Epica are known for creating intricate musical stories with lyrics tackling everything from philosophy to science. They’ve forged a different, signature path crafting songs that go beyond the boundaries and limits of their symphonic genre. Not content with the world of fantasy they’ve broken lyrical thresholds into the realms of philosophy, science and galaxy-wide ponderings.
Their last record, The Holographic Principal spread vast lyrical ground, addressing the human comprehension of reality and the self-indulgent, and lack of human interaction nature of social media. In 2018, they’ve embraced the challenges of language and culture barriers, with an EP finally available worldwide based on the popular Japanese manga anime series Attack on Titan.
Some members including keyboardist Coen Janssen are avid fans of the series about an enclosed city being destroyed by large human-eating creatures as the main characters fight for survival. Epica vs Attack on Titan Songs contains eight tracks, four soundtrack songs and four instrumental versions.
The first episode of season three, Smoke Signal recently premiered, with a trailer revealing the Anime’s new threat. The series began in 2009 with main characters Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert joining the army to fight after Yeager’s mother is eaten by a titan.
The idea first came through management, “I didn’t know Attack on Titan so I did some research,” vocalist Simone Simons says. It’s huge in and outside Japan. “I was quite shocked at first, trying to figure out how to make this, Epica. Its superfast. How I am gonna sing in Japanese?”
They slowed down the songs to something they could play, “It was actually impossible to play or sing it,” Simons admits. “It was the fast songs I had to record. I’m really happy we accepted this challenge because it took us out of our comfort zone. I discovered things I didn’t know I could do with my voice so I was very happy. I learned things along the way.”
Simons knows a few words in Japanese, “I can say Arigato and Moshi Moshi. I don’t sing Japanese, but we had a translator.” They were given exact lyrical translations but they didn’t fit well with the vocal lines. The flow wasn’t connecting with the lyrics so they were reworked and sent to Japan for approval. “I guess I did a good job,” Simons says.
Simons had to study up on the story, “I haven’t watched the whole series,” she admits. “Some of the guys went completely nuts, buying the whole DVD collection. I know these giants attack the city and the main characters are trying to flee fighting against these, man eating machines.” Some of the band watched all the episodes. “I watched a couple to get the gist of the story.” She prefers sci-fi over manga and anime.
The third season premiered in late July, “I think the Wings of Freedom and the Crimson Bow and Arrow are the title track intros of each episode.” If Inside These Walls was a House is for the new season along with Dedicate Your Heart.
Dedicate Your Heart! is the motivational speech on the EP, “The translation from the Japanese version was, back in the promise land,” Simons says. “They’re looking and hoping for a victory.” She’s also a fan of Wings of Freedom, “I like that song a lot and do it live still.”
They’re also working on a biographical tome called The Essence of Epica which will be available at https://epicabook.com. “We’re gonna step back from touring and write the book, take our time, delivering quality not quantity.”
While it won’t be a tell-all or their version of The Dirt, it will have band interviews with each member and as a group about the trials, challenges and tribulations of a successful touring band with stories of triumphs and sacrifices. “From my POV, I’d like to keep it as raw and real as possible.” The juicy details will be there. “Don’t want to do any finger pointing at people, but I do want to show everyone the ups and downs of our profession that not a lot of people know,” Simons says. “I don’t want to take away the magic of being a successful touring musician but, people should know we made many sacrifices and we work hard. It’s not all happy. We had some bad times and I’m willing to become more personal. It’s gonna be a big coffee table book. It’s a really nice, hard cover, filled with the good, the bad and the metal.”
According to the rumor Simons was in a death metal band prior to Epica, “It’s not true,” she clarifies. “I once visited a local rehearsal of another band but never joined them or opened my mouth to sing a tune.” She’d consider trying death metal vocals, “I don’t know. I might do it for fun, with vocal lessons. We have a growler in the band and don’t want to take his job.”
Simons considers the description of a band being ‘female fronted’ antiqued and outdated, “Back in the day it would describe the sound but now it’s says nothing other than there’s a female singer in the band,” she says. “There are so many awesome bands with female singers. It doesn’t say anything about the sound of the band.”
The Holographic Principle is a statement on reality, technology and social media, “You have to use it the right way,” Simons says. “It can become very addictive.” Though many people get their music through digital platforms, she thinks the lack of in person interaction sometimes sucks people in but it’s a good way to communicate with fans. “Fans can be more in touch with the band and we can show more behind the scenes stuff. I enjoy social media to a certain extent. Instagram’s very visual, Twitter’s short messages. I’m not a person of many words anyway.” She’s also not a fan of the post whatever you want nature of Facebook.
The Holographic Principle also took aim at technology, “It’s also about virtual reality,” Simons explains. “Devices are improving and creating our own reality. How can we be sure everything is real? Are there separate realities? Stephen Hawking said before he died that the universe is a hologram. Maybe there’s truth in it. I like to philosophize about the idea. I’m not 100% a believer that that’s true but I’m very stubborn minded.”
Their records always make you think, “It’s like a semi-conception,” Simons says. “We only have one genuine concept album The Divine Conspiracy.” The lyrics are often spiritual, political even touching on quantum physics. Guitarist Mark Jansen is the science guy, Simons is the philosopher. “I’m a bit more difficult to persuade or convince. We’re not academics or anything. Mark likes to read books and watch documentaries, he comes up with topics. Our lyrics are a big part to what Epica’s about.”
Victims of Contingency from The Quantum Enigma record had a unique lyrical narrative and video, being a fun but painful experience for Simons, “We worked with the same videographer and director that did Storm the Sorrow. We really loved that video and wanted to work with him again.” The main character’s mentally haunted by the victims he locked up. “We were all sucked dry by mosquitos in the dry heat.” A mosquito bit Simons’ middle finger and got infected. “You can see it in the video.” She enjoys the creative process of being in a band. “It’s a bonus for me to be in a band, wear crazy outfits, and makeup that I can’t do when I’m out grocery shopping.”
Overall, she minimizes her social media time, to be more productive and enjoy actual conversations with friends and family. “I’m really lazy when it comes to typing. Don’t send long messages, just call me. I sound like a whiny old grandma. I’m a Myspace girl. That makes me sound really old.” She uses her blog www.smoonstyle.com as a platform showing her growing collection of hobbies and interests including makeup and photography. The site started eight years ago from fan request.
She’d rather watch fans enjoy the performance without using social media, “I don’t like it if the whole audience is filming everything. In certain countries it’s extreme. People do it for their own pleasure or YouTube. A concert should be about enjoying the moment. Not watching it later through your screen.”
Simons plays her own soundtrack during tours, “I’ve been enjoying the latest Dimmu Borgir album,” she says. “When I got into metal I started with grunge, rock and alternative then black metal.” She started with Cradle of Filth, Old Man’s Child, Mystic Circle and Lord Belial on the symphonic side. Eonian was her go to music for the Latin American tour. “We’re gonna play with them in Belgium. I’m excited about that.” She met Shagrath years ago. “We’re gonna meet again and I’m looking forward to seeing it live.”
Attack on Titan and the Essence of Epica are the main focus for Epica in 2018, “A big thank you, to the fans and hope to see everyone in the future.”
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