Monday, December 01, 2014

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Interview: Ysma


Ysma is an instrumental Progressive Rock band from Münster, Germany. Founded in 2009, the
quintet combines atmospheric elements and Progressive Rock/Metal influences, always focussing on
the ambience of a song as well as unconventional rhythms and parts out of the ordinary.

We spoke with the band through e-mail and the result is a very interesting and a great reading in the Interview below:

Interview by Diego Camargo

Progshine – Let's start with the band's beginnings. How did you start playing together and when how the instrumental Prog Rock came about for you guys?

Ysma - We started playing together back in 2009 when our former bass player Torge and I discovered our mutual appreciation for progressive music during our studies. We have always had instrumental prog as our main direction, so it was pretty clear where things were going musically. After a short while, we were lucky enough to find both Fabian (guitars) and Jens (drums) who are still in the band today. Things just evolved from there – songwriting, first live appearances, and finally the first record.

Progshine – And how you decided on the name Ysma? There’s any meaning?

Ysma - As I said, we have always had the identity of an instrumental band. Therefore, apart from the song titles, the whole interpretation and all associative processing of the music is up to the listener. We wanted the band's name to reflect that “blank slate” without a certain interpretation or direction we would have to follow. So no, there is no particular meaning, we were just looking for a single word whose sound we liked, enabling everyone to interpret the name in whatever way he sees fit.

Progshine – And talking about your released albums, how different you think they are from each other?

Ysma - I think the differences are indeed manifold. Besides the obviously improved sound of the second record, the debut Vagrant contains almost all of the material we had written up to the point when we started recording it, since we thought it was time to release a CD. Accordingly, you will hear a band that is trying to find their own style, their own compositional language in putting together the ingredients of prog music. Don't get me wrong, I really like playing the older songs and we are proud of that first album, as it stands for everything we tried musically for the first three years as a band. The coherence of the second album Fourth Wall, speaking from the songwriting perspective, is more elaborate, I believe. The process of establishing an “Ysma sound” seems to be one step further along, which was one of the main goals of the second album; creating songs that – in all sonic and stylistic variety – have a common denominator in their overall conception that would ideally have distinctive features characteristic of the band.

Progshine – And if we’re on this topic, how about your new album, Fourth Wall, how was the process of writing and recording it? How much time did it take and how’s the response so far?

Ysma - The responses have been overwhelmingly positive, to be honest. Not in the sense of fame or anything alike, but the record apparently succeeds in transporting all the important small things we wanted to achieve with it. People take their time and discover the little details within and across the songs, in the artwork etc. Critics and other listeners recognize the character, the personality behind the music, which is one of the most important aspects for us – which is why these comments are the biggest compliment we could have hoped for. Altogether, the reactions exceed our expectations (if we had any) and make the whole process worthwhile for us.

As for the recording process, I'd say it took us about four months plus countless listening sessions followed by small changes here and there. We managed recording, mixing and mastering ourselves once again, continually learning along the way. As far as songwriting goes, the songs were written less collectively than for the debut album, but the more important part is the performance as a whole band once the songs are arranged in their final form. In the end, we are really happy with the way the record turned out and we are very much enjoying playing the new material live, as well.


Progshine – You use all the digital retailers available to distribute your music, like Bandcamp and others? How important is the digital selling to Ysma and how is it to be the artist, the manager and your own label?

Ysma - You're right, we are managing all distribution on our own. It gives us a lot of freedom and we don't have to justify anything we do to anyone but ourselves. I also think it's a nice idea that once you buy one of our records, we personally pack them and send them over to you. We profit a lot by Bandcamp, for example, as it gives us the oportunity to sell physical CDs as well as digital format music, although we'd always prefer the beautiful Digipak packaging to any digital download. Especially for the second record, Jenny Bals has done an amazing job creating the visual world our music takes place in, so if there's some kind of a collector's spirit or an aesthetic enthusiast in you, I'd always recommend the physical copy.

Progshine – Talking about that, how you guys in the band deal with music nowadays? Do you collect CD, LPs, etc?

Ysma - Yes, we do collect CDs. I believe that digital music formats have their advantages when it comes to browsing through new music or quickly checking out an artist you read about. In the end, however, that's really not what listening to music should be about, in my opinion. An album is more than a collection of snippets and therefore requires some time for you to familiarize with it. Equally important: if you appreciate the artwork of an album, be it intriguingly strange, well thought out or just beautifully done, the physical media always win.

Progshine – Do you think that being a German Prog band makes any difference? How is the scene for Prog Rock and alternative music in Germany?

Ysma - Being a prog band makes a difference, sure, although I don't see anything Germany-specific, really. There is a small but very dedicated scene of prog fans in Germany, with what has to be one of the most atmospheric festivals of all, called “Night of the Prog”, taking place at an amazing venue in Germany each year. Thanks to some high quality websites and magazines, listeners of all ages and interests within the alternative or progressive sector can be connected and informed about everything that's going on, even about local underground bands like ourselves. Without these resources, spreading your own music would become even more difficult, which is why we are thankful for a functioning network of news distribution and reviews in Germany and beyond the borders.


Progshine – And talking about a scene, how do you see Progressive Music nowadays?

Ysma In general, progressive music has undergone a massive lift in the last years, I believe, which is great. A particular trend might be the reorientation of a lot of bands to incorporate analogue equipment and the sound of 70s rock music, as opposed to bombastic recording arrangements. It's going to be really interesting to see trends in sounds and songwriting develop over time. Overall, I think there is a big number of smaller artists getting outrageously little attention, suggesting that there are always new, yet unknown bands and artists that bring their own take on prog music with a lot to discover.

Progshine – As a reader, I have always liked to know about my favorite artists tastes such as their favorite bands and albums. If you guys could name the bands/albums that influenced Ysma’s music, which ones would they be?

Ysma - Name-dropping is always a bit risky and I'm sure everyone is going to recognise different influences in Ysma's music, but if I had to name some of the most important artists, I'd have to mention Opeth and Haken as the most prominent current bands that have been a huge inspiritation for Ysma's music becoming what it is now. One could make a list of between two and close to a hundred bands we like and adore for different reasons. Hopefully, however, our music is more than the sum of its influences, even if everyone may of course find certain parts reminiscent of other artists.

Progshine – In all of my interviews the final space was devoted to messages from the bands and artists to their fans. So the space is all yours!

Ysma - I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank literally everyone who supports us in what we do. If you come to one of our concerts, buy a CD or stream our music and tell your friends about it, it really means a lot to us. We effectively couldn't continue making music the way we do now without those of you who, for example, blindly ordered the second album without knowing any of the music – it's not just a hollow phrase, we really are grateful for the support. We have a lot of ideas for the future and a lot of music to play, so thank you for always being curious and kind.
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Ysma Links:
Official website
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Bandcamp

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