Latest release: Nectar (Napalm)Website: www.facebook.com/silentskiesband

Slightly more than twelve months since the release of their debut album Satellites, ambient duo Silent Skies will issue Nectar on February 22. The combination of Evergrey’s Tom S Englund and Vikram Shankar from Redemption, Silent Skies examines a lesser-known aspect of its constituents’ musical characters. Better recognised for excursions in progressive metal, Silent Skies focuses on melancholia and cinematic soundscapes. Originally recorded in 2018, the pair held off on releasing Satellites for almost two years and then almost immediately set to work on the follow-up, working remotely from their homes in Sweden and North Carolina.

Loud: What are the reasons for holding off on release for so long?
Tom: Finding the right outlet for how we wanted to release it, and also not conflicting with our other release schedules for Evergrey and Redemption. We are in so many other different projects our lives would go crazy doing interviews for different things on the same day!

L: So how did this first come about between the two of you?
T: I saw this young kid doing metal covers on a Steinway piano on YouTube and I thought, that guy’s got something. He at least understands how to treat the melody and the timing with respect. Which is very uncommon to find, the kinship in that. When I saw that, I immediately thought I should contact that guy, so I wrote him an email and said we should write an album. I didn’t have any more ideas. I wanted to make movie score music, with vocals. That was my only initial idea.

L: Vik, what was your reaction when Tom contacted you?
Vik: I think I had to read his message four or five times to make sure it was the real Tom Englund and that I wasn’t being pranked by someone. I’ve been listening to this dude’s music since when I just entered high school and it’s been such a big impact on the way I listen to music, the way I write music, the way I play music. Tom’s musicality was in my DNA long before this project was a thought in either of our minds. So, because of that, when we started working together in 2017, when we first started trading files and whatnot, we realised we had a very similar way of approaching music. We wrote similarly – not the same way, but similar enough – we had a common vision, we liked the same things, mostly. We were going for the same aesthetic and emotional vision, and we were able to approach that common point from very different backgrounds, because I come from the classical conservatory education side. Tom doesn’t really have that side, but he’s just as smart and just as wise musically in his own eway.

L: Both albums have quite different characters. This new one is more melancholy and ambient than the previous album. Was that intentional or did it come about during the writing process?
T: I think it’s just a natural development. We were still finding ourselves, finding our natural identity. We don’t know yet, what this will become in the end. Of course I have had the opportunity with both Evergrey and now to release a debut album, then a sophomore album, and then having the understanding that the difference between the two is still finding yourself, and that the second album is more set in stone about the direction in which we’re going. But that said, I don’t know! I’m happy for this having its own life and heading in whatever direction.

L: Is there a story behind the creation of the second album?
V: I think there is very much a sense that as we started to write this album, we understood ourselves better. Obviously, with a lot of room to still develop and explore new avenues, because we are constantly doing that. We’ve never stopped writing and it takes on a life of its own when you keep writing. We composed songs together on Zoom, which is one thing that was different from the first album. We were meeting pretty much daily, every morning for several hours going through the songs together on Zoom. We’d write together in real time, produce together in real time and if we wanted to try something, we’d try it. That became something about the identity of this album, that kind of freedom of experimentation. On the irst album, if I wanted to do something bold in the production or something, I would do it, I would bounce it down, send it via MP3 to Tom. when he listened to it, he might not be in the right headspace. When he listened to it, I may not have been able to explain in words what I was trying to achieve with it, so we would have this mismatch and we couldn’t refine it in real time. Whereas on this album, we were on Zoom, so if I wanted to try something, we could hear it. So we took a lot more chances in the writing process and it was more of an organic, free-flowing writing process with some experimentation that resulted in some really cool things that we had never done before, that may not have been doable had we been just sending MP3s back and forth.

T: We gained so much by being able to work together parallel, on two different computers, so that he could write his stuff and I could write mine and we could meet up before lunch. Pretty much everything we did, we recorded in the moment, and what we heard then is what you hear now on the album.

L: Is this what you expected? You set out to make film score music with vocals, but has it become something else now?
T; Yes, it’s something different, but it’s also better. We had this discussion between the two of us the other day. We have a mindset of something, about where we want it to go, that is purely inspirational, and then where we see it going, which is somewhere totally different. That doesn’t really matter. It is different. I didn’t have this clear vision when I started that it would sound exactly like this. Now it’s so much better, and it’s not just a project. It’s something that we spend as much time on as we do with everything else we do.

L: And for you, Vik, was this beyond what you expected?
V: the very existence of it was beyond my expectations. I didn’t foresee anything like this happening to me in this lifetime, to be honest, so as we were working on it I was continually surprised. Every single time I would get a vocal file back from Tom, it would be like Christmas morning, which is wonderful. Not just because of the honour of the collaboration, but because as someone who had been listening to Evergrey for years, I was surprised by the different shades in his artistry that I had never really heard before, or that was merely hinted at, and so we grew exponentially with ever song that we wrote together. By the end, it was, as Tom has said, pretty much completely different from what we thought it would sound like in early January 2017. But that’s cool, because it’s much more rewarding to go on this creative journey together than to have a static vision of what you want to achieve and just go from A to B and that’s it. We’d much rather go from A to J. That’s much more rewarding.