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Forever Still Interview

Forever Still Interview
(via Skype)

Forever Still Interview

These days, it seems rare for a major label to sign a band on the strength of a few self-released EPs. But that is precisely what happened with the Danish rock band, Forever Still, after they popped up on Nuclear Blast’s radar. See? Sometimes working your ass off and investing all your energy in music really does pay off! Forever Still hits that sweet spot between having enough bite to appeal to metal fans, while still having those catchy hooks that open the doors for cross-over appeal.

Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker circled up with vocalist, Maja Shining, for the low down on Forever Still. Dive in for exclusive details about Forever Still’s upcoming Tied Down album, what it’s really like to be a DIY band, and much more! And don’t forget to check out their new video, “Miss Madness”.

Sonic Cathedral:  We are delighted to welcome Maja to Sonic Cathedral! It was astonishing to read Forever Still’s first full-length album will be released through Nuclear Blast Records. How did you get hooked up with one of the biggest and best metal labels out there?

Maja:  Thank you so much! Yes, that is kind of the same for us as well. Actually, they were the ones who discovered us, and got in touch with us via email. At first, we were pretty skeptical, like: “Okay, this could be somebody pulling a prank on us or something. It seems kind of weird.” <laughs> But then, we started talking with them, and we met up with one of the guys working there, and got to have a really good talk with them about the possible future. And now, we’re here!

Sonic Cathedral:  Forever Still have been the ultimate do-it-yourself band. You and your co-founder, Mikkel Haastrup, have done everything from writing the music to recording, promotion, booking, and production. Tell us more about your DIY roots.

Maja:  For us, it started as a necessity really. Like everybody else, we started out alone, with nobody else. We were like: “Okay, we have to do all these things. We need a music video. Who can do that for us? Ugh, that’s kind of expensive, and it’s not really good.” Slowly, we just realized that … because we had such a clear visual idea of what we wanted to do with the band and to have everything as an extension from the music … so, videos and photos and like you said the art and everything.

It just has become an extension from the music, and it just made so much sense for us to do it ourselves. When you know what you want, who can accomplish that better than yourself? We are definitely still doing that. Yes, we are signed, but we still have a very DIY approach to the things we do.

Sonic Cathedral:  Recently Forever Still have gathered a team for management, booking, and (of course) Nuclear Blast’s massive promotion team. Having done everything yourselves for so long, is it hard to relinquish control?

Maja:  I honestly don’t think so. It’s still really early in the working relationship. But so far, we’re still doing so many things ourselves. We just had two photoshoots for the band that we shot ourselves, and we are going to film the upcoming music video as well ourselves. So, a lot of this is just us continuing to do it the way we do things, and then have somebody push us as well, which is what we wanted. This is not the first recording contract that we’ve been offered. But it’s the first one that has really wanted to push the band, and whom we felt were people who want to work as hard as we do to push the band. So really for us, it hasn’t changed much in how we approach things.

Forever Still Interview

Sonic Cathedral:  Tied Down will be released on October 21, 2016. From listening to a pre-release version, there seems to be a story arc in the album.

Maja:  You are absolutely right. We wanted to do a concept album because we like the idea, and it made a lot of sense with the kind of music that we wrote -- it really was a character development. It is about this person struggling through a lot of dark, deep emotions. Struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, worthlessness, and then, finding that hope, and getting out better in the end.

Sonic Cathedral:  Is the protagonist going through a particular situation, or is it more of an allegory for whatever dark chapter a listener might have experienced?

Maja:  It has been more of a series of event. Just going from feeling really depressed over a long period of time, and then, how do you start letting go of all of these things and excluding toxic people from your environment, and start breaking free from all of the things holding you down? I feel like it’s more of a series of life events.

Sonic Cathedral:  Mikkel recorded all the instruments; you did all the lyrics and vocal lines; and Mikkel mixed, mastered, and produced the album. What was the recording process like?

