Keyboard player George Halliwall and singer Nancy Mos – Fortis Ventus
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.
Fortis Ventus is a symphonic metal act from Greece and have recently (June 2022) released their debut album, VERTALIA. The band are not newcomers, having been around since 2015 and releasing their first EP, HUNTED HEART, in 2017. Issues arose in 2018 when almost every member left the band, with only keyboardist George Halliwell and singer Nancy Mos hanging on. New guitarist in Gregory Koilakos joined forces with them in 2019, making them a trio.
VERTALIA is a concept album, so when I spoke with George and Nancy I asked them about the album’s themes. We also discussed their reasons for remaining a trio, the duet “Between Love And War”, which features Dee Theodorou (Illusory), and the band’s past and present. I was also curious about to learn more about Nancy Mos as she is a classically trained opera singer.
VERTALIA is a really good album with elements of Tarja-era Nightwish. In fact, I think VERTALIA is one of the better albums this year so far. If you are a fan of bands like Nightwish, Epica, or Kamelot, this may be something worth checking out.
Hey guys, how are you doing today? Are you ready to talk about the band and the new album?
Nancy: We’re fine thank you! Yes, totally ready!
Let’s take it back to the beginning. When and where was the band founded?
Nancy: The band formed back in 2015 in Athens, Greece but it wasn’t until 2016 when George Halliwell joined the band that we actually started creating music. We then released our first E.P. HAUNTED HEART in November of 2017.
What did critics think of HAUNTED HEART?
Nancy: Although it was a totally independent release from a small and local unknown band, the critics were actually pretty good and encouraging, both for the compositions and vocals.
You released and founded it yourself through a campaign on Bandcamp. Did you release the EP as a CD as well?
George: Yes, the E.P. was released as a CD in limited copies. There are not many left so get yours soon or they might vanish!
Early in 2018 the band went through some changes in the line-up when your drummer, bass player and guitarist left. Why did they leave?
George: Indeed, in 2018 the band underwent some significant changes due to creative differences between the members – nothing more, nothing less. It’s a very common situation nowadays in many bands worldwide.
Was their departure expected?
George: You can’t expect anything in this life! You accept every situation as it comes and you just have to keep going.
Why did you two decide to continue on with the band? How did the new guitarist Gregory Koilakos end up in the band?
George: Being the main composer in the band and having Nancy by my side taking over with the vocal lines and the lyrics, it was totally natural for us to continue creating music. We had the foundations when Gregory joined us, taking the role of guitarist and breathing new life in the band. We’re very grateful for that. He is an exceptional musician and we share the same vision for the band, which is very important and rare.
Why did you choose to only bring in a guitarist as a full time member of the band?
Nancy: For the time being we’re work with session members fulfilling those roles (bass and drums), until we find the right people who can actually fit the band’s vision and goals.
Was there any changes musically when Koilakos joined forces with you?
George: The songs were completely composed and arranged to a large extent. I write the melodic lines of all the instruments in the songs, however when Gregory joined the band, he added his own spin and sound on the guitar and bass parts of the tracks as I am not a guitarist, haha.
Where does the band name come from and does it mean anything special?
Nancy: The band’s name is Latin and I really wanted it to both sound and represent something very powerful like our music, while including an element of Nature as well. So, the name Fortis Ventus was born. May the strong wind take you with us!
What did the former members think when you decided to continue the band?
Nancy: The past belongs to the past and everyone has moved on.
Is Fortis Ventus a band or a project?
George: For me is a combination of both. It might look like a project, but practically we are a full band ready to rock the stage!
Do you have a huge fan base in Greece?
Nancy: It’s way too soon to use the word “huge” for our fanbase! We surely receive a great amount of love and support from our fans here in Greece and we’re glad they like and embrace our work so actively!
Are you familiar with other Greek acts like Sunburst, Black Fate, Thirty Fates and InnerWish? If so what do you think of their music?
Nancy: Yes of course! They are all amazing bands and we really like their work and music! Hopefully, we’ll get the chance to play with most of them in the near future!
Do all of the three band members live in Athens?
Nancy: Yes, we all live in Athens and are pretty close to each other actually! That makes our lives so much easier! Hahaha
Debut album VERTALIA
When did you start to work on material to the album?
George: I started writing music in the summer of 2018 as I had just completed the novel on which it was based, and had completed most of the album by the end of that year. The second half of 2018 was the most creative period of my life so far!
Way has it taken so long to release your debut album?
