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SHEAR : “You don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself!”
Their debut album „Breaking the Stillness“ (see STALKER Review ) received quite good response. The Finnish band SHEAR wants to take new untraded paths with their music and prove once again that women in Metal can indeed kick ass (although there are still people who find it hard to believe). Alexa Leroux is a top-notch front woman, and in order to find out more about this blonde beauty and the band, just continue reading the interview with her and keyboarder Lari Sorvo.
Hello SHEAR, your debut CD “ Breaking the Stillness” was released recently. So, how does it feel? And what kind of feedback did you get so far? Lari Hello, thanks for having us! It is a great feeling to know that our album is finally out there for people to listen to. Most of the feedback has been really positive and encouraging, but obviously there has also been some negative as well. Many reviews of the album have started with the words “We thought that this would be another female-fronted symphonic metal album but it was something completely different”, and this is a good thing. We are not one of those numerous symphonic and gothic metal bands that all sound too similar, we have taken a different approach in our music. People very often assume that all female-fronted bands stick to that one genre.
Who was responsible for the songwriting, or are you doing it in teamwork? Lari When we write music we start by composing the songs in instrumental form without a vocal track. The instrumental parts are written by me, Lauri or Mikael. When all the instrumental parts of a song are finished, we add the vocal tracks. All the vocal lines and melodies are composed by Alexa. After we get the vocals down, we make final arrangements with the complete band.
I saw that Mikael produced the album himself, so what do you have to take care of, especially when producing a record on your own? Isn’t it dangerous to get somehow professionally blinkered with the songs at some point? Lari You are right that Mikael recorded the complete album, and was obviously also partly producing the album. However, almost the complete band was taking part in the producing process. It is definitely true that you get a bit blinded when working on the same songs for a long time, especially if they are your own songs. At some point it might be hard to look at the material from “an outsider’s perspective” and make the right choices to get the best possible outcome. Luckily we have many members in our band that can help out in this process and I think we succeeded pretty well, even though we didn’t have an outside producer for the album.
You play in the current line-up since 2008, but the band already exists since 2001. Was the plan back then to found a female-fronted Metal band, or did you first plan to have a male singer? Lari Many of us have played together since 2001 in previous band setups, but I have to point out that when SHEAR was formed in 2008, it was a completely new band, even though most of us had played together many years prior to that. When SHEAR was formed, the initial plan was to find a singer that had a similar vision music-wise, regardless of the gender. When the six of us (our current lineup) met in 2008, it instantly felt good, both on a musical and a personal level, and that is when we decided to start working together in SHEAR.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your musical development? When did you start playing an instrument and what have you been doing before SHEAR? Lari I started playing classical piano at the age of 12, played it for a few years and stopped due to lack of interest. A couple of years later I found the world of synthesizers and picked up playing again and have played ever since. My personal band experiences are pretty limited, I have pretty much only played in different bands with Lauri and Mikael. I have played in a couple of other bands too, but they have only lasted for a short while.
You all started your musical development already in your childhood, why did you choose the instrument you are playing today? Lari I have been listening to music for as long as I can remember. In my early years I listened to pretty much anything that was played on radio, but in my teens I discovered band such as Guns ‘n’ Roses and Metallica, and they totally blew my mind. This was pretty soon after I had started playing classical piano. Even though I really liked classical music as a genre, I wasn’t very keen playing the music myself when I had discovered all these new heavier bands. The reason I picked up the keyboards was that I already had previous experience playing piano and wanted to incorporate my playing in heavier music.
I know that Lauri has couple of other bands (Crystal Blaze, Elenium, The Nibiruan ) next to SHEAR. How about the rest of you, do you focus on SHEAR or do you also have other projects? Lari Our band members do play in other bands besides SHEAR. Lauri and I play in The Nibiruan, Juhana plays in Amoral, Mikael plays in Ponies to Kill, and there are other music related projects going on as well. This isn’t a problem on any level though, since it’s all about prioritizing and managing your schedule in a smart way.