Maja:  <laughs> He is kind of insane, you know? That is really incredible that he is able to do so many things! Again, we had a very clear vision of how we wanted it to sound, so it’s freaking awesome to have Mikkel be able to create our sound as well. He is a trained sound engineer, and was able to do that from the get-go, really. What’s the process like? It has just been very organic for us. We have just worked it one song at a time. Whatever we felt on the inside, we pushed out on the other side, and it became a song. So, when we went into the studio, we pretty much knew what we wanted to do.

But of course, sometimes Mikkel might have been working on … let’s say, a lead melody of the guitar over a chorus … and wasn’t really feeling it. He would then send some bits and pieces over to me so I could respond to which ones I liked, or if any really hit through, or we met up and just worked it out. Like in the final stages of production, sometimes it can be really hard to find out which one of these is the perfect final piece for this song. But I really feel like it worked out in the end.

Sonic Cathedral:  Forever Still had a recent UK tour and are coming off some festival performances. Of the Tied Down tracks, which ones did the audience seem to really get into?

Maja:  It is very different playing live, than it is in the studio. I feel like “Scars” is definitely a track that people respond really, really well to. I guess it’s because it has those rocking riffs, and it has an edge. But it still has that big chorus that we love to do and that we generally do, because that is the kind of thing that we love. I also feel like “Save Me” has gotten a really, really nice response live. It is just … well, not a classic rock ballad, I think … it’s a little different, but it still has that epic feel. I can sense it in people when we play it live.

Forever Still Interview

Sonic Cathedral:  It is interesting that the strongest responses seem to be for “Scars” -- one of the heaviest vocal tracks, where you do both clean and throat-shredding scream vocals -- and “Save Me”, which is probably the most brooding and melodic track on Tied Down. What tracks do you particularly enjoy performing live?

Maja:  I guess it’s kind of the same thing as for the audience, because you feed off of people a LOT, and those songs definitely do it for me as well. But there is not one single song that I don’t feel when we play it live. Because all the songs, when they were written, came from a place of emotion that we needed to get out. So, it’s really easy for me to tap into that specific emotion when we’re live, and there is not a single song that I don’t enjoy playing.

Sonic Cathedral:  You guys are always creating new music. With an album coming out in a month that will need time to breathe and stretch its legs, what are you doing with your new creations?

Maja:  I mean, we are constantly writing music because it’s what we do, so there is always some need for that. Even if we’re not working specifically on the next album, we always just write because we need to get things out. When it’s time to actually start writing for the next release, we pull those things out that we still really like, and keep working on them, and work on some new stuff. <laughs>

At the moment, there is so much other stuff to do just to prepare for the release. We are working on the videos, on some photoshoots for the band, and some solo shoots as well. We are doing tons of interviews and other press these days, so we are quite busy at the moment, and don’t have much time to think about the next release just yet.

Sonic Cathedral:  Can you give us some hints about the upcoming Forever Still video?

Maja:  Yeah, I can! We wanted to work with a very specific concept for this video because, so far, we had a small storyline usually. For this one, we actually worked with more of a concept. It was filmed over the course of six months because we needed some very specific elements to make this work. <laughs> So, I think that is all I can say for now.

Forever Still Interview

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> Understood. Do you think fans will see the video before Tied Down is released, to whet their appetites?

Maja:  Yes, and it won’t be the only one to come out before the album release!

Sonic Cathedral:  Maja, what are your musical roots? Have you been in other bands?

Maja:  I have, but only on a hobby level. I have always loved singing. I’ve been singing since I was a little kid, and I’ve always thought that it was amazing. Since I was 11, I was in a girls’ choir, and then moved onto some musicals. I started playing in bands when I was 15 … I started doing some rock bands and stuff. But it had only been hobby-related until I met Mikkel, and started Forever Still. This was the first time I really had a sense of connection with someone. He was someone whom I could write something with, that I had a need to create something with, and that I could connect with on a deeper emotional level.

Sonic Cathedral:  When you were a little girl in your room, singing into your hairbrush in front of the mirror, what bands were you singing along to?

