Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Baker's Dozen: Interview with Slottet

(image from Slottet's Myspace Page)

Scene: Halloween Party, 2007. At least some of the members of Slottet are in attendance. A horse mask makes an appearance, quickly becomes the hit of the party and changes the band's life forever. Move forward three years. "Agnostics Nightmare" has just crossed my computer screen and I dig it enough to include it on my September Caper Crusader Mix. Listen after listen the song builds until eventually, like the horse mask, my future is forever altered. Recently I had the chance to interview, via email, Slottet and ask them, amongst other things, why the horse mask and what is the story behind "Agnostics Nightmare." It is another installment of our Baker's Dozen Interview Series.

TB: How did the members of Slottet come to make music together?

Slottet: We met at the university about 3 years ago, first consisting as a cover- band and later starting to make our own music

TB: The Stockholm Palace is called Kungliga Slottet. Is that where the band name came from?
Slottet: Actually it is not where the band name came from. We had several ideas for a band name but thought that we needed something catchy and easy to remember, therefore, thinking that one word was good. When trying to decide a name, one of the members of the group just said random words out of DVD-covers. One of them being Howl's Moving Castle. When saying the word castle, which is Slottet in Swedish, we all just froze and understood that that was it.
TB: In describing yourself on Facebook and Myspace you use a number of adjectives including pathetic, idiotic and ignorant. How do these descriptors work for Slottet?
Slottet: It is more about working outside the box. When making our music the rule is that nothing is to not be tested - no matter how bad the idea sounds. The words represent that creative moment where feelings and music co-exist and combined, becomes our music. It does not have to be well made in its smaller sounds - for example a synthesizer sound - but combined it has to feel right. This cannot really be described properly in words, but having some words trying to express this process at least give you - the listener - a hint of what to expect of our music.
TB: Slottet photos usually include a frog and horse mask. Why the masks? Where did they come from?
Slottet: The frog first appeared in a music video for a song, which was made for the group Gros, which is called "We Move." The video can be found on YouTube (it is also posted below). The horse mask was brought to a Halloween party about three years ago and was such a hit that we just could not resist bringing these two characters together as a symbol of our band. We suppose that the masks represent somewhat of a feeling that the music should speak for itself - plus it makes a really good arrangement when making videos and performing live. They have such charisma, even when just being on picture. Live they can become alive and be part of the show just as any other band member.
TB: "Agnostics Nightmare" and "Oh No" have some hints of the Postal Service in them. Would you consider them an influence? What other bands, if any, help shape your music?
Slottet: They have more than just hints, but yes, Postal Service has and will most likely have a great impact on our sound. Part of that is that Marcus sounds a bit like Ben Gibbard when singing, but most of all because their way of creating music is inspiring in itself. It is about trying to make music simple and focusing on an easy and compelling melody.

When it comes to influences in general we, which means Marcus, tend to pick up some influences of the music he is listening to at that moment - when making the melody. It could be, for example, Radiohead, M83 or just anything playing on the radio that day. It is a bit of a random process. But always with the focus that it should be easy to remember the melody.
TB: Tell us about "Agnostics Nightmare."
Slottet: It is in many ways a simple story about love, but seeing as that would be a cliche to say, it is perhaps a picture of a relationship in the early stage. Trying to learn about the other person, afraid to make mistakes thinking that he or she will see too much of how you really are as a person. It also has a cinematic touch in how it is told. Boy meets girl - nothing could stand in the way of their love and the world seemed to be a playground made just for them to explore together. Also a story about the feeling that if a relationship does not feel a hundred percent right, there is always a feeling that this one day could end - that everything ends. About trying to hold on to a feeling that no longer exists - only the memories of it. The picture displayed is summer, warmth and in the end a feeling of guilt and a cold heart.
TB: American radio does a horrible job embracing new music. Last month (August) "Agnostics Nightmare" was part of the Knopparadio Playlist. What is this radio show like? Does radio as a whole in Sweden support the small, unsigned artist?
Slottet: The show mentioned is not Swedish but German, but it does have a lot of Swedish artists being played. It is a really good show with a lot of unsigned and new pop being played. The band did not know about it before being contacted, but tend to listen to it often after that.

When it comes to Swedish radio the answer is trickier. Seeing as there are not many public radio stations playing new music that has not been recognized before, the opportunity for being played is not that wide. On the other hand the shows that do play new music and also unsigned music deliver a great deal of good music. One could also argue that the impact of being played on national radio does not really make you big anyway. We were played on a program for unsigned acts, but it did not lead to any offers what so ever. Not that we were not proud - because it was fun hearing our music on national radio - but it does not lead to anything. The point to be made is perhaps radio no long has the impact for a musician's career that it once had. It is today, more about smart marketing methods and as always, play a lot live.
TB: In that case, what do you think about blogs? I came across your stuff on the Swedesplease Music blog...
Slottet: Now-a-days they are, in a way, what radio once was, especially considering the impact they can have on one's career. Many bands now-a-days build a career mainly because of the blog-community. So from a music point of view they are really good, but of course you might discuss the amount of blogs that really do not make a difference to anything and just exist on the sole purpose of being, for example, famous or trying to make money out of being shocking. On the other hand you do not really need to look at these blogs if you do not want to and they can of course be somewhat amusing.
TB: You have a five song EP, Servants, on your Last FM page that is available for free download. When and where were these tracks recorded? Do you have any other releases in the works?
Slottet: These tracks were recorded and mixed in a home-based studio by one of the band members. We are currently working on a full-length album that will be finished early in the beginning of next year. Some tracks are already finished and will be played live but not be available for download until the whole album is ready. The album will consist of the songs found on the EP as well as new ones.
TB: What's next for Slottet?
Slottet: Finishing the album and hopefully playing more live.
TB: Does Slottet get the chance to do much cooking? Any special recipes you care to share?
Slottet: Well, first of all, we think that cooking and music belong together - really the joy to cook and listen to good music. When it comes to recipes we do not actually have an specific one that we can share - sadly. But we do make a killer vegetarian lasagna.

Here is the aforementioned Gros "We Move" video:

Here is Slottet's "Intro-Video" that they use live:

Introducing; Slottet from Martin Sjölander on Vimeo.

Also catch them on Facebook, Myspace and Last FM.