Estonian symphonic progressive metal outfit X-Panda return this Autumn with their second studio album Reflections, after five years since the release of debut Flight of Fancy. In an interview for Rocking Charts the band tells us about this new material.
Alright, first things first. Before we dive into all the music stuff, how’s life?
At the moment it’s quite hectic, fast and interesting. The album is ready, but a lot of work still has to be done around it.
Speaking of new music, you are about to launch a new album. What can people expect from Reflections?
Short answer would be X-Panda. But seriously – our new album is full of surprises, even for us. We took the risk and wanted to try something new. This means a mix of different genres, creating opportunities for a versatile album. The signature handwriting of X-Panda hasn’t changed though. Even if the particular song may be different in style, there is always an element of X-Panda that is instantly recognisable. In a way the new album is more mature, but we believe it still is fresh and captivating.
What was it like working on the album?
Making an album in our case has been a long process. We had some bandcamps which is always fun, but at one point it was clear that it’s not enough. So Kaarel took time off from his work and moved to countryside for a couple of months to concentrate on finishing ideas. During that time “Reflections” was formed. After the writing process we had a long and productive recording process. We started with recording drums in Finland, Sonic Pump Studio. After that we returned back to Estonia to record the bass and guitar tracks. Since there has always been a sweet spot for symphony orchestra sound in our hearts, we are really thrilled that we managed to get a real choir (E STudio Youth Choir) and symphony orchestra (Tartu University Symphony Orchestra) on our album. This created the opportunity to include the orchestra instruments in the compositions in the first place. This attitude has changed the sound of the album in many aspects. For example the keyboards didn’t’ have to play “orchestra sounds” when there is already a real one playing. Thus the writing style inevitably became more functional. As for the vocals – the songs have a broad amplitude of dynamics as well as a wide range. Therefore we took our time in the vocal production process to get everything how we wanted. As there were so many naturally recorded instruments, orchestra, choir, lots of vocals, special effects etc, the file management for hundreds of tracks alone took weeks of time to prepare for the mixing session.
Are there any touring plans to support Reflections?
First we have three concerts in Estonia celebrating the release of Reflections. These will be shortly followed by two concerts in The Netherlands in the beginning of November. Currently we’re working on a tour in the spring 2017.
While we are on the subject of touring, what countries would you love to tour?
We’re really inspired by an Estonian band Trad.Attack! They have made it their mission to give a concert in every country in the world. As you can imagine, it’s quite a difficult challenge. Travelling around the world, meeting new people and giving concerts in as many countries as possible is one of our goals doing this band.
Who and what inspires you the most?
We are certainly inspired by our band members who work hard and are truly talented, as well as other people we perform and work with. There’s a lot to learn from working with new and great musicians. But it’s not all music-related. We are constantly inspired by people who have mastered their field, got to the top, envisioned the future, created innovative products, trends or made the world a better place, and in doing that risking everything, because they believe strongly in what they do. For example Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Christian von Koenigsegg. Having long walks in the nature is also a great way to collect your thoughts and get new creative energy.
What other genres of music do you listen to and what’s the impact on your playing?
Every band member has a different background, and each one of us is working professionally in the music industry. Guitarist Risto is probably the person who is most likely to listen to instrumental and progressive music among us. Drummer Karl-Juhan and bassist Roland are working with many bands in Estonia as session musicians, which means they constantly have to play different genres (from pop, rock to jazz) and be well prepared. This means they have to adapt to different techniques, sounds etc. Singer Tamar is a professional classical singer, who works with operas and manages well in academic music. Kaarel is a studio recording/mixing engineer and a producer, who works with top Estonian artists of many different genres, primarily in jazz, pop, indie fields. To sum it up, there is constant professional need to keep up with the trends of very many different styles and at the same time adapt to different situations. This explains why the influences of X-Panda are not so clearly seen. On the other hand it is a relief for us, because there is no pressure to settle in a particular music style, we are open to explore.
I really appreciate you giving us your time today. Is there anything else you would like to tell us and the fans before we wrap things up?
Be sure to keep an eye on us. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff coming soon!