French-Greek singer Ambre Vourvahis is a newcomer to the metal scene And, despite not being well-known to a wide range of listeners, she managed to attract the attention of symphonic metal band — Xandria.
About joining the band, comparisons with other vocalists and more read in our exclusive interview.
MG: Hello, Ambre! Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you!
Ambre: You’re welcome!
MG: You are a new face on the metal stage. Please, tell us more about yourself and your professional path in music. Do you have education, or are you self-taught?
Ambre: So I’ve been singing for a very long time now. I started as a child, and then in school, always in choirs and musical representations. I did for a long time, and then when I started being a young teenager, I started to get interested in metal music. So then I started learning on my own different styles of music, of singing, more operatic, more screams. And at some point I started taking some lessons with a vocal coach, which I still do until today, to perfect this and give me a better base and then I had a few projects, unknown things and a few guest singer appearances until Xandria happened.
MG: Tell please how you joined Xandria? Did you send a demo, or did they find you and ask you to join?
Ambre: So I knew Marco from before, and also the band, actually. And when the band had their break, we were thinking of starting a project just to get a breath of fresh air and do something a bit different, refreshing. And he was already having ideas for the future of Xandria and some possible songs. And he liked my voice very much. And he could really imagine my voice on these new ideas that he had and wanted to do for Xandria. So then he just asked me if I would join the band, then I said yes, of course.
MG: You wrote lyrics for “Ghosts”. Did you participate in the writing process of new songs?
Ambre: As for the lyrics, I wrote almost half of them and the rest wrote Marco. He wrote all the songs and I was sitting with him for most of the process giving feedback and ideas and how we would maybe continue from one idea, and what I would like to maybe do also. So yeah, I was quite involved even though he wrote all the melodies.
MG: Recently you had a tour with Visions of Atlantis. Were you nervous, because it was your debut with the band?
Ambre: Yeah, I had a few shows before, not too long before April, so I was a little bit less nervous because of that. Let’s say, I just had a little bit of preparation for the stage. But, yeah, of course I was a little bit nervous to present the new songs, the old songs. But it was okay. The first few shows I felt maybe a little bit more shy because it was the first time we were performing all together as a band. But, yeah, it was just getting better and better.
MG: Did you face any difficulties performing old songs?
Ambre: Not really, because I do them my own way, kind of. So of course, it’s easier for me to do it this way with my own personality. Just that «Valentine», for example, is a little bit more challenging. So for that song, I had to pay extra attention.
MG: Were you afraid of possible negative reactions?
Ambre: Yes, of course, as my voice was quite different from what people knew from the band in the last years, with the two previous singers sang operatic, classical only, or mostly. And now that we were bringing some diversity with the more pop voice and screams, I knew that not everybody is going to like it. So of course, I was a little bit stressed from receiving a lot of negativity, but surprisingly, it was mostly positive. So I’m really glad about that.
MG: Are you afraid of comparisons with previous vocalists, especially with Dianne van Giersbergen?
Ambre: I’m not really afraid. I know that this is something people do which is normal in a way. I think it’s a natural thing, even though it should not be too much about that and more about accepting the new singer, especially when she’s different. It’s not the best thing to compare an operatic classical, mainly, singer, to a more pop, I would say, even though I do a lot of different styles on the album. Mainly, it’s a chest pop voice, and it’s a little bit unfair, maybe, to compare both because it’s really different sound and techniques and colors in the voice. So, it’s maybe not the best thing to do, and maybe not fair also. But it’s okay. It’s something that I see for a long, long time now, and I’m okay with it.
MG: What are your favorite songs to perform right now? And what songs do you want to perform?
Ambre: I love to perform “Ghosts” and on our next shows and tours there will be more new songs that we will put on the set list because, of course, they are written for me, so I enjoy singing them a lot. About the old songs, I love to sing “Nightfall”. “We Are Murderers” we are adding to the set list. I really enjoy singing this song because I can also scream on it. So, yeah, I’m happy about this.
MG: This year the very first Xandria record “Kill The Sun” turns 20 years old. Maybe you will perform some songs from that album?
Ambre: We did not plan that, actually, because we have the new album and of course we want to focus on it.
MG: In the past Xandria re-recorded some of old songs, like “Ravenheart” and “Now And Forever”. Are there any plans for re-recording other old songs?
