And now something for a change. Serpentyne from London call themselves a Symphonic Rock bands, but in my opinion they are definitely more than that. Although the Symphonic Rock influences are there, the group fronted by charismatic singer Maggie-Beth Sand has quite a lot to offer under the hood. With influences that vary all the way from Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin to Nightwish, Within Temptation and film music, the sextet has just launched their third studio album entitled ‘The Serpent’s Kiss.’
We talked with Maggie-Beth and Mark Powell, who plays hurdy-gurdy, an instrument that you don’t come into too often when it comes to heavy music.
Define the mission of Serpentyne.
MAGGIE-BETH: I’ve always enjoyed fantasy novels and films, such as Tolkien’s books, “Game of Thrones,” etc. The idea was to bring that fantasy element into the music of Serpentyne.
Tell me about the creative process that informed your new album “The Serpent’s Kiss” and the themes it captures.
MAGGIE-BETH: The first two albums, Stella Splendens, and Myths and Muses, followed the mediaeval-world music themes, though we also used modern instruments, dance and dubstep loops, etc. For The Serpent’s Kiss, we moved into the heavier rock area, with the addition of Matthew Damian’s guitar. We still kept the mediaeval-world sound though, as Mark’s hurdy-gurdy is a prominent part of many of the songs, and we also stuck to the mythical-historic theme, with songs like “Jeanne d’ Arc” (Joan of Arc) and the title track, “The Serpent’s Kiss” which is based on the story of Anthony and Cleopatra.
What is the message you are trying to give with The Serpent’s Kiss?
MARK: When we chat to audience members after a gig, they often say that the music takes them into a different world. Rather than trying to communicate a message, we like to think that this is what we do.
How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
MARK: Our songwriting is always a joint effort- often Maggie will suggest an idea to me, I’ll write a tune, then she’ll come up with some ideas on how to improve it, so the end result may be quite different from how it started off. Or she’ll write something which gives me ideas. Looking back at all the songs, it’s impossible sometimes, to remember which one of us wrote which bits of each.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
MARK: Yes, very much- we both feel that light and shade are important parts of any piece of music- it must be dynamic, and flow, going up and down in the right places.
Describe the approach to recording the album.
MARK: Maggie and I have compatible home recording studios, where we record quite a lot using Apple Mac/Logic setups. For the drums and guitar recording, we used a Presonus system in a local studio. We then transferred the Presonus recordings to Logic for mixing. For mastering, we always use Air Studio in Hampstead, London, as their mastering room has everything!
How long The Serpent’s Kiss was in the making?
MAGGIE-BETH: Altogether, two years, but not working on it every day! We were also gigging a lot during that time, and the songs developed as a result of playing them live.
Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?
MAGGIE-BETH: A mixture: Led Zeppelin, Within Temptation, Pink Floyd, Delain, film music, and choral works such as Carl Orff‘s “Carmina Burana.”
What is your view on technology in music?
MARK: The expansion of computer-based home-recording technology is great, but it is important not to go down the same route as everyone else, by just using pre-formatted loops and sounds. Always try to create your own sound and musical identity; the purpose of the technology is to capture that.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
MARK: If our music makes people feel good, that’s great! If music in general can cross borders and break down barriers, whether it’s our or not, that is wonderful!
What are your plans for the future?
MAGGIE-BETH: We are now writing songs for the next one, which should be released towards the end of 2017 or early 2018. We have several festival and other show dates lined up this year, with more coming in.