The members of the French Black Metal band Houle took the time to answer my questions about the release of their first eponymous EP.
Hello and first of all thank you for your time! How would you present the band Houle without using the usual « Metal » labels?
Houle: Thank you for giving us some of your time to introduce Houle. We are a band drawing its inspiration from fear and admiration that the ocean brings to mankind. Our music is like an invitation to travel to icy and tumultuous waters. We like to think of it as an odyssey where Man must face forces that can overtake him, but sometimes choose to leave him in peace to contemplate the beauty of the Ocean. Without putting a label on it, it is a music that wants to be immersive in order to make the listener feel many emotions: anguish, fear, rage, peace or even appeasement…
Where does the name of the band come from, and how do you relate it to the music you play?
Houle: The name of the band was born from Crabe’s mind, who grew up surrounded by the sea. In Paris, he tried to gather musicians around this name to create the concept that is Houle today. For us it fits quite well to our music, a swell is by definition a movement of the sea created by a distant wind. We wanted a music which could be both peaceful and virulent and play around this ambivalence. The marine theme is also omnipresent, the travel across continents, the odyssey myths, sailors who left for the sea and their families who stayed on land. We wanted to tell a sea far from the usual Lovecraftian story and refocus on men and nature as an all-powerful force.
Your first EP, Houle, is about to be released, how do you feel about it?
Houle: Our first EP was recently released, at the beginning of the project we didn’t expect to have such a buzz around our music. We are all newcomers to the scene, and we wanted to play with the codes and music we liked. We are very happy that the recipe surprises and pleases most people. We made some choices that could be found divisive, especially on the visual and scenography. And for a first try we are extremely proud of the result.
How did the composition process go? As well as the writing of the lyrics?
Houle: This album was built as the different members arrived, so it has undergone a lot of evolution according to the influences of each. For the moment Crabe has presented the skeletons of the songs that we had to arrange and flesh out, each one bringing the musicality of his instrument and the particularity of his own technical abilities. For the next album, we learned to work with much more cohesion beforehand. The skeletons are now worked on in duo with Grey Gaast and Crabe, and the whole band has a prior vision of what is being built. The same goes for the lyrics, the project took a long time to find a person to fill the vocal position. When Adsagsona arrived, Le Continent, Au Loin La Tempête and Sous l’Astre Noir had already been written by Vikser and Crabe. She only had to work on the sound and interpretation of these tunes. However, she was given carte blanche on the lyrics and vocal parts of La Dernière Traversée, making it a much more tortured piece than the others.
What can you tell me about the creation of the artwork, which reminds me a lot of an engraving? How did the collaboration with the artist go?
Houle: Laure Jeandet made the cover, an artist and a very good friend of ours. The work is indeed a linocut, a technique where a piece of leather is engraved to create a stamp. This gives the imperfections and granularity in the final result. When we commissioned the cover, we were inspired by the great Greek Odyssey frescoes, and we wanted something that would shine through in that style. This technique allowed us to make new prints of the stamp, we made 15 of them which will soon be available on our Bandcamp!
We notice a great diversity in the tracks, especially on La Dernière Traversée which mixes a Post-Black-oriented saturation with a very soft final and almost Prog influences, how do you manage to keep a balance in your compositions?
Houle: In the beginning, the band was more Atmospheric/Post-Black oriented. This has changed a lot as the project has matured. Currently we tend more towards the incorporation of Melodic/Atmospheric parts, the goal is that each part is complementary and makes the piece evolve in the journey that it proposes. I imagine that La Dernière Traversée is the perfect example of this will to immerse the public in an environment, to take it with him on a lonely boat in prey to abandonment.
About vocals, I also notice a contrast between intense screams, some rare clean vocals, and some very interesting variations. How was the work done on the voice placements?
Houle: Adsagsona, who does the vocals, arrived quite late in the process of creating the EP. The vocal parts had already been partly imagined by Crabe and Vikser (except for La Dernière Traversée which she completely reworked), so she worked a lot on playing with different tones of voice in order to give the different depths that the songs required. One step was extremely important in the vocal process, during the recording of the album Adsagsona was coached by Jessy Vignolles (Exist in Ruin, Syndro-syS, NzgL). She really helped us to have a close eye from the outside as a confirmed singer on scene and to take our vocal abilities to the maximum.
