By Eric Evans
For the casual North American listener, hearing the term “supergroup” usually brings to mind ego tripping, first and foremost. There are higher-than-usual expectations when members of name-brand bands get together to record, which seems like a fair trade for the immediate attention such a project typically garners. Usually the critical response to such projects is disappointment. For every modest success like Traveling Wilburys there’s a complete ego trip like Neurotic Outsiders or Damn Yankees, which makes the happy surprise of Amason’s artistic success that much sweeter.
Members of Swedish groups Miike Snow, Dungen, Idiot Wind, and Little Majorette coming together as a band may not carry the same weight of expectation as Wilburys Dylan, Petty, Lynne, Orbison, and a Beatle, but then what would? The important thing is the music, which on Amason’s first album “Sky City” is rich, nuanced, and beautiful. These songs don’t sound like the cobbled together bits of different bands, but like five musicians who’ve played together for years. Vocal duties are split between the members seemingly effortlessly, recalling the easy elegance of classic ’70s Fleetwood Mac. It’s a bit shocking on first listen to realize this is a debut album.
Just as Amason was playing their first North American shows at SXSW, Amanda Bergman took the time to answer some questions for Black on the Canvas about the band’s plans, dynamics, and Swedishness (or lack thereof).
Everyone in Amason has other projects, other bands. Is Amason a band or more of an artists’ collective like Apparatjik? Will members rotate in and out?
Amanda Bergman: No, Amason is definitely a band. It is true though, that all of us have other involvements as well but we simply see that as a sheer reality and over all something positive. It will potentially take away the pressure from the living and being of one single project and hopefully keep us all a little more sane and creative.
How do you decide who will sing lead on a track? How do you write and record, is it very democratic?
Amanda Bergman: Well, it evolves quite naturally for sure. I think it’s important to not have just one singer in this band, since many of us can sing and write songs and it’s good to share that spot and it reflects on a healthy philosophy that we’re trying to maintain. Up until now, there’s hasn’t been like a system or anything, we haven’t really thought about it and I hope we won’t. We’ve spent so little time working on this record, we couldn’t really get together that often which lead to us working extremely fast once we were all in the same room, which then lead to one person singing most of the songs because that person is sometimes a fast writer and can’t play bass or fast drums.
Sky City has a diverse range of songs and sounds. From 2013’s “Margins” until now, how has your songwriting or performance changed?
Amanda Bergman: I think we’re definitely starting to grow together as a band the more we play and the more songs we write. We rarely come together for
rehearsals, up until just now we didn’t even have a rehearsal space, but rather figure out things on stage, trusting that everything’s gonna get better in the end. I think one just has to accept that we will constantly change as a band, no matter if we wish for it or not, and the music will of course roll along with it. The songs on Sky City were all among the first 17 songs we ever wrote, we didn’t really throw away much material. So, most likely, the songs we will write from now on, with more shows done also, will be different somehow.
The album has a timeless quality—it’s sounds contemporary but a track like “Clay Birds” or “Velodrome”could have come out in 1975, “The Moon As A Kite” in the ’60s. Is there a particular time period you feel you would have fit into as a band, other than 2015?
Amanda Bergman: Thank you! No, I don’t think we could fit into any other time period than this one, since all that other time has passed already. We do love all kinds of music, very much, and of course we’re inspired by all that music regardless if it was made in 1964 or 1997. We do like old recording equipment so that may also add old color to the songs.
Some bands have a very “national” sound. For example, Oasis sounds very British, The Black Crowes sound very American. Is there anything about your music you would describe as Swedish?
Amanda Bergman: Oh, I couldn’t tell… It’s hard to make any analysis from the inside. Just as many other Swedish bands, we’re completely uncritically inspired by American music. It’s been the main type of music for such a long time here. I think what we might add to it is some Scandinavian mentality… For example, in Sweden we often talk about the word “vemod” in Swedish, which (badly) translates into “bittersweet” in English. If anything, I think we manage to put a fair amount of that into our music.
And conversely, is there anything about your music you would say is not Swedish?
Amanda Bergman: Honestly, I don’t know. We’re all from Sweden so I suppose we sound like Sweden!
Swedish artists as diverse as The Knife to Roxette to ABBA to the Shout Out Louds found success using both male and female members for decades. It’s somewhat unusual in other countries but seemingly common in Sweden. Is there anything specific to Sweden’s musical scene that encourages gender
equality in music?
Amanda Bergman: Maybe. There’s a lot of things happening in gender equality in music in Sweden, even though it’s still far from equal. There’s definitely a debate going on every now and then. Several grass root initiatives have been around for a while now and it’s finally starting to pay off. The Swedish Grammy nominations this year, for example, was overly represented by female artists. It’s not about one gender battling with the others of course, it’s just about the recognition in that diversification is always needed and that the music industry has always lacked input from 50% if the population although it’s consumed by everyone on this planet. Hopefully it’s changing and it’s about time.
This question is for each member: Gustav, Amanda, Petter, Nils, Pontus, who were your favorite musical artists when you were 13 years old?
Nisse: Phil Collins
Petter: Michael Jackson
Pontus: Jean Michel Jarre
Gustav: Public Enemy
Amanda: Best of the 1960’s
What is the greatest challenge for a band in 2015?
Amanda Bergman: To be a band!
Any plans to tour in North America after SXSW?
Amanda Bergman: Yes, we’re coming back this fall!