Marcela Bovio is the singer of a young talented Mexican Progressive Rock band called Elfonia. Elfonia has just released their second album "This Sonic Landscape" in November 2005 and are slowly becoming more and more known in their own country as well as outside Mexico. Marcela's also the young singer that Arjen Anthony Lucassen chose through the contest to participate on the Ayreon's "The Human Equation" album. And as she did an amazing job portraying the role of Wife, Arjen decided to form a new band called Stream Of Passion with Marcela on vocals, to take advantage of her talented singing. Stream Of Passion released their album at the end of October 2005 and are going to tour Europe in January and February 2006. The first gig is scheduled for 25 January 2006 at Dynamo Cafe in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
This interview was recorded just before Christmas, 22 December 2005 and we talked with Marcela about both bands. So, here's your chance to find out what she thinks.
You got involved with Arjen through a contest in which you participated with your Elfonia CD, right?
Yes, he wanted to give someone unknown the chance to perform whatever the parts in "The Human Equation." He posted an ad on his website, you know, encouraging singers to send their material. I sent out the first Elfonia CD. He really liked it and eventually he chose me for that part. That's how we got to know each other. I had a chance to go over to the Netherlands to his studio and we recorded these parts and we got along very well, shared musical ideas.
Did you know or feel that you were going to win? Or was it like "ooh, let's try it, maybe we get lucky" kind of situation?
Yeah, I had no idea. I never expected that it would actually happen, you know. Especially because the contest had been online for a while. I thought, maybe he chose somebody. I don't know, I just sent it. It was a very big surprise for me that a couple of weeks after I had sent out the CD I got an e-mail from him telling me that "This was great. Oh, and you really should try out some of the new tracks" and stuff because he wanted to hear my English accent. So, yeah, it was a big surprise. I didn't expect it, you know. At all.
So, it generally felt good, right?
Yeah, his response was very positive, you know. He thought that the music was something very different to what he had heard before. Luckily it worked out pretty well.
Stream Of Passion was mainly done over the Internet. I know Arjen has said that he prefers to work with singers personally over working over the web. You know, to give it a personal touch to them. How was it with Stream Of Passion? How did you communicate with each other and who and when was involved?
Well, it was mostly over the Internet, that's right. We communicated mostly through e-mails, sometimes we would call each other on the phone and stuff. Pretty much everything was done sending mp3 files back and forward with musical ideas. We started with Arjen sending me song sketches on acoustic guitar, these very basic chords. Then I would work on the melodies on top of those and send them back to him. Then he started working on the arrangements and the rest of the band came in at this point and everyone contributed ideas and arrangements and stuff. Pretty much sending files back and forth.
It was sometimes challenging because of course communication is quite an issue when you're working like this. But we tried to make sure that we were as explicit as we could in our messages and in our calls to make sure that the ideas we had were really getting through, you know.
Stream Of Passion
How flexible is Arjen when creating music?
I think he's got this reputation of being quite a control freak, you know. But since the idea behind Stream Of Passion was to make it a band, this time we all had a lot of say on the arrangements and everything was very democratic so to say. Sometimes we ended up, I don't know, voting whether the specific arrangement would stay or not in a song. Or something like that. He was very flexible and very open to all of our ideas for this project. It was nice.
So, it was democratic and minority had to yield when differences in musical tastes became involved?
Luckily, we all have very different musical influences but our different tastes somehow fitted well together. So, there weren't that many moments that we came to that point when we had to vote for something, you know. Everything was pretty much straightforward. It was a very nice happening and we didn't have all that many problems with that.
That's great to hear. You wrote the lyrics for the album, this "Embrace the Storm." How did you get your inspiration?
Pretty much the things that I was going through at the time, or things I read in books or over the Internet or articles and stuff like that. You know, just a little bit of everything. The overall mood of the album is a bit gloomy and a bit melancholic. That's what I look for in music most of the time, that very nostalgic and melancholic feel. So, that's pretty much the angle most of the songs have, you know, dark and gloomy. But there are also some other tracks that have a little bit of hope and light to them. We thought that the album title really sums everything up pretty well.
How did you find such a title?
Well, you know, we were just thinking about it and we thought that "Embrace the Storm" was a phrase that really summed the concept of the album very well, you know. There's a lot of change and a lot of things going on, lot of different influences. So, that's kind of your storm. And it's also a metaphor for accepting the changes that you come across in life, you know, the difficulties and the hard times and all that stuff, accepting them and making the best out of it.
