Interview: Shawn Milke & Dennis Lee of Alesana

Alesana Suit Couch Promo

I had a chance to conduct an interview with Shawn Milke (pictured bottom center) (Guitarist/Vocals) and Dennis Lee (pictured top center) (Vocals) of the legendary Raleigh “Sweetcore” band, Alesana during their Confessions tour. We spoke a bit about the Annabel Trilogy and what could possibly come from it, future plans and much more! Special thanks to Hector Casey (New Transcendence) and Matthew Powers (CaliberTV) for their question submissions… the guys had a blast answering these, you could tell!

BearlySinister: You guys have finally ended the phenomenal Annabel Trilogy, spanning 3 albums. Any ideas about what could be tackled with the next release? 

Shawn: We’ve actually been talking about that a couple times on this tour. We just haven’t decided if we want to go darker or ancient, more contemporary… but it will definitely be conceptual. It’ll definitely be our own story ‘cuz we’re kind of addicted to it.

BearlySinister: Have you ever been approached about bringing the Annabel Trilogy to the big screen? Would you consider it? 

Shawn: We’ve definitely gotten asked… I think the ONE thing I would love to see happen is a graphic novel. 

Dennis: I think a graphic novel would work better.

Shawn: That’d be really, really cool. So much of our pros is very descriptive and the intricacy of everything… I think, just to see that brought to life would be just amazing… and then from there, ya know, you just never know! I think the story line’s got the potential to do something more, for sure. 

Dennis: Yeah.

Matthew Powers: If Alesana was to write a book, what would it be about and why? 

Shawn: I’ve always hit transcending, that’s kind of my thing. We’ve stayed together a really long time and… that’s what I’ve got in my mind. 

Dennis: Oh! Like a book about ourselves?

Shawn: It could be a book about anything? That question could take forever! *both laugh*

Dennis: I guess, obviously musically since we’ve touched on the abstract… I’d picture it being like an autobiography or a documentary. 

Shawn: ‘Cause we’re already writing stories anyway so, if we’re gonna write a book, might as well be about us, right? 

Matthew Powers: It seems, since Alesana has been a band, the idea of a conceptual release has been increasingly well-received and popular. Are there any concept albums you really enjoy and, is there any advice you would give to any band who wants to write a concept record or is there a specific approach the musicians should take? 

Dennis: It’s always going to be Fear Factory, Obselete. I love that record! 

Shawn: My favorite two are The Broken Bride by Ludo… I think it’s just Broken Bride and The Ugly Organ by Cursive. In terms of any, like, advice… I think, at least the way we have found success with it is concept records get dismissed so quickly ’cause they’re hard to understand, they’re wordy and all over the place. We tried our hardest to, while telling the story, we still could relate it to people so that, even if you don’t want to dive into the story necessarily, you could still find some sort of meaning in the song for yourself. 

Dennis: Take your time with it and don’t force stuff, like, the song is gonna tell you what the song is about, like, if it’s right… don’t play. Just listen to it and that’s where you’re gonna get the vibe, what the part of the story is supposed to be. Arranging it’s really tough but once you kind of get into that little world, the song tells you what the song’s about and the music.

Shawn: Right! I will say that, if you’re gonna do concept, you kind of have to go music and then lyrics because if you want lyrics then music, then you’re gonna try to force songs into spots they might not necessarily work. 

DeathMountainDew: What was your favorite part of the Annabel Trilogy? Was there a particular story arc that you loved or maybe a specific moment in the story that really stood out to you? 

Shawn: I really loved all the moments in A Place Where The Sun Is Silent. The reflective moments, like, the peaceful moments… like the ones where he was on an island by himself.

Dennis: Still, mine? “The Thespian”, where he finally meets the doppelganger, only because in my mind like, I didn’t realize the character in my mind… he always had a southern drawl.. *chuckles* and I scream that part. I remember everybody laughed when I did it because I did it with the drawl and I had to re-do it. 

Shawn: There’s also, uh, there’s an arc on the new record that I love but I don’t know if I’m supposed to say it just yet ’cause I don’t think a lot of people have heard it. But there’s one particular part of the story where a main character realizes something about herself. There’s one particular part that, like, gets me every time. 

DeathMountainDew: Would it be too difficult or are there any plans or have there been any talks about playing the Annabel Trilogy, front to back in like a 3-night display or something like that? Much like Coheed & Cambria did with their Neverender tour?

Shawn: It’s definitely something that has crossed my mind, like, I’ve even thought about… just ’cause we’ve done The Emptiness tour, where we played The Emptiness straight through but we’ve never played A Place Where the Sun is Silent straight through and we’ve, obviously, never played Confessions straight through. I thought about that because we did the live, CD recording recently where we flew into these cities and it got me thinking that, if we promoted it long enough, if we were to do, like, a 3-night thing where we play each night… it could definitely be  something, I think, would be a lot of fun and would go well. Like, especially if we could make it super nerdy where you come dressed as your favorite character, like, really ham up the whole concept. That would be really awesome! 

BearlySinister: Now, you kind of answered my last question a bit earlier which is: I know you guys have said in your AMA sessions that you don’t like doing the same thing twice but, if you were to ever write another concept record, any concepts you might consider? As I said, we kinda touched on this a little bit earlier. 

Shawn: Yeah, a little bit. Like I said, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of something contemporary but then you *points to Dennis* pointed out something super historical that got me excited, too so…

Dennis: Yeah, we’re both just… fuckin’ nerds. As the debate would go, every time that we come up with the next concept, as everybody’s just sittin’ around,  we’ll crack out something and everybody will kind of get goosebumps.

Shawn: Yeah, it’s the “goosebump rule”, man. If it… if it gives us goosebumps, then that’s what we roll with. 

BearlySinister: Alright, that’s my last question. I do want to thank you both for taking the time out to do this, as I said, I’m a huge fan… have been since the beginning. Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans, our readers and the general public? 

Shawn: Thanks for all the years of support, couldn’t do it without you! 

Dennis: I love that you have a TARDIS hanging from your keychain *everyone laughs* and, uh, yeah… pick up Confessions.. the album’s awesome!

Be on the look out for my review of Confessions and my show review of the Confessions Tour as well!