Exclusive Interview with Erdve

Erdve produced one of the finest extreme metal albums of the year so far with their sophomore album, Savigaila. If you haven’t heard Erdve, you’re in for a treat. The Lithuanian noise merchants mix sludge, hardcore and black metal into a cauldron of white-hot rage and aim to find inner peace in the chaos of their incandescent aggression.

Formed in Vilnius in 2016, the band secured a deal with Season of Mist in time for their 2018 debut, Vaitojimas, and are now ready to push their extreme sonic experiments even further towards the emotional despair of self-examination. Strange as it may sound, chief songwriter, Vaidotas Darulis, find this type of crushing post-metal peaceful and relaxing, although he admits it’s not easy screaming at the top of his lungs on every track. You’ll hear snippets of Neurosis, Helmet, Deadguy and even Wolves in the Throne Room in the music of Erdve, but the Lithuanians are starting to carve out their own sound. We might call it experimental metal or even post-hardcore were it not for the monstrous sludge metal infusion and dalliance with avant-garde classical music.

At eleven tracks and forty-two minutes in length, Savigaila sounds like a slog, but the listening experience flies by in a rush of adrenaline and intrigue. Like all good records, you just never know what’s coming next with Erdve. It’s heavy, emotional, euphoric, distressing, and oppressive at the same time, yet it leaves you wanting more.

We spoke to Erdve vocalist, guitarist and mastermind, Vaidotas Darulis, about the recording of Savigaila and the meaning behind the songs.

Above: Vaidotas Darulis is the vocalist, guitarist and mastermind behind the crushing Erdve sound.

Let’s start with the opening song on your album. Track number one, ‘Lavondėmės’, is HEAVY! It’s like Neurosis but with a grindcore/sludge makeover. What were your musical aims with this song, and what are its lyrical themes?

Vaidotas Darulis (Vocals, guitar): Hi, thanks for talking to us! We are glad you enjoyed the record. We draw inspiration from both grindcore music and bands like Neurosis for sure, so it’s a big compliment for us.

As for the lyricial part – “Lavondėmės” in the Lithuanian language is a word describing Livor mortis, also known as hypostasis, which is an accumulation of stagnated blood causing a purplish red skin colour of a deceased body. It is a metaphor for inner stagnation and an overwhelming effort to overcome it. It’s about searching for your own meaning of things, breaking free from stagnation, accepting responsibility for your own path, finding direction, finding purpose, dealing with anger – all that to achieve happiness. We try to maintain a positive message in our songs, despite the grim reality we all deal with.

The follow up song, ‘Smala’, is just as interesting. This one sounds like Helmet injected with the blood-boiling aggression of post-metal. What precautions do you take in the studio and on stage to ensure there’s no damage to your throat after screaming at such levels of intensity?

Vaidotas: The throat damage is actually a thing that I really despise about screaming, and I have a love/hate relationship with singing like that. I like to express emotions and try to do it creatively, using different tones and types of screaming, but after every band rehearsal and every show I have terrible headaches and swollen vocal cords. It sometimes is hard to speak for a few days after a very intense show. I push the air with a diaphragm, so it’s easier to have a loud voice and damages vocal cords less, but, honestly, for a good performance you must really push it. I tried all kinds of warm drinks before/after, throat mints, but you know abuse is abuse, and that’s what you get for it. It’s hard for me to imagine a tour with many shows with a great performance each night.

Erdve are a rare example of a band who sent their demo to various record labels and received an offer of a contract when Season of Mist signed you in time for your 2018 debut record. Tell us about this experience and the moment you realised Season of Mist were interested in signing the band.

Vaidotas: Once we released our record in cassette format via a friend’s label (GHIA), we still felt like the debut record deserved a better release, so we continued searching for a label who would help us with printing vinyl and CDs. I personally emailed probably every metal label known to man, around 200 personalised emails. We got only a few responses, most of them about not being interested in our music. I think the last batch of emails I sent was to all the big ones as I didn’t expect any of them to reply at all, so I included Season of Mist (SOM) and other big labels and closed my case. We continued doing our thing, playing a few shows, until a few months later I got a reply from SOM proposing to release the album. We, of course, were very delighted by the offer and jumped right in. That was the moment where so many people told us what is not possible, became possible, so that gave us a lot of confidence. We are very glad to be working with them on our second record as well.

There are some dark introspective moments on songs like ‘Pleura’ and ‘Votis’. How true is it to say Erdve aim to create a sense of anxiety and paranoia in their music?

Vaidotas: It is very interesting to hear the perspective of the listeners, and it’s sometimes difficult to learn that for some of the pieces that we write (like ‘Votis’), people feel paranoia and anxiety, even though, to us, ‘Votis’ is probably the most calming, soothing, and meditative song that we wrote. For me as a musician and heavy music listener, I find chaotic and heavy music energising, making me actually feel better. For me as a composer, I mostly read that people are having a tough time listening to us. It’s a bit hard for me to accept, but I still find it as a compliment, I guess. Perhaps even the biggest chaos seems orderly once you dig into it long enough. As for the song ‘Pleura’, that would be an exception for sure, and you are right – we made it sound more like a dread-filled movie soundtrack.

Erdve formed in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in 2016.

Continuing with ‘Votis’, you reprise the main arpeggio pattern of this song on ‘Skilimas’ but strip it down to a classical piano piece. It gives the album a recurring musical theme. Tell us more about the importance of this passage on the album.

