Photo by Joao Fitas.
On the third day of this year's Inferno Metal Festival, Gaerea headlined at John Dee. The show was very intense and the audience reacted very positively to the band's performance. Since the concert was a great success and was subsequently followed by a standard after party, Žiga and I were a bit sceptical whether the early Sunday morning date for our interview was really the best. However, the singer and frontman of the band, Guilherme Henriques, found the time and energy to calmly answer our questions in the hall of his hotel, drinking his morning coffee. In this interview we mainly talked about the feelings the band conveys through the music, both on disc and live.
ŽIGA: Hello, first of all. Thank you for your time. How do you feel so relatively early in the morning after such an intense show?
GUILHERME: I'm just a bit tired because it was sort of a party night yesterday. But it's mostly like that after the show. For example, we wanted to check out Watain that started right after, but there was just no energy for the next two or three hours to do anything. I just wanted to sit down and get in my normal mood because everything is very intense on stage and so I need to get back to my normal self after a show. So it takes a bit of time.
But yeah, I feel good. Yesterday was a really special show, we were able to perform in a sort of black metal mecca such as Inferno Festival. A personal dream came true, something that I never thought we would be able to do. And all that with such a great crowd and amazing stage and amazing crew. I'm very happy with everything about yesterday.
DEJAN: So the show yesterday is already part of your European tour or is this an extra show?
GUILHERME: It was a one-off show. We had this one, at the end of April we have another festival in the Netherlands, the Bloodshed Festival. And then we start this European run in June. Basically we're going to a few countries we've never been before, like Croatia or Serbia. It's basically connecting a few festivals that we have in the summer, like Copenhell, Full Force, Basinfire, I think, as well. We are just flying in and out for these two experiences.
DEJAN: I know that you will be visiting Croatia on the 9th of June, but I'm not quite sure if you are also coming to Slovenia to play at the MetalDays festival. Or maybe Tolminator? We have two big summer festivals now in Slovenia.
GUILHERME: I only know about MetalDays.
DEJAN: Yeah, that's the bigger one whose venue changed. And at the old venue, we have Tolminator now.
GUILHERME: Oh, that's cool. I didn't know. Well, we played in Slovenia before. I think we played once or twice in Slovenia. Probably just once in 2019 in one of our first European runs. But yeah, we would love to play in the summer in the beautiful Slovenia. It's one of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to. But not this time around, I guess.
DEJAN: Regarding the coming European tour … Which venue are you most looking forward to?
GUILHERME: Oh, it's a hard one. Most of the venues are new to us. We're looking forward to the festivals. We're really looking forward to playing at The Abyss in Gothenburg. It's a legendary place. We had a small party when we played in Gothenburg the last time, and the small party was in The Abyss venue, next to the venue we played at. But again, I honestly don't care much about the venues. It's just a place where we can perform. For us it's mostly about travelling, meeting the people from the country, meeting new people and visiting as much as we can in the new cities and in countries like Croatia or Serbia that I've never been to, not even on a personal level. So, yeah, we're very looking forward to the country experience more than being stuck inside a venue just to play, of course.
ŽIGA: So, regarding yesterday's show … I saw you are very effective and energetic on stage. What is your preference? Do you like smaller clubs or bigger stages? Where do you get the most feel out of the show?
GUILHERME: It depends. We started to do bigger shows last year. We're still growing as a band. This is all new to us in some way. It's just different if you do a bigger audience like Hellfest. It's a different crowd and it's already warmed up for everything that's about to happen. So you can do a bigger production. It's not about having such an intimacy moment with the audience. It's about putting on a show but still with all the characteristics of our performance.
But, personally, there's nothing like a packed, sweaty venue like yesterday where we can touch the audience and feel that energy from so close. It's that punk or rock'n'roll feeling that we all love. There's nothing like it. It's very special, and for me those are probably some of the best shows we ever did. I remember the first time we went to Prague we played in this very, very small club. We went there with Spectral Wound. It wasn't bigger than this room we're in right now. The stage was fucking small as well, but it was packed. I think they filled it with almost 300 people, like two layers of people sometimes. It was wild. And again, not a fancy venue, not a fancy show at all, no fancy gear, but I will not forget that show.
It's one of those things that we lost for two years in the pandemic and it's so amazing to have it back. We love those.
DEJAN: At the moment you're promoting your new album Mirage. How do the new songs feel like live?
GUILHERME: They feel like they have a purpose live. It's not that we wrote music to be played live, because that's not how we write music. But I think these songs work very well live. Not all of them in the album, that's why we don't play the whole album, but again, what's the point in that? But songs like Mantle, Deluge or even Mirage, those have this breathing moment where the show can switch or shift a bit to another dimension.
It's an album that we can build a set with some songs from Limbo or even sometimes from the Unsettling Whispers album. We can build this momentum-based set where we can have very aggressive moments with songs like Salve, but we can also have more atmospheric, heart-breaking moments and ambiences with Mirage or Mantle. It's an album that we can build a more diverse and organic set with, so I'm happy with it.
DEJAN: Since you're already performing the songs live, do you also already have a favourite track from the album? And it doesn't have to be a song which you are performing live.
GUILHERME: There's nothing like Mare, the last Limbo song. We played it for a while, but it's a big-ass song. We got to save it for a special moment. It's a very special song, but we're always ending the show with a very specific song, Laude, which is a song about us as a band, how we feel inside this artistic movement, how we move through it and how we feel the audience. It's a song mostly about the audience and how we feed ourselves from it. That's why it's always a very cathartic moment for us to end up the show with. It's where everything comes together in our set.
