The Swedish music scene is bursting with creativity, but how does an artist avoid stagnation while staying true to their sound, music and inspiration? Here are three bands and artists currently standing out, capturing the essence of evolvement, breaking boundaries with their artistry and being daring and honest in their expressions
Consisting of Christian Jansson, Elmer Hallsby, Josefin Ahlqvist Lyzwinski and Louise Erdman, Dead Vibrations break the sound barrier with their heavy tunes. Just listen to their eponymously named debut album, released in January – it will blow your mind. The Stockholm-based band combines the darkest aspects of psych rock with minimalist shoe gaze, accompanied by angry drums.
They explain their own sound by saying that it’s characterised by their previous individual experiences as musicians. “Everyone has their own way of playing and musical peculiarities that go in different directions, which I believe makes the final sound unique,” says bassist Hallsby.
Jansson, Dead Vibrations’ vocalist and guitarist, says the album stands out quite a bit from their previous releases, since they did not have to work to any deadlines when producing it. This allowed them to take their time and let the music grow. “The songs became more thought out and were allowed to breath for a while until we felt fully content with them. It allowed the ideas and thoughts regarding the sound to flow naturally. It’s a mixture of something beautiful and evil, like a summer’s day with dark clouds and tense air pressure,” he says.
Dead Vibrations seem to live and breathe music. They describe it as their medicine and a great passion, something you sense listening to their tracks. To be absolutely free and without boundaries triggers their evolvement and keeps their creative spark alive. “I think that we evolve musically by not having any boundaries. We’re free and able to do whatever we like, making music in a way that feels the most comfortable and fun for us,” says Jansson. “I believe that as long as we don’t put ourselves in a corner of a genre, we will continue to be innovative and creative. It has worked very well so far.”
For all of the band members, their first really strong memory connected to music can be found in their childhoods. Drummer Ahlqvist Lyzwinski recalls her parents playing music that ranged from Neil Young and Björk to The Knife and Led Zeppelin. “Just as Josefin, all my early music memories are connected to my home and upbringing,” says Hallsby. “Early mornings in front of ZTV probably left some kind of imprint as well. It’s easy to get stuck in shallowness when you talk about things close to your heart such as music, but the fact is that music is such a striking medium. It still dazzles me. There is no time for it to pass through filters of consciousness. It still gets you and that’s what’s beautiful about it.”
The band’s style reeks of an updated and personal take on rock’n’roll, which is probably why the Whyred clothes worn in the shoot look like they have been part of their wardrobes for a long time. “If I find something skintight that I won’t sweat away in I’m pretty satisfied,” says Hallsby playfully. “We do also often help each other out finding garments that will make us look collectively cool.”
When it comes to fashion and style icons Ahlqvist Lyzwinski drops PJ Harvey as an inspiration – “Style-wise and regarding attitude.” Hallsby opens up about his soft spot for suits: “I like to look a bit sloppy, dirty and undone, but still a bit half-luxurious.” Their frontman seems to have an even more creative approach towards clothes. “I have started using more colours and lighter ones, which is weird,” says Jansson. “I think that I miss summer and try to remind myself that the sun actually exists. It’s probably going to be the other way around when the sun comes back.”
With the debut release behind them, a Scandinavian tour in April with NONN is what’s next on the agenda. This will be followed up by a new album release at the end of the year. Dead Vibrations really seem to have found a golden productive artery.
The project of Hannes Ferm, HOLY, is like a bag of candy, mixing sweet and sour. He’s building a unique musical universe consisting of ’60s garage, lo-fi pop influences and melancholic atmospheres that get torn apart by glam-rock riffs. All topped with a voice softer than satin.
From Umeå, north Sweden, Ferm now lives in Stockholm and studies art at Gerlesborgsskolan while he makes music. Does studying another art form influence his creativity? “I think studying art has given me the possibility to get inspired by things I otherwise would not have been exposed to,” he says. “It’s also taught me to think in an abstract and conceptual way, something I couldn’t do before.”
HOLY’s second album, All These Worlds Are Yours, was released in January and explores soundscapes in an experimental way, avoiding the trap of stagnating in how he makes music. “I believe the formula is angst and inferiority combined with a genuine interest in exploring unfamiliar musical areas,” he says.
The album carries the same qualities as the ’60s psychedelic movement, yet also has elements of the early-’70s glam-rock scene mixed up with modern garage DIY vibes. The result is the sound of a 21st-century Bowie or Rundgren, just to mention a few. “I think that seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show is what triggered the start of the process, but I also listened to classic early-’70s rock – Lou Reed’s Transformer and Diamond Dogs by Bowie,” he says. “[With this album] I wanted to explore every part of that world, the aesthetic aspects but also the music and theatrical parts.” He reveals he had also wanted to work with rock’n’roll clichés: “I realised these clichés are so damn beautiful. I came to the conclusion that a song can feel both powerful and fragile.”
