Words by daniela trujillo evb
Images Tobias Centerwall
Named after the main staple of the Swedish car industry and boasting an all-star cast from other Swedish bands, the latest off-shoot product from the INGRID studios is like a cleverly thought out marketing tool for Sweden and our melodic tradition.
For better or for worse, countries throughout the world are associated with cultural stereotypes, some that ring true, others less so. From societal customs and historical significances to perceived tendencies, we undeniably make connotations based on what we’ve read, heard or have been told about them. For Sweden, schnapps, blonde beauties and harsh winters all seem to surface as some of the most associated, stereotypical conventions, not to mention flat-pack furniture and boring cars. But also among these is an incredible capacity to produce music.
With a population of only nine million inhabitants, Sweden and its music take third place – following the US and UK – in its music exports. It is often the case that although someone may not know much about Sweden as a country, they can easily list any number of popular bands or musicians that are Swedish. If Sweden produces so much well-known music then Stockholm could arguably be the called the capital city of Swedish sound.
The soul of Stockholm’s music scene is undeniable. There isn’t a genre of music here that goes unmade, performed or enjoyed. On any given day of the week and during any season of the year, Stockholm’s stages and studios are booked out and performances on every wavelength echo throughout the city.
This abundance of talent and creativity can feel overwhelming. Keeping up with the latest albums, tours and projects takes dedication, time and effort. Increasingly so, some of our favourite musicians casually ally and musical projects made up of Sweden’s most talented and recognized artists are birthed; such is the case with Amason.
Having been called a ‘supergroup’ by media and fans alike, the Amason ensemble is comprised of members of from Swedish acts Dungen, Miike Snow, Little Majorette and Idiot Wind. To go on and completely annotate the ripple of associated acts would render this article – and therefore my word count – but to a mere list.
Instead, I sat down with Amason members Amanda Bergman, Nils Törnqvist and Gustav Ejstes to discuss the difficulties and discipline associated with – but not often understood, in becoming, being and sustaining one of Sweden’s most sought-after, ‘side project’ bands.
And although band members and musician-brothers Pontus and Petter Winnberg were unable to join us at the INGRID Studios for the interview, we managed to dig deep into Amason’s roots and find out a bit about their upcoming album Sky City.
We start with Gustav of Dungen making sure he practices some form or another of proper stair-climbing etiquette*. Once we reach the second floor Amanda, Nils, Gustav and I seclude ourselves into a cozy room in the corner of the studio. The following hour was full of questions, sharing superpower personalities, clarifications and laughter.
Scheduling seems to be a dominant theme for making and maintaining Amason. You guys are all established musicians with other musical endeavors. How do you give a certain band priority… or not?
Amanda: Well I guess it’s simple really. It’s just about finding the week or time to get together.
Is that easy?
Collectively: No. (Followed by a burst of laughter.)
A: No, not at all. But it’s all about that, finding the time to work together.
I read in past interview that being part of something like the INGRID music collective allows for certain ease in creating and putting out music. If you guys didn’t have INGRID, how much harder would having these kinds of side projects be? Do you think that this band would exist or have an album coming out?
Gustav: Hmmm, I don’t know but I think that because we have all been making music for a pretty long time with different projects, when we started to play we had the goal to make music… as soon as we realized that it worked, Pontus booked some shows and we basically started to work on a record almost immediately.
A: It’s not that we have planned to make a lot of what we have created… it’s just happened. And of course Pontus’ involvement with a few studios, for example, has helped and fueled the band. It makes it easier. We meet in the studio and we record instantly.
What are the pros and cons of this band coming together so organically, and of having a collective like INGRID?
N: Well for instance, when we record there is room to focus on just the music. When you don’t have a studio space you spend a lot of energy as a band finding that space and booking a time. For us, we really get to think only about making the music – those other things are already taken care of.
A: We have all of the tools. On the other hand, if we weren’t as fortunate in our resources that would definitely have an impact on the music. There are pros and cons to everything. It’s amazing. We don’t really think too much about it. We just make music. Who knows what qualities our music would have if we would actually have to figure out the logistics.
G: Also being able to make, record and listen to the songs before even playing them live, the songs develop differently. The classic thing is that you book a space; you rehearse and then book a studio. We have re-recorded some of our songs after having played them live a few times. I don’t know if they are better or worse but…
A: … they’re completely different.
G: Yeah, it’s not good or bad. It just is…
Collectively: … what it is.
Sounds great! You get to go with the flow. How do you guys decide what music goes to which band? Does it ever overlap or get confusing?
G: I think we all have an idea when we come to the studio. Maybe one of us had a vision to play a certain riff with another group or whatever but it’s all collaboration. And once you contribute your part, someone else in the group adds another part and it ceases to be your idea.
N: And we haven’t written that many songs together… basically all of the songs we have written are going to be on the upcoming album *Sky City*.
And how many songs is that?
N: I think ten and then two more on the digital release.
What dominates most of your individual time right now, musically speaking?
N: For me it has been touring. I am currently touring with Markus Krunegård. But that’s a new thing for me; I haven’t been in a band like this in a while – I’ve been playing mostly as a professional musician. There are a lot of things to keep track of when you’re a part of a band like emailing… a lot.
