Aonia are a 7-headed, 14-legged creature, wielding two ‘sopranos with balls’ as vocalists, shredding twin axes, symphonic keys, and driving drums and bass. An operatic /progressive metal band, Aonia have been compared to artists such as Therion, Avantasia, Nightwish, Epica, and ReVamp.
2018 has been a busy year for Aonia. Having won the Bloodstock Metal to the Masses Sheffield competition, Aonia played the legendary festival’s New Blood Stage in August of 2018.Earlier in the year, Aonia also completed their first European tour with Alwaid (F), playing a series of venues in France, The Netherlands, and Belgium.
However, 2018 isn’t over yet! The 6th of October sees the release of the band’s debut album -“The Seven” – at AoniaFest II, a ten-band festival at the Corporation, Sheffield. Recorded at Black Carrot Studios and mastered by Scott Atkins of Grindstone Studio (Cradle of Filth, Savage Messiah, Sylosis, Amon Amarth), the album clocks in at 63 minutes and ten tracks. Blaze Bayley (Wolfsbane, Ex-Iron Maiden) and Iliana Basileios Tsakiraki (Enemy of Reality) feature as special guests on two of the tracks
2019 is shaping up to be bigger and better, as the band have been invited as special guests forfour of Blaze Bayley’s “Tour of the Eagle Spirit” shows. The band are also planning a UK tour topromote“The Seven.”
In the past, the band have supported touring acts such as Leaves’ Eyes, Xandria, Kobra and the Lotus, Warrior Soul, Skyclad, Dakesis, Azylya, and Forever Never. The band have also played the acclaimed Dames of Darkness festival and SOS Festival.
In addition to their recent endorsement by Vocalzone, vocalists Joanne Kay Robinson and Melissa Adams – who have been trained by the internationally-renowned Victorian opera expertMartin Yates – featured on the most recent three Blaze Bayley albums, “The Redemption of William Black.” “Infinite Entanglement,” and “Endure and Survive.” In October of 2016, Joanne andMelissa were invited to perform live with Bayley at the Huskvarna Rock and Art festival in Sweden.
Alongside these achievements, guitarist Przemek ‘Slick’ Druzkowski is driving forward with hisluthier work (recently commissioned to create a guitar for Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater),handcrafting his “Druzkowski Guitars.” James ‘Carrot’ Brough is pushing ahead with his new recording business, “Black Carrot Studios.”
As they press forward, the band continues to develop their songwriting and their live shows, adding more theatrical elements as they go.
We caught up with the band to understand what makes them tick.
About the band
Mel: Aonia are a 7-headed, 14-legged creature, wielding two ‘s:opranos with balls’ as vocalists, shredding twin axes, symphonic keys, and driving drums and bass. Our members are – Jo and Mel (me): vocals, James and Slick: guitars, Tim: keyboards, Matt: bass, and David: drums. Talking to you today are Tim, David, and me.
For any of our readers who are unfamiliar with yourself / yourselves tell us a little bit about your band / project.
Mel: We’re an operatic /progressive metal band. With two lead and two backing vocals, plus two guitars and a keyboard, we play around with melody a lot, writing different counterpoints but still aiming to keep it catchy and fun. We’ve been compared to bands like Therion, ReVamp, early Nightwish, and Avantasia.
What was your earliest memory of music that peaked your interest?
Tim: A combination of Elvis Presley records belonging to a cousin who was stopping at our house when I was very young, Bach from Mr Kay and Nick Kerrison, two of my former music teachers, and the Warsaw Concerto.
David: I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, so I’d be lying if I said anything interesting. Wait…corn flakes…
Mel: When I was about 4, my mom drew numbers on the keys of our piano in crayon and wrote out the numbers for simple songs (“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” for example, and the “Sesame Street” theme). I’d sit for ages trying to copy the melodies by pressing down on the keys and following the numbers she wrote out for me. That’s my earliest memory.
Who was the first album / single you purchased?
Tim: Single – The Teardrop Explodes “Reward”, Album Iron Maiden “Number of the Beast.”
David: S Club 7.
Mel: The first one I asked for, for my birthday, was Tiffany’s “Hold an Old Friend’s Hand.” (I was seven!) When I got my first job, with my first paycheck I bought Green Day’s “Dookie,” Metallica’s Black Album, Metallica’s “Load,” and Garbage’s Pink Album. (I was 15.)
When did you first pick up your respective instrument / or start singing?
David: Have you tried to pick up a drum kit? It’s bloody heavy.
