Portuguese black metal outfit Gaerea pushed through 2020’s seemingly-endless blockade of challenges to release their second album, Limbo, in the summer. Building from 2018’s Unsettling Whispers, the anonymous sect continued their upward climb through the underground. Ahead of their February 13 livestream performance with Gimme Radio, the band’s anonymous founder spoke to Decibel about the livestream, promoting a record during the pandemic, why the band members wear hoods and how authenticity matters in Gaerea.
Gaerea put out Limbo last year [via Season of Mist] and that came two years after Unsettling Whispers, which was on Transcending Obscurity and received a lot of attention. Did you feel any pressure to perform to a higher standard, being on a larger label and having more attention on the band?
I don’t think it worked that way because we wrote Limbo as we were on the road with Unsettling Whispers. I remember we got to the studio one or two weeks after our tour in China, so we toured a bit more around that album while we were recording and waiting for the masters. We already knew that we had to step up from Transcending Obscurity because we were becoming a more-needing, touring band.
We already knew that we had to step up the game. I didn’t know that we were going to Season of Mist before having the album ready, so we started the real scouting after having the master files with us. Of course, Season of Mist was one of the first names that popped out and we were already touring with Numenorean, another band from the label, in December so I guess all pieces of the puzzle glued together in a good way.
We didn’t feel that pressure because we didn’t have it but we of course knew we had to step up the game a bit more in terms of video, production and seriousness of the whole thing.
You released Limbo at a time when the whole world is stuck in its own state of limbo with COVID-19. Did that affect the way you released the album or chose to promote it?
Of course we can’t tour with this album and honestly I’m not positive if we ever will, because time is running out on the promotion of this record. We have a couple of good cards to play and if everything is getting canceled again this year, I don’t know how the touring schedule will be with this album. We’ll probably just move on to the next record. It’s still a bit early to figure out.
I still think we released Limbo at the best time possible to release albums. A lot of people were home, a lot of people bought records in 2020. I don’t think the economic crisis in the music industry is at least happening yet. I think it will happen once everything is getting a bit back to normal with closed venues and all of those financial risks.
We had a lot of time to rethink the promotion of this record, so we decided to do more videos, more promotional material. When we saw that the first vinyl pressing was selling out in less than a week, we just kept pushing. It would have been very different if we were in 2019. Maybe we wouldn’t do that many things, but since we have the time and we were feeling quite positive about timing of releasing albums in a bleak year, so we pushed a bit different than we did with Unsettling Whispers. I still think it was the right move to just release it last year and not postpone it.
You’re doing a livestream with Gimme Radio on February 13th and a DJ set. How did that come about?
We never did such a thing like [a DJ set] and it’s probably one of the very rare times where people could see a little bit behind the hoods and have a more open view of our band.
The biggest thing here is the livestream. It built itself because we entered the big recording studio we went to do this. I don’t think metal bands record there anyway because it’s one of those very boutique studios and we recorded the whole thing in their live room. The main idea here was to produce some sort of content that could be for a DVD or a paid stream, but in the end what we wanted is to have this raw feeling and portray what we’re actually missing, which is a show where we present the whole album from start to finish with no cuts, no bullshit or tricks in the production. Just our raw energy and one camera with us inside that studio. That’s what people will see on this livestream.
Did you find it hard to get into the mindset of a live show?
It’s never the same thing. I can’t lie. We felt like being in the studio performing these tracks, trying to be the most flawless we could, because of course we were recording, but I can’t lie: 90% of the whole thing is missing. Being in a dark room with beer all over the floor and people having fun all around us. It’s never the same thing, but we did the best we could with that situation and I still think it’s solid performance.
It’s like a different look into a band sometimes.
I’m a music video director on a daily basis, so I have a whole different perspective on videos with bands. When you’re recording a band with your camera, you’re getting exclusive views that the audience doesn’t get when they’re standing at the venue. You’re getting details that people miss, if it’s the pedalboards, if it’s how that guitar player moves his fingers or different drum perspectives. That’s the whole thing that we try to do—this thing where we play against each other and the camera is going all around us, so you still get pretty exclusive views on how the band works live and how the band performs these songs.