Maja:  Aaaaaaaargh, well … as a kid, I listened to really stupid kid’s music, like everybody else. <laughs> So, Spice Girls and Toy-Box have definitely gotten some really good sing-alongs in the mirror from me. And then, as a teenager, I wasn’t as much singing into the mirror because I was a little too cool and serious for that. But at that point, I started looking after some women who were doing rock music as well. I remember I did a cover of a Flyleaf song for the school talent show when I was 15.

Sonic Cathedral:  Which Flyleaf song did you cover?

Maja:  I covered a demo version of “Breathe Today”.

Forever Still Interview

Sonic Cathedral:  That’s a good choice. Okay, having never been to Denmark, I’d love to hear about your hometown of Copenhagen.

Maja:  Ah, I have loved growing up here; I really have. It is kind of a special country, I think. I grew up more in the countryside. It was really, really wonderful to grow up there as a kid. It was green, and it was next to a lake. But as soon as you become a teenager … and the bus starts leaving every three hours … it becomes nauseating. <laughs> I definitely felt like I needed to go to the “big city”.

Copenhagen is a beautiful town to go to. Just taking long walks there, and Mikkel and I do that to just discuss our music. We do that over a good, nice walk in Copenhagen. There are lots of parks, old castles, and old buildings. I really love the city, even though the weather can be completely horrible.

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> Is it true that Danish summer is like winter everywhere else?

Maja:  <laughs> That may be a bit much, but we don’t have too much sun. We definitely shouldn’t complain because, these days, it’s absolutely lovely. But before that, we had a month of rain. So, it’s not particularly cold, but it was particularly wet. Whenever you went out, you had to put on a jacket, and get completely soaked. So, it’s not the most precious summer. I feel like Denmark has those couple weeks where you REALLY need to go outside and enjoy it.

Sonic Cathedral:  You strike me as a woman with a fun and mischievous streak. When you’re not making music, what do you like doing?

Maja:  I guess it sounds kind of boring, but I literally spend every waking moment doing anything surrounding the band because we do so, so many things. So, I don’t even sleep as much as I should because this just consumes me. But I am not complaining! If I have any time on my hands, I love going out in nature because that’s the thing that kind of calms me down. We have this huge park next to an amusement park. It is an open park, and there are deer everywhere. I think it’s the greatest thing, and you can see the most beautiful sunsets over big, huge grass fields … and deer, and birds. That is the kind of thing that I love. I’m a complete Nature Girl.

Forever Still Interview

Sonic Cathedral:  Lovely! Okay, let’s talk about every do-it-yourself band’s nightmare, which is having a show in another country cancelled after you have already booked flights or having an unexpected line-up change. How do you rebound, and prevent it from becoming a disaster?

Maja:  It never happens at a good time, if a band member is leaving or whatever happens. It is never a good time. Literally, we have had a lot of things in life not going our way. If nothing else, it definitely has taught us to just keep our heads high and to move forward, like: “Okay, we’re going to find the next good person, and this is going to be amazing this time.” So, I feel like the best solution to those kinds of things is to keep a positive attitude. I mean, be negative about it for an appropriate amount of time. But then, you’ve got to get back up, hold your head high, and work through it. Do something about it, because nobody else is going to do anything for you.

Sonic Cathedral:  Inevitably, half the comments on Forever Still’s Facebook page are remarks about your looks, which has nothing to do with the music. Is it flattering or a little insulting when people focus on your appearance?

Maja:  I’m not going to complain about that. I feel like we have decided to “work” our image in a way that the band is interesting to look at. If people think “oh yeah, that’s a pretty girl”, then I don’t think that is anything bad. We do that all the time; people do that with ALL bands. But fans are there for a reason -- they’re there because they love the band and because they love the music. Only one in a thousand comments … or maybe more, but not a lot … is going to be something that is degrading. You know, something like “oh, those tits”, or that kind of thing -- that, I just roll my eyes at. But most of the time, I think it’s completely natural, and people just do it out of love.

Forever Still Interview

Sonic Cathedral:  That’s a very sweet way to look at it. Obviously, the Tied Down album coming out on October 21st is a HUGE deal. What will you be doing between now and the release date, and thereafter?

