Thirteen years and six full lengths deep, the larger-than-life symphonic metal sextet Epica prepare for a trek through North America hot on the heels of their album the Quantum Enigma and a fire-y Hellfest performance on the main stage. Before embarking on their journey with fellow-nature-spirits Eluveitie and the furious five who compose The Agonist, vocalist Simone Simons sat down with us to talk fire, song-writing, science, and skin-care.
Hey, how are ya?
Simone: I’m fine, thank you. How are you?
Very good. Thanks. Where are you calling from? Home? On the road?
Simone: I’m calling from home in Germany.
You’re coming fresh off your Hellfest performance. How was that?
Simone: That was one of the best festivals for us in years. Everything just…everything fit. The audience was amazing. We had a great show. Also, we had some pyro, some fire on-stage with us, very magical. Epica is doing pretty well in France. We also played in Belgium at Grasspop, so it was a long festival weekend and we had the best time. We made a behind-the-scenes video of the after-parties, goofing around, and having a good time, giving people a look at what’s happening backstage.
Any plans to introduce visual elements into this upcoming tour?
Simone: We have a really amazing lighting engineer with us who knows the music by heart, so the light show will be of very high quality. With pyrotechnics, it’s not typical, because we have our team who make this in Europe when they travel with us. We have done it overseas as well, but that almost ended up in some band members catching fire.
Epica, Eluveitie, and The Agonist is a pretty diverse bill. How did that come about?
Simone: I think it’s important to not have exactly the same sounding bands. You attract a bigger audience and it will be a musical evening you won’t forget. It would become tedious if the bands are too much alike, then it might be that the fans are tired by the time we get onstage. Eluveitie is a very popular band as well, and it still has an overlap with Epica, but it’s not completely the same or very similar. The Agonist we toured with many years ago when we were in the U.S. for the first time, so we thought it would be cool to have them here. So it’ll be a nice evening with good music and we hope fans still have enough energy when Epica comes.
The heavier moments on this album seem like more straight-up headbangers than is usual for Epica. Was this a natural progression?
Simone: In a way, yes. We’ve been working with a great team for this record We’ve been working on the songs over and over again, taking away all the unnecessary parts, and if a riff or a melody feels good, then you wanna incorporate it and put it in a good spot. You already know this while you’re writing the songs, the vocal parts, or the lyrics, you think ‘Hey, this can really work live’ and you make a show out of it, so it’s a combination; it evolves naturally, but there’s a formula behind it as well…a secret formula.
Has the philosophy behind your lyrics changed over the years?
Simone: We’ve always been a band with philosophical topics. In each record it’s changed a bit; sometimes we write more about politics, religion, or we’d have a concept album. When Mark and I are writing lyrics together, he set up the concept. The history of The Quantum Enigma is a study where they found out that, through our observation, we can alter reality. In a way, the big red line going through this record is that we cannot be sure what is reality, if we are living in multiple realities, if what you’re seeing is a different reality than me because, through your observation, you can change the particles in the air and you can change material, so what is real? We’re searching for reality. The Quantum Enigma has already been a part of Design Your Universe with the near-death-experience, what is there after we die? So this record is very spiritual as well. Life and death has always been a big theme within Epica songs and Canvas of Life is about the circle of life and Kingdom of Heaven Part II is basically a continuation of the Design Your Universe song, Kingdom of Heaven Part I. It’s a very philosophical, spiritual, and scientific record. Those are the three cornerstones of the lyrics, but, definitely, philosophy is a big part of Epica.
What are some of the non-musical influences behind that?
Simone: Well, Mark is the one who loves to read books about quantum physics. He loves Mayan culture, so he really becomes inspired by books, by authors, where I’m more the person who loves movies. I’m a huge Tim Burton fan. My favorite genres would be fantasy and science fiction. I draw a lot of inspiration from movies and real-life experience. I recently became a mother, so it’s been life-changing, and a bit eye-opening for me. I use my own life and the lives of the dear people around me.
Me and Mark do have separate visions on life. He’s the more spiritual person, and I would be the person saying ‘nah, that’s not real’ or ‘no, that doesn’t exist’, because I like clarity. Now we’re 13, 14 years later, we’ve traveled around the world, and we’ve seen a lot of things, good and bad, so it does make you think more. Besides having scientific proof – near-death experience and stuff – it still scares me in a way. Death scares me. At the same time, it inspires you, it makes you think, in the moments when we feel down the most, we sometimes write the most beautiful lyrics or music. So I would say we’ve evolved, become grown-ups, but Mark’s still the same spiritual guy and I’ve become more spiritual, so he kind of drew me in.
You also run a beauty-blog. Any skin-care tips for sweaty club and festival environments?
Simone: Stay hydrated. Always drink a lot. I do try to do that during the show as well. We have a couple of fans on stage to keep us cool, towels on stage. For me, since I also wear make-up on stage, sometimes I will do little touch-ups during the show and, when there’s an instrumental part, I can quickly leave the stage, dry my face, and apply some more powder or brush my hair. So, yeah, drink a lot of water, not only alcohol. Shows can get really hot and sweaty. We recently had one in Brazil. It was insane. We had those fans on stage. Normally we would move around, but we were all right in front of those fans. As soon as we’d step one step to the left or right, we would just be hit by this wall. People were fainting, we were throwing water bottles into the audience; it was just insanely hot. We looked like we had just come straight out of the shower, completely soaked with sweat.
I wish you more air-conditioned venues to come.
Simone: Sometimes it’s really best for everybody’s health to have air-conditioning at the venues, but we’ve had shows where it would be on stage, and it would be this ice-cold stream on top of our heads. For singers, air-conditioning’s not always great. It’s not good for the voice. But, for these kinds of hot shows, I allow air-conditioning to run, because it’s for everybody’s health. If people are fainting, that’s not good. Everybody should have a good time and everybody should be safe. We should be able to perform and people should be able to enjoy it without fainting.
Anything else for us?
Simone: Well, I just wanted to say that we’re super-excited to come back to the states. It’s been a long time, over two years. We had a tour planned, but another band had to cancel, and that’s made us and the fans more hungry
EPICA is touring North Amercia this fall so be sure to check out all the dates on the next page. You can follow and keep up to date with EPICA online at: