From her humble youth of singing Spice Girls songs at home with her sister to performing for thousands of fans worldwide, Simone Simons of Epica is living her dreams and making them come true with each passing day. Epica has just released their fifth album titled Requiem for the Indifferent to outstanding reviews from both critics and fans all over the world. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Simone from her home in Germany and she was one of the kindest, sweetest people I have ever talked to. We talked about her beginnings as a young singer, how she prepares and gets into the zone before a show and even her love of American hamburgers and cupcakes. Simone was a really fantastic person to talk to and I really enjoyed getting to know more about this super talented woman. Sit back and get to know a little more about Simone Simons.
Simone, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me today.
No problem. Thank you for calling.
So are you having the crazy weather in Germany that we’re having here in the states?
Oh yeah. Today was a gorgeous day. It was about 15 degrees Celsius. We’re having kind of a heat wave [laughs]. I was just outside without a jacket and it’s warm and sunny. So nice.
Congratulations on yet another stellar album with Requiem For The Indifferent.
Thank you so much Don.
Requiem For The Indifferent seems to yet again contain a really intense concept of global, religious and cultural tensions. Can you tell me a little bit about the concept behind the album?
Well, it’s not really a concept album. Epica has always had main topics on each record that we write about and those are politics, religion, and society. Requiem For The Indifferent involves issues like the financial crisis and the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s very much a realistic record lyric wise. It’s all very straight forward and about the hard things in life. Requiem for the Indifferent is about the indifferent people who nowadays don’t care about what’s happening in the world. They keep their eyes shut and they live in their own little worlds. They need to open up their eyes, wake up, and try to unite with the rest of the world to make it a better place.
When I was growing up as a young heavy metal fan I loved bands like Iron Maiden that always seemed to have some thought and substance behind their lyrics. Can you tell me a little bit about the creative process behind the new album?
The process for this album was basically the same as for the other albums. The main composer in the band is Mark (Jansen; guitarist/vocalist) and this time our keyboard player Coen (Janssen) and Isaac (Delahaye; guitarist) have written two songs. Since we all live so far apart from each other we each have home studios we work in. We usually compose at home but we had a couple of sessions where we worked together on this album. When the songs are almost finished Mark sends them to me and I work on the vocals at home. The vocals always come a little bit towards the end. Then we have a session where we work on making the selections of songs which are going to be on the record and we improve vocal and song structures where needed. That’s how we have done it for the last couple of records as well.
Requiem for the Indifferent is your fifth album. With five albums under your belts now, it must be starting to get hard to make set lists for your tour. How does Epica go about creating a set list?
We try to switch it up but always keep a core group of songs which we know well. We have our classics like “Cry for the Moon”, “Consign to Oblivion” and other older ones that we try to keep in the setlist. We do polls quite often on Facebook and ask the fans what songs they would like to hear. With five records we could easily play 7 hours or so [laughs]. Our shows are usually like one hour and 45 minutes to two hours long so especially with the long songs we can play 3 songs and then the set list is full [laughs]. There are so many great songs and each band member has their favorites so it’s hard to keep everybody happy but we manage.
Do you have a particular favorite song to perform live?
We recently did “Storm the Sorrow” live in January when we did two shows with ReVamp. I really enjoyed doing that song live. It feels a little bit like a new beginning with each new record. You know the songs really well but you haven’t played them live and the fans don’t know them yet so that was a nice experience. The song really is very comfortable for me to sing so that would be my current favorite.
Yeah. I always do my own hair and makeup. I take one hour before the show, I put on some headphones to listen to some music, I drink my Redbull Light and do some vocal exercises and try to forget about the chaos that’s around me like the screaming caveman band members [laughs]. That’s my thing.
Epica had quite a successful US tour behind Design Your Universe. Are there any plans to tour the US again behind this new album?
Oh yeah sure. We are planning a North American tour for October/November so we are definitely coming soon and we will be doing a show in Atlanta for sure.
That’s great to hear. I figured I’d go ahead and get my request in for you to play “Martyr of the Free World” for me.
[laughs] Oh I like that one a lot too. That’s a cool song.
Let’s go back in time a little bit. What made you decide that you wanted to be a singer?
I’ve always loved music. I loved the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys when I was a little girl and I wanted to have a singing group with my sister. It was fun for me and it was a dream that I thought would never come true. I always loved Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I actually sang a song by Mariah Carey when I was 12 in a primary school musical. My music teacher back then told me that I had talent and that I should do something about it but back then I was really shy. I was so nervous that I was about to have a heart attack before the show but all of that changed somehow. Now it feels natural. I’ve been in Epica for ten years now and it’s all I know. My hobby is my job and it’s also a lifestyle that I feel really comfortable in. To earn my living singing is something that I love to do and it’s amazing. I was really sad to hear of Whitey Houston’s death. She was such a talented singer and she got so messed up with all the drugs and she killed herself. That is something that I would never let happen to me.
