Plastic-free, heart-warmingly fantastic, soul-bearing and stirring, Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new album is one for those who love their music and their planet. Settle down with a nice cup of tea and spend the next ten minutes in the company of a fantastically talented artist, and a charming lady, as she tells Devo about her inspiration, Lockdown life, and the joys of us metalheads.
Not to dwell, but the world isn’t in the greatest of shapes at the minute. The future, however, is sparklingly bright. Nights getting lighter, spring flowers starting to shoot up, and Anneke Van Giersbergen releasing a brand new album on February 26. Which is not only fantastic for music fans, but also for the environment. Because on Anneke’s suggestion, the CD packaging will be plastic free. How good is that?!
“Isn’t it wonderful?’ Anneke smiles as Devo beams back equally enthusiastically, both of us brightening up a miserable Monday night with our massive grins. “I know everything is digital now, and people will download the album, but for the people who still buy the physical albums I wanted it to be non-plastic,” Anneke explains. “I knew I was asking for something really strange! But the next thing I knew, my management said, ‘sure’! I think it’s a huge thing.”
Devo completely agrees, and was thrilled when she found out about Anneke’s plastic-free plans for her new album, ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’. As the former lead singer with The Gathering, as well as collaborator with numerous notable talents, Anneke has a rich and distinguished musical background, and this will be the 23rd album of her career.
It’s dreamy and celestial, full of gorgeous melodies, honesty and experience. Expressive and captivating. So much so that Devo’s eight year old daughter has been happily crafting modern dance routines to its tracks. So it may not be quite what you are expecting.
Devo happily admits to Anneke that she adores her new record, and how it brought to mind Belly – one of Devo’s favourite ever bands, whom she first started listening to almost 30 years ago. It was also quite a change from Devo’s usual diet of Death Metal…
“I’m talking predominantly to the metal press – but I know metalheads are open minded,’ Anneke laughs. ‘This album is very different, and there’s lots of influences which I haven’t really put into my music before, so I was a bit curious and anxious about how it would be received. The thing is, I think it’s so positive that the metal press don’t care – if they like the music, they write about it. My last album was progressive metal, so to be coming out with ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ – it’s a stretch!
One or two years back there was so much going on in my life, like good things, but also I had a lot of challenges at work and in my private life. There was a point when it was all too much for me. There was chaos in my life and in my surroundings. I had so many plans, but I just had to say ‘I’m going to drop everything and go to a little house in the woods, and write songs.
Everything that came out of me was just melancholic, soft, and on the acoustic guitar and piano. And I went with it because I thought I have to make honest, pure music.”
Anneke is now well and truly on the publicity merry-go-round, and Devo apologises if she asks Anneke questions which she has previously answered time and time again. But she is the sweetest person ever and tells Devo, ‘I’m just happy taking to so many different people about music!’.
Over Zoom, Anneke is speaking to Devo from Eindhoven in the Netherlands, where, she tells us, weather conditions are much the same as in the UK – cold, dark and wintry. But it could be worse. “I talk to my friends in Finland and they have 50cms of snow, so it’s proper wintry there!” Anneke laughs.
Ah, virtual calls. Who could have predicted that in 2020 and well into 2021, desperate yells of ‘you’re on mute!’ would echo through each and every home across the land?
Anneke shared the shock and numbness that so many of us felt when Lockdown was first announced early last year, but after a combination of sitting on a couch, watching Netflix and wondering ‘what the hell did we get into here?’, the new reality began to sink in.
“After a few weeks we started to get creative and finish the album,’ Anneke smiles. And, of course, some time was spent gardening. ‘I really enjoyed being with my family too – my husband and my son. I thought it might make me nervous to be in one place for so long, but I thoroughly enjoyed being at home. When the weather was nice, for example, we would go for walks. I did find a positive side to it.
Most people have accepted our pretty permanent state of Lockdown with good grace, and are seeing this time as a blessing rather than a curse. Anneke agrees. ‘I think there are way, way more people in the positive frame of mind than there are haters – but unfortunately that’s what you see in the news.”
She’s spot on. Devo doesn’t even need to check the headlines (which is just as well, because every single device in the house is taken up by home-learners and home-workers) to know that the lead stories will be doom and gloom; negative, pernickety pieces, with the positive stuff requiring a scroll down to retrieve.
Although Anneke started writing ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’ well before coronavirus, the gorgeous title is apt not only in our present, but also in the times we so wish we could see again. It’s a sentiment we can all relate to, and that we know to be true, no matter how hard things can seem.
Explaining the thinking behind the album’s name, Anneke tells Devo,
“The whole idea is about if we go through the hardships and challenges in our lives, we can break through and we can solve our issues and our challenges, and we come out better and wiser human beings. We learn our lessons and we move on. You grow as a human being, and become better off than before you had these issues.”
In common with so many artists, Anneke has had gigs cancelled due to Covid, but she deals with this with optimism.
“I’m upbeat and happy because I can see live shows in the future – although they may be different, and we may be wearing masks, but I’m fine with that.’ And, of course, livestreaming has become an option – an art form even, with bands putting on some outstanding shows of the highest quality.
Anneke agrees. ‘The whole system is ready for musicians to go live online. We just have to make a switch. Most of this will stay as well – the idea that you can release an album, do something online and then go out and play live.”
Any plans for touring ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’?
“We’re writing in pencil so we can rub it out!”
Devo’s dancing daughter comes through and has a sweet little chat with Anneke, and then we say our goodbyes. It has been a genuine pleasure to speak with Anneke, just as it is to listen to ‘The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest’.
So chin up and keep on with the positive mindset that she and so many of us glow with. And pop the album release date February 26 in your diaries, to give yourselves a little something to look forward to.