Tim: Piano – when I was around 8.
Mel: I’m a bit different, as I started on piano (had my first proper lessons when I was six), moved to percussion, then to clarinet. I didn’t sing for ages. Well, not properly, just singing into hairbrushes and pretending they were microphones with my sister or my friends.
What route did you take with your music / instrument / lessons / music school / self-taught and any fond memories of that journey?
David: Sat Nav – I don’t know how I got there; I just did as I was told.
Tim: Piano lessons and exams until pretty much leaving school, then listening and playing.
Mel: Well, like I said before I wasn’t super-serious about singing when I was young – I just did it for fun. Actually, I was singing in the changing rooms once in Middle School and one of the popular girls sneered at me and said I sounded like a dying cow, and it put me off until I joined the Drama Club in High School. When I was 15, I auditioned for the musical – I didn’t get a singing role, but the choir teacher offered to teach me privately. He’d spent years in touring theatre companies as a triple-threat before he got tired of living out of suitcases and settled down, re-training as a teacher. I desperately wanted to sing musical theatre, but he very kindly explained that I was much more suited to opera. So, after getting over my broken heart (I desperately wanted to be on Broadway!) I started seriously practising lots of Italian arias and Handel and Bach and stuff. I continued that with a professor when I went to uni, and I picked it up again after moving to England and joining the local Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Now I squeak when I pick up a clarinet, can’t keep time with a watch, and play piano like cat with Smarties tubes on my fingers, but I have a three-and-a-half octave operatic range and I’ve been learning to belt with Gemma Lawler from Dakesis.
Who were your hero’s as a young musician that inspired and pushed you to want to be a musician too?
Tim: Nick Kerrison, J. S. Bach, Andy Marshall, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Dave Murray, Joe Satriani, John Lord to name but a few.
David: Buzz Lightyear, Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine.
Mel: Amy Lee, I remember talking to my roommate at university about how all the female-fronted rock and metal bands had girls with low alto voices and complaining because we were sopranos. Then I got in my car to drive to work and “Bring Me to Life” was playing. I was like, “Wow, there’s so much passion – and she actually sings soprano!” And Jewel – she didn’t really make it massive over in England but she worked so hard. I remember reading an article about her that said she and her mom moved out of their house and into a van so they could just focus on her making music. That’s dedication.
Is there one particular album or song that gave you a “Eureka” moment from your youth that made you want to be a musician?
David: Remember what I said about breakfast?
Tim: Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 5, 1st Movement.
Mel: Watching an Andrew Lloyd Webber birthday celebration on TV and seeing all those talented musicians. My mom said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be in that audience?” and I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be performing there?”
What was the best gig you’ve ever attended?
Tim: Dream Theater, Wolverhampton.
Mel: Nightwish, Bloodstock 2018.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
Tim: Does liking drum solos count?
Mel: Oh, Tim, don’t give David ideas.
David:No, I feel no guilt about S Club 7.
Mel: Show tunes and Disney songs.
So any new music in the works currently or just released?
David: No. It can’t be new if it’s several years old. But it is out soon.
Mel: It’s two years old. Maybe two-and-a-half. But yes, our debut album, “The Seven” is out on the 6thof October at the Corporation in Sheffield – at AoniaFest II!
Where and when did you record it?
Tim: Been recording for the last couple of years at Black Carrot Studios.
David: Technically I haven’t recorded anything. Just a lot of mouse clicking.
How does the song writing process generally work for you?
Tim: Very well thank you.
David: I get told what to do, and I do it.
Mel: Someone comes up with an idea – a riff or some lyrics or a melody – and the rest of us work around and grow that. Tim does a lot; he’s good at listening to different parts of a song and going, “Hmm, that doesn’t quite fit together – here’s some musical glue to stick this riff to that riff.” Jo and I wander off and mess around with harmonies and countermelodies until we get something we’re happy with and then come back to the rest of the music. It can be a little slow at times with seven of us, but now that we’re used to how we all work, the next album should be a much faster process.
What route have you taken to build up and establish a fan base locally & beyond your local area?
Tim: Bribes mostly.
David: Sat Nav, it’s the only way I get to gigs.
Mel: We’ve been lucky enough to play some really great shows with some amazingly talented bands – we’re deeply indebted to the Corporation, to Dames of Darkness and SOS Festivals, and to our friends in Alwaid (F) who took us on our first European tour. Basically, we just do our best to play a fun, memorable show wherever we go and then capitalise on that word-of-mouth the next time we come back. We also do try and get out to support our friends in bands when possible, and we’ve met some really fantastic people that way.
