Editor’s Note: Very recently, symphonic groove metal band TULIP have released their album entitled “High Strangeness”. The album is divided into three parts: Above, Below & Within and it deals with the ideas of the supernatural, malevolence and time. Out of Texas, Tulip has shared the stage with the likes of Swedish outfit Evergrey and plans on hitting the road again as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided. The unique aspect about Tulip is that frontwoman Ashleigh Semkiv is a professionally trained opera singer. In this album, they appear to be America’s answer to Tarja with their soaring, operatic vocals while Tulip provides excellent musicianship with epic guitar riffs with complete synths and beautiful orchestration that provides masterful storytelling in their music. In this interview with Madness To Creation, Ashleigh and Colin of Tulip discuss mental health awareness, their latest record “High Strangeness” and how Ashleigh trained herself as an opera singer. Fans can find Tulip at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: How have you and the band been coping with the Covid-19 pandemic? What are some challenges that you’re enduring through this?
Ashleigh: At a personal level, we’re in the same boat as everyone else. We’re mostly removed from the risk as relatively young people who live in a more rural area but we’re staying home and patiently waiting for everyday life to return to normal.
Most people working in the entertainment industry essentially function as independent contractors, so the crisis has brought the music business to a grinding halt and left a lot of people completely out of work. We were supposed be on tour throughout April across Europe supporting Tarja Turunen and our latest release “High Strangeness” but all of our dates have been postponed. Fortunately, we all have day jobs independent of the band that pay our bills but there are a lot of upfront costs that bands incur to go on tour – especially overseas – and we’ve had to absorb these costs. The interruption has provided us with an opportunity to start working on future material but we’re hopeful we can get the live show moving again this summer.
Madness To Creation: You released “High Strangeness”, take us into the recording process of the album, what were some challenging and rewarding aspects of making this album?
Ashleigh: Because we do everything ourselves writing, producing, recording, mixing and mastering just takes a very long time – especially for a full-length record. It’s a labor of love (as it is with all artists) but it can be a real grind towards the end of the process – nitpicking over cymbal selection or automating vocal levels to perfection. But it’s always worth it in the end to get it right and which is part of the benefit of doing everything yourself. The hardest part about getting it right with our music is making space for everything in the mix. Between the live band, 90-piece orchestra, layers of synth and vocals it’s hard to bring clarity to each instrument. Probably 80% of the time on the project was spent painstakingly editing and mixing iteratively as each new section was recorded.
Madness To Creation: You are opera trained as a vocalist, what advice do you have for those aspiring vocalists?
Ashleigh: Oh boy, I have a lot of opinions about this. I would start with – commitment. On my first day of opera school as a young singer, one of my professors started our lecture with the following statement: “If you can imagine yourself being happy doing anything other than singing, you should leave today and go and do that, because this life is not for the faint of heart”. She was absolutely right.
I could not lead a truly fulfilled life without being able to perform, and I learned this first hand when I had my kids – I tried to stop, to focus my life in a new direction and say, “well, I had a good run”, but I was really empty without it. I couldn’t even bring myself to play the piano anymore or sing along to the radio. If you live to make music, and you have natural talent, then you need to find yourself a good teacher, someone you respect, someone who will tell you the truth when you don’t sound good and the truth when you’re really getting it. That person for me today is Melissa Cross, but I’ve had other classical teachers in the past who have made big impacts on my life and vocal technique. Being a vocalist is a lifestyle and it’s a choice to be all in. I can immediately tell the difference between the singers who are doing it half assed, and those who are leaving it all on stage; blood, sweat and tears. You have to be willing to be vulnerable in order to connect. Melissa unleashed the power in my voice, but she also made sure I didn’t sacrifice any of the beauty or color in my tone. Our job is to rip peoples’ heads off but also to make them feel something.
Madness To Creation: In your instrument, what is one thing you kick ass at and one thing you feel like you need to improve on?
Colin: As a guitar player, I’m at the point in my life where my technical proficiency is probably on a downward trajectory. Playing with precision and writing inspiring arrangements to serve as a backdrop for Ashleigh’s melody is my primary inspiration these days. Our songs tend to reflect that type of playing – not terribly difficult technically but deliberately serving the arrangement. I would like to be a little better with sweep arpeggios – but when I write something I can’t play, I just make Brandon play it!
Madness To Creation: Love the video for Midnight in the Desert, and most fun part of making the music video?
Ashleigh: Thank you! We love it too. We shot the video at Ft Griffin which is abandoned cavalry barracks from the 1800’s a few hours west of DFW. It was an incredible place to be at night – with the Milky Way on full display above the free roaming longhorn cattle and ruins. We shot using a drone equipped with LumeCubes to create the overhead moving light effect which was a lot of fun.
Madness To Creation: Let’s say you were in a desert at midnight, what would you be feeling or exploring?
Ashleigh: The majesty and scale of the universe is most palpable in the desert. The cool dry air makes you feel intensely small and temporal against the vast ancient expanse of space overhead and all around you. The fact that we exist in this sliver of time against a wholly unknowable universe is simultaneously unsettling and comforting in the quiet of the desert night.
Madness To Creation: We cover mental health awareness at Madness To Creation, what are some pieces of advice you have for our readers?
Ashleigh: I really appreciate this question. Mental health was something I took for granted until mine was put to the test through my excommunication and during the subsequent deconstruction of my faith. For me, getting together a small group of people I trusted, who are of varying backgrounds but who all had my best interests at heart, was critical. My husband, my therapist, my physician, and my close friends are all individuals I can lean on when life gets hard. I’ve also found that what helps me is research, reading and reaching out to others who have shared experiences. The internet makes the world much smaller – you’d be surprised at how connected we are as humans, and how much we truly do want to help each other. You just need to muster up enough bravery to ask for it. That was very hard for me, until it was impossible to continue without it.
Madness To Creation: What do you have planned to promote this band through your social media in terms of social distancing?
Ashleigh: We are working on releasing a couple of playthrough videos and a few stripped-down arrangements of the tracks over the next month. Other than that, just the usual PR activities like typing up interviews!
Madness To Creation: Anything else you would like to add in regards to Tulip?
Ashleigh: Follow us @wearetulip – we’re working on getting something lined up this fall in North America and we’ll be back to Europe in March of 2021!
And there you have it! Check out the track listing for “High Strangeness”:
- Midnight In The Desert
- Missing Time
- Theater Of The Dead
- Dimensional Rift
- The Inner Light
Check out the lyric video for “Theater Of The Dead” below:
Tulip will be performing in Europe in March 2021. Check out tour dates below:
Wed. 3/3- Kulturfabrik in Lyss, Switzerland
Fri. 3/5- Kino Siska in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Sat. 3/6- Szene in Wien, Austria
Sun. 3/7- Backstage Halle in Munich, Germany
Tue. 3/9- Hirsch in Nurnberg, Germany
Wed. 3/10- Hellraiser in Leipzig, Germany
Thu. 3/11- Columbia Theater in Berlin, Germany
Sat. 3/13- MS Connexion Complex in Mannheim, Germany
Sun. 3/14- X-Herford in Herford, Germany
Mon. 3/15- Matrix Bochum in Bochum, Germany
Wed. 3/17- Markthalle in Hamburg, Germany
Thu. 3/18- Doornroosje in Nijmegen, Netherlands
Fri. 3/19- Patronaat in Haarlem, Netherlands
For tickets and further information on any of the gigs listed above, click here.