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Croatian band Old Night's melodic, atmospheric debut 'Pale Cold Irrelevance' was released this year, prompting Comrade Aleks to track down founder Luka Petrović for a chat.

Interview with Old Night.
"Old Night is a Croatian band whose debut full-length, 'Pale Cold Irrelevance', was released by Rain Without End Records about three months ago. Formed by Ashes You Leave bass guitarist and vocalist Luka Petrović as a solo project, Old Night soon became a full band, with Nikola Jovanović on drums and guitarist Bojan Frlan, alongside Ivan and Matej Hanžek who both handle guitars and vocals. The rich melodic guitars, profound clean vocals and emotional lyrics (based on the counry's recent history, as well as obscure experiences of daily life) distinguish the band from others. Besides that, Luka's experience with Ashes You Leave helped Old Night to achieve truly impressive results in the studio - so I couldn't get rid of the feeling that we need to see a good long interview with Luka."

Old Night: Ivan Hanžek (Guitars, Vocals), Matej Hanžek (Vocals, Guitars), Luka Petrović (Bass, Vocals), Nikola Jovanović (Drums) and Bojan Frlan (Guitars).

Hi Luka! How are you? What's going on with Old Night?

Everything is great, thanks for asking. We just had an album promotion in our capital here in Croatia so now it's all about slowly returning to the regular life. A bit of interviews and the usual stuff.

Really? How do you deal with promotion? Do you send all promos out yourself? How do you organize everything?

A big portion of the promotion was done by our label and our label owner Robert, but a lot of journalists know me from my work with Ashes You Leave and they contact me directly, especially the media in Croatia and Slovenia. As far as the concert promotions go again I have to thank the media in Croatia for doing a great job covering the release of our first album. All the major portals covered the release as well as the largest newspapers in our region, Novi List. They did a big interview with me but also concert reports from the promotions. It's a little bit of work, I won't deny it, but I'm used to it. Fortunately for us, the reviews for the record have all been stellar for now so both the media and concert promoters are interested in our work.

You released your first full-length, 'Pale Cold Irrelevance', in August 2017, but the band has existed since 2015. What did you do before the release? Was it just a studio project at first?

The band was initially meant to be a solo project so the first few months were more about finishing the material. When I decided that it would be a full-fledged band after all it was a matter of finding the right people to fill the roles.

What was your main goal when you started Old Night? How did it happen? How did you meet the other band members?

Although I was one of the main songwriters and lyricist in Ashes You Leave on the last two albums I felt that I would like to try something a little bit different. There are some things that don't necessarily fit AYL's style of songwriting, and I wanted to write music unencumbered by people's expectations, with the legacy of AYL intact. So when we finished the 20th anniversary touring cycle we decided that we'll take some down time with AYL and take a break for a while. I thought to myself that that is the perfect time for me to focus on my project which in the end turned out to be called Old Night.

The first one to join the fold so to speak was our drummer Nikola Jovanovic. We've been friends for years but we never played together since we were always busy with other projects. This time around he was free and willing, that was the easiest part of putting the band together. One of the first persons we asked to join and our first choice as a guitar player was Bojan Frlan, in the end he was the last one to join. Bojan is well known in the Croatian underground metal scene and he played in a number of cult bands such as Castrum and GRČ but also Gorthaur's Wrath where we played together for a few years. The hardest part was to find the lead guitarist and the lead singer.

For years both Nikola and I have been judges on one of the oldest demo festivals in Europe, RiRock in Rijeka, and there we heard a band that had an amazing guitarist. This was a few years before Old Night so we did a bit of Facebook stalking and found the guy. I basically saw him a few times later but seeing him perform that time made such a great impression on me that I just sent him a text and asked him to come and jam with us. So we found Ivan, our lead guitarist and singer. It was much harder to find a lead singer, especially for a band like this one. We basically asked everybody we thought could fit the bill. In the end Ivan said that his brother sings but never fronted a band. He was actually the backing vocalist in that band Nikola and I saw perform on the demo fest.

Did you plan from the start to have clean vocals in your songs?