Why did you sing in Spanish on some of the songs?
It was actually Arjen's idea. I didn't think of it at all, it didn't come to my mind. But then he suggested it, he said it would be nice to have a little bit of Spanish in some songs. And I said, yeah of course. And it worked out pretty well because it gives the tracks a bit exotic feel for people that don't speak the language. Of course it has a very different music quality than in the English, it sounds very different. A nice touch.
And it gives people the chance to imagine what's the song about.
You said that Stream Of Passion is a full band. It will be going on tour in January and February. Have you rehearsed or will you rehearse all together?
Not yet. Luckily the whole rhythm section of the band is Dutch. So, they've been rehearsing for a while now. They've been sending us their rehearsal recordings. We've been working on our own live arrangements over here and sending them back to them. We'll have a couple of weeks before we start performing to get everything together. So, I think it's going to work out because so far it sounds good. (Laughs.)
What are your general expectations for the tour? What kind of people do you expect to show up on the gigs?
Well, I've heard European audiences are very different from Latin audiences. That they are more, how do you say this... a bit more quiet. (Laughs.) 'Cause people over here are usually very loud and they jump and they scream and sing along all the songs. And I've heard, I don't know if it's true, but I've heard European audiences focus more on listening and enjoying the performance, you know, rather than, you know, making a lot of fuss. So, that's really great, that's something I'm really looking forward, to try and connect to that kind of audience. I'm wondering what will it be like.
One day I watched The Gathering DVD and they told that in Brazil they had to use bodyguards, just to walk around the town and in Europe they can walk around freely and practically no one knows them.
Yeah, it's really crazy. I've also heard very crazy stories from Joost from After Forever. He told me that they played this gig in Columbia and they had to have armed guards on stage, you know, while they were playing. They had these big guys with machine guns and you're just playing and on the side big gun. Whoa! I could never do that. (Laughs.)
But how is it with Elfonia. You seem to be pretty known and valued in Mexico. Is it true?
Well, you know thanks to all the exposure we have been getting after I did vocals with Arjen for the Ayreon album and now and for Stream Of Passion we're becoming more and more known. I don't know if it happens all over the world but there's a tendency with Mexican audiences to prefer bands and music coming from abroad, from overseas. We sometimes tend to demerit or devaluate what we do, what our own musicians do. So, I get the feeling that since Alejandro [Millan, keyboarder of Elfonia and Stream Of Passion] and I have been doing all this, that people somehow get different ideas like "Hey, we have musicians that have enough quality to do all these things with people from Europe." I think that has somehow changed people mentality a bit and that's something that I'm really really proud of.
Has Stream Of Passion affected Elfonia in any way? Has your music changed, besides the fact that Arjen is participating on "Camaleon"?
I don't think that there has been a direct influence in the music but the way Arjen works and the way he just goes ahead and does everything on his own, he has his own studio and he produces his albums, just has all this initiative. That has been a huge inspiration for us. On the first album we did it the normal way and we went to the studio and spent a couple of weeks in the studio and recorded everything there. "For This Sonic Landscape" we thought and went for it, you know, bought equipment and we created our little studio and recorded most of the things there. Just the drums we recorded in a very big and nice studio. So, we were a bit reluctant, you know, if we were going to be able to do it. But the way Arjen works was a big inspiration for us to get courage and just go ahead and do it. I think that has been the biggest lesson we've learned from him. Just take control of your music and just do whatever you like. That means a lot to us.
You mentioned you started your own label, The Note Garden. How is it going with it and what are your plans for the future?
Well, it's going good. Since we were already doing our own production it was just a bit logical just take the next step and do everything in a more formal matter. Well, so far the only thing we have in mind is to keep releasing the Elfonia albums through the label and maybe some solo projects of our own through it. Who knows, perhaps in the future we'll also have the opportunity to produce some other bands and stuff. We'd consider it definitely.
So, it would mean much if you could produce some new band from Mexico.
Yeah, definitely. We already have certain bands, friends and people we know that make really good music that we would really like to work with. I think we will definitely try and do different projects in the future. Perhaps for all of us, since we are different musicians, new bands and stuff like that. It would be definitely very interesting.
But is it hard to handle all the distribution?
It is a very complicated task and especially when you are pretty much starting to learn everything about it. But we've been lucky in finding people to work with. There's already a company that is handling all our distribution in Mexico and we're arranging deals in different countries. We're working it out.