So let talk about Female Fronted Metal. What do you think, is it a plus to have a woman at the microphone, or are guys still more accepted than girls? Lari Well, I think this is very much a personal preference. Some like male vocalists, others like female vocalists, and some people like both. For me gender doesn’t really matter as long as a band works as a package and the music is good. Metal as a genre, compared to pop and other more popular music genres, is still very male dominated and I would love to see more females in the genre.
Alexa, what is your opinion, do you have to work twice as hard to get a positive feedback in the Metal-Scene, compared to a guy? Alexa People in general are very skeptical about a blonde girl singing metal. The first thought is usually "how metal can it really be with a female singer who looks like she rather belongs to a pop band?" and the next is "well, you are probably one of those gothic opera metal singers." Neither is right. I feel like I don’t have to convince anyone. I am who I am, I sing like I sing, gender has nothing to do with the fact if I’m good or not. If they don’t like me, there’s nothing I can do, neither am I going to change anything just to satisfy people. I think it’s old-fashioned and shallow minded still thinking that having a female vocalist in a metal band is a big deal.
What does a perfect front women need to have, in your opinion, to be successful in this business? Alexa Not only the metal music business, but in general I would say that you have to give 100% at all times, be honest, have expectations, but be realistic and stay humble. If you walk into a room and just expect people to be in awe of you, you are probably not cut out for this thing. There’s just so much more than what meets the eye. It’s not just recording music and playing gigs, there’s the clash of lots of people messing with your dream, the criticism you have to face daily and the fact that sooner or later you’ll have to realize that for one dream to come true you have to be willing to give up a lot.
Alexa, your background is really interesting. You have lived a couple of years in Ecuador, how was that time for you and what do you miss the most from there? Alexa Living in Ecuador was great. One of the things that I remember the most fondly is the beautiful nature and all the animals we had at our land. That’s what I miss the most. Having lots of dogs, sheep, geese, guinea pigs, chickens and all that. Being able to pick up avocados, peaches and blackberries from your own backyard. You don’t get that in Finland. Of course I also miss my godparents. Especially my godmother.
Ever thought about going back to Ecuador? Alexa Absolutely. I don’t know if I’d move back to live there, but I’m most definitely going there as soon as I can make it happen.
In your childhood you fell in love with bands like Bon Jovi, Queen etc. Later you started to sing in musicals and studied Opera in Sweden; why did you choose to build your voice in this classical style and not more accurate on Rock? Alexa When I applied to study in Sweden I applied to two schools. The opera school and another school that was for pop/rock singing (it includes metal and all that is not classical). I got in both. Decided to choose classical, because I had always studied classical and thought it would be stupid to throw it all away. In the end I still think I made the right choice.
So you spend your life so far, in three different countries, Ecuador, Finland and Sweden - which one did you like the most and why? Alexa All these countries are great and very different from each other. I can’t really say which one I like the most, because I love to travel, so I like a lot of places more than Finland, but I still feel like my heart and home is in Finland, so I probably would have to go with that. Also, I love to spend most of my time alone and not talk to anyone for days, Finland is probably the best place for that too!
What kind of advice could you give to female singers who are interested in becoming a Rock/Metal singer to prove themselves in a man dominated business? Alexa First of all, get it in your head that you don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. Be happy with what you are capable to do, make the best out of it and just wave you middle finger at anyone who tells you anything else. Oh, and practice. A lot. Not everyone who has a guitar can play it like Petrucci, the same goes with vocal cords and singing.
So what are your plans for SHEAR in 2012 - a tour, for example? Lari We plan to play as many gigs as possible to support our newly released album and write new songs. We keep our website and facebook up-to-date with all the latest live dates. Check them out at http://www.shearofficial.com and http://www.facebook.com/ShearOfficial .
Famous last words for the STALKER-readers?
Thanks for having us! We really hope that you check out our new album “Breaking the Stillness”, and if you like it, buy it!
Author: Sandy Mahrer photos: Band Date: 2012-05-30