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Interview with Scurra, French folk-medieval band

by Iris Wildrose
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Performing since 2016, Scurra is known for its stroll during medieval fairs. They released their first album last year. We spoke with Aubélia, Ombeline and Balian, members of this French Folk-Medieval band, about the album, their way of living and sharing their music.

First of all thank you for taking the time to answer this interview. Could we start with a brief history of the band?

Balian: Well, it’s Ombeline who launched the project, she’s the most apt to talk about it.

Aubélia: Scurra is a company that has existed since 2016. It is composed by several musicians from various musical universes such as folk, punk or metal. We can sum up as follows: good mood, beer and folk-medieval music.

Ombeline: With Aubélia we did live role-playing games where we played music in the tavern as non-player characters and there was always a kind of frustration when we came back, because it was amazing but it could be better if we had time to rehearse. So I came up the idea of creating a real band. I decided to put a message on Facebook to know who would be interested to do a folk-medieval band.

What led you to compose and play folk music ?

Balian: We get bored and took a 600 years old music piece. (laugh)

Ombeline: When I put the announcement in April 2016 after 48 hours we had all the musicians to start the band. Right after a guy asked for us to play in a medieval fair in September. So we rushed and picked songs in a traditional medieval repertoire to have a lot of music to play. We learned to play together, what we like and so, as soon as we had more time, we started to compose our own songs. That’s how we decided to have our own universe around Scurra’s project and so have our own characters.

Aubélia: I listen to folk music and I love this way of being close to the audience we have when we play folk music. We can play everywhere with everybody contrarily to amplifed music that is more complex. Folk suits every moods and people.

Ombeline: You can decide to play amplified but you don’t have to, so it offers a crazy freedom to play. For example we played in a library, a medieval fair and we met every kind of people from children to aged persons.

Balian: And with the organization it’s more relaxed

Aubélia: Yes and more spontaneous and easy to organize.

Ombeline: The advantage is that we stay a whole weekend and we can play music several times with different people.

Interview with Scurra, French folk-medieval band

Are there any artists who have played a significant influence on you as folk musicians?

Aubélia: Folk music in general but more precisely Les Derniers Trouvères. Before we did live role-playing with Ombeline, we discovered them and we thought “if only we could to that!”. They danced a lot with a dancer who introduced the audience to medieval dances during their stroll. It was a huge influence.

Ombeline: Yes long before Prima Nocta for example.

Aubélia: Our discoveries flow directly from our metal influences, festivals as the Troll et Légendes. Les Derniers Trouvères is really a medieval band who takes back history. This was a music format that allowed to be shared. It was a dream at that time and it became true.

Ombeline: I remembered talking to them, telling them how much I loved what they do and if they had any advices. The funniest thing is that we saw them after the release of our first EP and I offered them to thank them and they were really happy.

Aubélia: They sing with multiple voices and I wanted that in Scurra. I’ve always listened music with polyphonies and I was counting a lot on that and on telling stories for the band, not only playing medieval music. It was important for me to tell stories and make people dance, a kind of entertainer storyteller. It was the only band that felt like this desire.

Balian: There is also the band Percival who had a huge influence on me. I discovered them through the game The Witcher 3. It inspires me in the rhythms with this medieval, epic and Eastern Europe sides. I find it really catchy and it makes me work range like I’ve never worked before, when I was in metal bands. It opens a lot of possibilities that I’m still using now.

Aubélia: Svik and Fergus are really influenced by Irish music, even in the musical motives with a jumpy flute. But not only by it. They also listen to music from Eastern Europe.

Ombeline: Fergus is really curious and he is the musicology researcher of the band. He make researches on world music.

Balian: And of course metal influences us. I compose some guitar rhythms based on black metal rhythm.

Aubélia: Yes, we are an unplugged metalband (laugh). This is the identity of Scurra. We all are metalheads and so it colors our music.

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How is your creative process? Is it a mutual effort or is there somebody specific who composes?

Aubélia: We start from somebody’s idea. At the beginning it was from each of our specificities and we stitched around. In general, we worked a lot in jam which resulted in an improvisation of several minutes. Now we go further and it happens that someone has ideas for other instruments. It’s very collaborative.

Ombeline: On some songs, we worked differently. For example, the song of Balian. He had a precise idea of what he wanted because it’s a song about his character.

