ABRAMIS BRAMA are back with a new strong album. Interview with bass player Mats Rydström Anders Ekdahl ©2018
When the band came into creation what was the main purpose for it?
-I don’t want to speak for other people, but I feel I can honestly say that they started, like most bands, for the fun of it and the love of the music they were into. In Abramis Brama’s case it was both early Swedish language rock like November, Pugh Rogefeldt, and heavy groove bands from the Woodstock era and early days of heavy metal like Mountain, Black Sabbath, Cream and the lot of them. November is an important proto-metal band that sung in Swedish in the late 60s and early 70s, and a big influence on Abramis Brama early on. I didn’t join the band until 2012, but I was a music journalist at the time and remember getting the first album ”Dansa Tokjävelns Vals” back in 1999 in a package along with my then favorite Swedish band: Qoph. Two great, original bands that sung in Swedish, which was not at all comme-il-faut back then.
How hard is it to come up with a sound that is all yours? What bits’n’pieces do you pick up from other stuff to make it your sound?
-Every band does it differently but I think few do it consciously, or the results will feel contrived. It’s such a boring cliché, but a band’s sound is the sum of the members’ influences, divided by their respective input into the process and how loud their amplifiers are. If one person has learnt to play their instrument admiring a certain band and musician, it’d be very odd if that did not show. To learn a particular style as more of a project, the deep understanding what makes that music good isn’t there and listeners will know that. In our case, if drummer Fredrik Liefvendahl likes Hunt Sales or John Bonham, or guitarist Peo Andersson digs Michael Schenker – some people might hear that, but the sound had already become the band’s own some 20 years ago.
I have no idea what kind of creative process you guys go through but how hard is it to record and release new songs?
-It’s quite laborious, but a song usually originates with ideas from Peo on the guitar, sometimes with a suggestion for a melody also. We work on arrangements in the rehearsals, which we also record as simple demos, and think about at home. Singer Ulf Torkelsson will soon get an idea where to take the song, and writes lyrics and figures out the melody. Sometimes he also collaborates with Abramis Brama’s original singer Christian Andersen (who was only on the very first record) back and forth. On the new record, two examples of that are ”Hav Av Lögner” and ”Vem Är Du?”
Today’s technology allows you to record at home and release your music digitally. But in doing so is there a risk that you release only single songs because that is what is demanded to stay atop and therefore you end up killing the album for example?
-We are quite conservative in the way we think about releasing music, and have so far stuck to the album format, which might mean music less often, but with more of a thought behind it. An album context is also important in this genre since not every song is or should be a three minute single for the radio. We have our home base at a studio owned by Ulf and his brother Mats, who’s the engineer and sound wizard behind the last two records, ”Enkel Biljett” from 2014 and the recent ”Tusen År”. The benefit of ”our own” studio is that it’s easy to record whenever we feel like it, the danger is that the possibility doing so makes you not go for it as much or as focused as when the clock is ticking and you’re on a deadline in an expensive rented studio complex.
I for one feel that the change in how people listen to music today, by downloading it and expecting to get it for free, will kill music as we know it. What kind of future is there for music?
-I agree. The need for people to express themselves through music will not go away, but the urge to spend a lot of time and money, passion and love on making music, will diminish as the bills get harder to pay. We have spent way more energy than is sensible on “Tusen År”, because we feel a responsibility to the music, the band and the audience, but I can’t fault anyone for quitting music if they are not able to make ends meet. Then you’ll get the one-song society that you mentioned in the previous question, and I dread the development that an artist is reduced to one entry on a Spotify playlist, without any context. Luckily, I feel the audience still appreciates a good live performance, and are once again willing to pay for it – to make up for lacking album sales.
What kind of responses do you get to your music? What has been the thing that has gotten the most attention?
-We’re getting very passionate response for the new album, which is very heart-warming. In a live show the audience will dance, shake, shout and sing parts like the end of ”Bilder” or even come up with new sing-a-long parts in newer songs like ”Blåa Toner”. I’d say the Swedish language has been important. People abroad find it exotic, but it also has meant that Abramis Brama has focused mostly on playing live in Sweden all these years. A lot of bands only play live in the major cities, we have played in 40 cities, towns, fields, gardens since the last album “Enkel Biljett” was released four years ago. The band has connected with people in most corners of our country over these 20 years.
We live in a world where there are no real distances between people communicating anymore. What has been the most surprising contact so far?
-We sometimes get cover versions sent to us by bands from Italy, Germany and other places, which is always nice, but a bit strange. Even with the language barrier and singing in Swedish, it’s always surprising to get quite a lot of attention from people not knowing what the lyrics are about. A few years ago, we met a traveling Brazilian TV team with the host Guto Guerra, who were doing a show called ”Música na Mochila”. It was something similar to what Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks, The Hellacopters, New York Dolls) has been doing with his music and travel show ”Sound Tracker” on Netflix. These guys thought Abramis Brama was an important Swedish band and shot a segment in our studio of two songs, and a sort of cross-cultural jam together on the Swedish folk influenced song ”Parentesvals”. Now, we’ve been offered to release the ”Tusen År” album in Brazil, so that version will probably be out soon. We also hooked up with the great band Apolo from Mexico, who were great fans of us, and got to hang out for a bit when they were on tour here. I find it very heart-warming to see the spread of the music across continents.
Does playing in a band make you feel like you are a part of a greater community? What has music brought with it that you would have otherwise missed out on?
-Moreso when one was younger and had more contact with the local scene, exchanged gigs and contacts and hung out on the town a whole lot more. Now, with children and families to care for, there’s simply not enough time to do much else than focusing on our own music and our own progress. But of course when you get out there you realize that many people, musicians in other bands, look up to you and respect Abramis Brama.
What is the live scene like for you? Do you feel that playing live helps building a bigger following?
-Playing live is the new record sales, as we discussed earlier, and any band knows this to be truth since the last 5-10 years. Studio projects are all nice and that, but if you can’t perform live with people yelling, strings breaking and bad sound, then you’re not much of a complete musician or entertainer in my book. It’s not the motivation to make music, in the sense that it’s where the money is. You play live for the feeling of communicating through music and interacting with the audience, but of course it’s instrumental in growing the audience. I like the luxury of playing our own shows, and to determine how long and which songs we feel like playing, but of course playing to new people at a festival is also good, and the social aspect that goes along with it. You will not find us hiding in a dressing room or VIP area all night and doing formalized ”meet and greet” bullshit. Life is a meet and greet.
What plans do you have for the future?
-For the immediate future: a tour of Sweden’s major cities opening for Tiamat in the second week of May. It was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the new album and both play some larger clubs, and to win over a new audience – hopefully. And to see and hear them play ”Wildhoney” and ”Clouds ” songs four days in a row with some of Sweden’s very best metal musicians of course. After that, we have some family time with holidays and then a few more shows before the summer including one with Kamchatka – which is a band we love, and hope to play more with in the future. We are infamous for talking about plans and projects that may or may not become reality. I will instead make a wish-list: re-release the old catalogue on vinyl, dig into the vaults of live videos and recordings, I’d like to tour in Spain or Germany or play some shows in the UK, Greece – or wherever really. What will happen is the result of ambition, work and a little bit of luck.