Formed in 2020 from the expansion of a prior project called South Harbour, Copenhagen modern progressive metal outfit Être is preparing to release their impressive debut EP, I: Human, later this month. The first in a thematic trilogy of EPs, the five-song/30-minute outing effortlessly travels across epic post-metal atmospherics through churning, djent-like rhythms with stunningly soaring vocals all along the way—equally of interest to fans of Lacuna Coil or Tool as to listeners of more technical fare such as Animals as Leaders or Intervals, and beyond.
On the heels of mammoth lead single "Sea of Spectrum," Être now reveals I: Human's opening track—the intriguingly rhythmic, shimmeringly melodic, and surprisingly hook-laden "Perilune." Check out the music video below, followed by an interview with guitarist Alexander Varslev and vocalist Freja Ordell:
When Être was originally known as South Harbour, it seems like you collaborated with a number of guest vocalists for the debut album, A Withered World in Colour. How did the decision come about to bring Freja in as a full-time vocalist and change the name of the band to Être?
Alexander: Yes, that is correct. Back then, South Harbour was my solo project, which eventually grew into a "real" band, so to speak. Which is also the main reason why we decided to change the name: new direction, new people, and basically a new project.
Actually, the thought of having a full-time vocalist was in the works back then, but it just didn't pan out that way. Vocalists are probably the most horrible people I have ever worked with, so we picked the most tolerable one we could find—who luckily was also good at harmonies.
Freja: I knew Alexander through a mutual friend, and he was looking for a vocalist. We met at the one and only Spiritbox show in Denmark. He knew I had singing experience, so he asked me to send some clips and the rest is history. I had been wanting to join an introverted academic metal band for a while, and I love prog, so it was perfect.
How did you handle the drums on the I: Human EP, and have you had any luck in your search for a live drummer?
Alexander: As of now, we still do not have a full-time drummer. It is not a conscious decision, but we simply didn't find one who was both technically proficient and could stand us for long periods of time... yet.
We do, however, treat programmed drums very much as an instrument equal to everything else. We cater very much around writing the basic ideas, the grooves, the fills, and later humanizing them in the [digital audio workstation] as well as possible. I feel like we have "fooled" a few people along the way. But, hopefully we will find a full-time drummer before too long (call us)!
The overall sound of Être is similar to that of South Harbour, but the compositions feel more diverse yet more focused at the same time. In what ways do you feel that the songwriting has grown during the transition into Être?
Alexander: When listening back to A Withered World in Colour, I can clearly remember the state of mind and how I approached music back then. It sounds cliché, but I feel like this is a more "grown-up" version of that same project. Both Kristian (the other guitarist) and I have had more time together to write, but also matured as composers along the way.
It is definitely more coherent and structured, while still maintaining our sound and personality. This EP actually has choruses—I mean, what the fuck!? Also, Freja and I spend a lot of time writing melodies and lyrics, which puts me in a very different position than last time. Luckily, we have good working chemistry.
Freja: I think you put it very well: more diverse yet more focused. I think it's easy to hear that this EP is made by a consistent group of people rather than different vocalists. There's clearly a red thread, and yet each song has its own personality. Lyrically, they are linked together in contrast to the previous album, which was very fragmented.
We'll be premiering the EP's opening track, "Perilune." I haven't seen the music video yet, but provide some background information on this particular song; as well as the video and what it might represent.
Freja: "Perilune" is about the human tendency to always want to be better—to never be satisfied with oneself. And that can be regarding all aspects of life. So, it's basically about the inner critic that I think most of us can relate to, and then becoming aware of this pattern and starting to cultivate some compassion and understanding for oneself—cutting oneself some slack, so to speak.
The word "perilune" is an astronomical term that refers to the position of a satellite in relation to the moon. "Perilune" is when the satellite's distance to the moon is at its minimum, and "apolune" is when it's at its maximum. When I joined the band, this track (without vocals) was already named "Perilune," and although the title was up for discussion, I went with it—it was a fun challenge to make the concept into an analogy for something else lyrically. "Always close but never there." It seemed fitting, and I was passionate about the subject—oh, and space! <3
The video is more of a typical playthrough thing. I would say, the only thing that can be related to the theme is the kind of obscure scenes in between, where I'm wearing a plastic bag over my head and struggle to get free from it. The struggle represents the never-ending strive for perfection.
Alexander: "Perilune" is what we refer to as our "pop song" or our "hit," mainly because it's the only song that is not over five minutes. Structurally, it follows a fairly simple verse-chorus type of form, with a few twists along the way. For example, we felt prog enough for a mid-verse solo (thank you, Mars Volta) and an outro sweep-picking solo in the same song. As a guitar player, it is a lot of fun to play. I really enjoy the simple energy it brings, while having these moments of pure fire and shred as well.
According to your press release, you'll be self-releasing I: Human on vinyl as well, which is quite exciting. Will the vinyl also be available in February, or will that come later in the year, etc.?
Alexander: The vinyl will not be out in February (thanks, Adele). Although, we are super excited about releasing it on our own and seeing if it stirs anything up. [We're] super pumped about putting out the vinyl later on this year!
I: Human begins a trilogy of EPs that will all follow a conceptual theme. What can you share about the idea behind this theme and how you expect the remaining two EPs to unfold in the future?
Freja: The overall theme revolves around being a human. So, it's very existential and very psychologically focused. It's basically about navigating being a self-aware creature in a finite reality. But every EP will have a slightly different focus.
We dive into both dark and light corners of the human psyche, as well as how we relate to each other as people. We also cover some mental illness topics. It's an interesting journey, for sure! And if people like the first EP, they are in for a ride with the next one! Can't wait to share it.
Alexander: Instrumentally, the three EPs share the same concepts. We still explore different areas of the metal genre. However, as the lyrical themes change, the instrumental side of things follows along. The darker sides are more heavy and riff-based, while the lighter topics are more ambient and melodic.
When Freja joined the band, we started working a lot with harmonies and we found that it was really one of our/her strengths. So, we of course play to that quite a lot—it adds a lot of character and depth to our sound. If people like this first EP, they are in for a treat with the next two.