Nancy: At first our main goal, and issue, was to find steady members to start rehearsing the new songs so we could enter the studio, as the album’s composition was ready in 2019. Once we had that figured out, COVID struck and everything came to a halt. Due to the lockdowns, we had to stop the recordings for months and then start over. So, we had quite a few obstacles to overcome.
What comes first when you write, the music or the lyrics? What are the lyrics about?
George: On this record, the truth is that I already had the theme ready! So, I divided the novel into 12 chapters, with the aim that each one would represent a track on the album. The search for truth, for inner peace, acceptance and things we may not yet understand. The lyrics on the other hand, were written in a more open and poetic way entirely by Nancy, but were also based on the novel.
The info sheet says that VERTALIA is a concept album based on a novel-fairytale written by you George. Does that mean that it’s you that have written the entire album?
George: To be precise, it was a perfect collaboration between Nancy and me. Practically, I start the idea of a new song and once the song is fully instrumentally composed and arranged, Nancy enriches the song with vocal melodies and lyrics inspired from the music and the novel too.
Could you tell the readers a bit what VERTALIA is about?
George: The theme of this fairytale focuses on an imaginary planet called Vertalia, where our main character starts his journey to discover his inner truth and the truth of life itself. Through the challenges he faces during his journey back to Earth, he connects with his higher self and path and eventually achieves inner peace, back in Vertalia, where his homeland is. The audience will be surprised at the intricate orchestrations that hide behind complex melodies in an album that each person hearing it, will find a glimmer to empathize in every track.
Can the songs stand independently or do listeners have to listen to the entire album to get the story?
Nancy: Each track can totally stand independently because each one is a different chapter of the story and anyone can relate in a different way to each song, as the lyrics are written in a more poetic than narrative way. Of course, listening to the whole piece all together, gives the listener a spherical view of the fairytale.
The info sheet also states that VERTALIA is “sentimental, dramatic, grand, cinematic and imaginative”. Do you agree with that?
George: 100%. For me it’s an album that can create images and feelings for the listener and that’s what music and art in general is all about; to be able to travel through an artist’s work.
Dee Theodorou (Illusory) makes a guest appearance on the album and sings a duet with Nancy on “Between Love and War”. How was it to sing a duet?
Nancy: Dee and I were already friends and I was an admirer of his music and voice of course. We had worked together before when I did some guest vocals on his album and that is how the idea of a duet with him came up. Singing with him was absolutely amazing and fun and I think that our voices combined perfectly for that particular song.
Was it the song planned as a duet from the start?
Nancy: Yes, once I heard the song, I immediately knew I had to add a male vocal line to the song. It needed the power and roughness, in order to contrast with my voice. After all, it’s a song of two lovers, unable to leave each other and the passion had to be there.
Gregory Giarelis plays the drums on the album, is he not a solid member? Could you tell us a little more about who he is and what he has done prior to playing with you?
George: Gregory Giarelis is an amazing guy and a very talented musician and we are very grateful that he contributed in our album. His help in the final sound of the drums was invaluable! He is basically a guitarist, something we already have in the band as a permanent member and with the same name too! Haha
There’s also people playing the violin and cello, who are they?
Nancy: Yes, more exceptional musicians and very good friends of mine as well. Mr. Phedon Vriniotis on the violin and Mrs. Maria Mazaraki-Ainianos on the cello parts! Together they have created a duet called One Cello ‘N’ a Half and they are truly amazing!
What’s the story behind the title of the album VERTALIA? Does the word have any special meaning? Beside the obvious reason which is that VERTALIA is the imaginary planet where the main character starts his journey.
George: Exactly. It’s the imaginary planet which is also illustrated in the artwork. It’s a word I did not find somewhere, it came out of my head. I might have been inspired by one of my old favorite console games, “Metroid”.
Who is the main character in the story?
Nancy: The main character in the story is a little boy traveling away from his homeland Vertalia back to earth, in order to find his truth and real purpose in life. Along the way he must face challenges and dark forces in order to conquer his past, so he can be truly free. Of course, the little boy represents the child inside every one of us and the sufferings we all have to overcome, in order to ignite the spark of love and light in our souls and find our higher path and purpose in this life we were given.
Are you happy with the cover art work made by Gogo Melone? Was she given free hands to create whatever he wanted?
George: We are more than happy! The whole creative idea of the cover art was mine. I had a very specific vision of how I wanted it to look like and I guided Gogo through my idea in order to create this amazing artwork which we are all very proud of! She did an amazing job giving life to my vision!
