Exiled Hope Interview

US-based Sofia Frasz is a powerhouse. On top of being a film composer and a law student, she has a fascinating blackened power metal project under the Exiled Hope monicker. So, I had a great chat with the most metal music lawyer you’ll ever meet.

Hi Sofia, this is Rick! How are things going?

Pretty busy, but making lots of progress! Thank you for reaching out.

Exiled Hope’s music is a unique mix of power metal and black metal, as much unexpected as it is beautiful. What was your starting point when crafting this sound?

The simple answer is that I get bored easily, so I like to experiment with different styles to make my music interesting. I personally don’t often sit through entire albums that rely on the same predictable formulas and styles from song to song, so I try to mix things up to keep the album flowing while giving listeners some memorable twists and turns. 

The more complicated answer is that I want my music to reflect a broad spectrum of feelings so that my listeners don’t need to be in a specific mood to listen to my music. Everyone is multifaceted, and I want to encapsulate a more three-dimensional emotional experience instead of having everything be either dark and angry or triumphant and heroic.

I want my music to be a haven for my listeners no matter what they need emotionally at a given point. This necessitates incorporating a very wide range of styles that have different emotional signatures; some styles of metal are better at delivering a specific impact than others, and I use elements of each style very intentionally to evoke different moods.

You have released some singles over a couple of years, and now Apocrypha has been announced. Were you planning for an album since the beginning? And do the songs tell a story?

The album has been the plan since the beginning, but it’s been a slow process for a slew of reasons. Every song on the album, including the singles, represents a chapter in the story of the album. This is the case for all of my albums, since I like having an overarching theme to guide the songs and make everything flow more cohesively.

This is your third album since 2019 – one hell of a record! Has there been an evolution regarding your music, or your creative process during these years?

The intent behind my music has stayed the same (epic conceptual records that abstract my personal musings into characters and stories), but I have more skills in my toolbox to help me bring that intent to life more completely.
I feel like I can finally make music that sounds complete to me, like there’s not much missing from these new compositions. Of course, you never stop improving as an artist, but these new songs sound fuller than anything I’ve released before. I finally have more of the skills I need to accurately portray my ideas.

Exiled Hope is a one-person-band; what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced doing everything on your own? Why the choice of going solo?

On the first 2 albums and the EP, I had no idea what I was doing production-wise.

As a solo artist, you need to learn everything on your own, and I didn’t even know what mixing and mastering were when I released those albums. Now I hire someone to mix and master my music professionally.
You also need to be willing to either teach yourself new skills or take lessons if you can’t teach yourself. I’m primarily a guitarist and I had to teach myself piano, orchestration, and harsh vocals to complete these albums. I took voice lessons to improve my clean vocals because that was something I just couldn’t seem to grasp on my own.

There are no shortcuts when you’re a solo artist, so you need to be willing to put in the work to realize your vision.

On the other hand, going solo is incredibly freeing. My philosophy generally is that if you want something done right, you often need to do it yourself. All of my songs are very personal to me, and I’ve taken the time to develop the skills to make them accurately reflect my own ideas and feelings in a way that other contributors might not grasp.
I also didn’t want to wait around for the perfect bandmates to come along before I started making music; relying on other people might be necessary sometimes, but it slows you down when you don’t share the same dedication for the project.
I was in a band in college, and it was incredibly difficult to make our schedules work together and to reconcile all of our different ideas for our songs. In the time it took for us to record one vocal line or one guitar line for that band, I had already recorded demos for 2 Exiled Hope songs.

Exiled Hope is a solo project because I don’t want to rely on anyone else to make these songs happen.

You have also written music for films. Does it help, when writing something as atmospheric as black metal? Conversely, does your experience with metal help when writing film music?

It absolutely does help, because writing music for films teaches you to tell a cohesive story and build around a certain mood with a song. This has helped me develop a better sense of direction in my own songwriting for Exiled Hope.

On the flip side, I think my experience with metal helps me add depth and a greater attention to detail when writing film music. Metal is a very dramatic genre and tiny details can add a lot to metal songs in particular, so I tend to translate those thematic elements of metal to film music.

I saw on Instagram you’re studying to become a music attorney. Can you explain what will be your duties as an attorney? I imagine there are some advantages in being a musician yourself.

I specifically intend to practice transactional law within the sphere of music law, meaning that I’ll focus on contracts, IP registrations, and royalty collecting instead of court documents.
I’m currently working remotely with a music law firm (Randy Ojeda Law) based out of Tampa, Florida while in law school, and that involves reviewing and drafting contracts, advising clients, ensuring clients get paid, and registering clients’ copyrights and trademarks. In my experience, it requires knowledge of IP law and even more extensive knowledge of the norms and conventions of the music industry in particular. 

Being a musician is a huge advantage in this field because I know what’s important to clients. When reviewing or drafting a contract, for instance, I know that there are specific terms to pay careful attention to because music industry professionals use them in specialized ways, and attorneys who are just generally familiar with other fields will not catch those terms or understand their importance.

Things jump out to musicians-turned-lawyers that would not jump out to lawyers in other practice areas who don’t have practical, real-world experience with the music industry (and the consequences of not understanding music industry norms).

Music lawyers with other kinds of experience in the music industry are better advocates for their clients because they understand how to work with the conventions of the music industry to negotiate deals to their clients’ favor.
For example, most lawyers without music industry experience might not look twice at a term in a management contract that gives the manager a 25% commission, but that would jump out to a lawyer with substantive experience because the general convention in the music industry is a 15% to 20% commission for the manager, and an experienced music lawyer would flag that as a term to negotiate.

Many thanks to Sofia from Exiled Hope for this great chat! Apocrypha, her newest album, will be released mid-2024; in the meantime, you can listen to her music on Bandcamp. And don’t forget to follow Sofia on Instagram!