“Joining The Agonist made me learn growling” – Interview with Vicky Psarakis

The Agonist from Canada/Greece performed as Jinjer’s support act on the 22nd of December 2019 in Barba Negra Music Club, Budapest, Hungary. Metal.hu had the opportunity to talk to Vicky Psarakis, the frontwoman of the band.  You can read about how she sees the development of the band and herself, how it is to be and to party on tour but also about her biggest inspiration!

It’s the last day of the tour – how do you feel about it ending?

It is bittersweet. I can’t wait to go back home, of course, because I miss my family and everyone. The tour has been also very long and exhausting. But at the same time I know that once I get back home, I’ll miss being on tour. It is always bittersweet at the end of the tour.

Are you going to celebrate Christmas once you get home? Basically, after landing you don’t even have much time before the holidays start.

Yes, but I’m actually not going straight home, I’m going to Montreal, where the rest of the band is, because we have some shows coming up, so I don’t have time to go home. Montreal is kind of like a second home, so it will still be a lot of fun and I will celebrate Christmas with the band.

I suppose also the guys are like a second family?

Yes, exactly!

How are you able to keep yourself and your voice in shape during such a long tour with such a tight schedule? How about warm-ups before the shows?

It all depends show by show and how I feel. Some days I need more time, some days I don’t even need to warm up at all. It is about taking care of your body, drink water, make sure you get enough sleep – general self-care.

Your education is in classical singing and you only picked up harsh vocals much later. Do you think that everyone is able to learn such techniques or do you need to be born with it?

I think it depends on the person. When it comes to vocals, my philosophy has always been to try to imitate other singers and what they do – this is how I learned to sing in many different techniques. It is kind of like voice acting – being able to hear something and then do it with your own voice. I think it depends on the person. Some people are self-taught and they are really amazing, and some need music lessons or someone to show them how to do it.

You have a lot of vocal covers on Youtube. How did you pick the songs, are they your favourites or just ones you like to sing? How about getting inspired by other vocalists?

I would not say that what I covered are my favourites, sometimes there are requests from friends and fans. Other times it is simply finding an instrumental version of a song – I just think it is very cool and it doesn’t have vocals on it, so I do it. There are some songs I want to do but cannot find them. Speaking of inspiration – of course, I have my favourites throughout the years. My favourite female singer in metal has always been Anneke van Giersbergen. She was the first female singer I heard who made me want to pursue this.

You also have a cover together with Yannis Papadopoulos, was it done in the spirit of being Greek or are you friends? Do you keep in touch, both fronting quite famous bands?

Actually, we used to be together so we did a lot of recordings together. I feel like both me and him grew a lot during that time, and we both are where we are right now. We still keep in touch, we might do something together again, we’ll see!

Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable being a woman in metal? Sometimes women get a different kind of attention from fans than men – did you anything uncomfortable happen to you?

No, not in music specifically. I think any woman at any point in her life might have felt uncomfortable… I don’t think doing what I do makes it worse. I feel like you just have to stand your ground and be honest in a situation if you don’t want something – don’t be afraid to speak up! I’m very open as a person and when I meet fans and they are shy, I give them a hug and that is totally fine. I’m not like ‘stay away from me’! But there have been some weird occasions where I just had to put my foot down and say ‘Ok, that is a little too much’, you know. Again, I think, all women experience this at some point in their lives.

What would you say if a young teenage girl told you they want to be like you? Badass, successful women easily might become a role model for young people.

I have gotten a few messages saying something like that! It is very inspiring because I also had my role models growing up and I knew what it felt like. To hear that and be on the other side is a bit weird for me because I’m like ‘Really? Me?’, but at the same time, I’m extremely flattered and appreciative of it.

We have been to an early concert of The Agonist with you at the 2014 Brutal Assault where it could be said that the performance was not nearly as strong as it is nowadays, and there were some things that could make one not completely satisfied. This has all changed by now and you really-really grew up as a band. What do you think could have been a reason that left us not completely impressed?

