Navelin - Daydream
Info: Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, indie pop five-piece Navelin, consisting of Elin Johansson (vocals), Fredd Jakobsen (drums), Andy Colbert (guitars), Martin Lajsic (guitars) Rasmus Lindblom (bass), released their latest single 'Daydream' just a few weeks ago. Accompanied by a wonderful animated video that reflects how we react to our ambitions in life, do we neglect them, embrace them, the track is a classic and honourable example of Scandic indie guitar music, taking a pinch of UK influences and then drowning them in domestic pop bliss as only Scandinavians (and Irish!) know how.
I caught up with Navelin at a busy time for the band as they head into the recording studio again, but first a bit about them; 'In the fall of 2012, Gothenburg based post-indie combo Navelin started to come together as a band. With members from Gothenburg (SWE) and Dublin (IRL) and a broad set of influences from indie-pop and alternative-rock, Navelin began developing their soundscapes. With equal parts dream pop, post rock and electronic minimalism - atmospheric guitars and vintage electronics - Navelin set a backdrop against which they build a dark, yet intimate vision. A beautiful mix of darkness and vulnerability where the interaction between five unique voices become bigger than the sum of their parts. It’s the twilight where dream faces the awakening; the forest's edge with the smell of mornings dew and wet asphalt.'
Remy: Firstly can I ask your thoughts on Swedish and Scandinavian music for our Irish readers. Why do you think Sweden in particular has had such success in exporting its music to the UK / Ireland and USA over the past 20 years? I'm thinking of some of my favourite albums like The Radio Dept's 2003 release Lesser Matters, Fever Ray, and Kent's Hagnesta Hill & Isola personally.
Andy: The first thing to consider is the thriving music scene here in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden. Take the amount of internationally successful Swedish acts: *Abba, Roxette, Europe, Ace Of Base, The Cardigans, Avicii, Tove Lo, Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Little Dragon, Peter Björn & John, Jose Gonzalez, The Knife, Tallest Man On Earth, Lykke Li, The Hives, Robyn, Swedish House Mafia, Denniz Pop, Max Martin, Meshuggah, At The Gates, In Flames, Entombed, Opeth, Ghost... the list goes on. These acts are all producing what's regarded as high quality music in their respective genres.
So quantity and quality are the big factors I don't know enough about the Norwegian, Danish and Finnish music scene to compare the quality or the amount of bands they have. But with regards to Sweden's success with exporting their music, aside from those two key factors I just mentioned, I think this is also partly to do with their success on the global stage with many of their other exports, not just music. For example, companies like Volvo, H&M, Acne Jeans, IKEA, Electrolux, Metro Newspapers, Ericsson, Absolut Vodka, Soundcloud, Spotify most of them are leaders in their respective fields. When there's an outward flow of quality product, across the board, from a country, I think that momentum can make it easier for new acts/music and products to ride that wave across to international markets, where they get the attention they deserve.
Raz: It's also important to point out that it’s not all about the business. Sweden is a small, "far away" country, so there are definitely some knowledge in exporting and importing work. I think, in general, Swedes are pretty "international" and pretty quick to pick up new trends and ideas coming from e.g. UK, USA, continental Europe etc. (which sometimes comes with a price tag...). That’s, true for the "heavy" industries (Volvo, IKEA, Electrolux etc.), but
equally true for music, food, coffee, fashion, philosophy, literature etc. As a Swede you are pretty aware that Sweden is not enough, you need to get outside of Sweden if you want to make it, that makes Swedes pretty aware of what's
going on outside of Sweden. I think this is pretty obvious looking at Lykke Li, Tove Lo etc. Really "international" in every aspect, not just musically.
Apart from that, I also think that the quality of Swedish music needs to be addressed. Since the quality of bands / song-writers / musicians etc. generally are quite high, the industry obviously have lots of talent to develop and
exploit. There are a handful of really talented rock bands in EVERY Swedish town and that should not be forgotten!