What is the music scene like locally to you and where do you fit in?
David: I don’t fit in, so I don’t know really.
Tim: Loud. And we fit in I think between Aone and Aonikenk.
Mel: Are those…are those actually bands? Have you looked that up? Anyway, in the Sheffield area there are a lot of incredibly talented bands from a range of genres; there’s not really a particular style that dominates. What’s nice is that now we do tend to fit in a bit with at least one other band on the bill – when we were first starting, we seemed to get put with a lot of core and death metal bands. They were very good at what they did, but so different from us, which was no good for anyone. Their fans were bored, we stuck out like a sore thumb and people just waited for us to be over. But now the scene is much more broad, so we don’t tend to get that anymore.
Do you feel there are enough venues around you to help promote and establish up and coming bands like yourself?
Tim: Yes, but not enough people willing to come and see the music unless it is a major headline band.
David: Enough venues, yes. Enough promotion and support, maybe not.
Mel: Sheffield metalheads are amazing and we wouldn’t be where we are without them. There are a lot of great live music venues in the city as well. The fans are so passionate about music and really get behind local, unsigned bands. I think the challenge comes with having so many venues – and so the core of fans has to choose. One venue could have an incredible line-up of self-signed bands on, but if Alestorm or Evil Scarecrow or someone is playing up the road at Corp, the crowd will be there.
What would you like to see ideally to help hard working bands / artists get better exposure and opportunities to make a living from their craft?
Tim: Larger venues putting on and promoting more gigs for smaller bands.
David: Funding. Bands can’t function for long paying their way entirely out of pocket. Pay a door fee to see bands, buy merchandise, buy singles/albums, it all helps fund the next gig, better recordings, more merch.
Mel: Indianapolis (where I’m from) has a radio station that plays pretty much anything that’s not Top-40: rock, metal, punk, indie, alternative, folk…anything different. They have a huge listener base, and every Friday night they do ‘Local X’ – a two-hour show of unsigned bands from Indiana. (Or they used to, anyway, I’ve not been home for a long time.) X103 also put on their own festival twice a year and give local bands the chance to play it. So you’d get some unknown punk garage band playing in front of a couple thousand people on the same stage as bands like Disturbed or Alice in Chains. I think the culture is a bit different in the States though. Bloodstock has a good model too, with the New Blood Stage – it’s close enough to the Ronnie James Dio Stage to draw people in and they promote the smaller, unsigned bands along with the big headliners.
What is the best piece of advice you have received on your journey thus far?
David: Don’t do it, it’s a waste of time and money.
Tim: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Mel: Always keep thinking about the next step. After this, what’s next? You’ve always got to have a ‘What’s next.’
What would you say has been the biggest lesson you have learnt on your journey to date?
David: I shouldn’t have done it. It took a long time and was very expensive.
Tim: Always do what you say you will do- honour your commitments, no matter what.
Mel: Don’t describe your music as ‘female-fronted.’ That’s a gender, not a genre. Arch Enemy and Epica are both ‘female-fronted’ but couldn’t be more diametrically opposite. And don’t be a pretentious jerk with web biographies and the like. If a promoter or journalist is looking at your website or social media page and wants to know what sort of music you play, “Listen to the music and decide yourself” is fundamentally unhelpful. (That was my old band…we’ve been less noobish with Aonia.)
With the music industry always constantly changing – how have you had to adapt to the ever-changing landscape?
David: Hide under a rock, pretending it’s not happening.
Tim: Bigger shoes.
Mel: I’ve had to start using some emojis in my social media posts. That was a fundamental shift in my priorities. I think the key thing is that we have to keep striving to produce something completely different. There are so many bands out there who sound similar to each other – and a lot of other bands who are doing a great job at standing out and being memorable. The tricky balancing act will be to be different enoughto stand out from the crowd but not soweird that we’re completely inaccessible.
Does the introduction of New Technology / Digital Age / Social Media etc enhance your life as a musician or do you feel it can be more of a hindrance?
David: Hindrance. Far too much hassle. I mean, all these interviews?
Tim: Definitely enhances it.
