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Examining VISION ETERNEL’s new record “For Farewell of Nostalgia,” as Alexander Julien explains heartbreak

From out of the confusing woods to the open sky, Canadian composer/musician VISION ETERNEL releases a new EP For Farewell Of Nostalgia. A methodical record that illustrates the pain of heartbreak through the use of ethereal sound that will push and pull your emotions.

This four-song narrative is the brainchild of Alexander Julien. Comparing sound to feelings, he paints a series of intimate moments with a guitar and bass. Julien follows strict guidelines and makes deliberate choices that lead down introspective paths, tough times, and writer’s block – a journey that describes intimacy.

For Farewell Of Nostalgia is Vision Eternel’s newest concept EP. It is a narrative of how emotionally devastating falling in love too fast can be and the aftermath of a heartbreak. Sometimes, looking for tender affection can be detrimental; this tale of infatuation, wounding absence, intimacy, melancholia and never-ending nostalgia intends to make the listener feel every bit of that. For Farewell Of Nostalgia is available starting September 14, 2020.

Alexander Julien began composing and recording demos for the release in 2017. For Farewell Of Nostalgia was first recorded over seven months from April-October 2018. Unsatisfied with these original recordings, Julien put the release aside for a year, until he ultimately decided to re-record it, entirely from scratch, over the span of two months between October -November 2019.

For Farewell Of Nostalgia was mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering in January 2020 and the cover artwork was illustrated by Michael Koelsch at Koelsch Studios in April 2020. The EP features additional painting and photography by Rain Frances at Rain Frances Art. Julien also wrote a short story to accompany the release (in place of lyrics in the booklet), which recounts the events that influenced this concept EP. The short story can be read here.

Hey Alex, thank you for taking the time to talk to us about your recent release. Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

My name is Alexander Julien; I am the founding band member of Vision Eternel. I was born in Cote-Des-Neiges, a neighborhood in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I then lived in Pierrefonds, Quebec (a suburb of Montreal) for a part of my childhood, but ultimately grew up in Edison, New Jersey, United States; I consider Edison my hometown. In my early adulthood, I relocated back to Montreal, where Vision Eternel has since been based.

That’s really interesting how you found your hometown outside of your country. I wonder if that further inspired the sound of Vision Eternel. You mentioned before that the project started in 2007, but can you give us more information about the beginning?

Vision Eternel started while I was still living in Edison, New Jersey. I was not planning to start a new band; it instead happened quite naturally and progressively. I had been very depressed over an ex-girlfriend and on one late, lonely night, I picked up my guitar and let my emotions flow through it. I was not trying to play any specific genre or imitate anyone’s style of playing; I simply let my emotions take over and allowed my fingers to move on their own, uninhibitedly. The result was a really beautiful short piece that I later titled Love Within Beauty.

I was sitting in Mortified Studio, my newly-built recording studio located in an annex to my parent’s house in Edison, New Jersey, so I immediately recorded it. But I was unsure of how to utilize this short piece. I briefly considered using it as an interlude on one of my other bands’ albums, in the way that Killswitch Engage had used the songs And Embers Rise and Inhale on their album The End Of Heartache. The actual beginning of Vision Eternel happened a day or two later when I was again in a bout of depression. That night, I was sitting in bed with another guitar and I let my emotions flow uninhibitedly again through my guitar. The result was another short and beautiful piece; Love Within Isolation.

Once I had these two pieces recorded and side-by-side, it seemed obvious that I should start a new band to release and highlight them, instead of burying them as interludes on an album. I conceived a concept extended play through which I documented the past relationship that had influenced these songs. Vision Eternel’s debut Seul Dans L’obsession was recorded in less than a month and featured six songs, covering the six phases that I went through, from meeting to losing the girl. I also named the band Vision Eternel as a way to commemorate and reminisce over that past relationship. The word eternal was deliberately misspelled eternel, partly for aesthetics, but mainly to bring up original search results when people would look for my band online.