Maja:  Right now, we’re still working on so many things in preparation for the release because there needs to be a lot of stuff done. We are going to press and visual images, and we are going to do some video trailers and cool stuff to promote the album and to talk about a few things about the album. So, if people want to know more, they can definitely tune into Nuclear Blast’s home page, where there are going to be a lot of updates. We are going to keep people updated until we release the album. .

After that, we are working on getting out on some really good, long tours. We’ll do what we’ve wanted to do for such a long time, which is come and meet people around the world. This first round is definitely going to be focused on Europe, but I see it happening in the U.S. and beyond after that as well.

Sonic Cathedral:  We would love that! For people who go to your live shows, is Forever Still the type of band that hangs out at the merch table to meet fans, either before or after the show?

Maja:  Absolutely! That is the BEST thing, besides the show itself. We do that after the show. Anywhere we have the possibility to do that, we are going to do that. Before the show, I like to rest my voice, get some food, get ready, and warm up. So, there’s a lot going on before a show. But after a show, we are always going to be there at the merch table or in the crowd, meeting people whenever we possibly can.


Forever Still Interview


Sonic Cathedral:  You have had some shows in far-away countries that were only one night apart. For example, Forever Still participated in the second round of the Wacken Battle of the Bands in Copenhagen one night, and had a show in the UK the next night. Have you become like a vampire who is up all night?

Maja:  <laughs> I have always had those kind of vampire tendencies. I just end up going to bed way, way, way too late, but I still get up in the morning. So, for me, it’s like I sleep for six hours per day. But then, when I make it to a weekend, I’m gonna sleep for 12 hours if I possibly can. But yeah, that was a fun one. We played that night, and I think we had a plane taking off at 6:20 the next morning. It was INSANE. So, we basically went straight from the venue to the airport. Oh, I guess once again, we went straight from the UK gig to the airport. We kind of hung out at the airport because we had to leave so soon to go home. Then we got back home, and were like “whew”!

Sonic Cathedral:  A band member whom we haven’t yet talked about is your very cool new guitarist, Partsch. How did she become part of the Forever Still crew? Is there anything that readers might be surprised to know about her?

Maja:  Well, Partsch, we ran into online. She was searching for a band doing some rock and some more melodic stuff. She had put some videos out there once she was searching for a band, and I sent her a message like: “How do you like our stuff?”, because we were searching for a new guitarist. She freaking loved it! So, we took her down in the rehearsal space, and worked it out. We had a chat first, and we just had a really nice chemistry together. Partsch is passionate about her guitar. When we’re driving in the van or whatever, she’ll be sitting there with her eyes closed, practicing air guitar just to keep everything up. <laughs> So, it’s great to have her on board!


Sonic Cathedral:  Wonderful! Maja, what final words do you have for your longtime and your new Forever Still fans?

Maja:  I want to give a big shout-out to everybody because there are so, so many people who have kept us afloat. Even though we’re hopefully getting bigger now and getting out to a lot more people, there are so many people who have been believing in us from the get-go, and always said: “Oh, you guys are gonna make it big. I just KNOW it; I can just tell.” Look at that … now we are definitely having some people push the band upwards. So, thank you to all of you! I definitely hope we can come see you guys in the States soon.

Sonic Cathedral:  I so look forward to that. Considering the track-record of Nuclear Blast and the fanbase that Forever Still built before being signed, I think it’s just a matter of time.

Maja:  I do too, I do too. I know this is going to be a plan. It was for us, but it’s definitely easier for us if we can get some help from a booker and a label to put us on a tour over there with a bigger band. That would be really good for us in very new territory. So, this is definitely something that is going to become a reality in the pretty near future.

Sonic Cathedral:  Thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral, Maja!

Maja:  Thank you! It was a pleasure talking to you.

Many thanks to Anne Swallow at Nuclear Blast Records for setting up the interview!

Photo credits: Cecil Photography, Lars Winther Schmidt, Lene Damgaard Thomsen, Lennart Brorsson, and Maja Shining

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