Frédéric Chopin famously wrote a song called Marche Funèbre, most widely known today as the melancholic strain that epitomizes death and sadness. The Funeral March. So when Zero Tolerance met a band called Marche Funèbre, hailing from Belgium, we expected nothing less than that same air of sorrowful melody and melancholy.
It turns out, these guys are alright. All of them lovers of extreme music, steadily making a dent in the European doom and death metal scene. Musically, Marche Funèbre aspire towards that beloved 90s era sound of doom and death metal, all the while keeping you firmly grounded in the present. The band’s latest album, Roots Of Grief, was released via Shiver Records back in September 2013. With new festival announcements in the making, we thought it appropriate to give you a taste of what to expect from Marche Funèbre.
To coincide with ISSUE 056, Dec/an 2014, you will find ‘Roots Of Grief’, the group’s title track on the covermount CD sampler which we really think you should check out. Meanwhile, Zero Tolerance plodded along gloomily to present some searching questions to the band’s drummer, Dennis Lefebvre.
ZT: Time for a bit of band background. How did Marche Funèbre come together?
Lefebvre: The intention was to play death/doom with a 90s’ feel. Our guitar players formed the band together with our former bass player in late December 2007. Our singer joined the band some months later.
For one reason or another, our singer asked me if I was interested in becoming the band’s new drummer. We go way back so he knew I was into the death/doom bands of the 90s. I was in another band at that time but he presented it as a side project that would rehearse every two weeks (who knew that it would become my main band and later my only band). I thought about it and asked them to send me a song, they did and I was convinced. I rehearsed with them and found out this band had a lot of potential and consisted of really nice guys who I could relate to.
Things clicked on a musical level as well. (We actually still play that song ‘Benighted’ live on a regular basis and I still love it). After the recording of our first full-length album, To Drown, we had to say goodbye to our first bass player and immediately recruited another one since we had some nice gigs coming up. He also left after 2 great years to concentrate on other things in life, and thus, Boris joined the band at the beginning of 2013 to add some more low tunes on our songs.
What was your initial purpose for creating the band?
Well the purpose for starting this band was to play the music we all liked. The thing driving us today is still the same, writing music that feels right to us, that gives our lives (as musicians) extra value. The fact that people can relate to our music and the fact that we get some positive feedback is a great driving force as well, but it has never been the initial goal, it’s not in our heads while composing new material. We just write what feels right to us.
I reached a lot of my personal goals in the 5 years of being in this band. Goals always shift and new goals are set when old ones are reached. Personal goals that were reached; being signed as a band, playing shows abroad, touring, having my music on vinyl, play kick ass shows…
I recently quit my other band because I couldn’t keep combining the two bands, so I really hope more goals can be achieved. My main goal as a musician, however, is to keep playing the music I want to play with my fellow band mates (who’ve became a lot more than that) and to bring this music to some cool stages!
Who comes up with the lyrics and what kind of listener reaction are you aiming for?
Our singer Arne, and guitar player Peter, are the ones responsible for the lyrics. They write mainly about personal grief, philosophical themes, or anything that fits our music, like the lyrics for ‘These Fevered Days’ (about the Japanese Suicide Forest).
On Roots of Grief we worked with a lyrical concept, entitled ‘La Marche Funèbre’ as well. And as the title might suggest, it’s not about the band. It does however tell a story that explains our view towards life and the way we see life as a ‘marche funèbre’ (funeral march), as every step we take brings us closer to our grave… No time to waste, enjoy every minute you can, it can be your last!
The story starts at the point where the protagonist decides to leave his old life behind him as he hurt too many people. He wants to live without all the sadness he thinks he invoked, but can’t get these memories out of this system. That’s where he decides to end his life, but life can be stronger than death and he is given a new chance… to try to be happy again… and die in the end.
It’s always nice when people outside the band comment on the lyrics as well, as they are of course a part of the ‘art’ we are making. If the lyrics invoke certain (familiar) feelings to the listener then that’s of course a plus, but not our primary goal so to speak. Some lyrics do tend to charm the listeners more than others, for example ‘The Dark Corner’ from our debut [Norizon] is easy to follow and most people can relate to the feelings in this song. After all, when talking about feelings, and music, we are talking about very subjective things, emotions that we can associate with, which are different for everyone.
