Here we go again… Last year we covered every band on the Hobgoblin New Blood and Jagermeister stages in the run-up to Bloodstock 2015. This year, we’re going one better and aim to have interviews from all the bands on those two stages as well as all of those on the SOPHIE stage prior to the event kicking off on August 11th. That’s almost 100 interviews to get online for you lucky people over the course of the next couple of weeks. I bloody love this job, but you lot owe me a beer at Catton Hall, right?
Thanks to all the bands who’ve taken the time to respond!
Isarnos – Jagermeister stage, Friday
Simple things first – where are you guys from?
We’re from all over the place! Adamo (guitars) is English with Italian parents; Madlena (violin) is Bulgarian and Christine is Estonian but was brought up in the USA. As a band, we’re based in London where most of us live.
How did you meet?
This could be a long one…
Olli started recording the demos in May 2014 and tried to put a band together in September, but failed to find members who were both capable musicians and committed to making the project work. In December, Olli started again, using ad groups and public forums to recruit “Isarnos v2.0”.
Christine joined in January 2015 after Olli got in touch with her on an internet forum – she’d never played a Hurdy Gurdy before, but was interesting in learning a new instrument and, as a pianist, picked it up very quickly!
After failing for months to find a violin player who would play with a metal band, Olli messaged a load of London-based violin teachers on Gumtree to see if any had students who might be interested. Madlena was the only one to respond, but her students were mostly too young or inexperienced. However, after coffee, a Gaulish history lesson, and a lot of convincing, Madlena eventually joined the band in around April 2015 – and we couldn’t have found a violin player we’d rather have!
Nick is an old friend of Olli’s – the two previously played together in a female-fronted death metal band. Nick joined a couple of months later following an extended spell in Asia (the continent, not the prog rock band!). James joined in June 2015, after our previous drummer returned to his homeland of Italy to work in a fancy restaurant, and when our original lead guitarist left (as the band was interfering with his job as an international media man of mystery – no, seriously), Adamo contacted the band via facebook and joined in December 2015.
How long have you been playing together as a band?
With Adamo (guitars) being the most recent addition – the current lineup has been playing together since January this year (2016). Christine was the first addition to “Isarnos v2” and she and Olli have been playing together since January 2015
Where does the name of the band come from?
“Isarnos” basically means “iron” in Gaulish – a language that was spoken in Europe a few hundred years BC until about the 6th Century and was a precursor to the modern day Gaelic languages; Breton, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Cornish & Manc.
“Isarno-” is a prefix for “things made out of metal” (so, for example, “isarnodonum” would be “iron fortress”; I think “Isarnomapos” would be Iron Man!)
I take Isarnos as a fictional Tribe or army; our songs are based very loosely on, but are influenced by, the Gaulic Wars (the written account by Julius Caesar) but from the perspective of the Gauls – the Isarnos are both the Tribe in the story told through the songs, and are the (currently) 6 of us who perform together now.
What are your influences – individually or as a band?
We all have our own influences individually, but the songs are heavily influenced by melodic metal and (obviously) folk music.
Olli cites Dark Tranquillity, (early) In Flames and Death among his metal influences, but also – Lamb of God, (early) KSE, Children of Bodom – really anyone who can write a catchy riff!
A lot of the ideas came from Led Zeppelin – dual male/female vocals and using mandolins (“Battle of Evermore”), fantasy storytelling through songwriting… that whole album was a huge influence.
From the classical & folk side, there aren’t many notable acts aside from perhaps Tri Yann, the Bothy band, the Chieftains, Carlos Nunez, then maybe Vanessa Mae and Nicolo Paganini on the classical side. The best thing about folk music is hearing how different groups play the standards – you never just play what’s written, and it’s the interpretation that gives the tunes so much variation!
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
If there’s another metal band in the UK with a Hurdy Gurdy player, we certainly haven’t found them!
Our style of metal is probably more like you’d find in France or Germany, but it’s difficult using the term “folk metal” as we don’t have costumes or facepaint, nor do we sing about Vikings or drinking – which is often what the term conjures up. Folk metal is actually a fairly wide genre, as Nordic/battle/Slavic/Celtic/Japanese/Viking/pirate bands will sound completely different from each other.
We like to think our songs are strong enough without the folk melodies and instruments – they’re just the icing on a seriously heavy cake!