I attempted to build Vision Eternel up into a band and practiced with my close friend Philip Altobelli, but he was in the midst of giving up electric guitar for classical guitar; he went on to become a guitar teacher. In the summer of 2007, I recorded Vision Eternel’s sophomore concept extended play, Un Automne En Solitude, which continued the story-line through another relationship, but it was not released until early 2008. The band’s first two extended plays were recorded in Edison, before I moved back to Montreal in late July 2007. I consider those first seven months as Vision Eternel’s beginning.

Once in Montreal, I again tried to expand Vision Eternel into a full band. I was attending Recordings Arts Canada, an audio production college in downtown Montreal, where I met Adam Kennedy and Nidal Mourad. Adam joined on lead electric guitar; Nidal joined on acoustic guitar; I switched from lead electric guitar to rhythm electric guitar. Un Automne En Solitude was still unreleased at that point so we worked on developing and arranging some of those songs into full indie rock/post-rock pieces; I think that it sounded amazing! I was so excited about the progress that we were making, but unfortunately, Nidal felt held back. He was trying to break through as an indie/folk rock singer-songwriter (he often compared himself to Damien Rice) and so he departed. He later became a disc jockey and producer under the pseudonym Ziko Ghost.

Adam and I practiced together for a little bit longer but we eventually drifted apart as well. I wound up releasing Un Automne En Solitude; Adam went on to play in the bands 1993, Acid Cross, Beyond The Dune Sea, Owl Eyes Project and Wake The Wolf. About a year later, Adam recorded a guitar solo over one of Vision Eternel’s songs but it was never released. Adam also mastered Vision Eternel’s next release, Abondance De Périls in 2010.

That was followed by The Last Great Torch Song in 2012 which featured a lot of guest musicians like Garry Brents on keyboards, Alexander Fawcett on bass and guitar, and Howard Change and Eiman Nejad providing spoken word poetry. That extended play was also mastered by Garry Brents.

Echoes From Forgotten Hearts came next in 2015 but it was not originally planned as a Vision Eternel extended play; it was composed and recorded as a soundtrack to a short film. The film was never completed so I decided to partly re-record and fully re-mix and edit the soundtrack into a concept extended play. Between 2017 and 2018 I worked on An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes, a retrospective boxed set which highlighted the band’s ten-year anniversary. This brings Vision Eternel up to its most recent offering, For Farewell Of Nostalgia.

Sounds like Vision Eternel went through some struggles with the lineup up. However, it is cool that you pushed through it and came up with crafty ways to do it yourself and work with others.When it came to For Farewell Of Nostalgia, when did that beginning? Was it difficult at first or did you give yourself some guidelines? How did you go about the writing process with your instruments? What was the recording experience like?

I had hoped to work on Vision Eternel’s sixth concept extended play as early as 2015, but it took about two years before I began going forward with it. That was because, shortly after releasing Vision Eternel’s fifth extended play Echoes From Forgotten Hearts in February 2015, I was hit with writer’s block; or composer’s block to be more precise. In December 2016, I ultimately decided to shelve all of my other bands and projects in order to focus solely on Vision Eternel. I felt that the only way for me to get rid of this composer’s block was to put all of my efforts and energy into one project, and I chose Vision Eternel because, out of all of my bands, it has always been my favourite; my most personal and intimate.

Vision Eternel was about to celebrate its ten-year anniversary in January 2017 so my goal at the time was not to compose new material but rather to highlight the band’s past releases through the retrospective boxed set An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes. Then, by pure luck, the editor of The Obelisk webzine, JJ Koczan, landed on Echoes From Forgotten Hearts and published a review praising the release. It had been years since Vision Eternel had received any publicity so it was a huge boost of confidence for me. Koczan’s review ended by saying that he hoped that the band would release new material soon. That was the starting point of four years of work towards completing Vision Eternel’s sixth concept extended play, For Farewell Of Nostalgia.

I recorded demos of a few ideas during the spring and summer of 2017 but I was forced to put the new release on hold while I completed An Anthology Of Past Misfortunes. The boxed set was eventually released, fourteen months late, in April 2018, at which time I immediately resumed working on For Farewell Of Nostalgia. I spent from April to October 2018 composing, arranging, recording and mixing the first version of For Farewell Of Nostalgia.

