Overall, this show was a blast and a surprise. Despite being a fan of Tarja since 2003 (at that time, she was still with Nightwish), this would be mine (as well as others’) first time seeing her live. She hasn’t toured extensively in the US, and I hope that changes in the future.
This almost sold-out concert started outside, in the heart of New York. Being smack dab in the middle of the city, there was no shortage of entertainment outside Gramercy Theatre. The venue itself actually doesn’t really stick out from its surroundings, but it was relatively easy to find.
Gramercy Theatre was a highlight, but not in a good way. The initial organisation of splitting VIP and regular ticket goers was probably the best thing they could do. The timing was off a bit, though, the staff was rude and very short on answering questions, and both inside and outside was an experience I don’t want to go through again.
The layout of the building reminded me a cross of the Fillmore in Silver Spring and the National in Richmond, except squeezed flimsily together.
Once in, Symfinity started the show. Collectively, we had a vocalist (Seann Branchfield), a guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist, a harpist, a flutist, a drummer, and a violinist on stage. A lot of people, but some seem to be rotating members? (Correct me if I’m wrong) It didn’t matter, though, as the music and vocals came together beautifully. It was quite entertaining to watch, but evenmoreso to listen. I’d recommend anyone to check them out, as the combination of rock, metal, alternative, classical sounds will appeal to a vast majority of people.
It wasn’t long afterwards that Tarja took the stage. For one who’s only seen her in “serious pictures” and listening to her music, I was expecting an awe-inspiring but somber show.
Well, I was right about the first part. Tarja entered the stage and her presence was known immediately. Ever the show woman, she started rocking, dancing (?!), jumping, and displaying her talents from start to end – all in 4 in stilettos in every outfit change (Yeah. Not trying that.)
Lots of crowd favourites, an acoustic portion, and a nod to Nightwish, the energy was electrifying. When she spoke to the crowd on how happy and how loved she felt that night, it was sincere. She constantly pointed and addressed fans in the crowd, and the chemistry of her band and herself could not be more perfected. All in all, the performance was spectacular.. Even if we had to put up with Gramercy’s horrible sound system (apparently, this is a thing that hasn’t been fixed in the venue, not a one-off thing.)
After the show, we were immediately rushed out of the venue, not given a chance to meet Symfinity, who was selling merch in the basement (actually, we weren’t really given a chance to even buy merch.) After exiting, the lights dimmed and folks were waiting for Tarja to appear outside. Her band members did show up, but it wasn’t until a good half hour after they left that security finally told everyone Tarja had already left. And that was only brought up because someone earlier was angry about it and decided to kick and crack Gramercy’s window.
So, if you get a chance (and you’re still reading), listen to Symfinity and Tarja Turunen.. You will not be disappointed.
Interviewed by Jessica Clingempeel & Joshua Becker 7/25/2018
Jumping right into things, I could not help but notice the uniqueness of the
band name: Symfinity. My assumption was a combination of the name “symphony”
and “infinity,” but I could be wrong. Care to share how that came about?
Seann: Symfinity is absolutely a combination of
symphony and infinity. The name originated when we were searching for a name in
our early days. We had been performing
without a name for a while and we had delayed finding a name because we wanted
to have the perfect name! We wanted to get something relating to symphony in
our name. One night, it randomly popped into my head, so I quickly wrote it
down before falling asleep.
I noticed no mention of a label anywhere on your site, Facebook, or bio – do
you have a label, or are you independent? If you are independent, have you had
any opportunities to send demos to labels or try getting a record deal?
Seann: We have always been independent. We have
mainly been working so hard on this new album and I think any label we are
going to be involved with needs to hear it to understand our voice. I would be
open to working with a label once we have it finished. With our single done, it
already seems like we are getting some promotional opportunities coming our way
– and hopefully we will continue to do so with our album coming out.
Being that you are in New York City, one would assume it would be easy to get
recognition and be a big name in music with all the resources there. Would you
say it is easy, or is that just a common misconception?
definitely is not easy, especially as a band going about with a very DIY work
ethic. The music scene is not the same as it used to be, and you have to be
different to stand out – particularly for a band like us where everything we do
is powered directly by the efforts of the band members ourselves. To get to
where we are now has taken years of artistic development, networking,
promotion, and pushing forward – even when others don’t believe in you.
