Scottish duo Midas Fall aren’t the sort of band we usually cover here at the Vault. Stylistically, their music falls in the same sort of ‘metal adjacent’ category as Emma Ruth Rundle and Chelsea Wolfe – not metal, but something that will likely appeal to a good cross-section of metal listeners anyway. On their recently released fourth album Evaporate (now available via Monotreme Records), Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn take what is essentially a post-rock foundation and bring in elements of goth, electronica, alt-rock, perhaps even a bit of prog, and a heathy dose of strings. The end results are beautifully sad – darkly textured and clad in muted colors, but somehow radiant all the same.
I had the chance to talk to Elizabeth Heaton about Evaporate, and she turned out to be a very open and engaging interview. Check it out below, along with a couple of tracks from Evaporate.
Indy Metal Vault: So first off, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Midas Fall definitely isn’t the sort of band I usually get the chance to talk to, so I’m excited to get into it. Evaporate is such a darkly gorgeous record, and it seems like quite the departure from your last album, 2015’s The Menagerie Inside– it seems like a much more ephemeral record (for lack of a better term) overall. I think ‘gossamer’ may be the best way to describe Evaporate. There are still moments—most notably on the tracks that bookend the album, “Bruise Pusher” and “Howling at the Clouds”—where the rock elements make an appearance, but the arrangements tend to be far more delicate: piano/keyboards, violin, and airy clean guitar lines dominate. How conscious a decision was it to move in that direction when you started writing for Evaporate? Were you trying to do something different this time, or did the new material end up evolving that way more organically?
Elizabeth Heaton: As with all of the music we make, there is never a conscious intention to make something sound a particular way. The songs just evolve into what they are organically.
That said, this album was the first we’d decided to write with absolutely no input from anyone else; so everything you hear from the drums and the strings to the piano and synths were written and arranged entirely by the two of us.
Writing this way enabled us to be bolder, to write without concern for how someone else’s input may ‘fit’ into a song. Ultimately, is has enabled us to create the album we’d always wanted to. We’ve finally translated the sounds in our heads to record.
IMV: The other thing that really strikes me about Evaporate is how textured it is musically. The overall effect may feel gossamer, but there’s much more going on than may initially meet the ear. What is your songwriting process like? Do you write with those potential textures in mind, or are they something that happens in the studio as part of the recording process?
EH: Nothing is written with a particular sound or texture in mind; the textures usually evolve as an idea grows and the sound or style of a song develops in that process.
Many of the initial song styles, textures and structures sit in very stark contrast to the finished track.
A good example of this is “Century” from our first album. It started off as a guitar melody played with pitched-harmonics (now the main piano line), evolved into a low-key electronic track (which you can find if you scour the Internet!) and eventually, as the layers stacked up, became quite a noisy rock track.
From Evaporate,“Howling at the Clouds” went through a number of changes that centered mostly around getting the drums right; there are a lot of drums layered into that track, which may not be immediately obvious, but when you take those layers out you can hear why they’ve been written.
However, we were conscious of not over-egging the pudding with this album, which is why tracks like “Soveraine” and “Awake” are much, much more reserved (or at least subtle) in their layering.
It’s very tempting to layer and layer and layer a song, particularly when you’re so creatively free, but at the same time we didn’t want to suffocate the tracks….there’s still a lot going on though!
IMV: I tend to not ask “history of the band” types of questions, since I assume bands get pretty sick of every interviewer ever asking them. However, I’ve had a bit of a challenge piecing together Midas Fall’s history, especially in terms of your lineup – based on some of the pictures on Midas Fall’s Facebook, it looks like you’ve been anywhere from a duo to a five-piece over the course of your existence. The credited lineup for Evaporate is the duo of Elizabeth Heaton and Rowan Burn, which has been the case since the band’s inception, correct? Have you ‘officially’ expanded that lineup beyond your core duo at any point, or do you flesh out that lineup with studio/touring musicians for each album cycle? Also, I think I read somewhere that the band’s original name was Merkin – is that true?
EH: Hahaha! Genuinely shocked that you’ve dug the original band name out from somewhere! So yes, for a brief time we were called Merkin, but the drummer we were playing with at the time thought it was disgusting, so we changed it.
In all honesty we were never happy with the name Midas Fall either; we were rushed into choosing a name by a friend who’d organised a show and called from a printing shop to say she needed a band name there and then for posters, so we grabbed two words from the dictionary and they just sort of stuck. This friend now tours with us as our merch flogger – she owes us for getting stuck with a stupid name!
As for the line up…the core of the band has always been just the two of us. We’ve had people come and go over the years who’ve been fantastic contributors, but ultimately we were always happier writing alone, which is why we decided to write this album the way we did.
It’s quite funny when images pop up of us with people who were only playing with us for a few months on tours or for recording etc – a few of them don’t even play in bands at all anymore, so it’s weirder for them than us to still be seen as a part of something that was so fleeting.
IMV: I generally never ask influence questions either, for much the same reason as I skip the history questions. However, there seems to be such a fascinating mélange of influences at play on Evaporate that I can’t resist. I was describing the album to a friend earlier, and I said parts of it sounded a bit like if Deftones had been Tori Amos’s backup band on From the Choirgirl Hotel. So let me approach it from this angle instead – if you each had to list the three albums that most impacted your writing and/or performances on Evaporate, what would they be and why?
