One of the very first candidates for our 'Best of 2015' list is The Rifts by A Swarm Of The Sun. This stunning album surprised me in a very positive way, as you can read in the review I wrote. So I decided to send some questions over to Sweden. After all, I was curious about the process of writing an album like this. Shortly after, I got these nice answers back from both members.
Like I wrote in the review, there’s been five years between two releases. Is that because of perfectionism or because both members were engaged with other projects?
Erik: One of the main reasons for the gap was indeed that we were involved in some other projects. But I would be lying if I said we’re not perfectionists. When we wrote Zenith, I believe we scrapped two songs. Not because they were bad songs, but because the album was a better whole without them. We did the same for The Rifts. There is an almost completed 10-minute song that will probably never see the light of day. For us it’s important that the end result exceeds our own expectations, so it will just have to take the time it demands.
Am I right when I say The Rifts is a lot darker and heavier than Zenith?
Jakob: I think we took things a lot further on this one, in all directions. It’s both heavier and quieter. More dynamic. There’s real darkness in Zenith too of course, but this time it’s probably more upfront.
Is there a lot of personal experiences and situations involved in this album?
Jakob: Yes, for me it evolved out of some specific and very emotionally challenging experiences. But the end result is not just about that. It’s rather that I use them as an entry point for digging deeper into those emotions and exploring. Putting a face on them through music is a way to cope.
There’s been several guest musicians involved in recording The Rifts. Is there any chance that A Swarm Of The Sun will be touring with this line-up?
Erik: Some of them will hopefully join us for any upcoming shows. It pretty much depends on where and when, since many of them are busy with other bands and projects. We’re truly happy to have such great musicians joining us on the albums, and of course we’d be even happier to share the stage with them.
The range of your music seems to go from modern-classical piano pieces to almost doom and sludge like heavy passages. What are your main influences? If possible, both musically and non-musically.
Erik: The influences for The Rifts were many of the different bands that we listened to around that time. Everything from Anna von Hausswolff, Mogwai and Wolves in the Throne Room, just to name a few. The biggest non-musical influence for the album was definitely the concept and ideas that Jakob laid out for the album. It acted as something similar to a storyboard that we followed throughout the whole process.
In the biography I read that most songs on The Rifts started out as a few piano-passages and some lyrics. How did it evolve from there?
Jakob: We talked a lot about what we wanted the album to be - shared ideas, references and so on. We outlined the entire thing in a notebook. We knew this would take years to complete, and having those initial thoughts written down would help us to stay on track. It’s easier to explore and experiment when you have a rough map to go by.
We wrote and recorded sketches of all songs, played around with instrumentation, and tested things out. We also brought in our drummer Karl Daniel Lidén at a very early stage, to get new ideas on the table. When we had a rough draft of the entire album we started to record things one instrument at a time. It started with drums and ended with the pipe organ. It’s all a very layered process. We go through the entire thing many times, every time adding something new that changes things up. And then eventually it’s done.
On facebook you posted a picture of a huge pile of packages with LP’s and CD’s waiting to be shipped. It looks like The Rifts is on its way to become your most popular album. Were you overwhelmed by the response?
Erik: We’re absolutely overwhelmed with the response so far! I’m very proud of this album, but even so, you never know what to expect before you release something to the public, so receiving this kind of publicity and feedback has been fantastic.
In the band itself, between both members, can you tell me who does what exactly?
Erik: Shortly described, my role in the band is playing many of the instruments, production and most of the song writing. Jakob sings, writes the lyrics and develop the album concepts. But in the end it’s all very much a joint effort. We mold and arrange everything together, constantly nitpicking every little thing, and nothing slips through unless we are both satisfied. We’ve created music together since decades back, and we’ve always shared the same visions and always complemented each other extremely well. Creating The Rifts is one of the best experiences I’ve had, and we’re both quite eager to start working on something new.
Do you feel that ASOTS is evolving? Or, what are the main differences between The Rifts and your previous work?
Jakob: I couldn’t say what the differences are exactly, but of course there’s going to be differences. Millions of them. Everyone evolves, changes and gather new experiences. I don’t think it’s possible not to change, and that’s going to make its way into the music.
The new album is very well taken care of. How important is it to make a physical release ‘special’ in these days of free downloads and illegal downloads?
Jakob: It’s all important: physical and digital releases, videos, design etc. We try to make everything special, because it’s all part of the same whole. We put as much effort as we can into every aspect. If we didn’t, it wouldn’t be fair to our listeners, ourselves or most of all to the music. It would just be lazy. We love physical releases, the vinyl format is fantastic in many ways. But so is digital.
And finally, Can you tell us a little something about the equipment you use?
Erik: I can probably talk about this for hours, but a few of the key components we used on The Rifts are: The old cracking piano that we have in the studio, Gibson Les Paul Classic, Peavey Classic 100 Head + Marshall GV-2, Mesa Boogie 4x12 + Royer R-121 + Sennheiser MD412, Clavia Nord Lead 2, Roland SH-101, Roland Space Echo RE-201 and the huge pipe organ in Brännkyrka Church.
Pictures taken from the official facebook page