Vintervikens Trädgård is an idyllic little spot, with a cafe, stages, gardens and some of the biggest kale plants around. It’s therefore a pretty pleasant place to be when the sun’s shining, which probably explains why record label Hybris chose it as the host venue for their summer concert series. Round two took place over the last weekend, with Wy, Echo Ladies, Melby and Many Voices Speak on the line-up, and we took some time to hang out with them and catch their sets.
So, first of all, talk to us about debut album Okay, which is out in October?
Ebba [Ågren, vocals]: It’s still as emotional as all the music we have released so far. It’s a simpler sound, or maybe I should say it’s the same kind of sound but with simpler production. We’ve simplified and focused more on the lyrics and the feeling of it.
Michel [Gustafsson, guitar]: The sound got bigger, so we decided to simplify.
So would you say that’s how it’s changed from the EP sound?
Michel: Yeah, it’s a lot bigger and more ambitious in the arrangements.
Ebba: But there’s not as many layers, and I think it’s a lot more refined than the EP. It’s still shifting in terms of genre, but it’s more together. It feels like one thing, whereas the EP was a little bit of everything.
Because there was a little genre switch in the two singles, because Bathrooms is like your classic Wy sound, and then What Would I Ever Do sounds even a little more like the The XX in style, with the little sample and all.
Ebba: Yeah, we’ve heard comparisons with The XX a lot before, but we actually don’t listen much to The XX really. I think they’re good, but I don’t think it’s the same [sound].
Michel: That song kind of turned out as it did because we had another production for it that we thought wasn’t as good, and then we started working on different versions of it. The one that was released was the one we liked the most.
Ebba: Yeah, and that was the simplified version with the focus on the plucked guitar, because [on the first version] we had chords and classic drums, and it had more of a waltz tempo. And I think that’s why we released those two as the first singles, because they are so different and they tie the album together. There are the two sides of the album in those two songs.
So you released the video for WWIED with Spanish subtitles, and that’s from a YouTuber called Diana Salazer, who first did the subtitles for In Bloom last year. So how did that end up as the idea for this video, that you’d have it in there?
Ebba: Actually, I got the idea from the band Chairlift. They have a Japanese version of I Belong In Your Arms with subtitles, and she ( singer Caroline Polachek) learned all the lyrics in Japanese. I didn’t do that with the Spanish, haha, but we saw the opportunity because she [Diana Salazar] had translated In Bloom before, so we thought it would be cool to have, as we have Spanish-speaking fans. People always ask for translations of our songs.
So you’re fairly openly a ‘sad’ band, with your self-description of “WE ARE FILLED WITH DOUBT BUT WE HAVE NO TIME TO BE SUICIDAL SO WE KISS OUR WOUNDS AND PLAY SAD GUITARS UNTIL OUR FINGERS CHAFE”. So I was wondering if I could get your take on some other famous ‘sad’ bands?
Ebba: I don’t want to say Yung Lean but [laughs] you kind of think of Yung Lean! Lana Del Rey, I think she’s like the sad girl icon. But it wasn’t like we decided that ‘oh, we wanna make sad music’. It was more like we write better when we lean towards the melancholic in our sound. It’s hard to make an upbeat song.
I had a little list of ‘classic sad bands’, and I was wondering if you could rank them? So let’s start off with The Smiths, where do they come in the Wy ‘sad band rankings’?
Ebba: I think we’re kind of on the same page as them, because they’ve kind of got a hopeful sadness in their sound, and not just the dark sadness. Because we also never tend to go that way, where everything is in minor and sounds really dark. We always go for the longing, hopeful sadness. And I think The Smiths are good at that.
Next up, the XX.
Ebba: Yeah, I kind of like them because they have a sadness to them, but they’ve done it really well because they can have upbeat songs, but they are still a little sad. That’s nice.
Michel: We respect them for what they do, but we’re not really fans.
Ebba: No, we’re not hardcore The XX fans really, but we listen and we like it. It’s hard to rank The XX and the Smiths, because neither are bands we listened a lot to. We’re both past emos, so we listened to a lot of that kind of sad music.
And finally, Lykke Li
Ebba: Oh, she’s my favourite sadgirl. I think the best live concert I’ve ever been to was Lykke Li. She’s also great at making big hopeful songs that are still sad. And she has the lyric ‘sadness is a blessing, sadness is a curse, sadness is my boyfriend, sadness I’m your girl’ … I think number one Lykke Li, number two The Smiths and number three The XX
Finally, to wrap it up, you guys are big friends with Echo Ladies, so if you had cover an Echo Ladies song, which one would you go for?
Ebba: Oh… Watching Time.
Michel: I would do Close To Be, Close To Me. I like the instrumentation.
Ebba: I don’t think we can agree on the Echo Ladies song [laughs], that’s where we split in our music taste.
Just on Echo Ladies?
Ebba: Haha, yeah, that’s the only thing. But yeah, we listen to a lot of the same music, but there are times where we just think the exact opposite.
Okay is out on Hybris on October 20
Many Voices Speak
It’s been a while since the Away For All Time EP, so what are you working on at present?
Matilda Mård: An LP, which will probably be released this coming fall. So I’m spending the whole summer just finishing the last songs. Some of them are already been being recorded.
Are any of the songs from the EP going to be carried over?
No, it’s all new songs. But some of them are in the live set already.
You covered Rodgers and Hart’s Blue Moon a while ago, and I was struck by how strongly it fit in with your vibe. So what is your connection to that song? How did you end up deciding to cover it?
It was just a coincidence. I’ve heard that song all my life of course, but I had a phase where I was watching Fame, and this song appeared. It was supposed to sound bad, because it was a girl performing Blue Moon at an audition she failed. She didn’t make it, but it was very moving, her way of being so fragile and vulnerable. So I was moved by the scene and the song for the first time. And I looked up the actress [Dominique Dunne] and I saw that she had a miserable fate, as she was killed by her boyfriend, only a year after that scene was recorded. So it got so much more depth, and from nowhere it now had a bigger meaning for me, that song. It was inspiration I guess, to perform it myself.
That kind of choice of song as a cover shows a nostalgia and affection for the past that runs through your, music, artwork and aesthetic. So what is it about nostalgia that fuels you creatively?
I think it runs through my whole personality. I’ve noticed that not everyone is like that. Sometimes when you want to simplify things, you want to divide people in two, either you’re this way or that way. I think sometimes either you’re focussing on the future, you want to focus on what to do, you have all these goals. That’s always been troubling for me because I don’t have that drive. But on the other hand, I have a lot of drive backwards. What’s already been is very inspiring for me. I think it’s part of being a person who spends a lot of time in their head.
Kind of a dreamer?
Yeah, absolutely. The music is only another version of my personality I guess. It just happened to be that way, so I guess it’s just how I am.
You’re currently working on the album, how’s progress?
Joar [Andersen, bass]: We’ve finished the album.
Mattis [Andersson, guitar]: We haven’t done the mixes yet, but we’ve recorded everything. So it’s still a long process, but everything is recorded and it’s being mixed. We haven’t heard the finished product yet, but we’re looking forward to it.
Joar: We did it in four days, eight songs in four days. We were inside the studio in the summer, out in the country, and you’re not able to do anything. So when you get tired of recording and want a break, you’re still in the studio. So you’ve having a break in the studio. And having lunch in the studio.
Mattis: We were in the studio ten hours a day.
Joar: And as soon as we finished a song we moved straight on to the next one, no break!
Mattis: We had a short timeframe, because we all had work we had to get back to. So we did it in four days, so it was a short span. Usually you’d want five or six.
Joar: Maybe ten! A lot of it is down to Joakim Lindberg (their producer and from the band MFMB), he’s so quick. He’ll just say ‘let’s hear the demo’, we’ll play the demo and he’ll say ‘I feel this when I hear this. Let’s go’. He’s so enthusiastic.
Matilda [Bogren, vocals]: And he really understands our sound. It feels really good that he’s mixing it, so we’re in good hands.
We’ve only heard the EP so far, so how would you say the album sound compares to the EP?
Mattis: The EP was songs we recorded that were from the first couple of months when Echo Ladies started, and some songs that were finished just two or three months before we went into the studio. But these ones are more about the music we do now. The EP kind of marked the split in how we sound, but these new songs are more how we want it to sound.
Matilda: There’s a small difference I think, maybe a little more…
Joar: Mature. Like Mattis said, there are songs from the beginning when we just started Echo Ladies, from when we were 19.
Which songs were those?
Mattis: Nothing Ever Lasts and Never The Same Way. Nothing Ever Lasts we wrote at maybe our fourth rehearsal ever. The newest song [from the EP] is Close To Be, Close To Me.
Joar: Some of the songs on the album we finished on the day before we went into the studio. The album was more about trying to put together eight to ten songs, but with the EP it’s more ‘Let’s take that one and that one” [from the songs we already have].
Mattis: Now we started from scratch and starting making new songs with the idea of making an album.
Did you enjoy that kind of rapid working process that you had for the album?
Matilda: I liked it more, yeah. We needed songs, so we had to be creative and make the songs.
Mattis: I think I don’t prefer one way over the other. I think that as long as your creativity flows, you can work on something very intensely. But you can also take it easy and not rush an album. We didn’t rush this, because we felt that creativity and we wanted to make the songs and we thought that the songs were good. Last time we just made songs over a long period of time as we didn’t have something to work for, we just wanted to get gigs and for someone to maybe release us at some point. We just worked to the next gig. Now we look ahead a little more.
And then as a final question, which feeds into your being friends with Wy, if you had to cover one of their songs which would you pick?
Joar: Oh my god.
Mattis: I like that song that they always have as an encore song, The God Concept.
Joar: I love Bathrooms. So much. But there’s one that’s…In Bloom. No wait. Nobody Else, that’s the one I would pick.
Matilda: I think I agree.
Joar: But I don’t know how to make it better, we could maybe add something, maybe more fuzz guitar. I think it’s such a sad and epic song. Nobody Else, final answer.
Okay, so the EP is out now, how has the reaction been to it?
Are [Engen Steinsholm, guitar]: It feels like we had released so many of the songs before, so we had already gotten a lot of the reaction. But I’ve heard a lot from people I know from outside the Stockholm bubble. I guess people who are in the Stockholm bubble, they already knew about it and had already said stuff, but I’ve gotten a lot of message from old friends that said they’ve enjoyed it.
Matilda [Wiezell, vocals]: It feels like we worked a lot before and then we just released it, so that’s been relaxing. We don’t have to think about it so much!
So what are you working on now, you said you’ve been rehearsing?
Are: Yeah, we’ve got seven new songs. We played like of five of them at our last concert.
David [Jehrlander, bass]: It feels like a special thing to do, to do gigs with the new songs.
Teo [Jernkvist, drums]: With more new songs than old songs.
Are: It’ll be the second time out for a lot of them today, we’re playing how many? Three new songs today.
Matilda: I play guitar on two songs, and it gives me a lot of energy to do something I’m not super secure about.
Are: We haven’t starting recording any of them yet, we have just rehearsed them.
Matilda: But we have a lot we could record. If we want to, we can do that. We might work a bit faster this time.
David: Not do just four songs in a year [laughs].
Are: We will definitely do something this autumn, we just haven’t fully decided yet.
Is it nice to get to play out here in the trädgården, is it a nice change from club gigs in Stockholm?
Matilda: I feel more relaxed playing in the evening and nighttime.
David: You get more energy from the crowd.
Matilda: It’s intimate in another way.
Are: It’s more see-though here. You get some help from club gigs, it builds a mood in itself, as people get set in the particular mood for the concert. It’s not the same here, it’s not as easy to set a mood. And that is what we try to do in a lot of our songs. So that is hard. But I think there are also nice things about this kind of show. I think people listen to details a bit more. We have a lot of details, so I think it’s nice that people will be able to hear them.
Matilda: Some of the new songs like Dancer, I think suit the day time better.
Words & Photos: Austin Maloney