However, I would say that “making it” here (at least locally) is probably
easier than it would be elsewhere simply because New York has such a high
population density, which makes it easier to make a decent number of fans
within a small area. But if you’re talking about expanding your reach beyond
your hometown, then it doesn’t really offer much of an advantage at that point.
I hear you are all huge fans of Tarja and that you will be headlining her show
in New York. How were you contacted about being a headliner and what were the
feelings when you found out?
Seann: We absolutely love Tarja – whether it’s her
solo albums or her work with Nightwish. I found out about the opening for the
show when they switched dates in New York. A friend who has seen us immediately
let me know when there there was a vacancy on the bill and had me contact the booker.
The booking agent already knew us from when we opened for Sonata Arctica back
in 2016, so it was pretty easy from there.
Speaking of Tarja, have you met her
before, or seen any of her live concerts?
Tubes: No, but of course we are long-time
fans. We owe a lot to Tarja
artistically. And as far as not seeing
her live, we plan on rectifying that in September! 🙂
Besides Tarja, what are some of your other influential bands? What other band
would you love to open for?
Seann: Nightwish is obviously an influence.
Lacuna Coil has been one of my favorite bands for years. There are quite a few
European bands I love. Bands like Within Temptation and Delain have some
lighter pop elements and we have some of those. On the American side, I love
Metallica. Modern rock bands like Evanescence and Three Days Grace would also
be awesome to play with. There are too many bands for me to list!
Looking at your profile, you have done a lot of high profile shows. What would
you say the highs and lows are of being on stage and touring?
Touring always involves some kind of adventure. The highs I would say are
showcasing our music to new people from other regions and making friends with
the local bands. We’ve made friends with some great bands like Ketosis,
Raviner, and Stitched Up Heart. I always love to hear new bands and expose
myself to the local music scene. I really feel you can’t be a musician without
also being a music fan. For the lows, I would say cramming ourselves into a car
packed to the brim full of equipment and driving on and on all day… that’s
pretty low for me. However, this low is mitigated by… Sheetz! We all love that
place, but there are none in New York, so we basically stop by any of them we
could find. Where else can you find a gas station that also has burritos
stuffed with tater tots and guacamole?! If you have an answer to that please
let me know!
Avery: …and connecting in person with our fans – in addition to newcomers and other bands!
You have been working on a new album for some time now which is entitled
“Anthem”. Can you tell us a bit about this album and how it will differ from
your previous works?
Seann: “Anthem” is quite a bit different. For
those who have heard our first album “Intangible Dreams”, this is quite a
progression. We’re older and wiser, and better musicians. The songs are darker,
less happy, and emotional yet hopeful. People will relate to the songs a lot
more. We were a very young band when our first album came out. “Intangible
Dreams” was a symphonic rock album with a huge variety of songs. “Anthem” is,
first and foremost, more of a symphonic rock/metal album. We have a unique sound that is best described
as simply a heavier version of what Symfinity used to be, versus trying to
emulate what other bands in our genre sound like. Additionally, this will be our first album to
feature a real 50-piece orchestra. “Intangible Dreams” had real flute. Our EP
“Apocrypha”, which was an acoustic EP, had a mix of real instruments and
orchestra samples. “Anthem” has real everything. I had a lot of fun with the
orchestration for “Anthem”, which included a few atypical instruments (such as
bass oboe and oboe d’amore) that I had the pleasure of writing for and hearing
recorded by live musicians. While the songs are generally heavier, we do have a
few ballads as well. This is also the
first album where Doc and myself have added a few growls. We’ll never be death
metal, but using a growl for an accent here or there when we want to be extra
heavy is nice to have in our arsenal.
Avery: Yes… the vast contrast of styles that we
share with our listeners is what leads us to feel we are a middle ground
between symphonic rock and symphonic metal.
