Shimmering guitars, white noise attacks, furious MBV-esque drumming, epic Mellotrons, trembling bass notes… Oh! Sorry, we were just dreaming about the characteristics of our favorite bands. Well hello, Bolywool! Coming from Sweden (If this was a drinking game and you had to take a drink for every Swedish band we’ve loved, you’d be in rehab by now), they bring our collectives dreams to life. Since 1998, cousins Calle Thoor (vocals, guitars, echoes, drums, etc) and Oskar Erlandsson (bass, keyboards, backing vocals, noises, samples, etc) have been making music to swoon by. Super-cool writer Ravin got them to discuss the beauty of Swedish music and the genius of their music.
TDOA: Recently there’s been an explosion of Swedish psychedelic rock bands that are truly mind-blowing, such as Dungen and Mono Stereo, and now, Bolywool. Is there a particular reason why psychedelia is alive and well in Sweden? Is it a popular movement or simply a fringe element of Swedish music culture?
Calle: I guess that progressive or psychedelic music, and, perhaps, guitar based music in general is getting more and more accepted again after a decade dominated by electro and whatnot, but at the moment it is probably best to refer it as a fringe element, and the same goes for, say, shoegaze or post-rock. These scenes are very much alive and sound but they are sort of on the cusp of the pop radar. Frankly, it hasn’t exactly been hip to play in a band with a classic setting for quite some time, but there something in the air telling me that there’s a revival going on. I reckon that Gothenburg has always been at the frontier when it comes to psychedelic music in general historically, so having our HQ there might have affected us on some level.
TDOA: You hail from Gothenburg, Sweden. How would you describe the difference between Gothenburg and Stockholm, both in terms of their cultural identity and their respective music scenes? Which do you prefer?
Oskar: I haven’t got a clue about what’s going on in Stockholm, so I can’t really compare the two…
Calle: We actually hail from Svarteberga on Öland on the east coast, but are based in Gothenburg since the majority of members live there nowadays. It’s practical since Jonas [Odhner, keyboards and guitars] has got his studio there, which we also use for rehearsals, recreation and leisure. But Svarteberga will always be our spiritual home. It might sound a bit arrogant, but I don’t really know if there is a scene per se in Stockholm to be honest. I do know that there are some great bands around, but there is certainly no sense of belonging or comradery as far as I’m concerned. Gothenburg is in bloom with acts like The Greencoats, Ikons, Afraid of Stairs, September Malevolence, Hunt, Sonores, and so forth. I’d rather be associated with that “scene” and thus Gothenburg for obvious reasons. Don’t get me wrong, Stockholm is a lovely place.
TDOA: How and when did Bolywool began? How has the band evolved in the years since its inception?
Oskar: It’s quite hard to actually to say when the band began since we (me and Calle) started playing together as soon as we started playing instruments around 1998. But, we usually say that the Bolywool saga began when we started recording songs on a four-track tape recorded in my room in 2001. That session resulted in our first official record, Modulation Underground EP, which we released on our own label a year later.
Calle: Me and Oskar started out with just bass and drums. So, when I picked up the guitar and started to write stuff that sort of resembled proper songs, things have evolved ever since. We’ve grown in terms of man power, so we’re like a proper band nowadays, which obviously has its ups and downs. And obvious advantage is that we can play live now. We waited for eight odd years to take the stage, and when we finally did it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Our songs are meant to be played live… with warts and all. Musically, we are in a constant flux – simple versus pretentious, clean versus distorted…
TDOA: “Through a Century” is an extraordinary album. How did it come about? Were the songs written in advance or were they written during the recording sessions?
Calle: All songs were more or less written in advance, although some things were improvised whilst recording. Sleep Today Away and So Low Down date back to 2004, whereas Traa-Dy-Liooar was written just a couple of days before we went into the studio.
Oskar: The album was recorded during two different sessions 6 months a part. We had rehearsed more prior to the first session and probably had a clearer view on how we wanted things to be as opposed to the second session when we mainly winged it. But in the end, the songs fit together nicely in perfect harmony.
TDOA: “Through a Century” has a real sense of space and atmosphere, yet it feels completely intimate and organic, with a wide dynamic range. From a production standpoint, was this something you were aiming for specifically, or was it a happy accident achieved through trial and error?
