Livingmore Interview: New Album ‘Take Me’ Gives an Inside Look at LA Band’s Outlook on Life

Livingmore Interview: New Album ‘Take Me’ Gives an Inside Look at LA Band’s Outlook on Life
July 9, 2021
News
Musicians
Comments Off on Livingmore Interview: New Album ‘Take Me’ Gives an Inside Look at LA Band’s Outlook on Life


Livingmore – Photos by Joseph Cultice


















By HANNAH MEANS-SHANNON

LA-based indie band Livingmore overcame real-life challenges to release their album Take Me, out on Nomad Eel Records.

The band’s previous full-length, It’s All Happening, landed in 2019, and they were just about to get into seriously recording Take Me when the pandemic hit. Like many artists, they kept busy and found a way to bring the recording process to completion. The result is a very interesting development on their previously praised synthy vibe that still captures a lot of the dreamy aspect of classic Rock and Pop, but a tuned-up rhythm section takes these new songs into edgier zones.

So far, they’ve released videos for “Sharp” and “Got Me Feelin’ Like”, and along with recent photos and their photo-based album cover, we’re getting a strong sense of how visuals play into their band identity and music right now.  Talking with founding members Alex Moore and Spencer Livingston, I was surprised to find that they’d weathered a major studio fire during the always-unpredictable year of 2020, but that the album came out unscathed. We also spoke in-depth about the making of their recent videos and why Nurtle, their pet Tortoise, actually makes a great mascot for the band. 

Hannah Means-Shannon: I know that this album has been a fairly long process in terms of recording and release, because last summer you were right in the middle of it.

Spencer Livingston: Yes, last summer in June or July, that was the middle part of it. We started recording around February and March 2020, right around the time everything fell apart in the world. But we kept working as much as we could to keep our sanity through the madness.

HMS: And yet you made this very full album! It would have been understandable to do an EP or something more stripped down. Do you think you did more because you were intent on keeping busy?

Alex Moore: We just love doing this, so it does come naturally to us to whatever we have into it no matter what life throws at us. We definitely had a lot of time to be creative so that probably adds to all the things we were able to accomplish. Because of what was going on, we were able to be more present in our art, because we didn’t know what the future would hold.

HMS: I can definitely see doing things while you could in case circumstances changed. How accessible were your work spaces?

Spencer: Luckily, we had recorded most of the drums already in February at Studio City Sound near where we live in the valley. The rest of it was done at our studio, or rather, our drummer Mike [Schadel’s] studio, which he’s had for 20 years. We’ve been using is for 6 or 7 years for recording everything that is Livingmore. We don’t really have time constraints there. We’re very thankful to have that place at our disposal. We also record and rehearse a little bit at our house, and we’re roommates with Mike. 

Alex: It is pretty crazy because not too long after working on the album, the studio caught on fire, which was nuts! It almost burned down.

Spencer:We’re the only studio in the building, with garages, and an auto body shop and a paint-related shop. Something caught on fire in the paint shop and the entire place burned down except for our studio. It burned right up to the wall, and the fire department got there in time. They are fixing one of the walls and part of the roof. We had some smoke damage, but it’s salvageable.

HMS: That’s what we were just joking about! “Do it while you can!” And then that happened. You really never know what the next day is going to be. That is motivating.

Spencer: It was the cherry on top of the wonderful year we’d had in 2020.

HMS: Any significant loss of equipment?

Spencer:No, thankfully. Just some couches had to be thrown out due to the terrible smoke smell. It’s now aired out a lot.

HMS: I can see some significant differences between Take Me and your previous album, It’s All Happening. The previous release was this amazing synth celebration with a certain mood throughout. This one’s has more classic Rock underneath and I love a lot of the guitar parts as well as the vocals. It’s a bright and shiny album but it has some edges to it, which brings an interesting attitude out. 

Spencer: We’re definitely going for a bigger sound with this album. It definitely was more collaborative. With the first album, Alex and I wrote the songs acoustically, by ourselves. With this one, we still did that, though with electric guitars rather than acoustic, but we collaborated a lot more with arrangements and the band came into it a lot sooner in the writing process. That’s definitely part of how it sounds. 

HMS: Maybe that’s why I’m saying it’s more Rock, because the rhythm section is more pronounced and integrated.

Spencer: Rodrigo [Moreno], our bass player, actually didn’t play on the first album, so that may add to things. He’s now been in the band longer than our previous bass player, Brian Dobbs, who joined another band in Ireland. Mike and Rodrigo gel really well and the rhythm section has really become a cohesive thing. 

HMS: That may be part of the danceable aspect of this album, too. The rhythm has a strong accent to it.

Alex: We can’t wait to play these live! We haven’t gotten to play them in-person yet.

HMS: There’s really a strong aspect to the media that you’ve developed to go with the album and convey its attitude. I love the new photographs and the album cover. 

Alex: We’re working with this really awesome photographer called Joseph Cultice. He’s worked with a lot of bands that we look up to. One of the cool things that came out of the pandemic has been us collaborating on visuals for the band. I was hoping there was a way to work in a safe way during the pandemic, and there was. He also shot the live video we did for “Sharp”. We hope to collaborate with him on future shows.

Photos by Joseph Cultice

Spencer: He’s really a very interesting visual artist in many ways.

Alex: An interesting thing about him is that he does everything by hand. If you see a color behind us, that’s not photoshop, it’s a piece of paper that he hung up. I like when things are hands-on and it reminds me of how we do things also. Like the picture that we have with polka dots is actually cut-out polka dots.

HMS: That’s actually the one photo I would have assumed was digital because it seemed too difficult! That’s really. I like the textures he comes up with, too, like the photo with the plastic over the couches and chairs. Also, there’s a great use of outdoor space on the album cover. 

Spencer: We shot that at his house, actually. 

Alex: We took a lot of different photos that day, but that one really stood out to us. We didn’t know that would be the album cover. I liked how the green bushes reminded me of Edward Scissorhands! I definitely enjoyed putting all the outfits together, too. With the album cover, I always enjoy boots and t-shirts, and Joseph suggested putting tape on, so we collaborated on ideas. I’m very certain about what I like and what I don’t like with outfits. 

I did picture a lot of purples and blues for the scene TVs on my outfit and the plastic couches. It’s almost a celebratory but moody vibe. I like to add a little bit of moodiness or edginess to any lighthearted thing. It’s just more fun that way. 

Spencer: We also work with Alex’s brother. He did the “Sharp” video. But Joseph definitely really gets things effortlessly. From the moment we met him, he has understood the sound of the band and has had a vision for the band that really aligns with what we visualize. 

HMS: How do you feel about terminology, like “Power Pop” for some of your more vocally harmonic songs?

Alex: I never really know what to call our music. It’s not because I don’t know what it is, but because it’s a lot of different things.

Spencer: Power Pop is acceptable. It’s alright. 

HMS: In the process of writing and recording the album, when did you start thinking about which songs would get videos?

Alex: I think we knew right away that “Sharp” would get a video. It’s the most unique song on the album to grab people. It just had that feeling. 

Spencer: Maybe it’s because we grew up in the 90s and early 2000s when videos were super-important, but we really do have fun making music videos and it’s something that’s always been a part of what we do. When we record something, it naturally feels like we’ll do a video. It’s something that we like to do, to put visuals with the music. 

Alex: With “Sharp”, it was a simple idea, but it popped. Dylan, my brother, was the one who had the idea for that. He knew we needed to find a car with a sun roof. It turned out really cool. Some people think it’s green-screened, which is funny to me. Spencer was driving the car and I was sticking my head out.

HMS: It’s a really fun video. I did not think it was green-screened because of how many changing environments there are. Of course, you had to deal with traffic and your hair blowing around constantly.

Alex: Luckily, we did it on a Sunday, but towards evening there was more traffic. And some people didn’t like it.

Spencer: We were breaking all kinds of traffic rules. [Laughs] There was a suction cup camera mounted on the back of the car and Alex was facing backwards. We tried it on the front and it looked cooler the other way. It looked cooler with the wind blowing Alex’s hair from behind rather than blowing it back. It also looks almost like she’s floating that way. 

