|Posted on January 7, 2015 at 9:15 AM|
Having been in the music business as a full blown recording and touring band for the best part of fifteen years, Swedish proggers Beardfish have been bubbling under the surface of major acclaim for a while and seem just about ready to break into the big time. They have a reputation for unashamed progressive stylings, tipping a wink to the heady days of classic prog yet within their own contemporary framework. With their eighth studio album, the mysteriously titled +4626-Comfortzone hot off the press, founding member and vocalist/keyboard player, Rikard Sjoblom very kindly took some time to answer a few of Manchester Rocks’ questions about what’s happening the Beardfish world.
The new record, ‘+4626- Comfortzone’ sounds like an interesting concept. Where did it come from?
Well, first came the song ”Comfort Zone” and then reading the lyrics I noticed that quite a few of them were dealing with growing up and since I grew up in the town of Gävle we chose to use the area code for Gävle (+4626) as a prefix for COMFORTZONE as your hometown is a comfort zone in itself. Those kind of thoughts always send me on a bend and in this case it made me think of all the things that make me feel good and how not all of them are good. Growing up, you automatically inherit your parents, teachers, friends, family, yeah everyone’s opinions and thoughts and ideas and that sort of becomes an inner voice, a companion through life, if you will, that stays with you throughout life. I just wanna question that voice, question the ideas that my parents had/have and see the world with my own eyes, you know… Every town has a vibe to it and although there are a lot of nice things about my hometown, after travelling a lot and seeing different places there was one thing that stood out that had always been there: you shouldn’t even try, because you won’t be successful… Depressing stuff, really.
Does the theme of ‘breaking from the comfort zone’ run all the way through the album?
It sort of does actually.
Is ‘playing it safe’ something that maybe musical genres are guilty of?
Oh yes, and building a career in music is probably a lot easier if you put out the same album over and over – but I’ve never liked those type of bands. I can’t really be objective about Beardfish, but we try to experiment with new stuff and hopefully don’t stay in a state of suspended animation for too long!
Did you take it as a challenge to confront and break the usual prog expectations?
We never really go out on a limb to please anyone other than ourselves, but we do joke around about it, like if during rehearsals something sounds a bit like Crimson or whatever we can go ”haha, the crowd at NEARfest would’ve loved this!”… I hate the fact that I have such a hard time writing short songs, because some people will ask ”how do you manage to write such long songs?” and for me it’s like ”hell, someone please show me how not to!”, I’ve always liked to let the song run its course, and most of the time it needs 8-15 minutes for it to come full circle.
How do you see the new record standing alongside the albums in the Beardfish collection?
I think this one will stand well against the others, at least for us. We’ve never been good at guessing how an album will be received (probably a good thing though, otherwise the writing would probably be biased) but IF I have to guess I think that this one is more easily accessible to someone who’ve never heard us.
Hold On is the single from the album. What was the reasoning behind choosing that song?
We thought it was a good choice, the label thought it was a good choice, our friends thought it was a good choice, haha! We’d been playing it live on tour and stuff so for us it felt kind of natural.
I see the album is being pressed up on vinyl too – is that the sign that you like the traditional old school way of releasing your music?
We do, yes. I love vinyl and I’ve been collecting all my life basically so the first album we pressed on vinyl (Mammoth) was a milestone for me personally - and the others too.
Next Spring you’re on tour with the Neal Morse Band which must be quite a thrill?
Absolutely, we’re all looking forward to it! We supported Flying Colours in 2012 so we’ve met Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy before and we had a great time!
You seem to be an in demand tour support having opened recently for Spocks Bead, Flying Colors and Pain Of Salvation – is it all part of the prog connection?
Yeah, I’m not sure… We’ve been asked to do these tours and it’s always been great fun so we’re all very grateful for the oppurtunities given.
There seem to be a whole host of Swedish bands who are delivering the goods right now – H.E.A.T, Eclipse, Opeth, Pain Of Salvation, Meshuggah, Blues Pills, Flower Kings, yourselves! – is there something in the water over there?
Hahaha! There might be! I’ve always thought that it might have something to do with the fact that any child in Sweden can go to music school and learn an instrument at a young age which is a great thing!
Words & Interview: Mike Ainscoe