To further promote The Bell's recently released sophomore full-length titled Great Heat, I had the pleasure of exchanging frequent emails with the exceptionally talented lead vocalist Mathias Strömberg. Email interviews are often running the alarmingly high risk of feeling less than cohesive - but fortunately the answers given were informative and detailed which we're extremely thankful and appreciative for. Be sure to head over to the link provided in order to read AP.net's official review of Great Heat and don't forget to purchase your copy of the record on iTunes!
It was a three and a half year gap between your debut full-length, Make Some Quiet, and your recently released sophomore effort, Great Heat. How would you say the latter varies and differs from your debut?
Make Some Quiet was more of a collection of songs leading up to getting signed and having an actual release date rather than a planned album. With Great Heat, we wanted to take the whole "indie on the dancefloor" vibe that we got from many of the remix tracks that were made for the Make Some Quiet singles. Instead of just leaving the disco up to DJ's and remixers we wanted to incorporate it into the original tracks. Hence the programming and eighties styled electronic drums and bass.
How did you come up with the album title, Great Heat? Is there any significance behind it?
Yeah, we wanted something that signified momentum and that even though we took our time with writing and recording, we have an album that's crisp and has great heat. Also, it sounds like an epic album, like Great Hit.
For our readers who may be unaware, you were forced to implement a rather unique and unorthodox method when it came to writing and recording Great Heat. You were all split between different locations in Sweden, so can you take us behind the scenes and discuss the writing and recording process and how the distance impacted on that?
We have a lot of kids, so when we started our there was a "this is how it must be" situation that we all agreed upon. With the first album we had more recording sessions and I flew to Malmö to do takes in the studio every month or so, and we worked out a method around that. When it came to the new stuff being recorded, it almost became a seamless process where we didn't realize the tracks were getting closer and closer to being finished. In the end, all I had left to do was put new crisp vocals with proper lyrics on the recording, and then all there was left was the fine tuning process. So basically, the album developed with Jan and Nicklas in the studio every other night and me giving feedback via Skype & e-mail, sending bits of vocals and lyrics for them to paste in and try out. The production is very much integrated with the arrangement when you use both acoustic/electric instrumentation and electronic equipment to record.
My personal favourite song on the record is the lovely and equally beautiful, "Dope Makes You". Can you give some insight into the lyrical themes behind it and how Josefin Björck came to contribute vocals?
Thank you! This actually came up by trial-and-error and didn't really have a deeper meaning than "it would be nice with female vocals" to create a more dynamic song. It was a bit dead-pan and flat before so her voice took it to a new level. As for the lyrics, I wanted to address the default state that some people seem to get in when on drugs, that the minute they start to THINK is The Great Destroyer – and avoiding it is a main issue. The thing is that "when you're like other men / life will look up for you again" is just such an illusion that, well, a lot of people buy into. I always considered drugs were for people that wanted to do and be different - not to try and stay the same.
Curiosity is getting the better of my here. Do you yourself have a personal favourite track on Great Heat? If so, which one and could you explain why?
I think "23 Seconds" is very special just because it stands out. But I think my favourite is "Today". It has a rawness and un-kindness to the way the production has been treated. It's compressed, yet very airy and it has a great hook & simple chorus that lingers.
Speaking of the album closer "23 Seconds", it has a noticeable lack of synth and keyboard. Was that merely a deliberate and intentional change from the remaining tracks featured on Great Heat, or is that song perhaps a tantalizing glimpse into the sound The Bell will be looking to explore further on future albums?
It's difficult to create an album nowadays. We realize of course that people will be listening to tracks in random order, putting the favourites in a playlist, throwing out stuff they don't like etc. But we are still very much album lovers. The album, is a collection of stuff that was created during a certain period, as for a painter for example, that ends a creative streak with an exhibition. Wait what was the question? Yes, it might be a glimpse of things and sounds to come, but it also is a piece of blue in an otherwise red piece of art.
From what I've seen, read and heard, the reception Great Heat has received has been tremendously positive thus far. What's the biggest compliment you've received in regards to your new record? Likewise, have there been any negative comments that you've felt were unjust?
It's all been quite good – I think the best are reviewers that consider us in a 2011 context, while all the eighties references gets a bit tedious. Also, here in Sweden, the older and established critics like their talent young, and although we're not Dylan-old nor are we Odd Future in terms of youth and infancy, we're married men with kids that just won't stop recording music because the daily schedule gets tighter and does not fit the formula – especially if you do something with pretension. In the US, UK and Europe at large it is a lot easier. They just dig the music or they don't.
One last question because I acknowledge you have an exceptionally busy schedule. Have you already began planning/writing for the third full-length?
We have been talking briefly about it, and personally I would love to do something with more musicians. Although I do love the DIY-mentality and small studios, I long for some proper recording sessions with a smoking genius producer behind the glass that forces us to do better, better and better. I also wouldn't mind going a bit more psychedelic either because we are all huge fans of Spiritualized, Spacemen 3 and older stuff like The Seeds, Vanilla Fudge, and The Mysterians and that. So, a well produced psychedelic garage-shoegaze album would be nice after all this electronic stuff.
On behalf of Absolutepunk and myself, I'd like to take a moment to thank both Mathias Strömberg for taking the time and effort necessary to answer these questions, and to Alex Steininger from In Music We Trust for allowing us interview time with his bands and artists. A big thank you to you both!