HMS: An interesting reaction I had was, “Oh my god, it’s the outside world!” It made me feel like I was rediscovering that as the world opens back up. What were some of your goals for the live video version of “Sharp”?

Spencer: I think we wanted it to look cool and capture us playing live. It sounds almost the same as the album version, which is funny. We’ve really been doing a lot of live stream things this year, but we wanted to put a version of one of our songs out that looked cool and had higher than streaming quality, where we’d mixed everything properly. 

HMS: With high tea! 

Alex: Yes, with the tea. It also shows listeners what they can look forward to in a live show from us.

HMS: There’s a lot of live energy there. It’s an interesting mid-way point between a polished music video and a live performance experience. 

Spencer: We wanted it to be kind of a hybrid.

HMS: You did another big video for “Got Me Feelin’ Like”. I will not give away the ending, I’ll make people watch it. How did that develop as an idea and how that get shot?

Alex: Honestly, I’ve had that idea in my head for a very long time, of a guy walking into a liquor store dressed as a cowboy and interacting with customers. Right when I started coming up with the lyrics, I actually imagined the actor in the role who ended up playing him in the video, so that was surreal. We definitely put a lot of work into figuring out the costumes and the actors. We both produced it and I directed the storyline part. I was very excited and wrote the script out in bullet points of all the scenes. I don’t want to talk like it’s a Martin Scorsese film but it turned out really cool. 

Spencer: The whole thing only took about three hours to shoot.

Alex: We’re so lucky that we found a liquor store that was willing to let us do that. They were just like, “Here’s the keys, bye!”

HMS: That’s very trusting. 

Spencer: Thanks to an irresponsible store clerk, we got our video.

HMS: The big question is, why are you so weird, Alex, that you had this vision of this Rhinestone Cowboy video in your head?

Alex: I’ve been asking myself the same question. I can’t totally explain it. I was inspired by Beck videos from the 90s, and also, by Jane’s Addiction. There’s grunge mixed with a fun humor in those videos, and that has always stuck with me. I wanted the video to not be totally goofy, but have some coolness to it, like when those bands put out videos. I wanted to show some sarcasm to the song, though, and show why it is what it is. 

Spencer: I think Alex’s sense of humor shines through on that one.

HMS: There are some slightly heavier songs on the album in terms of theme, like “Memory Hill” and “Energy Taken”. I do want to commend you for creating a song with a heavier idea that’s just such an ear worm. It’s got a looping feeling and it’s stuck in my head now.

Spencer: That’s my favorite song on the album.

HMS: It’s so universal. We have so little control over what our minds do and what they go back to.

Alex: I actually wrote that when we were recording our first album. It has a lot of different meanings to it, but there are people in everyone’s lives who you used to be close to. Now when you see them, sometimes they bring up bad memories, but there’s usually something there that’s still relatable. For me, that’s always been a sense of humor that takes away any awkwardness. It’s definitely a sentimental song. It’s funny that it turned out sounding like such a happy song. 

HMS: I’ll ask you one silly question. Do you really have a pet tortoise?

Alex: Yes, we do. Nurtle is our pet tortoise. We’ve had him for seven years and he’s still little.

Spencer: Apparently, they can get up to 200 pounds. He’s a kind of African tortoise and they can get gigantic. When we got him, he was so tiny that he could fit into the palm of your hand. 

HMS: Right now, he’s a lap tortoise. Do you have any thoughts about how having Nurtle around contributes to your life?

Spencer: We definitely love him. He’s a simple little guy. He doesn’t need that much and likes to do his own thing. He’s like our son. We try to treat him well. He’s been the star of one of our music videos, actually, “Never Slow Down”. 

Alex: He’s kind of our mascot now. 

Spencer: He’s a good mascot for Livingmore because we kind of move at a slow and steady pace, as a band. Also, the music we make isn’t meant to be digested quickly. I think it should sit with people longer. I’ve thought about this before. [Laughs] I stare at Nurtle sometimes and think, “He really is the symbol of Livingmore, isn’t he?” 

Alex: I used to be called a turtle when I was younger, not in an offensive way. Some kids move fast, like the tortoise and the hare story. It sometimes took me longer to accomplish things, so it was always, “The tortoise wins the race!”

Spencer: I guess what we’re trying to say is that some people are dog people, some people are cat people, and we’re tortoise people.

Check out ‘Take Me’ by Livingmore on Spotify:


















Previous

Beck Celebrates His Birthday with Motorcycles in Video for ‘Chemical’ Track off ‘Hyperspace’

Next

Alice Cooper and Geezer Butler Join Renowned Rockers at ‘Stand Up and Shout For Ronnie James Dio’s Birthday

Interview with Iceland’s VAR: Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson On ‘The Never-Ending Year’

Interview with Iceland’s VAR: Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson On ‘The Never-Ending Year’
May 19, 2021
News
Musicians
Comments Off on Interview with Iceland’s VAR: Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson On ‘The Never-Ending Year’


VAR – Photo by KRÍA


















By Hannah Means-Shannon

Icelandic band VAR spent a year creating their aptly titled recent album, The Never-Ending Year, a title which for many of us will seem eerily resonant.

They followed this by planning a video recording of a live play session featuring four songs from the album filmed at Orgelsmidjan, Iceland’s only pipe organ workshop, and a location very near to the hearts of the band members. The audio recording of the live play session proved compelling enough to release on its own as the EP Live at Orgelsmidjan, and now the video of the session has also been released on Audiotree. 

While the album itself, and also the EP soundtrack, offer very interesting listening experiences, seeing the video components for the session really brings a fuller understanding of this special location, what it means to the band, and the ways in which the band members work together in performance. As the band admits, too, the performance of these songs is unique and takes different twists and turns than the original studio recordings, and seeing that performed in real time is inspiring, as is the scenic footage included to give us a sense of the venue’s location. VAR’s Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson kindly agreed to answer some questions for us about this multi-media experience and putting together The Never-Ending Year

Hannah Means-Shannon: The video of the performance is really beautiful, visually. Was it important to you that the visual elements should be as beautiful and authentic as the experience of the music? Was the band involved in giving opinions on the video?

Júlíus Óttar Björgvinsson: It was of course important for us to make it beautiful visually, and that’s why we asked a really talented man called Baltasar Breki Samper to do the videos for us. He is a filmmaker and has a great eye for detail. We put our faith in him and we didn’t know how it was going to look until he sent us the videos and he delivered them beautifully, so he gets all the credit for that.

HMS: I feel like the video takes a different approach for each song, suggesting the differences between the songs, too. “By The Ocean” opens with greeting the ocean, for instance, and in “Moments”, we see drone footage of landscape and winter views. Do you think there are correspondences between the visual approach and the songs?

JOB: “By The Ocean” was not from the same session. That was something Júlíus did with Eiður, the producer, and his wife on a nice summer day for fun, but we felt it fit very well with the other videos and it sounded really good, so we decided to include it with the other songs for the EP. The other visual shots are ideas from Breki, which he married beautifully with the feelings of the songs.

HMS: I read that you felt the recordings at Orgelsmidjan brought out differences between this music and the album recordings, and that made you willing to release the EP. What were some of the major differences that you noticed?

JOB: We love working in the studio recording tracks, one instrument at a time and then digging deep into sounds and overlay. But when we play all together, we get a very different energy, much more rough, and every beautiful mistake stays in. We have even talked about doing the next album with a much more live feel to it, similar to the EP.

HMS: I think the track order on the video is actually different from the track order on the EP. For you, what does presenting the songs in a different order bring out in the two different mediums?

JOB: The reason is mainly that we felt it would look better visually to have “By The Ocean” first on the video as it felt more of an opening on the video, with me (Júlíus) going in and playing alone, and then the rest of us joining in for the rest of the songs.

Julius – Courtesy

HMS: When you are playing live, whether for a recording or for a performance with an audience, do you have specific goals that are different from studio recording, or do you prefer to stay close to a studio recording experience?

JOB: Playing for an audience is always different, and as we don’t usually use playback during our live performances. They can be a little more rough around the edges. Sometimes we feel like there is something missing when practicing some of the songs, just the four of us. Then we usually just crank it up to 11 and put our hearts into it and try and make everything come together. We are not trying to make it sound like the album at all. And in the end, it’s all about doing your very best and doing it from your heart.

HMS: Can you tell us about the venues in Iceland where you like to play live?

JOB: The venues have changed a lot over the years. Places keep closing and new ones replace them, and some of our favourites are no longer open. We really like to play venues where you can really be close to the audience, feeding of their energy and creating an intimate experience.

HMS: How did you come to have a rehearsal space at the Orgelsmidjan and how does that tie into the location’s history?

JOB: Egill and I’s father is an organ builder and I’ve been working with him at the organ workshop since I was a kid. We had a little corner at the workshop where we could practice at first, but through the years we have been bringing more and more instruments and all sorts of things to the workshop, so we take up more and more space there, much to our father’s joy, hopefully. It is a very nice space by the ocean and that has been a big influence on us. We love to do everything there, practice, record, and even do shows.

HMS: How did you create and record an album called The Never-Ending Year before the actual never-ending-year happened for the world in 2020 due to the pandemic? Was there an idea behind this title about the experience of time?

JOB: The process of making the album, from recording the first demos to the finished album took a year. So the title of the album is mainly a reference to that year, a process that seemed to never end. The title is also a reference to an older song from our album Vetur.

HMS: Can you tell us about your working relationship with Eiður Steindórsson, who I know did the audio for the video, later EP? I see that he worked on The Never Ending Year also. How did you start working together and how would you describe his musical way of thinking?

JOB: We have been fans of Eiður and all the music he has made for a long time. He has been in bands here in Iceland that we are big fans of, like Future Future and Vera. We thought Eiður’s sound would be perfect for the first song that we recorded for the album, so we asked him if he was interested in recording one song with us.

Working with Eiður was so nice musically and we also made good friends with him during the recording, so asking him to record an album with us was kind of a logical next step. He was really interested in doing an album with us, joined in from the beginning of the writing process, and produced and recorded the album.

Eiður is a perfectionist and really professional in every way and that is why we always call on him when we are recording something.

HMS: I see that The Never Ending Year was released with vinyl variants as well as in other formats. How does the band feel about the vinyl format? Is it something that ties into selling merchandise at performances, or is it more about online fan requests?

JOB: A vinyl release is something that we really wanted to do, and when John at Spartan Records showed interest in doing that, we said, “Yes” right away. The variants that he made are absolutely beautiful and we are really happy with the reception it got.

VAR – Image by KRÍA

HMS: On the band’s Instagram account, I saw a video from November 2020 where some metal was being melted in a pot on a stove. I’m very curious about what was going on there. Can you tell us about where this is and what happened?

JOB: I was making some Christmas ornaments at the organ workshop by melting old organ pipes and putting them into a new form.

HMS: Also on Instagram, I saw that you (Júlíus) were in a band that released an album when you were 14 years old. That makes me wonder what styles of music you all were interested in at a young age and what kinds of music you made prior to VAR.

JOB: We have all been in many different bands since we were young, and we were trying to make music similar to what we were listening to at the time, which was everything from Metal to Punk to Emo. We got really excited when we saw that our label, Spartan Records, was releasing albums with bands that included artists that we listened to a lot in our youth, such as Mountain Time with Chris Simpson from Mineral, and Assertion with William Goldsmith from Sunny Day Real Estate. Being on the same label as them is really a dream come true, as they had a big influence on us growing up.

The Never-Ending Year is a little nod back to those roots, and you can even hear some elements from the album in that post on Instagram.

HMS: When you were writing songs for The Never-Ending Year, was this a process of intentionally sitting down and writing songs in a very focused way, or do you usually create songs by working different fragments together and finding ways to combine ideas?

JOB: We usually never sit down with the goal of writing new songs. Our songs kind of happen when the four of us meet up with our instruments. Someone brings up an idea that he has been working on, or he has maybe just a little snippet that sounds good, and we finish them together, assembling the parts like a puzzle.

HMS: Is it ever your intention to combine musical elements in ways that the audience might not be expecting? I noticed that in the songs “Highlands”, it ranges from a gentle opening into an almost Hard Rock style guitar breakdown and has plenty of indie Rock moments, too. Or is it more about creating moods and developments in the song?

JOB: We don’t think much about what people will think of our music, we just make songs we like and we enjoy playing. Coming from different musical backgrounds maybe has a role to play in how our songs come together in the end, with elements of each member shining through. If other people like the songs, we are really happy.

HMS: What are some things that are helpful and what are some things that are challenging for you, as musicians, about what international audiences might expect from an Icelandic band? Are there ways in which you find that empowering or limiting?

JOB: We don’t feel like people are expecting something special from us because we are from Iceland, but people might categorize us to a certain level. Coming from Iceland can be more helpful than not, and it definitely draws some people’s attention, as there are a lot of great bands that come from here and we are proud of all the great music from here.

 


















Previous

Green Day Releases New Single ‘Pollyanna’ and Confirms Hella Mega Tour Dates

Narnia’s Christian Liljegren Celebrates His Hard Rock Roots With ‘Melodic Passion’

Narnia’s Christian Liljegren Celebrates His Hard Rock Roots With ‘Melodic Passion’
April 2, 2021
News
Musicians
Comments Off on Narnia’s Christian Liljegren Celebrates His Hard Rock Roots With ‘Melodic Passion’


Christian Liljegren – Photo by Mats Vassfjord


















By HANNAH MEANS-SHANNON

Christian Liljegren is best known as the lead singer of the ongoing Melodic Metal band Narnia, but also sang for Divine Fire, and more recently launched a more modern Metal project, The Waymaker with Jani and Katja Stefanovic in 2020. However, building up to his 50th birthday and approaching 35 years in music, he was determined to complete and release a solo project.

Liljegren teamed up with guitarist and cowriter Stephen Carlsson, and the result that produced entirely during the pandemic period, is Melodic Passion, due out from Melodic Passion Records and Sound Pollution on March 26. Alongside the CD and black vinyl release, there is even a limited edition purple vinyl on preorder that’s widely sold out, but you might still find some copies on Liljegren’s webstore. 

The goals for each of Liljegren’s projects have been specific and distinctive, allowing him to continue to work in various veins and keep growing as a vocalist and musician. While Narnia, which launched in the 90s, is very much classic Metal, The Waymaker embraces a more modern Metal approach, and with Melodic Passion, we find yet another direction.

This solo effort is a tribute to the bands that inspired Liljegren to become a vocalist to begin with, including Dio, Sweet, Uriah Heep, Queen, Whitesnake, and more. In other words, Melodic Passion has Metal elements, but is really an experiment in Hard Rock and Glam Rock influences. It’s appropriate that for his first solo album, Liljegren shares a lot about his musical origins, and you’ll find that in the album art for Melodic Passion, as well as in some of the videos created for these songs.

Christian Liljegren spoke with me from Sweden about the development of the album and the process behind these songs where he also acted as a composer for the first time in his career. 

Hannah Means-Shannon: Congratulations on celebrating your 50th birthday in February. I knew you had some music-based plans to celebrate. 

Christian Liljegren: Yes, there was no party, but I tried to keep busy and I’m celebrating with my album Melodic Passion. I’m deeply thankful with how everything worked out with the release, and the vinyl is ready in time. For me, I’ve done an album that’s not as common these days. It’s like the old classics. It’s still very melodic and it’s very much me. I’ve done all the arrangements and it’s also the first album where I’ve been involved in the composing of the music. With Narnia, Divine Fire, and Waymaker, I mostly focused on the vocal melodies and lyrics, but on this album I’m involved in every aspect of the music, so it’s very much a soul album. Not without my co-writing partner and guitarist, Stephen Carlsson, though. It’s a special album for me.

Melodic Passion Christian Liljegren

HMS: I feel like the album has a lot to do with discussing your identity and origin as a music, like in the title track where you talk about where you come from and reaffirm that. How long has that been an idea in your mind?

