The Big Deal interview
Written by Kevin Tanza on May 11, 2022
Music video for Never Say Never.
The Big Deal is an up-and-coming Hard Rock hailing from Serbia and they are bound to release their debut album, First Bite, with Frontiers Records as their label. Their guitar player, Srdjan Brankovic, who made a name for himself with Progressive Metal band Alogia, joined forces with academic singer and keyboard player Nevena Brankovic, who also happens to be Srdjan’s wife.
This is how the project of The Big Deal came to be and they added vocalist Ana Nikolic, adding another layer of quality and vocal range to the band as a whole. And you can hear what this band is all about based on their first couple of singles: Sensational is a very good mix of Hard Rock and Pop, Never Say Never has some riffs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an 80s Dio album mixed with some really good melodies and Top Heaven is a delight for those that love vocal harmonies.
And above all that, it’s fun. It’s music that feels fresh and exciting, which is what Rock music should be all about. So, it was a pleasure to talk with Srdjan, Nevena and Ana to discuss all things The Big Deal. Hope you enjoy it.
Well, guys, first and foremost, welcome to MusikHolics and thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Srdjan: Thank you very much!
How you’ve these last few months with promoting your debut album, First Bite?
Srdjan: We are very excited about that and we are overjoyed with the great reactions and all the messages of support from all over the world, which we’ve received after the first three singles.
For people that perhaps are not familiar with the group, what can you tell them about The Big Deal and how it came to be?
Srdjan: We started working as a trio on music. Nevena, Marko (Milojevic, drummer) and I. Later, Ana joined us, and somewhere in the middle of recording the album, we all decided together that Alessandro (Del Vecchio, bassist) would become a regular member of the band.
Music video for Sensational.
What are some of the artists and albums that influenced your sound? Because you seem to have a very interesting mix of old school Metal and Hard Rock with some Pop undertones here and there.
Srdjan: I have been a Metal and Rock fan and collector for decades. Listening to music is as important to me as playing. It would be a huge list of bands… I think the album combines a traditional approach, but still in a modern way. As a guitarist, I am inspired by tradition. Adrian Smith, Andy LaRocque, Tony Macalpine, John Petrucci…
Nevena: Srdjan’s traditional Heavy Metal base combined with my education gives interesting results, since I am a graduate academic, a pianist. We often try to combine my influences of classical music, including evergreen Jazz and my theory with his perfect sense of quality Heavy Metal chorus and arrangement. I think that the songs are a harmonious and real melodic paradise. Each song on the album is like that.
Of course, you come from Serbia. What can you tell us about the Rock and Metal culture in your country?
Srdjan: There are a lot of musicians who play great, maybe too many. But a large number of them actually play the music they don’t even like. The Serbian new Rock scene relies on the raw side of this direction, so it is dominated by Punk, alternative music, combinations of Balkan folk melodies with guitars and rap, and the majority of new bands that attract attention are actually a parody of real Rock/Punk.
I think we haven’t had a really good fresh singer for years, one who would rely on what Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, Fredie Mercury used to do…
Ana: From Serbian artists, I would single out Nikola Mijic, who is definitely the best Serbian Hard Rock singer. You may know him from the bands Eden’s Curse, Serious Black, Alogia.
Both Ana and Nevena share vocal duties. When you are recording, how do you arrange to distribute vocal lines? How do you go “You sing this one, I’ll sing this one”?
Ana: We do it spontaneously. Of course since Nevena is pretty occupied with keyboards, we think about that when we make singing arrangements. Having two female vocalists we’ve been at times associated with ABBA, for example, but I think that this is not a usual vocal duo, as Nevena is a keyboardist who sings as well.
The Big Deal’s cover of ABBA’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).
What is your usual writing process when recording?
Srdjan: First, we spend a lot of time thinking about vocal melodies and harmony. The songs were composed with acoustic guitar and piano and were made to sound great in acoustic arrangements. We wanted our songs to be catchy, melodic, intelligently composed, with chords that are just interesting enough not to be too abstract, but to create a magical, emotional and memorable atmosphere as well.
You’re working right now with Frontiers. This is probably the label when it comes to Hard Rock music at the moment. Was there any concern that perhaps you were going to be ignored or not getting enough promotion, considering the roster that Frontiers has?
Srdjan: We are extremely pleased with Frontiers. I think they are true fans of “the product” they publish. And that is very important. I think they do everything in their power to promote artists signed to the label and their music. Bands often think that the label is responsible for everything though, but is not like that. The band itself is responsible for many things – the music they put out is important and the band must be dedicated to their own promotion and be imaginative in that sense. We are fans of Frontiers and we think they are the best label for us.
Your songs usually have a strong combination of guitars and keyboards, so I have a question for Nevena and Srdjan: How do you manage to make those two instruments blend so well in the songs?
Nevena: I think it’s a great combination. Together we look for melodies and chords with acoustic guitars and piano, and then we make an arrangement in the studio so that electric guitars give power, and keyboards atmosphere and magic. I’m really happy with the songs and I think every song is a total hit.
My favorite song of the singles is Never Say Never. Can you walk us through about the making of that video?
Nevena: Never Say Never was the first video we shot and it was and still is very important to us. Srdjan already had a vision of what the video would look like, so he chose a mystical castle-like building, with dimmed lighting and a lot of candles. Dark and heavy, just like the song is.
Ana: We wanted to showcase the factual cross-section of the band – that we all play seriously and that music and music skills are our main trump card. Two female vocalists in front with Nevena on the piano and the band killing it. The song and the video are a representation of other songs as well. We gave a glimpse of what can be expected in the future releases – killer choruses and melodies for all traditional Rock and melodic Metal lovers.
Music video for Top Heaven.
Considering that all of you have experience working in other bands and doing music, I wanted to ask you: What are the challenges that you need to overcome to make a band work?
Srdjan: It’s not easy, not at all. Being signed to such a great label which we are all big fans of, and being the first Serbian band who has ever been signed to that same label, well, it sets high expectations and asks for great sacrifices. We all have different musical influences and styles and ideas of interpretation and different comments or reactions affect each of us differently. That is why we’ve made certain “rules” at the very beginning which we’ve agreed to “blindly” follow, and on that foundation that never changes, a band was founded.
What do you have in store in terms of live performances to promote First Bite?
Ana: Honestly, we didn’t think much about it. But we started getting some offers last year, after the first covers on the Frontiers channel. We will certainly have a couple of festivals this summer, but it is too early to announce that.
What can you tell us about the songs that haven’t been released yet off the album?
Srdjan: We really enjoyed the process of composing and recording the songs. We even enjoyed it so much that we recorded more than what was required (laughs). So we had to put two songs aside since we’ve already recorded 11 of them and that was a difficult decision for us, because we loved all of them, just like parents love their children. Plus, all of them were amazing.
Any song in particular that you are looking forward to playing live?
Srdjan: I think we will play almost all the songs from the album, but we plan to add some classic Heavy Metal covers too. We are all fans of the music that has influenced us, so I think that it will be interesting to include covers as well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, guys. It was very cool. Any last message for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media and buy your music?
Srdjan: Do not forget the traditional values. Buy music like when you were a kid, cherish the imagination and passion of your teenage days.