INTERVIEW: Alesana and the tales of Annabel

We caught up with Shawn Milke of Alesana to discuss their upcoming book ‘Annabel’ detailing the story told over their three most recent albums.

Words by Christopher Reive

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Alesana are releasing a book. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/JUSTIN REICH

Over 200 pages, the story will reveal itself.

After years of fans arguing back and forth about the story line of Alesana’s ‘Annabel’ trilogy, there will soon be answers.

Now you can take this how you chose, but it must be said – throw all your expectations and theories out the window.

If you don’t believe me when I say that, maybe you’ll believe Alesana vocalist Shawn Milke who says even the biggest fans of The Emptiness are going to be like, ‘Holy crap!  I did not see that coming at all.’

“I think the beauty of the storytelling has been how it has come together over time,” Milke says.

Along with co-vocalist Dennis Lee, the pair have spent the best part of seven years building the story.

“It’s not like in 2010 we said, ‘yep this is exactly what is going to happen and these are the characters involved and all of the twists are this, that, and the other.’  The story has developed and changed so many times over the years.  If you had told me back in 2010 that the plot points in The Emptiness were going to be used the way that they ultimately were in the story I would have called you crazy.”

The trilogy busted onto the scene through The Emptiness which was released in 2010 via Fearless Records. It was followed in 2011 by A Place Where the Sun is Silent via Epitaph Records and concluded with Confessions in 2015 on Revival Records.

While A Place Where the Sun is Silent was promoted as a prequel to The Emptiness, the three albums intertwine throughout the book.

Over the years, Milke says he constantly felt like the story was complete, before a new idea came to him that needed to be added – allowing the narrative to grow and develop over time.

“I would be laying in bed in the middle of the night and would terrify my wife by suddenly leaping out of bed to run to my computer and get this new, crazy idea out of my head.  The story is cyclical in many ways and that made it challenging to find ‘the end’.

“It was just a matter of getting all of the loose ends tied to that ending.  In regards to the album trilogy, it was more about introducing the various and differing universes within the story.  In the book, they all interact and loop in and out of the narrative.  With the records I wanted to focus on the specific vibe of each individual sonic universe.”

The idea of focusing on different vibes was apparent in Confessions with the introduction of time travel and tessaracts, which Milke says was something he always wanted to explore in the story.

“I remember saying back when we were making The Emptiness that it would be cool if somehow Annabel was a time traveler.  My favorite part of exploring time travel is the way decisions in one period can drastically affect life in another.”

For Milke, this project has meant “everything.”

“From a creative standpoint, it is my proudest moment.  I had always wanted to write a book and now I have.

“I could not have done it without the excitement and support of our incredible fans.  Thank you.”

If you’ve listened to the reading of the opening chapter of the book, which you can find here, you might have noticed the different voices in the clip.

While Milke didn’t want to give too much away, he hinted that the story would be told through a few different view points.

“If you pay attention to the end of the reading audio, it is actually Rusalka who is penning that letter.  Right off the bat, everything our fans thought they knew about Annabel, The Emptiness and that letter is thrown into a major twist.”

One twist Milke did share was the fact that his favourite character to explore while writing is a character the fans are yet to be introduced to named Roderick.

“He is complex.  On the surface, readers are going to want to feel a certain way about him but as they dig deeper and shed some of the outside layers of his character I think they will find him to be rather sympathetic.

“He wants to maintain a facade that he knows all of the answers but deep down, just like you and I, he is learning on the fly.”

So, what can we expect when the book drops on August 31? Twists, turns, confusion, mystery, revelation and everything in between.

Who knows, a theory you’ve had might even be brought to life, with Milke saying fan theories were one of many things that inspired the story.

“I found a lot of inspiration in the fans and their enthusiasm for the the universe we’d created.  I love reading through their various theories and ideas.  It is amazing to be a part of something that has touched and inspired so many.”

While the mystery of Annabel remains just that for now, on August 31 we’re in for one hell of a ride.

“My biggest piece of advice when reading ‘Annabel’ is to not believe everything you see and expect the unexpected.”

Annabel is set to be released on August 31. Pre-orders are available from here.

PS – I asked Shawn if they would make the Artist’s sketchbook accessible at any point. He replied: “That is a super cool idea and one that I am now going to take under advisement.  Perhaps on a 10 year anniversary tour for The Emptiness? “

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