Interview with Fia Kempe (vocals)
Self-described progressive death pop The Great Discord have been crafting musical masterworks out of Linköping, Sweden since 2013. I first got turned on to them in 2016 through a few of their members’ affiliation with Swedish doom pop band Ghost and have been in love ever since. Their most recent release, the Afterbirth EP, came out in 2019 and the group has been slowly teasing out a third album that is set to release this fall. To tide over eager fans and to get a closer look at the story the band is shaping, I got to sit down with vocalist Fia Kempe.
You call yourselves “progressive death pop” which in itself is pretty unique. How did you settle on this sound? Are there any groups adjacent to you or is this a genre you sit in by yourselves?
Well, when we started TGD, one thing that hit us quickly was that the label (Metal Blade at the time) and ourselves were not really able to equate us to any other bands in the genre, and every time someone would ask us what genre we belonged to we couldn’t really name any since our music seemed not to fit in anywhere, so we figured “why not make up our own genre”.
The structure of our songs often belong in the pop world with a verse-bridge-chorus kind of arrangement. Progressive since we mix things up a lot, we’re very melodic and have concepts and visuals going on. And death based on some of the riffs with inspiration from death metal in terms of harmonies. So we labeled our music progressive death pop and it’s stuck with us since. To this day though we have a hard time finding other bands that we feel belong in that genre with us, so if you find any, please hit us up!
The story goes that The Great Discord started over a mutual love of Cannibal Corpse. What other artists do you share an interest in?
That’s the fun thing about music, it’s so individual and all members of the band have a broad and different personal taste when it comes to musical favorites. We listen to everything from Cannibal Corpse to Chopin to old school prog, from electronic pop to blues…the list is long! But to name a few acts that we all love and take a lot of inspiration from in different aspects I would say The Dillinger Escape Plan, Devin Townsend, King Crimson and Rammstein.
It seems everyone in the band has one or two (or more) side projects. What’s it like balancing work in The Great Discord with your other obligations?
It’s tough at times, we won’t lie. Everybody has full time commitments in terms of work or studies and along that we all have different projects that works as a channel for our creative needs. But the TGD-world is the glue that holds us together and that every member of the band loves to dig deeper into. A common ground. All members of the band have a lot of creative drive, and TGD enables a lot of that, to be in our bubble together with the elements we love. Music, art, theatre and technology comes together and everyone contributes and delivers pieces of their own creative minds. We love these aspects of it and it’s something we’ll continue doing no matter what shape or form.
The Great Discord, from left to right: Aksel Holmgren, Fia Kempe, Rasmus Carlson, Victor Edström
Image: Per Addenbrooke
What is your writing process like? Is it song by song, part by part, or does it all just come together at once?
Most of the time it starts with a feeling or a riff, and they both typically intertwine with each other. If I have a feeling, let’s say joy for example, I’ll make a riff or a piano loop that channels this feeling of joy. If a member of the band has written a riff I immediately associate the riff with a feeling and we take it from there. Sometimes we have some sort of lyrical idea for what kind of touch the song will have and then we make music that imitates what the lyric conveys. Music an esoteric thing, more than just notes and riffs, music is art and hopefully when someone listens to one of our songs they also feel what the music is trying to tell you, we want to create music for the ears, eyes and the heart.
You’ve done a few covers, namely Army of Me by Björk and Breathe by The Prodigy. What other artists might you be thinking of covering in the future?
We’ve always known that someday we will cover something from Dillinger, and if you stay vigilant it might just happen sooner or later…
Are there any artists that you would want to collaborate with?
It would be a dream come true to collaborate with Devin Townsend, one of the most talented and inspirational contemporary artists in the scene.
You have certainly been teasing fans with this album for some time now. Are there any songs you’ve had a hard time keeping under wraps, or are you all experts at keeping secrets?
Secrets, all we have are secrets, right? We just feel like, when we start to release new music, we want to give the ones who enjoy our music a well worked through package! Instead of releasing one song without context and making everybody wait longer between the releases, we give you all a lot when the time is right. And this journey has just begun, so we hope you´ll enjoy the ride together with us!
A lot of your music connects through a theme. Duende dealt primarily with mental health issues and The Rabbit Hole is a story of how Fia met Ire. What sort of themes can we see with album three, Deam Morte?
