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Simone Simons Epica - Interview
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One of the trademarks of Epica's sound is the voice of Simone Simons, who brings her melodic touch to the band's sound together with guitarist Mark Jansen's more growly vocals. It's that combination that have forged the band's sound since their inception almost 15 years ago and made a mark on the symphonic metal genre. We recently caught up with Simone to discuss her vocals as well as their upcoming tour in New Zealand and Australia.



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Simone: Hello, how are you doing?

Andrew: I'm doing very well! How are you?

Simone: Great! It's a great, sunny day.

Andrew: The last I heard you were feeling a little bit under the weather so is everything ok now?

Simone: Yeah I coughed up the last bit of cold and I'm doing great. I'm revived and super healthy to go on tour!

Andrew: That's good to hear. It's very exciting to see that you guys are coming back to Australia, I guess you guys must be looking forward to it as well.

Simone: Yeah definitely!

Andrew: Yeah it should be a great tour, I guess the last time you were here was about 2 or 3 years ago right?

Simone: Yes 2013 we set foot on Australian soil for the very first time.

Andrew: How was that experience for you then?

Simone: Great! We heard stories from our fellow musicians and I already had the idea that people are very chilled over there and I had no idea how many fans would show up at the shows but for our first time, it was a big success. We are very happy to be able to get back so fast because we basically tour all the time, it's difficult to fit in every part of the world but we managed so we are very glad that we did.

Andrew: Yeah definitely, the fans appreciate you guys coming back. There's definitely a lot of fans here that love Epica for a number of years now. How did you find the crowds here compared to your home town and maybe some of the other countries in Europe?

Simone: I found them to be very European and the people seem to always be in a good mood. The country itself is beautiful and the economics for us compared to Europe is very expensive, like food and drinks and all that stuff we were a little bit shocked by. We had a couple of days off and we had to get our food ourselves and we were like, 'What?' Very expensive but that's the only thing that we were a little bit shocked by. We are very happy that we are going over there now at the end of your summer so we'll have good weather, might be able to do a bit of sight seeing as well. Last time we did sight seeing in Brisbane I believe and just chilled but last time we were in Australia I was pregnant so I couldn't go crazy all the way. I always had to keep in mind to not be too touristy because I need my energy for the shows, that's why we were there and that's most important. But whenever I can and when I feel like it, I do like to explore a little bit because that's the beauty of traveling around the world.

Andrew: Absolutely yeah, it's good to see the sights in different countries. One of the things I did want to ask you about is, obviously your voice is one of the big trademarks of Epica's sound so is there anything in particular you do to maintain and look after your voice?

Simone: I rest as much as I can and eat an almost healthy diet, I can't stay away from the chocolate! I drink very little alcohol and on tour I don't party that much as the rest, like if I'm feeling a little bit tired, I won't go out and explore the city, I'll save up my energy. So I don't go into loud pubs where people are smoking and I have to scream in order to have a conversation with people. So that's the basics of just maintaining a healthy physique and sports as well, not too much but just enough to stay healthy and fit. It's not just about keeping your shape but also what I like and I got back into it now after being sick. The endorphins, you feel good, you're overall a more balanced person if you work out a bit as well.

Andrew: And do you do warm up excercises before each show as well?

Simone: Yeah I try to get my body's blood pumping a bit so that you're warmed up. I do my own hair and makeup, I listen to some music to kind of shut down from the rest of the people backstage to mentally prepare and I mostly do some small scales and humming excercises to not be a burden to everybody around me. That's basically it, it's how I do it.

Andrew: Is that something that you learned along the way when you first started singing or was it something you researched a bit?

Simone: Well I had vocal lessons and of course you have standard warming up excercises but what I never liked was to sing the scales, it's a little bit boring so I asked other vocal teachers what other ways there are to warm up the vocals. In the same way that's like the humming sound or you have the tongue at the back of your throat and then you do scales like that without making a loud noise, it has the same effect in a way because sometimes people like to make fun of it when you're doing the da-da-da-da-da.

