Swedish pirates? I know of road pirates that operates in the summer but sea pirates. Nah, can’t say I’ve heard of any before Ye Banished Privateers. Interview answered by Björn “Bellows” Malmros Anders Ekdahl ©2017
Do you feel that is has gone the way you intended when you formed back in the days?
-Well, we are a large crew, and everyone has had different expectations and ambitions for our journey. When it comes to our music and the bands growing popularity, it has been a relatively smooth ride following the lines of our most ambitious expectations. Our biggest challenge has been WITHIN the band, trying to find the answer to questions like how do you combine work, family and kids with being a touring musician, how to keep peace and democracy within a group of 25 musicians, or how to do a gig 3 flights away with 12 musicians on stage without losing money. We are still trying to figure all of this out as we go.
How do you feel about your latest recording? Did it come out the way you expected it to?
-At the time of the recording we had already played many of these songs for a long time, which had allowed them to evolve into very lively and theatrical interactions between us all on stage. We knew it was going to be a challenge to capture this in a studio environment. But with two albums already behind us we have learned a lot, like the value of playing together in the studio rather than recording one instrument at a time. We put a lot of effort into keeping that spontaneous and energetic concert atmosphere, and encouraging a go-with-the-flow improvisational mentality, even when the tape is rolling. We are really proud of the outcome, and needless to say, we are very excited about this release.
Do you feel that you by now has found a sound that is the band and that you can build on it?
-Our sound changes for every new song, and in many cases so do the old songs that keep evolving throughout our live shows and by the many hours we practice together with different musicians. We don’t look back. The studio albums are mementoes of our sound and style at the time of the recording, while our live sessions will always be different, depending on our moods and what inspires us over time. As far as the song writing goes, with 25 active musicians, there is a steady influx of new ideas, and at the same time we get a lot of inspiration from the music and bands we encounter when we tour.
Is having a message in the lyrics important to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
-For us, the message is everything! We have a strong ideological base from where we start our songs, and every text is tweaked and edited in a way so that it will challenge, rather than reinforce old western stereotypical patriarchal ideas. We all come from different backgrounds, and on election day our votes will not all end up in the same ballot, but we are all committed to the idea of being a band that openly supports feminism and that speaks out against bigotry, intolerance and racism. We are well aware of the fact that pirates in general where not idealistic heroes or women’s rights advocates. Especially when scrutinized on an individual level, the case was many times the opposite. But the pirate movement of the 18th century as a whole, was in many ways a progressive revolt against the western imperialistic, mercantile ideas that dominated society and exploited its subjects. Even if we do have a song or two that has no deeper message than “drink more rum, it’s good for you!”, this pathos for justice and equality, is something that is the foundation for most of our songs.
How important is the cover art work for you? Can a really cool cover still sell an album in this day and age of digital download?
-We still believe the front cover matters highly! Most of us grew up with cassette tapes and CDs which we would carefully browse in stores for hours before buying. The front cover can in some situations very well be a bigger selling point than the music itself. It’s always important to have a look that stands out in any way possible, but at the same time it is equally important to stay true to your own music and graphical style.
Why is it so hard for bands that come from places not the US or UK/Sweden/Scandinavia to break big? What is success to you and is it something you’d like to achieve?
-Is it? It’s hard to break big wherever you are from, and a lot of it comes down to connections, timing, luck, dedication and in some rare cases talent. But if we widen our views, there are tons of superstars operating in markets outside of Europe and America. Right now, someone is probably asking K-Pop band in South Korea why only acts from China/South Korea/Japan break big.
Success for us is of course something positive, but what it really means will probably differ depending on who you ask. But reaching a lot of people with our music, and being able to play and perform as much or as little as we like, while still keeping the drive and inspiration for many, many years to come, would probably be an answer we can all agree upon.
Today the competition is harder. You got plenty of digital platforms for new talent to display their music. How do you do to really stand out in a world where everything but the music is blind to the listener?
-Well, we operate in a relatively small genre, which has both pros and cons. When we founded the band back in 2008, we believed ours was the only pirate band in the world, and that the idea to combine sea shanties and Irish music with a pirate theme was one of a kind, haha! Now we know that that was not the case, but we still believe however, that we bring something rather unique to the pirate scene. Like a lot of people point out when they first hear our music, we are not just another incarnation of Alestorm. We try to keep an authentic sounding old-time style in both our music and our visual appearance, and our lyrics are based upon countless hours of research on the subject of piracy and the harsh life at sea during the 18th century. Also, with our band, if you come to one of our concerts, you will realize that every single live show will be a completely unique experience, in one way or another. A live experience can never truly be packed and sold digitally. live concerts are coming back to be one of the most important ways to stand out and to connect with your fans and we try to do the same in an interactive and personal way.
What is your local scene like? How important is a national scene for a band to be able to break out and make it international?
-Unless you are a constructed producer product, a local scene is probably really important to start your career. That’s where you get your first fans, the experience to build a live act, and the support that will be your first stepping stone towards a wider audience. Our home town Umeå is famous for its creative scene, being the birth place of huge acts in all genres, and with a well-established network for performers in both the commercial genres as well as the more subversive DIY culture. We are truly blessed in this aspect, being supported by friends and locals from day one, and having a musical hub of musicians to expand our band during the first years.
Rock and metal has come a long way since the early 70s but still some people’s attitudes towards it seem to be left in the stone age. How accepted is rock/metal in your area? Is it like in Finland where it seems to come with the mother’s milk?
-We come from the home town of Meshuggah, Persuader, Nocturnal Rites and Naglfar. Do we need to say more?
What does the future hold for you?
-That is a good question! We recently signed with Napalm Records, and we are super-exited! Already we have requests and interests coming from all over the world, so hopefully our journey as a band has only just started. We are looking forward to doing our thing for many years to come, and we hope to visit as many places as possible, and reaching out to people all over the world with our music, while still keeping our feet on the ground and not forgetting about the people that got us there in the first place.