Beardfish interview: "We release an album each year, like King Crimson and Genesis used to do"

24/10/2012 @ 13:02
With an ever-increasing popularity in modern prog rock scene, Sweden’s Beardfish have just released a new album ("The Void") and are preparing once again to win new fans within a sound that seems to have become relatively popular lately. For many, thanks to bands and their record attempts like the hard-working Beardfish. We had a chat with mastermind, Rikard Sjöblom about the band, the contemporary prog scene and the influences of a band that does not hesitate to have differences. With a slight change of course and the introduction of metal elements in their music, Beardfish are ready for the next step in their career.

Good evening, where am I finding you?
Actually I am at home our tour hasn’t started yet. (the interview was done in August)

BeardfishSo, you have a new album in less than a year. Is this productivity normal for you? Is it something that benefits your music?
I think that in general we have an urge to be creative in Beardfish. I always like a lot of music so when we finish the songs and we play them I start writing new songs. I show them to the guys and we start rehearsing and then we like to record them of course, so we go again to the studio to record. It is not a conscious thing it is just the way it is!

It is a little like 70s bands, isn’t it?
Yes, I have also noticed that bands like King Crimson and Genesis used to release albums each year. It is just the way we do it and as long as we feel that the quality doesn’t decrease we will continue.

Let’s talk a little bit about the new album. Is there a specific theme behind "The Void", does the title have a meaning?
Yes, it deals with emotional loss. The kind of empty feeling you get in your body and mind when you go through rough stuff in life. It’s about the journey from being in that place to becoming healthy and going on with your life.

BeardfishIf you don’t mind my asking, is this coming from a personal experience?
It’s coming from a lot of different personal experiences throughout life. Maybe from stuff that happened to me last year that I had to write music and lyrics to get all of them out of me, you know. That was my kind of dealing with it. On the same time though, I am not spelling everything out. It is in there in the lyrics but at the same time I don’t want to say too much, it is better for people to understand by themselves and have their own view.

There is also an instrumental piece in the album called "Seventeen Again", which is also very expressing and has some strong emotions. Even by the title it seems there is a meaning in it. Does it actually tell a story and what would it say if it had lyrics?
The title is coming from living back in simpler times, in the time when you were 17. When you were 17 you may not thought so but when you reach 30 and beyond you know that thing were gentle when you were young. Even though you thought that everything was against you.

Did you actually think of the title after writing the music or did you have the specific theme in mind and you started writing the music to fit with the theme?
A little bit of both actually. It had the working title "Seventeen" actually. But when we put the album together I thought that "Seventeen Again" would be more fitting to the flow of the album. You know the spoken introduction about one person looking into the future and after that he tries to look into the past? Well, that is "Seventeen Again", he is looking into the past. After that song in the storyline of the album he realizes that he has to deal with his problems in the present and that means dealing with what went wrong.

BeardfishLet’s talk about the music and the sound. While in earlier releases of Beardfish you could more or less trace back the sound of each song, for example you could say that one is Zappa inspired, the other is Genesis inspired or King Crimson inspired, I think that in your latest releases you started to develop your own sound. Do you agree? How would you describe your signature sound?
Well, I like what you say so I’m gonna have to agree. I don’t know why, actually. It could be just growth. We play together for ten years without a number of changes. We know each other inside out, you know. We know how the other one plays even though the others still amaze me with stuff they bring to the table and what they play of course. But it is a familiar territory. Maybe we have settled in. I definitely think that Magnus and Robert (drums and bass) have a very special thing together which together with the way Davis plays... He doesn’t play guitar like any other guitarist I have ever played with. He has a very good ear to pick up details that can make or break a song. Well, that together with the stuff that I write make the Beardfish sound in my opinion. But if you want me to pinpoint a signature sound, I am not certain I could do that. I guess it depends on the listener.

Actually I had a question which you half-answered about how is the writing process and what each member contributes.
I write most of the songs which means I sat at home with my guitar and my piano and I come up with a melody or some lyrics and the chord structures. I usually have a good idea of how I want to sound and I present it to the guys and either they agree or they disagree and that’s when we start arranging the stuff. Usually we start with one part of the song and if the others like it they almost act like catalysts to me. When I hear the four of us play I almost immediately come up with new parts. That’s what happens. It is quite a nice process and we always had a good working relationship within this band and good discipline as well. We can rehearse for 9 hours straight up if we feel like it.