You have recently signed with Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions, how did they convince you and accompany you for the release of the album?
Houle: Actually they didn’t really need to convince us, we directly accepted when we knew they wanted to start a collaboration with us. Their help was extremely precious, at first they helped us a lot to develop our imagery and our scenography. They gave us contacts to make our logo evolve, used their network to develop our communication and offered us to play as openers for Grima in Paris and in Nantes. Without them the album would clearly not have had as much impact and would certainly have made less … waves!
The band was created in 2021, right during the pandemic. Did this period play in any way on the band?
Houle: For Grey Gaast, Vikser and Adsagsona this period was like many an opportunity to get back into music. Without these lockdowns they would certainly not have sought to join a musical project and Houle would not be what it is today. Crabe and Zephyr were already working on the project, but they were looking to develop it: so you could say that the pandemic allowed Houle to find itself.
Do you already have plans for the future of the band? Whether it’s for live shows, or even something else?
Houle: An album is in the works, we’re looking to record it for the end of 2023. Two dates are also announced as support for Grima in Paris and Nantes on January 6th and 8th, 2023. We have our agenda open, if anyone is looking to book us we will consider the date with great interest. We are also planning to expand our set design, those who saw us on our last three dates in Paris can testify to the fact that we give a particular importance in expanding our show from one date to the next!
My first contact with Houle was your show at the Klub with Groza, and I had already noticed a worked visual identity (sailors, black marks on the face…). Do you also have plans to accentuate this side even more? What would be your ultimate goal in this respect?
Houle: Thanks for the review you published after this concert. The show with Groza was the first one we did with this visual identity, but as we were called for a replacement 5 days before the show, everything was unfortunately not yet totally perfected at that time. We have the will to always offer more immersive concerts for the audience. We were lucky to have a theme which allows us to do a lot of things from a scenographic point of view. In this sense, we are currently working with a light engineer to develop a much more immersive aspect on our dates. We were also able to find some elements of decor here and there, so we still have a lot of DIY to make everything consistent with our universe.
What is your view on the current French scene? What are the French bands you think are essential to listen to in 2022?
Houle: That’s a very subjective question! There are some artists that touch us differently within the group. Vehemence is unanimous in our opinion, even if the band is not at its beginnings. What a pity not to be able to enjoy them live! Otherwise, Silhouette‘s album is very beautiful, and they are still a very young project! Congratulations to them!
Are there any bands or musicians you’d like to collaborate with, whether for one track or more?
Houle: For now, it’s a bit early for us to think about possible musical collaborations. We already want to succeed with our next album, and it’s already a complicated job to be satisfied with our own musical identity! In Houle, we also put a point of honor to be able to reproduce on stage what we offer in studio. So a collaboration would go against this principle, but maybe in the future, with a little more maturity, we will think about working with other artists?
I suppose that like many bands, young or not so young, you can’t live from your music, but what are your jobs and hobbies?
Houle: In the band Grey Gaast has just finished his studies in embedded systems, Zephyr is a computer engineer, Vikser is a nuclear engineer, Crabe is a data analyst and Adsa is an acoustician. You could say that music is the main passion for all of us, but we also have big fans of science fiction, linguistics, depression, insomnia and hops!
Is there an artist you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for a track, an album, an artwork…
Houle: Musically, not yet, as explained above! As for the visual, I think there would be some like Adam Burke who we don’t introduce anymore… His work on albums like Aureole’s Aurora Borealis is magnificent according to us. However we haven’t thought about our next artwork for the future album yet. We’ll be able to know who we’re getting closer to once we’ve decided on an artistic direction for the album!
If I asked you which French dish you could compare Houle‘s music, which one would you choose ? Why would you choose this one?
Houle: Mussels and French fries are the obvious choice. It’s marine, it’s better hot, you don’t need any experience to make it but when it’s well cooked it’s a delight!
Last question: which bands would you like to tour with? I’ll let you create a tour with three bands, plus Houle as an opener.
Houle: Houle – Moonlight Sorcery (if they consider playing live, their first album is amazing) – Forteresse – Immortal.
Thanks again for your time, last words are yours!
Houle: Thanks to you for your time, your patience and your support to the band!