Vaidotas: This shows that we look at our songs not just as they are recorded, but as compositions that can be interpreted. The song is the pattern, the idea is that pattern being used regardless of the instrument played. We wanted to show Erdve’s music might not be as how you first see it, and that we do not regard those passages as fillers, but rather an equally important part in our creative output. Our goal is to merge all those ideas into a coherent story, to create an immersive, dynamic experience. Maybe it’s not that obvious in this record, but we have more of such ideas for the future.

Your album title Savigaila translates into English as self-pity. The angst synonymous with self-pity in metal music is often associated with nu metal and gothic metal but not the type of music you play, especially not in the hardcore or black metal scenes. Tell us more about the theme of self-pity and how you explore it on your album.

Vaidotas: Self-pity is a consistent theme in the album, but it is more of a feeling than a lyrical subject. This album is about inner conflict, reflecting upon yourself, dealing with expectations, dealing with unsettling reality, about relationships, about searching for meaning, about discussing death without any consolation for its inevitability. Basically, these are all those great challenges that I am sure every single human being is very much aware of. It’s called “self-pity” because that is what distracts us from thinking about the things I mentioned before. Self-pity encourages you to choose escapism, it distracts you from seeking solutions or accepting responsibility, it doesn’t allow you to find direction, meaning, purpose, happiness, stability. I just think it’s important to talk about that since we all just love to engage in our own ways of escaping that reality, engaging in destructive or very unproductive behaviour.

Perhaps all these things are just the things we constantly think about, so the purpose of this album is not to preach, but to share emotions, insight, questions, doubt, disgust, hope and inner peace.

You treat us to some powerful vocal melodies on the song, ‘Pragulos’, near the end of Savigaila. Who is singing on this track, and why didn’t you use more of this type of voice on the record?

Vaidotas: That was me singing as well. I usually never do it too much and actually intended to scream on that song, which I tried, and it sounded horrible. It seemed like a stupid decision to scream on a song like that, but we didn’t want to leave it as an instrumental. I did enjoy singing in the background with a lot of echo and layers of vocals – I think that was a good decision. I will explore more of this in the future for sure.

Who were the gateway bands that got you into heavy music when you were starting out as musicians in Lithuania?

Vaidotas: I personally listened mostly to nu-metal like Slipknot and all the classics, like Metallica, when I started playing. Later on, I discovered extreme metal bands and was very proud of myself finding the most obscure and unknown bands on peer-to-peer sharing platforms, so I could brag to my friends about my sophisticated taste in music. I’ve been through every known metal genre phase in my life until my twenties, and I could strongly say that Erdve is a result of such discoveries. Every genre I was into affects my compositions. I still enjoy my favourite bands from every genre to this day. Even now I still discover new things, but unfortunately not in metal, and that will definitely influence my composing as well.

You might think twice about walking under this bridge in the Lithuanian capital, but the members of Erdve are thinkers rather than fighters.

Let’s talk bass guitar. Jesus Christ, those bass frequencies are loud and low enough to make your neck pulsate! How do the rest of you manage to hear your own instruments when jamming in a rehearsal room and on stage?

Vaidotas: I think the key is not to use distortion on bass guitar during rehearsals and live. That way the bass is much thicker and lower and does not produce extra noise, and you can still hear guitars clearly. On a record, distortion is awesome and adds a lot of colour but still needs to be used as a separate track.

Performing music at this level of aggression and emotive intensity must be a tiring experience for all band members. What special preparations do you make before you take to the stage for a live gig in terms of food, exercise, pre-show rituals, etc.?

Vaidotas: Playing live induces a lot of adrenaline and dopamine, so once you start playing, it doesn’t matter what you did before. But, yes, we are usually pretty nervous before the shows just because it’s important to us, and we feel a big rush doing that. I think the most important thing is just to remain calm and not exaggerate minor issues like technical problems with sound, etc. A little alcohol intake before the show is also common for us. Band practice to me is a more tiring experience because you usually do it after work and go home completely worn out late at night, thinking what the hell am I doing with my life (lol). But that’s only temporary as I feel pretty confident with what we do.

The European festival circuit in 2022 must already be in your calendars for next year. What are the chances our readers will see Erdve perform at the likes of Resurrection Fest (Spain), Brutal Assault (Czech Republic) and Metaldays (Slovenia)?

Vaidotas: We will do our best to make our way into some of those festivals, but, to be honest, I assume all the bands are like hungry dogs for the festival slots, so competition is high, I suppose.

What recognition do you get in the Lithuanian music press as an artist signed to one of the most prestigious metal labels in the world?

Vaidotas: Almost none, but no hard feelings from us. We are still a very niche band with a very dubious sound for most listeners (even metal), so for a small country like us we do not expect nor pretend that we matter here much. Local media is mostly interested in the local artists from other genres of music that are very active these days, and that is what the public wants. If we were to seek out local attention, we wouldn’t be playing in Erdve, simple as that. A prestigious metal label here doesn’t mean much. It’s still a very niche and underground music, even globally by looking at the numbers. The beauty of it is that the global metal community does exist and even still it’s a very difficult thing to reach this audience, so we are focusing on that rather than local acclaim. The only thing is that the Lithuanian Council for Culture does recognise our achievement and supports our project submissions from time to time (recording of albums mostly).

Final question: Imagine you’re about to start a European tour with two other bands from the Season of Mist roster. In your opinion, which two bands from your record label would be ideal touring partners for Erdve?

Vaidotas: For me the most interesting shows I attend are when bands are not very similar in genre but share a similar attitude. I think we would get along great with Rotten Sound and En Minor (Phil Anselmo’s Depressive rock band).

*** Erdve released Savigaila via Season of Mist on 23 July 2021. You can read the original SBR review here.