Did you end up using all of the songs you wrote or were some that didn’t make it to the album?
George: Every song for this album was used! Nothing was left out because everything was written with purpose. Of course, during the composition process there were many ideas which, you may never know, have some use in the future! Anyway, once I was pleased with the music chapters of my novel, I knew it was complete.
What are the longest songs “Unveiling Path” (10.06), “Between Love and War” (5.38) and “Gothecia” (5.20) about?
Nancy: “Unveiling Path” honors mother nature, the importance of her in our world and the gifts she bestows on our lives as we all are, but a minute part of her.
“Between Love and War” is a song that describes the pain of loss and lonesomeness between two souls who cannot be together in life but are connected forever.
As for “Gothecia”, this song is the gloomiest one on the album. It’s all about the dark thoughts that stem from loneliness that turn us cold and cruel towards others. It can also be viewed as the strength needed to overcome our darkest selves and thoughts.
How would you like to describe the type of music Fortis Ventus plays?
George: It’s symphonic metal. Many listeners describe the album more as a cinematic work than a metal record. I cannot disagree with this, after all, the love I have for film scores is indescribable and it’s clearly present in my compositions. The love we have for cinematic as well as for metal music, the dynamics and the greatness that comes as a result of the combination of these two completely different genres of music, is something magical!
I read that fans of Two Steps From Hell, Epica, Nightwish and Kamelot, ought to like your music. Do you agree with that? Which bands do you think Fortis Ventus lies close to musically?
George: While our music is considered symphonic metal it features splashes of many different aspects found both in the metal scene and film scores. Cinematic, power, industrial, gothic and thrash are but a few of the sounds one can expect from our first album. So, yes, I think that fans of these bands would enjoy our music too.
The album has received some great reviews in the press, congratulations! Do you care about what critics have to say about your work?
Nancy: Thank you! Yes, we’ve had great feedback indeed. Of course, every artist cares about critics but for us the most important is how everyday people and listeners respond to our work. If our music can touch anyone out there, for us that is the greatest award. We put lots of love in what we do and when this love is being received back, then we have completed our goal.
Are there any differences in how the native versus the foreign music press writes about the band?
Nancy: We haven’t noticed any significant differences between Greek and foreign press to be honest.
Which songs are your personal favorite ones on VERTALIA?
Nancy: Each one of them has a great meaning to me, both lyrically and emotionally. Definitely “Between Love and War”, “Gothecia” and “Vertalia” would be my top three for many reasons.
George: There will always be a song that will stand out in my heart a little bit more, but it’s something personal for me so I will leave it there!
My Death is My Devotion (OFFICIAL LYRIC VIDEO)
In retrospect are you happy with the outcome of the album?
George: We are thrilled! It’s a dream come true and a work that was made with love from everyone involved in the process of creating it. It’s time to share it with all of you!
Studio and production
Where was the album recorded? I read you recorded it together with Dee Theodorou.
Nancy: The album was completely recorded at ICAVE Studio by Dee Theodorou, who is the singer of Illusory band and my duet in the opening track of the album.
Did the pandemic restrictions put any obstacles in the way of the recordings?
Nancy: Unfortunately, yes. We had to postpone our recordings for months due to the lockdowns and restrictive orders, but in the end it is the happiness of these studio moments that remain in our hearts.
Where did the guests record their parts?
George: The violin and cello parts were both recorded at ICAVE Studio, while the male vocals on the song “Reflections of Myself” were recorded at the home studio of singer Michalis Artz.
George, as producer of the album, what do you feel are your strongest feature as producer?
George: The sound of Fortis Ventus was a vision I had from a young age, specifically, from the age of fourteen when I discovered symphonic metal. I find that the strongest feature as a producer is my persistence in distinct and identical sounds that I wanted to use, something that I try to evolve day by day more and more.
Yiannis Petroyiannis is listed as co-producer, what was his part in the work with the album?
George: Mr. Petroyiannis is a man who immediately understood what I had in my mind for the final mix of the album! His knowledge and experience as a sound engineer and producer gave the final result I wanted! Before I even told him what I had in mind in our sessions, he was already doing it. We were like one – a rare thing that you do not find easily. I believe that without his help, we would not have this result and I thank him very much for that.
What did the rest of the band think of having you as producer?
Nancy: Speaking for Gregory too, I must say that we could not have a better producer for this album. George had a very clear vision of the production he wanted even from scratch and that was very helpful and it lead us to the result of this sound!
