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Interview with Blues Pills
27 April 2015
Blues Pills is a Blues Rock band from Sweden that has just released their self titled album to critical acclaim via Nuclear Blast Records. Roland Oei talked to singer Elin Larsson to find out more about how the band got together and what they have been up to since.
Can you give a brief history of how Blues Pills got together?
How we got together was I met Zack and the drummer in California where they were living and we became friends. We wrote to each other a little on line before I went over there and I was going there for a holiday and I was there all in all for about 6 months I think and we kind of became friends and later on we jammed in a garage and recorded some demos. Those demos we posted on YouTube and we got offered a tour in Spain and we got an offer to release an EP at a Swedish independent label and we were only three people so we had to find a guitar player. Zack and his brother used to play in another band before and they knew about Dorian because they played in his hometown so we were going on this tour in Spain and we asked him if he wanted to join on that tour and we all met up in Sweden and we practiced a bit and then we went on this tour and then on that tour we decided that we had something special.
Two of the band members are from America and you are from Sweden. Why did the band use Sweden as a base and not America?
I would have loved to have moved to America but the thing is in Sweden we have a more open immigration policy so it was easier for them to move to Sweden and the same for Dorian.
What do you feel are the highlights of your career so far?
Getting signed by Nuclear Blast, playing Hellfest in France. That was insane. I have never played for so many people. I think there were 10,000 there and we played on the big stage and I felt like a little ant when I was there. So that was mind blowing and it was a good show even though we only had 30 minutes to play because we were the first band and it was awesome. Getting the album done also.
You have released two EPs and an album. How has the music evolved over those releases?
I think since we have been playing together on tour for two years and we have got to know each other musically and personally as well and I think we have grown as composers and arrangements and we know what we want more. We are better at making decisions now.
What do you think are the elements that define the Blues Pills sound?
All of us in the band have our own tone. Dorian has his guitar playing and his tone and his way of playing and the other guys too and there is me with my way of singing and we get compared to other really amazing bands but we sound like Blues Pills because it is from us and it is our special tones.
Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording of the album?
Some of the songs were written two years ago and some were made in the studio. How it has been now, it is me and the bass player Zack who have mainly been writing the songs together and because Dorian was busy with school, he just graduated so he has been trying to focus on that too and we had visa problems for the drummer in the beginning so he had to fly back and forth to America for a long time and then it was me and Zack who have been writing together so far. It either starts with him having a riff and then I come up with a melody and then we usually write lyrics together as well.
The recording of the album was the first time you guys went into a professional studio. How was that?
It was incredible and we had never worked with a producer so we didn't know how it would be like and in the beginning..... we slept in the studio on air mattresses that we bought in IKEA and there were no windows in the studio and we spent every day for a month there and some days you didn't even go out because you woke up and started to record until late evening and then you open the door and.... shit it is dark but except that it worked in the beginning but then we tried to figure something out sleeping wise. Don Alsterberg is an amazing producer and he helped us find the guitar tone for each part and he tuned the drums and he worked also as a technician. Then we got to say what kind of instruments we wanted to play on which before we didn't have anything so the guys were like oh my God. Dorian got to pick what kind of guitars he wanted to have in the studio to record on and then Don borrowed some guitars and got us all the gear that the guys wanted. We had our own gear but it wasn't as good as this.
You recorded on analogue. Why?
Yes we recorded on two inch tape machine and we mixed analogue as well. We wanted a natural organic sound and also it fits us as a band because during these two years we have been building a reputation from the live shows and recording analogue you record live and you can't cut or put stuff together. You can't look at a screen and think that is a little bit out of tune or we need to change that. You just have to trust your ears and know by heart that was the take.
How many takes did it usually take to nail a song?
Sometimes it was done in one take but sometimes Don would want us to try different stuff so then maybe you record one thing and then you go maybe I can do this so you try that instead. Some days I sang for 8 hours and that was not that good but we found some cool melodies from it because that was working with the songs that we wrote there on the spot but also I think it took, all in all, the recording time of being in the studio took two months and the guitar took a whole month and the other three of us took a month.
Which songs were written a while back and which were written in the studio?
We always had an idea for most of the songs but a lot of lyrics came out in the studio and melodies as well. I remember one song 'Ain't No Change' me and Zack sat all night writing lyrics to that song and I think we had 20 pages of lyrics to it and we could never find the perfect part until the end so that song was the last of them to be done in the studio.
Which song was the first one that you ever wrote for the album?
It must be Jupiter because that is a remake of an old Swedish song that we did. We have one version of it in Swedish and then I translated it and we added parts to it and it is the first song we ever.....and River also that is an old song. I wrote it even before I met them.
What topics are covered in the lyrics?
It is a lot of personal lyrics, stuff that has happened to us in life in general. Also it is thoughts we have about life and some songs are really pissed, about how unfair stuff can be. Politicians and the environment, stuff like that.
High Class Woman is the first single off the album. Why did you choose that for the single?
We felt like it is one of the heaviest songs on the album but it also has a softer jam that represents us a bit because we like to jam and it has some weird rhythm parts and it also has softness and it has a killer chorus I think.
You guys said that emotion and feelings are priorities for you in the music that you make. How do you make sure those elements are present in the songs?
Do you mean in the studio or live?
Sometimes it is really hard to get it. It also depends on the audience and the sound on stage. You try to find that and you get a flow. It really helps me when I play with these guys because they are really talented so it brings that feeling to me and hopefully I bring that out from them as well.
You have had vocal lessons in the past. How relevant is that training to what you are doing in Blues Pills?
It is always good to have vocal lessons I guess. I sang in different stuff like classical but I wouldn't be able to do that today but when I was younger I did everything from Jazz to Blues. The technique is useful but then if you are a singer it is good to go back in time and rebuild the technique again because sometimes when you have been on tour too much you stop thinking of the technique like how to breathe and how to warm up and warm down. Everyone is different as a singer so you need to get to know your voice I guess.
Can you pick two songs that someone that has never heard the band before should listen to, to get an idea of what Blues Pills are about?
I would pick 'Little Sun' because that is written to my best friend and it is the slowest song on the album but it has like a lot of dynamics in it. I really like it and it gives you a good bitterness feeling but still a good feeling I guess. Also I would say 'Gypsy' because it is written by Chubby Checker but we made a cover of it and you should check out both actually, both the original and ours but you just get so happy from that song. It is so groovy and you just want to dance basically.
Have you got any message for your fans?
We are coming back to the UK in November (2014) and doing some shows and I am looking forward to that. We are playing with Vintage Caravan and also thanks for the support and for doing this interview.