Here I think we have the Swedish system of public music schools, free adult education, subsidized rehearsal rooms, and previously quite liberal grants/aids for unemployed, students etc. to thank. There are quite few obstacles to climb
before starting a band, or learning to play the drums. That allows lots of talent to bloom. Second I think that the old Scandinavian folk music have such a nice mellow vibe that kids learn to relate to from the time they sing their first songs at daycare (can probably thank Swedish composer Georg Riedel for this;)...). The Swedish scene in general is pretty good at incorporating this vibe into commercial genres. There is actually a pretty straight musical line going down from these old violin fiddlers in traditional costumes to the bands like Kent, Fever Ray, Radio Dept etc. There is a mellow, desolate, somewhat cold tonality that Swedes tend to handle quite good. That definitely goes for metal as well as pop music...
That said, isn’t it strange that Kent never did better abroad?
Remy: I couldn't agree more Raz, I always wondered about how they managed to release Isola and Hagnesta Hill bilingually, in their native tongue and English and it didn't seem to affect the flow of how the lyrics matched the music.
Kent - 747
Remy: Can you share any upcoming Swedish bands that have not broken out just yet with us that you would recommend?
Raz: I don’t know if this counts since the band have actually disbanded due to a very tragic suicide... But if there is one Gothenburg-based band I generally think that people have missed, I’d say Killers Walk Among Us. If they’d ever
gotten the chance they definitely should have bursted out of Gothenburg and straight into the stratosphere. Their first (and last) record was released after the they disbanded in 2014. While we’re talking Gothenburg-based and slightly louder bands I’d also recommend Westkust. If your into electronic pop I’d recommend you look into bands like Call Me, Paper, Heart/Dancer. DNKL, Det Vackra Livet, IAMBEAR, Katakomb, David Sandström’s solo project A Heavy Feather are other great names. Actually the whole Stockholm based label Sommarhjärta, is fantastic, Luxxury is another one, this list can be endless...
Killers Walk Among Us - Two Hearts Getting Beaten As One
Andy: How does any Irish man ever end up in Gothenburg?! In the company of beautiful Swedish woman... I've worked as a sound engineer and musician on the Dublin scene since '94 working with many, many great Irish and International artists. Over my time as a live engineer, I held residencies in The DA Club, The Funnel Bar and Isaac Butts /Radio City. In early 2000's, when Dave Allen was the booking agent in Isaac's, he persuaded me to "DJ" for our
Saturday night Indie club. It was during one of these clubs that a very cute little girl from Sweden asked me to play Oasis one night, and the rest, as they say, is history. The sound engineering work was eating more and more into the time that I should have been focusing on creating music, so in 2008, Tina and myself decided to move to Gothenburg where I started putting a band together. This is where I met Elin (Johansson, singer of Navelin).
Remy: Your new single 'Daydream' seems to start off with the monotony off modern urban life, where the character departs to a dream world once he goes to sleep. Is that a reflection of how you perceive your own situation with regard to music, it being the dream and the alternative being the monotony?
Raz: Might be, but not necessary. I think Elin is the one to ask here, but to me the song posts a more general, existential question. Are you being honest to yourself regarding the life you live? To me it’s not about asking what your life is all about, but what your life really is or should be all about and whether you're embracing that dream or not... The Daydream can be just as much about trying as actually fulfilling your dreams along as you acknowledge what you dream about. I think you can be quite happy living a "monotone urban life", the important thing is to be true to yourself and admit that you are dreaming of something else, if you actually are.
Elin: I've always been a daydreamer for as long as I can remember. To slide in to the daydream is a survival instinct for me I guess, the need to escape the reality for a bit. in this case its more about a reminder. Life goes by and we have so little time on this earth. I want to make the most of my time and I want to remind people to do the same.
Navelin - Old Radio
Remy: Tell us a bit about the animation for the video?
Andy: Although we'd seen some of Michael Zauner's previous work, without realizing it, on Tame Impala's 'Mind Mischief' video, it was his work on a couple of Willis Earl Beal's videos that originally caught our attention. We approached him with the the idea of him animating a video for 'Daydream'. Much to our delight, he said that he loved the song and that he thought it would be a fun project to be involved in. Animation is not our forte, so we just gave him a few rough guidelines and left the bulk of the creativity to him. He'd report back every now and with new ideas for our approval until it's completion in midNovember.
We liked the idea of a simple black and white animation. We also wanted there to be a storyline with a beginning and an end, something that would engage the viewer. We weren't looking for just some random artistic doodles and patterns to accompany the music, we wanted something more, and having an artist like Michael put his interpretation forward and pour in his creativity, led to a very successful end result. We're hearing back from our fans that they find themselves really empathizing, almost forming an emotional bond, with our protagonist.
