IT has been a great experience…
learning more about Phogg and what makes them tick. Saman and Gustav have been telling me about the band’s album, Slices, and the themes that inspire it; the story behind the single, Get Away (Secret Dream), and how the guys got together.
I ask what Phogg hope to achieve before the end of the year and if there are tour dates; some upcoming artists we should be attuned to; why the Swedish band think the nation keeps producing great artists – they end the interview by selecting some excellent tracks.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been
Saman: Hey! We're in the midst of rehearsing for the shows we have set up; our album is out in a few days and Gustav is working with our upcoming music video. In the midst of all of this, Jens is also getting married - so we're all really broke but happy. Also, we had one day of tropical weather in Stockholm which was really nice.
Gustav: Good! We had a wild and fun weekend and now we're preparing for a show tomorrow.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
Saman: We're four guys from Sweden who really like music and we try to create music which we think is special for ourselves and, hopefully, someone will like it along the way.
Gustav: We are four boys from Sweden who play progressive Psych-Pop.
Your debut album, Slices, is out. What can you tell me about the record and the themes that informed it?
Saman: Slices was initially meant to be a second E.P. and we were planning on releasing it soon after our first E.P., Zun, Stein & Graaf. I think it was supposed to consist of four-five songs - all of them are on the record except for a song we call Three Shirts, which we now have recorded for a future album. Many of the songs have changed a lot during the course of recording and are completely different.
Time is Wild is an example of a song that's very different from how it sounded before. The songs that were written before we started recording come from a different place than the songs that came to during the recording process.
When we started recording, we were kind of riding a wave of things going relatively well within the band. This changed after about a week as our drummer and friend suddenly jumped ship and moved to another town. This left us kind of disoriented for about a month and forced us to rethink the process and the E.P. itself. We started hanging out at the studio, trying out a lot of ideas and started writing in the studio as well. We were all kind of going through some personal stuff at some level and were at the same time happy to be playing music and that our first E.P. was doing relatively well.
The record has a kind of maniacally happy feeling because of the duelling themes of thankfulness and despair that were prevalent in and around the band at the time. It's like a friend who tells you he's fine and smiles at you while he's in a total existential crisis on the inside…
Get Away (Secret Dream) is the latest single from the album. Is there a story behind the song?
Gustav: It started as a hidden little riff from the recordings of Zun, Stein & Graaf that Saman discovered sometime during the mixing process I think.
Saman: Get Away was born during the recording sessions for Zun, Stein & Graaf. We were drunk and were goofing around in the studio and recorded some of the things we did. When we listened to the recordings the day after; most of it was s*it but one song stood out. It kind of had a Brian Jonestown Massacre vibe and sounded pretty happy and jovial. We called it Santa's Coming Over and we didn't know what to do with it for a long time. When we were choosing songs to record, Jens and Alex really didn't want to record it but me and Gustav fought for it. It was finished during the process of recording and now everyone likes it.
We tried a lot of different techniques when we were writing lyrics for the songs. I think we were doing some sort of free-writing thing with Get Away and a metaphorical dark hymn about addiction kind of came out of it. We thought it suited the happy vibe of the song.
Regarding the songs on the album; are they culled from various period in your career – or did many come together in the studio?
That's one of the main creative themes of this album. It's very mixed. That's sort of where the name ‘Slices’ comes from. It's different slices from our time together as a band up until now. The mix and juxtaposition of songs from different timelines is essentially what became Slices. Time Is Wild, for example, is from about when we started playing together.
It was a mellow Acoustic-Psych song for a long time until we decided to take it in another direction. There's a track on the album called Rod's Goodbye which was an idea from before which we completely changed in the studio and made a completely new track out of. The story the narrator is telling is something me and Gustav found online on the World Wide Web.
Gustav: When we started playing together, we usually met up and wrote songs together through jamming. At that stage, it was just the instrumental parts and a lot of it has been altered and doesn’t sound like it did back then - but some of the tracks from Slices are from that period. Some of the stuff is from later stages and some of the other stuff was completely made up in the studio.
