While the 3 days of awesomeness at Freak Valley Festival were coming to and end, Mr. Jones & Mr. Fuzz caught up with the nice guys from Snowy Dunes while Orange Goblin was putting fire on the stage for the final show of the festival.
Snowy Dunes played the same day on the "Wake & Bake" stage, we loved their concert, soulful Heavy Psych with a pleasant Bluesy touch, it was groovy, we were entranced... (By the way Mr. Smoke reviewed their first album here) So it was a real pleasure to have a talk with Niklas (vocals), Stefan (drums) & Carl (bass) !
Let's maybe start with the beginning, what's the story of the band, where are you guys from?
We're from Stockholm, Sweden. Actually it was two bands from the beginning, it was Christoffer the guitar player, then it was me and Carl from another band, we met together one night, we just jammed for a show, and that's pretty much how we began doing music together. Then a while down the road we found Niklas, who was like an old blues singer. So we added his touch to the music. We then went to California to record our debut album in the desert, in Joshua Tree.
It started out like with Stefan the drummer and Christoffer the guitar player, they wanted to do a lot of shows and play live a lot, because both of our bands didn't really play live that much. So they started a band just to play a lot of gigs. And then they didn't have a bass player and I joined. Me and Stefan played together earlier. Snowy Dunes had one singer before Niklas joined, he was along for like maybe six months or something, played maybe five gigs with him or something and then he quit.
He couldn't handle the pressure.
Well, he was a great guy, but Niklas really formed the sound.
Thank you man. I think what Snowy Dunes needed before was its own type of personality. I think we, as a group now, have more of a group personality and more of a vibe than you had with the other guy. I write a lot of lyrics, so I bring a lot of the... Well, we all discuss the theme, but I sort of take it in some direction lyrically, and I've always kinda done that, but I think that comes from writing a lot of blues songs and a lot of delta blues guitar. I'm kinda fast at just improvising in that sense.
We know each other very well on a musical level if you say so, that really helps out a lot.
How do you guys compose your music, do you just jam and find a good riff?
It usually starts off with Christoffer the guitar player, he usually brings like a riff he's been working on for a while and doing something. He just starts off playing and then we start jamming around it. When he comes up with a riff we like to jam for like 20, 30 minutes on the same song and do variations on the riff and then come up with new stuff with that and then we try to use... yeah, like a lot of bands do, we try to use all those small things you find during the jam.
Yeah, for the first album it was mostly stuff from Christoffer's old band that we sort of jammed together into new songs, recorded in the desert in Joshua Tree, that definitely puts a feeling on it as well. It was like this big process of taking those songs, building into new songs and giving it a certain sound.
Sometimes we'll work on a song, but like before I came in, they had lots of riffs, but they had no ear exposed to it. So I would just sit and write, write, write, write lyrics you know. Then I would come up with a good line and then we would tweak that a little bit and then... and then... it's often jamming. For our song "Atlantis Part 1", I had one line of lyrics written before we started to record it.
Yeah that song was some kind of an experiment. The funny thing was actually it was not decided what it was going to be, it was just like a jam, a long jam, basically.
Exactly. Just a big jam, the lyrics are improvised, NIklas had like one line, then Christoffer came in with another thing he had on guitar around. The song just worked itself out by itself, we didn't do anything, more or less; we just played the song, which is pretty cool.
I just saw your vinyl on the Freak Valley Merch table, so you made a deal with Rock Freaks Records ? How did that happen ? Did Jens (Rock Freaks owner and Freak Valley Festival organizer) contacted you ?
Yeah, Jens came to see us when we had a gig in Cologne. And that's when we kinda met and started discussing about the record.
We're talking to another label too, before that. We got this really bad deal from them; they had something we couldn’t really work out for either of us, so... At the same time Jens from Rock Freaks had contacted us. So he came to one of our gigs in Cologne, and he had already planned something before this, but we had thought about it too. He was like : "we can't fit on one vinyl 52 minutes of music, we have to do two, and if we're going to make a double vinyl we make it gatefold", which is kinda what we wanted to do. We couldn't afford a double gatefold vinyl ourselves, so we were so happy when he said he wanted to do that.
And who's the guy who did the artwork of your album ?
It's Robin Gnista.
Oh yeah I know him ! I have one of his poster at my home from the French edition of the Levitation Festival.
Yeah he did a lot of stuff for Levitation, Austin Psych Festival. He's very talented.
He's been with us from the start. We came to him as a really small band, you know, and he mostly works for major artists, like big bands and stuff. We sort of like convinced him that we really wanted to do this and he believed in us and created this amazing art work, for like the first single, the album.
I think we're on the same page thematically. I think he understands what we're trying to say.
Definitely. When we sat down with him for the first album and then now the second album we're going to record this fall, we came with our small vision and then he's like "Oh, we can do this or we can do this", and he really has a good vision. We synchronise with the vision, like we have the same vision of what kind of stuff we wanna do.
And when will the new album be released ?
We don't want to say it really for now, because we haven't recorded yet. We're still in pre-production stage, so I would guess like, best case this fall / winter or maybe next year, like early next year. We were planning a Fall tour as well, you know, that takes time and sort of like energy from the recording sessions, so we'll see if we make it to summer, maybe we'll somehow be starting on it.
