Fabulae Dramatis Speaks To UnRated Magazine
Interview conducted on December 30, 2017
By Daniel Locke
Fabulae Dramatis was formed in 2011 in Antwerp, Belgium. In 2012 they released their debut album Om. Followed this year by their eclectic second album, Solar Time’s Fables.
The band was formed by Isabel Restrepo; vocals, sitar, harmonium; Hamlet, bass and vocals and Daniel Díaz, guitar and bass, who also write the bands tunes. Their current line-up also includes Isadora Cortina, vocals; Maxime Moreira, drums; Wesley Beernaert, vocals. As well as collaborations with some brilliant international guest musicians playing violin, cello, accordion and djembe to name a few.
Together they combine the intensity and volume of progressive metal with more soft, lyrical, classical themes. The sound is influenced by a range of world music and instruments such as the sitar, harmonium and tambura. Lyrics in the music often focus on short stories or fables.
Fabulae Dramatis prides its style on a “union of ideas, experimenting with diverse cultural and musical influences combined into one project”.
Their music has been described by Classic Rock Society magazine as having “deep thought and insular attention” paid to it with “the spirits of Zappa and Beefheart”.
Check out Om on iTunes and look out for Solar Time’s Fables, coming soon!
Biography by Esther Hayden.
How did you find each other? Tell me about the development of the band?
We found each other through Myspace between 2008 and 2009. Isabel, Hamlet Daniel and Isadora. After some years of conversations through internet about our music and personal projects (Transport Aerean and Ancentral Legacy) Isabel invited Hamlet and Daniel to work on two songs from her previous music projects (VenenuM @ Horus). After the songs were recorded (2011) we felt like continue the composition process and starting a new project by ourselves. Isabel invited Isadora as a guest singer for the intro of one song “Ixquic” and then we released our first album “Om” in September 2012.
The band was started in Antwerp, Belgium. How is the music scene there?
Pretty underground but rich in music genres and talent.
How did you pick your name?
Isabel Restrepo: I chose the name based on the concept I wanted for the band. Theatre and storytelling through cultural diversity were the main subjects I wanted to focus on. So I called the project “Fabulae Dramatis” taking those words from the Latin, which I consider a beautiful language, mother of all Romance languages, to tell cultural fables through music and lyrics.
Tell me about your backgrounds?
Isabel: I was born and raised in Medellín, Colombia. I have also lived in Honduras for about 9 years. Since my childhood I have been introduced to the classical music at home and at school. That’s why I started taking private lessons for classical singing when I was 18. I did it for a couple of years. Then I came to live in Belgium in 2008 and started studying at the music academy in 2011. I also started to listen to rock and metal since my adolescence but I definitely appreciate other music genres to help open my music perspective.
Hamlet: I’m a producer at the first place, but it also a sweet coincidence that I can play a plenty of instruments and have quite versatile voice, suitable for the music Fabulae has to offer. Not much else to tell about the background except that I worked with a plenty of bands ranging from avant-garde studio projects to dance party bands, both as a musician and a producer. Whatever I do, I prefer to be on the innovative side and avoid being inside the box.
Daniel Díaz: I was born in Bogotá, Colombia in the early eighties. I started to play guitar at the age of 15. My passion for music brought
him to an academy for classical music and after I completed school I continued studying music at The University of Bogotá. This armed me with the tools to form my first metal band called “Suacam Fernom”. The genre that we played was black/experimental metal. I also studied in Spain and had a band called “Suacam Fernom”. They recorded a demo and played live, but the band broke up in the end, due to personal matters. Fate brought me to find new horizons in Belgium in 2009. Here, I joined “Stog”, a metal band from the south of Belgium and after a year and half, Daniel met Isabel Restrepo who, casually, was looking for a guitarist to collaborate on her personal project.
Isadora Cortina: I am Mexican raised and born and moved to Norway 9 years ago. I am the vocalist and keyboard player in a band called Ancestral Legacy. When I lived in Mexico I played in a cover band but my real call was metal. I studied the classical voice method in a choir but concentrated more in finding my vocal style later.
Your band is a combine the intensity and volume of progressive metal with more soft, lyrical, classical themes. How did you come up with that combination of music? How do you describe your music?
Hamlet: we prefer not to describe music at all. It is like dancing about the poetry or reciting the sculpture. It is a necessary evil when it comes down to promotion, but I think it’s not something an artist should bother about at all.
