INTERVIEW: Svalbard (16/03/2019)

Credit: Promo

Bristol’s Svalbard gained a notable amount of attention for their no-holds-barred second album ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’, which was released last year, and the momentum and goodwill towards the band seems like it’s very much still present.

Ahead of their headline show at London’s Boston Music Room, we spoke to vocalist/guitarist Serena Cherry about why she prefers doing support shows to headline shows, the importance of taking time when making an album, negative comments on the Internet, and which country is her favourite to tour and perform in.

DP!: How are you doing at the moment?
SC: I’m good, thanks. A little bit tired. We played Bristol last night and we DJ’ed until 2am in the morning, so it was a bit of a late one, but it was fun.

DP!: ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’ was released last year. How has the response to that album been for you?
SC: Really good. Kind of overwhelming, it’s been really positive, with loads of good reviews. It seems to have reached more people. We’ve definitely been seeing more people come to shows after we released that album, and because the lyrics are very direct and political I’ve had a lot of people get in touch with me personally and talk about how the lyrics have impacted them. So, yeah, it’s been a positive impact all around.

DP!: You’ve done a number of support tours and slots recently with Modern Life Is War and La Dispute. Has it been good to do a headline run?
SC: I prefer supporting bands because you have to worry less about filling a venue, and it’s just a little bit more fun. I think I’m one of those people who struggle with confidence, so I’m not at the stage yet where I can confidently be like, “Oh, we can headline London and it’ll be fine and loads of people will be here.” Now, I’m going, “Oh, god, no one’s going to turn up.” I prefer doing support slots, to be honest with you, but it has been really positive so far seeing the amount of people that came to Bristol yesterday. It’s been good, but it’s just more pressure.

DP!: Songs like ‘How Do We Stop It’ and ‘Expect Equal Respect’ deal with varying degrees of sexist behaviour. Do you feel that there has been more of a positive change in terms of calling out or stamping out that kind of behaviour in the scene in recent years?
SC: It’s a hard question. Recently, myself and Djamila from Ithaca came under fire on Metal Hammer. We were featured in an article that Stephen Hill wrote about women in metal, and it received 1,300 comments, most of which were negative – “Keep women out of metal” and stuff like that. So, it feels like the sexism and negative behaviour towards women in metal is still very much alive and kicking. But then, Djamila and I took to Metal Hammer to respond to these comments, which also got a load more horrible comments. The cycle never ends.

It seems the bigger that Svalbard have got and the more exposure that we’ve got, the worse the comments have got, and the worse the behaviour has got. It’s a weird one. On a more positive note, it’s great that Metal Hammer gave Djamila and I the platform to respond to these things, and to call it out, whereas ten years ago that sort of thing might have been considered a bit too inflammatory. It’s a difficult question. I’d say that there are positives, but the negativity and sexism is very much alive and kicking, and it all feels fresh to me at the moment after the whole Metal Hammer debacle. It’s a bit of a grey area.

DP!: When you wrote ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’, what did you do differently to ‘One Day All This Will End’?
SC: Not a lot. We have our bits that we like, our sounds that we like. I think we focused on it a little bit more and honed in on the songwriting aspect. I know lyrically I made a conscious decision to be very open, very blunt, and very direct about everything so that there was no questions or ambiguity about the topics that I’m singing about. That was definitely a deliberate change. Whereas ‘One Day All This Will End’ lyrically is a lot more emotional and slightly more poetic. You could read the lyrics and they’d be a lot more open to interpretation, whereas on ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’ it’s straightforward and as un-poetic as it comes. That was definitely a deliberate change.

Another difference was me doing more clean singing. I did some small bits of clean singing on the first album, and I really liked that. We had people say that they liked that aspect of things, so we tried to incorporate it a little bit more into the second album. Our only issue is that it’s really hard to do it live.

DP!: What’s next for Svalbard?
SC: We’re playing Roadburn next month, which we’re really looking forward to. We’re playing several more shows all around the UK; Manchester Punk Festival, Strange Forms Festival. We’re playing Dreadfest next week, and then in May we’re off to Japan to play After Hours Festival with Mono and Explosions In The Sky, which is going be a dream come true. Then, after that, we’ve got a few live things in the pipeline, but not confirmed yet.

We are slowly working on new material, but we write really slowly as a band. We don’t just rush things. We go over everything with a fine tooth comb and pick things apart to make sure that they’re the best that they can be. It can often take us a month to write one song, so don’t expect album number three any time soon, but it’s slowly but surely getting there. Creativity isn’t a race, we just keep working until we’re fully happy with what we’ve got.

DP!: What’s been your favourite country to tour in?
SC: My second favourite country in the entire world is the Netherlands. My actual favourite country is Japan, but we’ve not toured there yet. My favourite country to tour in is the Netherlands as well. They have these hot snack vending machines, and I basically spend all my euros on them. I just find that it’s one of those countries where I feel really at home there. It’s quite picturesque; a lovely atmosphere, lovely shows, and we’ve never played a bad show in the Netherlands. I could say the same for Germany. Germany is always fantastic and we get treated super well there. There are loads of places which have been really good.

DP!: Which band would you love to tour with who you haven’t yet?
SC: You’ve asked the wrong person that. The other guys in Svalbard would probably pick some cool bands that Svalbard would actually sound good with, but I don’t necessarily listen to bands that sound like Svalbard. I’m really into power metal, so, if I could tour with any band, from a selfish point of view, I would tour with Nightwish because I love them. I would watch them every night and it’d be a dream come true. Obviously we’re way too heavy and it wouldn’t work, but that’s the dream.

The band’s sophomore studio album, ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’, is out now through Holy Roar Records.

You can purchase the album online from the label’s official webstore (here), BandCamp (here), iTunes (here), Amazon (here), and Google Play (here).

You can keep up-to-date with the band and what they’re up to online via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.