Yes, that was the first tour I did with the band ever. I was still new and a bit sick for a couple of shows which affected me the whole time so it was a combination of that and a lack of experience, but also the fact that our album was not out yet. I only sang older stuff, songs that weren’t mine, whereas now I have three albums with the band, so our live set is 50-50% or actually mostly new songs. I feel more comfortable five years and three albums later. More new songs, more new experience.

So you don’t feel that kind of big pressure on you anymore?

No. Of course, there is always pressure but that is more self-inflicted pressure – things that I tell myself, like ‘You have to be better and improve’. But I don’t feel pressured by the world or anything like that.

Your voice has also definitely improved in huge measures, both over your whole lifetime for sure, but also while being in The Agonist. Do you think this is because of the band or do you also participate in other programs, maybe school or other projects?

I think the more you use your voice, the more it grows. Obviously, being in The Agonist, joining the band pushed me to really work on growls and screams and all that stuff. Maybe I wouldn’t have cared to do that on my own, at home.

Really?

I was always just a singer, I obviously love bands that have screams in it, but I never thought I would pursue it as well! So yes, being in the band has pushed me towards that direction but I feel it also helped me with clean singing as well. As I said – the more you use your voice, the more it grows.

If you weren’t in Agonist right now, you wouldn’t be growling?

Probably not! I think I would be just singing. At the end of the day, I think singing is a whole other thing, you can express more emotions through it and there are a lot more dynamics in singing. It is more melodic and the lyrics are more understandable so the crowd can sing along with you, so singing has a more special place in my heart.

The album Orphans is also a whole new level for the band, it is a very huge leap forward, it is also on all the top lists, how do you feel about this?

It is awesome! I had a good feeling about the album from the demo stages already. I knew where it was heading, and I knew it was going to be good. Obviously, I had a bit of reservation to see what the fans were going to say. I had a strong feeling about it and everyone in the band felt the same. We were waiting to see whether the fans would like it as much as we like it! And they do, so it is really awesome!

What was the most special moment of the tour?

It is very hard to choose! Maybe last night, because last night was the party night with the other bands. Tonight everyone is leaving right after the show to go home, so we knew today would be more business-oriented, no enough time to sit down and talk and party with the other bands. Last night we did a bit of that – a bit of socializing, a bit of alcohol, we stayed up until five in the morning!

You don’t look like someone who was up until five!

Yeah, thank you!

Is everybody from your touring package a party animal?

Not everyone I think, it depends on the day as well. Some days I also stay up to drink but other days I just feel tired and go to bed early, I think it can change for everyone day by day.

So no party today anymore?

I don’t know! If someone wants to drink, we got a lot of beers, so maybe!

Can it be a problem on tour that alcohol is always so readily available becomes too big a temptation?

For sure… We are here, we might as well have some, you know… But I think everyone is a responsible adult, so do what you can and know your limits.

So I assume you’ve never been that hungover that you weren’t sure you could perform?

No. I felt like tired from other situations, but not from drinking!

Orphans is definitely very diverse. Do you think you can and want to incorporate even more diversity to the new material? Do you have some new ideas already?

We haven’t started songwriting yet but I think we have a specific idea in our heads about the style of music and about where we should be headed. A lot of it will be like Orphans – I think the darkness, the dark melodies in our songs and the fast and heavy songs with the melodies is what really makes the Agonist. I think we are going to continue towards that direction on the new album. But we also do like to experiment a lot and play around a lot, so I am sure there is going to be something there that will be a bit out of the box, a bit new.

What is the next step for The Agonist?

Just touring as much as we can. We have a North-American tour coming up in March and April. We are also performing on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise, that is going to be a lot of fun! In the summer we are coming back to Europe for some festivals and we’ll see from there on. We want to tour as much as possible.

Thank you very much!

By: Vica

Photos: Dani

Special thanks to Hammer Concerts!