The process was very slow because I was composing and arranging while simultaneously recording and mixing. I did not have a completed release ready to be recorded. Because of that, a lot of the songs sounded very different from each other and the production changed throughout the spring, summer and autumn. I had originally planned to produce For Farewell Of Nostalgia using a wall of sound type of production but I was not able to mix things to my satisfaction. The release, as a whole, sounded more like a compilation of various songs rather than a conceptual extended play.

In addition, I realized that a lot of my raw tracks had popping, crackling and distortion. I set out to re-record some of these problematic tracks, only to be plagued by guitar issues: several of my instruments had suddenly developed uncontrollable fret buzz and crackling in their pickups. There were nevertheless a handful of record labels that had offered to release this original version of For Farewell Of Nostalgia, but I was so unhappy with it that I decided to shelve it. I did not want to release something simply for the sake of putting something out because I would have regretted it.

I spent the next twelve months regrouping and upgrading my studio gear and musical instruments. I also took the time to plan out how I would re-record this release; I knew that everything had to be re-recorded from scratch, but I wanted a blueprint from which to work. I had composed and arranged a total of fifteen songs during the For Farewell Of Nostalgia sessions, but I knew that not all of them were going to make it on the final version of the extended play. A few were combined to make slightly longer and better-flowing songs, while others were already long enough on their own and had completed arrangements.

In early October 2019, I was ready to re-record Vision Eternel’s For Farewell Of Nostalgia. I did not know how long this new session would take so I wanted to find a way to contain my mood and keep a constant feeling of sadness throughout the recordings; I wanted to make sure that all of the songs flowed well together this time. I decided that I would isolate myself in my studio for the duration of the recording and be strict with the things that I allowed myself to watch, read and listen to and with the people to whom I communicated. I deliberately did not listen to any music during the entire recording session and I did not read anything outside of my personal film-related book collection.

Another thing that I did to maintain my mood was to place two pieces of art that are dear to my heart next to my computer. One was a painting of my grand-parents’ cottage where I had spent some of the best days of my childhood; the other was Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours album sleeve. That album had kept me company on many late and lonely nights while I was depressed over ex-girlfriends; since I was recording songs inspired by a broken heart, and had listened to that album during those times, it was very fitting. It really helped to pull the concept together.

I went a step further and limited myself to solely watching Frank Sinatra’s films during the duration of the recording session. Frank Sinatra is one of my favourite actors and some of his films are amongst my favourites; movies like The Detective, Some Came Running, From Here To Eternity, Pal Joey, The Manchurian Candidate and The Man With The Golden Arm. Watching those films, and others of his, really kept me sincere and heartfelt before and after I recorded songs.

The second recording session for For Farewell Of Nostalgia lasted a month and a half; it was very well prepared and efficient. All of the songs sounded like they belonged together because they all had the same level of emotions. Some of the songs had slightly more developed arrangements and I was able to add textural guitar leads that really made the songs more accessible. I then spent another month working on mixing and editing until everything sounded perfect to my ears. I was so proud of this new version and I felt great about having decided to re-record it.

When it came time to master the release, there was only one person that I could think of: Carl Saff at Saff Mastering. I approached Saff because I was such a big fan of Castevet, the Chicago emo band. They exclusively worked with him on all of their releases and I loved the way they sounded. Saff was by far the most professional mastering engineer that I worked with and he knew exactly what my music needed. I plan to work with him again on all future Vision Eternel releases.

After working on the short story, the artwork, the layouts, a music video and several press kits and physical versions, For Farewell Of Nostalgia was finally released; three years and eight months from its inception.

Vision Eternel artist

I love that you were strict and disciplined throughout the process. I could imagine those times being overwhelming, but also satisfying. However, the songs do translate what you said, and the perimeters you set for yourself is shown in your work. It’s also interesting how it was inspired by a heartbreak, and how you related the different phases of the emotion through the title of your tracks. Can you tell us about those phases and how they remind you of “rain, absence, intimacy, and nostalgia?” What inspired the name of the EP?

