Interview: Sylvaine’s Katherine Shepard on Process, Themes Behind New LP

I’m a new fan to the Sylvaine camp, but now that I’m here, I can’t believe it took me so long to get on board. Her gorgeous vocal stylings paired with melodic, post-black metal excellence are nothing to sneeze at, and on her new record, Nova, out March 4 via Season of Mist, she’s really outdone herself when it comes to melody and composition.  

“When we started writing Nova, it was 2019,” Sylvaine herself, aka Katherine Shepard, says. “I spent 2019 and 2020 writing because everyone was locked at home, so I had time. Then we were supposed to record at the end of last year, which didn’t happen. So basically, it got pushed back to early 2021. The recording process was special for this one. It was long. I think I was in the studio for 66 days total.” 

During the recording process, the whole band got COVID and decided to tough it out, isolate together, and keep working as long as everyone was feeling well enough. And feeling well enough was the operative phrase, as the type of vocals Shepard does are not easy on the lungs, and she has asthma. Despite the setbacks and the pained process of bringing the record into the world, the record turned out, in my humble opinion, as their best yet. This could be due to how well the themes on the record pair with the current climate.  

“Basically, Nova deals with loss,” she explains. “So, 2019 and 2020 were probably some of the most challenging years I have had in my life so far, and don’t get me wrong, I know I come from a place of privilege. I really do. I have a house, a great family, and friends around me. I don’t have the right to complain too much. But for me, it was more loss on a personal level. It was extremely hard for me in 2019, and then 2020 came around and was even worse, and then the global situation happened. So, Nova is basically a record that deals with my personal loss and also the collective loss we all faced during 2020.” 

The record is indeed a glimpse into personal loss and human suffering, but don’t think it’s going to be a total bummer. There’s definitely an uplifting feel to the post-black metal riffing and the overall music, a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel vibe.  

“The whole album revolves around to the idea that everything has to come to an end, and I was very close to naming the album that, but decided it sounded too fucking aggressive, and that’s not what people need right now,” Shepard laughs. “But that’s basically the theme of the record: personal loss, global loss, spiritual loss, human loss, and all the pain and suffering that can arise from it.” 

The pain and suffering, yes, but also the rebirth and next chapter, as we see on this glorious record.   

Watch the video for “Nowhere, Still Somewhere” here:

For more from Sylvaine, find her on Facebook, Instagram, and her official website.

Photo courtesy of Sylvaine and Andy Julia

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