Singer Armi Päivinen – Ravenia
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings for setting up the interview. Thanks to Inner Wound Recordings for the promo pictures of the band.
From Finland comes Ravenia, a symphonic/film-score metal (according to them) act that released their debut album BEYOND THE WALLS OF DEATH at the end of April 2016. When I listened to the album I thought it sounded like the soundtrack to a fantasy movie and was nothing like I’d ever heard before. That woke up my curiosity and I decided to get to know more about the band by contacting singer Armi Päivinen to ask if she’d like to conduct an interview. Besides the usual instrumental line up, the band also contains a string section which feels really unusual for a metal act. Armi and I talked about the album, the future for the band as well as their label, Inner Wound Records. If you want to have a somewhat unexpected musical experience then check out Ravenia. The review of BEYOND THE WALLS OF DEATH is also available on Metal-Rules.com.
Hi Armi, how are you today? Are you ready to kick off the interview?
Hello, I’m fine, thank you for asking. It’s going to be a long one, but I’m ready to roll.
Let’s take it from the start; back when you and guitarist Reinikainen first formed the band. Could you tell us why and when you chose to start a band? Was it planned that you were going to play the kind of music you do today?
Back in 2013 this one guy asked me to sing on a couple of his songs so I wrote the vocal arrangements and lyrics to them. The vocals had already been recorded when he decided that he no longer wanted to work with me. Well, we figured, why waste the vocals when they were already recorded, so we decided to compose new songs around them. Ravenia was born. After we released the EP, we really wanted to do something different so we decided to take our music to more movie trailer music-like direction.
Is it true that the band first started out as a traditional symphonic metal act?
It is true. Our EP, WINGLESS, was much more traditional than our album but we really wanted to take things to the next level and create our own path.
Was it easy to find the right band members? Which positions were filled first?
Yes and no. I think Veikko (drums) was the first one we asked, he was just such an obvious choice and we really wanted him to be a part of this group. Since Samuli knew Ville (first violinist) he of course asked him to join in and Ville then recruited all the other guys (and girl) of our string quartet.
How do you two know each other?
We have been in a relationship for the past 5.5 years.
Why did you choose to self-finance and release WINGLESS, as a duo? What kind of response did the EP get from fans?
Are there other options than to self-finance? We have never, and will never, use a crowd funding campaign to finance our music, it does not fit well with our principles.It was just easier for us to do it with just the two of us, since there wasn’t any reason why we couldn’t. The response was really good, people seemed to like it so we thought it might be the right choice to start working on a full-length.
Who came up with the band name and what does it mean?
I’m not really sure which one of us actually came up with the name, I think it was me. On WINGLESS we had a raven that had a broken wing so we wanted something that would kinda go with that, so after throwing some ideas around we ended up with Ravenia.
I read that you wanted to create metal music combined with film score music, could you tell us more about that?
We did. We both really love film score/trailer music so we wanted to really start doing that ourselves. We didn’t really want to stray too far from metal since it’s very close to our hearts so we decided to combine the two.
Besides the usual line-up you also added viola, cello and contra-bass to the line-up, which is a pretty unusual choice of instruments for a metal band. Why did you want to feature those instruments in the band?
We have so many orchestral elements that we really wanted to use the real thing. Using real instruments gives the songs so much more emotion than a sample ever could. Of course we would have loved to use a full symphonic orhestra but we didn’t really have a budget for that on our debut. Maybe on the next album, that would be awesome.
Is the line-up a solid one or are the strings musicians session people?
The string musicians are not actively involved in the band’s stuff but at least most of them will be with us on stage if we have a gig.
Both singles the band released 2015, “The Fallen” and “Farewell” were strictly instrumental versions, why did you decide to release those versions of the songs?
“Farewell” exists only as an instrumental piece, I actually composed that song quite a few years ago but it was never released. We made some changes to it and decided to release it now. We are planning to make orchestral versions of probably all the songs on the album and “The Fallen” just happened to be the first one we did.
Were the pieces only released digitally on BandCamp?
Yes, they were only released digitally on BandCamp. Farewell will be also available on iTunes, Spotify etc. soon.
