We spend 3 days soaking up a spectrum of music and met up with some of our favourites at Stockholm Music & Arts festival..
Stockholm is more beautiful than ever this time of year and a festival on top of that is exactly what we needed right now. It’s hard to find a more beautiful setting than the island of Skeppsholmen, right in the centre of the Swedish capital. Stockholm Music & Arts brings together stars from all over the world and we spend 3 days, July 29-31st, soaking up a spectrum of music.
Of course we met up with some of our favourite artists, and if you haven’t heard about them before now is the time…
You shouldn’t make the mistake describing John Grant as an angry, Hiv-positive American who only writes witty electronic pop music about his destructive history or past relationships. If you stop for a second, listen to his lyrics and what he got to say, you will discover a person with a truly spectacular life journey. Yes, at one point he thought he would never make music again or be able to rise above addiction and depression. John never stopped and it brought him to Island, Reykjavik, and love… What has changed? Instead of repeating questions about drugs, alcohol or reckless sex, we want to know what John Grant got to say about love and life right now?
How would you describe the feel of your music today?
I think that I’m starting to catch up with the present. It all seems to be catching up to me, trying to be “real time”, becoming an adult finally. Starting to have boundaries, which I never had before when I was younger. Healthy boundaries. I had to learn this the hard way and getting Hiv was part of that. That comes from, in my particular case, a result of not having any self love and putting myself in dangerous situations and not giving a shit. When this happened I felt I had to really figure out why I was letting this happen to myself? Because nobody did this to me, I never got mad at the guy who gave it to me.Right now I feel the need to write a song about projecting the past onto the present and seeing demons and monsters that aren’t there anymore. I think all of us do that every day.
You have moved to Island, living there with your partner. What do you enjoy the most about this place, it must be completely different from the US?
I met some really great people there. There are some asholes to, like everywhere. I think it just depends on what backdrop you wanna have for your bullshit… I think I can feel relaxed there you know. It feels much safer, people aren’t walking around with guns getting ready to kill whoever walks across the street the wrong way, and the food is great. It is actually all about the people and yes I met a guy there who I love very much. We have been going out for about three years now.
What does love mean to you, if I may ask..?
It’s a lot of different things. It’s an amazing friendship, he is very kindhearted, but he doesn’t take any shit, and that is a great combination. That is very healthy in a relationship. It helps you realize that you can’t take this for granted and just because somebody loves you that doesn’t mean that you can say whatever the fuck comes into your head anytime you want. You gotta have respect, everyday. Like you just meeting them for the first time.
Meeting up with an artist or band straight after their show is always the best moment. Especially if it is Dungen who suddenly walks into the room and somehow make everything feel a bit unreal and simply a lot more colorful. We caught a glimpse of these 4 wonderful creatures before they continued into the night…
Gustav you have been working with music for a long time now. Any special “lessons learned” or advice you can share?
One important thing I have learned, was when I was studying Swedish folk music and my violin teacher (who also became my idol) told me that “it’s difficult to be an idol, I expect that all people who wish to learn from me, no matter what level of skills they’ve got, truly understand that the only thing that matters is that you always give 100%. To be in the moment and give your best.” This is something I always carry with me. Especially in collaborations with other musicians.
Together you have come such a long way, now performing all over the world, places like Coachella and even in the Redwood forest. Guess that advice from your violin teacher paid of pretty well! Looking back on this journey, what comes to mind?
Gustav: Our career, our journey, has been a constant mix of people knowing who we are and being completely unknown in other places. This is actually a really good thing. It helps you to never take anything for granted, because you never know what to expect once you step out on the stage. I feel it is good not having too much expectations on how things should or could be in life…
You are traveling a lot at the moment. How is life on the road?
Mattias: It is truly a very special feeling how the world somehow becomes smaller. How like-minded people seem to gravitate towards each other… When you travel a lot you will start to recognise people after a while, and it’s really nice to have found a new circle of people, friends, all around the world. It’s like you are the same kind of freaks…
Emil Svanängen aka. Loney Dear makes music filled with honesty, rawness and strength. This is the kind of person who is always up to something new, exploring and pushing his own boundaries. We had the chance to get a little sneak-peak into what is going on in Emil’s world right now.