So, when are you going to reach the European market?
That's a very good question. (Laughs.) We are still working on it and we'll hopefully have something, maybe next year. Which would be great.
How do you label your music with Elfonia?
We decided that the easiest way for us to label it is Progressive Rock, you know. 'Cause it gives us the chance to bring all of our influences into it and not struggle with complicated labels and stuff like that. So, I think Progressive Rock is the easiest way to call it. (Laughs.)
What does the release of this second album mean to you and the band?
It was a very big challenge, you know. We'd heard that the second album is also the toughest to release. And now we know it for sure. It was a very a very complicated learning experience, you know, because we spent the big while since we had released our first album. We started listening to all these new and different kinds of music. We started getting more into Jazz, Fusion and Post Rock and all these different musical styles. So, we went through a period of learning process. Then we started on working on how we were going to record everything by ourselves and working on our sound and stuff like that. This whole process took almost two years. To eventually have it and eventually see and hear the final product is such a big satisfaction, you know.
Do you have a meaning behind the name of the album "This Sonic Landscape"?
We just think that that phrase really kind of reflects the atmosphere that's behind the music. The whole album is sort of a concept about how people handle or deal with the difficulties they have in life. It's the description of an evolution, a moment of evolution in your life, how you step from one point of one level of maturity to another in your life; how you grow, and how you deal with the stuff, and how you finally overcome and grow, outgrow your difficulties and come a little more closer to state of perfection that we are all looking for.
Why did you start the album with the fourth part of the "Gigantes" song?
That's a very good question. We wanted to give the album a sort of a cycle feel. 'Cause this process, this learning process of overcoming a problem and something that we go through day by day, it's something we're always dealing with over and over again and we are somehow always trying to become a bit closer to perfection but we quite never reach it. So, we are always going through it. And that's kind of what we wanted to say with it.
Did you intend the album to be listened in cycles. I mean like over and over again?
Do you think you have succeeded?
Ah... I think so. (Laughs.) Nowadays we hear it and we think it definitely reflects what we wanted to say and I think that our inner struggle and our learning is also very noticeable during the tracks. We have all these changes and influences and make it a very extreme and very contrasting album, you know. 'Cause you have very melodious and very busy moments. I think we did manage to say what we wanted to.
But do people listen it in cycles?
I have no idea. I think I've read about some people that do on our website forum. But that's pretty much it. I will have to ask them. (Laughs.) I'm not sure.
How did you find this cover for the album? It looks really interesting.
That's actually a painting done by a very good friend of ours, his name is Arturo Leal. We've known him for a while now and his a very talented artist. We got together with him and discussed the ideas behind the album with him. And he created this painting that is really wonderful. You know, it went so well that for the release party of the album he also created a painting for each of the album tracks, created these 12 paintings that are also wonderful. We hope to be doing something with them later on because they are very very great.
Elfonia "This Sonic Landscape"
When I first heard your debut album I was really surprised. You managed to catch some of the atmosphere of The 3rd And The Mortal. I remember that you once mentioned that you like the band and especially their singer Anne-Marie Edvardsen. How much have they influenced you?
Definitely a lot. Even though that nowadays I don't listen to their music all that often they've definitely been a very big influence on me personally. It's something that I've rarely found in another band, you know. A band that can create this kind of atmospheric and very moody and very experimental music but do it in a very, I don't know, in a very melodious and a very harmonic way, you know. It's very special.
Yes, this band is special. But what bands have influenced your music and your preferences in general?
Well, a little bit of everything. There's bands of course like The 3rd And The Mortal and Dead Can Dance and those kinds of bands. I've also been listening to a lot of Jazz lately: Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Bill Frisell. And each member of the band has very unique influences, you know. Pablo, the bass, he has a lot more of Jazz influence and Javier on drums he also likes a lot of Fusion albums and stuff like that. So, he adds that to his music. It's a little bit of everything actually.
Yeah, I can hear it. In your last album there are lots of Jazz influences. But as a singer, who are your examples and idols?
Definitely Anne-Marie is one of them. She's been one of my biggest inspirations. Well lately a lot of Jazz singers as well, you know. There's Sarah Vaughan, Cassandra Wilson and also since my vocal training has been more into classical singing I also like classic singing, voices like Kathleen Battle, good sopranos.
Do you have a career dream?