Who influences you and why?
Hamlet: life. Because it is a rather interesting, mostly amusing thing.
Isabel: human stories and nature. Indeed life throughout time and different cultures. Because I’m intrigued about how other people learn from their environment and how do they experience life, how do they develop traditions and how do they relate to each other.
Your band sounds like a metal version of the progressive band Renaissance. Isabel has the same voice range as Annie Haslam who has a five-octave vocal range.
We like to experiment with vocal ranges and styles. All our singers on this second album can manage to sing clean in low and high notes and can make growling voices as well. Some of them used those skills only during the studio version and the others during the live version of the album.
We may also conclude that we grew up as musicians every time we dared to go out of our comfort zone. Every one of us tries to push one’s boundaries in order to achieve our vision of staying eclectic, open-minded and continue our musical growth process.
Thanks about the five-octave vocal range! But it would have been much more of a compliment, if you said “your band sounds like something that nobody else did before”. But at least it hasn’t started with the idea that we could be “the second <insert your favorite band name> or alike of that.
You have two LPs. They were a long time between them. How are each different or the same from each other?
Hamlet: extremely different, yet both remain out of the genre borders, while maintain a reasonable heaviness, both explore the possibilities of multiple voices and exotic instruments, and a both revolve around the historical and cultural references in the themes of lyrics and visuals. As for the differences, the first LP was more of a studio collaboration, we never meant to play it live, and we were all in different countries and even some on the different continents. We never met most of the guest musicians – and there were plenty – in person as we’d been exchanging the tracks digitally. I oversaw the production and a lion share of writing process, scrambling bits and pieces that our big team of guests would send us and putting them together for the arrangements to make sense.
Isabel specifically asked me that time to make it more on the avant-garde rather than on metal side, so production-wise I made it slightly more twisted and far less digestible for non-sophisticated ears than what Bart Van Lier and Jens Bogren did for the second album.
On Solar Time’s Fables we’ve had a full band coming together in one recording studio, discussing ideas more as a team, we’ve had less guests and we had a big upgrade in our recording, production and mastering budgets – which helped a lot. Solar Time’s Fables is a lot heavier, perhaps more straight in your face – in our own way, of course, – but it still maintains and develops our idea that progressive or avant-garde metal still has a lot of space to explore, that it’s possible to do much more interesting things rather than becoming another clone of something that already exists or squeezing out 250 notes per second technical wankery without any legible context, which, sadly, often is the case with “progressive” bands nowadays.
What is Music and what do you feel, what direction it is heading?
Hamlet: I don’t know what music is. I think it’s a psychophysiological phenomenon of the same kind as language, likely based on our conceptual signal system, perhaps on more primordial reflexes than language. Certainly, it is on the higher level of abstraction. But it is a beautiful thing we have here, very fascinating to explore. I think despite that it has become a sickening trend nowadays to moan, groan and whine about the decline of (popular) music quality, we actually do move towards the golden times for creativity instead. The technological means of expression open almost endless field for the experimentation. We know a lot about harmony. We have an open and immediate access to theory on the subject and to practice. We can integrate different cultures. Then again, to utilize that, it does require some knowledge, technique, erudition and taste, but that’s exactly what makes music endless. It is subjective in perception and objectively affective.
How did you get signed to the label?
Isabel: we decided to work with Dooweet, which is a PR agency that has multiple services for artists. They definitely offer a very transparent all-in service deal which are very satisfied with. We don’t have any record label yet but we did had some offers from labels in the past to sign with but we decided just to go with Dooweet, since we prefer their arrangements and workflow.
Tell me about Solar Time’s Fables which came out in Sept. How is it doing?
Isabel: this album has a different approach like Hamlet explained before. Besides of being originally a studio album, it is transcending to a live band with all the modification and challenges that this transition can possibly bring us as musicians. We managed to bring the interpretation of the “Solar Time’s Fables” successfully on stage. Our two PR agencies (Dooweet & Hard Life Promotions) helped us also a lot with the communication through the media. From those points of view we are becoming a strong creative team that takes the challenge and just goes for it. We have had very positive as well negative reactions but we are satisfied with both perspectives. The most important thing is that we are ourselves very pleased with the final result (studio and live versions) and we love to share it with those who want to listen.
