By Celine Vignes, CORD London.
Ace Hotel London, Friday evening – I had a chat with three members of the Swedish band Colleagues, after seeing them playing live two days before. With a beer in their hand and a warm smile on their face, we sat down on a terrace in Shoreditch, sheltered from the rain. Thrilled by the public’s reaction to their first shows in the UK, the guys shared their thoughts about their job and their passion: making music.
” One of our gods has always been Jai Paul. “
London music scene
Theo: I have a lot of respect for the London scene and British music in general. It’s a great source of inspiration in many ways. It explores new musical directions, merging genres together, especially in electronic music. A lot of game-changers come from London and England in general. One of our gods has always been Jai Paul. When he released his first two songs, he completely changed the whole game. That kind of thing tends to happen a lot more here than in Sweden, where people are more skeptical about new music. It makes us try harder to stand out from the crowd.
Theo: Colleagues was initially a broad idea of collaborating with other people. Joel (the singer) and I had an idea of writing songs, working with visual artists and releasing tracks with them as separate projects. That’s how it all started. The first release was our track « Visits », that is now on the EP, alongside a film made by an Australian artist called Benjamin Dawy. We weren’t officially a band at the time.
Erik: When we started playing live in 2013, we only had 3 and a half songs (laugh). It was very short, maybe 10 minutes of music, but it was so much fun and lots of people were there. So we created a band and pursued the idea of artistic collaboration.
” Our music is like a RomCom movie “
Mood & influences
Theo: You think about that a lot and you don’t want to label yourself, but the feeling that can be found in every song is romanticism. It’s a tribute to teenage love, escapism and broken hearts. Our music is like a RomCom movie (laughter)! That’s where the « dreamy » element comes from. We wanted to re-create this feeling of « floating away » in our music. Like the first time I went to a music festival, when I was 15. I bought a pack of cigarettes and walked towards the festival area, and I felt the greatest freedom I’ve ever felt. When we write a song, and I experience again that feeling, I know we’re in the right path. And that’s what we hope people will feel, too.
Nils: When you’re young, you keep experiencing new things. It’s hard to find that feeling of absolute freedom again when you grow up. As musicians, you’re never working and you’re never free. That’s the deal. But for now, we’re here in London for two days and we are free. Nobody can ask me anything ’cause I’ve got no wifi (laughter)! We can experience these « teenage escapes » we’re talking about in our songs. This is the first time in a long time that I have felt this.
Music is a way to escape adult life and become a romantic teenager again…?
Theo: Yes and there is something beautiful about that, about being positive and full of hope. I can’t feel that except through music, and that’s intoxicating. It’s literally hard to get by!
“Sound comes first, in most cases.”
Theo: It starts with the synthesizer, you find that sound that takes you away. I’m a guitarist, but when I play my instrument, I know what’s gonna happen and I can explain what I’m doing. Playing with a keyboard is much more inspiring and that’s how I let my imagination break free.
Erik: After that, we work a lot with the melody, the rhythm, the percussion. It’s sometimes very easy, sometimes more complicated. Sometimes we have to arrange a song three or four times and it still doesn’t work, where as other times we finish a track in two hours…
Nils: What I like about the writing is that you have a sound or a melody in your head, and you have to find out how to produce it. You can try for hours – the worst case scenario is when we sit in the studio for 24 hours in a row.
Erik: Then, taking the music to the stage is also another process. We want to take the songs even further, with all the live instruments and constructing a great set. It’s an achievement.
Theo: We recorded at our home studio almost always throughout the whole process, since we were living together. We had a studio and a very unclean apartment, it was the best time (laughter)! The music we were recording was very lo-fi. But we’ve recently signed to BMG, a publishing label. BMG provide a studio for us. That’s a major luxury, we can now record quality stuff.
Theo: We’re doing our artworks and video clips, following the band’s « philosophy » of collaboration. For each song we’ve been working with a separate artist. One of my favourite collaborations so far was for the quirky clip « Tears ». We worked with a Swedish artist called Bo W Lindström, a 65-year-old guy. We said « do your thing » and he said « Ok I’ll do my thing » (laughter) and then started to dance. We were in the studio for 12 hours and he never got tired. I’ve never seen such energy. We produce all our covers and videos based on each artist’s own interpretation of our songs.
Between some gigs in Stockholm and some other projects as freelance musicians, the Colleagues team is working on writing and finishing an album –their biggest priority. We’re looking forward seeing them back in London in November for the Ja Ja Ja Festival.
Many thanks to Theo, Erik and Nils.