Peter Svensson, the band’s songwriter and musical driving force, exudes calmness and displays a quiet pride when he talks about the forthcoming new album, “Long Gone Before Daylight”.
He begins by looking back at the previous album.
When the band recorded “Grand Turismo”, there had been a carefully worked out plan.
– After having done three rather “nice and safe”, albums we wanted to do something a little more “dangerous” and challenging; at least in terms of the production. Much of this kind of development derives from the reactions to what has gone before. I also believe that we were early with the idea of taking a band and turning it into some kind of electronic entity.”
This strategy produced an album that really took the band a step forward. However, some in-built limitations existed within the concept the band had opted for.
– It turned out that I at the same time adapted my songwriting to the plan, adjusting songs that were already written, in order to get them to fit in and new songs were perhaps not always fully further developed as they could already work within the production plan that we were going with.
Peter would still like to point out that the album turned out precisely the way he wanted it to. Then.
– If one looks back at that album, many of the songs, though not all, could fit seamlessly into the sound we’ve built up this time. They are also going to work really well in a live situation along with the new songs.
Which were allowed to grow, free from time restraints and without any pre-conceptions regarding the final aim.
– Prior to this album, I really felt that I didn’t want to be the one to decide how the album should sound. Instead, I just wanted to work on the songs until they became as good as they could possibly be. I wanted to stretch the songs even further without having first to decide upon which production strategy would suit them best. I wanted them to sound equally good, irrespective of whether you were using a drum machine or entered into a fully organic production.
So Peter set about writing his songs until they were totally complete – precisely as he wanted them to be. This included at least ten songs in addition to those actually used on the finished album.
– Through the years, I’ve come to understand that to write songs that can extend even further and to create an album that attains a hundred percent, you must sort away everything that is superfluous like “stuck on effects” etc and instead isolate and home in on simplicity. It’s then important to write more than you will actually use in the end, so that even in the final selection prior to recording you can dispense with anything that doesn’t reach out and grab you.
“Long Gone before Daylight” became an album with love at its centre.
– Yes, that’s the way it came into being. Seventy to eighty percent of Nina’s lyrics are probably inspired from various relationships. Which doesn’t disturb me in the least. It’s an inexhaustible source of material, from which almost all of the songs that one is moved by, are drawn from.
From the conception of Peter and Nina’s songs, grew the strategy for the recording of the album; to find a way back to the nucleus, the essence of what it means to play in a band. The starting point for the band’s discussions began with the notion, “How do we actually sound?” and “How do we best transfer that sound to an album”?. The result is the band’s most organic, warm and melodic album to date.
– A main reason for the way the album turned out so well, is that we were able to take our time and not allow ourselves to become stressed by record company schedules and unrealistic expectations from the business. We searched until we found the right sound, through constant evaluation and finding a suitable studio and producer.
That journey took the band on a veritable studio tour. The recording started at Stockholm’s legendary Polar studio and continued in Spain and England with their old producer, Tore Johansson, then moving on to Gotland and finishing in Malmö and Copenhagen, with their friend and producer Per Sunding acting as the overall producer for the album.
Sunding is a musician himself, who, among others, plays with the Danish-Swedish instrumental group, The Tremelo Beer Gut and the ‘cult status’ pop group, Eggstone. His feeling for the music as well as his attention to detail and intimate tonal sense enables delicate melody constructions. He’s provided the perfect working tools in order to help realise the band’s vision. In addition, Sunding’s Eggstone partner, Patrik Bartosch was called in to write the album’s exquisitely, beautiful string arrangements.
– If the previous album was largely built on extreme musical elements, then this time we were convinced that we should pick out the details that best say who we are and how we sound when we play our songs. We wanted to allow Nina’s voice to bloom and to give us the chance to get back to the essential ‘feel’ of the band. In other words, we wanted as little fuss as possible.
– The last album consisted of processed sounds where nothing sounded as it normally would. For instance, the guitars very often sounded like synthesisers or something else that wasn’t easily identifiable. This time, we wanted the guitars to sound like guitars and not like something from another planet.
Therefore the pre-production was completely different this time.
– One shouldn’t forget that we are a band who had done four albums where everything had in principal fallen into place in the studio, where a song in the best case was ready the night before recording it.
– This time however, we recorded demo’s and rehearsed together until we knew precisely what we wanted from the songs, well before we recorded them for real. This was extremely worthwhile and excellent for the final result, not least because everyone in the band had their own idea of how each song might be. All of the compositions took shape naturally from the basis of how the five of us play the songs together.
But in any case, the recording sessions didn’t pass without a certain amount of friction. The vision of the organic sound with its intimacy, did not immediately relate in the studio. And so Peter began to feel worse and worse about it.
– After some weeks work in Spain I would lie awake at night. I had entered the worst crisis I had ever experienced as a musician. The simple reason was that I felt that we were failing to reach the level we had aspired for. It’s one thing to be having fun during the actual time of recording, but that feeling should still come across a long time after, in order to capture the listener when the song finally streams out of a radio or CD player.
– Naturally the solution was to start again from the beginning, to polish up our ideas even more, our way of expressing ourselves and of recording. But it wasn’t an easy thing to do – or dare to do. We had never before discarded something we had only just recorded. However, we found that it was quite simply possible to reject something and do it again. I’m really glad we took the chance and that we didn’t give up before we were fully satisfied.
Four years had passed since the previous album had been released and several of the band’s members have devoted themselves to other musical projects during that time. Peter has written and produced a successful album with the singer Titiyo, Magnus Sveningsson has realised the intimate solo project, “Righteous Boy” and Nina Persson has, with the help of Niclas Frisk and the Sparklehorse man, Mark Linkous, made a critically acclaimed album entitled “A Camp”.
Was there a time during these years, that there was any uncertainty that The Cardigans would continue as a band?
– Definitely! I began to write songs three years ago during the last phase of the Titiyo project, but completely without considering that they should be included on a Cardigans album. After the last album, it felt as we had driven our different relationships into the ground and that no one believed that anyone else was bothered about a continuation. Yet at the same time, I felt that The Cardigans were far too good to allow to go to waste.
Even if he could have easily used his songs in a lot of other ways, there still remained a special feeling that they should be devoted to just this group.
– Throughout the collaboration with Titiyo, I was able to direct and influence almost more than had been the case in The Cardigans. I not only wrote the melodies and produced the recordings, but was also involved in the lyric writing, though I realised quite clearly that I didn’t hold responsibility in the same way, since I was behind the scenes. And I then discovered that it wasn’t really as exciting…
“The feeling strengthened in me that the most fun I can have, is still with The Cardigans.”
A mutual journey to Los Angeles and a house by the sea, where one talked, cooked, drank some wine and rebuilt the old relationships, was just what was needed to re-light the fire again. The old band feeling had its share of cracks, but it wasn’t hard to plaster over them. And the experience gained from involvement in various external projects, actually had the effect of strengthening rather than weakening the band’s common resolve.
– Although we had brought instruments with us, there wasn’t so much playing going on which was probably a good thing, since when you play together it can be easy to find a common ground in just that activity, without taking into account all of the other elements required to function as a homogeneous band. We allowed ourselves to sob in each others arms a bit and to air old conflicts, or just talk about things that had previously been bottled up. Talking together had hardly been our strongest point during the years.
– But above all we realised that we could continue to have such great fun together and that we are in fact, still best friends and want things to remain that way.