How many clicks have you had on “The Fallen – epic orchestral version” that’s featured on YouTube?
Last time I checked it was a little over 46,000 views, so very nice!
Do all of the members live in the same town in Finland or are you scattered across the land?
We do all live pretty close to each other, in nearby towns.
Debut album BEYOND THE WALLS OF DEATH
How long did take you to write and record the album all together?
It took us about 2.5 years to write and record the album. The writing process took us about six months but it was pretty intense, we were writing music almost every day, about 8 hours a day.
You and Reinikainen wrote the album together, what are the lyrics about and how does the writing process progress? Who does what?
We write all the songs together. We start with the feeling that we want, then we usually do the strings and horns, percussion and drums, guitars and finally the vocals and lyrics. The vocal arrangements and lyrics are the only things I do alone. The lyrics are mainly about death in one form or another.
Where do you find inspiration to write lyrics?
Everywhere, it just comes. I can write lyrics extremely fast if I’m in the right head space but it can also take me forever to complete a song.
Were there many songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
No, there was actually just one. If we felt like a song wasn’t going anywhere and it wasn’t going to be a good one, we just threw it in the trash. There were some half-finished ideas though that just didn’t make it.
Yes they were all written specifically for the album. I don’t recall there being anything that was previously used in another older song.
Is it harder to write music when you have classical instruments involved in the songs?
Hahaha, of course. There are so many elements that you can’t even hear on the album. Horns, staccato and legato strings, vocals that all have their own harmonies that still need to go together, not to mention the massive amount of tracks we had. Also you need to make all the notations for the players that we had something like 450 pages of. Crazy stuff..
You have featured shorts clips from the recordings of the instruments on YouTube but why didn’t you feature any clips from when you recorded the vocals?
Good question. When we were recording the vocals and guitars the two of us were the only ones at the studio. The other one of course was on recording duty, so there really wasn’t any time for us to shoot any footage.We would have liked there to be some footage of those as well but I’m sure next time we will.
Why did you name the album BEYOND THE WALLS OF DEATH? Who came up with the title?
”Beyond The Walls of Death” was actually originally a name of one of our songs on the album. It seemed like almost too good of a title for a single song and it really represented the theme of the album, so we changed it to the album title.
The well known Jan Yrlund made the cover art; what do you think of it? What does it symbolize?
We think it’s great. He gave us what we ordered, so he did a very good job. It symbolizes a soldier that has passed to the afterlife not quite realizing he is dead.
How would you like to describe the kind of music you play? I feel that the main focus is not on metal and the music leans more towards the orchestral parts/vocal parts rather than heavy metal staples like heavy guitars and hard hitting drums. Was it your intention to make music in that direction?
We would describe it as epic film score metal. There definitely are heavy guitars and hard hitting drums, they just aren’t what people might be used to in the symphonic metal genre. The guitar and drum arrangements are more black/death metal-ish than what they normally are in power/symphonic metal. If someone is interested, there are some small clips of our album without any orchestrations on our YouTube channel. Our focus is definately more on the orchestral parts since we want to make the trailer music side audible to people.
When I listen to your music I’d get the feeling of soundtrack music to a movie, is that the intention with the music?
That is exactly the intention of the music, very happy to hear you are getting that vibe. We do also ccompose purely trailer music tracks that have no metal elements at all for that purpose specifically.
Do you think that straight up metal fans is going to like your music?
Why wouldn’t they? They have so far. It depends more on what type of metal people listen to rather than whether they are straight up metal fans. We mostly listen to black/ death metal ourselves.
The bio states your music to be like a mix between composers like Hans Zimmer and bands like Nightwish and Epica, can you agree with that description?
We actually don’t really agree with that. We would have rather not mentioned any metal bands at all but when you’re a new band in the metal genre people need to have some kind of idea about the music you play. If it would have been up to us, we would have propably just mentioned trailer music composers such as Two Steps From Hell and Really Slow Motion.
Was it your intention to make quite a long album? It clocks in at about one hour.