It’s another perspective of what’s happening when the band performs and that’s what we had in mind for this stream.
Would you say then that authenticity is extremely important to the band when you’re making your decisions?
Yes. It’s important. Of course we like to twist stuff; when we started, it was a very different band than the one that we have today but I’m still very positive we hold firm to the same integrity as we did in the beginning. We have our own concepts that we like to keep that way. We’re not doing stuff just for selling but we sell stuff because we’re doing stuff.
We want to do something that people who like us for other things, like the record or the music videos or having seen us in a live venue. I want them to feel the same vibe on this stream. The same band, not full of gimmicks they’ve never seen.
Do you choose to be anonymous and wear hoods because it draws attention to the music, or is it simply an aesthetic you enjoy pairing with the music?
We live in a world where this makes total sense. People don’t care who’s behind the masks. We’re not celebrities. We’re not Johnny Depp or David Beckham with a black metal band. No one cares in the end. I always thought, “Why have our full expression of our faces shown if that’s not the whole idea here?”
We want people to focus on the music, to close their eyes and enjoy our stuff. I don’t want them to be dealing with our hairs on stage or our facial expressions. Let’s do the whole thing totally covered and have the music speak for itself. In the end and even on a conceptual level that we always write about, we live in a society where nobody really cares who’s behind these awful masks we have to wear every day now.
All the time I pass through people and they tell me, “Well I saw you the other day” and we have this awful say that everybody looks the same with the masks on. It’s the same thing. It’s the same deal. We’re mostly nobody here. Nobody’s really interesting at the point where I would care that much to have this specific musician in that band.
In the end, I just care about music and how the band portrays itself live, how the band visually portrays itself through videos. I stand to the same thing I stood when I created Gaerea in 2016. It’s not important and I don’t see the big deal, at least in Gaerea, of having our faces shown. It’s just obsolete for the music that we play.
You do the visual side of the band. In our last interview, you said that a lot of your inspiration musically comes from things like film and art. Would you say that is also true of your visuals? Do you find more inspiration outside of music than inside of it?
It depends on the video. Every video on this album had a certain purpose and idea behind it, with very different approaches. We risked people not liking a bunch of our videos and I just loved that.
With the “To Ain” video where we have one of our own, our singer, performing the track, with no cuts, no bullshit. Just first take and whatever happens, it’s on camera, it’s on the record and this will be released as the music video. This is how performs these songs. This is how he works live. It’s how he rehearses, his natural movements and the way he feels.
We don’t really know what the future holds with COVID, obviously, in regards to touring and shows again. How do you plan your next move from here?
We have a lot of stuff happening. Today we got the rights back for one previous record of ours, so we’re holding good stuff for the future. We will probably re-release some stuff; I can’t say what or in which format because this is news for me also.
We are building our virtual presence by getting out of Bandcamp and building our own website so we are more independent and do things a lot more professionally in a lot of ways. That’s one of the things we thought to do when the pandemic hit us because there were a lot of things, just small flaws, that we always had as an amateur band and I took the proper time to rebuild all of those things and improve quality on merchandise, our presence on the web.
All those details that people really don’t care about, but it makes a big difference to our income, presence on social media, how people see this band, how pro the band can look because it’s doing things the way it should and not the do-it-yourself amateur way.
2020 was a learning curve for us and we’ll continue that way, at least until shows are allowed. We have good agents working with us; we have probably the biggest European festivals booked. We’re doing Wacken, we’re doing Resurrection, a couple more that are not yet out, and we have someone interested in booking us in the United States once everything is allowed.
I see a very frantic and busy future for us. If not this year, it will be very soon and we’ve got to be prepared. That’s why we spend all free time from work and not working on other stuff to just learning how this thing can grow on every level.