Ambre: Maybe sometimes, not at the moment, but it could happen. I enjoy those songs and they could be bonus tracks on the future album. I think it’s also a good idea. And also I enjoy performing them live. We were doing “Now and Forever” and “Ravenheart” on the last tour and we’ll continue with those classic songs in the future also. So yeah, it would be a good idea.
MG: But are there any surprises with old stuff? Maybe songs that you have never played before?
Ambre: On the last tour, we added “Save My Life”, which I really love, and I was asking if we could add it because I really love to sing it. And of course, this song has not been on the set list for many, many years. So that was already maybe a little surprise for the people. But in what is coming for now. So we have three release shows. Of course it isn’t the place to add more older songs, as shows are really short, and also the planning that we have at the moment is not a headlining tour, so we won’t have the space on the set list to put as many songs as we want. But maybe in the future, yes, I would be willing to explore more older material, especially that my voice is a bit closer to Lisa, so I think it could fit well.
MG: Who of female singers in metal do you consider as an idol and why?
Ambre: Well, my favorite singer in metal is Cammie Gilbert from Oceans of Slumber. She has everything that I like in a voice. It’s a warm, but soul, bluesy voice. So she is really my favorite singer on metal scene. But I also really love Floor Jansen, of course. She is just always perfect and flawless. And yeah, it’s really impressive what she can do. So both are inspirations for the different kind of style in my voice and color that I put in energy and power.
MG: It was about clean vocals, but you can also do extreme vocals. Maybe there is someone who you like? As I’ve heard, Amorphis songs were an inspiration for starting extreme vocals.
Ambre: Yeah, Tomi Joutsen, the singer of Amorphis, is a huge inspiration for the harsh vocals.
MG: Talking about harsh vocals. This can be quite a traumatic technique. Do you have any studies in actual extreme vocals to do it right and not to damage your chords?
Ambre: I’ve never had a problem with it and I worked on that, and I’m still working to develop the technique. You would have to do something really wrong, I think, to really damage your voice with it. But yeah, I’m developing more styles of harsh vocals, so I can use different techniques because I really like that. But yeah, I’ve been working on it for a long time now.
MG: Recently you’ve uploaded a cover on Oceans of Slumber. What styles of metal do you like? And do you like doom metal? Because you also had some kind of cover on Draconian.
Ambre: Yes, I’m a huge Draconian fan. I love doom metal. I love gothic metal from the nineties. And until nowadays, I love symphonic metal. I started with symphonic metal, so I always love it. Nightwish, Delain, Within Temptation. They are big bands for me. And I love melodic death metal. Also a lot of death metal. Some black metal with Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, which are two of my favorite bands also. And a lot of also progressive metal like Katatonia and Oceans of Slumber . Everything of that is great. Actually, I don’t want to put myself into one genre.
MG: Next question is about stage outfits. In your opinion should they be beautiful or rather comfortable?
Ambre: Both are really important. Because if you’re not comfortable in an outfit, you cannot perform well with the movement on stage if you are restricted because something is just a bit too tight or too short or you know that you cannot do certain movements. I could not do this. So it has to be both. And of course, you have to feel confident in it. So it also has to look beautiful, at least, how you want it to look.
MG: What do you do in your spare time? Do you have hobbies?
Ambre: I love cooking. That’s a big passion of mine. So I do that a lot. And traveling a lot. I cannot stay in one place for too long, I always need to move. That’s why I like touring so much. It’s challenging and exhausting. But at least I’m moving and I’m seeing different places.
MG: What’s your dream country to visit?
Ambre: Iceland and Thailand. They are good destinations because I love Thai food. It is one of my favorites. And the country is just paradise. This is more for a cozy holiday, a little bit more common. I also want to go to Iceland and see all the wonders of nature that they have there.
MG: In one of the latest interviews you’ve said, that you keep your curtains shut. Why?
Ambre: I cannot sleep when there’s light in the room, so it has to be shut. And you can imagine when traveling and going places, hotels, airbnb apartments and people places, they don’t have that thing where everything has to be black. So I always have to come up with something stuck in the pillows against the window or cupboard to block the windows.
MG: And last, but not least — a couple of words to our readers.
Ambre: Well, thank you so much for being interested, and I really hope that you’re going to like the new album and find it as heartfelt as it is from our point of view, and that you like the diversity of it. That’s really important. So thank you. Looking forward to seeing as many of you on tour.