Canadian symphonic metal band SOVEREIGN COUNCIL just released a brand new video for “Breathe You In“ from their upcoming EP “World On Fire“. Eh… SOVEREIGN COUNCIL? That’s what we thought when we saw their first video for the title track, but they definitely had our interest from then on. After their promoter had sent us the EP, we just knew we had to know more about this new diamond in the rough from the second biggest country in the world. So we sent some questions over to singer Lisa Thompson and asked her first for a short introduction.
INTERVIEW BY: HENK VAN NIEUWENHOVEN
Hi Lisa, since a lot of people here (including myself) know little or nothing about SOVEREIGN COUNCIL, why not start with a short introduction?
We are a female fronted metal band from Kingston/Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Formed originally in 2011, we have gone through multiple line-up changes and dynamic growth over the years. Current line-up is myself, Lisa Thompson (vocals), Chris Thompson (guitar), Joe Lyko (guitar), Shaun Vanhooser (bass guitar) and Brandon Schneider (Drums).
On the first two full-length albums, “New Reign” (2013) and “Laniakea” (2015) you shared the vocals with Alexander MacWilliam. But he is no longer in the band?
That’s correct. For the first two albums I had more of a back up vocalist role in the band and a few lead vocals in parts of the songs. While in the process of writing our recent “World On Fire” EP, we parted ways with Alex. We realized our artistic visions were no longer aligned.
Would you say that SOVEREIGN COUNCIL is a symphonic metal band ‘pur-sang’ or are there any progressive elements as well in the sound (especially the drum parts)?
We feel like we are slowly pulling away from a symphonic sound to a more modern metal approach. We are inspired by the recent albums by Lacuna Coil, Evergrey, Light The Torch and Within Temptation to name a few. There definitely are progressive elements in our EP contributed by members of the band and their musical influences. At the same time, we try not to write with a specific genre in mind and simply write what we enjoy.
My first acquaintance with SOVEREIGN COUNCIL was the video for the title track of your upcoming EP “World On Fire” (out on May 5th) and it tasted exquisite. What is your vocal training?
Thank you and happy to hear you enjoyed it! I started classical vocal training at the age of 10 and a few years later began jazz, blues and pop training. At the age of 16 I became a session vocalist in a local studio for a few songwriters. At the age of 19 I became a vocal coach and continue to do so till this day. I have been in many musical projects over the years and put out albums in the folk, country and rock scene. SOVEREIGN COUNCIL and the metal scene was the missing element for me to find my true vocal calling.
Why did you decide to release an EP this time and not a third full-length album?
As an independent band we have noticed it’s easier to maintain momentum with smaller, more frequent releases. Also, being that we had such a drastic line-up change an EP really gave us an opportunity to test the waters to see how our fans would react to it.
Thanks to Jon Asher I got to listen to the whole EP. On almost all of the tracks there is a male singer as well. Who is he?
We had to make quick decisions after parting ways with Alex. When we started writing “World On Fire” we decided we wanted male vocals because the lyrics are very descriptive from the male point of view. The male vocals on the EP are that of Joe Moon, our lead guitar player who is not a trained vocalist but was brave enough to share his vocals with the world, reluctantly. Moving forward we are phasing out any male lead vocals to keep the band 100% female fronted.
“Breathe You In” has a high proportion of Evanescence, especially your vocals. Fan of Amy Lee and her band?
Thank you! I find that to be quite the compliment. I am a fan of Amy Lee. I actually grew up listening to and vocally covering Evanescence. I was inspired by her originality and emotional vocal performance. Her haunting delivery and ability to emote is what really drew me to her vocal style. This will date me a bit… but in 2004 I performed “Going Under” live as a late teenager on a main stage at a local fair. You can also find my cover of “Hello” by Evanescence on my personal YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/LisaThompson).
Quite a few songs on the EP end abruptly. Is that a SOVEREIGN COUNCIL trademark?
To be honest, I don’t think we really put that much thought into how we end our tracks. We typically all sit down together and brainstorm different options for intros and outros and try to create the most impactful ways to express the song.
Quite frankly, there’s nothing I can find that I don’t like about the EP, except maybe that the male vocals could have been a little more aggressive. Therefore, I am surprised that no record label has picked you up yet. SOVEREIGN COUNCIL would be a nice addition to Frontiers Music srl. Are you looking for a deal or is that hard for a Canadian band?
I’d say it’s fair in saying that about the male vocals since Joe is not a trained vocalist and his vocal contributions were a temporary solution. We are grateful he was willing to sing on this record with a short amount of time to prepare for it. We have had offers in the past by a few smaller labels, however, they were not aligned with what made sense to us. We have discussed approaching specific labels with this EP and the following EP that we are currently writing. Label support is quite difficult to acquire as a smaller Canadian band, but would be greatly beneficial to help us fund music videos, studio time, and future tours.
What are you going to do after the EP has been released? Back into the studio to record more songs for a next album or do some concerts here and there in Canada to promote “World On Fire”?
We are currently in the process of writing our next EP and aiming to have it released towards the end of 2023 or early 2024. In the next month or so, we will start booking local shows and a possible tour for the Fall to promote “World On Fire”.
If you were the interviewer, what would you have asked Lisa Thompson to conclude this interview?
Q: With your wide spread experience across genres in music, how does metal compare? How does the metal community compare? And how does performing live differ between genres?
A: The audience is one major comparison in my personal experience. The metal fan community is bursting with pure enthusiasm and support, not only for the bands or the music, but for each other. I have never witnessed so much love or experienced the feeling of community more than going to a metal show or festival. Performing as a metal vocalist is extremely empowering and no other genre has ever made me feel as connected to the music or my audience.