"We made a lot of friends at Wacken, and I think the most important lesson we learned there is the value of human connection."
It probably goes without saying that E-an-na are one of the most exciting and original metal bands to emerge out of Romania (if not Eastern Europe) for a while, it's not often you come across a band who mixes Folk Metal with Modern Metal in such a way it becomes mind-blowing. Despite this it's clear that E-an-na take everything in their stride, are very cool about their origins and where they are heading. Andrei Oltean (Vocalist and woodwind player) put himself forward for the interrogation as he discussed how the band was built on traditional Romanian folk music but with a sharp twist, why Wacken Metal Battle was more than just a competition and why as a band they treat their fans more like family (which is rather beautiful).
For those who have not heard of E-an-na could you please give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"“E-an-na” comes from ancient Sumerian and would be translated as something along the lines of “The Home Of The Skies”. When we created the band, we searched a lot for a name that would resonate with the concept, and finally found it in Mircea Eliade’s book “The History Of Religions”. E-an-na started out, like so much art in the world, powered by the concept of escapism, of creating a personal world devoid of all the negative aspects that try to bring us down in this one. E-an-na is a community, and each may feel and perceive it in their own way. Everybody is welcome."
Your sound is quite unique in the mixing of Modern Metal and Folk Metal, how did you come up with this sound? What would you call your sound?
"Well, of course it can be labelled, so we would call it simply Folk Metal. But the thing is, I don’t believe in labelling too much. I mean yeah, some of my favourite bands play Folk Metal, but they don’t generally fit into that labelling when it comes to the cliches. And neither do we. After all, music is movement, it’s not something static that you can point your finger on, and thus, it is ever-changing. You will find works in our discography that have absolutely nothing to do with Folk Metal whatsoever, and the future will make it seem like we are, at times, straying even further from it. Music is a journey of many paths, and it would be a shame to stick to only one just because you already know it."
What kind of Romanian folk music do you use given there are so many different styles?
"You’re right. Mostly we compose our own folkloric-like themes, as a result of listening and assimilating such music for many years, but we also have a few passages taken directly from centuries old songs. They are songs played on traditional woodwinds: “Fluier” (whistle) or “Caval” (which is a sort of low whistle specific to this area). Besides this, I am a huge fan of “Lăutărească”, which is a sort of mix between traditional music with Turkic influences, developed in the last century, maybe a century and a half, and often played by gypsies (to anyone out there knowing better: forgive me if I’m being inaccurate, I’m not an ethnomusicologist).
Again, there are no restrictions, so we will go for whatever we feel is right. In spite of our songs generating sometimes a sense of national pride in our Romanian listeners (which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong), we don’t feel compelled to stick to just that."
You came 2nd at the 2017 edition of Wacken Metal Battle, this surely gave you the boost to drive forward and aim higher?
"Well, yes, and no. You see, we stood true to music, and sometimes this might have been detrimental to the fastest way to, let’s say, success. There are certainly better marketing decisions that we would have taken, but our ultimate goal isn’t that. As I said, E-an-na is a feeling, something rooted very deep inside us, and a community, a family. Of course we do hope, like most of the bands, to get big and tour the world, but we shall get that on our own pace, whilst focusing on our sonic madness primarily. But yes, we made a lot of friends at Wacken, and I think the most important lesson we learned there is the value of human connection."
As you sing in Romanian, do you have any tips for non-native speakers in trying to sing along to your music?
"Just go with what you feel, I won’t judge you, ha ha. I myself just went for the sound without understanding a word for many years, mainly when singing along to Arkona in Russian whenever I caught them live. That actually led to an interesting perception of the human voice as solely an instrument, stripped of the meaning of the words, which I think shaped the way I compose stuff. So yeah, don’t be afraid to pour your soul out, even if you literally can’t put it into words."
Given the current COVID-19 global pandemic, what plans did you have that are either cancelled or postponed? Any plans for late 2020 / early 2021?
"We did have a bunch of shows (some announced, others not yet) that went down the drain... But we’re increasingly more fortunate than bigger bands that had to cancel whole tours for which money had been already paid for whatever reason (logistics, advances, etc.). We are trying to reschedule the gigs, but honestly half-heartedly, because we don’t know if (although highly probable) and when the second wave will strike. That’s why we aren’t saying things like “buy cheaper pre-sale tickets” and stuff like that to our fans at the moment. On the other hand, we are constantly working on new music. In fact, our next single came out on 23.05.2020, exactly the day I turned 25."
For metalheads visiting Sibiu, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Well, Sibiu is not a big city at all. It’s wonderful to visit it, but you will probably learn it in a few days. I totally recommend the village museum, right outside the city. I think it’s the largest in Europe, and extremely beautiful. Also the city centre is quite pretty, if you don’t mind flocks of tourists and pigeons. You can find the Evangelical Church there, right in my high school yard. It’s a nice area. In terms of venues and bars, Sibiu doesn’t have it so great. If you’re looking for metal, you’ll most definitely end up at the Rock & Bike Club, as do we."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"Stay strong. Each person is different, each reacts differently to such large-scale events. I, personally, besides the gigs and not being able to see my friends and family or to travel, am not too affected, as I work from home and am an introvert anyway. I’ve been composing and practising like a madman, so the time is put to good use. I’m not saying you’re worthless if you’re not productive. Not at all. It’s simply what works best for my well being. Take care of yourself, and don’t despair. Do a little something everyday. Check up on your loved ones. Listen to our music."