You guys are from Sweden right ? I'd like to know how you produce so much good music in your country? How comes there are so many good bands coming out of your country ?
There are a lot of really good social structures and programs for it, like when I was a kid I went to something called Culture School and it was where you could learn an instrument or a craft or something, and it starts from a really young age. Now, with the government as it is now, it's not as much, but music tutoring, music teaching is available from a very early age, from the government. And also we get money from the government to pay our rehearsal space, stuff like that, so it's pretty cool. I think there's an extremely high level of competent musicians in Sweden, because I think it's so easy to start from an early age. The school system and stuff like that.
We also have like this heritage of those Prog bands from the 70s, you know, I think that had a lot of influence on us.
And you guys, about influences, what are yours, personally?
Well, I play bass and my influences are Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath because has a really fluent style and lot of fills, a lot of jazzy stuff. I also like John Paul Jones from Led Zepelin, because he has a lot of melody. Those are the bands I listen to the most: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin. I also love Captain Beyond, which is terrific band from the 70s and also another band, more or less modern, from the 90's, called Bigelf. They're a really cool LA band, it's heavy, it's like a mix between Black Sabbath, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. I like that, heavy but also melodic.
I have a variety of influences. I play a lot of different insturments as well. I think a lot of my fascination is with old blues men, I like a lot of that kind of stuff. I definitely... Captain Beefheart I could list as an influence, because just the rawness of it and the surrealness and I kinda try and incorporate a little of that craziness into my stage show, but also in the way I sing and stuff like that. Also of course Jim Morrison, The Doors. About newer bands: I like Mondo Drag a lot, yeah. But then, I mean, I can get down with a lot of different shit, I mean James Brown was a fucking awesome singer, man.
Do you listen to Gospel Niklas ? Because this morning during your concert I saw you were like giving the power of god on somebody's head with your hands haha it was funny 🙂
Haha yeah I always was just fascinated with that whole evangelist thing, like a "wake meeting". Like that old soul singer, that kinda like just give everything man, until the voice fucking just like, was just destroyed completely, that whole thing, just singing with your entire body, that was really cool to me.
Yeah, well the same thing for me, you know, as a drummer, I'd say Keith Moon, John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell and drummers like that, you know. I guess those are my primary influences, but of course newer bands like Graveyard, you know, the bands at this festival Dead Meadow and Orange Goblin. Awesome bands as well like Sleep and stuff like that. I listen to that a lot. Black Sabbath of course.
So you guys saw Dead Meadow ?
Yeah, we played with them in Amsterdam, the night before. It was awesome!
Actually our album that we just released on Rock Freaks, was recorded with Steve Kille from Dead Meadow.
He produced it, yeah, he definitely gave it his touch as well.
So how did Steve help shaping your album ?
He did some really weird shit with the vocals sometimes, that was like really specific, like I sang throat singing in a bathroom where they have recorded old pornos and shit, it was like really weird. Me and Christoffer were in there in this like tiny bathroom and him just putting a mic "It's gonna sound good, it's gonna sound good, trust me", and it did, it sounded awesome. But it was really weird, it was like "Sing slightly to the left of the bathroom", but in the end it was just nice natural reverb. No, I mean, he had these really specific things and he would say after a take : "You did some cool stuff" not like "That was the one; that was a great take", he was more like "You did some cool stuff". It's like : "Oh right, yeah, okay, I did some cool stuff" haha !
Yeah, he really felt the essence of the recording, you know...
He really wanted us to make it feel like a live session, we all recorded in the same room. We did a few takes on these songs; we chose the best take, basically no overdubs except the vocals. So he really was "This was great, but you can do better, let's try one more, you can do this, improvise more".
Yeah, he did cool stuff, he wanted us to kind of decide and feel when the right take was the right take, you know or us to decide when we said "Yeah, I think that sounded cool", and he would always say "You're welcome to try it again" but I mean he really wanted us to sense when the right take was the right take.
We looked for a producer who knew what sound we wanted to produce. It's easier to find a producer that knows a sound than explain your sound to someone who doesn't know. That was Steve. Then it's like I think Harry Wineburg had a finger in it as well,
Yeah the guy who mastered it is Harry Wineburg. He did like Nirvana, the Nevermind album. He also did a bunch of Red Hot Chilli Peppers albums.
He's an expensive guy you know, but we manage to get him 😉
So you're planning to go back to Joshua Tree to record the second album ?
We don't know yet. We're talking to a few people in Stockholm too, but we would like to work with Steve again. We don't know yet what we're going to do. We're still in pre-production, so we haven't really talked about when we're going to record or stuff like that, we don't know. He wants to do it and we would love to do it, but we don't know yet at this stage.
I have one last silly question. If there's one band that you would like to jam with all night long, who would it be? Just one band.
Just one band? Can it be living or they dead?
Oh man, you just made it way harder. Probably for me it would probably be Santana, like early Santana, because it would go on for fucking ever, it would just like never stop. Or I'd love to jam with Curtis Mayfield. That would be so cool.
For me, I'd say The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
That's a hard question. I would say Bigelf.
Well I think that's all guys, thanks a lot for the interview !