Aubélia: For each character’s song we worked like that. Now it’s less cerebral and more intuitive. We test and we’re having a rebound. Everybody is free to give ideas. There is no leader and it’s really appreciable in this project.

What are the pros and the cons of being a polyphonic band?

Aubélia: I can only see pros! (laugh)

Balian: What can be a con is that we have to work hard, but we love to rehearse until everything is square.

Aubélia: Well, with two voices you can improvise a little but here it’s not possible. The advantage is that we have all the voice pitches so spontaneously it’s really fluid and adapted.

Balian: And we have experience now, it helps!

Aubélia: I don’t see cons because we do not add polyphony everywhere. We know it can bring size and roundness and it’s appropriated for some stories, but not for all. We try not to abuse it so it still is an added value: when all the band sings, the audience wants to sing with us and it gives a good mood to the project. Being a solo singer in another project, here there is a harmony because vocals have an equivalent place to the other instruments.

Ombeline: And so we are more careful on the lyrics.

Aubélia: Yes, everybody can write and refine the lyrics. It’s once again a collaboration, not just fixing mistakes.

Interview with Scurra, French folk-medieval band

You are knowm for your strolls in medieval fairs. What do you like the most in this format? Is it more restrictive than stage?

Aubélia: Since our first date and stroll, being in a direct interation with people is really different from our previous experience on stage. There is an improvised part and a part of storytelling which drive us to write something more complex and to create our characters. What’s make the difference is the direct feedback, the dancing and sharing right after, without backstage, which is really cool!

Ombeline: The most amazing thing is that we can do both: sometimes stage with amplifiers, sometimes in stroll.

Balian: In medieval fairs we prepare a setlist but we can also modify it depending on the audience. It’s more peaceful.

Aubélia: On stage it’s more constructed. In fact, it’s weird when we go back on stage because we can no longer look at each other as we did on our stroll. We have to think more about the setlist, the occupation of the space to make it more visual, the lightning, the place of everyone… It’s really different.

Ombeline: And the managing of the wireless microphone for me with the violin and the fixed microphone for vocals. I have to be not far from one and think to come back when it’s needed. In stroll we don’t have to think about it.

Aubélia: That’s why we decided to invest in wireless, to recover the freedom of strolling when we are on stage.

Ombeline: We also do stages with Vincent the juggler and withtout wireless it would be impossible to manage.

Aubélia: The organization of the fair is cooler too. We’ve always met wonderful people who trust us and so, for example, we can take a break when we need it, several time a day, without any pressure about the performance. We play according to how music takes people. As the reaction occurs immediately, if it doesn’t fit to people they leave. If they stop it’s really for listening to us. So we play for people who care about and who are pleased to listen to what we have to offer. It’s really rewarding for us.

Balian: The stroll isn’t more restrictive but it’s more exhausting…

Aubélia: Especially for vocals because when you are not amplified you have to cover instruments in open spaces with an audience from 15 to 200 people. It’s really a different endeavour. You have a lot of movement that is as cool as exhausting.

Balian: On stage you play 2 hours maximum, in stroll it can goes as far as 6.

Aubélia: The pros are also that you don’t need sound check! And when you make some mistakes, thanks to the theatrical context we have, you can embellish the mistakes and turn them into fun. It’s easier to use humour because of the amount of interaction we have with the audience.

Ombeline: And we can play in amazing places. But we are reliant on the weather. The rain could be as tricky as wonderful.


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You released your first album in March 2020. How was the writing and recording?

Ombeline: Awesome!

Aubélia: Great but a bit long. Between our first recording process in the studio and the last, there were about ten months. We went there about 10 times wherein we couldn’t go in a whole week because we all have side jobs. But it was great, because we could have more distance needed to refine our songs. Some tracks wouldn’t be what they are without it. There are live versions and rehearsal arrangments and all the recording process. They are all different according to how we record them. This extra time allowed us to go further, to add some embellishments that we couldn’t do on our EP because we recorded it in one day. We really took pleasure to make this album and recording again some tracks from our EP, the most accomplished ones. We have now a finished version like we want it to be.

