebumps and completely freaked out. I think the ending is going to please our followers for sure.
SM: The second part of the trilogy, A Place Where the Sun is Silent, had an unnerving twist at the end. The whole album really stood out, even for Alesana. Could you briefly explain what exactly went on in that part of the story?
SM: A Place Where the Sun is Silent (2011) is the prequel to The Emptiness (2010). We basically find out why the Artist lost his mind in APWTSIS when he wakes up at the beginning of The Emptiness. It’s a really abstract nightmarish beginning to a story. We are huge fans of abstract storytelling and we wanted to do something really grand, really big and also strange whereas The Emptiness had a much more coherent and strait forward way of storytelling. APWTSIS was a chance for us to capture a nightmare in a story. It was very very intentional. Every piece of it from the beginning to the end – in the way it was written, recorded, presented, it was all very calculated and we are probably the most proud of that final product more so than any other record that we’ve done. Having two full choirs, a string quartet, the horns and the Italian prose – everything that went into it.
SM: Alesana fans have been waiting quite a few years now for this ending, and judging by what you’ve said, I’m sure they will not be disappointed. How do you explain having so much support for so long?
SM: This can be a very fickle scene of music where bands can kind of come and go. The whole 10 years thing is certainly something to be proud of. Success is really in the eyes of the beholder. We have a really, really strong core fan-base that completely buys into everything we do artistically. We’re not just a band that performs live or writes records, we’re a band who integrates all aspects of it into the stories that we tell. We owe it not only to ourselves for working so hard for so many years, but to our fans for still giving a crap about us.
SM: How did you garner kind of dedicated fanbase?
SM: We don’t fake our passion. I think that even in the type of world we live in now where everything is right at our fingertips and things come and go so quickly, I think the one thing people still ultimately love is passion. They want the people making the art to care about the art they’re making. Otherwise, why should they care? We’ve always gotten that point across. With success comes criticism and we’ve not only never let any of that bother us but it’s never effected how we move forward in our career. We stick to our plan and to our guns and to the art that we want to make.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the new single early next year! 2015 will be a big year for Alesana, make sure to stay current with their news and catch up on the tragic Annabelle Trilogy.