It’s been a huge 12 months for Epica frontwoman Simone Simons. Giving birth to her first child, getting married, and in between somehow managing to co-write and record the new album The Quantum Enigma.
For Simons, Epica’s sixth studio album is a perfect reflection of the changes taking place in both her private and band life. “It’s quite a change, because the whole life changing events are included. So for me it feels like the richest record up to date,“ she offers. “The music is more mature, it’s more a band process. The lyrics are on a way higher level than before, and I connected to beautiful changes in my life. For me it’s a life changing record, and hopefully for other people as well, I hope they get the feeling that we get from the record.”
Making the new album was a matter of finding the right way to meet the demands of being a new parent, and also a recording artist. “Besides being a mother, which is amazing, I am also still an artist,” says Simons, “and if you don’t tickle that side of you then you aren’t really balanced.” She offers a quick laugh as she recalls the start of the recording sessions, “I was in zombie mode after such a long break, I had to get the creative juices flowing. I was really ready for it but exhausted.” It was only 8 weeks after giving birth that she found herself back in the studio, belting out what she considers to be her finest performances so far. “I had to find the strength from just being super motivated. I managed to record the vocals even being so exhausted and breast feeding. But I was really up for a challenge so despite being tired I was motivated to nail my best vocals up to date.”
The title of the new album, and the 12 minute closing track, is The Quantum Enigma. For Simons the song lyrics and topic capture the essence of what Epica want their music to convey. “It definitely has all the elements that we have in Epica,” she states. “It’s a musical journey that you make, it sums up everything that Epica is, it’s a great song. Basically it’s about a discovery in Quantum physics where they found out that we directly influence the world around us through our observation,” she explains. “When you observe particles they behave differently to when you are not looking. We are all made out of millions and millions of particles, and you can ask yourself the question what happens if I don’t look? Does reality change? What is reality, are we all in the same reality or are there different realities.” Lyrically that’s the sort of subject matter fans of Epica have come to expect, and which helps set the band apart from many others. Getting the fans to buy into the subject matter is also important to Simons. “This record is definitely very scientific, spiritual and very philosophic,” she says. “What we want to do is give people thinking material. The music comes first of course but we do also put a lot of effort into writing our lyrics and inspiring other people to think beyond their horizon and push boundaries. Epica is like an investment in the future. It’s not just the music, it’s also the lyrics that kind of guide you through life as well.”
For this album, the overall approach has also changed somewhat. For the first time, the entire band took an active role in a lot of the writing. “With each record you want to improve everything,” says Simons. “We learn a lot by being on the road, we are a touring band, and we love to listen to our fans and what they think. All five band members have written songs, yet the sound is still Epica. Just having the whole band writing the music, it’s very diverse, it’s very brutal but still super symphonic.” A further change has been the addition of a new member, as Simons explains. “With this record we welcomed Rob van der Loo as our new bass player. He’s been involved in the writing process, he wrote some songs. The bass is more prominent now, it’s more groovy on the record.”
As is common for Epica, the lyrical duties are shared between Simons and guitarist Mark Jansen. For her part, Simons has taken the opportunity to tackle some diverse subjects. On the track ‘Natural Corruption’ for example, she delves into the murky world of international charity/aid organisations, and the potential for corruption. “It’s basically about the natural disasters that take place unfortunately every so often,” she explains. “Charities, I’m not saying all of them, but some of them are corrupt. People are easing their mind by sending money, thinking they are doing a good job but many are corrupt and you don’t know where the money ends up.”
In contrast to the dark tone of ‘Natural Corruption’, there’s a feeling of ‘rallying the masses’ in a track like ‘Unchained Utopia’. “The song is basically about the two different visions of what Utopia should be, you have the people and the government, “Simons explains. “The government is selling a different Utopia to the people, and not telling the truth all the time. Like rich Presidents using government money for their car collection, all that stuff, it’s not cool. You don’t know what a Utopia is, everybody has a different vision. But it’s also about the rebellion, the Ukraine, the Arabian Spring, it’s about getting the power back into the hands of the people.”
For anyone lucky enough to catch the band’s first tour downunder last year, it’s a matter of counting the days until they come back. The good news is, that’s part of the plan. The bad news is, not this year. “Probably 2015,” offers Simons. “We are going to do our best to get back soon, not take another 10 years. We know we have cool fans over there and we love the country.”
To help ease the wait, The Quantum Enigma is out now.