Interview by: Pere Guiteras and Tania Giménez
French metal has left us historical eighties bands such as Sortilège, Blaspheme or ADX. Recently, other bands of enormous quality have appeared, raising the banner of metal in the country that invented the guillotine. Characterised by a style comparable to that of their countrymen and contemporaries Herzel, Meurtrières are about to release their second release.
On the occasion of this release we interviewed the band, with whom we talked about squats and castles, painting, institutional violence, feminism and how metal is not a politically homogeneous group. And we joke, too.
– Hello. Thanks for taking the time. How is everything going with the band? You’re introducing us to your new singer, Fiona. How did you all meet? Why did Fleur leave the band?
Olivier Voyou: Hola! we’re doing fine, thanks! Actually we found Fiona in a gutter. She was completely drunk and yelling SORTILEGE lyrics. Her performance was convincing enough to ask her to join the band. Fleur left the band due to personal reasons.
Fiona : Ahah lovely!
Fortunately I am here to raise the intellectual level… I actually won a juggling tournament with flaming sticks. It was tight but I have to say they were really impressed with my skill.
For them, I don’t know how they met. Maybe in that same gutter.
– Xavier and Flo are as well band mates in the Doom Metal band Père Lachaise. After the demo you released, are you working on new material?
Flo: I can’t really say if Père Lachaise is done or not, you gotta ask Brian the lead singer/guitarist to know what’s up with the band. Père Lachaise wasn’t supposed to last though, It was supposed to be a one-shot project. Brian, who lives abroad, was in Lyon for a couple of weeks and had those songs that he wanted to complete with link minded friends who also love 70/80’s Doom and Hard-Rock. Thomas, Xavier, myself (all in Meurtrieres nowadays) and Brian rehearsed the songs for a week straight and completed a recording in the following week. One year after the demo was out, we rehearsed one more time, completed a new song and then, the band stopped for some more years. This is where we stand now.
– After debuting with your self-titled EP in 2020, you have recently released the fantastic Ronde de Nuit. How do you think the two recordings differ?
Flo: I don’t feel it’s a big departure from what we’ve done in the past, the musicianship is better I guess.
Fiona : Thanks! Maybe I’m wrong because I’m at the heart of the reactor but I have the impression that the structures of the songs are more complex, richer than the EP. I mean it’s not a bad thing, I really like the efficiency of the first one. Sharp as a knife.
But I think they wanted to bring more warmth to their instruments and it’s a success!
-These days France is the scene of a revolt. How did you live through what happened? France is a country where there are citizens generally respond. Is there a reaction or an answer also coming from the scene or in art in general in your country?
Olivier Voyou: We’ve been living two years of political tension in France. It started with the gilet jaunes movement (which had its pros and cons but was at least a revelator of how the state uses violence to repress contestation). Then it was the retirement laws and now it’s all about police brutality and its racism. As a band we haven’t participated in any of these but as an individual I went to demonstrations. Punks and artists in general have been outspoken about how our government sucks big time and that everything needs to change (systemic racism but also class contempt and climate crisis). About the metal scene it’s more complicated as it’s not a politically coherent group (as punk can be). But as far as I know and as we say in french: tout le monde déteste la police («everybody hates the police»). So I guess metalheads do too ahaha. Well I hope so.
-How much of an influence your surroundings and this kind of riots can be in your artistic expression? Or in the hunger to create?
Olivier Voyou: I play tear-gas fuelled riffs. Just kidding. Hate is what keeps me alive. Just kidding. Politics don’t really interfere anymore with my creative activities. Living in the city does, although, endless flows of people and initiatives. I like this a lot. Fuck the countryside.
Fiona : I am very sensitive to what surrounds me. It makes me go forward or backward but at least it feeds me.
-The time we saw you in Barcelona (or Hospitalet) you played at L’ Astilla, a squat that is no more. In what kind of spaces do you usually play? Squats aren’t the common venue for Heavy Metal bands.
Fiona : Honestly, we are less comfortable on big stages than in squats or clubs.
We prefer to play very close to the people. The energy that comes from the public drives us totally crazy. On the bigger stages, I think you feel that kind of stuff less. Well… Except when you’re Iron Maiden and 10,000 people sing Fear of the Dark with you.
Flo : We’re glad you saw us at this place, that unfortunately no longer exists. It was a great show. We love to play in those kinds of places where there is no separation between the audience and the band. It feels right to us.
– Both France and Catalonia are lands of historic castles. What fortifications or battles have inspired you the most in your compositions?
Olivier Voyou: I can’t say that I’m directly influenced by castles when I grab my guitar but I do think that the catharian castles (south of France) are truly amazing.
Fiona : Castles in Spain of course.
-Most of your lyrics feature strong women characters. How do these kinds of concepts translate into today’s scenario or how can they resonate with Metal? Is it just a suiting imagery or also a statement, an act of defiance?
Fiona : It’s obviously not just a suitable imagery. The reason I choose to continue highlighting women like Fleur did before is because I believe these stories (whether real or not) are absolutely necessary. Let’s be honest, we are as absent from the history books as we are from the Metal scene. Especially in Heavy Metal.
