Getting the chance to interview Alesana was an opportunity that I was extremely excited about being that I have been listening to them for over 7 years. Moving on, we got the chance to talk to Vocalist Shawn Milke about what the future holds for Alesana, inspirations for their famous Annabel trilogy, new music, touring, possibly turning the Annabel story into a film, & more!
1. Kindly introduce yourself, what your band position is, and some unknown tidbit people may or may not be aware of:
My name is Shawn Milke and I am a singer/songwriter/guitarist for Alesana. A fun tidbit is I earned a Varsity letter in high school for baseball by my junior year.
2. Who were your biggest inspirations to become a musician?
Paul McCartney, Dave Matthews, and my father.
3. Not everyone may know who Alesana is; what’s the band all about and what sets you guys apart from other bands?
Alesana is a storytelling sweet-core band who believes in the power of PMA (positive mental attitude). We have been a band for over eleven years and we have one of the most dedicated and rabid cult fan bases in the world. Our wonderful fans are as devoted to our stories and fictional characters as they are to our music. We’ve never given in to artistic trends and have always stayed true to our sound, our beliefs, and ourselves.
4. Alesana has been around for over a decade now (est. 2004), despite a few member shakeups. What do you think has held the band together for so long and where do you see the band in another 10 years?
It’s interesting to mention member shakeups because, with the exception of very early on (close to our inception), we have really maintained the core of the lineup. Dennis, Patrick, Jeremy, and myself have been here since the beginning of our touring career, Shane only having missed about six months. When Jake wasn’t in the band for a brief spell he actually still toured with us as a tech. We are like brothers, a family. We love each other, first and foremost, and we always have such a great time doing Alesana. They truly are my second family. Ten years from now I imagine we will still be writing and playing music together but I wouldn’t expect as many stage dives and rafter hangs. The beautiful part is that, even as we pursue other goals in life, we are confident in knowing that Alesana will never die.
5. Over the years you guys have managed to release 5 full-length albums and 2 EP’s. Out of all of those, what’s been your favorite to put out and what’s been the hardest to create?
My favorite record to write, create, and release was ‘Confessions’. It was the first record where we had complete artistic freedom, no larger labels or management to answer to. In hindsight, I also loved the process with that record. We set extremely tight deadline windows so that there was not a lot of second guessing. Go with your gut was the motto and the record has the urgency that I was hoping that process would create. It’s like a controlled panic attack. ‘A Place Where The Sun Is Silent’ was the hardest to create because of its grandiose nature. There were a lot of moving parts on that record both in the story and the composition.
6. 2010 was the start of Annabel and her story. What were the origins of this story and what led to the idea of telling a story through your albums versus a stand alone album?
Up to that point we had always based our songs and albums off of different stories in literature and some television (Greek Mythology, The Brothers Grimm, Heroes). With The Emptiness we knew we wanted to write our first original piece of fiction. We drew our inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe and named our main character Annabel as an homage to his poem ‘Annabel Lee’. It was originally just going to be that one album but when we finished it we still felt like we had so much more story to tell. It was then we decided it would be a trilogy.
7. Last April, you guys released your fifth full-length which was also the final part of the Annabel trilogy. How did it feel to put that story to an end?
It was very bittersweet. On one hand I was so proud of the accomplishment. We set out to do a trilogy and we did it, which is great. On the other hand, we’ve been living with those characters for six years so it is sad to say goodbye. There are plans to expand the story and the dialogue and release a paperback book so that will help to satiate my Annabel cravings.
8. What was the hardest part of writing the end to the trilogy?
The hardest part was having an ending that satisfied Dennis and I as writers while also doing the story justice to our fans. I think we pulled it off.
9. The Annabel trilogy was a story that hooked on and connected to a lot of people. Why do you think that is?
I honestly have no idea. I am super grateful that it happened but I never expected in my wildest dreams that The Annabel Trilogy would develop the rabid following that is has achieved. A big thank you to everyone who has given her love and support.
10. More recently, you released the first part of the short film for Comedy of Errors. The video was more futuristic than other music videos that went along with the Annabel story. Where did this idea come from?
Well, the story of ‘Confessions’ opens up in a non-disclosed time in the future. The third part of the trilogy leans very hard towards science fiction and that choice was intentional. The use of space and futuristic imagery was the creative license we lent to our director, Justin Reich. We enjoy having our directors, much like our fans, to interpret certain details in their own way. It’s like reading a book and then trying to put to film what it looked like in your head.
11. What was it like filming it with Justin Reich? Were you satisfied with the final product?
Justin Reich is a old and dear friend of ours. I have actually collaborated with him quite a bit in the past with other artists on my record label (The Funeral Portrait, Megosh). He also did the artwork for ‘Confessions’ and was the mastermind behind one of our most iconic photos as a band which was the one where we are all in suits and Dennis and I are holding the weapons.
12. Now that the Annabel trilogy has come to an end, what can fans expect in future albums? Another concept album or something entirely different yet again?
We haven’t really gotten that far in our thinking just yet. I have begun writing some songs, musically. Dennis and I are on the fence with whether or not we want to do a more contemporary story or expand on the Annabel universe.
13. Have you guys begun writing a new record or are you going to take a break until after the final part of Comedy of Errors is released?
We are definitely taking a break. I have two beautiful little boys and I am focusing on spending more time with them and my amazing wife. I’m also running my record label and my wife just opened her own salon so we are as busy as it gets. Jake just got married and is expecting a little one very soon. Shane is writing the sophomore record for his project The Ivory and Pat has been touring with his new project Versus Me. Basically everyone is pursuing new goals and adventures. When the dust settles a little we will likely hole up in some dingy writing space and knock out the next chapter in the Alesana saga.
14. Revival Recordings announced that Alesana is a part of the, ‘It’s All Acoustic’ Compilation. The compilation includes ‘Dancing Alone’ and a brand new song. Did you guys write the new song as an acoustic or will we hear a full-band version in the future?
Shane and I wrote ‘Hiatus’ together strictly as an acoustic tune. It explores the different emotions he and I have as friends and bandmates in this changing time for Alesana. Its a tribute to what we’ve accomplished, our amazing fans, and our belief that good music and art lives forever, you just have to help keep it alive and breathing.
15. Being that Alesana has been a band for so long, you guys have toured with tons of bands/artists. Is there any dream tour that you guys would love be a part of?
I would love to tour with Between The Buried and Me
16. Are there any tours coming up for Alesana?
At this moment there is not, Taking a little break.
17. Lastly, is there anything you would like to shed some light on that is coming up for the band exclusively on Soundfiction?
As I mentioned earlier, extended prose and dialogue for The Annabel Trilogy with hopes of getting a limited edition paperback pressed and printed. I’ve also had preliminary dialogue with my sister in law, Rita Baghdadi (director of the Fatima Rusalka music video) regarding turning The Annabel Trilogy into a film.
18. That about wraps it up, thank you for talking to us!
Thank you very much!
Alesana released their new single, “Hiatus”, over on Revolver Mag today as well. The single comes from Revival Recordings acoustic compilation, ‘It’s All Acoustic’, which is available for pre-order here. Listen to, ‘Hiatus’, below: