I’ve long had a bit of a fixation with Swedish music, be it my dad’s love of Abba growing up, my earliest trip to London for a gig (watching The Hives Pelle Almqvist nearly break his neck throwing himself from a speaker stack) or a couple of my current fixations Lykke Li and The Knife. When swirly folk rockers The Glade came forward and offered their services in giving me a little insight, then, I was delighted to take them up on the offer.
Here, Jonas Carping answers my questions, which essentially amounts to ‘Is the Swedish scene as fantastic as it seems from the outside’, with a little more detail thrown in along the way. I dropped in on Stockholm back in November, incidentally, and from what little I gathered during my two night stay, it is indeed a pretty special place for music lovers. If you scroll down to the bottom and click play first, you can read accompanied by Jonas’ own music and his Stockholm-based recommendations. Over to the man himself…
Here in Ireland the Swedish music scene was long famous for metal and Abba. More recently its been Lykke Li, The Hives, The Knife, Basshunter and Robyn. Is that a decent microcosm of what’s really going on, or are we missing a lot of the better acts?
I would say Yes, and Yes actually. The Lykke Li thing is going on in terms of really talented female vocalists and songwriters. Lykke Li is for sure a nice boost of inspiration for many young aspiring songwriters. There’s most definitely a strong electronic music scene going on and a metal one as well. I don’t really listen to electronic music nor am I that into metal, so I ccouldn’t tell you much about it. Robyn is kind of cool also. It seems like she follows her heart. And people doing that, you have to respect.
As for what you are missing, it would mostly be the great Swedish traditional songwriters, performing the style of music called ”visa” here in Sweden. Like Cornelis Vreeswijk. He was true excellence personified. And I doubt there will ever be anyone like him. ”Visa” is traditionally performed in Swedish, so it doesn’t really reach outside the borders of Scandinavia. It’s a bit similar to Irish folk music actually. I think you guys would like it. But yeah, it’s hard to take in fully when you don’t understand the language, even though the vibe of music is a universal thing.
Give us a sense of what’s going on in Stockholm’s music scene at the moment. Are things lively? Are their notable scenes, and big names coming through?
Honestly it’s hard to say. Stockholm is great in terms of venues to play. There are several great places to play all over town, small and big. There are also a lot of bands. All of this is cool, but Stockholm really lacks a great venue known for having really good up n coming bands playing. A lot of venues boast about having this, but it seems the venues are not around long enough to really make a name for themselves. So I would say no, there’s a lot of good bands and good places to play but that great place where all the great bands once played, it sadly doesn’t exist today. With one exception, Klubb Springfield. They do Americana and Alt Country music and they’re awesome.
Do Swedish acts feel they need to sing in English to make it outside of Sweden? How many do, and how many stick with Swedish?
I think Swedish artists and songwriters write and sing in the language they feel most comfortable with. I’ve been writing in English since the beginning. It’s not a strategic decision, it’s just they way it is. Writing in Swedish is hard because it becomes so extremely personal. If English is a large sword then Swedish is more like a really sharp dagger. Since Swedish is your native tongue you can take the expression further and deeper. When it comes to English, there’s always that nagging voice in the back of your head going ”Is this really the right expression”. Which means it’s harder to go deep so basically you tend to go wide. You don’t want to get caught with your knickers down, or as we say in Sweden – You don’t want to get caught with your beard in the mailbox.
Is it necessary to be noticed outside Sweden in order to be a professional, or can musicians make a living only/ largely within the borders?
Making a living on music within Sweden is not easy. Besides the selected few, that have worked their way to the top, not many can survive solely on music. To make a living as a professional musician you need to be able to diversify yourself and play many different styles of music. Then you can tour with different acts and do work as a studio musician. In order to make a living as a studio musician you need to be at the top of your game though. Only the very best has this option. As for composers and songwriters, they extend their source of income by writing songs for other artists, producing artists and records and some make music for TV. Basically you need more than one source of income to stay alive as a musician within the borders of Sweden.
Could you describe how a typical music fans night out might go in Stockholm?
If you do your homework, you can catch several great acts in one single night. But that means you have to know your way around the city. If you’re looking for a bar that doesn’t host live shows but still plays awesome music, then go to Peppar by St Eriksplan. Me, Tobbe and Nils used to basically live there back when we first started out, surviving on hamburgers, Weiss Beer and Tequila. It’s conveniently located close to our rehearsal studio. Peppar will serve you beer, whisky and great music all night long. They have rocknroll built into their walls.
