According to ubiquitous Wikipedia, EXIT EDEN “is an international symphonic metal supergroup” founded by American singer Amanda Somerville. This is pretty much still true, even after the departure of grande dame Amanda after the release of the debut album “Rhapsodies In Black” (2017). The three remaining singers – Clémentine Delauney, Anna Brunner and Marina La Torraca – are great musicians in their own right, work well together and have created a beautiful sophomore album called “Femmes Fatales”. We arranged a chat with charismatic Clémentine to talk about the lure of the darker side of power, her favourite fashion designer and the appeal of cover songs.
Interview: Isabell Köster
How did the departure of Amanda Somerville affect EXIT EDEN creatively?
We obviously didn’t want Amanda to leave. We loved having her on board and her personality, aura and voice have something addictive. But family comes first, and being only three singers gave more space to all of us on an individual basis. And it gave us the opportunity to rethink our sound and ask ourselves, how do we want to sound as EXIT EDEN? Because Amanda has this huge mezzo-soprano voice that was making EXIT EDEN sound very symphonic metal, but maybe in a traditional way. So, together with our producer Johannes Braun of Kissin’ Dynamite and our record label Napalm Records, we decided that this is an opportunity to refine our sound. We tried to make it a bit more mature and more personal by concentrating on the three of us. This approach was a renewal that felt great. Moreover, it was a desire from the start to have original songs and enable Marina and Anna to work directly with our producer to create some new tracks. It was my job, however, to take care of the visual aspect of EXIT EDEN. I did the entire artistic direction for the photo shoot and the music videos.
The title of your sophomore album is “Femmes Fatales”. Why did you name the album after this archetype?
With this record, we really wanted to embody a message that goes beyond just being another band in the metal scene. We wanted to remind every woman out there that she has the power to make her own decisions in life and stand up for herself. That she can even embrace the darker side of power, the “dark feminine”, be a bit mysterious and slightly intimidating – a femme fatale! That she can play with her own weapons, which don’t have to be those of a man. That she doesn’t have to choose aggression but pick a smarter way to get the things she wants. In short, that she can be a femme fatale, or just herself, and be empowered and strong either way.
How did you express this in the photo shooting for the cover artwork?
As I’m French, when I think of a femme fatale, I imagine a very elegant, timeless figure in a more traditional background – like a hotel, a mansion or a castle. A place that embodies authority, history, something that is solid and not subject to trends. But I was still conscious of the fact that we are doing this as a metal band in 2023. I didn’t want us to look like metal heads, but for fashion and metal to blend into something new. I made a huge mood board about my vision and the girls, and I had a big brainstorming session to achieve the visual realisation. On the day of the photo shooting, it was superfast to imagine us being three characters that are friends or sisters. And posing as sisters and not as singers in a rock band in an environment that is so evocative. Moreover, we had the amazing honour to shoot in the presidential suite of the Grand Hotel in Vienna. Over two days, we shot all these beautiful images for the cover artwork. I’m really pleased with the results because they fit my mood board a 100 per cent. Of course, it’s a little dark, because our metal label was also like “you’re still a metal band, it has to be darker”. But I’m happy that some people got the fashion editorial approach. Some people recognized that we were wearing big names, like Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen.
And do you have a favourite designer then that you like to wear?
Oh, I really like Alexander McQueen. His colours and his mixture between some more masculine lines, but still in a very feminine essence.
Talking about videos: “Run” featuring the legendary Marko Hietala is an original track and certainly one of the catchiest numbers on the album. The atmospheric video plays with the idea of the Fates deciding about the hero’s destiny. How did you come up with that?
When it was clear that the album was going to be called “Femmes Fatales”, and that was our concept, I was like: it would be cool if each of our videos would show a declination of that concept. That we’re not dressed the same in all videos or are in the same place, like in the videos for the first album. I also wanted that our video goes with the theme or the vibe of the song, and “Run” is so folky that I couldn’t imagine it to be in a hotel room like, no way. So, I let my imagination inspire a vision at first: I wanted to film somewhere in nature – we shot in the Lowlands – and the clip to have a pagan, mysterious vibe. And as the protagonists the three of us wanted to represent women who have power, but power in a way that, like I said before, is intimidating or hard to read.
That got me wondering which tales have three female figures? I immediately remembered the Fates from Greek mythology. And I got really excited about this idea because it’s also very strong visually with objects like the scissors and the thread of life. And as lyrically the song is about having to run away from something you’ve done or something you’ve been, I thought it would be perfect to have Marko as the victim of fate, the one that needs to be rescued and us as the perpetrators, the beasts in a way. That way, we’re completely reversing the dynamic of the Beauty and the Beast stereotype that has been all over the place in symphonic metal. We love playing with that idea and that we’re not the nice girls in this, even if we’re the singers. And also, the Fates are three women who have power in a certain way, and for us that’s one aspect of what femme fatales could be.
The video for second single “Separate Ways“ is beautiful as well and has kind of a witchy vibe, you three seem like a mini coven. How did you come up with this idea?
Well, that was another way for us to use the femme fatale concept in a video. Witches are femmes fatales. Another aspect was the fact that when you make a video for a cover song and don’t have the rights, you can’t create a new story. You’re not allowed to give a meaning to the song that’s not there in the first place. So, we couldn’t write a script for “Separate Ways”, we knew it was just going to be a performance video. So, we thought let’s give this song a witchy vibe in today’s world – with symbolism, with the sun belt by CreationsByMagi that Maria wears, with the moon belt that I wear. We decided to just have fun with that and make the video beautiful to watch.
“Separate Ways” is one of several cover versions on “Femmes Fatales”. How did you decide which cover versions to include on the album?
That was a conversation that happened mostly between our producer Johannes and our record label. They wanted to cover some big rock classics like “Poison” and “Separate Ways”. But Hannes and the three of us wanted to be a little less clickbaity by covering the latest big pop songs. We had the desire to sound more mature than on our debut album and make this record a real metal record by covering mostly rock artists and not so many pop artists.
Do you have a favourite cover song?
I love “Desenchantée”! I grew up listening to Mylène Farmer, the original artist, and her visual universe is infinite and gorgeous. She has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. For this reason, the song has a very deep connection with me as a person. I was amazed and delighted when our producer picked it as one of the covers. My version is a heartfelt tribute to Mylène Farmer.
What do you think is the appeal of a cover?
When you already like a song, a cover will give it a new vibe or colour, a new perspective if you will. In my opinion, when you perform a cover, you have to respect what’s there, but also make it your own.