Ombeline: We make groups to record. The studio is in Amiens (the Walnut Groove Studio). It’s Axel who runs the studio (and he is a lovely guy). We went there for one day at a time. We’ve done maybe 2 sessions with all the team but, most of the time, we went in little groups of 2 or 3 with a detailed roadmap. We organized the session from one to the other. When we started the recording, we didn’t have all the tracks finished.

Aubélia: What guided the writing was the fact that we wanted that album to be self-titled, with a track per character and the link between them, how they met etc. We waited the trigger for the writing because each character has its own universe, really different from the others. But we were not worried because we knew the atmosphere we wanted, namely festive. That leaded us through the writing process. We wanted to recreate on the album what we could share in the stroll with people. For the second album it will be more episodic. We have an idea of lyrics and then another. We will see how we will manage it.

Ombeline: But it will rock!

Your band is composed of several characters. What lead you to choose this rather theatrical presentation?

Ombeline: I wonder if the fact that we used to have a comedian at the very beginning of the band has influenced our choice.

Aubélia: Yes, she wanted us to have characters she could talk about. But I think we would do it without that because of the very initiative of Scurra namely the live action role-playing. We always had in mind to make music of medieval and fantastic inspiration. It was the origin of our project. We’ve always done a lot of role-playing games so we wanted to play characters. And, being in medieval fair, with period costumes, is the ideal soil to add theater.

Balian: We were influenced by Naheulband too.

Aubélia: Yes, we played their songs a lot at the beginning.

Ombeline: We stopped as we had our own songs. What makes me dig it it’s that each one of us has his own universe and it gives a true identity to the band. I think in order to keep the immersive concept in the stroll, playing characters who are not in the same timeline is great.

Aubélia: It’s something that comes naturally. Theater is an art we used to practice.

Interview with Scurra, French folk-medieval band

You choose to write exclusively in French. What motivated you about this choice? Do you think it’s a plus compared to the English we hear a lot in most of the groups?

Aubélia: I admit it’s rather a choice of mine because at the beginning, Scurra was a project of closeness. People who came to see us playing had to understand what we talked about. Writting in English is not understandable by everyone. Because of this theatrical side of Scurra, I think it would be too bad and could cut off the immersion we wanted people to experience. In our first tracks when it was in Latin or Old French, I translated and readjusted so that the lyrics talked to people. It allowed us to readjust the lyrics to our values too. For compositions it’s important that the audience recognizes the character and then get immersed in their story because each one is different. It may be a limit for exporting but it’s a choice we made to get a closer contact with people for which we play. We play in our district and we haven’t the aim to export ourselves at first. But it will be cool! We first created Scurra to play close to people and to stroll in an immediate gameplay. We did album media long after.

Ombeline: Personaly, I do not seek for bands that I understand the language at first. I think that, for folk music, it doesn’t bother if you sing in your mother tongue.

Aubélia: In any case it is not about chauvinism. It’s to be understood in the stroll because we tell strories and we want people to understand them.

Ombeline: When you play tracks in French, people come after to talk about the song. They would not if they didn’t understand.

Aubélia: Yes it allows them to really listen and share with us after.

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To end, what’s your plan for the future?

Aubélia: To take over stages and the strolls as soon as possible. I say that with a smile but it brings reality back to our future projects. We worked a lot on our second album but with this particular year we reviewed our priorities. Our first desire is to promote our first album because many dates were cancelled and we couldn’t play it much since its release. We also have the project to make a music video to illustrate the album and keep a visual record. And of course doing concerts to share our music and have the feedback of people about the album. We already have songs for the second album but we want to take the time to write it down just like the first. We do not put imperatives on the project especially with the actual context.

Ombeline: To rehearse more and practice again our album because we didn’t play much especially with people.

Aubélia: And now that they can have the album, they will have get to know more our tracks and I want to test that too. We need time with the band to find back the alchemy between us. We had a rehearsal last Sunday and we know we will have to do all these things to feel again this momentum, this motivation which came back when we play together.

Where can we find and support you?

Ombeline: You can still buy our album and goodies on

https://www.helloasso.com/associations/association-scurra

(you have a minimum price but you can give more if you want to)

To follow us there is our facebook: https://www.facebook.com/scurra.folkmedieval

Instagram: @scurra_folk

Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVUt7YHhwTi_bzmXXxyojFQ

And website: https://scurra.jimdofree.com/

Thank you for sharing this interview with us!


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Stay Wild!

Iris

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