How did Phogg get together? When did you start playing together?
I joined Phogg, before it was Phogg, by answering an ad. This was in early-summer 2016 and, by then, the others had been playing for a couple of months. The others knew each other in some way or other since before and had been playing together in various constellations.
Saman: Me, Jens and our first drummer Alex knew each other from before. Me and Alex had played in bands together for about eight years prior and all three of us grew up in the same sh*tty Stockholm suburb. Alex and Jens had a tiny practice space close to where they both worked and I used to go over there and play with them after they got off work. It was really loose goose at first and we were just playing our asses off for a few hours every other day. But, it soon got pretty good and we decided to take it to second base.
Someone, I think it was Jens, found Gustav online and it was an incredibly easy fit. We wrote a lot of songs during the first year-and-a-half and we've kind of lived of off that song bank up until now. After Alex skidaddled to another town I contacted Joen whom I've known for many years and who I've wanted to play with since I was about eighteen-years-old.
Which artists would you all count as influences and idols?
We are all very different and listen to a lot of different kinds of music but we definitely have a lot of common ground as well. When we first started playing with Gustav, he wore a Dungen T-shirt and that's how we knew he was cool. We all have different cornerstones of inspiration and influence that shape our own individual voices. Lately, I've been very inspired by a Swedish band called Tape, Parquet Court's latest album and Mark Kozelek. But, it changes often...
The other day, Gustav fell in love with Shadows Collide with People by John Frusciante which is a record and an artist that formed me personally and musically almost more than anyone or anything. That record also happens to be the record me and Joen bonded over. It meant a lot to him during the time his first kid was born. We always talk about new music and bands we've discovered amongst ourselves.
Gustav: MGMT, Radiohead; King Gizzard (& the Lizard Wizard), Dungen, Pink Floyd; Spritualized, Ariel Pink; The Beatles, John Frusciante and CAN
There are a lot of great bands coming out of Sweden. Is there a secret or reason why the Swedes make such diverse and original sounds?
Saman: I don't know. I guess standards run pretty high here. But, I don't know how it is in other countries. People often say it's a mix of the access youths have to communal music schools from an early age and the melodic language of Swedish Folk music.
I grew up with a mixture of this and my parents’ pre-revolutionary Iranian music. Swedish Folk music has, through the ages, had a strong connection to melancholic themes and melodies. The cultural sadness, in combination with our relatively high social security here, makes for very good music but very sad people.
Where are you heading on tour? Where can we catch you?
Gustav: All of our planned shows right now are in Sweden but we're working on it! If you want to see us, send us a tip or come to Sweden.
Do you reckon you’ll come to the U.K. and perform this year?
Saman: We would really love to. Invite us and we'll come. We're shy guys.
Gustav: That would be great.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
Playing shows and continuing to work on the songs for our next album.
Saman: We would love to tour around Europe. It would be pretty neat if Slices got a few good reviews but mostly I hope that we manage to finish our next record before the love and energy for it dies out. I would also love to make some money so I can pay for some nice golden pants.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Our first gig together we were playing a small place outside of Stockholm; almost no one we knew was there. As soon as we started playing, everything just connected and we all just totally went with it. I remember looking up and seeing two guys we didn't know singing along to our songs. It was really surreal and it made me happy.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Maybe, Parquet Courts. I think it would be a good fit. I would love to eat some Vietnamese summer rolls and drink some wine with Parquet Courts.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Gustav: Try not to think about what others think. Believe in yourself: you are beautiful.
Saman: Play as much as you can. Record yourselves on your phone and listen back to it at home and imagine things with your head.
IN THIS PHOTO: Boogarins/PHOTO CREDIT: Beatr
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Saman: Boogarins and Harm Reduction.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I have periods where I paint a lot instead of playing music or as a counter point to the guitar. It's really interesting as you get to apply the same ‘creative rules’ but you're playing with space instead of time. I also like to read and watch movies with my daughter.
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).
Saman: Extremely Bad Man by Shintaro Sakamoto
Gustav: They Cannot Let It Expand - Midlake