It’s sad because we’ve seen so many talented people in all genres of music just crumble and die because of drug and alcohol abuse. Is your anti-drug stance something that you try to influence your fans with?
I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke and I drink very little alcohol but I do eat candy and cupcakes [laughs]. I think that a lot of musicians start using drugs not because they want to be cool but because they can’t deal with the pressure of things. I know myself and sometimes I am so tired to the bone and I feel like, “I need energy and I can’t make it anymore.” Those artists turn to drugs because that’s what keeps them awake, gives them energy and I can understand that it is tempting.
Were your parents supportive of you performing heavy metal music?
I didn’t tell my parents at first. I lied to them [laughs]. I had a show with my choir on the same day that we had our first Epica show and I didn’t know what to do so I had to tell my parents. My dad was concerned about my education. My mom loved it but my dad was a little bit skeptical about it. Now he sees that I’ve made the right choice. Every parent wants the best for their child and tries to keep them away from making mistakes.
Simone, now I’d like to ask you a few fun questions just to try and get to know you a little better.
Of course. Go right ahead.
When touring in America, what is your favorite kind of food to eat?
America definitely has the best hamburgers around so I always try to eat a couple of burgers while there. I have to set a limit of five burgers for a whole tour because I do like a lot of cheese on my burgers. I don’t want to look like a burger after eating them so much [laughs]. I love burgers and I love your frozen yogurt. I love cupcakes. I have my list of foods that I always have to eat when I’m in American and of course I love it that there is a Starbucks on every corner. I have to have my tea with milk and I love those little cake pops. Oh my God those are dangerous [laughs].
They are very dangerous. I could eat like seven of those things.
[laughs] Yeah. That’s your whole days worth of calories and you’re still hungry afterwards. I love that. America has great food and I always shop like crazy too. Everything there is almost half the price of what we pay for things here. I love hot tamales and I love Vitamin Water. I always come with a full suitcase and then I have to buy another suitcase to fill up because I buy so much stuff there. America is such a wonderland [laughs].
Well I’ll be sure to bring you some cupcakes when you come back to Atlanta!
Oh that would be really nice [laughs]. That’s so nice of you. Thank you!
If Hollywood was to make a movie about Simone Simons who would play you?
That’s a good one. I recently had an interview on a TV show and the people working there said that I looked like Christina Applegate but I don’t think so [laughs]. Let’s see. Who would play me? A younger actress with a pale face and big eyes. Maybe Amanda Seyfried or Scarlet Johnanson [laughs].
What was your first rock concert?
My first rock concert was After Forever. I was with Mark (Jansen) and it was before Epica. That was when I was 16 years old.
Did seeing that band make you want to be a singer like you are today?
Honestly I never really thought that being a singer on stage was something I could ever do. It was just a fantasy to me. Many of my dreams actually did come true.
Simone, you are such a positive thinking and speaking person.
Aw, thank you. I’m just a jolly person by nature. Positivity gives you more energy than negativity and that’s why I try to be away from people who are negative all the time. You can get drawn into that negative spiral. If you think positive you can always get out of nasty situations.
If you could sing for any band for just one night who would it be?
Well, it’s not a band but a solo singer. I would really like to sing Imogene Heap. I love her music and I love her voice. I would love to see myself sing those songs.
If you weren’t a singer, what do you think you would be doing instead?
I would do something either really creative or something in the medical world where I could help heal people. I love children and I think could transfer my positivity to other people as well.
Last but not least, do you have any advice for up and coming musicians trying to make it in the music world?
I’m really lucky that so many of my dreams came true and I wish the same for other people. I encourage them to work hard and to not think too much about it. Follow your heart and just know that if you fall down you will always get your feet back on the ground. Never think that your are never going to make it or that you’re a loser. That is negative thinking and that will not get you anywhere except for standing still and not moving forward.
Congratulations once again on Requiem for the Indifferent. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know you more.
Thank you very much. The pleasure was all mine.
I’ll look forward to seeing you in Atlanta and I promise to bring cupcakes!
[laughs] That is so cool. Thank you so much. I love the vanilla ones and carrot cake ones. I even like the cheap ones from WalMart. I’m not picky [laughs].
For more on Epica, head on over to http://www.epica.nl