CL: The vision for the album has been there for a while, but the song “The Rock” was the first one that I composed with Stephen in the summer of 2019. Most of the songs were composed between last February and now, so it was within a year. When Stephen and I found each other, we clicked right away. But the cover and materials with the album are about this, too, with a 24 page story about my career and lots of pictures. There are pictures of me with Ronnie Dio and the guys from Uriah Heep. It summarizes my career as an artist for 35 years. I tried to get that all into one album, though that’s not easy. 

It’s really about my roots and how I grew up, with Sweet, KISS, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Dio, and Stryper. On the album, you can hear my vocal influences from Ronnie James Dio and Brian Connolly from Sweet, as well as a lot of Uriah Heep. I wanted to make an album that I wanted to listen to, so it’s really about my musical passion as a composer and as a listener. I also cannot praise Viktor Stenqvist enough for the way he produced the album, with a lot of warmth to my vocals and real strings. 

HMS: We’ve spoken before about how you have a good sense of who your fanbase are and that they have followed you to your different projects. I know you sell through your webstore and are active on social media. Are those the main ways you got the word out about this solo project?

CL: I also have a very close connection with Sound Pollution and they are a very important tool. They take care of the promotion. But to make this work, I also have some sponsors who have supported this album and also, a lot of people have preordered the signed version of the album, especially the vinyl. I’ve done a very limited quantity, only 200 copies, of gatefold purple vinyl, and it has just sold out. I have very few copies left through my website, then it’s totally gone. Those will be rarities. I wanted that special version made since purple has always been a color that I love and it relates well to where I come from musically. 

HMS: What gave you the idea to do the gatefold of photos from your career? That’s a great idea.

CL: There are so many people who I want to thank for their support, since for me the music is a way to share that further. When you have a concert, it’s a party together, and you can communicate with the audience. I hope people can hear that on the album, and I think they can, my passion for the music. It’s always hard to capture that on an album, but I really got a live feeling when I did the vocal recordings. For me, I think this is the most Rock ‘n Roll album I’ve done, with the shuffle beats, and also harder stuff. Then there’s even a ballad, “This is my love song” which is really about my family and also about the fans and people who have supported me through the years. I also see music as a God-given gift and I feel deeply blessed. 

HMS: I saw footage of you in the studio recording included in the video for “The Rock”. You are very energetic. You’re performing in the studio as if you are on stage. Is that how you get yourself in the right mindset to record, imagining it live?

CL: Yes, and actually, most of the recording I’m doing with a floor microphone, with a cord and everything. It works and really gets the energy that I have live. It’s easier to sing the way that I do it live, and I visualize that. When I’m creating songs, I always try to do the songs the way that they would be in a live situation. That’s also what fans have always said to me, that I sound live on the albums. Meeting with people in person is so important to me, so this pandemic has been tough. But we’re trying to see a future. We’ve booked some concerts with Narnia in November, and also with an incredible solo band since we know these songs would do well in a live situation. We are aiming to do a solo tour when things are happening again.

I also already have songs for a follow-up album and there are new songs for The Waymaker. Also, we’re entering the studio now for Narnia as well.

“This Is My Love Song”:

HMS: Wow! You are keeping incredibly busy.

CL: It is the music that really keeps me going. It’s my elixir, both listening and composing. 

HMS: Can you tell me more about how you and Stephen Carlsson met each other and started working together for this album? 

CL: There is a Norwegian band called Extol, and I know the drummer, David Husvik and his brother Morton. Morton told me, “You have to meet Stephen. I know that when you meet, you will totally click together.” We got in touch in the summer of 2017 and he sent some ideas for “The Rock”. It was a work flow I’d never had before. We could create three or four songs in a week. I think we have 20 or 25 song ideas for a coming album. We’ve tried to use this time as best as possible. 

HMS: The sound of this album, as you’ve mentioned, is quite strongly toward the Hard Rock side versus the Metal side, though there is Metal DNA, I feel. Is that a departure for you?