Where should visitors to Stockholm make sure they head for in terms of gigs and clubs?
Could you give us a short playlist – say 8-10 tracks – that sum up what’s going on in Stockholm right now?
I’m presenting you with names here with Stockholm related stuff that I like but that maybe you haven’t heard of yet. Besides The Glade, there’s The Tarantula Waltz, Linn Öberg, Great Garb, Bear With Us. And then there’s Sigrid Nilsson, who helped us out with background vocals both on What Turns On The Lights and on my solo album, she has her first single out. It’s called Time Will Tell and it is awesome.
How difficult is it to work in/ perform music for a living in Sweden?
This band we played with at a club one evening, they brought an old cheap guitar to their live show just so that the singer could smash a guitar as part of their set. Their music sucked so they tried to impress in other ways I guess. Obviously a great live show is of the greatest importance. But this fake shit, it’s just annoying. It wasn’t like The Who slamming their gear or like Nirvana just going at it with pure energy. It was more like a fucking gnome getting pissed at his reindeer carriage. But still, some people were like ”wow, that’s different”. It’s just that while being different and sticking out amongst all the others sure is important, a thought-through and lame-ass crashing of a cheap guitar, that’s just plain bad. And I’m guessing the people who are amazed by that, they normally sit at home watching Dancing with the stars. Or, maybe they’re just Coldplay fans.
How have The Glade grown and attracted larger gigs and more widespread attention?
With The Glade we tend to focus much on online promotion. Which means we grow, slowly but surely mostly outside of Sweden. We’ve had progress especially in Germany and Brasil. Even more than we’ve had in Sweden actually. It’s awesome in the way that this is really cool territory. But it’s less awesome in the way that it’s harder for us to travel to these places and play. Us being an independent band has it’s advantages, but the downside of it is that it’s hard for us to tour other countries. We are planning on a short tour of Germany this spring. But South America, where we would love to come and play, we simply can’t afford today. As for Ireland, we would obviously love to come over and play. But we’re also all great fans of Irish Traditional music. So it would be kind of intimidating for us to come and play our folk inspired rocknroll in a country with so many great folk musicians. But then again, I’ve been to Ireland and the Irish people I’ve met, they were great people. So in the end, we would overcome our intimidation issues, and we would love to come play, if only you awesome people will ask us to.
Is it affordable to record, and release albums?
Smaller studios with great equipment are not always easy to find. But they are out there. The Glade records at Molotov Studios with producer Martin Karlsson. They have the equipment needed to make a great album. And their prices are affordable. So, the answer when it comes to recording is Yes. As for release, the digital part doesn’t cost much. You can find it at about 50 USD at CD Baby and other online digital distribution labels. Physical release though, that’s expensive. I would put my budget on the music then do a digital release. Hopefully you’ll have enough money to do both though. People tend to want those CDs, especially at gigs. And it’s a bad and bitter issue both for fans and for the band not being able to supply a CD when asked for. And many newspapers won’t review your album without a physical copy. So that part is also hard. It’s awesome to have the album as a CD in your hand, as a physical product, and that counts too I guess. Some bands go for vinyl instead of CD, that’s cool also.
What do you see as the future of the Swedish music industry?
The future lies in independence. But also independent acts need a record label sooner or later. However, record label or not, the recording of great albums are successfully being done at smaller studios and at home. So, industry wise, I would say that is the future. Bands doing recordings themselves. But all bands need a good producer to make a great record. That part haven’t changed. All bands still need a label to set up a bigger tour, that probably will not change. And then there’s the promotion part. So a kind of crossing I guess, between independence and industry. Indiustry. Indi-ustry? Yeah, something like that.
In the end, when it comes to the industry part, it’s all about collaborations really. A good collaboration is founded in a respectful relationship. A giving relationship, on both sides. Whether you’re with a record company or not, this is still true. After all, record companies consist of people too. They’re painted out as the big bad wolf most of the time. And that’s not necessarily true. There are some greedy bastards around, sure, but there’s also great passionate music loving people. In the end it’s all about finding the right people to work with. Passionate people. Skillful people. Record company associations or not, a mutually beneficial collaboration based in a respectful relationship, that’s what matters. Word.
You can get hold of The Glade’s impressive 2014 album ‘What Turns On The Lights’ here.