Oskar: We were certainly aiming for a specific sound. One thing that made things much easier from a production standpoint was that the collaboration with Jonas the producer. He’s really into recording with analogue gear, using tape echoes and “real” instruments rather than plugs and software synthesizers.
Calle: … recording on tape certainly affected the whole project on many different levels. You really try to bring your A-game because you can’t re-record as easily compared to digital recording. It’s back to the basics, pure craftsmanship if you will. There’s also the vintage and retro aspect which I find quite attractive, ’cause I love old tape echoes. I think we all do.
Oskar: Even though the collaboration and the technical aspects behind the record was great, we had a clear vision of how we wanted the record to sound. We recorded several demos and did pre-production, and it really paid off.
TDOA: The album also balances elegantly between sounding “retro” and sounding timeless, both in terms of the overall sound and textures, as well as the songwriting. Again, was this your intent? It seems like a lot of bands these days do one or the other, but fail to combine the two gracefully.
Calle: Personally, I don’t really aspire to write timeless songs, but it’s really flattering that you think that they are.
Oskar: The sound on Through a Century isn’t really that different from our earlier works. It’s lots of echo, delay, reverb and noises. Since the means of productions were better this time around, things might have panned out better than before.
Calle: I mean, of course we’re influenced by retro bands and a certain sounds and soundscapes, no doubt about it. But I think during the songwriting process, these influences are more subconscious than conscious. We are, not literally, guided by voices.
TDOA: The song craft on “Through a Century” is masterful. It seems like all the instruments have a distinct place in the mix, yet work seamlessly together to form a greater cohesive whole. Did this come instinctively from layering tracks and experimenting with mixes, or was the whole design thought through in advance.
Calle: The mixing process was very different this time around. Oskar and Jonas mixed the whole thing and sent us the mixes and we all had our say. A rather frustrating method from my point of view, but it all worked out in the end.
Oskar: The basic idea from start was to get a good, decent sound from the start so that mixing would mainly be about setting levels and doing some panning. Time consuming, but, again, it paid off in the end. We recorded all basic tracks live, so perhaps that contributed to the organic feel to it.
TDOA: Are there any lyrical themes to the record? From what I could gather, love and despair seem to be a common thread.
Calle: Love and despair are themes that pop up pretty frequently. Space and time are also themes that I seem to return to rather often, and a yet another is a mixture of the above. I’ve always struggled to be content living in the present, enjoying being here and now. I used to have this odd urge or need to have something to look forward to be, or the other way around – being ridiculously nostalgic, longing for things in the past. So, a lot of songs allude to yearning and restlessness too. Currently, I’m really into islands and penisulas. That’s basically how Dreams of the Hebrides got its title. And all instrumental tracks on the next album are named after isles and islands. It is, however, NOT a rock opera nor a concept album about islands. Maybe it should be though…
TDOA: Based on the extended album liner notes, everyone in Bolywool appears to be a multi-instrumentalist. Does this help or hurt the writing process? I can imagine songs moving quickly when everyone’s on the same page and getting bogged down when there are differing opinions…
Calle: I think it helps because it brings versatility and endless possibilities of arranging and whatnot . When there are differing opinions things can get pretty ugly. We’re not afraid of arguing, that’s for sure.
Oskar: In a way, things were much easier before when it was just me and Calle sharing the entire workload. Five egos to nourish is three more than two… Still,more people equals more perspective which is a good thing.
TDOA: What are your plans for 2010? You recently posted some video from rehearsal sessions for your next record. How are they coming along? Any tour plans for 2010? Is the US on your radar?
Calle: We are going to start recording album number two in early March. We’ve written 26 new songs, so it ought to be a blast. Don’t know how many songs that will make the final cut, but I’m really excited about the prospects. We’ve been listening to a lot of post-rock recently and I think people will notice that for sure. Apart from that, we are just trying to get gigs. Seemingly, it’s harder to get gigs than it is to release a record on your own. So if there’s anyone in the US who want us to gig, let us know…
Oskar: Mmm, exactly. We got so many new songs we actually had to stop writing new songs, ’cause they just kept on coming. So we are really looking forward to start recording. What else? We might do some shows on Iceland. We’re looking into the matter at the moment. We’re also designing some new merchandise. We’ve got lots of aces up our sleeves at the moment.