Published on July 29th, 2016 | by The Beige Baron0
Interview and Exclusive Stream: Centralstödet | “Hösthypomani”
Ascending stars of the Swedish underground, Centralstödet’s unique blend of sprawling Träd, Gräs och Stenar-esque freak-folk and full-stack-dimed riffage first came to the attention of Myrrors guitarist Nik Rayne in 2013.
Blown away by the inventiveness of the music, and perhaps surprised the band were largely unknown outside their home of Gothenburg, Rayne offered to edit about 20 hours of Centralstödet’s studio jams into highlights for a cassette release on his Sky Lantern Records label—also responsible for issuing the first Kikagaku Moyo record as well as two albums from Peruvian experimentalists Montibus Communitas.
The beautifully packaged run of 100 tapes (featuring hand-made sleeve art by Rayne) sold out immediately. So when the Myrrors passed through Sweden during a tour of Europe, Rayne invited Centralstödet to support them and arranged to record the band’s set for a CD release on Sky Lantern.
We can appreciate passive or even hostile audience as well… that can urge us to create even stranger sounds.
Captured at a warehouse in the dark grip of winter, these three long tracks are a compelling snapshot of Centralstödet’s live sound, augmented with jazz-infused electric piano by guest musician Felix Eliasson.
Despite the cold outside, the music warms with the transient and physically intangible elements of place, time, and mood, all of which contributed to a one-off performance otherwise confined to the memories of the people in attendance. You can feel it bleeding through in the tape loops and melting distortion of opening track Hösthypomani, available to listen to ahead of the official CD release for the first time here at Brown Noise Unit:
“We didn’t have any problems regarding being recorded that night,” says the band’s drummer, Jonas Fridlund when I ask if he was nervous.
“We had other things to worry about.”
Disarmingly humble about the band’s achievements, and open about the realities of being in an “outsider” band, Fridlund continues:
It was a bit of a surprise to suddenly get international attention… it was beyond expectations
“The thing is, we had very little time to play together before the show. Worse, we didn’t really use that time in a very good way. We had recently moved to a new rehearsal and studio space and didn’t actually sound the way we used to, and we had to spend hours to figure out what went wrong.
“We had arguments regarding what to play and didn’t really connect as a band as we usually do. Most likely due to the amount of alcohol enjoyed by the band at the time. The closer we got to the date of the show we were quite nerve-wracked to say the least.
“Since we had been given a great opportunity to open up for the Myrrors and play in front of a partly new audience, we seriously had to sober up, focus, and get things going. Later, maybe a bit to our surprise, the recording sounded just all right!”
So how did the band first establish a relationship with The Myrrors, and what made you choose to go with Sky Lantern Records?
“Nik’s label was an easy choice for us. It felt great to get in touch with someone who was genuinely interested in what we were doing musically. It was a bit of a surprise to suddenly get international attention, and it was at the time beyond expectations. Afterwards, it’s easy to see that Centralstödet has benefited quite a lot from the release, especially when it comes to reaching new listeners. We receive e-mails from fans around the world and that is surely encouraging!
“We got to know The Myrrors after our first release on the label. Partners in sound. Super-friendly. The fact that we could meet up and do a gig together in our hometown was amazing. Hope we will meet them soon again!
Throughout the Hjärndimma EP, the low murmur of the crowd can be heard as the band warms up, and combined with the freewheeling nature of the music as the cogs start to mesh, the similarity in ambience between Träd, Gräs och Stenar’s live recordings, such as Djungens Lag in 1971, are strikingly evident. We ask Fridlund if the audience vibe is generally important to composition, or does the band point inward when playing in front of people?
“The atmosphere at a gig is of course important to us. We tend to pick up on different vibes whether we want to or not. When playing live, we try to keep our minds open and react on what is happening at the moment. That can be quite useful when playing without any directions given beforehand. So far we haven’t had any bad experiences!
“We think that there are a lot of interesting people out there doing a lot of nice things for the love of music, and that reflects on the scene as a whole. In a way, it also reverberates in our music.
The dynamics and interaction between the musicians in the band is of vital importance in creating our music
“On the other hand, we can also appreciate a passive or even hostile audience as well. It’s not always that a friendly and appreciative audience makes for the most interesting interaction. In fact, that can urge us to create even stranger sounds.”
With the popularity of free-form psychedelic music only continuing to grow all over the world, I’m curious about Centralstödet’s own approach: seemingly the best improvisational acts are able to find a balance between technical mastery and the composition of complex structures, and the ability to “let it go”, allowing the music itself to take the lead. I ask if Centralstödet has always been about the latter, or whether their style arose as a result of boredom with the former.
“That is a complex question. We think that the most important thing about music is to convey a mood or feeling. There are quite a few musicians who are technically advanced and excellent in arranging music, but still don’t manage to express anything of value to us. There are some that do, of course, but essentially, that is not what we’re interested in as musicians.
We think that you don’t have to play totally clean or be a fantastic musician to get us going…
“The point is that we can find something that is even more appealing in sloppiness. We think that you don’t have to play totally clean or be a fantastic musician to get us going. As long as we can feel something.
“We can also admit that technically demanding stuff is really not an option for us. We’re not trained musicians. We are actually a very lazy and dysfunctional band and could probably not cope very well with the effort it takes to enter that territory. The dynamics and interaction between the musicians in the band is instead of vital importance in creating our music, and jamming appeared to be the only solution for us.
“That is why we sound the way we do.”
How about pivotal moments for each member musically, have any particular albums or live performances affected the band in such a way to have found their way into Centralstödet’s sound?
Fridlund answers: “I was really into metal when I first got into music. But then I saw the Woodstock movie. That film alone changed my direction in music completely.”