ŽIGA: You mentioned Mare as a special song. Are you preparing something special for the upcoming tour as well? You don't have to say it if it's a surprise for the audience.
GUILHERME: We got special things to do on this tour, mostly on a production level. We are a very minimalistic band. For me it's not about props or about fire or blades or all that. It's about having five people on an empty stage, filling the room with energy. That's what rock'n'roll is for me. We have a few things we will try on tour, a few things we did in the Portuguese shows we will bring on tour because it worked so well. I'm really looking forward to that. Most venues will be small venues on this tour in June, besides the festivals. But again, as I said, those are sometimes the most special shows.
DEJAN: You're performing in masks. The mask is like a corpse paint for the Norwegian bands, or do you care about your privacy in this matter?
GUILHERME: I don't think it's about privacy. I answered this many times, but I don't mind doing it again. The anonymity aspect of what we do is because I believe that we're all like that in our daily lives. When it's truly real at some point, I do believe that we are never able to reveal our true selves when we are amongst each other. It's our true deepest thoughts that define us and are always kept in the back of our mind. It truly means that for us. It's a moment where we feel alive. It's that moment where we can have all those thoughts come to life and it's something that we don't do in our daily lives or outside the performance. It's those 45 minutes to one hour or one hour and something minutes where we truly feel ourselves on stage. And the masks explain that.
DEJAN: I'm walking around for, I would say, the last 10 or 20 years, I don't know for how long, with an idea, that a person never truly opens up to another person, ever. So only you know you the best.
GUILHERME: It's true. It's exactly that. I don't think we're truly real to each other. We can get close to that with our loved ones, but I don't feel like we can be fully transparent.
DEJAN: And we also don't want to be. There are some things you don't want to show, also not to your loved ones.
GUILHERME: No. It's what defines us.
ŽIGA: There's the individuality.
GUILHERME: Yes. The individuality, the deepest thoughts, the deepest emotions. We live in a world where emotions are something that we hide, even though we're very woke about expressing our feelings. It is still a taboo to come to a friend and ask for help sometimes.
DEJAN: I've read a lot of descriptions of the metal archives, but I never saw narcissism mentioned as a theme. I've got my own idea how it's meant. Partly you already answered this, but could you tell us something more about it?
GUILHERME: It's very vain to metal archives. It is what it is. It's just people writing stuff. I'll keep it very short and simple. We love to hate humans as much as we hate to love them. All our inspirations are in humans, the people we meet, the people we don't meet but see from afar. That's why we tour so much. The Mirage album is basically based on people we met on the road. We took those personalities or those ideas or the impression that we had from those people and put them in our caged world that we created for this band and see how they can survive. It's to have this love for our species because I think it's a very interesting species but it's also a terrifying one, as we all know. There's deep stuff that we have that destroys the world and also ourselves. We've got a lot of problems, but we also have really good things, things we create, the way we express. It's something special. There's nothing like going to a café in the middle of nowhere in Texas or something and just meet someone truly special that has a very plain, simple life and is happier than you sometimes. Even though we travel the world and this fancy hotel with amazing breakfast upstairs, someone that has barely anything to eat can be way happier than you. It's weird, but it's interesting for me to reflect on all those things, and Mirage is an album that portrays a lot of that.
DEJAN: I think you already answered my next question, but I'll ask you anyway. You've got one EP, you've got three LPs out, so that’s where all the ideas and the productivity come from?.
GUILHERME: That’s right.
DEJAN: So let's just jump back one more time to your performance yesterday. I saw a lot of bands and frontmen on stage, but you are among the most energetic ones on stage. So how particularly is your performance connected to the lyrics you use in your music? Or is it just a reaction to the music?
GUILHERME: It's how I do it. It's nothing we rehearse. I barely rehearse with the band because I live in a different country right now. We don't rehearse this. We don't think about it. It's just how I feel the music. The guys are also very expressive. For me it's more important to have people that understand what we're doing than having this amazing guitar player that can play all the notes right. I can't answer that. It's just how I do it. If people don't come to see something truly special, and if you don't strive to do something truly special, why would they come to a show in the first place? That's what people want to see in my opinion. Of course it depends on the genre, it depends on the person. Some people want to go to a show and see or hear exactly what they hear in the album. For us it's just completely different. Of course we are playing those songs, we do arrangements, we think of how to make the show a true show. It's the way we build the set, but other than that it's something very fucking organic. It's a lot of things that we do, we discovered how to do them while we play. And tomorrow we try this again. Let me think, and then the moment that I'm about to do it I do something completely different. It's improvised, but we also try to keep it very organic. If something happens, it happens. Again, I don't know how to answer that. Besides this, I know it's a very unique way of putting on a show but it's how we do it. We never thought “Oh let's move like that again.”
DEJAN: Actually this was my last question. Do you want to add anything? Do you think that we forgot something?
GUILHERME: I want to thank you guys so much for this. Hopefully we can get back to Slovenia on the next tour next year. It's a beautiful country. I've been there a few times working. We played there. I know we played in Ljubljana once in this university or something. In the hall of a school or something. On the tour we did with Numenorean a few years ago. But I can't remember much of the show.
DEJAN: Maybe Kino Šiška?
GUILHERME: I don't know.
DEJAN: It looks a little bit like a library. With stairs and the second floor …
GUILHERME: Something like that.
ŽIGA: We'll check that out.
DEJAN: I'll google it.
GUILHERME: It was most likely a weird name.
DEJAN: But on the other hand Zagreb is also near, so people from Slovenia can travel there and see you in two months.
GUILHERME: Yeah, that's for sure. So thank you guys so much.
DEJAN: Thank you too. Until next time. It was a pleasure talking to you.