CL: Actually, I’ve done a little of this stuff with my former band in the 90s before Narnia, Modest Attraction. I can now reveal that and American company, Retroactive Records, will be rereleasing those albums from the 90s, remastered, on LP and CD. So one side of me really misses that late 70s and early 80s Hard Rock style, and now I have the opportunity and a solid fanbase to do it. For me, it was perfect to do this celebratory album. You can hear Metal elements in “Melodic Passion” and “Victory”, but most of the songs are rooted in the classic Hard Rock style. I want all these projects to be different. Narnia is classical Melodic Metal. The Waymaker is more modern Metal with Melodic elements. That also keeps me developing my voice in different ways. I think people who have loved my style in the past will have plenty of albums coming up to listen to. 

HMS: I think you’ve mentioned the influence of Queen and Whitesnake on you before, too, and I feel like I can hear that on the album for sure. When you say that you did a lot more of the composing on this album than ever before, what did that mean for you? Were you sitting down with instruments?

CL: Usually, Stephen sent an idea, and I’d say, “I hear this.” Then I’d sing melodies on my cellphone the way that I’d want the guitar and the keyboards. The next day, he’d send something, asking, “Is this okay?” And I’d say, “Yes, great!” Mostly, he’d start with a riff, and I’d hear other styles and arrangements to match my vocal melodies. It’s a very guitar-oriented album and you can hear lots of guitar harmonies the way that Brian May from Queen and Andy Scott from Sweet. I know that Stephen loves Randy Rhoads as well. I’ll say, “Bark at The Moon-style” so we don’t mind our influences at all, though it’s also our own songs. That’s how we compose songs.

HMS: That’s amazing using vocals to write in that way. In the “Melodic Passion” video where you talk about your background, you’re a superfan, because you wear the different t-shirts for the bands you love, too. You also show photos and memorabilia. You’re very open about the importance of fandom in your life. Some people are too cool for that. 

CL: If you are grounded in your personality and identity, you can do that. I know I’m very grounded in my personality as a Rock singer. I love things and I have my own style. I’m an open-hearted person and I think that’s been one of the key things about my success. I want people to leave shows feeling like they got something out of it. Dany Gatica produced the video and he’s doing even more cool videos, like “Salute for the King”, which will release on the same day as the album, using old footage from the 80s of me with long, curly hair!

I want people to smile when they see these videos and recognize the feelings they get when they hear this album. I still remember the first time I heard Sweet’s song “Action” from the album Strung Up, the first album I hold up in the “Melodic Passion” video. I first heard it in 1978 or 1979 and it was a magic moment. That song had it all and I really tried to show my passion for these styles in my vocals on “Melodic Passion”. I love this operatic, falsetto style that Freddie Mercury and Brian Connolly of Sweet had. I know they actually competed against each other back in 1975 and 1976 to see who could hit the highest note.

“The Rock”:

HMS: Are there other videos yet to be released for the album, aside from “Salute for the King”?

CL: There are actually five videos for this album, with three remaining. There’s “Melodic Passion”, “Salute for the King”, and then “History”. “History” is a song with a more serious subject, asking, “What have we learned from history?” It will take in the environment, the pandemic, and how we treat each other. We have to love each other, and I’m sorry to say that so many have used religion and faith in a bad way. I also ask myself, “What can I learn from my own history?” 

HMS: I thought it was interesting that the ballad, “This Is My Love Song” is about community and family more than is common in love songs. That suggests how important both are to you and how big a part of a person that can be.  

CL: Yes. My wife isn’t a Hard Rock person, but that one really touched her. It was very emotional to record that and when I recorded the video, I also tried to preserve a bitter-sweet feeling because life is not always easy. There are always ups and downs in relationships, but I want what is lasting in the long run. The cello in the song really shares that bitter-sweet feeling. I think that may be the best song I’ve ever composed, and it’s really special. It’s interesting that all of these songs came through during this time of the pandemic. I think that, actually, this time has shown what really matters in the end, and for me, the music is so important. It really got to the core of things, and revealed that, for me, it’s music. Hopefully someone out there really gains strength from hearing this album.

“Melodic Passion”:


















Previous

Christina Vane Takes Listeners Along on Her Journey with Debut ‘Nowhere Sounds Lovely’