With Vision Eternel, I have always put in a great deal of effort towards developing a concept. Each release has a concept and a story to tell; but all Vision Eternel releases also connect together into a greater story-line, a bigger concept which kind of follows my life and past relationships.

The release-based concept was established from the start, with Seul Dans L’obsession in 2007, but the greater story-line was only introduced through the second extended play, Un Automne En Solitude in 2008. Each release tells the story of a different failed relationship; a different heartbreak. But playing them back-to-back opens up the greater story-line of boys gets girl, boy loses girl; boy gets girl again, boy loses girl again. Each new Vision Eternel release adds another piece to the narrative in the chronology; another heartbreak documented. This is a theme that was inspired by my favourite film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

This greater story-line continued through Abondance De Périls in 2010 and The Last Great Torch Song in 2012; Echoes From Forgotten Hearts, released in 2015, was omitted from this story-line because the extended play was originally composed as a soundtrack. As a result, For Farewell Of Nostalgia picks up where The Last Great Torch Song left off. I incorporated a segue between the two releases: For Farewell Of Nostalgia begins with a piece titled Moments Of Anticipation, which hints to the song Sometimes In Anticipating Moments from The Last Great Torch Song.

For Farewell Of Nostalgia is another narrative of a heartbreak; one of falling in love at first sight and the aftermath of that one-night stand. It is a documentation of how something so brief can hurt for so long and stay with you for the rest of your life. It is also a Dear John letter to the city of Montreal; a burg that I once called home. Although Vision Eternel was founded in the United States, its eventual relocation to, and flourishing in Montreal is ingrained within the band. It was my way of saying “thanks for the memories, the wonderful and the miserable; now good-bye.”

The title For Farewell Of Nostalgia is intended to be interpreted with a slight poetic liberty; it is to be taken in the sense for the well-being of nostalgia. I am in no way saying good-bye to these events and memories; I am instead stating that I will cherish them forever and look back on them fondly.

I spend a great deal of time deciding upon song titles and release titles. This is normally done during the recording sessions but there have been times when titles were altered after a release was completed. In the case of For Farewell Of Nostalgia and its song titles, I came up with several ideas which I noted between 2017 and 2019. I wanted to use the word nostalgia very early on because I live most of my life with it; I experience it every day. But I was skeptical. I felt that if a release used a word as heartfelt as nostalgia, it had to live up to it. I place so much importance on it so I wanted to be respectful of it. It would have been dishonest of me to release something subpar under that title, like the 2018 version of the extended play. However, I feel that the 2019 re-recording really honours the word, and also the memories documented, the past relationship and the city. It is a beautiful concept.

The song titles are also given the same consideration. All Vision Eternel concept extended plays have song titles that tell a story of boy gets girl, boy loses girl; For Farewell Of Nostalgia is no exception. The release has four principal tracks: Moments Of Rain (representing the autumn of emotions), Moments Of Absence (representing loneliness), Moments Of Intimacy (representing falling in love at first sight) and Moments Of Nostalgia (representing the heartbreak and memory).

However, I was able to take the concept several steps further with For Farewell Of Nostalgia. Each of the four songs have sub-sections, different parts, segues; and each is given its own title. This not only further details the events in the greater story-line but it also ties the music in with a short story that I wrote. The short story, also titled For Farewell Of Nostalgia, details the events that inspired the music: the heartbreak. The chapters of the short story pair up with the extended track listing of the songs so that one can read and listen at the same time to experience the full concept.

But the short story is only included in the physical editions of the release, in a booklet, in place of lyrics. I did that because I wanted to create an old-fashioned type of listening experience. I wanted people to be excited about procuring the physical edition; I wanted it to be like it was before digital and streaming music became the norm. I remember how excited I was when I purchased a new release: putting it on for the first time and reading through the entire booklet while listening to the music. It was part of the experience and I think that Vision Eternel’s For Farewell Of Nostalgia is old-fashioned enough to warrant that too.