What’s your live show like – why should the baying hordes troop over to the stage you’re playing on to watch you?
You mean aside from the obviously novelty factor? Seeing Olli switch between bagpipes, flutes, whistles and the Bouzouki while simultaneously doing vocals is an accident waiting to happen!
But what makes us really unique is the stage show – even looking past the violins, bagpipes, etc., we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we have a lot of fun – with ourselves and with the audience.
Too many bands try too hard at “stuff which isn’t the music” – trying to make a political or social statement, trying to project a certain image or sentiment… Although we use almost entirely harsh vocals and seriously heavy riffs, we try to bring what Folk music is all about – meeting new people, playing great music and having fun – we just do it to technical drumming and serious riffage.
If the hordes troop over to see us on stage, we’ll party with them later in the camp site!
When/how did you find out you’d been selected to play at Bloodstock?
Bournemouth M2tM finals! We didn’t think we’d get passed our first heat, then had huge technical problems with the sound/desk in the semis, but the Finals was amazing – there was circle-dancing, folk pit and even crowd surfing (at a venue where the ceiling is only 7ft high!). The other bands were amazing, and the final was definitely our best gig to date – getting through to play Bloodstock made it even more special!
What sort of setlist can we expect?
Depending on our set length, you can expect songs across the full spectrum of metal – heavy chugging to fast & thrashy… even if you’re not a fan of folk, you should come just to check out how technically gifted our drummer is!
You can also expect a high chance of a “Folk Metal Power Ballad” and potentially a folk metal movie theme outro… no guarantees on that one though ;-)
Which main stage band do you most hope you’re not clashing with so you can see them play?
We’re on first on the Friday, but will be hoping we don’t clash with Gloryhammer – another band that really knows how to have fun! Olli (vocals) had previously said about the lineup “you had me at Behemoth” and can’t wait for that – Nergal is an incredible showman and great songwriter.
What are you working on at the moment?
After Bloodstock, we’ll be recording a full mini-album – not just the metal tracks, but also some acoustic tunes, spoken word, poetry – a lot of cool stuff. We’ve got Warhorns Festival in September (alongside Whispered, who are playing the Sophie stage on Sunday) and our mini album launch in October – lots to look forward to!
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done on tour?
But you can expect to see us in the campsite in the evenings – drinking, partying, playing folk tunes late into the night… Ask us again next time we play, and hopefully, we’ll say “Bloodstock 2016”!
What advice would you give to a young band just starting out today?
(personal message from Olli) – It took me over a year of constant effort from the time I started writing & recording the songs to finally getting a band together – and it was almost 2 years before our first gig! Trying to keep a band of 6 together even just to arrange practices is so much work when you do it on your own. There are so many times I almost gave up – especially as we’ve had drummers & guitarists leave just at the point when we were ready to start gigging. I genuinely thought for a long time that Isarnos would never even perform a live show, but to be playing Bloodstock is proof that hard work pays off eventually. No matter how many things go wrong, don’t ever give up! (cue Journey…)
If you could be part of any 3-band line-up who else would you have on the bill? One band above you and one below – a chance to plug a smaller, unsigned act!
From the Bloodstock lineup? Definitely Behemoth and Gojira! Or Whispered and Gloryhammer… depends on the mood.
A fantasy lineup of any bands? We’d have to go with Alestorm headlining – they have the best atmosphere of any gig I’ve ever been to. Everyone is drunk, everyone is dressed like a freaking pirate, and everyone has fun (Olli – I still wear a medallion that a random pirate dude gave to me at an Alestorm gig in Southampton 2014!)
For the band below us, they aren’t a smaller act than us (we don’t think there are any smaller acts than us?) but I’d have to go with a folk group called PerKelt, as they’re probably little-known to metallers. The musicianship and composition is just fantastic. I chose them to play with because, as an acoustic act, they’d be a great way to open a day of folk/pirate/metal mayhem!
What stage / time are you playing at Bloodstock (if you have your slot yet!)
We’re on the Friday, (possibly opening) the Jagermeister stage… and really hoping they have promotional Jager to hand out. Actually, Olli celebrated getting to play Bloodstock by drinking a whole bottle of Jager after we got back from the M2tM Finals at 8am! Drink responsibly, kids!