ALTHEA: Sum of All Memories

Althea

Progressive Rock experimentalists from Milan in Italy, Althea, are scheduled to release their debut album Memories Have No Name in January. The first single titled “Revenge” is available now. Prog Sphere talked with the band about their mission, what Memories Have No Name represent for them and what it brings, and more.

Define the mission of Althea.

Defining a specific mission for a band is actually never easy, it could sound very much like a business thing!  We are five people linked together by the passion for music and art as one of the main ways of expression. We see our role as entertainers and storytellers, not very much more – we don’t share big political or social messages with our music. Our songs are vehicles for sharing emotions, feelings and our view of music in general.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming full-length debut album Memories Have No Name and the themes it captures.

It was a pretty long process, sometimes very smooth and sometimes quite rough. Dario (our guitar player) started creating the concept and the first pillars and the ideas behind the album, and demoed all the music. We then met together and discussed/worked on the arrangements and developed additional ideas.

After most of the music was written, Alessio (our singer) and Dario worked on melodies and lyrics, sometimes together and sometimes separately. Sometimes we had completely different views on how the vocal parts should have sounded and we had to start again from scratch. Other times we simply had an instinctive try and recorded some vocals and realized that the first take was exactly what we had in mind!

What is the message you are trying to give with Memories Have No Name

It’s probably very hard to define a single message we want to give with MHNN because… it’s simply a personal and not a unique one!

The concept behind MHNN is that, as human beings, one of the main intangible assets that constitute us are our “memories.” We see each person as a sum of all the memories that come from experience. But experience is not always as factual as one would think, the same experience shared with other people could be seen in a different way and lead to a completely different memory. That’s why “Memories Have No Name” — there’s no absolute memory, the understanding of which should lead to a deeper acceptance of ourselves and the others in our lives.

The story develops around the life of two characters, John (a creative, instinctive and emotional man) and Dalia (a rational and pragmatic woman), whose views on life and relationships are completely influenced by the wall of memories that constitute each of them, leading to misunderstandings and incomprehensions. In the end (which is also the last song on MHNN) they found themselves reflecting on the same needs and feelings and start a process of acceptance of the other, from a regression from all regrets (the first song on MHNN). By all means, MHNN is a “circular” concept.

Given this, the five of us have simply our own different message from this concept, and we also believe that the listener should develop its one message out of it.

Althea - Memories Have No Name

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

We normally document music directly within some DAW or app. As the recording process usually starts with an initial idea which can come from a guitar line, a piano theme or a vocal melody, Dario tracks it down on Logic X and starts arranging all the other instruments around it. Sometimes we notate ideas on the stave, but we have to say nowadays, recording for us most of the times is the main way. It’s good since often some demoed parts end up in the final album.

For vocal melodies we use very basic methods. We record vocal ideas with what we have around, most of the times a mobile phone, which nowadays can be pretty convenient and easy to use “on the fly.” But sometimes Alessio love to simply keep on singing it in his head so that he can keep them there and alive.

For lyrics we use the old school method: handwritten on a piece of paper or a black notebook dedicated to all our lyrics and thoughts…

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

MHNN is a concept album and therefore the flow of the pieces follows the story that’s behind it. So in this case, yes they are.

But it is also important to never forget that for us music is an art. And art is a combination of rational planning, technique but also emotional inputs and inspiration. When approaching a record like this, we believe the key is to have a clear image in mind and try to associate the music to it, the lyrics and the feelings, so that the outcome is the best possible soundtrack for the story behind it. Music and Lyrics are only the instrument to carry the listener through the journey, providing them with the best words that could be associated to that scene…and the image is the right moment for the music and words to be.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

The recording process followed pretty much the standard multi track recording process.

As said before, Dario wrote down the music and the concept idea and demoed all the instrumental parts in Logic. In some cases, some demoed parts ended up in the final  album. We then recorded drums (Sergio), all the basses (Fabry), electric and acoustic guitars and keyboards/piano and synths (Marco and Dario). Lastly we recorded vocals, including the spoken parts by our guest friends Anna, Natalie and Roddy. We recorded a massive amount of tracks and different sounds, with a lot of layers to create the ambience and atmosphere we wanted for each song.

After all the parts where recorded we went to the MoonHouse studios in Milan for electric guitars re-amping, mixing and mastering with the help of our friend Danilo Di Lorenzo, who has an immense experience and knows exactly how we wanted it to sound like.

How long Memories Have No Name was in the making?

The writing itself was fairly quick, a couple of months or so. All in, from the beginning of the writing to the end of the recording sessions It took slightly more than 1 year, given the fact that we all have other jobs which involve a lot of traveling…The good thing is that MHNN was recorded in our personal studio, and therefore we had the luxury to take the time we needed to produce it and record it the way we wanted.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

When we started the writing process we did not have any specific artist in mind, the whole music should have been written around the story. However we all have our influences, which range from famous progressive bands like Rush, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson, Anathema, Fates Warning, only to name some, to more extreme metal or electronic, ambient or experimental music. On MHNN you can also hear some dubstep influences in the vein of Korn or some more cinematic parts. So we cannot say you won’t hear our main influences, but on the other side you can also feel the variety of the proposal.

Althea from Milan, Italy

What is your view on technology in music?

When it comes to producing albums, we think technology on one side it’s making life easier, especially in the writing and demoing phases… As said before it helps a lot with tracking down your ideas and developing a preliminary idea if what you are building can make sense or if you have to adjust some parts. You cannot avoid to admit that modern ways of recording help you to be faster sometimes and allow you to work in different places at the same time…which can be very useful when for different reasons you don’t have the time and space to work together at the same time. Also, in times when budgets for recording are so limited, the use of technology is sometimes the only way to produce full albums.

One con is that the abuse of all the available technology (given the wide offering) is of course that you can make an album sound perfect but fake, which could lead to a complete disaster when played live.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

In general, we think that music for us is “only” a way of expression and of delivering messages and emotions. The concept behind our songs is mainly intimate or a simple story – as said, we don’t deliver political messages with our songs and therefore one could simply say that our music is basically pure entertainment. Sometimes it’s simply a way to spend the 4 or 5 minutes of a song (in the case of MHNN around 50 mins!) in a good way, restraining from reality and daily routine, or getting it as the soundtrack for the significant moments in your life.

If you prefer, we believe that the purpose of the listener could be very different from the one we had when writing our music.

What are your plans for the future?

We are now starting with promotional activities for the release of MHNN, which are keeping us busy enough. [laughs] The first single, “Revenge,” is out now and we are working on the release of the second one, even if probably single songs are not the best way of enjoying MHNN. Obviously after the release of the album the plan is to bring around MHNN and to play it live. We are working also on some visual stuff to accompany the music. We don’t want to share too much for the moment, stay tuned, follow us and you will not be disappointed!

Stay in touch with Althea via the band’s Facebook page.

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