Oh, I love to answer these kind of questions 😀 Yes, we’re definitely fan of concept albums and Deam Morte is no exception. For this album the persona, DEA, is the goddess of death and she is a bit of a grim reaper that holds life and death in her hands represented by a coin the fans got when buying our latest EP Afterbirth.
DEA is more malicious than any of the previous personas. Deam Morte as an album revolves around the concept of the seven deadly sins but within a modern context. We’ve taken every sin and made our own interpretation of it as seen through the lens of modern society. The lyrical themes revolve around feminism, the patriarchy, racism, economic inequality, the immoral behaviors of the ruling class. Generally injustices that we see around the world, and it has been so amazing to write lyrics and music with themes that are very personal and come straight from the heart. For me, this album is more personal than anything I’ve ever written before.
With The Rabbit Hole, we saw the entity called Ire. Now, after viewing The Arrival, it seems that we have Dea to contend with. Can you talk a little about these beings and the story The Great Discord is telling through them?
IRE was explosive and a bit of a loose cannon, representing wrath and passion in different forms. DEA is instead deadly silent with deadly intent. DEA is a goddess mediating the important discourse and debate that we see around us, she is the ultimate harbinger of the judgement that we deserve. It does not matter what you think, she knows, and she’ll flip her coin and that’ll be it. DEA will show you that these sins are most definitely present today whether you like it or not, and they will harm you if you use them to do wrong, but if we learn from our history and together try to do better and use our privileges to do good, we can survive this together. So you better watch your back this time around, because DEA is everywhere, watching your every step.
You recently released the single BLOOD AND ENVY, a genre-bending bass-forward heavy hitter. Is this the kind of sound we can expect from all of Deam Morte? Or will there be a combination of heavy and soft songs, like on The Rabbit Hole?
It will definitely be a combination between a lot of elements. Since every song represent one of the deadly sins we’ve tried to connect the music and lyrics with the feeling and sense of every sin. Blood and Envy is a very straightforward song revealing DEA. We wanted to make her entry heavy and make you feel her steps on the ground with a powerful and potent beat. This is what happens when envy takes hold of you, it etches into your soul and eventually you can’t see anything good in what you have since you’re so occupied by tracking what everybody else around you has. For every track/sin on Deam Morte there is a connection to a modern societal problem connecting every song to the theme, so there is plenty of variety!
Can we expect more surprises; for instance another single or video?
Haha, yes sir! Have we ever let you down when it comes to that? ☺
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes, a really weird one. We stand together in a circle (sometimes with a shot of whatever strong liquor is availible) and yell MUSTIKIKA! – which translates to blueberry in Finnish. Why do we do that? Don’t even ask me, haha, it’s so stupid that it doesn’t even deserve an explanation. Something related to a ferry, crossing the baltic. And a bathroom.
What would you say was your best show to date?
Wow, that is a tough one. It has been an amazing experience touring with great acts from Ghost, Kvelertak to Katatonia and Ghostbath, to every festival we´ve visited. Every show is unique and if there is one thing we love, it is to perform! But, when we did our release show for Afterbirth in Linköping, Arbis, it was very special to all of us. The whole experience was so intimate and we felt really close to our audience.
We were overwhelmed by the support from our amazing fans that flew in from all over the fucking world just to see us play in a small location in our hometown, which is still crazy to think about and we feel incredibly privileged. It’s really true what they say, we wouldn’t be anything if it weren’t for the ones who come to watch us perform. We loved every second of it and just can’t wait until we get to do it again. For me, it was extra special since I had my little baby boy in my belly at the time ☺, And he was in for a bumpy ride that night. I think that is why he loves metal as much as I do today, haha!
Which songs are the most fun to play?
We all love to play The Red Rabbit from TRH, and Ephemeral from Duende. Two songs that always feel so powerful and you can see how we look at each other on stage and just love to be exactly where we are at that time. Oh, how I long to play live again!
When the pandemic makes it manageable, what plans do you have for touring in the future?
Oh, we have plans! We will begin with one hell of a release show, that’s for sure. Stay vigilant indeed!
Any closing words for the fans?
Thank you for being who you are! We have the most talented and dedicated fans in the world and we love you deeply. We do hope that you’ll enjoy the third chapter of the TGD world. Come join us in this fight for equality and justice, or else, well, you know, DEA is coming for you…
Special thanks to Fia and The Great Discord.
“DEAM MORTE” is slated to release this fall.