When it comes to HOLY’s visual work and aesthetics, such as the music video to the almost-impossible-to-pronounce track ððð, you get the impression that Ferm gives this a lot of thought. “What’s most important is that the visuals and music match and evoke the same feelings in me,” he says
As for fashion influences, Ferm mentions Liberace, the entertainer famous for his extravagant clothing, but being busy travelling, he doesn’t really have the time or energy to pack his suitcase or think about putting together an outfit in the early mornings – “I just take whatever is on the floor closest to my bed.” Judging by his look, this probably means that Ferm only owns great clothes.
Even though it has only been a few weeks since the release of All These Worlds Are Yours, Ferm has already got grand plans for HOLY in the year ahead. “We will do a few festivals this summer and some shows during the fall. I have also started to record the next album, so I’m going to try to finish it during this year as well,” he says. Ferm has found a creative drive that leads him to explore unknown musical landscapes. Like astronauts in space, he steers his steps towards ground where no one has walked before.
In many ways pure and raw in its expression, yet very well made, ShitKid’s music makes an upfront and direct impression. It’s something that has made her output strong and powerful, beating like a hammer through the constant buzz of music releases.
A lot has happened for Åsa Söderqvist, aka ShitKid, since she first uploaded her self-titled debut EP to the internet in 2015. Söderqvist is insanely productive and has released singles and a full-length LP since, as well as received music awards. She doesn’t seem to have a very complicated relationship with her own creativity, though. Her main driving force is that she finds making music fun and lets everything evolve from that mindset. “When I make music it’s often because I happen to fall into it. Sometimes I feel all hyped instead of tired for a whole week, so it’s hard to tell. But I find making music fun, and that’s always something. If I get stuck or if it sounds bad, I just do something else until making music feels fun again,” she says.
Her relationship towards music hasn’t changed that much since the start, but as she points out, it’s only been two years since she started out. “I still play music the same way, using the same instruments. OK, except there are two songs with bass in it, that’s it. But on the other hand, I want to try making the next album in a completely different way,” she says.
The media has often depicted Söderqvist as unpredictable and even a bit cocky. For those of you who have seen her live, you might be tempted to agree, but Söderqvist is fully aware of how she’s being portrayed. It’s clear that she owns the situation and plays by her own rules. Mainly she’s the one in charge of the way journalists write about her, contributing to their coverage of her through her use of social media. “I love that Örnsköldsvik Allehanda, a small local newspaper, wrote that I got kicked out of Manifestgalan due to my caption on a photograph uploaded on my Instagram. I think that they’ve missed rock’n’roll or something,” she laughs.
ShitKid’s aesthetic is undoubtedly DIY and it has a visual mindset that permeates her videos and covers. Söderqvist confesses that she doesn’t think that much about it but accepts there are normcore aspects, a kind of anti-fashion approach. “I’m probably pretty normcore apart from the fact that I’m also crazy,” she says. “Then it’s great to have a band like ShitKid where you can use it as an image. It is something that has developed from me being emo while I was growing up, until I became boring and stopped wearing make-up.”
Söderqvist seems to have a pretty relaxed attitude towards what she wears and is often found in normcore clothes, sometimes with an added little twist of irony. She mentions her friend and style icon Moa Romanova Strinnholm as an influence when it comes to fashion. Also, the Whyred rock’n’roll aura really fits the punk side of her artistry with its playful attitude towards fashion norms, mixing casual dressing with finer tailoring. But she confesses that she hates shopping. “I really hate buying clothes and I get in a panic when visiting stores,” she says.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that this creative mind has a lot going on, with new music in the pipeline. This time around she’ll begin by creating the songs as usual and then let her band members, Arvid Sjöö and Lina Molarin Ericsson, interpret them. “Unlike me, they know their instruments. I imagine it will be easier to listen to and more professional, but still using the same musical foundation,” says Söderqvist. Later this year, ShitKid is going to USA and doing more gigs. As Söderqvist herself says: “There aren’t any more awards to win, so that’s probably what I’m going to do.”
Evolvement is all about challenging yourself, daring to question your standpoint and the way you process and work with your ideas. Dead Vibrations, HOLY and ShitKid are all great examples of how good the result can be if one dares to go outside the usual patterns. They’re artists who are representing the wonderful diversity of our wide musical landscape and keep exploring unknown territories.
Words by Amanda Båmstedt
Photography by Dan Sjölund
Styling by Pejman Biroun Vand
Hair and make up (Dead Vibration and Holy) by Lillis Hemmingsson
Hair and make up (ShitKid) by Elva Ahlbin
Stylists assistants Hedvig Holgersson and Emelie Berglund
Special thanks to Whyred
All clothes by Whyred