I’ve been digging Heavy Metal bands with female members every week for the past few years. Believe me, it’s demotivating.
-For instance, who’s the woman on the cover artwork? What does it/she represent?
Fiona : In his first draft, Ivan had drawn a knight and we were all thinking «we want a woman, don’t we?». We wanted a close-up, frontal, of a mysterious woman whose identity we don’t really know. I especially like that it’s not sexualized as you can see on tons of other Metal artworks.
She is also there to guide the listeners. From her torch, she invites you into this dark univeeerse where no one is destined to surviiiive… Perhaps she could also represent one of the characters of the album… Stop teasing! Haha
-Feminism plays an important role on your lyrics/work. Are you influenced by any feminist movements within music? If so, which ones and or which were your role models when you were younger?
Flo : For me, it’s not about a specific feminist movement within music, like Riot Grrrl for instance (musical movement that I know very little of aside from big names like Bikini Kill or Huggy Bear). I’ve been a huge fan of bands like the Runaways or Girlschool, for decades now. I never even thought about their gender in the first place, I just think they ruled hard, have fantastic songs and a lot of attitude.
Fiona : In Punk and especially in Riot Grrrl bands, it’s quite uninhibited in the way of playing your instrument. It definitely helped me play music without worrying about haters.
I myself have participated in empowerment workshops with other women. It was a really amazing experience, I recommend it to everyone.
– In fact, you come from the Punk scene. How does it feel to be embraced and be part (kind of) of a different «scene»?
Flo : Feels great by now. To be honest, I’m sometimes quite astonished by some of the way things work within the Metal scene compared to the punk one. For instance, we like to do most of the things related to the band by ourselves. It’s the way we always operated with our previous bands. Now, we see a huge difference. It seems that every step to put on a show or just make something happen involves many, MANY people, a lot of “middle person” so to speak and it gets quite complicated sometimes in my opinion. But I don’t want to be the one who complains, it’s great to navigate within this scene and we feel very welcomed.
– To us personally, one of the down sides of today’s Metal scene is the fact that most artists – and even listeners – don’t have a problem tolerating, accepting or in turning a blind eye if not supporting to bigoted ideas and behaviours. Coming from a politically committed scene, what are your thoughts on this? Is it important to you to position yourselves in this issue?
Olivier Voyou: Well, we, Meurtrières as a band, are not flag bearers of anarchism or social progress. In the end we’re just a rock’n’roll band. But as individuals we have opinions, strong opinions, on tons of topics and most of the time, we are not afraid to express them out loud if confronted with sketchy stuff. As I replied earlier in this interview, Metal is not a politically homogeneous ensemble so it makes general comments about Metal pretty pointless. As a punk I don’t think it’s my role to say “metal should be this” or “metal should be that”. I just can tell when a fellow human being is being a racist or homophobic ass.
-On this album you emphasise the paintings of Rembrandt and Johann Heinrich Fussli. How do you do it? What are some of your inspirations in art and in general (outside of music)?
Olivier Voyou: Everyone in the band is fond of various art forms (but music geeks über alles). We discussed together about the artwork and these both painters came as a good resume of our desire for the cover of the LP. Personally I’m an avid reader, being especially crazy on Russian and French literature of the later XIXth century up to now. Do my guitar riffs sound existentialists? Is playing at 11 devoid of sense? What would Camus have thought of the use of synthes on Seventh son?
Fiona : I studied and worked in art for more than a decade. I love 18th century German romantic painting (Tempête et Naufrage is a nod to this movement). I like ethnographic arts (African, Asian, etc). And I’m not talking about Art Brut. Ok I absolutely love everything…
-This is your pictorial release. What does this mean in a music context or how do you achieve? How’s the process of giving an image to the music or vice versa?
Fiona : A painting, a picture, freezes a moment in history : the story line is often missing. This is an advantage as well as a disadvantage but when you are a little bit creative, you can imagine what you want before and after.
I think that the instrumentals, made by the guys, are also very pictorial and inspiring. I mean, sometimes I imagine the scene before my eyes. I don’t know if it’s intentional cause we never really talked about it but I wouldn’t be surprised. We have artists and pure souls in the band!
– What can you tell us about your association with Gates of Hell Records?
Flo : Pretty great so far. Some of us within the band already met Bri and Enrico. I don’t, so I hope I’ll be able to express my gratitude to them sooner or later.
– We’d like you to recommend us some bands, within the metal scene or not, that you feel they share that mediaeval touch with you.
Fiona : Well I am going to tell you about Lisieux. It’s a French band with this mediaeval touch like you said. There is a woman on vocals and another on drums. It mixes rock, electro and dark folk. You can listen to the latest LP released at the end of last year : ABIDE! (Best song : Lys Noirs).
Olivier Voyou: Lisieux is a great band indeed. I would recommend Dernière Volonté “Devant le miroir” LP. Very weird pop with medievalistic melodies.
– That’s all from our side, thanks once more for answering to our questions. The last lines are yours.
Fiona : Muchas gracias! Hope to meet you one day in a squat or somewhere else in Spain!
Olivier Voyou: Merci! form new bands and play unapologetically loud!!!