Mel: It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Social media, YouTube, Spotify, etc. have given bands a great tool with which to bypass the mainstream media and get their music to the people who will enjoy it. The flipside of this is that every time someone posts “Hey, I’m looking for new music to get into; recommend me something,” they’re immediately inundated with hundreds of links, so making yourself heard is a bit like shooting a water pistol at the sun. And it’s weird what catches people’s interest. A carefully-crafted promo vid that took hours? Meh. An impromptu, one-minute video shot in the pub toilets on my phone about how to get great winged eyeliner using Vocalzone packets? Loads of attention. We – and all bands – need to get more clever about how we use technology to promote ourselves to make sure that we’re not lost in the whitewash of noise.
So moving forward what’s next for you?
Tim: Our second album.
Mel: Well, after lunch but before the second album is AoniaFest II – our festival on the 6thof October at the Corporation in Sheffield. Ten great bands – Miscreant, us, Dakesis, Fury, Alwaid, FyreSky, Burn Down the District, Divided We Fall, Skeleton Crew, and This State of Ours are all playing – it’s going to be an awesome day. And, of course, we will be touring to promote “The Seven” in 2019.
How do you see the evolution of the band / yourself as an artist?
David: Growing older, grumpier, poorer, tired.
Tim: Well, growing an extra arm would be useful.
Mel: Jo and I are both working on developing different styles to augment and accentuate the operatic style we are both comfortable with. As the band’s musical tastes grow and we listen to new influences, the music will naturally follow suit – but there are no plans to intentionally change the fundamentals of our music.
Do you have any short-term or long-term goals in mind?
David: Short-term – lunch. Long-term – tea.
Tim: Make a lot more music that a lot of people like.
Mel: Short-term – tour the UK and get back to Europe to promote the album. Plan and host another festival – it’s hard work but it’s worth it! Long-term, I’d like to get to the point where the band is self-sufficient enough that we could all do it full-time, without needing day jobs. We’d be able to get things done so much more quickly and tour so much more extensively.
If you could tour with any band or artists who would that be?
David: S Club 7.
Tim: Still Little Mix or Girls Aloud.
Mel: And I thought Tim was actually taking this interview seriously. We’ve toured with Alwaid, which was pretty special – they’re ideal tour-mates in that they really looked after us when we didn’t speak the language or really understand much of anything going on. Just incredibly nice and helpful people. I’d like to put something together with FyreSky or Dakesis as they’re both really talented bands with nice people.
David: S Club 7 haven’t done much in years.
AoniaFest returns on the 6th of October 2018, in its new home at the Corporation in Sheffield! Tickets are available from the Corporation website here:http://www.corporation.org.uk/
Doors will be at 1pm. The day features TEN outstanding bands from across the nation and abroad: Miscreant (headliners), Aonia (hosts), Dakesis,Fury, Alwaid, FyreSky, Burn Down the District, Divided We Fall (who are making their debut return to the live music scene), Skeleton Crew, and This State of Ours.
Having secured headliners Miscreant, who have just played Tech-Fest and are currently enjoying airplay on Kerrang! Radio, the festival promises to be a bouncing day of heavy racing riffs, searing solos, and vivacious vocals!
AoniaFest gives heavy metal fans a day of unforgettable music and incorporates a range of styles and subgenres. The 6th of October promises to be a friendly, laid-back day with talent oozing from wall-to-wall.
In addition to the tremendous day of heavy metal, hosts Aonia will be launching their debut album, “The Seven,” which features ten ambitious tracks of progressive heavy metal, including guest appearances from Blaze Bayley (Blaze Bayley, Wolfsbane, Ex-Iron Maiden) and Iliana Basileios Tsakiraki (Enemy of Reality).
Laura Whittle, part of the Festival’s organisation committee (and Aonia’s Mistress of Merch, costumer and general dogsbody) said, “It’s an eclectic mix of bands guaranteed to appeal to all metal heads. It’ll be a day of friendly people and awesome music. I can’t wait!”
Detailed information about the bands:
Miscreant – headliners
Miscreant are a four-piece tech metal band whose catchy riffs and endless energy recently caught the attention of Kerrang! Radio, where they have enjoyed airplay. Their current single, “Let Tomorrow Die,” reached #3 in the iTunes metal single charts. Miscreant are a band that brings a completely sinister and dark vibe to the UK metal scene, while still achieving bouncy riffs with grooves.