As each song progresses, there is an intimate quality that is felt throughout the record. Now knowing the specific elements/phases of each song will inevitably change my interpretation. It’s very exciting. I also like how each album relates to one another to how one song answers another, you do a great job of making deliberate decisions that affect the overall end goal of Vision Eternel. I wonder if you were that meticulous with each piece of equipment too. What was your arsenal (equipment) for this project?

I tend to be secretive about the exact gear that I use for Vision Eternel. I could give a few of the brand names and companies that I support and use though: Renegade, Schecter, Jackson, Ibanez, Peavey, DiMarzio, Floyd Rose, Heet Sound, Boss, Dunlop, Ernie Ball, Levy’s, Analysis Plus, Sennheiser, Focusrite and Ableton.

On the other hand, I am very open about the fact that all of what I perform is achieved through guitars and basses; I do not use any digital instruments like keyboards, samplers, sequencers or synthesizers. Vision Eternel is a rock-based band. Another item that may be of interest is that on past Vision Eternel releases, I normally restricted myself to using a single guitar for the duration of an extended play’s recording session. But on For Farewell Of Nostalgia, I used three of my guitars. I was able to get a bigger sound that way and different guitars resonated more aptly to various sounds and tones that I wanted.

The project has an emo / shoegaze vibe, but you coined the term “melogaze,” how did you create the term? What bands were you listening to during this process?

When I started Vision Eternel, I was not listening to any other band; not in the sense that I was trying to be influenced by or re-create anyone’s sound. Vision Eternel was very much my own thing and I have always made it a point not to listen to any music during composing and recording sessions. But there certainly are subconscious influences. My favourite band is Faith No More; they have been for some time. I do not think that Vision Eternel sounds anything like Faith No More, but I am sure that there are several similarities somewhere in the music. I know that I take a great deal from their bassist Billy Gould, especially in the way that I approach the bass parts to my songs. I am principally a guitarist; I only began playing bass by necessity and Billy Gould is one of my few influences for that instrument.

Some of my other favourite artists, and ones which almost certainly have a subconscious influence on how Vision Eternel sounds, include The Smashing Pumpkins, Elton John, Eliminator, Brainscan, Black Sand And Starless Nights, Castevet and Montgomery 21. I likely also have subconscious influences from bands like Limp Bizkit, Deadsy, Pink Floyd, Bathory, Eleventh He Reaches London, Mother Love Bone, King Diamond and Ozzy Osbourne; all bands which one could hardly compare to Vision Eternel, yet I feel there would be undeniable similarities if one was to deconstruct my songs. It is not necessarily an artist’s entire repertoire or general sound that might be similar or influential, but perhaps just a few seconds from one of their songs; a very emotional piece of music which stuck in my head and influenced the music that I compose.

Outside of my favourite bands, I do have certain genres that I listen to a great deal: black metal and emo. My favourite black metal bands are Dissection and Immortal; both are very melodic. As for emo, I have a preference for mid-1990s midwest emo and early 2000s indiemo and post-hardcore. I do not get the chance to discuss this often so I will take the opportunity to mention some of my favourite emo and post-hardcore bands, a few of which might have subconsciously influenced Vision Eternel’s music.

In the midwest style of emo I really love Shoulder, Empathy, Enkindel, Split Lip, Chamberlain, Autumn, Drop Forge, Amulet, Fabric, Fadeaway, Cinderblock, Support, Midvale, Rain Still Falls and Temperance. I also really love other styles of emo bands like Texas Is The Reason, Two Line Filler, Dead Season, Ellington, Louis Mistreated, American Football, Mineral, Mainspring, Last Days Of April, Filmmaker, Swingset In June, A Sometimes Promise; and post-hardcore (or emo-core) bands like As Friends Rust, Fordirelifesake, Rosesdead, The Transfer, Hopesfall, The Used, Wheels On The Bus, Alexisonfire, Boys Night Out, Box Car Racer, Capture The Flag and Radio Holiday.

