Line-up: Irinia Alexia (vocals), Andreas Hacke (keys/guitars), Nerissa Schwarz (harp/keys), Wolfgang Ostermann (drums)
Sounds like: Vivid cinematic rock with lush melodies, esoteric arrangements and lashings of atmosphere.
Current release: Letters To Maro is out now via Gentle Art Of Music
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The prog world is full of artists and musicians striving to create movies for the mind, but few have mastered this distinctly niche art form quite like Frequency Drift. Led by Bayreuth-based multi-instrumentalist Andreas Hacke and Prog-approved harpist Nerissa Schwarz, this amorphous ensemble have been quietly making wildly imaginative records for the last 10 years. When Hacke formed the band back in 2007, he was primarily inspired by film soundtracks and the freewheeling spirit of prog.
“To me, Close To The Edge is still is one of the greatest pieces ever written in rock music because it showed me that there are no boundaries,” he says. “That was exactly what I needed for the way I wanted to write music for Frequency Drift. I think there are clear parallels between this kind of music and films or literature. Over the years, we’ve taken inspiration from authors like Iain Banks, Haruki Murakami and Judith Herrmann too, as we wanted to create music that essentially tells stories without using clichés.”
According to Hacke, Frequency Drift found their true direction on third album Ghosts in 2011. Since then, with Schwarz’s genre-blurring harp skills an idiosyncratic focal point, their music has become increasingly bold and experimental, peaking on the immersive, guitar-driven splurge of 2016’s stunning Last. Since that album’s release, Frequency Drift have undergone a major line-up reshuffle, with the latest of several former singers Melanie Mau replaced by newcomer Irinia Alexia. Clearly a perfect fit, Alexia’s identity is swiftly and firmly established on latest album Letters To Maro.
“We really spent a lot of time and many auditions searching for a suitable singer to permanently fill the position,” Schwarz recalls. “We found Irini via an online portal for musicians, and she blew us away at our very first rehearsal. The way she empathised with our music and brought so much emotion to songs she had only known for a short time was stunning.”
The first Frequency Drift singer to fully contribute toward the band’s songwriting, Irini has thrown herself into her new role, penning the new album’s lyrics and bringing plenty of drama and mystique to her vocal performances. While not a straightforward concept album, Letters To Maro is an album with plenty of central themes.
“In short? It’s about Japan, ghosts, city life, loneliness, insanity,” states the singer. “I'd say the main theme of Letters To Maro is showing up the emotional fallout of metropolitan life. There is isolation despite the permanent connectivity. Dull work in shiny buildings. There can be pain behind the happy profile pictures. So it's about ‘keeping it real’ and giving airtime to some of the issues a lot of people have. At the same time, we've had a bit of a play around with what is ‘real’ and what isn't. That’s where the ghosts come in!”
Much less rock-related in execution than its predecessor, following the departure of guitarist Martin Schnella, Letters To Maro showcases a change of focus, with the versatility of Schwarz’s harp now front-and-centre.
“It was clear from the beginning that we wanted to replace the sound of the distorted guitar with other sounds without losing its energy and punch,” says Hacke. “So we used the harp a lot to get a punchy and energetic sound that’s still different from the average guitar sound. We invested a lot of time, energy and money in the creation of our own sounds. The harp offers a lot of intriguing possibilities that haven’t been explored yet.”
Rejuvenated by their new recruit, Hacke and Schwarz have grand plans for the evolution of Frequency Drift’s live show. In an era where many are terrified of change, this band’s open-minded ethos looks certain to be their greatest strength.
“Our frequent change of singers may seem to be part of some strange Dr. Who-like concept, but I can tell you it wasn't!,” Schwarz laughs. “I think the current line-up is the best and most fitting we've ever had and we hope to play more live shows next year. We’ve started using video projections and theatrical elements, so for the first time in our history, we can bring the visual and story-telling side of our music to the stage.”