Daniel & Mikael Tjernberg
I have been chatting with Daniel & Mikael Tjernberg…
about their new E.P., Flight of the Raven, and what themes/ideas inspired it. The brother discuss how they got started in music and which artists/genres inspire them; whether they have plans for the year ahead and which albums are important.
I ask if they will tour at all and come to the U.K. and what the music scene is like in Sweden; whether they unwind away from music and the advice they would give artists emerging – they each choose a song to end the interview with.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Daniel Tjernberg: Hi! Very well, thank you. The week has flown by pretty quick.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Mikael Tjernberg: We're two brothers from Sweden creating eclectic music, moving between different genres and styles such as Classical, Jazz and Popular music. Our music is primarily instrumental.
Daniel: Yes. We like to blend the tone language and instruments of Classical-Romantic music with contemporary and modern ones of popular music genres.
Daniel and Mikael; you are brothers. When did you start making music together and decide to get into recording?
Daniel: Very early, I'd say; pretty much as early as memory goes. Music has always been a natural form of expression for us; a way to express things that we otherwise would struggle or be outright unable to communicate…
Mikael: …And to record what you create became a natural thing; soon, there were no thinking about it but it just happened as soon as new ideas came to life. There was no deciding process behind that whatsoever. At that time, we would use an old tape recorder for recording.
Give me an impression regarding the artists you grew up around. Was it quite a varied upbringing?
Mikael: We grew up in the 1980s and 1990s in a home full of all kinds of music. Classical and the orchestral masters, Jazz; Pop, Rock; Folk, Herbie Hancock; Joe Sample, Quincy Jones; Jan Johansson, Miles Davis; Grover Washington Jr., Pink Floyd; Dylan, Black Sabbath; Bee Gees, Genesis; Fleetwood Mac, Beatles; Ray Charles, James Brown; Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder; Michael Jackson, Motown…you name it.
Daniel: Yes. And our parents engaged and supported us a lot when we showed interest in music.
Mikael: Our late grandpa Sven meant a great deal to us. Not just as an inspiration, but it was also in his home we started up our first rehearsal room and recording studio.
Flight of the Raven is your new album. Are there particular themes that inspired the record?
Daniel: Yes, absolutely. Flight of the Raven is the first of two in a suite of Norse-inspired music where every track is drawn from Norse mythology. Making this E.P. has been an enjoyable journey, during which we've also had the pleasure to collaborate with some very gifted and talented musicians.
Mikael: And, as a matter of fact, the follow-up is already in production. It'll act as a natural continuation of the just-released E.P., building on the same themes. Expect some interesting tracks on that one, as well as a few yet to be revealed collaborations.
Do you each have a favourite cut from the collection?
Daniel: All songs made it to end up on the album – therefore, we like them all very much and it's very hard to choose a favorite. But, if I had to pick only one, I'm particularly attached to the title track.
Mikael: Agreed. That song’s dedicated to my late cat, Svarv. Written in honor of his spirit - and with the Norse myth inspiration where the bird of the Monocular God is sent out to surveil over the living and the dead.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
Mikael: We hope that we have finished an album entitled Atlantis. That will come out via the Italian label Blue Spiral Records. We’ve worked on this one on and off for a couple of years now. It's inspired by Greek mythology; musically, it's Neo-Classical with a lot piano based material.
Daniel: For Atlantis, we've collaborated with Swedish string ensemble Malva Quartet as well as harpist Jonathan Grönlund.
You are based out of the centre of Sweden. Is there a good music scene there at the moment?
Daniel: Sweden is a huge exporter of music and the music scene is very much alive, I'd say.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Mikael: Not a one and specific moment, but those sessions me and Daniel would have in our early teens where we would pop a cassette into the tape recorder, hit record and then just jam away for hours on end. We'd stay up 'til the witching hours just coming up with and refining musical ideas – a very special kind of magic!
