Björn, obviously we know you from Soilwork and other heavier bands, but this is something else. Can you tell a bit more about your personal affinity with classic rock?
I loved classic rock since I was a kid. I grew up listening to all types of music and so it has always been there somehow. I always wanted to start a band like this as well and it really happened when I met David (Andersson – guitars – Vera) in 2007 when he had been the session guitarist for Soilwork on a North American tour. That is when we started talking about music and writing songs. We ended up forming the band basically when we were drunk on tour, but thankfully it became reality.
But it took a while…
Haha indeed, it took a while. I think we got together for rehearsals for the first time in late 2009. It was a matter of finding the right people, ones that would capture this era that we were capturing. We found Sharlee D’Angelo (bassist Arch Enemy – Vera) who was an old friend of ours. He was definitely the perfect man for the job. Bass is extremely important, you know. Just like any other instrument in this band, but there is something about this bass.. Sharlee is really one of the best bass players I have heard and known and coming from a metal band, of course he has been playing with Mercyful Fate and he still is playing with Spiritual Beggars, but still it was a sort of surprise in a way. So we found the right people and we got together. Then something very special happened.
Does writing songs happen in the old fashioned way: coming together in the rehearsal room, or how does it happen?
For the most part we do write songs at home, but then we always get together and jam around the songs and look into the arrangements and sometimes we change melody or riff completely. So it is a very interesting process. Fortunately we have a producer in the band who owns a studio. It is Richard Larsson, who is the keyboard player, he has his own studio and we recorded a lot of the stuff on the album in that studio. So we basically set up microphones and jammed around the songs and when they felt good we said: let’s press ‘record’. It is a really cool feeling.
Is that this Handsome Hard Studio?
Yes, correct, very close to Lund.
As you have released two albums before this one, what about the success they brought you? Was it the same style? What do you like to mention about these two previous albums?
I think the first album was very much of an experiment, a matter of trying things out. Even though I always wanted to sing in a band like this, it was still a challenge and trying things out. You actually get the confirmation and the confidence to pull it off and I did. It was a great kick when I sort of found out, like ‘wow, I can really pull this off!’ But I think I have developed a lot after that first album, that was like the first step. There are a lot of great songs on that album as well. Then we got signed to a very small label, called Coroner Records in Italy and released it. Where we also released the second album. We kind of went under the radar, because the distribution was pretty limited. They did everything they could and we are still grateful that they signed us from the beginning. After the second album, that’s when Nuclear Blast reached out and said: ‘The whole label loves The Night Flight Orchestra. We want to sign you guys!’ and I was like ‘What?!’. Well, you know, Nuclear Blast is mostly famous for putting out metal records, right? So I think it is really cool that they have a lot of faith in the album, that they like it and I also think this is a great move. It is really cool that they get it, that they understand it and then they also realized that, just like us, a band like this and an album like this, is needed out there. It is missing. Nobody is really doing this.
Oh I have written down so many bands from the eighties and the seventies as comparisons…
(laughs) Yes, a lot of references indeed. We focused on the quality of song-writing and it is an amazing bunch of talented people involved in this band. There is so much knowledge in the band about the original echelons of the genre and the heritage, but also we take those influences further and move forward, you know, and make something personal of it. And I think we have done that, as far as you can make references, there is still something refreshing about it. Some of the songs are pretty complicated. There is a lot of smart chord changes and this and that and details, but it is kind of direct in many ways as well. I like songs that are really catchy, but actually have a sort of a complicated structure to them (chuckles). It is an art in itself I guess.
If we look back at those times, several bands one should now call slightly progressive, hit the charts. Like Yes with ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’…
For instance, the fifth song called ‘Jennie’ could hit the charts and it makes me think of Supertramp…
Yes, absolutely. It definitely has a kind of Supertramp feel with the piano and it is a beautiful song.
It should be a good single…
That’s true, but first we have ‘Midnight Flyer’, the one with the lyric video and several singles will follow pretty soon. There will be at least two music videos coming out, ‘Gemini’ will be released soon.
Is it now more difficult for you to sing this kind of stuff, clean, or is growling more demanding for you?
It is hard to say, but then again I have been doing this growling and Soilwork for more than twenty years, but there is a lot of clean singing in Soilwork as well, and even that went well through the years. It was sort of an easy switch. It is just a different musical expression. It was a matter of becoming friends with it and also sort of develop new ways to express myself vocally. And I think I have learnt a lot and I definitely take that with me to Soilwork as well. My voice is a lot stronger ever since I started The Night Flight Orchestra. It can take just about anything now (chuckles). It is a good thing, having some kind of total control over the voice.
And you never took singing lessons when starting the clean thing?
I only took three singing lessons back in 2001, right before ‘A Predator’s Portrait’ with Soilwork and that’s about it. A lot of touring and a lot of singing… I practiced a lot. It has been hidden, but now it is coming out.
When talking about the lyrics… there should be a spatial vibe and mood in the lyrics?
Absolutely. David has written most of the lyrics and he planted the seed of having a kind of space approach towards this album. Both keyboard-wise and lyrically… It is not a concept album per se, but there is a little bit of a theme, of a relationship between songs about drama in space. There are also songs that held a story about things that actually take place on earth as well. There are influences from soundtracks, keyboards sometimes have a Tangerine Dream feel. Even movies like ‘Risky Business’ with Tom Cruise… I love that! I think it was more of a mindset, it should have somewhat of a space rock opera feel to it. It is very diverse. Different styled solos on guitars, solos with the keyboards… There is a unique mood to the songs.
Did you ever play live until now?
We have done six shows in total I think and all of them in Sweden. So we have not been very active until now when it comes to playing live, but it has been hard when being on a small label. No budget or tour support, but it is going to be easier from now on. It seems that a lot of people are very interested in the band and would love to see us live and we would love to bring it on the road. That is our aim and that is our goal and I am sure we will!
Yet you also have to deal with the commitments with the other bands, like Soilwork and Arch Enemy…
Yes, that is the hardest part. Now we have some time off with Soilwork. We will have like six or seven festivals in the Summer and then we might have a Scandinavian run in the Fall and that’s about it. So we will focus on this for a while and I think it is good to have a break, because we did a lot of touring with Soilwork. We might enter the studio next Spring, but the album will not come out before the end of 2018. So there is time. So it is going to be very exciting now. We will do our first show outside Sweden in June at the Rock Hard festival in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
What was the first album you ever bought?
(thinks) I don’t remember, that is kind of sad. I do remember the first album I got. That was ‘Number Of The Beast’ (Iron Maiden) on cassette in a gas station when I was seven years old. My mom played a lot of music in the car and we always watched the Eurovision. I loved Eurovision, especially in the eighties. I followed it every year. Back then they had the ditch for the orchestra in front of the stage. They don’t do that anymore and nowadays Eurovision is a different feel, I am not interested in it anymore. Back then they had some timeless melodies, I loved Eurovision when growing up. My mom played things like Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and Abba in the car. Yes, I think I have to thank my mom, I just loved music and that’s where I got my melody sense from. Being in motion in the car with my mom and listening to music. It took you to a different place.
And where does the band name come from?
Because, when David started touring with Soilwork, we loved being on night flights listening to music and drink together. So that is where we got the name from.