Good day Sick Sad World! How are you guys doing these days?
Hi all! Things are not bad at all. We’re being interviewed just after the Hellfest weekend (the festival takes place 30 minutes from our hometown) so we are obviously in great moods after seeing numerous excellent concerts. For the group things are going great. The album release has gone really well, with lots of positive feedback and articles written about it. We are lacking a bit of action and concert dates right now, but since the album has been well-received it’s all cool.
First of all, please introduce your band and band members to our readers.
Sick Sad World is a group from Nantes in the West of France, and was created in 2007. The line-up has changed a lot, as has our sound, but since 2012 (I believe… I don’t have the dates in memory) the group has remained stable with the current line-up and produced a music style nearing ambient post-metal and post-hardcore. We are 5 in total: 2 guitarists (Erwan and Antonin), a bassist (Rico), a drummer (David) and Julien the vocalist.
I’d like to know about the formation of the band. How did you guys meet and all. Also, is there any special story behind the band title?
It’s a long-established group, created in 2007 as mentioned. There was a “pivotal” member, Gaël (who unfortunately passed away) who introduced me (Julien), Rico, Olivier and Greg, back in the day. Only Rico and I are still members. A good few people passed through the group at the start and things changed a lot. Of the current members, Antonin played with Rico and I in a different group, David is an old friend and Erwan was found through a classified ad, although we had already met him as he practiced in the same locale as us.
The name of the group comes from the animated series “Daria” on MTV, a very cynical newscast. It went well with the “punk” style of our earlier music, our “troublemaker” side, but I find that it matches even better now with current events and our more somber sound. Today, with ecology what it is, we can clearly say that this world is sick and, with this nauseating ambiance permeating everything, that she is sad. So the name remains relevant.
I expect a long reply for this one. Can you please tell us about the concept and lyrical themes of all your previous releases?
The lyrics and themes go well with the group’s name – it’s rarely very joyful! There isn’t necessarily a common theme so it would take a very long time to explain each song on each of our albums, but generally one can pinpoint broad categories. Some songs are clear stories (The Family, about the Manson Family or The Rope, which is the story of a deserter), others are more mystical (Prophecy, which relates the prophecy of Saint John of Jerusalem), others are ideas around destiny and choice (Echos, Destroy), or important causes (Battlefield, which is a metaphor for ecology or Market, about consumerism), or more personal themes (Missing Bro, about a friend’s death) and many are about madness, a subject that obviously freaks me out more than anything (Head, Old Path, White Room). It’s often depressing, melancholic, somber, but sometimes with a little light at the end of the tunnel.
Is there any special reason for choosing your music conception?
I don’t think so, it just comes down to our tastes, and not just for music but for art in general. Whether it be films, books or paintings, we find that the melancholic creations, the sad or violent ones, are often the most beautiful. Anyway, since we do not rely on the group to make money and it is not our career, we may as well do what we like. We could write shorter, more catchy tracks that might sell better, but we love music as an art-form and we love creating atmospheres and complex compositions. We prefer long tracks that allow for these elements as well as an expression of emotion.
How do you guys manage to create music at all? What challenges do you face while writing and recording an album?
We are quite slow in our composition phase, not least of all because we each have full and busy lives and can only commit a limited amount of time to the project. Our way of working is simple and classic, in our group we all compose together. The basis of the track is created by one of the guitarists, who will bring the riff/s to a practice session. From this base we begin to improvise together, this is often the most magical moment. Using these improvisations we structure the track together, all 5 of us. This obviously takes longer as everyone has their opinion and these don’t always gel, but it is a richer experience too. We rarely lack for ideas but coming to an agreement is tricky and we’ll often fiddle with and change a track many times. Afterwards, we will work on the details, the transitions and the framing. This is purely technical work, it requires a lot of concentration and it sucks! Once we arrive in the studio the tracks are finished, we “just” need to record them, except that often little surprises will still pop up. A recording studio is not the place for guesswork. Basically, all of that is 50% pleasure, 50% hard work.
“Imago Clipeata” was released on February. How was the experience working on the studio? Any funny or even sad happenings during the studio work?
We recorded with Arthur Lauth at Brown Bear Recording Studio. We already knew him well as he worked as a sound technician in several venues that we’ve played, so the studio was close to home. Because of this we were not obliged to hold a studio session with all of us holed up for weeks recording together, we were able to record instrument by instrument solo, without ever meeting up. Unfortunately that means there was little opportunity for hilarious events or juicy anecdotes. It was actually quite difficult as it’s not the way we prefer to work (playing and re-re-re-playing the same bits dozens of times). We are a creative group, not a technical one, and for us the studio is frustrating and boring. It’s assembly-line work. Nevertheless, we worked hard and progressed well.
You guys are still underground/underrated, although your music has been appreciated by the critics worldwide. What, according to you, is the reason behind it?
That’s an excellent question. A question that we often ask ourselves, so I’m going to give you a detailed response to that. When on one hand you are in the Best Album list of a Portuguese magazine, you ship cd’s to Germany and Italy, and you receive emails from Canadians about how much they loved your album and how it was the best of 2019 for them, but on the other hand you don’t even get chosen for your city’s local metal festival, you struggle to find gigs and you play in front of 30 people as soon as you perform more than an hour from home, you’ll ask yourself some questions. In our opinion the reason behind this discrepancy comes from us, from our style of music and from the French metal culture.