What other interesting things are Marche Funèbre members doing these days? How do you all spend your spare time?
Obviously we all have jobs because playing doom/death metal doesn’t pay the bills. We all, apart from Boris, have families and kids who need their dad as well. We all have our own separate hobbies too; some of us sport actively, I myself am a football supporter, we all like to attend gigs once in a while so too much to do, too little time to do it in…
Do you have any kind of outside influences, be they musical or other art aspects which you feel have impacted your music?
Well we are all music lovers, with a different musical background. These range from punk/hardcore/heavy metal/death metal/black metal/70s’ hard rock/prog…. the thing that unites our musical taste is the love for the 90s’ doom/death metal bands. Every one of us brings our own influences in the songs we are writing, so it results in a song that we believe, only we as a five piece, can write. Does that mean that Marche Funèbre is unique…? Well that’s up to everyone to decide for themselves. I can only say that for me personally we are (and this is not meant pretentiously for I think every band making music from the heart is unique, whether you like it or not is personal taste of course). For our lyrics and artwork we like to incorporate what we call dead poets: for instance EA Poe, Charles Baudelaire or Emily Dickinson have offered us their services, in a way.
On recording this past April-July: How was it working on such a tight schedule? How did you manage it?
For a small budget band it actually isn’t that short. The times of spending months in the studio are over for bands like us I am afraid, especially in this subgenre. It all depends on the way you have prepared your studio time. So in a way it’s the time before you enter the studio that will make the studio experience stressful or not. This time we worked with a rather inexperienced sound engineer so in the end we think some more time in the studio would have been better since we had to try out some things with him from time to time. In general though we are pretty happy with the outcome as the sound of the album is exactly what we were looking for in this studio, in the first place.
What was your best experience while recording?
Personally I’m not the most comfortable being in a studio. The stage is my natural habitat. But we manage to create an atmosphere in the studio so we all feel as comfortable as possible. We got a lot of freedom and experimented a bit with the drums. We recorded them in a really big hall so they sound ‘big’ as well. Fred from Ataraxie joined us in the studio to help us get the guitar sound we wanted. Fred is a really cool guy and became a really good friend of the band. His knowledge of guitars and amps is just amazing so it was super having him around for this.
In fact it’s just cool to have him around, we like to hang out together after mutual shows, and it’s always a lot of fun (or is that too un-doom for you?). In the end I felt really good while helping with the mastering, as at that time the songs really came to life, certainly with the expensive studio monitors that go to 11 if needed!
How do you feel about the underground metal scene at the moment? How does the scene in your own area compared to the larger scheme?
Well I follow the underground scene for quite some time and have been part of it for more than 20 years. I can say there is a lot of quality out there. The reason not all good bands ‘make it’ is not an easy question to answer. It partially has to do with the collapsing of the music industry, and I think we are still a part of a privileged musical style because metalheads still buy music. But labels won’t stick their heads out for new bands because they just can’t afford taking the risk.
Another reason lies with the bands themselves, I think. If you think people will come to your rehearsal room offering you tours and record deals, you’re screwed. It actually is hard work getting your band somewhere. I know we as a band really put a lot of time in this band, apart from the rehearsals, and when I say a lot I really mean a lot. There’s not one day that goes by without one of us spending hours working for the band. A lot of musicians like the playing aspect, but do not like the business/PR/managing aspect. The two have to be there to get you out of your rehearsal room.
Talking about ‘local scene’, some interesting ‘young’ bands to have seen the light of day in the last couple of years in our area (Faal, Akem Manah, Akelei, Façade to name a few). We played with these bands only one or two times so far, so I’m not sure that we can call it a blooming scene here. Maybe it gives the impression from the outside, but it’s still a hell of a job to get decent gigs in our beloved Lowlands (Belgium/Holland). Seems that lots of doom metal musicians are kinda introvert people that rarely come outside.
Marche Funèbre are:
Arne Vandenhoeck—vocals Boris Iolis—bass Dennis Lefebvre—drums Kurt Blomme—guitar Peter Egberghs—guitar
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