Halfway through the interview, Hendrik Jan ‘HJ’ de Jong, guitarist of Nemesea, has had enough. There has been an elephant in the room for over an hour. Addressing singer Manda Ophuis and bass player Sonny Onderwater, he says: “Why don’t we just own up about Manda and I splitting up? Otherwise this will be going nowhere.” This confession is received with great relief by the band members. Now the air has been cleared, many things begin to fall into place. It’s amazing that the band isn’t just still together, but is also about to release their most accessible album to date. An album which title speaks volumes in that respect. An album you can now stream in full below.
By Werner Schlosser
Uprise is the title of Nemesea’s fourth studio album, released worldwide on April 29th via Napalm Records. “The songs of this album are about ways of getting out of an unexpected bad situation in the strongest possible way” is what HJ had already said earlier in the interview. This theme turns out to be closer to the band than they had realized. It also explains why, after a Facebook-message in August 2012, announcing that the band members had started to work on their fourth album. Finally it would take another three-and-a-half-years to complete that task. Although the break-up wasn’t the only reason. There was a gap of three years between the first two albums, the previous album took four years of waiting. So the other reason is that album releases from Nemesea always take time. 5 Years after The Quiet Resistance, now the new album Uprise sees the light of day.
Perfection and ambition
The members of the rock band from the Dutch city Groningen are not easily satisfied with their releases. That is evidenced over the past few years through the release of a remixed and remastered version of their live-album Pure (2009), and a Surround 5.1-version of their album In Control (2012). This perfectionism is joined by a generous dose of ambition. Their previous album, The Quiet Resistance, was released through Napalm Records. That label has numerous international connections and provided Nemesea with lots of attention from media outlets outside their home country, which resulted in a significantly increased audience. Within a year, their social media support increased tenfold, and the album sold more than 25,000 copies. An impressive 85% of these sales came from outside Holland, from Europe via South America to Japan. The pre-orders for Uprise already show many of these fans to be loyal. Many of those who bought previous Nemesea albums have already ordered the new album, securing themselves of a limited edition with four bonus tracks (and a very special additional bonus track for the Japanese market).
The success of their album ‘The Quiet Resistance’ has left them wanting more. “Our goal is to earn a living from our music”, says Sonny, although he has also set up a wine importing business, whilst Manda is teaching highly intelligent children, and HJ is teaching guitar lessons online and at various music academies. Nevertheless, the band, the label and the people around them, are totally convinced that ‘Uprise’ has an enormous potential to reach many more fans, and generate significantly more album sales than previous releases did.
“We have been developing ourselves from a metal band to a rock band with honest songs”, according to HJ. “Musical preferences within Nemesea vary wildly, but our new album includes influences from all of us, much more than before. We felt that writing with the aim of airplay was much too restrictive. Instead, we went on a quest to find what we feel is the best sound for us. By dropping those radio considerations, Uprise has become an approachable rock album.”
“We sound much more like a band”, summarizes Sonny, “This is more Nemesea than ever before.”
The band took control of their own destiny by financing their In Control album through the crowdfunding platform Sellaband. But losing control was one of the central themes of The Quiet Resistance, which was rather prophetic. Uprise shows a band looking back at an emotional period, which alternated between emotions of holding on to the past, of handling a new reality, and of allowing yourself (and the other) to take the next steps. The final message is, that you must grab every opportunity to regain control, when something doesn’t go as planned.
“Every end has a start”, sings Manda in ‘Let It Burn’. “HJ and I have kept the lyrics very close to our own situation, although we always used to do that anyway. You try to write something that resonates with others, sometimes very openly. But I like to wrap things up a bit more, leaving the interpretation open to the listener. To not disturb this, I don’t ever tell anyone what my lyrics are about, although this time it’s rather more obvious.” The singer admits that recording the vocals for this album was more difficult than before, but she experiences the noticeable deeper emotion as an added value to the album.
Nemesea recorded ‘Uprise’ in the Giesound-studios in the Dutch town Zwolle. Producer Guido Aalbers played a crucial role. Never before in the band’s history there has been a single person experiencing and supporting the whole process from start to finish. HJ praises Guido’s approach: “He works from genuine involvement and enthusiasm, which made us feel like he’s part of the band. He considers what you want, but he also has his own vision, based on authenticity and purity. For example, Sonny and I played several vintage instruments. And thanks to Guido, we recorded – instead of the endless sectioning, panelling and production work that is quite usual in the gothic/symphonic scene – a lot of one-takers. Because of that, you’ll now hear much more a band like we always envisioned.”
Apart from Guido’s musical role, we should not underestimate his contribution as a mental coach. Manda recorded her vocals together with him and is very pleased with the result: “Before we started the recordings, I struggled with whether I could still do this, and whether I really wanted to. But Guido managed to get the best out of it all, the singing and recording in the studio were a very pleasant experience. When you find that, after many years of not having sung much, you still can do it well, that’s a huge boost.”
On ‘Uprise’, Nemesea sounds exactly like what they were aiming for. It is a product of a band that has converted change into improvement, both collectively as well as individually.
Manda regained her confidence in her own abilities. “I have learned to stay much closer to my feelings and you can hear that back in a deeper emotional layer. More fragile, more pure. I’ve changed as a human being, and my role in the band has shifted from front woman to singer. And that feels great.”
HJ thinks that Uprise contains his best songs ever: “I have improved my songwriting, and the musical content of the songs. I’m now working completely from my feelings rather than from technical considerations.”
In recent years, Sonny has attracted more and more of the support activities, such as social media, merchandise and the website. “Releasing a new studio album of which we’re convinced that we can realise our ambitions, gives a wonderful feeling.”