Daniel: I have a lot of fun memories from when we played in the band (Metal Fusion). One that jumps out is that one time when we were playing in Enköping and the electricity went out and then at the same time the fire alarm went off. But, we just kept going unplugged, fumbling in the dark and synchronizing the finale with the fire alarm pulses. In the end, it turned out to be a rather theatrical and welcome touch to the show - albeit undoubtedly comically so!
Mikael: I also mustn't forget to mention the various concerts me and my brother have given at all of these beautiful churches in central Sweden. The atmosphere and acoustics in a medieval stone church are something to behold, I'm telling you.
Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?
Mikael: I have to confess, I'm not an 'album guy': I like to mix it up quite wildly. But…Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon; Stevie Wonder’s Journey through “The Secret Life of Plants” but also his later works. Isaac Hayes has many great albums.
Daniel: Vangelis, Björn J:son Lindh and George Duke; not a specific album, rather...the sum of their production...
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Mikael: George Benson with Stevie Wonder as rider.
Can we see you on the road this year at all?
Daniel: Probably not. We're a duo constellation and, as such, we do almost everything ourselves. To put together the manpower required to play most of our music wouldn't be financially viable, at least not for the time being. And then there's practical implications, given that our music varies quite wildly from one work to another. You'd have to assemble a likewise wildly varied circus of musicians to perform it.
Mikael: We've given concerts before, but those always were quite small in scale and centered around Chamber Music specifically composed for piano and recorder. I think, going forward, we have so many more avenues that we'd like to explore musically.
Daniel: Somewhere along the line, you might see us somehow somewhere; albeit in a different setting. Together with our baby brother Gabriel, we're bringing Jazz-Fusion band Tjernberg Brothers to life - and who knows where that'll end up.
Mikael: Also; we always keep the door open for orchestras and ensembles to perform our music, so there's that.
Might we see you in the U.K. very soon?
Mikael: Based on the reasons given: no. However, the United Kingdom holds a very special place in our hearts with its rich culture and heritage, so I'd say it would be one of the very first places we would go, should the opportunity arise.
IN THIS PHOTO: Tjernberg Brothers; the upcoming project involving all three brothers
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Mikael: It truly is a jungle out there and it can be disheartening to face backlash after backlash. It's a tough industry, for sure. But, I believe that as long as you have stories longing to be told; feelings to communicate, then there is an audience for your art. Trying to appeal to each and everyone is a path that'll ultimately and inevitably fail.
Same goes for money: if you find yourself thinking about art in terms of if it will be financially beneficial and therefore worth it; then I'd say you should take a step back and reconsider whether art is the thing that you should be doing. Art is bigger than all of that. That's something I would say is a crucial understanding for making worthwhile art.
Daniel: And the music you're making should first and foremost be for you. It's therapy, man! If it's genuine and sincere, it's just a bonus if it can be appreciated by others.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Daniel: Not really. To be honest; we've been too busy with work to check out new stuff. But, we try to catch up by following interesting labels and zines.
Do you both get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Mikael: Well, naturally, music is unwinding. Being out on the countryside is a big one, though, for the both of us.
Daniel: Mikael is even is what you'd call a nerd; completely obsessed with beetles.
Mikael: Being out in nature, where you get to observe how everything interacts; see all these cogs in this massive cog wheel called life…that's the greatest kind of inspiration you could ask for.
Daniel: Being a creative kind of person; I've also always been into drawing and illustrating. And, when drawing, I often find myself exploring the same kind of themes and moods that I've recently used musically. I find it an interesting combination; using these forms of artistry to express the same kind of mood or to use them in conjunction with each other so that the sum of it tells a story that would be difficult to get across otherwise.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Daniel: Put on the title-track from Björn J:Son Lindh's Atlantis album. Björn was one of the most talented and interesting musicians that Sweden ever had, in my humble opinion, but his recognition – even is his home country! – is criminally low
Mikael: Another one deserving far more recognition is the late Swedish pianist Jan Johansson. The guy had an absolutely unprecedented emotion behind every stroke of the keyboard.
But, for today, I'm gonna go with George Duke's Anticipation as my contribution to the playlist. You're sorely missed, George
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IN THIS PHOTO: Daniel and little brother Gabriel