We sat with Jennifer Haben of Beyond The Black a couple of weeks before the release of their new highly anticipated album ‘Hørizøns‘, out on June 19th.
Here’s our interview!
So, Jennifer, you’ve been involved in music and performance since a very young age – Tell us a little bit about yourself and how your journey led to Beyond The Black.
I have been involved in music since I was super young. I started performing as a soloist or as part of choirs since I was four, which was the first time I sang in front of people at my church. I started my first band when I was nine with my brother and some of my classmates, and from eleven years old, I participated in competitions which were also televised. That then progressed to an all girls band which only lasted for a year, but it was a good way for me to figure out what I wanted to do and which type of music I wanted to pursue. I experimented with a lot of things during that time, varying from rock to Amy Winehouse, but I eventually settled to metal and heavier music. It was heavier than anything I’ve done before, but that was the music that allowed me to show every side of me and all of my extreme emotions. That was when I decided to look for the right people and start Beyond the Black in 2014.
Did you have any inspirations specifically that helped bring up your love for heavier music?
A main inspiration for me was Evanescence, because that was the first band I heard of in this genre of music – my brother introduced them to me with ‘Bring Me Back To Life’ when we started our band.
Since you guys are from Germany, your first language is obviously German – How did you decide on writing songs in English for Beyond The Black?
It’s quite funny actually – English was my third language because the second language I learnt in school was French. I always wanted to sing in it, so in my first bands I sang in both, but mainly in English. This was because the majority of the most powerful women voices and music that I listened to were English-speaking. Also, when I sing in English, the words sound a lot smoother which I prefer, and I like my voice much more then.
When writing lyrics in English, did you come across any difficulties when it came to expressing what you felt and bringing it into your music?
Definitely – I know it sounds good when I sing, but I have a limited vocabulary, so I have to have someone to help me in getting the right metaphors and expressions, because I find it quite difficult sometimes.
Now to the main topic – Your new album ‘Hørizøns’ comes out June 19th which is less than a month away – How do you feel?
I can’t wait! We finished our album at the end of March. So we had to wait a very long time for its release. I talk about it every day in interviews and such, I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
How did you choose the title?
The first thing we thought about when we wanted to write songs for the new album, was that we wanted to slightly change our sound for it, as well as the lyrics, but that came later on in the process. Our first instinct was to use the songs we listen to on tour as inspiration and analyse what we can add to our music. This is a new step for us, we’re claiming new horizons for Beyond The Black. It is something completely new to us, and of course, new to our fans. ‘Misery’ was one of the most ‘’difficult’’ songs for our fans because it was so different to everything that we’ve done before, but that was the main thing that we wanted to do. We always had variety in what we did, but this time it’s a lot more different and our variety stands out a lot more than any previous album – I really like that.
What was the most challenging thing about choosing to go in this direction and maybe trying a different sound, in comparison to what you had previously released?
The most difficult thing about this was not thinking about what the fans would come to love or accept, because we always try to connect what we have in mind and want to write, and what the fans would love. I think this is something common, but this time we wanted to not think about who would like our new music and who wouldn’t. We wanted to just write – it was difficult because you always have that in the back of your mind still.
‘Misery’ was the first song that we wrote for this album, and it was great for the process because we came into the session and said ‘’ Let’s do something completely different to what we did before’’. Maybe it wasn’t going to be for this album to begin with but it freed our minds. What it did for us was amazing, and it really came into the album – I really believe and hope that it would free the minds of our fans too. There are a lot of people who aren’t happy with it, but it wasn’t something unexpected. It’s alright though, and I think the most important thing about it is that it was something completely unexpected.
Are there any songs on the album that are a little bit more familiar-sounding?
Yes! We have a lot of tracks that the fans will like – ‘Wounded Healer’ is one of the songs that is more similar to what we did before, as well as ‘Human’, ’Some Kind of Monster’ and ‘Million Lightyears’.
Speaking of ‘ Wounded Healer (Ft. Elize Ryd of Amaranthe)‘, has there been a moment in your life where you drew the inspiration of the song from, or even been that person to help someone through a difficult time?
I’m definitely a person that tries to empathise with others. I was lucky enough to have a fortunate life, so I can’t pick a specific moment that was particularly hard for me. I know that I’m really good empathising with others, even though I didn’t have to go through something to relate to it. People come to me if they have problems because of this, and I help as much as I can!
You also teased another song from the album, besides the released singles, ‘I Won’t Surrender’, which is one of the ballads. How did that come about? What does it mean to you?
This is actually a song that I didn’t want to write for this album, to be honest, including the theme of it. I wrote a bunch of ballads for this record, so I thought I should do a up-tempo song, and ‘I Won’t Surrender’ came out, ironically. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. It’s about one point in my life in 2016 when I didn’t want to listen to my own music because I really wasn’t in a good space, and because of things that were happening around Beyond The Black. This wasn’t a happy time for me, and this is what the lyrics are about, how I felt in that moment. I thought I was really over it for this album and I didn’t want to write about it, but it came out like it did, and it felt special. I was really happy that Tina Guo added something amazing with the cello and helped make the sound of this song even more emotional and special to me.
Now I want to jump to the tour that you have coming up in November with Amaranthe – Seeing how you’re reaching for a new wave of Beyond The Black with your sound, what should be expected from this upcoming tour?
When you go to a BTB concert, one of the most important things is that you get real emotion and real fun, we really really enjoy ourselves when we’re up on stage. A lot of dynamic, ballads, powerful, heavy stuff surrounding our shows. For this tour we have a couple of surprises planned and what people wouldn’t expect, but I’ll leave it at that because I don’t want to reveal too much! I’m looking forward to it, I’m very excited.
Seeing how the music scene was one of the most heavily affected industries by Covid-19, how has the situation affected you personally and/or the band?
We were quite lucky because we finished the album before the situation got bad. After that, we focused on the promotional side of things, working from home and live streaming. The only difficult part is that we can’t film music videos for our singles, meaning that we can only have the lyric videos out for the time being, which still is fine. We had a festival in India that was cancelled and we couldn’t play it, which was quite sad, but we’re waiting for the rescheduled dates. There are bands out there that have really struggled, but we have been quite lucky.
I don’t know how this will affect the tour at the end of the year, because people aren’t buying tickets at the moment since they don’t know if it will happen or not. It’s something we’re keeping an eye on for the time being – We also have a plan B for if we have to postpone it for next year since we’re worried that venues might be overbooked since everyone is rescheduling, so we’re planning things from very early so that we’re able to play the whole tour all together then.
What’s your favourite part about seeing your fans get so involved in the promotion of the upcoming album through the #horizons_is_coming_challenge hashtag on social media and the “Golden Pariahs Stay Home” video clip?
My favourite part is seeing everyone be so excited with us and I’m really looking forward for them to listen to it, because I’m also very excited and proud of this album. It’s very important to us and to see them take part in all of this with us is really amazing. It’s not an easy thing putting yourself in front of the camera and send us the video – I”m really thankful for the time and effort they put in for us.
Before we wrap things up, is there anything else you’d like to add?
I think we’ve covered everything! I just wanted to say that we’re keeping our fingers crossed for the end of the year for the tour. There are some really exciting things coming up, so keep your eyes open! I’m super excited for everything that’s coming, so I really hope everything will be fine in the end.
Beyond the Black‘s Album Hørizøns is available NOW on all streaming services.