Soundcheck @ the Troubadour 3/16/09. Photo by Linda Rapka
My interview with Swedish rock gods The Soundtrack Of Our Lives as published by LA Record:
The premiere psych-rockers of Scandinavia, Ebbot Lundberg (vocals), Mattias Bärjed (guitar), Kalle Gustafsson (bass), Martin Hederos (keys), Ian Person (guitar) and Fredrik Sandsten (drums) have redefined what it means to be influenced by ’70s psychedelia, prog pop and classic rock. Though Sweden’s economy is in as much trouble as ours, TSOOL wasn’t bashful about releasing their latest effort Communion—a discussion of the corporate mass psychosis that has slowly taken over the world—as an epic 90-minute double-CD. The band stopped by L.A. for the first time since opening for Robert Plant four years ago, having just enough time to do Leno, play a one-off at the Troubadour, and perform an acoustic set at a private party thrown by the Swedish Embassy in their honor. Just before sound check, Ebbot, Ian and Mattias strolled over to a nearby park to soak in some California sunshine, get trampled by frolicking dogs, and chat with Linda Rapka about their album.
Explain the cover art of your new album, “Communion” – a wealthy, middle-aged Caucasian couple drinking an ungodly concoction of fluorescent green alien juice.
Ian: We hired this guy to come up with some ideas about mass communication. So he came up with a few suggestions and this came up, and we kind of collaborated from there.
So what exactly is in that drink?
Ebbot: Tomorrow we will find out, because they’re gonna have this party, and they’re gonna do these drinks. So I’m curious!
Ian: We’re going to a party at the Swedish Embassy.
Ebbot: There will be lots of them there…
The new album was based on a theme of modern mass psychosis – which I see happening here in the U.S. Was America a major source of inspiration?
Ebbot: It was a global thing. I don’t know if you’ve seen the whole [CD] package, but it’s not only Caucasians, but all people.
Ian: It’s like Noah’s Ark.
Ebbot: Yeah, it’s like an ark. It’s just pictures you see every day without even thinking about it. It can be plastic surgery, it can be like a life coach, or whatever. I’m curious about the people on the cover – they don’t really know they’re on the cover. So we’ll see what’s going to happen. We might get sued!
Releasing a double CD in today’s economy is pretty ballsy.
Ian: We didn’t go out and say, “Let’s do a double CD.” It sort of evolved itself, really.
Mattias: I guess we always wanted to do a double album as well and now it just felt natural to do that.
You recently got out of your contractual obligations from Warner Bros. The last album you worked on, “Origins: Vol. 1,” they were pestering you about what was going to be the radio hit. That can be difficult when trying to create a work of art.
Ian: Especially when you’re in the studio and trying just to get everything going.
Ebbot: Well, I dunno. There’s a lot of singles on the new one, so we’re just gonna put out singles from the album and see what happens. Milk it as long as we can.
Ian: Basically Warner didn’t really have the money, ’cause we wanted a certain amount of money to do this album and they said no.
This album sounds a lot more energized than “Origins.”
Ian: We kind of had a lot more fun!
Mattias: We had some time off, actually like two years, before we started working on this album, so I guess that’s – you can hear that.
Ian: We had a lot of energy going in.
It sounds like it – which is probably why you ended up with so many songs.
Ian: For once it was quite easy to do the album. For once it was quite fun!
It always sounds like you guys are having fun.
Ian: But this time we actually had fun! We always had fun afterwards when the album is done. But now it was a nice process all the way.
I read that each of 24 tracks is supposed to symbolize each hour of the day.
Ebbot: It could be. It could be anything.
Were you trying to bring back the lost art of the concept album?
Ebbot: Yeah, why not? We grew up with it and we love it, so why not?
In today’s mp3 culture, a concept album is a way to bring back listening to an entire album.
Ian: Absolutely. Take some time off and listen. That’s one thing to do. The vinyl is coming back. All the record stores back home now they carry as much CDs as vinyl these days. The kids are learning.
Ebbot: It’s more like you do something that you wish existed and then you do it. You kind of miss it, you miss idea of what this became.
Ian: Carry on with the old legacy.
You cover a Nick Drake song, which is an interesting choice – not many people are perhaps brave enough to take on Drake.
Ebbot: That was the reason. Nobody ever did it. Maybe it was the wrong idea, I don’t know! We kind of did it around the demo version, which is on “The Time of No Reply.” The other one, John Cale produced, and it doesn’t really sound that good.
Another track, “The Fan Who Wasn’t There,” was based on a conversation that Ebbot had with Arthur Lee.
Ebbot: Yeah, some of it. He played in Gothenburg, his manager was there, who passed away like six months later, and then he passed away, sadly. It’s inspired by that conversation, having drinks for three hours. That was pretty fun. But it was sad…
It sounds like there were a lot of ’60s/’70s influences going on.
Ebbot: Yes. And we DJ’d. It’s like all time is one time.
Ian: Squeeze them all in together. The best picks of raisins in the cookies.
I don’t like raisins.
Ian: Chocolate chips then.
Do you enjoy listening to your own records?
Ebbot: Yes. We’re warming up to it sometimes. Our own records. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s The Soundtrack of our Lives. We try to be what the name is. Sometimes it sucks. And sometimes it’s OK.
I stumbled upon a food blog where your bandmate Martin had posted his recipe for lamb tagine. Do any of you have any hidden surprises?
Ian: Martin and I are the chefs in the band. I’m into the Italian kitchen at the moment. A friend of mine had his wedding recently and I cooked for like 200 people.
Ebbot: Did you get paid?
Ian: No, I didn’t get paid. But the food was great. And I got to eat the food.
The food is what’s really important.
Mattias: When we come over here we try to eat as much Mexican food as possible because it’s really hard to find good Mexican food in Scandinavia – Sweden, Norway or Finland – it’s impossible.
Ebbot: There are no Mexicans. Just Finnish people.
You haven’t been to the U.S. since 2005.
Ebbot: We actually here in 2007 in New York for a while.
Ian: And Austin last year, SXSW. We did a couple of hit and runs. Guerilla warfare.
But what about L.A.? We missed you.
Ian: We love L.A., so we’ve been sad.
Ebbot: We went to China last year.
Ian: But that’s not America.
Was that your first time in China? What was it like?
Ebbot: It was exactly like here. But it’s even more futuristic. It’s like beyond “Bladerunner.”
Ian: The director’s cut.
Ebbot: It’s happened. It’s really growing fast and scary.
That is a lot of billions of people.
Ebbot: And they’re working all night. It’s like, “You’d better stop.” They’re just like ants.
Mattias: We might go to Taiwan in a month.
Ian: And then South America in the fall.
Do you get time to actually enjoy the countries you visit?
Ian: We try and plan a couple of days. When we did those long tours we didn’t have much time, but now in China we had a few days off, Australia we had like five, six days to hang out.
Ebbot: We spent a lot of time in L.A. and had a lot of time off here.
And a lot of Mexican food.
Mattias: Yeah. As you can tell.
If Obama’s stimulus package fails and I move to Sweden, who’s couch can I stay on?
Ian: Kalle’s got a grand studio. It’s gigantic.
Mattias: My guitar tech is single.