Andrew: Do you ever get advice from other singers who do similar kind of music and do you share tips and that kind of stuff?

Simone: I've worked together with Floor (Jansen, Nightwish) in the past and with Henning (Basse, Sons Of Seasons) asking them some tips and tricks and recently I asked Anneke Van Giersbergen and she lives kinda close to the studio where we were at and she wanted to meet up with me one day and just sing together and maybe give me some tips and tricks. You're never too old to learn and I respect all those singers really well so if they can teach me a trick or two, I'll be happy to take that advice.

Andrew: What's the most valuable advice you have been given?

Simone: I guess the basic of singing as well is you don't just sing with your vocal chords, you use your whole body. You're core has to be strong, you're back and belly, you have to stand in a proper way and you have to make sure that it never hurts, if it's hurting in your throat area, then you are doing it wrong. It's always the first thing that you have to go back into the basics of what you learn so singing with your whole body and also know how to sing economically incase when you're tired, I know which style are easy for me even though I am tired, are more challenging when I'm tired so I just switch up styles however I'm feeling like in order to not strain my voice too much.

Andrew: When you're voice starts feeling a little tired or worn out after a long tour, do you find that you make changes in the setlist to maybe cater to that in any way?

Simone: Yeah when I'm really tired, then I'll tell Mark (Jansen, guitars) who does most of the setlist, to get rid of those 2 songs because I don't think I will be able to perform them at my best. Then we take them and switch up the setlist just a little bit and sometimes when we get very excited, we extend the setlist but we do know the set is hard for the band and the audience to keep the level of energy up all the time. So when we have a rough travel day and haven't slept, we play one and a half hours instead of one hour and 45 minutes or even 2 hours in order to ensure that the fans are going to enjoy one and half hours of full strength instead of a longer set where you notice, 'Ugh they're getting tired'. But it's also good for making sure that you can keep up with the set because it's all basically excercising by itself but you have to still do some cardio training to keep up with that. It's quite heavy but it's fun [laughs].

Andrew: Yeah it sounds more complicated than I thought it would be, there's a lot of worked involved in it.

Simone: Yeah it also depends on your personal performance but I do walk around and you're banging your head and dancing a bit. Some bands are standing there and just purely focusing on the instrument that they are playing, everybody has their own thing but we are quite an energetic band so we move around a lot.

Andrew: Well speaking of setlists, what is it we can expect on this tour this time around?

Simone: Well the reason we are coming to Australia is of course to promote "The Quantum Enigma" so we will be playing some songs from that and mix it up with all the other Epica records. We will play the classics, "Cry For The Moon" and "The Divine Oblivion" and the rest we fill up with personal favorites and fan favorites but all 6 records will be on each setlist.

Andrew: OK cool that's good to hear. I guess "The Quantum Enigma" came out a couple of years ago now so how has the reception been from the fans and how have the songs been playing out live so far?

Simone: They're amazing live songs, the energy is great and fans love it as well. "The Quantum Enigma" so far has been our biggest success so that puts the pressure high for the seventh record which we are recording right now. But we are all believing in this seventh record, it's going to be the bigger sister of "The Quantum Enigma".

Andrew: "The Quantum Enigma" has a very scientific concept to it, is the science world a big interest for you in your world?

Simone: It is for Mark. Mark and I both share the lyrics for the record and Mark comes up with the concepts and album titles and "The Quantum Enigma" and album 7 will very much be related to each other musically and lyrically as well.

Andrew: OK cool! So is there any last words you have for the Australian fans before you come over?

Simone: We're super stoked to go back down under and we can't wait to have a good time with the Aussie fans!

Andrew: Awesome! Thanks for your time today, much appreciated and we will see you next week!

Simone: Yeah see you next week and have a good evening.

w/ Voyager

March 16th @ The Studio, Auckland 18+
March 18th @ Max Watts, Brisbane 18+
March 19th @ Max Watts, Sydney 18+
March 20th @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 18+

Tickets and tour details can be found at Soundworks Touring

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on March 10th 2016