No, it just turned out to be long. We were more focused on the number of songs on the album. We originally planned to have ten tracks on the album but that would have made it way too long.
What are the longest song (8,56) “We Stand As One” and the shortest (5,40) “In Silence” about?
”We Stand As One” I would call almost an end of the world song, fighting to survive but standing united even when it all comes to an end. ”In Silence” is about crossing to the other side.
Do you have any particular favorite song on the album?
I really honestly love all the songs on the album but ”Into Oblivion” has always been one of my favourites, it just has the best of both worlds.
Is it true that you have been working on the album for about 2.5 years?
Yes, it is true.
I read a comment online about the album that says it’s the perfect example of an album in which the listener can put on earphones, turn off the lights, and simply become immersed in musicianship. How does it feel to read those lines about your work?
Fantastic! Some of the comments that we have been getting have been truly amazing and so nice that I would have never expected those kinds of reactions. It feels really good when people appreciate all the hard work that you have put on an album.
Do you care about what critics and the media have to say about your work? Have you ready any reviews of the album?
When someone says something negative it always stings. Especially if we feel like it is not true or correct. We try not to care about it too much though, what really matters to us is what our listeners think about our music, they are the ones buying it and supporting us on our journey.
Are there any differences in how the native and the foreign press write about the band?
Hmm, there has really only been one Finnish review of our album and it was extremely positive. They really got what we were aiming for so it was a real pleasure to read. Otherwise the feedback has been pretty mixed, the press has in most cases either loved it or hated it.
What do fans think of the album, how have they responded?
The response has been really incredible. We have gotten very positive feedback from our listeners and we hope that many others will find the emotion in our music as well.
Do you think fans of your previous band In Silento Noctis are going to like the Ravenia album?
I guess it depends what they liked about ISN. There have been quite a few people who have listened to ISN and also enjoyed the Ravenia debut quite a bit, so I don’t really see why they wouldn’t. There are still some similar elements even though ISN is more extreme.
How come you haven’t added any guitar solos in any of the songs?
Guitar solos might be common in metal but they are not common at all in trailer music. They didn’t really fit in any of the songs so we didn’t feel the need to force them in. There will most likely be solos on the next album but I doubt they will be guitar solos. If they are, we will then go all Belphegor on your ass.
Do you think Ravenia’s got musical similarities to bands like Nightwish or Epica?
Not that much, no. I think Nightwish is an easy comparison but I don’t find very many similarities between us.
Where is Lunamy Creation Studio where you recorded the album located?
It is located in Haaga, Helsinki.
Did the band produced the album? Who took on the role as main producer?
We have produced the album. I sort of had to take the role as the main producer since Samuli had to do all the recording, editing and stuff like that. When you’re doing stuff like that it’s easy to lose the big picture so one of us had to be focused on that constantly, that job fell on my shoulders.
What’s it like to produce an album on your own? Isn’t it hard to stay objective?
It would have been nice to have some outside help at times but I think we did okay. When you’re talking about your own music it’s pretty impossible to stay objective. A mother wouldn’t call her children ugly now would she…?
Did the band record everything together or did you enter the studio separately?
We all entered the studio separately, it would have been impossible to record an album like this with all of us at the studio at the same time.
Were any of the band members part of the mixing and mastering made by Nino Laurenne and Svante Forsbäck?
We were pretty hands on with the mixing. There were quite a few days when we were sitting at Sonic Pump Studios late at night mixing our orchestras while Wintersun was rehearsing their new stuff in the room next to us. If we hadn’t done that, we would have ran out of time. With the mastering, we didn’t really have to do much, Svante got it right on his second try.
Do you think you’re going to work more with those two in the future?
Not sure if they want to work with us again. Just kidding, we would like to work with them again in the future.
Label and management
Was it easy to land a record deal? Did you send out demos to labels or how did you come in contact with Inner Wound Recordings?
We didn’t send any demos, just the finished album. It wasn’t very hard to land a record deal.
Were there many labels that were interested in signing the band?
There were a few yes, we really had to think which label we wanted to team up before making that decision. We thought about it for quite a while.