From us because, as I explained, the group is 12 years old but had a bad start. We gave a bunch of bad gigs and I think we still carry some of them around with us. We should have perhaps changed our name at the same time we had a big change of members. Even more recently we have occasionally played badly at some concerts that should have been more of a success. Maybe we also struggle a bit with marketing.
There is also our style of music. It’s a niche within a niche. Metal is already a musical niche, particularly in France. Post-metal (or post-hardcore, or ambient metal, or atmospheric sludge… however you’d like to call it) is one of the subgenres with the smallest fanbases. Our public, like that of many bands we enjoy, is mostly people in their thirties. You won’t see many youngsters at our concerts, nor would you at those of the headlining bands of our genre like Neurosis, Cult of Luna or Amen Ra. Unfortunately it’s the kids that are the most active, that go to the most concerts, that promote bands on social media by sharing and streaming and the youth of France are listening to metal that’s more accessible, more basic or more communal (in the sense of the group effect), like hardcore.
The last reason I can find is the unluckiness of being French. From the time of our first recording we have always received more column inches, more radio airtime, more streaming and more online sales in foreign countries than in France. Over here it’s basic and codified metal that sells, like trash or hardcore. When I see excellent groups like Ghost Brigade or Rosetta playing in front of less than 100 people here, I tell myself it’s not so strange that we play in front of 50. When you notice at Hellfest that there is a bigger crowd watching Slayer than Envy or Cult of Luna, you know that you’re not in the right category.
Can you throw some light on your past as musicians?
We have all played with several groups. Some of us still do. It has always centered around metal, punk, hardcore or saturated rock. For all of us, Sick Sad World is the group with the most potential. Most of our members have been trained in music from childhood and some, like Erwan, are multi-instrumentalists. Funnily enough, sometimes one must unlearn how to play in order to compose as one would like, to avoid falling into cliches and conveniences. Music classes don’t teach one to convey emotions.
Tell us about your favorite bands, from whom you gain inspiration. Are you having any favorite artist/band that has emerged from metal/rock soil?
We are huge consumers of music, so we like a large number of groups. As inspiration we could list Cult of Luna, Amen Ra, The Ocean or Solstafir, although it’s rare that all 5 members of Sick Sad World are 100% in agreement about a band so it’s tricky to name a single group. I think the only groups that we all agree upon are Deftones, Tool, Russian Circles, Toundra and Obscure Sphinx. If you consider all our divergent tastes you’ll discover many subgenres, like doom, post-black, stoner, hardcore… Groups like Agalloch, Monkey 3, Architects, Isis, Tephra, Tesa, Pelican, Red Sparowes, Envy, Mastodon, Kyuss or Emperor…
How is the metal scene going in your country?
I think I’ve already covered this a bit. France is not a metal country, although I suppose that depends who you compare it to. If you look at Italy or Spain then we’re not so bad, but if you consider Scandinavian countries, Germany or Canada it’s depressing. Despite all this we are lucky enough to have Hellfest, we have great venues like Le Ferrailleur in Nantes and some super groups like Year of no Light, Birds in a Row or Celeste. As I mentioned before, metal in France often remains trapped in the old cliches – trashy long-hairs in biker jackets drinking beer. A lot of the media still sees it that way because a lot of metalheads are still like that. We’re all for the cliche here, each subgenre remaining compartmentalised by it’s precise codes. Hellfest has helped enormously to change things and has offered a unique eye on metal in France, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Tell us, if you have played abroad.
No, we’d like to but we haven’t really chased it up. We have careers and some of us have families, so it’s difficult to go on the road. Performing overseas requires time, even just to travel across France. We would do it if we received a very cool and attractive proposition. The ideal for us would be to play a festival. Honestly, we haven’t really looked for dates but if something good came up we would do it with pleasure.
Are you working on any music videos, might it be videoclip or lyric video?
Yes, we are busy finalising a video for the track “The Rope”. We hadn’t budgeted for it and we didn’t want to end up making something cliched where we play in a barn, a cellar or a warehouse looking all evil, so we tried to do it ourselves. We did everything: sourcing the location, composition, editing, effects. This was time-consuming as none of us are professionals, but we have the end in sight. It should be available within the next three months and I hope it will please our fans. At least it has the advantage of being 100% DIY, original and personal.
Rapid fire section. Just for fun. So just chill, and just type the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear:
* Religion – Obscurantism
* Death – Life
* Sickness – Fear
* Drugs – Slave
* Worms – Earth
Thanks a lot for your time! It’s really nice to know more about you. Would you like to say anything to your fans and our readers?
I would also like to thank you for this interview. I’ll just say to everyone reading this: Be curious! Obviously, we want you to discover our music, but also that of many other groups. Listening to lesser known bands will sometimes leave you with a rare pearl. For my part, my best surprises have come from listening to new groups of whom I expected nothing. And I must remind you that discovering a cool track that no-one knows and introducing it to your friends will give you great cred!