Petroyiannis also did the mix/mastering, did any members of the band take part in that process?
George: Yes, Nancy and I took part in the process too, as we are very picky and hard to please and we had to have the control over every single detail of this album and its production.
How long did it take overall to record the album?
Nancy: Due to COVID, it took us almost a year and a half, including the breaks caused by the lockdowns.
Was it hard to find a label that wanted to release the album?
George: Let’s say it was challenging. Given the circumstances, many labels were already full of new releases from the past couple of years, which were being held back of COVID and although we had many positive responses on releasing our album, many of them would have to postpone it for even longer, because there were just too many artists already waiting in the line to be published.
Did you send out demos to labels in order to get their attention?
George: There were some record labels we sent demos to, but the collaboration with Rockshot Records came at the right time and so we did not have to send many.
What made you pick Rockshots Records?
George: Rockshots Records was actually suggested to us by the band Illusory, which had already a great and efficient collaboration with them and we wanted to give it a shot as it is indeed a great label!
Are you happy with the work RR have put into the album and the band so far?
Nancy: Definitely, the work they have put into our album is significant and we are very lucky to be able to work with them.
The album is released on CD and as download. Do you have plans of releasing it on vinyl? Is the band a fan of the vinyl format?
George: Vinyl was and will be the highest quality source of listening to music! Every musician wants the result of their work to be heard in the highest quality, so that the listener can receive the vibes in each of their cells. So yes, it’s something to really consider for the near future.
What do you prefer to listen to, CD, download or vinyl?
George: The use of the computer and the immediacy of the streaming platforms, unfortunately have flooded most of our generation, but nothing compares to vinyl! If I could, I would have everything in LPs.
Nancy: Nowadays, social media seems to have taken over, so even if a band has a self-released album, with the right moves and promotion it can get the same amount of attention as a one under a label. On the other hand, being under the wings of a truly good label is always a pro, as your music can be reached by many more people and spread very quickly worldwide and open doors for the future.
Do you know how many streams the album has had on Spotify?
George: There is a great response from the world, much more than we expected and we are very happy with it!
Why isn’t your EP isn’t available on Spotify?
Nancy: Soon it will be available on all streaming platforms.
You have a Bandcamp site where fans can buy the album as well as the EP. How many copies have you sold so far via the site?
Nancy: We have sold a few already and it’s going really well so far!
Is it important for the band to have Bandcamp page?
George: Absolutely! Bandcamp is a platform that has been around for several years, a platform that supports artists and their music, a platform that people use a lot to discover new musicians and bands!
Do you see any difficulties in the fact that the band is based in Greece and the label in Italy?
Nancy: Not at all! The cooperation and communication are perfect and nothing would be different or easier if the label was Greek.
Personal with Nancy Mos
How long have you been singing?
Since I was a little child. I remember singing and performing for friends as early as 4! Later at school I was in choirs of course, and then in adult choirs. I haven’t stopped singing since! hahaha
Have you taken any vocal lessons?
I began taking vocal lesson at the age of 20 and a few years later I got my classical singing diploma.
I read that you studied at the Nikolaos Mantzaros Conservatory between 2013-18 and at Art Music School Fakanas. How was that and what was the best with being in school?
Nancy: It was a dream that came true for me. I met amazing teachers that helped me to evolve to the singer I am today! Being also a speech language therapist, I always wanted to also study opera and musical and get my degree, so that I can teach other people too, combining my knowledge for the phonetic mechanism along with my love of singing.
That means you’re a trained classical/opera singer?
Yes, I am actually!
Do you play any instruments?
I play the piano and a little bit of the accordion.
Any plans later on being an opera singer?
I used to sing as a professional opera singer in choirs but I think I’m more drawn to the metal scene and its energy. Who knows what the future will bring? It’s surely a door I haven’t closed.
When did you discover metal and hard rock? Which are your favorite bands?
I was listening to nu-metal in high school, but at the age of 15 I discovered OCEANBORN and that was it. I entered a whole new world and in just one year I knew almost every single band with female operatic vocals. Since then, I’ve been a huge fan of symphonic metal bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation, Therion, and so many more out there that need to be heard more!
Besides the band you’re also working as a music teacher and a vocal coach; tell us about your work?
I love teaching so much. It’s like doing what you love on a daily base and getting paid for it. I mean what more can someone ask for? The joy and the enthusiasm when they hit “that” note, or being able to sing a song they thought they never could, just fill me with happiness. I enjoy every single minute of a session with each of my students and I feel really blessed for that.
