Progressive metal band Xeno re-leased their EP Reconstruction not too long ago. We sent the band some questions about the EP and their time since their latest album Sojourn. Read the full interview below.
For people that don’t know Xeno yet (not likely with 10k followers on facebook), what sets you apart from other progressive metal bands?
This is a difficult question to answer! We are obviously extremely biased toward our own work, so it’s difficult to know exactly how a listener would experience our music. Perhaps you should ask a fan! But I guess you could describe us as a band who uses a baseline of death-metal to create a palette with various influences, we do what we like best personally. But it’s difficult to put the finger on what is the basis to our music, we prefer the term genre-fluid. We think what sets us apart from other progressive metal bands is the feel/emotions we try to infuse into our music. We are all so sensitive…
Jokes aside, most of the time progressive metal is technical, complicated and instrumentally impressive, which we love of course from a musician’s point of view! With our music, we try to keep the emotion and personal experience intact and try not to lose ourselves in the technical aspect, which is difficult at times. We try to keep the listener engaged by going unexpected ways and taking the time for certain ‘calm’ or ‘ethereal’ passages, which keeps the storytelling intact in a song. But, then again, we might be wrong, as a lot of people say different things about us. We’re simply happy people are listening to our music, and it doesn’t matter to us what people think about it to be honest. We create something that matters to us, something that we love, and if other people love it too, then that is just an extra (very welcome) bonus.
It has been a while since Sojourn, what has Xeno been up to in the past two years?
We’ve been sitting on our asses drinking beer and playing videogames.
Just kidding, we are always busy, especially with our latest release ‘Reconstruction’ and our offline and online presence. Obviously, we practice a lot, and try to improve in every aspect we can. We even record every rehearsal to judge ourselves and improve where needed! Needless to say, this can be very confrontational and uncomfortable at times..
When Sojourn came out, the whole country went into lockdown two weeks later, which meant that Sojourn ‘went to sleep’ so to speak. Since the pandemic has died down, we’ve been working very hard to regain momentum which we didn’t have with Sojourn. As a result, Reconstruction was born. We hope we can storm the stages riding the wave which this EP has facilitated, and to make ourselves known among the local and international metal scene.
Since a few months, we’ve added a new powerhouse to our ranks. His name is Vincent Schulte, and he has become our new clean singer and 3rd guitarist. Edwin has taken a step back as clean vocalist to give Vincent a place amongst our band. Our next release will feature him regarding the clean parts, and we hope everyone loves him as much as we do! He certainly is something special.
How was recording this album different from recording Sojourn?
It was quite similar actually! The only difference is that we had a dedicated drummer in our ranks, and not a session drummer. This means that Lars has had a larger influence in the drum parts compared to Sojourn, as all songs (except Sojourn) were written by Richard van Leeuwen (ex Within Temptation, currently Absolutely floyd). This EP was recorded at home for the largest part, and mixed by Gyan Klomp (a close friend of ours).
Writing this EP, however, seemed to be more challenging than Sojourn. With Sojourn, we could do everything we wanted, as nothing was already written and we had full creative freedom. With Reconstruction, it was difficult to write something new while keeping the essence of the tracks intact. This proved to be a hurdle none of us really anticipated, and caused quite a few heated discussions… Everything is fine between us though, not to worry, heated discussions are a vital part of being in a band with 6 writing members!
On your website you mention revisiting your debut album and rewriting three tracks, what made you choose these three?
We chose Gift because it is a banger live. We’ve played this song in the past, and were always astounded by the response of the crowd. We wanted to redo the recordings and mix and add it to our current Spotify discography.
Pillars and Columns are sisters in Atlas Construct. These two songs are really connected, and we thought they reflected the concept of Reconstruction best. After Gift, these two songs were most popular as well. Columns reflected our first steps into progressive metal, and Pillars provided a very strong basis for a killer progressive/black/death metal song. And as we love the concept of 3 songs, we kept it at that. An EP is an opportunity for experimentation, and we wanted to try to give our former days glory by rewriting these songs, and producing them with the quality they deserve. During this writing process, we also started creating new material, including Vincent, which will be released when we deem the record finished. Is this a cliffhanger?
