Anneke Van Giersbergen, front woman for Holland's The Gathering says that Sleepy Buildings: A Semi Acoustic Evening is a special record for the band because it's one that they she and her band mates and not the label decided to make. Although calling Van Giersbergen laid back would be an understatement of epic proportions, the singer has definite ideas about her craft and the the business of being in a band. She recently shared some of these insights with Sea Of Tranquility's Jedd Beaudoin
Sea of Tranquility: Tell me a little about the genesis of this record.
Anneke Van Giersbergen: We actually had the idea for this record for a long time. We thought it might be nice if we had these old songs in a new jacket. But it was something we only talked about every once in a while. Then we got into a discussion with Century Media about the last album we should make for them. They wanted us to have a Best Of thing. The idea of doing a record like this triggered again, about old songs in a new jacket and the acoustic thing. We thought that maybe we could do that. That's more special than just putting old songs on a new CD. So we just did it.
SoT: Have you heard from people who are just coming to the band now, who maybe didn't know the old material and are now excited about it?
AVG: No, no. Maybe this is also an oeuvre album, like people who already like the Gathering and have some of our records want this to complete the oeuvre, something special. I haven't met any people yet who've said they were introduced to the Gathering through this. But the first two CDs, from before my time, were a bit more obscure and people got to listen to them as well. That's really old stuff.
SoT: What was it like for you to join a band that was already formed and where there already certain relationships in place?
AVG: For me it was a spread bed, as we call it. I was singing in a lot of different kinds of bands and I had a duo and it was really good and fun to do but obviously we'd only play small cafés and stuff like that. When I joined the Gathering, they were already up and running. They were highly popular in the underground scene. For me, it was ... I was their missing link. For me, it was a band that I wanted to be in because I wanted to move to a higher level in music, to actually go out and play somewhere, where there more people than 20. We were happy with each other and so it was a puzzle that was made complete.
SoT: What was your first gig with the Gathering like?
AVG: We rehearsed a lot. We actually played a lot before the album came out. People didn't know what was happening. While the band was quite popular with the first album, which had growling voices, the second album, especially in Holland, flopped a little bit. The vocalist didn't really fit. So, when I joined, people were thinking, "Oh, another singer." I remember standing on the stage and people were folding their arms like I had to prove myself. They were waiting. They'd all come to see us. They were waiting to see what would happen. After the show, they came up to me and shook my hand and they were kind of surprised. It was a good surprise. They looked at it like, "Well see this first and then form an opinion."
SoT: You were over in the States recently with Agalloch and November's Doom. How did that go?
AVG: Very well, actually. Both of those bands are very heavy. Agalloch are very atmospheric. They fit very nice with us and they're really cool guys. The people that came to see us were great and there were more people there than in '99 when we played. Obviously, that was a long time ago but we were very happily surprised. But I have to say: You have a huge country. We had to drive, drive, drive, then sleep four hours because there were not enough hours in a day. We were dead when we came back. But we also got to play Mexico and Chile, so that was one goal––getting from Canada to Chile. We had twelve flights in one week. But it was great and we hope to come back to the U.S. this year.
SoT: It seems like maybe this is a good time for the Gathering to enter American radio. Has that happened yet?
AVG: Yes. We're actually played a lot on college radio, which I like a lot because the college kids are interesting. I think that's good exposure and that it's good to be part of that scene. All in all, we get press from a lot of genres but the mass press like MTV and big stuff is hard for us. It's hard for us to get our foot in the door, even in Europe. It's quite hard to be in the mass scene. But we have a good status. We have good status in the metal scene but also in the gothic scene and also in prog rock and pop scenes and alternative scenes. So we have people everywhere, which I think gives us more visibility than being in front of the Britney Spears audience.
AVG: But the great thing is that we have a following where people will see us one time and then come back to see what we're up to next year. That's fantastic.
SoT: You know, this is a real pleasure for me to talk to you. I've actually been waiting for a long time. I wanted to very badly right after Souvenirs came out because I loved that record very deeply. Can you share with me your thoughts on that record now that some time has gone by since its release?
AVG: A lot of stuff happened around that record. It took three years to make. We formed our own little label then, too. Those were very busy times. But, also, a lot of stuff changed in the band. We were at kind of a low point because we had some business stuff that didn't really work out and forming a label took a lot of effort. We didn't know shit about running a label, so we had to find out from scratch and that took so much energy and so much time and so much .... I don't like the office, you know? [Laughs.]
AVG: It's not my strong point. So, we did everything we could to make it and now we have people there who work for us and it's going smoothly. But forming the label was great. We took everything back. We had our creative freedom. Everything was ours again. That felt very good. We had the strength to go on. But we had stuff going on with Century Media and sometimes we just didn't have inspiration at all, so everything, in all, good and bad, we put into that record. We were actually in position and at a time where we were going to give up and quit the band. It was too much. But we didn't. We came through and now the band is stronger than ever. It's a good thing. But that's really a blood, sweat and tears album. That explains all the layers ... there's a lot of stuff there. There's big production and so on and we also tried new ways of writing and new ways of recording. I wrote five lyrics to every song because none were good enough. I sang every song a million times and only in the last part of the whole thing process did we hear what the record was going to be like and we knew then that it was going to be very good. Then we felt our enthusiasm coming back again. Realizing it on our own little label was awesome because people really seemed to like it. We even sold some. We were quite happy, you know. We just barely survived but we're happy to be here.
SoT: Have you ever thought of leaving Holland?
AVG: It's very small and it's very easy to live here. There's no big political chaos. It's just an easy country to live in. Our roots are here. It's very nice to move around and travel so much, so it's always nice to come home and be around the things that make you feel nice and feel at home. I think about a lot about moving south to Spain or wherever because of the climate but also because the people can sometimes be cold and the culture is not very good here. There's not a very good music scene. People don't really seem to care.
SoT: What does the rest of 2004 have in store for The Gathering?
AVG: We're going to tour some more and then later this year. But we're also going to try and write some new songs this year and in 2005 we'll start on a new album. And we're working on a DVD.
SoT: Wow. Will it be live or videos or some combination?
AVG: Probably a little bit of both. We have so many ideas that will probably never even fit on a DVD. That's a luxurious problem. We taped a lot of the American and European tours, so you have live stuff and other things. And I think we're going to tape one show so that it's done in a good way and featured and then maybe some extra stuff with videos and photos. We're still thinking about it but we're already taping a lot of stuff.