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A Swarm of the Sun

Jordan Volz interviews Jakob Berglund of A Swarm of the Sun to dicuss the release of the band’s debut EP, The King of Everything, and picks the mind of one of Sweden’s up-and-coming acts.

A Swarm of the Sun (Erik Nilsson and Jakob Berglund) have been making music together for the past decade. How has the creative process evolved over this span of time, and why did the two of you settle on what has become A Swarm of the Sun for your first release.

Ten years is a long time and when we started making music we were really nothing more than kids. So, of course, there is a natural development in becoming an adult that certainly spills over to the music. Right before The King of Everything we experienced a pretty long break, due to a number of reasons. So when we finally managed to get to the point of writing new music we put a lot of effort in getting to the core of what we wanted, and needed, to do. It has been an extremely long and slow process, but well worth it. I would actually say that this is the first time we have made something really honest and worthwhile together creativity.

What was recording like for The King of Everything? Did the two of you recored all the parts by yourself?

All recordings were done by Erik at Version Studio, which is his own, in Stockholm, Sweden. And as I mentioned earlier, the process has been extremely long, maybe two years. You know, all we had when we entered the studio was a name and a concept. And then we just started writing and rewriting as much as we could. Going through the songs from start to finish, and then go back and do it all over again. Peeling off pretense after pretense until only the truly important and meaningful pieces remained. It was a very tedious, time consuming, and downright autistic method, but in this case it was necessary. We had to dust off the bullshit and start building on a clean plate. Eventually, even the name and the concept changed, but it was all for the better. Towards the end of the process we brought in Anders Carlström of Lingua to do the final bass recordings and Kalle Granström to do the drums.

Can you explain the concept behind The King of Everything a little?

I wrote all the lyrics on The King of Everything during a pretty compressed time span so conceptually they are also very compressed. The record revolves around the notion that the worst is not knowing what I want or what I am supposed to do. The worst is to know, or to think I know, and still not do it. I repeatedly find myself more or less consciously avoiding doing things I know I should, often by attaching myself to work or people that can function as an alibi for me not daring. So the “King” is actually everything that keeps me from making the changes I know I need to do, but never will. It is the part that exclude the outside world from the one I live on the inside; the part that keeps convincing me to give up. “The King of Everything” is simultaneously a farewell to faith and a cry for help.

Much of the focus of The King of Everything is on contrasts. Some sections are heavy and violent, and others are very mellow and subdued. The vocals also fit this generalization. How does this formless presentation of the band fit in with your idea of what you wanted A Swarm of the Sun to sound like.

To me, the key to all great art is in the use of contrast. So, it fits the idea very well. I find that the truly interesting music is the one where different aspects are allowed to clash in such an unexpected way that something new, and truly intense, emerges from the dust. You can do this by contrasting melodic pieces with noise, changing the pace, putting subdued vocals over very hard musical segments, and vice versa. You can do this in any number of ways, and when I find that art is really great, they are probably all there at the same time. I grew up listening to Nine Inch Nails, and I still think that “The Downward Spiral” is one of the best exhibitions in contrast-use ever made. To name a few others of my favorite great workers of contrast: there are Sally Mann, David Lynch, Diane Arbus, Luis Bunuel, and Todd Solondz. There is nothing more meaningless than obvious art. There is no dance in frequency and balance.

Unlike many of your peers, the tracks on The King of Everything are very short and to the point (most within the 4-5 minute range). At what point did you decide to cut out the fat and drop the repetitiveness that is so entrenched in this type of music?

It was never a conscious decision, but rather something that just happened. When we start writing we usually have a general idea of what kind of song we are going for. But – and as cheesy as it may sound – somewhere along the process you have to surrender to what the song wants, and that is never really what you expected it to be. These tracks were obviously all meant to be somewhat shorter, but that is not to say that future ones also have to be. Actually we are writing a song right now that just broke the ten minute barrier.

Sweden has been a hotbed of music for the past decade, making significant contributions in various musical spheres, involving (but not limited to) metal, post-rock, and pop. How has music coming out of Sweden influenced the development of A Swarm of the Sun? How do you see the band fitting in alongside local acts?

Sweden is a great place to be musically right now. I don’t think I have ever listened to as much Swedish music as I currently do. It seems like the independent music scene has experienced a major revival in only the last five years. Before, you could pretty much narrow it down to a few set places, genres or groupings, but now it seems to be everywhere. And of course we are, more or less consciously, being influenced by things that are going on around us. Many of our friends in Stockholm are also in bands, make music, DJ, and so on, so there is a lot of inspirational exchange going on. Many of the Swedish bands I listen to – like Breach, The Knife, Cult of Luna, or Silverbullit – are not from Stockholm though, but usually from smaller cities. Maybe that is where the really interesting things are happening.

The album is being released on April 30th via Version Studio, will you guys be touring in support of the album?

No long tour is planned, but we will be doing some select shows across Sweden, and hopefully we will do some festivals this summer. Live shows are great but we are currently putting our focus in the studio, writing new material. Also, there is a vast use of visuals live, which make things a bit more difficult. We will see what happens, but we will play as much as we can.

How does the live show work? Do you do it as a two piece or are hired hands brought in to fill in the sound?

We bring in enough hired hands to get rid of all click-tracks and pre-recorded stuff. It always seems ridiculous when two guys behind keyboards on stage are sounding like five guys through the speakers. So we are going for a completely live experience and are actually putting together the band as we speak. We have worked together with some of the guys from Lingua before, and they will appear again. Also, the drummer is set. The final setting will be a six-piece.

What CDs are you guys currently listening to?

Erik is currently a lot into Breach’s “Kollapse,” Mono’s “You Are There,” and the new Logh album. I also just found Breach and I love their last albums. There’s the dubstep producer Burial from London, Saul Williams is fantastic, Mono and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are two of the best bands around, and The Knife definitely made last year’s best record. Also, Caspian’s “You Are the Conductor,” Neurosis’ “A Sun That Never Sets” and Red Sparowes’ “At the Soundless Dawn” has been on heavy rotation in my iPod for quite some time now. There is so much music, and it is so accessible on the web that it is hard to narrow it down. We listen to a lot of things.

Are there any other projects either one of you is working on?

Erik is also in the band Aoria, where he sings and plays guitar. They have some demos out, which will soon be available for purchase on the Version Studio website. I am working on a couple of film projects in different states of realization. Some loosely connected to A Swarm of the Sun, and some not.

What local beer do you recommend for travelers passing through Sweden?

Things Sweden/Swedes is/are good at: drinking beer, making music, welfare, upholding very long periods of peace, manufacturing furniture and safe cars.

Things Sweden/Swedes is/are bad at: making beer, lengthy summers, making movies, talking to strangers, keeping eye contact for any longer period of time.

So, my recommendation would be to either bring your own case of Red Stripe or make a pit stop in Denmark on your way over. But whatever you do: Don’t drink the Swedish beer!

What’s in store for A Swarm of the Sun in the future? After such a quiet past, will we begin to hear a lot from this band?

We keep writing new material, which is coming along really well, and we have far gone plans for what is next. Some changes may occur though, dependant on what happens now that we release The King of Everything. The future looks really exciting and you will definitely hear a lot from A Swarm of the Sun from now on.

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