» Alexander Strandell - Art Nation
« back

Interview conducted August 06 2016
Interview published August 16 2016

"We never try to pretend that we're someone special…"

In order to check out what the last year has been like and what's happening at the moment in the camp of Swedish melodic rock unit Art Nation, Metal Covenant met up with lead vocalist Alexander Strandell when the band visited Skogsröjet festival on August 6th. These young guns have recently started the pre-production on their second album and will definitely make an attempt to follow up last year's rather successful album, Revolution, in best possible way.

"I never go out to have fun and I spend a lot of time working on my phone and my computer."

Tobbe: Art Nation is still a pretty unknown band to the masses, so what type of music do you play and what listeners does your music address to?

Alexander: To me, it's more important to play good music, that you get attracted to. If you haven't seen us before, I want you to be able to stand in our audience and kind of sing along to the songs, you know. I think it's so hard to say that I want to reach out to those people, or those people, or those people.

I want to reach everyone who likes to listen to music. You don't have to specifically like our music, you know, but… We play a very pop oriented hard rock, but I think everyone thinks it's fun with good melodies and that you are able to move a little bit to it.

Tobbe: So why did you guys end up in this genre? Is it what's most fun to listen to, or to play, or to sing, you know?

Alexander: It's different with each individual in the band. I personally like this music. I like pop music and I like hard rock, so for me it's really fun and I want, you know, more people to have fun. We have a mixture in the band, you know. Our bassist has played lots of jazz and we have a guitarist who's been playing much heavier music and the drummer has played really heavy music. So everyone has an individual side to it, but everyone, I believe, think it's really fun to play, or they wouldn't be in the band, you know.

Tobbe: So which artists have been your inspiration to perform this type of music?

Alexander: It's really hard to say, because I was listening to power metal a lot when I was younger. I listened to Sonata Arctica, HammerFall, Sabaton, Amaranthe and that type of music. But I've also been into Europe, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi and those kind of bands. I want to kind of mix all these influences into the sound of Art Nation, you know.

Tobbe: In what way have things changed during the last year since your first record, Revolution, has been out?

Alexander: We were actually just talking in the car on the way here, you know, that it's so weird that just a year ago we didn't have a record and people saw us as a really fresh band. Like "Who are they?" and we played in front of very small audiences, even if we got some good festival gigs, you know.

But now, since the record has been out, we see that there actually are people who like what we do. And we could see that on this festival today too. A lot of people sing along and know the lyrics. It's so incredible and it's kind of hard to get a grip on, you know.

Tobbe: Most new artists and bands tend to read a lot of the reviews written about them and are you still in that phase where you read a lot of what's written?

Alexander: For me personally I think it's important to be able to handle criticism. I mean, if somebody is dissatisfied I would want to know what I did wrong to not get that person in the right mood. If he or she didn't like the music, there is nothing I can do really, but I think it's important to see people's viewpoints.

I mean, we have been getting a lot of great reviews, but also a few not so great, and I think it's best to not, like "Wow! We've been getting so many good ones.", but also read the less flattering ones to see what we didn't do so great and then try to improve those things along the road.

Tobbe: As soon as a band becomes a little bit bigger a lot of negative shit on the web is written about them too, and if you were to become a bigger band, have you already started to prepare to handle this stuff?

Alexander: That's what's hard at this point, because we've been so spoiled so far. When we've played a gig, no one has ever approached us and told us it was bad. On the contrary it has been like "Oh! Who are you? You were great!". It would probably be good if someone sometime told us that we were bad. You know, to get us back on the ground again.

I think it's not so good if you constantly get great response and believe that you're best in the world. I personally try to have both feet on the ground, but I mean, I know that what we're doing is good, but if someone thinks it not so good or really good is up to each his own. But if someone thinks that we completely suck, I feel like "I know we don't completely suck, no matter what you say, but it's just not what you appreciate and prefer to listen to.", you know.

Tobbe: About the lyrics on Revolution. Do you have stuff that you want people to pay a little bit extra attention to?

Alexander: You know, we want the lyrics to affect you in a way and not be just about love, girls, drugs, or whatever, but about things that you've maybe gone through. Look To The Sky, 3000 Beats, Need You To Understand and All In are about things that we've maybe gone through or about things that have affected us. I think that, as a listener, you can think about that the lyrics are written by us, and the songs are made by us, and that it's about stuff that has meant a lot to us, and it's not just words that we've written down to make it into a good song, you know.

