Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Neptune. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. À L’âme Enflammée, L’äme Constellée is a fantastic album (Ed: Jason’s review is here). Your previous album, Il Était une Forêt… was released in 2007. Why so long between albums?
Neptune: Thank you. While it has been a very long and arduous process, the time it took was the time it had to take. The album eventually revealed itself to us as a whole, and so it was done.
Jason: How has Gris developed in the interim between albums? And how has it manifest itself in À L’âme Enflammée, L’äme Constellée?
Neptune: It has grown with us as we grew with it, in our tendency towards the deep and the hidden, freedom and beauty. Gris is sort of the soundtrack of our deepest inner selves. While it is sometimes arduous, it writes and creates itself in a completely honest and natural way. This album is absolutely true to ourselves, as it was for Il Était Une Forêt… five years ago.
Jason: What was it that you set out to achieve when writing and recording for the album?
Neptune: We wanted to achieve what we felt we had to. We play music because it is what is right for us. It has always been that way, since the beginning of Gris. We created a purpose through Gris. We found strength and hope in it and the will to experience this great and terrible voyage that is existence.
Jason: Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound or did that take shape as the tracks were being developed?
Neptune: Both. We knew the right colours from the beginning. We knew approximately what we wanted to create; we had sketches, but the shape it has taken was revealed to us, day after day, as we were recording it. We let things happen. In the end, its essence stayed the same.
Jason: The album is comprised of two symmetrical parts. Was this a decision made early on in the creative process or did it appear as writing for the album evolved?
Neptune: It was not planned that way originally. At one point, we just realized that we had too much music to fit on a single disc. It was unthinkable for us to cut passages of what we had already done, so it naturally and gradually took the symmetry of its final form. As we said previously, we let things happen.
Jason: How do the two parts of the album complement each other?
Jason: Writing the album has clearly been a long and meticulous process, and you have a keen ear for detail. One aspect of the album is that the track lengths are almost identical in the two parts. How did you approach composition for the album?
Neptune: Like we’ve said, on the whole, we did not over-think this album. It has flooded out of our hearts in a very free and open way. It has been long and intense because of the many circumstances in life that interfere with the simplest expression of our true selves. But in the end, these same circumstances gave us light and water to grow, simultaneously making our album bloom. We put everything we were into this process.
Jason: Is there a concept, a philosophy or an ideology that underscores the album? If so, can you tell us about it and what influenced it?
Neptune: We believe the concept of transcendence to be essentially what life is all about. “The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly” (R. Bach). To live is to experience the world as you decide to see it, with your flaws and limited comprehension. What do you want the world to be?
That being said, life was the main driving force in the composition of this album. Aesthetically and philosophically, we were inspired by diverse spiritual traditions and cultures, especially the Vedic heritage (Samsara/Moksha), Buddhism, Alchemy and nature-oriented beliefs. Some writers and movies that shook us and touched us also influenced us. In fact, we like to think of each disc more as a film than as a record.
Jason: How did it affect the writing of the album? Did it dictate the path that the music would follow?
Neptune: Nothing was dictated by a simple rational idea or a single defining concept. We just did what we could do, in an honest and devoted way, until we were humbly satisfied.
Jason: Can you tell us about the artwork for the album? Does it relate to the music in any way?
Neptune: The artwork relates to the dark and spiritual aspect of our music. Initially though, we had something different in mind.
Jason: Who’s the artist? Why did you choose to work with him/her? And how much direction did you give him/her in its creation?
Neptune: The artist is Fursy Teyssier of Les Discrets. We decided to work with him again because he did an amazing job on Miserere Luminis (a collaboration with Sombres Forêts). Getting the art just right for this album has had its challenges, however. Let’s just say it seemed harder to communicate our ideas clearly and after seeing different artwork propositions, we were running out of time. In the end, the completed artwork had nothing to do with what we had imagined in the first place, but nevertheless we are satisfied now.
You’ve signed with Sepulchral Productions for all of the music you create under the Gris name. Why did you choose to work with Sepulchral Productions?
Neptune: We chose Sepulchral Productions because it seemed like the best choice at the time. It was a good arrangement for both the band and the label. We also did not want to take part in the business aspect of the music we played.
Jason: I read that there will be a total of six albums. Was Gris created with that specific goal in mind? And once all six albums are complete, I take it Gris will cease to exist, yes?
Jason: Why have you given the band a “lifespan”, so to speak?
Neptune: Gris is a story. And like every story, it must eventually come to an end. Also, seven (the final chapter of Gris will consist of two albums together) is an interesting number.
Jason: What does the future hold for Gris? Is there more music in the pipeline? When can we expect the next instalment from Gris?
Neptune: We have, once again, vague ideas in mind. New colours and sounds, other instruments too. As for the time it will take, that is a very difficult thing to predict. Things will make their way.
Jason: Will you be playing or touring in support of the new album? If so, will we be seeing you in the UK?
Neptune: We will be playing in Europe this summer as live members of Sombres Forêts. Gris has never played live mostly because of the logistical difficulties it would present. It may be possible, one day. Time will tell.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Neptune: Thank you for yours, au plaisir!