Far from it... The original concept, where the band was supposed to be a solo project, was more in the vein of funeral doom. I know this sounds strange now, having heard the record in this arrangement, but the vocals were intendent to be guttural the majority of the time with some spoken parts. The idea was to have a studio drummer and record everything else myself so I limited myself to do only vocals that I'm confident with, and clean singing is not one of those. Even the sound and everything was intended to be harsher and more raw. As the real band slowly formed I figured out that it would be a shame to have only harsh vocals since in a live arrangement some of the songs turned out epic, and to limit ourselves only on generic death vocals would take away from the songs. In the end I only sang on a few passages and refrains.

Old Night - 'Mother Of All Sorrows' (Official):

I know that you also play in one of oldest Croatian bands, Ashes You Leave: how did you join them?

I joined AYL back in 2003. They just released their fourth record "Fire" at the end of 2002 and came home from a tour in support of the release. I guess after the promotions and everything one of the members decided to leave so their drummer called me up and asked me if I wanted to come over for a jam. He said that they might have a spot to fill. Since at the time I already stopped playing with Gorthaur's Wrath I was completely free to dedicate myself to a single band so I came over to their rehearsal place and we went through a few song and that was it.. At the end of the rehearsal they just asked me if I was free the next day and I was like: Am I in or what?? :D We've known each other basically since we were kids so it was a lot easier to fit in such a band than I thought it would be. They have a big legacy, not only in Croatia but to certain degree in the whole doom metal scene, so I must admit it was a little bit intimidating at first.

How much of Ashes You Leave did you bring to Old Night?

I would like to say everything and nothing. Ashes You Leave has been a big part of my life, one of the longest relationships that I ever had and playing with them formed me both as a bass player but also as a writer. My writing style changed and developed over the years sometimes with the band and sometimes in other directions. AYL had a writing style of its own and I had to adapt to it so I guess it's a lot easier for me to write for Old Night because the only thing I have to do is be me.

The thing I certainly did bring in from AYL is the knowledge about the business aspect of it all. You can only learn from your mistakes after admitting you made them, and we did a lot of those with AYL, especially business decisions that were made without lawyers at the beginning of the career.

How did the band work on these songs? Did you go into the studio with a totally complete album, or did you finish some parts right there?

When I decided to quit the idea of a solo project and form a real band, the majority of music for our first record was already written as well as all the lyrics for it. It was more a case of re-arranging the music for a live band and finding the right people to do it with. Of course, when we had the whole band together we changed bits and pieces, especially vocal lines and guitar solos, but we had it all rehearsed before entering the studio since we wanted to record the drums and bass live to get that natural feel. We had enough time to rehearse everything before the booked studio time so when we came in to record it was all pretty fast and an easy process for everyone involved. I think we just changed one lead line and added a backing vocal or two and that was it.

Did you face any difficulties during the work on 'Pale Cold Irrelevance'? What was the hardest song for you?

The hardest part for me was to find people who really wanted to be in a serious doom metal band. I know this sounds strange, but when you present people with the idea of a project like this everyone is ecstatic at first, but when they see the hours they have to put in, practicing, rehearsing and recording let me just say it's not for everybody. Of the first incarnation of Old Night not a single member remained till we entered the studio. Save from me of course... I didn't want this band to remain a single album project or something so I wanted to be sure that the people that are in the band are there to stay and I can say that in the end I couldn't be happier with the people I'm playing with than I'm now.

As for the writing process there were no difficulties but the last song I did for the record was "Something is Broken" and that one gave me a few headaches. That song is dedicated to my late father so we took extra time to make that one perfect.

You're saying that you see Old Night as a "serious doom metal band": what meaning do you put into those words?

Doom metal was never a popular genre. It didn't have a big movement like NWOBHM, or American and German thrash, or Swedish death and Norwegian black. Not that many kids grew up dreaming of being in a doom band so a lot of doom bands nowadays are side projects, studio projects, solo projects etc. I won't say that there is anything wrong with that, but it's not something that I wanted for Old Night. Since I decided it would be a band after all I wanted serious, dedicated and proficient musicians, play live, release albums, have a five year plan and everything. I know it sounds silly in today's music world but I started the band like this from day one.

Old Night - 'Something Is Broken' (Official):

The lyrics you write for Old Night are realistic and honest. How important is it for you to carry this message with your songs?