So far I'm really happy to have the opportunity to collaborate and work with musicians from all parts of the world. And that's something that I've really really enjoyed, that I've learned a lot from. I hope to be able to keep discovering new music and new musicians and create different projects. 'Cause that's a very nice learning experience.
Where do you see yourself let's say in 5 years? What kind of music will you be involved in?
Well, I don't know. (Laughs.) I have no idea but I hope it can be more than one kind, you know. I think what I love the most is to be able to do different kinds of music, so that I have a way to explore my different creative sides.
In a way the singer is thought to be the face of the band. Most often it's the singer the people know about. Do you consider this statement to be true?
Somehow I think it makes sense, you know. Being the one, saying the words. (Laughs.) It's easier for people to focus on the singer when it comes to image. But I'm glad to be working with very talented musicians overall, in both bands I'm working in right now. I have to say that I don't think that none of them is completely focused on the vocals because there's a lot to discover in the music as well.
But do you think it adds some responsibility to be a singer?
Oh yeah, definitely. The voice is sometimes, and we've noticed this a lot with Elfonia, the voice and the vocal melodies are sometimes a way for people to get into the music. It's what guides you into the music and what eventually leads you to discover what's behind, what's beneath all the arrangements and all the harmonic richness of the songs. It's definitely a big responsibility.
And how do you cope with it?
Ah, well, I just try and do my best. (Laughs.) I don't really do, you know, anything special. I just really love working with melodies and try to m[ake the most out of the melodies I create and try to make them as emotional and meaningful as I can.
Has some of this international recognition changed anything in your life?
I'm definitely a lot more busy nowadays. (Laughs.) And... I think that's pretty much it. (Laughs.) I've had a lot more things to do nowadays, which is good because it's mostly working with music that I really really like doing. I get more e-mails from people telling me that they like the music I'm doing and that's very rewarding and very nice.
What do you do besides singing?
I'm also a software developer and that's kind of my daily job, you know. I work for a company in the United States from home, which is nice. I get to create my own schedule and stuff. That's pretty much how I'm able to mix everything together.
Just out of curiosity being in the same industry. What do you do exactly?
Mostly web applications. I've been mostly working with doing tools to communicate with the company vendors and stuff like that.
Do you have a dream band you would like to see? Or have you seen them already?
I'm actually very very excited 'cause I'm hearing a rumors that Dave Holland Quintet is going to come to Mexico to Monterrey next year, you know, at the end of next year. So, I'm really excited because I would definitely like to see them live. And well, I already had the opportunity to see The 3rd And The Mortal live once. They came to Mexico City about four years ago or something and I had the chance to see them and this is very cool.
Who with were they? Anne-Marie was or was not in the band at that moment?
It was "The Memoirs" tour. So, they came with Kirsti [Hukes] and also a male singer, I think his name is Andreas [Elvenes]. But it was a very nice show because they also did a few songs from the old albums, you know. I think they did one from the album with Kari [Rueslatten] and also a couple of "In This Room" tracks. So, it was very cool.
What message does your music carry?
I don't know. I don't think it really portrays a message on itself perhaps. 'Cause it's mostly introspective. So, I don't know, maybe what you can take out of it as a lesson. It could encourage you to look within yourself and explore your feelings. There's not really like a message to it, you know.
So, it's more like an inner journey for you?
Yeah, that's right!
Do you have something great in store for the fans on the tour? Will you be performing some of the Elfonia songs?
No, but we will be performing a lot of Ayreon songs as well. And I think that's going to be a nice treat for all Arjen fans that don't get the chance to see him live very often. So, we will pretty much do like half-half, you know, half Stream Of Passion songs, half Ayreon songs. It's going to be nice, you know, to do these Ayreon cover songs by Stream Of Passion.
Will they sound more like Stream Of Passion than Ayreon?
Definitely. Well, you know, it's sort of obvious because we won't have all these singers and all these synthesizer sounds. It'll have to be a more band approach to the songs. But I think it's going to be very interesting.
Will you also have the strings supporting you?
No, we will give all that responsibility to Alejandro who manages to play both the piano and the string parts. I'll be doing a little bit of violin as well in the songs. We'll manage. (Laughs.)
Ok, I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to try to see you in London.
Big thanks to Marcela for this wonderful conversation. You're a great person to talk to. And sorry everybidy for publishing taking so long.
Pictures from official sites of Stream Of Passion and Elfonia
Some useful links:
Stream Of Passion
The 3rd And The Mortal
The Note Garden Records
Posted on 16.01.2006 by
I shoot people.
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