Second albums can be a tricky thing for most bands. The reason being is that it’s a transitional process. When you burst out with a debut record you’re a new band, and there’s nothing more exciting in music than a great new band, both for the audiences and the band themselves. The excitement of finding your next favourite band, that lightning in a bottle feeling of new faces making great music can be a powerful thing, which means that it can be difficult for bands when it fades away. There’s also the fact that for bands themselves, making their debut album has been their life goal ever since they first picked up an instrument. So when it’s done, what happens next?
Pale Honey find themselves pondering that question now. The Gothenburg rock duo, Tuva Lodmark on vocals and guitar and Nelly Daltrey on drums, were one of the most exciting new bands around when they thunderbolted onto the scene with the Fiction EP in 2014, three songs of raw, on-the-edge-of-your-nerves rock and roll. They matched it in quality on their self-titled debut album, which came out on Bolero Recordings the following year. Now they’re almost there with the follow-up to that record. Luckily, moving onto album number two didn’t provoke any existential questions for the band. In fact, they’re raring to go, and excited to show the world what they’ve been working on: “When we recorded the debut album, we had so many old songs”, says Lodmark. “We wanted to release it, and our label wanted to release it, but in our minds we were already past that. We wanted to do new things. So when we finished that album it felt like a milestone, like we were wrapping that up. And that now we could focus on the things that we had in mind”. “Some of the songs on the debut are from when we were fifteen or sixteen years old” adds Daltrey. “And when we released the album we went on tour with it, and then sent out singles to the radio and stuff like that. So it’s been a very long time with those songs. I think we’ve been writing music constantly, and getting on with our private lives, we have boyfriends and we’re in school. So that takes up some of our time. But it’s been a long time. Now it feels like that with some of the songs that are going to be on this album, we’ve heard them so many times already. So now it’s about finding an end to it [the new album]. When are we going to stop, when are we going to put it out”.
While Pale Honey was partially recorded in Paris, with the band holed up in the studio for intense hours to finish it, the new record has been written and recorded at home in Gothenburg, and the band have been able to work at a more relaxed pace, with more time to try things out and experiment: “Our producer lived in Paris” says Daltrey. “That’s why we went there, because he had a studio that we could record in. Before that we just kind of sent songs to him, if we had a demo we would just send it to him and he would say what he thought of it, whether he liked it or not. Now we’re here in Gothenburg, and we all live here now, so it’s a faster process now if we want something done. We can just say ‘Let’s go to the studio and record some drums’. In some ways, it does take a longer time to get things done, because everyone has their lives here. The days are shorter, and in the end we go home. When you set up a date and rent a studio, you have to do this now. It doesn’t matter if you’re dying! […] I like both of them [the situations]. It’s like being on tour, you have lots of days together. When you go away for three weeks and play every day, it’s hard. But it’s also fun because you get to focus on just music. When the dates are a bit looser, like ‘we have two gigs next month’, you don’t have the time to get into the mood. We’ve talked about this a lot in the band as well. We have time periods where we’re just the band, when we’re on tour. You hang with each other, you sleep in the same room, you don’t really get alone time unless you’re in the bathroom. It’s like being a parent all of a sudden. I like that as well. And when we get back from tour it takes a while for us to see each other again, so we get to miss each other”. “It’s not life or death now” says Lodmark. “We can say: Let’s go to the studio and try some things. It’s not like ‘we only have five days, this needs to be perfect’. We can play around a lot more, and I think that’s very fun and very good for the album”.
We’ve gotten the first tastes of that album in the form of two singles, ‘Real Thing’ and ‘Why Do I Always Feel This Way’. ‘Real Thing’ is a growling, heavy rock song with real wallop, and Why Do I Always Feel This Way’ is a stripped-back synth song with raw emotional power. Pale Honey, with a basic set-up of guitar and drums, have always tended to be typecast in the media as a minimalistic rock duo. They’re pondering that image of themselves, and say that on the new record they’re been able to test out new ideas: “I think people have this vision of us that they really like, it’s compelling to them, so they really enhance it themselves” says Daltrey. “The minimalistic thing. That’s what we thought we were in the beginning as well, at least compared to other bands. We can play a lot more instruments when we’re recording, than we can live. Before, [our sound] was a lot about rehearsing, and what we could do in the rehearsal room, live. Now it’s kind of the opposite. Now when we’re writing songs, we can do drums, guitar, singing, whatever we want on the computer. I think that’s how the sound has changed”. Lodmark says: “I still feel it’s important to keep that minimalistic touch. I really don’t like when there’s too much [happening in a song]. I think that silence is a good instrument as well. It can do so much”.
It addition to the stylistic changes, the band have evolved simply through becoming more confident and experienced as a band, more confident in their abilities and their capacity to try new things. Lodmark says: “I think we have, or at least I have, more courage. Now I’m not afraid of Nelly and Anders [their producer] thinking something I’ve tried is really bad. We’ve talked about that; we both feel much more confident”. “It’s okay to play something wrong” continues Daltrey. “When we’re at our producers he’ll say ‘Go and play drums’, and you have to do something on the spot. Years ago it was very hard to sit down and do that, thinking ‘he’s going to record this, I’ve not had time to prepare, I don’t know where we are’, kind of a panic. Now it’s more like ‘I have a feeling for this song, I know what we can do’. Worst case we can just cut it. Now we have more ideas too, whether it’s our producer or Tuva, it’s not just me doing the drums. I think we all have more to say about the other instruments now. I think I have more to say at least, about the other instruments. Again, before we only had a few days to record, and we worked really hard. There wasn’t time to stand by the synthesiser and test things. It was more ‘let’s just do what we have to do’, and I think that’s changed now. But it’s not an entirely new sound or direction that we’re taking”.
‘Real Thing’ and ‘Why Do I Always Feel This Way’ are enough to get anyone excited for the new album, which the band are currently closing in on finishing: “We still have the final recordings, and the mixing and mastering”, says Lodmark. “We still have some lyrics left [to finish], but we have all the instrumentals written. We just have to record all of the vocals”. Daltrey says “It’ll be easier to set the date the closer it gets [to completion]. […] We always do very good pre-productions. We use lots of the demo materials in the final songs as well. So I think it’s going to be a really quick process, once we’re in the studio. We don’t have a name yet for the album. We’ve talked a bit about it. We’ll see what it’s going to be called”.
What won’t be changing anytime soon in the Pale Honey world is the bond between Daltrey and Lodmark. The two met and began playing music in school, and the band grew out of that friendship. When I ask them about it, both agree:
Lodmark: I think our relationship is the core of Pale Honey. I know it’s that way.
Daltrey: We put a lot of ourselves into the band, it’s not just in the songs but even in everything around it. In press images, our videos, our texts, everything.
Lodmark: The band is based on our relationship.
Daltrey: It’s true. We’re not doing this for money, because we’re not rich, obviously. But instead, because it’s a fun thing to do. There have been times when we’ve argued, and I’ve been really pissed, but we do it because we care about each other.
Is that a really good resource to base a band off, that faith in each other?
Daltrey: I think so. It’s not that we feel we’re friends so we have to do this, it’s more that we’re friends and we are good at this.
Lodmark: I can’t think of any other person in the world that I would want to do this with.
Daltrey: I think if Tuva quit the band, why would I continue?
Lodmark: I feel the same way.
‘Real Thing’ and ‘Why Do I Always Feel This Way’ are out now on Bolero Recordings. Pale Honey’s new album is due to arrive this autumn. They play at Trädgården’s Live Sessions on Jun 14.
Words: Austin Maloney
This article first appeared in Totally Gothenburg