I have to say I was blown away by your amazing voice when I first heard VERTALIA. What’s the most fun thing with singing in a metal act?
Thank you very much! I’m really honored! Everything from rehearsing, then recording or playing live with the band is just an amazing experience for me. The connection and the energy between us is something magical and I love that!
You made guest appearances on one song with the band Fovitron and two songs with Illusory. Is it fun to sing with other acts besides Fortis Ventus?
I had the best time recording for both Fovitron and Illusory! It is always an honor and great pleasure to be called by other bands to participate and be a part in their music and I love doing it.
Past present and future
Why doesn’t the band have a website?
Nancy: It’s coming really soon actually. We’re working on it at the time being!
You do have a Facebook page. Who runs that?
George: Yes, we do have a Facebook page that is run by all of us.
Currently you’ve got about 4,500 followers on FB. Do you think that number is going to increase with the release of VERTALIA?
George: We surely hope so!
Cave Of Glass (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)
Parts of the material you upload on FB is in Greek. Why not only stick to English so that foreign fans understand what you’re posting etc.?
George: For us is very important to keep a connection with our Greek fans too. After all our base is in Greece and we like having posts in Greek too, although most of them are in English for obvious reasons. hahaha
Why is there so little info about the band on FB? There isn’t much at all about the members, shows, pictures, etc.?
Nancy: There’s all the info that is needed at least at this point. Since the band had a big pause during 2018 and 2020 we weren’t able to play many live shows, but we surely planning to play in the near future.
Is the band active on other social forums besides FB?
Nancy: Yes! Anyone can follow us on our official Instagram page and YouTube channel.
Do you get a lot of mail from fans? What’s the most common questions you get?
Nancy: We most usually get messages on our FB page asking for autographs or merch. The most common question we get, is whether we are going to release the novel George wrote, that the album is based on.
Do you have plans to add a permanent bass player and/or drummer?
George: Definitely this is the goal. We want to become a musical family and work all together as one and this is why we take that matter very seriously. We want the people that will join us to share the same dream and passion with us and not someone that just came to play in a band. Until then, we are working with two amazing musicians as session players for our upcoming live shows.
Does the band have any festivals booked for the summer?
George: No, but we are planning some gigs for Fall.
Would you like to head out on tour or do some shows to meet the fans and to air your music?
George: Definitely! That is something we long to do. We hope that we will get the chance soon, unless COVID change our plans again.
The video to “Cave of Glass” on YouTube has about 30,000 hits so far. What can you tell us about the video shoot?
Nancy: It was an AMAZING experience for all of us. It was our first video clip and we were thrilled! The whole process was absolutely great and we had a blast working with this talented crew. The video shooting was completed in two days and in two different locations, both of which were absolutely mesmerizing and spooky, just like the song!
Any plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs from the album?
Nancy: It’s something we really want to do.
Are you currently working on material to the next album?
George: We have been working on some new songs already, but right now we really want to focus on playing VERTALIA live and enjoy it with the world, until we hide in our caves again to start composing new music. hahahaha
What’s the plans for the band during 2022?
George: Live, live and again live shows definitely. As many as we can possibly can.
As soon as the COVID restrictions was lifted a war broke out in Ukraine. What’s your thought regarding the war, do you have any friends that have been affected by it?
Nancy: It’s a tragic situation that has once again affected all of the world at least at a financial level. We feel deep sadness and are sorry for the Ukrainian people. We really pray and hope that this will end very soon. Neither of us have any friends or relatives in Ukraine, but that does not make it less painful for us to watch all the horror happening from a safe distance.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Fortis Ventus yet?
George: Please do listen and tell us what you think!
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy VERTALIA?
George: What I want to say to readers is that they will not regret buying our album! Firstly, because when you hit the play button, you can close your eyes, sit back and be sure that you will travel to magical worlds. Secondly, I think that many will identify with the human worries and emotions that they will acquire through music and lyrics and thirdly, they will get to know us better through it!
Well, that was all for me and Metal-Rules.com this time around. Thanks a lot for taking the time making the interview and I wish you all the best in the future. Do you have final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Nancy: It was a pleasure! Thank you so much for having us. In conclusion, I just want to say a huge thank you to each and everyone of you that supports our music and I hope to meet as many of you as I can on our live shows in the near future! Till then take care and give a listen to our magical world VERTALIA!