A little bit of geography if you allow me... Do you all set where Brittany is exactly ? No, no, no ... I'm not talking about Great Britain, neither of a small independent republic of ex USSR, nor of a small fiscal paradise lost in the Atlantic ocean !!! Britanny is the western region of France, one of its most beautiful and tradionalist, deeply rooted in the celtic heritage.
STANGALA is a band from Quimper, singing in Breton and playing an amazing Stoner/Doom full of weedy vintaged atmospheres, blended with celtic influences via a well-thought use of traditional instruments like never heard before in a genre that rarely include such different ressources. If you haven't heard their 1st album yet, as smoky as it could be, I strongly advise you to check out this real breath of fresh air ! Now let's see what Steven has to tell us about it, the band's Breton identity, the Breton's music and a few other interesting things :
Hi Steven, it's a pleasure to have STANGALA interviewed in TOP, thank you ... First, for those who do not know, the Stangala is a valley near Kemper/Quimper, a bit like a small replica of the Broceliande forest, with the legend of St Eloi tied to; why did you choose this name? I've recently read someone describing you as a "narco-druidic" band, is that ok for you guys ?
Salud! Difficult to say which precise reason prompted me to use this name, in fact it reminds me a lot of memories. The Stangala, it's all a bunch of places very conducive to the imagination. For example, down near the bridge, there are the ruins of an old water mill built in granite that have always inspired me, something magical, mystical, a refuge where foul goblins would make the reuz at nightfall. As for the description "narco-druidic", I think it suits us rather well, yes!
How did come the idea to form a Stoner/doom band singing in Breton and with so pronounced Celtic consonances ? Was this something you had in mind for a while but had been unable to do until then? Do you speak a fluent Breton and it comes naturally or did you take the advice or particularly work on your diction?
The idea came naturally by drinking a good mushroom soup ... I do not speak a fluent Breton, no. That said, my parents gave me a lot of their mother tongue over the years, usually fairly simple things, without really knowing how it is written, and although their dialects are as different one from each other than the Breton taught in schools today. Let's say I master the language enough to the use that I make of it.
Basically STANGALA is a trio, but on your FB page, I've noticed the addition of Geoffrey and Niko, what is their function in the band ? On the album Fearann is credited for the celtic traditional instruments, it seems that is not accompanying you on stage ... so how is it going on stage regarding this?
There has been indeed some little line-up changes recently in Stangala. Let's say that the "solid" basis consists in Tom, Alex and myself. Due to certain incompatiblities in timetable, we had to call a session bassist for some dates in early 2012. And Tom has insisted a lot for adding a second guitarist, mainly in order to ensure the arrangements of the album. I must say that the idea didn't enchant me much at first, but ultimately we must admit that it gave us a good boost. About Fearann, unfortunately, due to our respective jobs and especially considering our various geographical positions, it would be difficult to include him in the line-up.
The album was recorded at various locations and moments between Brittany and Norway ... Why that and why Norway ? Steven, you seem to have special affinities with Norway, did it come by life's good fortune or is it a country that you have always been attracted by (if so why)? I was lucky to get off the Sognefjord there fifteen years and it was one of the greatest moments of my life, do the Stangala and fjords or perhaps other types of landscapes of Norway have particularly inspiring virtues (common or not) ?
I currently live in Gjøvik, a little town in the North, a few hours far from of Oslo, to study the influence of the aurora borealis on schizophrenics goblins (and some stuff a little more serious). Without being a coincidence of fate, it's more of a combination of circumstances that led me here. This is a very inspiring country indeed, and I would not mind spending a few more years down here.
About the presence of guests on the album, including doomsters Carcinos from Huata and Bottle Ben from TBDLB, what did you expect from this ?
It's a wink; we don't know that much each other in fact, but we had great fun a few years ago at a common gig in Lannion and we kept in touch since then. Both their contributions are actually excellent! And we've been really pleased to have them as guests on the album.
The music of Stangala includes many instrumental passages and your lyrics are quite short ... I always heard my father (that's his mother tongue) telling that Breton is a language much more oral than written, can we conclude by the fact that singing in Breton implies a very specific way to write your lyrics, different from English or French?
No, I think it's just the way the album was made. At times, I tend to get carried away in the instrumental arrangements, leaving less space on vocals. That said, I actually have a totally different approach when it comes to writing lyrics in English or French. Breton has for me something sacred, every word must be weighed.