Did the corona pandemic impact your music or your way of songwriting, if so, how?
To be honest, it didn’t change a lot. As we are based in Middelburg and Amsterdam, the distance forces us to write via the internet. Using our DAW, but also Guitar Pro, we write parts, share it, and continue the pieces of music someone else has written. Perhaps the pandemic has added more frustration to the emotional aspect of our sound, but in the core of our writing processes, nothing has changed.
Do you all contribute to the songwriting or is there one person that takes the lead?
We all contribute. Of course, there are certain facets of our music which usually come from certain people, but we like to see ourselves as a democratic band. Everyone has a voice and something to say about our product, and in doing so, we create something diverse and special as a result of a union of visions of 6 people. We think utilizing everyone’s mind has a larger chance at creating something original, rather than following one person’s view.
What bands are you influenced by when writing new music?
Oh, the list goes on and on and on and on and on. We try to extract inspiration from everything, not only music, but photography, poetry, videogames, TEDtalks, nature, philosophy, psychology, news, politics, food, animals, memes etc. But if we had to name a few bands, our choice would fall on:
Opeth, Periphery, Tesseract, Persefone, Lamb of God, Haken, Leprous, Porcupine Tree, Thy Art Is Murder, One Hundred Thousand, Polyphia to name a few.
There are also quite a few acts which don’t necessarily fall under the ‘metal’ archetype which influence us. But we will keep them to ourselves: except Queen. They are the GOAT.
You’ve had a few gigs since the release of your latest album, Sojourn. How was it to be back on stage?
It has been awesome. We love playing live, and we see ourselves as a live band more than a band who (just) puts out records. When we play live, it all comes to life and comes together. We can put our full emotions into our music, our full focus into what we play, and bring our energy to the crowd: which is a lot as we have at least 3 ADHD diagnoses in our group! Perhaps we are mistaken, but the live experience can often be more immersive than the record. The combination of heavy music with clean parts, progressive influences, storytelling and personal feel seems to work even better when performed live. And seeing the reaction of the crowd is priceless. This is what we live for!
You’ve released an official video for ‘Gift’. Did the livestream gig for Sojourn prepare you for that video?
In a way it has. The livestream gig was a first (big) step for us into the modern world of streaming and live digital performing. We learnt about the importance of multiple camera angles, stage presence and proper editing. When we did the videoclips for the EP, we knew what we wanted to bring to the table in terms of energy, stage performance and moves. The videos were shot without an audience, which made it difficult to stay in ‘the zone’. But after our live experiences, recordings and video material of gigs, we were prepared for our own pitfalls and our strong points. But there are always unexpected issues. A week before we had the video shoot, our lead-guitarist Edwin dislocated his shoulder. He was in a sling and only took it off to perform the video. He had a hard time during these shoots, but luckily it doesn’t show. If that isn’t metal, we don’t know what is!
What other Dutch bands would you recommend?
There are so many talented bands in the Netherlands. We feel blessed to be a part of the local metal community with bands like Crown Compass, Distant, Reformist, Changing Tides, Enma, Endeavor, Dispelled, Radeloos///Ziedend, Dear Mother, Godsfarm to name a few. These guys are definitely worth checking out!
Where do you want to be with Xeno a year from now?
We want to be knees deep into our new writing process, with new challenges, ideas, concepts and ways to write music. Starting now, we are embarking on another musical journey, venturing into the great unknown with a new set of tools and skills. We hope we’ll be playing shows regularly and going on the adventures that come with playing said shows.
Also, up to our ears in cocaine and hookers. Rock’n’roll baby!!
Thanks so much for this interview!
Thank you for your time and feature on your website!
Take care and stay happy,