Although Kroh is listed as a side-project from Paul Kenney from Fukpig I think it can be considered as a full band now as the band released a full-length in 2016 and the fantastic Pyres EP in 2017. The addition of Oliwia to the line-up gave Kroh a new sound and a future for sure.
Hello Oliwia, let’s start at the beginning, what made you decide to pick up a microphone and start to sing?
I felt a strong Inner need to sing and create since the very young years. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I decided to pick up the microphone, as I’ve been involved in singing since the early school years. I tended to find an outlet for self-expression by joining choirs and song-writing independently at home. Most of the material I wrote as a teen has never been seen or heard by anyone (and it will most likely stay that way), but writing and singing freely and independently has undoubtedly been a valuable source of practice for me.
The latest releases from Kroh was the EP Pyres back in October 2017, how has the overall response been so far from music critics and fans on Pyres?
The support we received following the EP launch show was tremendous. I feel that material on Pyres certainly met the expectations of our listeners. Like Altars, it is filled with chunky riffs, infectious choruses, and enchanting melodies… so if you liked Altars, you should be able to find something special and on Pyres.
We largely rely on support from those who watch our shows and spread the message of our music through the word of mouth. This is especially important now, as we encountered some promotion difficulties along the way (particularly online) with the EP cover being deemed as offensive due to “containing an excessive amount of skin”. Hence why we are also always glad and grateful to receive various requests for collaboration in form of album reviews and interviews. Such opportunities for collaboration enable us to be “heard” despite the adversities, and allow us to have our art broadcasted to a wider audience.
When comparing Pyres to your 2016 album Altars, what are the differences according to you?
Altars were the first album recorded following a major line-up change, with new members on bass, drums, and vocals. The material we released since Altars is a reflection of how Kroh’s sound evolved over time. Of course one of the first notable differences is the length (Pyres can be classified as a 5 track EP, whereas “Altars” is a 9 track album). In terms of the themes, Pyres is largely a continuation of Altars, exploring the divine and the diabolical. Perhaps, the ever-growing need for finding relief from torment, existential angst and achieving closure was a driving force behind Pyres. So in fact, there are more similarities than differences between the two releases.
You started in 2014 with the band and the single Precious Bones from 2015 was the first recording with you on vocals. The song Heaving Earth was previously already recorded on the self-titled album from 2011 and I noticed that a song from Altars, Stone Into Flesh, also has its birth on the 2011 album. Do both songs have a special meaning for the band that they were re-recorded?
The main reason for re-recording Heaving Earth and Stone Into Flesh is that we wanted to give these tracks a new life. We wanted to give people a flavor of what’s to come with future releases, whilst still embracing the dark esoteric sound of the band. We all liked the riffs on Heaving Earth and Stone Into Flesh, and there was a mutual agreement that these tracks had much more potential yet to be discovered, so we selected them to be re-recorded on that basis. I love playing these 2 tracks live; they perfectly convey the sinister intoxicating atmosphere we aim to capture in order to obtain the signature Kroh sound. We frequently return to these tracks when creating a set list.
You write most of the current lyrics for the songs and they are mostly based on nihilism and the human mind, does your psychology study inspires you to write such dark topics?
Studying psychology did make me more aware of the different conscious and unconscious phenomena surrounding the human mind and behavior, but in my music, I tend to use a perspective that is less academic and more creative. The deepest secrets of the human nature tend to be dark, and often revolve around topics which might be considered as a taboo under current societal norms. Music to me offers a freedom of expression; it offers a way of exploring the deepest thoughts and the most unusual concepts in an honest and unrestrained manner.
Science and art can of course coexist, but understandably the way of conveying my thoughts and messages through songwriting is vastly different to my academic writing. As much as I like to play with the language, I try to separate the analytical and the poetic sides of me.
How is your study going by the way?
Very well, thank you. I will be graduating with an MSci in Psychology and Psychological Practice in July this year.
Before Kroh you provided the vocals for Red Inferno, can you tell us a little more about that band?
Singing in bands as a teenager was a crucial step towards growing as a musician and finding my direction. With Red Inferno, we went through several line-up changes, name changes and even style changes (from punk to metal), which allowed us to experiment and discover our preferences and our strengths. Playing gigs in the local area was always a great fun, and a good way to connect with others and build friendships. I still see it that way, but I would like to think that today I am more serious about the goals I want to accomplish as a songwriter and vocalist.
Kroh plays live a lot, how do you prepare yourself for a show? Do you have a certain ritual before entering the stage?
I believe that an effective practice session prior to the show is key to ultimate confidence on stage. I never really developed any staple stage rituals, but right before the show, I tend to do some simple vocal warm-ups that I learned whilst being in choirs throughout my teenage years. Sometimes I simply sing a made-up melody with the tones and frequencies that I think need warming up in my voice. I also often watch other bands play before our set to get a better idea of the sound in the venue and to get into the “gigging” mindset that is excited and ready.
And on stage, what gives you the adrenaline rush then? Is it a big crowd or the more cozy venues?
I like big venues, usually because of the powerful sound that can be achieved on big stages and I am a sucker for chest-crushing bass frequencies. However, there definitely is something special about playing smaller venues. They definitely feel more intimate and organic in some aspects.
Throughout years of playing for various types of audiences, I found I experience adrenaline rush prior to taking the stage no matter what size of the venue is. Believe it or not, but performing to a festival crowd can be just as thrilling as performing to a group of locals, and both types of shows can be unforgettable and rewarding.
I must admit that sometimes openly exploring and performing tracks I previously wrote can be difficult, as they have the power to conjure up the past and evoke strong emotions. However, I realized early on that by leaving the “creativity comfort zone” and allowing myself to be vulnerable in the lyrics and the themes I tend to explore, I can connect with the audience on a deeper and a much more-rewarding level. I find the experience of sharing my insights in the form of lyrics and sounds to be highly cathartic.
For the last question, I would like to dive a little deeper into the song Moriah from Pyres. It’s one of my favorite songs from 2017, how did Moriah start, how did it evolve into the song we know now and what was your feeling when you heard it for the first time after the recording?
Thank you so much! Moriah is the epitome of the sinister energy and delicate beauty colliding. It is a dark story of an ultimate self-sacrifice, but also a story of coming to terms with loss, processing pain and hardship, and taking one’s fate into one’s own hands.
I think Moriah was written relatively quickly compared to other Kroh tracks. Paul Kenney sent me a guide track containing the main riff, and I thought it was badass. I remember feeling an immediate compulsion to write. Hearing the final track for the first time after the recording is always an interesting experience. Paul and I are often merciless at chiseling away at the draft tracks to obtain the final studio version, so when you compare the two they often sound completely transformed. I recall hearing the menacing vocals in the intro for the first time and thinking: “Woah, that’s rather ominous. Is that my voice?!”. We certainly had a lot of fun playing with different sounds and effects that would facilitate the mystical ritualistic atmosphere we wanted to achieve through Moriah.