While life is in constant progress, dedication is what keeps you grounded and drives you forward. Pale Honey and side effects are two Swedish acts who have moved from one creative point to another, hopelessly devoted to their cause
Awakening listeners from their dull, everyday life with its raw and uncompromising sound, Pale Honey’s music starts out mild, but escalates quickly to a roar that’s impossible to ignore.
The duo behind it, Tuva Lodmark and Nelly Daltrey, tell us their fascination with music began when they got to know each other at school and started to play together. “A brand-new world opened up for us,” says Lodmark. “One that took us from mindlessly hammering an instrument or playing a bit carefully, to getting to know a new person and instantly creating songs together. That time is full of special memories – sneaking out of class to try out a distortion pedal together, or getting tangled up in guitar leads from jumping around with happiness at getting a great idea.”
Lodmark and Daltrey have been the critically acclaimed darlings of music journalists since the release of their eponymous debut album in 2015. It’s not hard to understand why, since their tunes change from smooth and slow to fascinating thunderstorms in the blink of an eye. Any artist’s second album is often described as the “difficult” one, and Lodmark and Daltrey explain that they have taken their time with theirs, which they’ve called Devotion, and dared to trust their gut feelings.
“We made a decision not to get stressed about the making of it, which has felt good,” says Daltrey. “Many of the songs on the debut album are ones we made as teenagers and made it to the album as we didn’t dare mess around with the material. We have done it the other way around this time and been careful. That has meant spending more time testing ideas and, at the same time, giving each other space to do other things.”
There’s a recurring theme in many of the tracks on Devotion, which is out on October 13. In many ways, it’s a personal album – it’s about love and being close to someone, the kind of love that makes the heart burst, as well as the opposite. The pair say the process has involved angst and self-doubt mixed with moments of feeling incredibly good.
“We have always done music for our own sake,” says Lodmark. “We are the ones who put the biggest pressure on ourselves and, in the end, we are the ones who want it to be something great that reflects what we stand for. This album has taken its time to grow into its final 10-track collection, and we are incredibly proud of ourselves. We have our favourites on it and we’re not concerned if it doesn’t appeal to listeners – we have spent our time and devotion doing something that we love.”
Pale Honey nail it when it comes to synchronising their style with their sound. Often seen in all black in photographs, as well as on stage, they describe it as “a work uniform that reeks of rock’n’roll”. The duo don’t have any specific style icons but say that they would go for a more Alex Turner kind of vibe than Lady Gaga. When it comes to favourite clothes, Daltrey mentions a wonderful oversized yellow Whyred T-shirt that she likes to thrown on: “It’s been a real favourite for a while.” Their guidelines when it comes to clothing seem to be the same as when it comes to their music – they trust their gut feeling. “We have a very minimalistic and comfortable style,” Daltrey continues, “and it’s important that it feels right and personal. Basic clothing is key, but the fit is what separates the gold grains from boring, plain clothes. We do also like dresses a lot, but they’re a bit hard to wear when you’re sitting in front of a drum kit.”
The psychedelic Stockholm quartet side effects started their rise to fame at a very young age, recording and releasing their first record, A Walk in the Space Between Us (2013), during their late teens. The band is made up of guitarist and vocalist Billy Cervin, drummer and vocalist Hugo Mårtensson, organist and vocalist Elias Jungqvist and bass player Joacim “Jorba” Nilsson. They started out together with a heavily retro-orientated look and musical style, as heard on that debut album. Without losing their personal sound, side effects have since taken a walk in the period between records, landing in a more synthesiser-friendly and arena-compatible realm with terrific singles such as Wanna Lose You and I’m Falling. The new EP, Feels Like Walking on Sunshine, will be released on October 20, and perhaps the changes will speak for themselves.
“Back then, only ’60s-inspired psychedelia really mattered,” says Cervin about the period the album was released. “The biggest difference between then and now is that we’re not afraid to experiment. There are few things more boring than artists and bands getting comfortable.” Clearly, psych music plays a less significant role in what the band does today. “Our energy and the way we play is difficult to ‘wash away’, even though we’ve found new synthesisers and sounds,” says Mårtensson. Needless to say, side effects are devoted to keeping the genuine feeling of their music, which a band of talented musicians that has played together since they were young shouldn’t have much trouble doing – and for this group in particular it seems easy to keep the spark alive. For now, they’re hoping for a more hectic future for the band, in which it won’t take long to create new albums.
All members play in other groups, too. For example, they play in The Indigo Children with The Soundtrack of Our Lives frontman, Ebbot Lundberg, of whom they have always been great fans. Right now, side effects are starring as the house band on Lundberg’s TV show, Ebbot’s Ark, where they sail the seas and play cover songs with Sweden’s brightest stars in every harbour. Looking like the cast from The Life Aquatic… in red hats and blue shirts, the band is a pleasant addition to the show’s set of a picturesque sailing boat.
Another project featuring some of side effects is The Hanged Man, who once performed a gig in a Whyred store. Jungqvist tells the tale: “Jorba and I played in the store, so we have seen it from a bird’s eye perspective. The payment was clothes, and when you’re wearing them you feel really cool.” Jorba agrees: “Sweden is so good at design, and Whyred in particular have always had great clothes. Tasteful, if you know what I mean.”
Having moved on from a rear-view-mirror approach, side effects dress a bit more contemporarily today. The question is, then, what really is contemporary fashion, and is there even anything contemporary outside what reflects the past? Cervin tells us about the style the group used to have. “There was something of an unwritten rule that we should all wear blue paisley shirts for gigs and photos. That ended quite quickly when we got signed and the label thought it was a good image – the teenage defiance kicked in and I don’t think anyone has worn a blue paisley shirt since.” Nilsson agrees that the band’s style of clothing is not as defined now as it once was: “But it’s easier to look back and frame a vibe that existed then. I don’t know, maybe we’ll be labelled in retrospect.”
With their dedication to not getting too comfortable in either their sound or their style, the future of side effects should be interesting to witness, no matter if they are looking backwards or straight ahead into the future.
Words Pale Honey by Amanda Båmstedt & Side Effect by Filip Lindström
Photography by Dan Sjölund
Styling by Hilda Sandström
Hair and make-up by Lillis Hemmingsson
Special thanks to Whyred
Studio: Peas & Understanding Studio
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