What are you exploring at the moment?
For me right now, it’s about exploring self-confidence. To truly understand that all those things that might feel like flaws are what makes you strong, those things are what makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd.
That is a subject most of us probably can relate to. Any important insights lately you can share?
A very important thing for me has been to understand that I’m free to create what I want. If I want to create videos I can do that, I don’t have to wait for someone else to tell me what is good or to tell me “the right way” to do something. It’s about making things because it is fun. At the moment I like navy blue a lot so I want to make everything in blue and work with different types of lights all over the stage. It doesn’t really matter if people think about it, it’s simply what I feel like doing right now.
How is your music style unfolding?
I’m actually very inspired by the Italian kitchen at the moment. To use only a few really nice ingredients when creating something. My music has been a lot more like curry(!) a thousand different things combined into one unity.
I always wonder what kind of places an artist enjoy performing at. A show you won’t forget?
One of the most memorable shows I’ve done was when me and my friend Emanuel and Agnes Friis (she makes all our costumes) had a small concert in a little cultural house in Sundbyberg outside of Stockholm. We did everything ourselves and simply sold the tickets online. It was all top-notch and we did exactly what we wanted. It was completely uncompromising.
Yes, we had to wait a while for his new album, but Michael Kiwanuka made sure it was worth the wait. Well, If you had a gold-selling debut album, got the nerve to turn down working with Kayne West and was the support act for Adele you are pretty much entitled to do whatever you want… We sat down and talked a little bit about the process of creating the new album ‘Love and Hate’ and his collaboration with Danger Mouse.
Tell us about your new album, it took you a few years to produce it. (Too) many people have asked you why you were stuck and why it took you so long. But creativity is a process, right? Being able to explore all kind of things. How would you describe the process of working on this album? Any key factors that pushed you forward?
I definitely felt like I was stuck sometimes. But, again, I think that is part of the process. I especially remember working on Black man in a white world in the studio. The way I wrote that was different to any other songs at the time and I remember the moment hearing the demo through the speakers and how good it felt. Since I at the time hadn’t been excited about music for a little while, making this song and hearing the result was a true turning point for me.
What made you feel less excited about music and what helped you turn that feeling around?
At one point it all just sounded the same, everything sounded nice but something was missing. It felt less exciting maybe. The main thing that changed was probably less boundaries. I did the things that maybe I wasn’t so used to, without any boundaries. I wouldn’t stop or think that I couldn’t do something. I didn’t worry about sounding stupid and allowed myself to explore ideas that might sound lame to others. Once you stop worrying about those things all the good stuff comes. I also think that vulnerability is important, and being vulnerable doesn’t necessarily mean saying something deep, it is about keeping things on the edge. I feel it is way more exciting to live like that than to be careful with everything, to feel restricted by your own thoughts or people around you. Those were probably the main changes for me when creating this album.
Is there one particular song or part in your new album that strongly represent this change?
Yes for sure, there was stuff in the song Love and Hate especially the guitar playing on that song. But then for me the main part was the ending of the song Father’s Child. At the end there is a slow piano bit with strings and I remember singing over that. I was just chucking the ideas out, it felt like painting on a canvas. I left in some stuff that people might would change, but it was all raw. So when I listen to that bit it reminds me of the whole feeling I had making this album.
When creating this album you worked much more in the studio, not so much at home by yourself. It was also a collaboration with Danger Mouse. Tell us a little more about that.
Yes working in the studio somehow forces you to be more visceral and more reactive. Danger Mouse works like that, so he showed me that way. It was a really good collaboration, I usually write on my own so it was tuff at first and sometimes you argue (haha). You like different things and stuff like that. But once you get through that then it’s alright. I think it is good if someone is pushing you, objectivity is good.
Next project coming up?
Simply continue making music. Right now I’m creating many different things here and there, collecting material, and I will probably work on my own for a while just doing those things… and yes I will probably work with Danger Mouse again.
Interviews by Anna Åhren
Special thanks to Stockholm Music & Arts