Epica’s new album The Quantum Enigma will blow your mind, says Simone Simons

Simone Simons is one of the most recognisable women in metal: a vivacious, flame-haired beauty and soprano who has fronted Dutch sextet Epica for over a decade. Now, at just 29, she’s leading Epica into a new era of profound music with their stunning (and of course, epic) new record, The Quantum Enigma.

You could call Simone Simons the epitome of the modern woman as she chats to me from her home in Germany, the first in a bevy of press calls she will be making this morning to talk about Epica’s sixth and upcoming album while her baby son happily plays on her lap. “Everybody’s doing great,” she says of son Vincent and husband Oliver Palotai of Kamelot. As a newly wed and a new mother it can get a bit chaotic at times she says, but she’s determined to balance family life and her career, and evidently not willing to compromise on either.

How would you describe The Quantum Enigma in one sentence? “In one sentence? Absolutely mind blowing, epic.” (laughs)

I agree! It must feel great to get this record out to the fans after all the hard work that has gone into it. “Yes. It’s been the biggest project for Epica when it comes to writing and recording a CD. Lots of time went into it, and we were given some extra time due to my pregnancy. This time we got to relax and be home with our families and write the record a little bit more at our own pace.”

The record is inspired by science, in particular quantum physics, can you tell me a little bit about this theme of the record? “Well in quantum physics they have done this experiment and they found out that whenever you observe particles they take a certain shape – and when you are looking away, it’s a different shape – so in a way you can say you never know: ‘What is reality?’ We determine our reality through our observations, and if we would look away, reality would change. So the quest of finding out what is reality, what are illusions, is a topic that goes through all of the lyrics – life and death and everything in between. The power of the human mind has been the main source of inspiration for this record.”

The music on the record is so atmospheric and transported me to different landscapes, whether a serene spiritual hideaway or into a scene from an epic fantasy novel – what’s one of your favourite moments from the album? “I’ve been listening to the record every day because I have to get the lyrics in my system – during the other interviews I would always say Natural Corruption but yesterday I found out I really loved the title track as well, The Quantum Enigma, it’s really what Epica stands for. And also The Fifth Guardian, I mean that’s definitely a super, mind-blowing piece.”

Each song is crafted beautifully. My favourite tracks are Victims of Contingency and Omen: The Ghoulish Malady. Lyrics like ‘together we are strong / remember you are not alone’ are things that some people need to hear during these times, and it’s as if Epica is reaching out to their fans on a personal level. “Definitely. It’s about making your spirit stronger, and if we stick together, we can conquer all injustice and bad luck. Music unites people in general as well. The funny thing is that we’ve got so many Epica couples, and they come to us and say: ‘Epica got us together.’ Me and Isaac [Delahaye] were in New York in the beginning of April to do some acoustic shows and we had a meet and greet with fans and there was this cute couple and they said: ‘We just want to thank you for bringing us together,’ and she wrote me a sweet letter, and that’s so cool you know, that they might not have met if not for our music.”

The emotional connection of your voice with the lyrics is a real stand-out on this record. Was that something you strived to achieve or did it come naturally? “Actually it comes naturally. Of course, I write half the lyrics, Mark [Jansen] writes half the lyrics, and we have to know what we are writing about in order to get into that role, but we’ve been working together for so long so we kind of get each other’s brains, and a big change for me has been pregnancy; it transformed my voice, gave it more dimension. It has a new emotion that wasn’t there before.”

You’re a new mum and a working mum. You went into the studio, in a sense, returned to work, when your son was just eight weeks old. It’s both physically and mentally challenging being a mother of a newborn, how did you do it? “It was quite stressful for me. I was still breastfeeding, so I was mentally and physically exhausted, like the walking dead pretty much. And singing is very physically demanding. I had a strong schedule of ten days, every day for a couple of hours. We had a very regular schedule together with Joost [van den Broek, producer] and it was super-efficient. I was breast feeding and eating at the same time. Isaac, my mum and my husband would take turns in taking care of Vincent. 

But you were determined… “I was determined, and I did it, and I’m very proud. It makes this record even more special than it already is.”

It must be a rewarding as well as a powerful role being a successful female vocalist in a male dominated genre. “I do know that I am influencing people, and I do keep that in the back of my mind with everything that I do. I have a positive mindset so I try to get that across to other people as well, to young girls that may be insecure, I have to let them know that you have to be yourself: you have to be ‘you’ and you have to love yourself and not try to be like another person, or want the life of another person. That’s what I use my power for, to make people feel confident and to believe in themselves.”

You certainly are the embodiment of elegance and such a strong and positive woman, and you’ve had such success with Epica, and yet you’re not even 30 yet. “I started really young. I do feel rich, or older that I actually am, because of all the experiences that I’ve had. I love what I do. Right now with a little baby it’s going to be a bit more challenging, but I’m going to try to make it work because I love motherhood and I love being a musician and travelling the world. It’s not a job or a hobby, it’s my life. I can’t imagine not having music in my life. My husband’s a musician, so let's see if our son will inherit any of our musical preferences or interests, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue doing what I do best.”

The Quantum Enigma is out May 2 on Nuclear Blast.