It seems obvious that fans of Stoner / Doom can smoothly enjoy Celtic musical stuff, but can the reverse happen and have you already converted fans of Celtic musics to much heavier and weedy sounds like Stangala displays ? Did your immediate environment (family, friends...) feel even more proud of your release with this rather pronounced Breton / Celtic caracters ?
Everyone has an idea of how Celtic music sounds, but that surely can not be said about Stoner / Doom. Of course quite many people from our environment,who have nothing to do with Stoner, have listened it, but people who say they enjoy it, while they have never had a particular affection for fuzzy guitars, leave me deeply skeptical.
About gigs... It seems unfortunately that like many of your french colleagues, you are not yet very active on this point, do you have to face particular constraints on this point ? Any interesting plans coming though?
Let's say that THE constraint in terms of concerts for Stangala is simply our respective availabilities. We meet each other only two or three times per year, not much more, then sometimes we rehearse, sometimes we prefer to go and pick-up mushrooms in the woods. So, in fact, the scene is not really a priority for me.
As a musician proudly claiming his Breton origins, have you ever participated in musical projects specifically Celtic ? After a peak of popularity about 10/15 years with Dan Ar Braz, Mano (hum. ..), St. Patrick evenings at the Stade de France, etc. ... the interest of people fell off , however, do you think, that this music remains the most vivid manifestation of the Breton culture?
I played during a while for a breton dance circle in Kemper/Quimper as a bassist and guitarist, but it's an environment that was not really enthusiastic, and that really disappointed me. I find that such circles are finally aptly named because a circle is closed. That said, I've learned a lot and have been able to significantly enrich my game with that experience.
You cite influences as BLACK SABBATH, IRON BUTTERFLY or QOTSA, and bands of Celtic obedience, but also Celtic and Breton culture in general, can you developp on that particular point please ? Breton music can be diverse from traditional bomb/pipes, to something more melodic as Gwalarn, or close to sacred music like Bann Heoln or even more mystical (almost pagan!) as the excellent Barzaz, it can also be more commercial ... What genre(s) do you enjoy most ?
A bit of everything! Yes, I dig Barzaz and the productions of Yann-Fañch Kemener ("An Den Kozh Dall"), also the first album of Dan Ar Braz and Alan Stivell, Fest Noz bands such as Sonerien Du, but also things more rare as compilations of archive recordings Dastum. Occasionally, I also listen to bagadoù/bagad stuff, like those of Vannes or Kemper/Quimper, but I find myself less in this precise type of music.
(a Fest Noz is a traditionnal festival that happens at least once a year in most little towns and villages of Brittany, while a Bagad is a collective of musicians playing traditionnal breton music with bombard, bagpipes...)
Your album has been recently released but it's been 4-5 years that you formed and therefore maybe you already have had time to stimulate an emulation, is there to your knowledge any other underground band(s) mixing heavy and weedy sounds with Celtic stuff ? I knew the label Keltia music but I'm not sure if it is still very active in production!? Is there any active structures that could perpetuate the spread of the Breton rock music culture in particular?
Some likes of Stangala? That would beat everything. I think there's just morons like us to have such ideas ! To my knowledge, no Breton label would be able to produce music like ours.
I love the diversity of the album, but maybe some people could think that it sometimes goes in too many different directions, from Stoner Doom, to psychedelic/ proto stuff and even a bit of Melvinesc Sludge, all complemented of course à la Celtic sauce ... Do you think you'll continue to make things that way or maybe will tend to more homogeneous stuff with a more precise guideline ?
It's difficult to predict in which state of mind will be composed the next songs, but I doubt honestly that our music will be more homogenized. It will always go in every I think. All I can tell you is that we actually we intend to darken the tone a little bit.
How does business go with the label Solitude? Do they bring you what you were expecting for concerning promotion and support? Is it a deal for just the first album?
The deal with Solitude Prod was only for an album and we do not have much to say about their work. Maybe a little disappointed about promotion and communication but we did not have extraordinary expectations, so...
Trugarez, guys all the best for you in 2012, ah, can we expect to see a T-shirt out soon? feel free to add something important that I could forget to mention ...
We have got some little projects for 2012, including indeed a T-shirt. In the meantime, do not hesitate to spread the word about the band around you! Kenavo wec'h ar all.