EH: There has been a lot of music that would have influenced the sound of this album, but dividing up what we listen to separately might be a really good way to understand the differences in our tastes and how that leads to the music we write.
Pil & Bue – Forget the Past, Let’s Worry About the Future
The track “Fire” was the inspiration that spurred the creation of “Bruise Pusher.”
Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
I find this album deeply unsettling at points, it encouraged me to write from darker places and not to be afraid of how bleak the outcome may be. “Lapsing” was influenced by the feeling of discomfort that this album stirred in me, along with the score to The Handmaids Tale.
Raised by Swans –Öxnadalur
It would be ridiculous to leave this off, because although I wouldn’t say I’ve been directly influenced by his music, I listen to it so much it’s bound to have had a subconscious influence. However, as a person, Eric has absolutely inspired me to write more freely, more openly, and to be unafraid of all that the creative process has to offer.
Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter
I have listened to this album a lot over the past couple of years. It really influenced my desire to start writing with strings and with more of a neoclassical slant.
Apparat – Walls
Again, this album is a perfect marriage of electronica and melancholic strings that was rattling around my brain during the inception of Evaporate.
London Grammar – If You Wait.
I really love how powerful the vocals are on this album and the overall production of the album. It inspired me to sing and not hold back.
IMV: Of all the genres you sound seems to touch on—goth, post-rock, electronica, alternative, maybe even a bit of prog rock—metal really isn’t one of them, especially on Evaporate. Yet you’re using Earsplit PR, who primarily rep metal bands, for this album, which is how it ended up in my inbox at Indy Metal Vault, thus leading to this interview. And while I can certainly hear elements in your sound that would appeal to listeners of metal, I am kind of curious as to how you ended up at least partially targeting that specific audience with this release.
EH: There is without doubt a metal influence running through our music especially on songs like “Howling at the Clouds”; the clearest disparity in our tastes as writers is probably most clearly exemplified by where we lie on the metal scale (if there is such a thing!). Rowan is a heavy listener, and used to play in a metal band before Midas Fall, whereas I am more of an occasional listener of the genre.
Aside from this, over the years we’ve found that many of our listeners are metal fans and that as a group they tend to be very open minded when it comes to exploring other genres. Some of the other genres we straddle have listenerships that can be more challenging to convince, but then every genre will have ‘purists’ who know what they like and prefer not to deviate.
IMV: Recently I’ve become interested in album covers, and the way the art reflects (or doesn’t) the music within. The cover to Evaporate is kind of fascinating in that it juxtaposes a beautiful nighttime landscape with some arcane-looking symbols. Who did the cover for the album, and how closely did you work with the artist on the concept?
EH: The Evaporate album cover is a photograph of a mountain in the North West of Iceland, taken by our friend (and pedal maker!) Àsgeir Helgi Thrastarsson.
Much of the album had been influenced not just by music, but by the natural beauty of the places we found ourselves in. Moving back to Scotland and living rurally had a heavy influence on the sparseness of the album. We’d also spent a little time in Iceland and felt that the mood of the music matched the desolate landscapes there, so this particular photograph reflected that perfectly.
Once we had the photograph we sent a few ideas back and forth over email, including various versions of the symbols, fonts (never a fun thing to choose, almost everyone has a very strong opinion on fonts, whether they realise it or not!) and layout of the booklet. We then worked with Matt Dornan in Japan to finalise the layouts and to get everything print ready.
Artwork is almost never straightforward and takes a Hell of a lot of coordination, but we’re always massively appreciative of the effort everyone makes with it and we’re extremely proud of all of our album art.
IMV: So I notice you have a few dates booked in May. What will your live lineup look like for those dates? With the heavy presence of strings on the album, will you be touring with a violin player, or will you use synths to replicate those elements on stage?
EH: The live lineup for May will be pretty simple; the two of us plus a drummer. That said, in addition to guitars, laptop fx and loads of pedals, we’ll have keys and an extra few drums on stage, which we’ll jump between throughout the set.
We’ve also started using visuals for our live shows, which adds another dimension to the experience, making it more immersive somehow, for both the audience and ourselves.
Hopefully for our European tour we will be able to bring a cellist with us – if there are any cellists out there who fancy joining us, do get in touch!
IMV: Aside from those dates in May, how much touring do you hope to do behind Evaporate? Any chance of making it over to the States at any point? Have you toured on this side of the pond before?
EH: As with every release, we hope to tour as much as possible! We love to tour and if we could tour all the time, we absolutely would. Recently we signed with booking agency Artery Global, so hopefully they’ll be able to realise our touring fantasies and send us out on the road for a good, long stretch!
Touring the U.S and Canada would be wonderful and we’d certainly like to get across the pond to tour this album, but for the time being we’ll have to wait and see if anyone would like to bring us over or take us with them.
For a band at our level, touring the U.S and Canada is very expensive and would likely be a big financial risk for all involved if we weren’t touring as support to a bigger artist.
But we remain hopelessly optimistic that we’ll get there before too long!
IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions. I like to leave the last word to the artists – anything else you’d like to add?
EH: Thank you for taking the time to read this interview and for listening to our music. This latest album has served as an enormous emotional outlet for the both of us and we hope we’ve captured this in a way that enables others to connect with the tracks from an individual standpoint. We hope that what we’ve made is something capable of evoking emotional responses in the listeners and that ultimately, this is a positive experience.