People tend to label my music “guitar ambient”; I think that is a fair description but I do not listen to that style of music. My influences really do come from genres that are unrelated to the ambient, shoegaze or post-rock scenes; perhaps that is why it has been so difficult for Vision Eternel to be categorized, not only by me, but also by fans and record labels. It is ambient, but it is also rock-based.

A great deal of genres and labels have been attached to Vision Eternel over the years but they apparently did not please everyone. Whenever someone claimed that Vision Eternel was an ambient band, someone argued that it had no keyboards. When someone thought that it was post-rock, someone else rebutted that it had no drums. When someone was pushing the terms shoegaze, dream pop or dream rock, fans were quick to point that it lacked vocals. Others hoped to label it ethereal or darkwave, but that community was adamant about having electronic instruments. The space rock fans were slightly more open-minded but never fully accepted it because it was not psychedelic enough. The term drone was also briefly used by a couple of journalists but that too was quickly shut down because the songs are too structured. The dark ambient community wanted nothing of it because it was too hopeful in nature. And finally, the emo revivalist community was skeptical because real emo was something that existed in the 1990s (and I do not entirely disagree with that last statement because I am a big fan of emo). Vision Eternel certainly has a little bit of each of those genres, yet it is not any one of them.

Recently, a few friends and journalists have used the term post-post-black metal (that is not a typo) to describe Vision Eternel. Even if the music lacks distortion, they explained that it had this “heavy emotional atmosphere” and that it could be what post-black metal eventually evolves into. I thought that was interesting and I was flattered because I come from a metal background. But I grew tired of trying to impose Vision Eternel on genres or scenes so in 2010, I coined the term melogaze.

The term melogaze was made up of the words melodrama and shoegaze. It was not so much that I believed Vision Eternel to be a shoegaze band; it was rather that I could relate to its ethics and motives. I had read a description of shoegaze which explained that it was an introspective and introverted type of music; that applied perfectly to Vision Eternel. The word melodrama was selected because Vision Eternel is driven by heartbreaks and emotional tragedies. The band was founded upon melodrama. I later found out that the word melodrama itself means dramatic music, so in its purest form, Vision Eternel could have simply been called melodrama.

I am also highly influenced by melodramatic films. Dramas and film noirs. I would say that watching movies has a much more immediate effect on my compositions and recordings than listening to music. Music has to sit in and mingle with my subconscious before it can be integrated. Films, however, create an immediate mood and tone and I often begin composing music after watching one. Some of the directors that have greatly influenced Vision Eternel’s composing and recording sessions include Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk, Woody Allen, Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, John Frankenheimer, Orson Welles, F. W. Murnau, Jean-Pierre Melville, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jacques Deray, Henri Verneuil, Alan J. Pakula and Cameron Crowe.

 

What’s next?

Since Vision Eternel’s For Farewell Of Nostalgia took four years to complete, I intend to promote it considerably over the next year or two. A lot of artists have contributed their emotional efforts to it; not only myself but Carl Saff, Michael Koelsch, Rain Frances, Christophe Szpajdel, Jeremy Roux, JJ Koczan, Caleb Newton, Jon Rosenthal, Jason T. Lamoreaux and Yannick Tinbergen. All are to thank for bringing this extended play to fruition.

I am extremely proud of For Farewell Of Nostalgia, and so, I do not want to jump on the creation of another release yet. I believe in quality over quantity so with Vision Eternel, I have always made it a point to space out the releases. There will be another Vision Eternel concept extended play, but not before several years. I recorded a few demos after finishing the re-recording of For Farewell Of Nostalgia in late 2019, but I deliberately did not pursue it further because I very much wanted to concentrate on this current release. At the time, there was still a lot of work before it was ready to go out to the public.

I am also actively looking for a record label to release For Farewell Of Nostalgia on vinyl. I am hoping to accomplish this in 2021. The vinyl edition will feature an exclusive bonus song and a few extra merchandising items that I am preparing.

Examining VISION ETERNEL’s new record “For Farewell of Nostalgia,” as Alexander Julien explains heartbreak
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