“Discovering Daniel Johnston and his early home recordings was a true eye opener to me,” says the band’s bassist, Joni Huttunen. “When it comes to live shows, seeing Primal Scream on their XTRMNTR tour in 2000 was something extra! The monotonous and swaying chunks of music that surrounded the audience was extremely powerful and impressive! I stood there and thought about the huge potential in music and how mystical it can be…”
I was 10 and found one of my father’s cassettes with a recording of Jimi in Stockholm…
Guitarist Ulrik Lindblom remembers, “I was 12 years old and visited my friend’s house. His elder brother played 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) by Jimi Hendrix, and I was hooked! Still does it for me whenever I hear it.”
Daniel Johansson, also on guitar, agrees. “I was 10 and found one of my father’s cassettes with a recording of Jimi in Stockholm 1969. I’m quite sure that Hendrix was the reason why Ulrik and I got together later on.”
So would you say that these are conscious or unconscious influences, and does the band try exploring other techniques in order to achieve a similar emotional impact of those defining experiences?
“For us, the lowest-common-denominator is probably the affection for live music,” says Jonas. “We especially enjoy live musicians that dare to alter their music a bit from what it sounded like on record. It adds something special to the experience and gives a more direct and honest understanding of what the artist is about on that particular night. In effect, that could be both good and bad.
“We prefer that to hearing songs being played exactly the same way time after time, though. This hopefully points out what we’re looking for when we play ourselves. We hope that any presumptive buyers of the CD can deal with that somewhat contradictory argument.”
With a connection formed via Sky Lantern with Kikagaku Moyo, Centralstödet was recently able to visit Japan for a brief tour, including a show with Green Flames – a super-group featuring guitarist Munehiro Narita of the legendary noise band High Rise, and Tabata Mitsuru of Acid Mothers Temple. I wonder if the experience in Japan changed the band’s perception of the Swedish scene?
“It was the members of Kikagaku Moyo that organized the shows in Tokyo. And by the way, we saw them in Sweden a few weeks ago, and it was amazing! It feels like they let us in on some sweet spots in their hometown. Just like any old friend would do back home.
“We wish we could have stayed longer, because we had only started to acclimatise when it was time to go home. If we had had more time, we would have loved to look even further into to the Japanese scene and hang out there.
“With this said, we think that going abroad to play widened our perspective a bit and we got to know some really nice people on the way.
“Sadly, when we got back home the scene in Sweden felt about the same as it did when we left it.”
It’s difficult to discuss the Swedish scene without mentioning Goat, Hills, and Dungen, three contemporary “psych” bands that have made a monumental impact on the world stage. Were these bands considered a “big deal” before they were noticed overseas and became well known? And are there “levels” within Swedish music that a band has to pass through before being taken seriously?
“It’s possible that we don’t remember correctly, but these bands got huge in Sweden after their careers abroad started,” Jonas ventures. “Nowadays we’re certain that these bands are even bigger names outside of Sweden than here, even though they are hugely esteemed here as well.
One day went to an amusement park to see a band. It was Dungen. They totally blew our minds…
“When we started out in 2006, we one day went to an amusement park to see a band we hadn’t seen live before. It was Dungen. They totally blew our minds and we remember us actually discussing if it really was a good idea to go on as a band. They were so good!
“We think that all of the bands mentioned are really good, and we’ve heard their music for quite some time now. We have met them personally, and been to their concerts, but most likely they don’t know about us. Most people don’t. We haven’t really been that active in the Swedish music scene other than going to concerts and buying records of other bands and playing an occasional gig here and there.
“So far we haven’t really asked around a lot for help with gigs or record releases, but if anyone asks us, we’re ready to go!”
The Sky Lantern Records website teases this release ahead of a new studio album the band is apparently in the process of recording. We ask if Centralstödet is planning to approach recording as a process of editing down long jams, or will they be trying something different?
“We have been recording in our new studio for some time now. We usually start jamming without theorizing too much about what we’re going to play. We’ve realized that no matter how much we try to plan where to go musically, we tend to end up elsewhere. Often a rhythmic pattern or a harmony is just about enough to get us started, and we then go on to improvise on that.
“What we’ve discovered lately is that we more often play shorter passages with more pronounced structures rather than the half-hour jams that have been our trademark in the past. Since we record almost everything we do, it’s easy to go back and listen to it and decide if it works or not.
“We try to follow up almost any idea just to see what happens, but we very often discard what’s been recorded and set off with a new theme.
“Maybe not the most efficient way to go about making music, but hopefully this will lead to a full-length album in the future.”
We have discussed doing a collaboration or something of the sort with the Myrrors…
So what is in store for Centralstödet in the immediate future? And what bands playing right now show the fan of Swedish psych be keeping an ear out for, after consuming Hjärndimma?
“We hope that our recently recorded material will end up on vinyl in the near future,” says Fridlund. “We have discussed doing a collaboration or something of the sort with the Myrrors, and we surely would like to see that happen. A record company has shown interest in those ideas, and hopefully it’s just a matter of technicalities. Keep your eyes open!
“Tross is probably the most interesting band at the moment, we think. They are a spectacular live band, and we hope to see them somewhere this summer. Also, Uran is a longtime favourite that continue to astonish us. They have grown into a collective of musicians, it seems, and the individuals show up in all sorts of constellations. Check them out if you haven’t heard of them.
“Moreover we think that Höga Nord Records is a new and interesting phenomenon around Gothenburg. It’s a record company as well as a club, and they seem to have their ears close to almost everything that is hot at the moment.”
The Centralstödet EP Hjärndimma is available to pre-order on CD now at Sky Lantern Records, complete with digital download, or as a download-only purchase, from August 14. CDs are limited to 100 copies only, so get in fast!