Let’s talk about Agni’s Dynasty (Fire I). How did you pick the style of the video?
Hamlet: It is a hilarious story, and I hope Isabel won’t choke me for sharing this little secret with you. Just tell no-one! Well, we’ve had to work with a filming agency. They listened to the track we suggested, and then came up with the script. You guessed it… It was a “lone girl” in a gothic dress wandering through the forest with some grave serious dudes dressed in all black on the background, waving their half-meter straightened hairs while assuming poses of sideways walking crabs. Obviously, we declined and abandoned the agency, running as quick as a kiwi bird after the nightfall (if you had an occasion to witness one – you’ll get what I mean). Isabel had recently her degree in video camera techniques, so she came up with the script, a bunch of professional gear and some camera and lightning crew, and I think she did great as a director of her first video clip ever! She inscribed afterwards to the Academy of Fine Arts in order to continue the video productions of the band in the future.
It’s all fun and games, but there is one extremely important question that still remains unanswered: why exactly absolutely all the metal and indie bands videos must include girls wandering in the forests? Something to ponder about for sure. Perhaps I’ll meditate on this philosophical dilemma some day later.
What is going to be the next video from the LP? I see you just released Sati (Fire II).
Isabel: we still have some unseen footage of the recording process of this last album that we definitely want to share with our audience. We know for example that one of the favorite songs is “Roble para el corazón (wood)”. So I’ll try to find all the video material we have and fill it in with some live passages of the live performance in order to make a nice contrast. Also because we don’t have the entire song caught on video during the recordings.
We probably would ask to our audience what other video clip they would like to watch in the nearly future. I have been thinking for example about “Smoke For The Clouds (Ahuirán’s Water)” but it can be other song, of course… It depends on several factors.
How did the The Battle Of Metal Vol.4 come into being?
Isabel: our PR agency for Benelux, Hard Life Promotion sent us the invitation from DarkTunes music group. We sent the single and gave them the copyright permission and that was it.
The band has some very interesting instruments.
Isabel Restrepo: voice, sitar, harmonium, programming, keys, lyrics and composition.
Daniel Díaz: guitar, bass and composition
Hamlet: bass, voice, programming keys, lyrics and composition
Isadora Cortina: voice, programming, keys and composition
Maxime Moreira: drums
Wesley Beernaert: harsh, clean voices and lyrics.
Thanks! That’s pretty much what we wanted for this last album.
Isabel I see you were in Horus”, “VenenuM” and “Stigmatas of Dissaor” from Honduras, and you were the first front woman of a Metal band in that country. How does that feel you have blazed the trail of metal for women?
It gives a good feeling, of course now that I look back but at that time was sometimes scary because I didn’t know if the public was going to accept me. I was really expecting worse, seeing myself as a foreigner with a different mentality and a lot of ambition. I thought I had to shield myself against the stones they would throw me on stage… but I was surprisingly very welcomed. The crowd was just amazed that a woman stood there in front not only as a member of a choir of as a second voice like it used to be before in Honduras in a metal band. After that I founded a musical movement named “Mujeres de Rocka & Metal” to encourage other women to develop their talent no matter the music genre. There were of course women playing in other music styles but women and metal was not a common combination around 2003, or at least women playing or singing in metal was not public at all. They were renegade and maintained secretly in their rehearsal rooms.
Isabel how did you learn how to play sitar?
I bought my sitar in from a friend who also gave me some lessons during 2 months. Then I just continued learning in an autodidactic way from the books and videos that that friend left me before moving to another country. I play sitar still in a very basic way. I don’t consider myself a sitarist. You’ll need a life-time lesson to become one. So I’m just a singer who likes to experiment with different instruments.
I also learned one year ago how to play saxophone in order to play live one song our last album “Sirius Wind”. It was curiously the same story like with the sitar. This time I borrowed an alto saxophone from a friend, the same musician who recorded the sax for the album. He gave me one single lesson and left me some videos playing the song and then he also left the country. I still have his alto sax at my place but I recently bought my own instrument.
You won’t believe me but that’s almost the same story of my harmonium. I bought it from a friend who also moved to another country, but she didn’t give me any lesson. The harmonium is just very intuitive to play!
It’s funny but music has always come to me through friends and it stays this way. I guess that’s the way it goes. Music brings people together!