Have there been any challenges while recording “Anthem” as there seems to have
been some delays in the release. How did the band overcome the challenges
Avery: There were none. It actually only took a day! JUST KIDDING – there have been many
challenges, and it took years of hard work.
Seann: When we first started working on this
album, we had no idea what we were getting into. Writing out orchestra parts
and having a synth play them is easy, but having real musicians play them is a
whole other journey. Instead of maybe having two violin audio files per song,
you end up with maybe 10 or 12 with live instruments. The sheer vastness of the files and the hard
drive space they take up make them cumbersome to deal with. The recording
process was another obstacle. We had
four different drummers record on this album, where three of them made the
final cut on various songs. I re-recorded guitars and vocals as I became a
more-trained guitarist and singer. Doc added some guitars as we upgraded our
instruments and as he started playing the parts live while transitioning from
bassist to guitarist of the band. We’ve had hard drives fail spontaneously
before we could transfer newly-recorded files. There were orchestral players
who inaccurately played triplet rhythms and we had to fix them. And then we had
to make sure everything lined up after we recorded it separately. In short, it
has been an editing nightmare, but I have become quite experienced at editing
in Pro Tools as a result. We overcame the challenges by staying determined and
fixing what needed to be fixed – no matter how annoying it was. As a result,
we’ve acquired quite a long list of strategies to make our future albums happen
Was it hard to incorporate more than 50 different instruments into the album?
Seann: From a compositional and number-of-parts
standpoint, writing “Anthem” was very similar to “Intangible Dreams” because
both feature the full orchestration of a symphony orchestra. However, “Anthem” dealt with writing for
individual, live (instead of MIDI) string players – which allowed me to have
the creative license to write more expressively, and include additional
instrument parts and solo sections. This freedom also extended to woodwinds –
where we got to use some atypical, unique instruments we otherwise couldn’t
have used because synths and samples don’t really exist for them. Because I was
not limited by specific sound libraries and MIDI capabilities, it was easier to
write and arrange the music.
When is the anticipated release date for “Anthem?
Avery: Our anticipated release date is September
2018 – hopefully right before the show!
Seann: We finally have a single finished and most
of the album is mixed now, so we are in the final stage of finishing the album.
I have noticed that Kickstarter has been used to fund your projects. Have there
been any downfalls to Kickstarter?
Seann: We’ve done one campaign – to help fund our
new album “Anthem”. Kickstarter was
great; it’s just tricky getting the word out without annoying people too much.
Avery: One downfall of Kickstarter might be that
you don’t receive any of the money unless you meet your goal – and that you
can’t edit the timespan of your project once it’s launched. This can be problematic when a project get
donated to right away but then doesn’t see activity for a while after. It results in a scramble for very
last-minute, or past-last-minute, donations – which cuts it too close for
comfort in terms of a project meeting its goal and receiving its funding.
What inspires the lyrical themes and music in your songs? You did state that
your music is for everyone and your music does offer a variety that could
appeal to any audience.
Seann: It really depends on the song. I think
about life and the universe a lot…probably more than I should. A lot of the
songs are about overcoming hardship or toxic people. Some songs are about
happiness or pondering the potential for happiness. These are things that
everyone deals with in life.
In such a crazy, chaotic, and downright scary time we live in, what hope do you
have for your music and the listeners?
Avery: We hope that our music not only offers a
little bit of respite from everything going on, but also some beauty and hope
for a brighter tomorrow. We seek to
promote tolerance, love, respect, compassion, and empathy through our
I read that cosplay is part of the
band and that can be seen in some photos… do you enjoy cosplay as a hobby
outside of the band, and have you been to any conventions?
Seann: We don’t have any characters in particular
that we dress up as; rather, we are focused on inventing our own characters.
It’s a work in progress as we develop thematically as a band. I personally have
been to smaller board gaming conventions and also larger ones such as MAGfest
and Awesome Con.
Speaking of hobbies, what do each of
you like to do outside of touring and recording?:
Tubes: We are a very diverse bunch. In NYC – go figure.
Seann: I have quite a few interests. I love going
to see other bands and supporting our growing metal community here. In addition to composing for our band, I
enjoy writing music for solo piano and other types of ensembles. Outside of
music, I am a board gamer – and enjoy a wide variety of modern games. Aside
from having attended some gaming conventions, I am an aspiring game designer. I
also enjoy making food and tinkering with recipes.
