You guys are from all over (NY, OK, NC, RI, MI) How did the band get started, when did you all become "Swedes"?
JG: We were looking to get the band started in NY and I met Chris and it gets messy from there… kind of like a family tree with circles instead of branches. Basically, we all met through other musicians, roommates, and craigslist. Yes, the Internet! Good for finding band-mates. Not good for finding non-band mates – or so we hear.
What is the story behind "Patriot"? Damn, it’s catchy!?
JG: Thanks! Patriot is one of our songs that is actually about an event (rather than some person, emotion or other intangible). A few years ago, my brother-in-law was sent for an unexpected second tour of duty in Iraq two weeks after his first kid was born. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy about being stuck, for a second time, in a war zone while his daughter was growing up. So Patriot is just my interpretation of what a soldier’s angst & fear & longing for home must feel like.
Because of the diverse influences, you guys have a great mix of styles, do you have a favorite musical hero that inspires you?
JG: You know, it’s not so much that we listen to a particular set of bands – we all just like working on songs that respect economy of arrangement, have non-pedestrian & memorable, whistle-able melodies. Big balls are good, but so are sweet ballads. I’d say at this stage we’re 70 percent balls and 30 percent sweet. I think that the New Pornographers or the Flaming Lips do a great job with the things i just mentioned. Not that we particularly sound like either of those bands, but, boy, aren’t they good! And, oh yeah, we love Zeppelin because they simply rock gargantuan-ly.
Any good experiences on the road you’d like to talk about?
PH : We used to make our former bass player put down his bass and dance to a blisteringly fast bluegrass tune for a few minutes. It was really funny. Usually got the crowd going – going out the door, that is. He wasn’t much of a dancer.
Who does the banjo on "Presence"? Is it a challenge adding unusual instrumentation in the middle of the song? How does that work for you guys live on stage?
JG: I played the banjo on Presence. My dad used to run bluegrass festivals in Florida and there was always a banjo laying around the house – i went ahead and borrowed it just before we recorded Presence. As for live arrangements: we let Chris handle a lot of that stuff on the keyboards. Part of what gives us our sound is using analog synths to mimic real instruments (a recorded example is the "cavalry" horn parts in Patriot). We don’t like for it to sound too perfect, because – let’s face it – it’s a keyboard, not a banjo or a
horn section… so sometimes we’ll use a 25-year-old sample to make it sound like a deliberate 1980s keyboard part instead of an "almost real-sounding" banjo. We also are really choosy about our guitar sounds and making sure that the live arrangements get the point across. If all else fails, we sing the extra parts with nonsense syllables… really, I’m serious.
Do you plan to play at any music festivals (like International Pop Overthrow) during your tour?
JG: Our tour itinerary is in its infancy, but we’re open to playing anywhere that will have us. Feel free to put in a good word with IPO if you know them. We played their festival here in NYC about 3 years ago. We played CMJ a couple of years ago & the MEANYFEST here in NYC a couple of times. We’ll probably try to do the Pop Montreal festival this year, if they’ll have us.
Would the Swedes consider a Rock Opera? Your sound would make it work.
JG: Funny you should ask. The rock-opera-of-a-double-length CD will be called "Geronimo Casino". And we already have a great libretto, but I can’t tell you all about it yet. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though.
Any plans yet for a follow-up?
JG: The "Geronimo Casino" idea comes up a lot. We have stuff already recorded and a bunch o’ other ones that we’d love to put on it… complete with B-sides, instrumental reprises, and everything else you can imagine. Realistically though, look for us to release a five-song EP over the summer. We just finished tracking song #5 and will be mixin’ & masterin’ and that sort of stuff.
Thanks for interview, John.