(Nils mimes emailing with his two index fingers as if he has never used a computer before and we all laugh, poking fun at him.)
How did the name ‘Amason’ come up? I’m sure it’s the Volvo car model but where did it come from?
G: In the very beginning Pontus had booked some shows and then we realized we needed a name… He came up with the idea for ‘Amason’.
A: There wasn’t even a discussion!
G: It doesn’t even refer to the car model exactly. It refers more to the thought that this is music that you drive to.
If you weren’t involved with music in any capacity, what would you be doing?
A: I would be working with animals as my friends, definitely with horses.
N: Something with sports… maybe teaching because I am probably too bad to have my own career; ice hockey or football.
Gustav: I want to work with budwheels.
Budwheels? What is that?
G: You know, driving around… I like to go somewhere, pick up stuff and then load out. I like to carry things even though I am not so strong.
I would probably enjoy it for a little while. I think about this. I like to work. I have a picture of myself as a working man; get sweaty and carry stuff.
A real Swedish man?
G: Yeah! You know, so you feel like you deserve the spliff of the evening.
(The group laughs).
People have the tendency to give titles in order to understand things. You guys have been called a ‘supergroup’ which one of you said was a bit sensational, so let’s talk about super powers. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
N: I think mine would be sleeping… Amanda’s would probably be to talk to horses.
A: I can do that already! It’s not so hard! Hmmm. Maybe to be able to run without getting tired? Never ending stamina and strength. And be able to run on water: the human machine.
G: Mine would be being able to solve every conflict.
Once again Gustav, I am going to call you for help. What can you guys tell me about the upcoming album?
G: It is kind of spread all over different genres but it definitely has some kind of thread. It’s not like opera and crab core but it’s pretty spread out.
N: At least we think so.
A: If I weren’t in the band and I listened to the album, I might get a little annoyed by the variety of sounds. I guess you can’t control what people like or don’t like. I just want to release the album so that we can play shows. I don’t really care about anything else; I just want to play shows.
Let’s talk about performing. Do you guys feel that with different bands you have different stage-personas?
G: You go into different roles in every situation, definitely. When I play with Dungen I stand on the very front of the stage. With Amason I am more a part of the background. There are definitely different modes.
A: I don’t think about it too much. It is just very natural. For example, I have many best friends but I am their best friend in different ways. I guess it’s the same with music. It’s just a different relationship. For me it’s different because I am not used to being in a band but we haven’t been playing together that long.
N: For me, being on stage is basically the same regardless of whom I am playing with. It’s just as important every single time. You have to be good and it is important to do your best.
It seems like most people assume that being in a band is all fun and games. How do you perform when you don’t feel like it or you’re tired?
N: It’s a big responsibility to play music and you should be happy that you can do it. You have to remember how lucky you are.
Gu: Yeah, you have to stay humble. People come out and pay to see you. Someone told me once that as soon as you put the music out of your body it is no longer yours. So the music belongs to other people and it is your responsibility to give it to them.
Have you ever lost that humility?
G: Well, in whatever you do – either as a parent or a musician, you have to keep yourself in shape in order to do your best. When you’re out traveling and touring, you need to keep yourself sharp and happy. Being on tour can be uncomfortable and you have to take moments to take care of yourself.
What do you guys do in that regard? To stay in shape and deliver your best.
G: I play scratch a lot. Scratching records, it’s my alone time.
A: I don’t do anything for my vocals, I smoke. As a contrast to sitting around all day and writing music I try to do concrete things, like running for half of an hour. As an artist, I try to find a balance between doing things to open myself up and also to close myself before I go crazy; you have to find a balance.
N: It’s important to know your limits.
N: Yeah, absolutely.
So do you guys feel comfortable with your level of discipline?
Going back to the upcoming album Sky City, are all ten tracks new?
G: No. Went to War and Ålen are from the EP but the album will have newly recorded versions. That’s our way of being responsible to fans… they won’t be paying for completely old songs.
Amanda: Yeah and there are three new songs in Swedish!
How do you decide if it’s going to be in Swedish or English?**
G: We decided a long time ago that it doesn’t matter.
A: Ålen was an instrumental and one day before a show I just jotted down some lyrics in Swedish… and that’s how that song came together.
G: Yeah you wrote that down in a couple of minutes!
That leads me to my final question, when will people be able to see Amason perform next?
N: The album comes out on January 27 and the plan is for us to play Sweden throughout February and tour a bit in the US in March.
Amason’s first, full-length album Sky City will be released on Fairfax Recordings/INGRID on January 27th, 2015.
Look out for a live date in Stockholm in February.
January 27: Södra Teatern in Stockholm, Sweden
Purchase tickets: http://bit.ly/1Giiujq
* According to Gustav, when going up the stairs a man should walk first so as to demonstrate that he isn’t trying to look up a woman’s skirt and when going down it’s ladies first. What a gentleman!
**Fun fact: Amason say that if they could sing in other languages they would like to sing in Portuguese and Farsi.