Lyrics are really important to me, they are not just words to sing along the music. I can say not only the lyrics but also their interpretation and vocal arrangement of them. I always tried to write about stuff that happened to me and things and situations that I lived through, since for me it is the only way to keep them real. I never wanted to be a smart ass in my songs or try and preach to others, what I do is just write about my life and situations that that listeners can relate to.

Can we find influences of your homeland and its history in Old Night? Do you want to write a song in your mother tongue in the future?

This is the first time that I wrote about the war in my lyrics. I never wanted to write about it before since I felt that it was too soon and too close to the heart since we were all affected by it in a way. With the passing of my father a few years ago it became more personal for me, but I chose to write about it from a different perspective. They were written from the perspective of the children of war and how it affected the lives of normal people not just soldiers. Both "Thieves of Innocence" and "Architects of Doom" deal with the same topic.

As far as writing in my mother tongue I don't see it in the near future. Maybe a line or so but I don't know how a whole song written in Croatian would work for this genre.

Do you feel that fans in your country understand your message? How are these themes still topical for people?

Some do, at least my generation does. Younger people have other problems these days, with the financial crisis that's affecting us all, and it was something that happened before they were born. People want to move on and deal with current problems like emigration of young people, natality rates and a lot of problems we're all experiencing now, but politicians on all sides keep dragging the topic of war whenever they need political points for elections or to mask their corruption. This is something that's happening in all the countries of former Yugoslavia and it's not helping to close some of the still open issues about the war.

How do Old Night actively play gigs? Do you usually play in Croatia or do you also play abroad? How big is the local metal scene?

We just released our first record in August via Rain Without End Records so we only played a few concerts in support of the release. We did only four club shows and two festival gigs that were all in Croatia to date. Now that the album is released and the promotion is going really well, we'll start booking shows outside Croatia. We already booked some concerts in Slovenia, Belgium etc. but at this moment it's too soon to talk about possible tours and the like. More likely we'll do weekend shows and festivals. The scene here is really good but it's still mostly underground. There are more and more bands that are breaking through such as Cold Snap, Black Cult, Infernal Tenebra and the most recent Animal Drive. And lately we are seeing more metal festivals as well. From Dark O, Valhalla, Oluja, Balkan Metal Meeting and there is a new one that will make its debut the next year called GoatHell fest. So the scene is doing ok especially since all the major bands made our capital, Zagreb, a regular stop on most of the tours. What we lack is a really big metal fest that can put a local name on the world map but we'll get there.

At Dark "O" Metal Fest, 2017.

What are your plans for 2018? How soon do you plan to return to the studio?

We'll keep ourselves busy that's for sure! We will start filming a video before the end of the year so that should come out really soon. There are also plans to release the first record on vinyl in 2018. The pre-production of our second record started two months ago and we'll continue working on that as well. We already have a few festivals booked for the next year so hopefully we'll have more chances to present our music to wider audiences.

We will definitely book studio time for the 2018! As for if it will be a full length or an EP, it's too soon to say since we need to go through all the details with our label. I'm planning to release new music in late 2018, but we have to wait and see in what format it will come out.

Can you already tell how Old Night's second LP will sound? Will other members take a larger part in the songwriting this time?

I think it is a little bit too early to say at this point but more progressive, heavier and more epic come to mind. I don't know jet, maybe it's just a feeling since these are new songs, but we are really happy with the direction it is going. We have only half of the record done by now and it's still work in progress so I'll keep my final judgement for a later date.

For now I'm still the main composer. Everybody's pitching in for their own parts, some leads and especially vocal lines, but for now I write all the songs.

Thanks for your time Luka! I wish you all the best with Old Night! I hope that the band will soon be known all over the world, and that this interview will be one of the first steps on to the doom mountain (whatever that means! :) )...

Thank you Aleks for your kind words and for this interview. The chance to present our band to your readers truly means a lot! I would also like to invite your readers to visit our facebook page and check our first record "Pale Cold Irrelevance".

Take care and keep the doom flame alive!

On behalf of Old Night,
Luka Petrović

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Visit the Old Night bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-12-03 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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