Have you ever heard about atmospheric folklore metal? Not yet? Then the time has finally come: meet Aegonia from Bulgaria! We had an opportunity to chat with Elitsa Stoyanova (vocal/violin) & Nikolay Nikolov (vocal, guitar, kaval).
“Several years ago our guitarist/vocalist Niki and I were playing in another band with friends of ours” – Eli started the conversation when we asked them about the beginnings. “It was nothing serious, we just played our own music for pleasure. At some point the other band members hadn’t had time to rehearse anymore, so we decided to start a new project. It was a very tough and emotional period of my life, and I needed a way to express what I felt inside. We started playing short improvisations with guitar and violin, later we added vocal lines and lyrics. We soon realized that the lyrics of our first songs are related to each other and telling us a fantasy story. I was so thrilled from this discovery, that I started thinking about this story all the time. The songs we composed led to more facts from the story and the writing led to more music.
We composed the songs from our debut album “The Forgotten Song” back in 2011 – at that time the band was only Niki and me. We also wanted to do the mix and mastering ourselves. Back at that time, we started recording the album, but we were very unpleased with the result. We realized we are not good musicians, composers, and sound engineers and we have a lot to learn! We really liked the melodies and the feeling of the songs, so we decided we will not release the album until we are satisfied with the result, even if it takes years. So we started taking music lessons and we recorded and mixed again and again.
When we had a few songs ready, our friend Nasko (Atanas Georgiev) joined us on bass. Soon we were invited to play at a small festival, so we searched for a drummer. Rosen Paskulov joined us, he plays the drums on our debut album “The Forgotten Song” and our folklore single “The Maid And The Mountain”. Ivan Kolev replaced him in the autumn of 2018, we recorded our newest folklore single “Samodiva” with him.”
“I am inspired by Nature, by the tales I have heard as a child, by role-playing games” – added Eli. “I especially like Amorphis’s albums “Tales From The Thousand Lakes”, “Elegy” and “Tuonela” – this music inspired me to read the Finnish national epic Kalevala and go hiking in Finland together with Niki -, Tiamat’s “Wildhoney”, Trees Of Eternity’s “Hour Of The Nightingale”… I also listen a lot to Katatonia, Insomnium, Charm Designer…etc.”
“I like Nature very much as well” – Niki added – “also folklore music from all around the world. I like the way folklore music gets directly into your heart. To Eli’s favorite bands I would add Opeth, Therion, Novembers Doom, Dimmu Borgir, Leaves’ Eyes, System Of A Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Actually, Eli and I have a similar musical taste – Scandinavian doom and gothic metal, but the other members have different interests. Nasko (bass) listens mostly to bands like Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, Rosen (drums till December 2018) plays in several other bands different kinds of rock and metal, and Ivan (drums since December 2018) also plays in different heavy metal and melodic death metal bands. I think this diversity only helps our music.”
“Usually, the ideas for new songs come from Niki or me, often from both of us playing improvisations together” – stated Eli. “Then we rehearse the new song with the whole band, we work on the drums and the bass, and on other details.
I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy novels and movies, of role-playing games like Lineage and Warcraft, and also music that has its own atmosphere – I am very influenced by that.
When we first started with creating our own music, we did not plan how it would sound – it just happened naturally during the playing and arranging process.
Let me now tell you a little more about the folklore direction of our band. Niki and I always liked folklore music from Bulgaria and from all over the world. Several years ago Niki wanted to play the kaval (this is a traditional Bulgarian flute) so much, that he read on the internet how to craft a kaval and how to learn to play on it. So, he made his own kaval and started teaching himself how to play. In the beginning, it is very hard to make a sound from this instrument – believe me, I have tried! I was interested in learning the vocal singing technique for Bulgarian folklore, which has its specifics, so I found a teacher and started taking lessons. But it happened during wintertime, I had problems with my voice and could not sing. So, my teacher, who was also a gadulka teacher, convinced me to start learning the gadulka (this is a traditional string instrument with 3 main strings, on which you play, and 11 resonating strings). She said: “Oh, you play the violin, it will be easy for you to learn”. Yeah, right! This is one of the hardest things I’ve tried to do – it is not easy at all! Anyway, several months later a bagpipe player, Tony called us and invited us to join a small orchestra for traditional Bulgarian folklore, and we accepted. We played with them for two years and this influenced us a lot. I very much like authentic songs arranged for metal, like Arkona’s “Oy Pechal Toska” and Metsatöll’s “Oma Laulu Ei Leia Ma Üles”, and I really wanted us to make a metal cover of a Bulgarian folklore song with Aegonia. I was obsessed with this idea. I spent hours and hours listening to authentic songs from the Rhodopi region, but could not choose any. Then I thought “In this case, let’s try to make our own song” – this is how we composed “The Maid And The Mountain” and “Samodiva”.”
“This month we will be playing at a very interesting festival called “Lost Age” in Plovdiv” – she emphasized. “The idea of the festival is to gather people interested in fantasy, history, stories, LARP…etc. There will be many bands playing, and also book presentations, workshops, archery, different lections – like for example how to compose music for games, history lections… People are invited to wear their own fantasy costumes or ancient clothing. I am really looking forward to this festival. We also plan a few acoustic lives in support of our fantasy novels “The Forgotten Song” (book 1) and “The River Of Memories” (book 2) that we published this year on paper, and also of our newest video “Samodiva”, which we filmed at the beautiful Krushuna falls.”
The fun part
Luckily the band members allowed us to ask silly questions, so here are our questions and their answers:
-If you would be an ancient God/Goddess who would you be and why?
Eli: This is a very interesting question. Niki and I recently played with a very interesting band, called Freija, which plays Scandinavian folklore music. We were invited to choose northern gods for our characters in the band. I chose Skadi – I like archery, I like snow, and I also like the stillness of the Mountain and the lack of crowds there.
Niki: Wow, that’s funny. (smiles) I can’t think of what God I would be…
-If you could live anywhere on this planet where would you live and why?
Eli: I would choose Bulgaria, I think. It has wonderful nature and my close friends are really great people, I think I’d miss them a lot. But I would love to visit or temporarily live in New Zealand because of nature.
Niki: I would try some solitary island like Robinson Crusoe.
Aegonia’s album, “The Forgotten Song” is available on Youtube – click and check it out!