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Svalbard: “If I want to feel something, I’ll listen to music”

“If it doesn’t have heart, what’s the point?” asks singer Serena Cherry. “I’ve always seen music as a cathartic thing. The music that affects me the most is the stuff that’s emotive, whether it’s poppy, hardcore or dance.”

On first impressions, it’s difficult to place such an eclectic range in the cut throat snarl that is Svalbard but on debut album ‘One Day All This Will End’ it’s that open-minded desire for feeling that rages throughout.

“If I want my brain to be stimulated, I’ll read a book. If I want to feel something, I’ll listen to music,” she continues. “With Svalbard, that’s always been the most important thing. Even live, if it doesn’t have heart and doesn’t have the thing that makes you fired up, then what can you give to your performance? We have certain songs that, every time I play them, I can feel myself tense up because I’m so in the moment and in that lyric.”

Recorded with Lewis Johns in the spring of 2015, Svalbard can’t quite believe that ‘One Day All This Will End’ is almost upon us. “It’s at that stage where it doesn’t feel real but I’m really excited that it’s all coming together and people get to hear the songs that we worked so hard on.”

And when she says hard work, she isn’t kidding. “ ‘Unnatural Light’ was the last track written before we went in and recorded and that one flew out. It only took about a month, which is quick for us,” she says with a smile. The record starting take shape in early 2014 with the songs just “falling out at once.” Once the skeleton of each track was formed in the practice space, the band went “through a really arduous, meticulous process of structuring,” explains Serena.

“We never let a song just be a jam. We’re always trying to find the best way to get from A to B to C and to give a riff the most impact. It can be quite a harsh process, arguments flair up all the time and people get really upset because we will just cut something out if we think its not working. We had a song that I really, really love that isn’t on the album just because it wasn’t quite gelling. It’s quite a ruthless process.” With 75% of the tracks still scattered about that cutting room floor, “One Day All This Will End’ is lean, direct and heads straight for the ribcage.

From the opening quiver of ‘Perspective’, ‘One Day All This Will End’ grabs you by the wrist and leads you on a journey. The destination written on the walls. “’Perspective’ is about the fight that people who suffer from depression and mental illness go through everyday. That struggle they go through to stay afloat or exist in their daily lives and the line ‘One Day All This Will End’ comes right at the end. It’s not a negative statement; it’s an appreciative statement of awareness. Disintegration is inevitable,” Serena ventures. “You’re going to get old, your family is going to die and you’re going to see lots of things fall apart around you. It’s a little reminder that there’s worse out there, so appreciate where you are now and what you’ve got. It’s about the good and the bad equally having a shelf life.”

Each of the eight tracks on the album has a more direct attack than previous Svalbard material. The individual topics, from ‘The Vanishing Point’s desire to hold onto hope amidst various lineup changes to the message of “positive discrimination is still discrimination and needs to stop,” that rattles through ‘Expect Equal Respect, give ‘One Day All This Will End’ an overwhelming desire to push things forward. It’s felt in every word, every shuddering riff and every poised moment of calm.

“It starts off with ‘Perspective’ which can be taken as quite a negative, bitter song and by the time you get to the end of the album, with the instrumental song ‘Lily’ I’d like it to have taken people on the journey that it takes me on when I listen to it,” Serena offers. “There’s a hopefulness at the end. ‘Lily’ is about a cat I rescued, she’s sat next to me right now. It’s about second chances and not everyone being the victim of bad fate. I wanted it to just be the melodies and instruments that had this uplifting power. It’s why we wanted to close the album with it. There’s a lot of underlying positivity there.”

The band have the expected hopes of their music “to be spread far and to play it where we can,” but there are no concerns about success. “I’m not worried about how many we sell. I’d rather sell a few copies to people who will really listen to it and enjoy it, then sell hundreds and thousands of copies. We don’t want to be a big band at all. If we did, we wouldn’t write the music we do.”

‘One Day All This Will End’ reflects the band that crafted it, wholly and truly. “There’s a desperate hope in there. There’s a heart that’s very frantically trying to live and be the best it can be but encountering a lot of hurdles and smiting along the way.”

Taken from the October issue of Upset, out now. Svalbard’s album ‘One Day All This Will End’ is out now.