'Daydream' also carries a very universal theme, and asks the question “What's your life all about?”. It's something, I think, we can all relate to at some point, so we wanted Michael to tie this theme into the storyline. Also, the title itself, 'Daydream', left him with a blank canvas to take our man on any journey he wanted to! We're superhappy with the end result and Michael has expressed an interest in working on another project with us. Watch this space...
Remy: The Irish music scene has exploded in the last 34 years, with venues hosting performances 7 nights a week, what has been Navelin's experience of the local scene in Gothenburg since you formed Navelin?
Raz: In general, and strangely enough despite what I said earlier about Swedish music, the live scene in Sweden in general is pretty hard. It’s usually harder to get good gigs inside Sweden the outside. Gothenburg have a rich and
blooming music scene, probably the best in Sweden, but there is definitely not a 7 nights a week thing if we’re talking about the live scene. Swedes are not a very outgoing people and the government embraces this by being pretty restrictive when it comes to alcohol servings and opening hours etc. Live music, to most venues, actually comes down to cash an the ends have to meet otherwise they rater use a DJ or even Spotify. The vibe is that this is about to change with more small venues, cafés etc. having weekday gigs with less expenses to cover, so let’s hope for that!
Remy: I was in Helsinki recently and noticed a lot of large independent vinyl stores in the city centre, it seems to be a medium that is coming back everywhere, is it happening in Sweden also?
Andy: Helsinki, that's a nice town, we've got a strong fan base there... Gothenburg has the Nordic region's largest and most well-assorted record store, Bengans. It opened in '74, I think as half pet store, half record store. It's still going strong despite the current climate. We actually had our launch party for 'Side One' at Bengans. It has a very wide selection of music, I even came across a copy of The Immediate's debut album In Towers & Clouds there last year.
Vinyl has definitely made a comeback here too and it's a nice thing to see. In fact, shortly after we release our next EP Side Two, we'll be releasing both EPs on one physical 12”.
Raz: To me the renaissance for vinyl looks very obvious reaction to Spotify. Streamed music is fantastic, no doubt about that! People can consume music anywhere, and thats awesome. But for the ones of us that still want to sit down
and listen to the best records from A to B and have a physical copy to look at the artwork, read the info etc... Why on earth should you buy a CD when you can buy something big, beautiful, personal and collectable instead? There is also
something honest about the way these old LP’s age. When you listen to them you can actually hear that this record has have been listened to 2000 times before, they must’ve meant something to someone. My Cult of Luna playlists on
Spotify sounds exactly the same way today as they did five years ago...
Photo: Andy Hayball Photography
Remy: Across your latest EP there's a strong mix of electronica ('Shake It Off') and indie ('Maple Train'), are all band members fans of both genres or do different people bring one or the other to the table, i.e. would some of you lean more strongly to one genre or is everyone into both?
Andy: Yes, to some degree we're all fans of electronica and to more of an extent, we all share a love for indie music. Part of our arrival in "electronica land" comes from trying to push the boundaries of the conventional drums, bass, two guitars and a lead singer outfit. We like to experiment with sounds a lot and shape the sounds in slightly unconventional ways. We may start an idea with organic sounds, but as we never like to take the easy route, we usually find an alternative way of expressing what it is we are trying to say with that organic sound. This can be a more time consuming process, but ultimately more rewarding. The beauty of Navelin is that we all bring our own flavours to the table, the meal wouldn't taste the same if one of us was absent during it's preparation.
Raz: I think it’s fair to say that ones a song or production idea gets a thumbs up from all of us it have passed somewhat of a quality test. At least that’s the way we hope it works. Regarding our quite widespread preferences and musical
backgrounds I think we have to push parts into a somewhat eclectic territories (mix of electronica/indie) in order to get that OK from everyone so that’s a really important part of the Navelin sound.
Remy: What are the next steps for Navelin with regard to recording, and can we expect a European (Irish!) Tour in the near future?
Andy: We're in the studio right now actually, answering your questions finishing up work on our next single 'Saga', which will also appear on the next EP 'Side Two'. We're going to continue working on the rest of the EP while we're
fixing European dates for early Spring and beyond. Yes, there will most definitely be an Irish tour, sure it'd be rude not to!
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