Also Isabel you are a woman who is very busy, you finished your 6th year in classical music education in 2017 at the
Music Academy in Antwerp, Belgium. How do you have time?
I guess I’m good at time management. I’m also very lucky that education in Belgium is very flexible and qualitative. There’s a circuit of Academies of Arts, music and word in Flanders that offer lessons for children as well for adults during the evening. So this is enclosed in a part-time art education program of the government. Time doesn’t have to be an excuse to not to develop your talent. If I want something, I make time for it.
I saw your Isabel Cristina Restrepo (KRISTAL) Demo Reel? Can you give me some more info on it?
Wow! I didn’t see that coming! That’s is apparently a namesake! I’m happy she is a talented young woman, as I see also a compatriot with a multitask profile (violinist, singer, actress and dancer). Good that it’s not somebody who’s for example a bank robber or a serial killer? That would bring me maybe more problems than benefits having the same names and last name! 😉
I love the video of Daniel & Maxime acoustic guitar – air drums. I am a trained classical guitarist I which I could have heard more of it.
Daniel played also acoustic guitar during the outro of the song “Ixquic” from our album “Om”, by the way.
Isadora I like your IXQUIC.
Isadora: Thanks mate! I really like it as well, it was the reason I played with Fabulae Dramatis for the first time and it is really special to me because I get to sing in a native language (Mayan) from my country and the story comes from the book Popol Vuh which is a book of mayan wisdom about how the world was created. I really recommend it: D
How have them help your sound?
Isadora: I don’t feel like I “help” the sound of Fabulae Dramatis, it’s almost like it creates itself, we just flow together with ideas that work with each other and you can listen to all of us in the music, that’s why it is so varied, because it really is the band’s music instead of just one band member composing everything. Quite special.
What music fests would you like to play in?
We are becoming a live band after our release concert in September 2017. So we are looking forward to play in every small or big venue we can. Festival during the summer are popular here in Europe. Hopefully can we play in some of them in the future? We are open for all the possibilities.
Have you looked into SXSW?
Now that you mention it. It seems an interesting concept. Pure culture!
Are you thinking about doing the US for a tour?
Logistically and financially that would be very challenging but it would be lovely to play there someday. Who knows what the future can bring us!
How would you explain your live performance?
A mind opener, as well as eye and ear opener.
If someone was listening to you for the first time, what 3 videos or songs would you tell them to look/listen to and why?
From the “Om”: “Kein Schmerz”, “Vigil” and “Neelakanta”.
From the ‘Solar Time’s Fables’: “Sati (Fire II)”, ‘Roble para el Corazón (Wood)” and “Sirius Wind”.
Then you’ll have a wide perspective of what we do.
How do you see your band in the next 5 years?
Nobody knows where we’re gonna be, hopefully we’ll be still making music and sharing it with the world. We just live in the present in order to build the future and for now we’re working hard to accomplish our goals. No matter what we will be doing, hopefully we’ll be happy doing it.
Any guilty pleasures your fans would be surprise you listen to?
Hamlet: why would anyone be guilty of the pleasures? Pleasures are there to please! I have Magma’s Mekanik Destruktiw Kömmandöh standing right next to Lane Del Rey’s Born To Die, siding with Lamb’s Backspace Unwind leaning onto Burzum’s Filosofem – all on my shelf, don’t see why anyone should have problems with it.
Isabel: I have no music clichés.
Isadora: I don’t know if it’s such a surprise but I really like Lila Downs, she is a Mexican musician that blends folk music from Mexico with other genres.
What is on your phone for music now?
Hamlet: Listening to the music on the phone?! What a disgrace! Give me the darkened room, some good wine and high-end stereo please!
Isabel: to name some of the albums: “Carmina Burana” of Carl Orff, “Trascendence” of Devin Towsend, “Terra Incognita” of Gojira, “King of Everything” of Jinjer, “Roots Revisited” of Maceo Parker and “The Boiling Ground” of Nordmann.
Isadora: Anti-Life Saviour by Shade Empire (FIN)
Anything in closing you would like to say?
We would like to cordially thank you. Interviews aren’t frequent on independent level nowadays, yet those present far better opportunity for a band to tell to the audience about the music. It is very valuable and certainly very helpful, thanks a lot for investing your time in questions and investigating us this way!
Thanks for chatting with Unratedmagazine.