Current single, “Let Tomorrow Die:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Aonia – hosts
Aonia are a seven-piece operatic/progressive heavy metal band, boasting a dual-wild of ‘sopranos with balls’ as vocalists, shredding twin axes, symphonic keys, and driving drums and bass. Having won the Sheffield heat of the Metal 2 the Masses competition, the band appeared on the Bloodstock Festival New Blood Stage in August of 2018. Additionally, vocalists Jo and Mel have featured on the most recent three Blaze Bayley (Blaze Bayley, Wolfsbane, Ex-Iron Maiden) albums and have recently won endorsement by Vocalzone. According to GBHBL, Aonia are “an epically huge band,” and they remark that “Aonia will surely go down as one of Bloodstock Festival’s New Blood greatest success stories. One of those moments in time where you saw a band completely come in to their own, wowing a crowd and winning hundreds of dedicated new fans.”
Current single, “Violet Hours:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Dakesis are a four-piece Progressive Power Metal band from Birmingham, UK, with a reputation for electrifying showmanship, vast progressive storytelling and enough pomp and circumstance to bring a smile to even the dourest viewer. The band have toured the UK extensively, and have performed at many prestigious festivals and venues including Bloodstock Open Air (2012 and 2017), Wildfire Festival (2015), Dames of Darkness (2017), Breaking Bands (2017), the Birmingham 02 Academy and the Tavastia club in Helsinki.
Current single, “The Great Insurrection:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Fury are a four-piece power / thrash band who play “epic, universe-spanning fantasycore.” With soaring clean vocals and heavy, hard-hitting riffs, Fury’s songs are expansive journeys that take listeners to the edge of the universe. Veterans of Bloodstock (2013 and 2016) HRH Metal (2017) and Hammerfest (2014), Fury have played extensively throughout the UK and abroad, engaging audiences and exciting listeners. With album #3 on the way, the band promises some new and exciting material in addition to fan-favourites from “Lost in Space” and “The Lightning Dream.”
Current single, “Lost in Space:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Alwaid are a symphonic metal powerhouse based in Lille, France, with powerful vocals that soar over driving riffs and growls. With two full albums under their belt, the band have toured extensively throughout the European continent and the UK. Their most recent work explores the bestial side of humanity – order and chaos, instinct and reason, desire and logic, grandeur and decadence. An accomplished band, Alwaid don’t just sound epic – their live stage show is full of energy and inspiration.
Current single, “Amphisbaena:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
FyreSky are a four-piece original Goth/Hard Rock band based in Southend On Sea Essex (UK). At the start of the year FyreSky competed in and won the Essex ‘Undiscovered Live Music Project’ having been judged on their originality, song-writing and live performance they came out on top. The band have also recently completed a tour with The Heretic Order and are endorsed by Vocalzone, Collision Drumsticks, and Cloven Hoof Rum.
Current single, “Carpe Noctem:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Burn Down the District
Burn Down the District are a five-piece hardcore outfit from Chesterfield. Aptly named, they ‘leave a charred path of destruction in [their] wake’ (EclecticMusicLover.com, 2017). They’re making waves in the local Sheffield scene, gaining acclaim for their energetic live performances, engaging crowd interaction, and brutal riffs. Having reached the Bloodstock Metal 2 the Masses Semifinals in 2018, the only way for this band to go is UP!
Current single, “Burn:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Divided We Fall are a symphonic metal band based in Staffordshire. Dames of Darkness Festival veterans, DWF are known for their epic symphonic sound and the amazing power and emotion behind Philippa Ricketts’ belting vocals. The band sadly split in 2015 – but, fortunately for the Wonderful World of Symphonic Metal, they have decided to re-form! A new single is on its way and their first return gig will be at AoniaFest. We are proud to have them!
Title Track from their 2014 album, “Dreamcrusher:” https://www.youtube.com/
Skeleton Crew are a five-piece power rock band from Nottinghamshire, UK. Since their first show in 2007, they’ve been regulars on the biker show circuit, as well as opening for acts such as Voodoo Six and Terrorvision’s Tony Wright. Good fun, with hard-hitting riffs and a live show that ‘keeps the throttle pressed firmly to the floor,’ they perform great tunes with memorable lyrics that will have the crowd singing along. With two albums under their belts and a third underway, Skeleton Crew will deliver a great set of fun, catchy, powerful rock.
Video, “Oppressor:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?
This State of Ours
This State of Ours are a five-piece heavy alternative rock band based in Rotherham, UK. Influenced by bands such as Deftones and Incubus, this band is heavy in its musicality, with melodic alto vocals. Having reached the Bloodstock Metal to the Masses finals in 2018, the band is pushing forward, playing festivals such as Beanfest and Barnsley Live. With amazing stage presence and crowd interaction, This State of Ours is a live band you have to see!
Current single, “Another Light:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?