We felt like it was the best choice for us. It’s impossible to find a label that has the knowledge of both metal and trailer music.That has caused some problems. Other than that we are happy with the work that IWR has done for us.
What do you think of the fact that IWR is a smaller label?
We don’t mind at all, it’s not always the size that matters.
Who releases the album in Asia and South America?
No one right now, someone should though.
Is BEYOND THE WALLS OF DEATH available at Spotify and iTunes, etc.?
It is available in Spotify, iTunes etc.
Many bands and artists says that the music industry is dead because of downloading etc. What is your opinion towards downloading and streaming music?
I personally still buy CD’s and will do so as long as they’re available. I can’t really imagine listening to a digital album on my computer for example, it just doesn’t have the same feeling for me. Downloading and streaming music is an easier way for smaller bands to get out there and I can’t really see that as a bad thing. I don’t think that the music industry is dead, it has just transformed, now we just need to find ways to make it work for everyone’s favour.
Do you currently work with any booking agency?
No we don’t, perhaps in the future. Right now touring isn’t the easiest thing for us to arrange
Personal with Armi Päivinen
For how long have you been singing and have any artists inspired you to become a singer?
I have been singing since I was like 3 years old. I have no idea what madness drove me to it. Cradle of Filth was really the thing for me that made me want to get into metal myself.
Are you classical trained and/or taken vocal lessons?
I am classically trained and have been taking vocal lessons since I was 17. I don’t sing classical very much though, so my singing style falls somewhere in between pop and classical. Classical doesn’t really come all that naturally for me except while singing arias or lieds.
Do you play any instrument as well beside singing?
I don’t. I play a little bit of piano but not very well, I like to leave that to someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
Which was the first band you joined?
The first band I joined was Exsecratus, I was there for about two years before I left.
Besides Ravenia you’re also involved in In Silento Noctis, what kind of music do they play? Is that band active today?
Someone actually said it pretty well a while back, so I would call it blackened symphonic metal. ISN is currently on a break, at least for the time being.
Hahhah, I don’t know, you need to ask them that. Well, since ISN is on a break it was a no brainer for them to join Ravenia.
Is it correct that you are also a part of Dark Dawn Project? What is that and where do you find the time to do everything?
I was involved in DDP but that group has been put to rest by the founding member. It was a lot of fun to be a part of his project, so I wish him all the best for the future.
Past and present
Is Ravenia a band or a project?
Ravenia is definately a band.
You’ve got a really nice website; who runs it and are you also active on other social forums?
Thank you. Samuli runs the website and we do try to be actively involved on social media and stay as interactive with our listeners as we can.
I can’t find any info about Ravenia played anything live? Have you done any shows or tour?
We haven’t. It is quite a challenge for us with so many members and backing tracks and so on that we need to be well prepared before we book any gigs.
Are there any plans on doing a tour or shows now that the album is out?
Not at the moment.
Is Finland the main focus for the band or do you have plans on conquer Europe?
We have plans to conquer the world!
What can you tell us about the video to “We All Died For Honor” that came at the end of March?
It tells the story of those who have passed at war and those that were left behind to mourn.
We All Died For Honor [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
The video’s currently got 80,000 views, congratulation on that. How does it feel that so many have seen the video?
Thanks, now we have already reached a little over 160 000 views! [ED: Now over 200K views!] It feels great, the feedback about the video has been absolutely wonderful.
Are there plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs on the album?
We would love to but we don’t really have a budget for that at the moment.
Is there any interest shown for the band in America?
Surprisingly most of our listeners are from America, they seem to like our stuff. It’s great!
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Ravenia yet?
Go and discover it now, you’ll be surprised!
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy BEYOND THE WALLS OF DEATH?
I think our album is worth checking out, it’s unique to say the least and it will take you on an epic journey, I will promise you that. Not to forget the obvious fact that the more people buy our album, the better our chances get on being able to record a second full-length.
Finally do you have any words of wisdom to share with readers and fans?
Not any words of wisdom but a huge thank you for everyone who have supported us, stay epic!
Thanks for taking the time for the interview, I wish you and the band all the best.
Thank you so much, it was a pleasure!