Outside of activities related to the band, I enjoy seeing/listening to music by
other artists too, across various genres. I also enjoy just hanging out with
friends, making my way through different TV shows that catch my interest
(usually thriller, drama, or superhero related), and then there’s also my day
job. I’m a physician, which of course is why people call me “Doc”!
Thankfully, I do music in different facets all the time, but have other hobbies
as well. I enjoy seeing friends and
family, going to live shows, supporting other musicians, traveling, learning
languages, playing tennis, boating, swimming, hiking in the woods, and walking
on the beach. Oh – and eating Tex-Mex!
Seann, you are originally from Oregon, but moved to NY to attend college. How
was the transition, and was there a big culture shock? Do you find more
inspiration in the Big Apple or back home?
Seann: The transition was quite an undertaking,
and a huge culture shock. I went from feeling like a promising young composer
to feeling like no one. There are just so many talented people here, and
everyone is so competitive. I’m not a competitive person for the most part
(outside of boardgaming), and I had to try to find my own unique voice as a
musician to feel like I was successful at anything. I find that all my
frustrated lyric-writing inspiration comes from New York and my experiences
here. My life here over the years has entirely shaped our new album and a lot
of other new songs we are working on for future releases. For everything else
music-related though, Oregon is where I find my inspiration. The parts of my
music that are peaceful or relaxing have to come from a place where I can find
those feelings, even if I’m just imagining that I’m there – and that place is
Moving onto the random curiosity
questions: if you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
Avery: I would be a bird, because I want to fly
around and explore everywhere – while cheering people up with song-like
tweeting in the process! Or, I would be
a dog because they’re loyal, fun, energetic, and silly!
Seann: I would be a cat, because I like cats and
I’m unfortunately allergic to them. I
suppose if I was a cat, I might not be allergic to myself and my feline
If you were stranded on an island, what are three things you would bring?
Seann: Water, food, and a bag of office supplies
including pen and paper, so I could write music and stories.
If you found out the world was ending
tomorrow, what’s something you have always wanted to do, that you’ve never had
the chance, and would do before the world ends?
Seann: Fly to the moon (assuming space travel
ever became cheap and safe). Conveniently, I would also not be on the world as
it ended, so it would be pretty awesome. 😉
How do you feel about the LGBT community? Do you know if you have any LGBT
LGBT community is great! I myself am gay, and I have a bisexual boyfriend.
We’ve also had other LGBT musicians join us onstage for shows multiple times.
We definitely do have LGBT fans! We love all our fans regardless of
orientation, gender identity, race, or anything else that is a basic attribute
of being human. Let music unite us all, regardless of who one is, and may our
differences be our strength!
If you had the power to change the world, what would you do with it? Would you
end world hunger? Initiate
Seann: I would give everyone empathy, because not
everyone has it. It’s sad that in the world today just a few people without
empathy can ruin everything for everyone else. Giving those few people empathy
would solve most of the world’s problems.
What are some of the pet peeves of the band?
Seann: Venues that don’t give sound checks. We’ll
still play venues that at least give us good sound, but it can be hard to
balance a band with a complicated instrumentation. This is just the way it is
Do any of you have a favorite place
to go when you feel overwhelmed, sad or depressed?
Doc: When I
feel like things are stressing me out, nature is my number one go-to. It
doesn’t really matter where I am, but as long as I can just go outside and take
a walk for 30 minutes, I find that I feel a lot better by the time I get back.
If I only have a few minutes, then my next best thing is sitting down and
meditating to clear my mind. Even just a couple minutes can make a difference.
nature. Specifically, Oregon in the woods or on the beach. I try my hardest to
meditate during stressful situations. It’s extremely hard. Sometimes I have to
go into my head away from everything else in order to get out of my head. Call
it “My Hidden Manor” if you like.
Avery: I recharge by walking through the woods,
or along the beach, while listening to meaningful music in my headphones. I’m all about Waldeinsamkeit.