In a town known as “the capital of the accordion,” where traditional folk is still the dominant form of music, there remains a micro-scene of punk and metal bands making a racket. Amidst the 14,000 people in Tulle, France, a small group of determined individuals put on shows and put out records, the indefatigable DIY approach that drives creativity and autonomy in the face of hardship. One of the vanguard is the six-seated vehicle known as Ingrina (two of whom are drummers), whose sludgy post-metal doesn’t so much tell its harrowing story as envelop the listener in its themes of hopelessness, colonization, and inevitable destruction. We spoke with Antonin Le Coz, one of the two who doubles up on guitar and vocals, about the themes on their second release Etter Lys, playing live in unusual places, and handling two drummers.
The DIY ethic can often take you to surprising places – genre companions Telepathy told me they were “painfully electrocuted onstage before staying in a converted meat freezer”. Ingrina’s story is, mercifully, less worrisome; “Recently, we played in the middle of a forest in an abandoned campsite. There was a full moon, mist, fog, and the audience surrounded us, it was a magical and mystical moment. Maybe now we have to take a piece of forest and fog with us at every show!” Taking the piece of forest and fog does mean they have slimmed down their instrumentation. For ergonomic reasons, both drummers do not take their full kit with them, though this does little to reduce the sheer force of their music onstage.
Learn stuff. And also make sure you’re “Fluent” in Ingrina.
Where the main rethinking comes in is during their creative process. Ingrina are far from the first band to play with two drummers. They name-check Year of No Light, Cult of Luna and Kylesa as touchstones for their craft and they do note that their approach differs from many acts; “Less spontaneity and more calculation, less space and more volume.” Etter Lys was composed in groups of three or four, usually initiated by one of the drummers and refined by the stringsmen. Thus begins “a perpetual quest for alchemy, balance, and compromises. It’s a lot of work, but we are quite happy with the result, mostly when we feel the power that it can bring on stage!”
Whether onstage or at home, the album’s atmosphere is expansive and immersive, an emotionally involving experience. What’s interesting is that each format that the band sells Etter Lys on (tape, vinyl, CD) has its own mix, as well as some extra content. “The vinyl mix is darker and deeper than the other. Maybe that’s the best way to experience our music. It suits the darkness of our sound. Also, we extended the album, since it couldn’t fit on one vinyl, we did not want to cut anything at all. So we went back to compose, maybe that’s what gives the particular frame of this album. The format dictated the composition and not the opposite.”
Etter Lys is based on a short story, written by the band but “surely influenced by a lot of books that we’ve read recently, that were matching with what we were going through every day.” The story, or parts thereof, is available in the lyrics section of the band’s Bandcamp page and speaks of “the mixed feelings that grow in a revolution process. When nothing is clear, when doubts are as strong as convictions, when you’re trying to elaborate a new form of life or culture and realize that you struggle to get rid of the prevailing ones that are deeply written within you.”
It’s a powerful piece of writing, told in beautiful savagery – the ebb and flow of each track emanates the same power as the words. The certainty and purpose in the writing is contrasted with the uncertainty of its topic; “This uncertainty is what we daily experience here, and writing it through the metaphor of the water streams is a way for us to get a better grip on this matter, a better understanding of the determinations that are crushing us.” There is, however, no pressure from the band that this story is the only way to experience their record. “This story is just one way among many others to perceive the record. The sound itself can produce other images, landscapes or situations than the ones literally described in ‘Etter Lys’. And we don’t want to guide anyone about the meaning behind rhythms and melodies. We just hope this record makes people feel like creating their own story. This one is just ours.”
One of the themes running through the record is colonization, though that word is used with three distinct interpretations throughout the story and music. “History doesn’t lack revolutions ending up in brutal colonization of so-called ‘inferior civilizations’ in the name of human rights. We could possibly be referring to this nonsense. We could as well refer to a more ‘cultural’ colonization, when main streams are flooding both the old institutions we wanted to smash and the new alternative organizations we relied on. A cultural current that carries off everything at once. Actually, beyond colonization, this story is also about the effects of a massive flood that wrecks everything we knew so far, that erases the landmarks we thought were timeless. When everything is melted in the same uncontrollable ocean, colonization is long gone and it makes way to a permanent struggle, where lives try to distinguish something clear, something that starts to make sense. So, no direct reference to a specific civilization, but a glimpse of what happens when beliefs suddenly break down because of a large-scale cultural disturbance.”
Here’s a part of Ingrina’s live set at Festival Ô Les Chœurs from back in 2016.
This all feels exceptionally sorrowful and hopeless, but, Antonin contends, “what is sorrowful and hopeless is our situation more than our personal beliefs or states of mind. In that way, ‘Etter Lys’ is just a product of our times.” That said, Ingrina’s intention is not to pass comment on how to get out of this mess, but more about the experience “down here in the mud.” Etter Lys is, therefore, not a political statement, but more of a societal one. “What we can try to tell, is how life, while under permanent attacks, strives for a breath. We feel close to those lives in ‘Etter Lys’ that, after being completely devastated by the flows, are adjusting, reshaping and organizing their form of existence. Which as a daily basis, can lead to a kind of enjoyable melancholy.”
This enjoyable melancholy allows the band a sense of humor amidst all the catastrophe around us. As we part ways after our po-faced conversation, Antonin allows himself a funny quip to a tongue-in-cheek question: considering their band photo is of them eating ice-cream, which flavor of ice cream would Ingrina be? “The favorite taste of modern politics, Antarctic flavor, the taste of melting ice in a collapsing world.” Ben and Jerry’s, take note.