BeardfishSo have you ever written something that either you or the others felt that it is not a “Beardfish material” and has been kept aside for, maybe, a solo release?
Yeah, I usually have some stuff that I don’t think it is Beardfish but the other do! I released two solo albums with a project called Gunfly.

I didn’t know that...
Yes, I released one by myself and the other by a Swedish progressive label. But they are not really known and they sort of flew under the radar. People who buy them or who have heard them seem to like them, but they never caught on the same way Beardfish have.

And is it really different material? Is it justified that it is not under the Beardfish name?
I think that the justification is more that I wanted to do it. I always have been a fan of recording things on my own, of going into the studio and playing all instruments and recording. I’ve never been inclined to make this public and release it but them some people who have heard the result always said I should released it because it is good. But it is different than Beardfish. It is more pop-rock and psychedelic rock oriented.

You have toured in the past with other prog rock bands and now you will be touring with Flying Colours. If you had to chose a band that affected your sound while playing with them, which would it be?
 I think that all of them had an effect on us to some extent. Not so much to be obvious in the songs but some little things. Like for instance on the second song of our album, "Turn To Gravel", I think that we have a vibe that Pain Of Salvation showed in some of their songs. Also on the song "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" the drum beat we call 'the Tangent beat'. It is really inspired by Andy Tillison. I don’t know if he knows that though.

BeardfishSince you mentioned him, I saw his appearance in the introductory piece, but there were at some point discussions about a proper collaboration. Did this ever occur?
The thing was that we were supposed to record "Down & Out In Paris" with him but then we got the Progressive Nation tour, that unfortunately never happened, but we were supposed to be away for the entire summer and he wanted to record. But we actually played one concert as Tangent where Beardfish was actually Andy’s band. It was a lot of fun, we did "Yours Is No Disgrace" as an encore.

You also mentioned Pain Of Salvation and I think that one can spot a more metallic edge on your latest record. So maybe touring with metal bands has influenced you?
The thing is that we always had a little bit of that within us. It was always present when we played live. We actually sound heavier live than we do on the albums. We chose to not restrain it and instead embrace it. So if a song 'wants' to sound like metal, let’s do that instead of trying to make it something that it isn’t. I am not saying that we have done this in the past but we have maybe chickened out a little bit. Turning down the distortion. I think this time we thought let’s go full on with it the way it sound in the rehearsal studio. Because there it sounded metal, so we said let’s do it.

BeardfishSince you sound different live, as you say, isn’t it time to record a live album or a DVD?
We often talked about that. As with some other questions, there have been some differences in the band and the timing has never been good to do it. Making a live album needs a lot of time and money if you want to do it correctly. I would love to record a DVD I think, and also release it together with a CD, a double CD maybe that can feature songs from all of our albums. I would much rather do that than do a 'best of' which I don’t think that really works. I would have big problems picking songs.  

In a live DVD you can pick songs that actually sound different when you perform them live.
Exactly, that’s what I always say.

Do you feel that with the youtube technology a live DVD is not so important anymore?
It could be like that, but at the same time when people record from the audience it is not good quality. It is very expensive to do it properly. And since we have waited so long, if we are going to do it now we will have to do a very good job.

BeardfishA general question about the prog rock scene: It is common knowledge that prog rock is now as fashionable as it can be. What is amazing, is that - especially in Sweden - you have a proper scene, with good relationships and collaborations between the artists. Is there really a since of common feelings and unity?
We were in May over to the States and we shared a couple of shows with a band called Tea Club and on every evening we stood there and we cheered each other on. We felt they were really good and they thought we were really good. Similar situation in a festival in Canada. Everyone is really supportive. I think that prog rock is doing very well in that area. Actually we don’t have a lot of following in Sweden, so we have to go to Europe to play.

Thank you very much for your time and I wish the best success on your new album.
Thank you!