Tobbe: You have already started to work on a coming album and are you in a situation where you feel that you have to keep the ball rolling now?

Alexander: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the new record will be Art Nation, because it's we playing, me singing and we have written the music, but still it will be something else. I think it's important, as a new band, to be able to try things out and see what we can do and what we will sound like. I know that people like our first record and of course we're going to deliver a record that people think is even better. And to me, this record will become even better than the first one, because the material is more mature and it feels like we all strive for the same thing, you know. Melodic, grand and good, you know.

Tobbe: Did you enter the songwriting process kind of with a mindset of "We will develop those things from the first record further." and "Those things we will remove.", you know?

Alexander: Yes, I think so, and we've done that. We have seen which songs on the first record that went down the best and then you try to kind of get inspired of that for the next time you write a song. So of course there's a thought behind it, but we will see and in the end it's up to the crowd to decide if it's good. And even if people will think that the second record is a flop, then it's the way it is, and then there will come a third record that you maybe will like. We're going to do this until we enter our grave. That's our plan, you know.

Tobbe: In today's tough market, how will Art Nation be able to get a piece of the pie? It's a little bit limited, you know, 'cause there aren't an unlimited amount of customers.

Alexander: In this department is where we are strong, you know, just because we want to reach everyone. Last summer we played with Carola and Petter [Swedish artists] on a "family" festival and we were playing Hojrock, which is an MC festival with bikers, and now we're at Skogsröjet, which is a rock festival, and this is what we want to do. And then we show that we have fun on stage and we always try to be nice guys.

We never try to pretend that we're someone special, 'cause we're all people that walk the same earth, you know. And I think if you have this approach, is very focused and at the same time is really good when you go up on stage and deliver, it probably does the job, you know. I mean, we have existed for such a short time and yet we're so attractive on the market, and that's really fun, so now we just have to keep going.

Tobbe: What does it mean to you that you have signed with a bigger label earlier this year?

Alexander: Above all it confirms that we're good at what we're doing. Even if we can feel that we're good at what we do, when a record label like Sony/Gain comes in, who is big and is working with bands like Europe, Mustasch and Hardcore Superstar, it's nice and we can relax on that specific point. It feels really good and I think we just have to try to keep up the momentum.

Tobbe: Is it through this label you will be able to become bigger abroad as well?

Alexander: Hopefully next year we will be able to get a support slot for a bigger band and then make a club tour in Sweden, you know, and festivals of course. But we will see. Europe will release an album next year, so let's just go out with them…

Tobbe: How much are you willing to sacrifice to reach your goals? You will be away from home for longer periods and wait with building a family.

Alexander: We all agree on this and we have already sacrificed stuff. I mean, I have no social life, you know. It's just the band and my girlfriend and nothing else. I never go out to have fun and I spend a lot of time working on my phone and my computer.

For me it's important to have something else too and to only think about music will make me go nuts, so I need a free zone, which is my girlfriend, where I can feel "OK. I'm off the stage and now I want to be myself.". If I had taken that away too, I would probably haven't been able to do this.

Tobbe: Is it a realistic goal to make a living out of your music?

Alexander: Well, it's my dream to be able to make a living out of this. I mean, 3 years ago, when Art Nation didn't exist really, we did some gigs at youth recreation centers and paid everything ourselves. We were just happy to go out and play. 3 years later, we can go out and we don't have to pay for it ourselves and we even get paid for what we do.

Of course we would like to get paid more so that we can make a living out of this, but I feel that most bands do this for 10 years until they get a breakthrough and if you look at a band like Ghost or whoever, they were doing this for so long before they got a real breakthrough and I feel no stress at the moment. So as long as we make a little bit more money each year, and are able to save some of our income, I really believe in this, you know.

Tobbe: Do you have a plan B if things go to hell?

Alexander: I'm so into this and have never had a plan B, ever since I started with music when I was 11. No, life is too short to have a plan B. Put all focus on plan A and I jump in the sea then if things would go to hell. It just have to work in some way. In which way I don't know yet, but I want to do this at all costs.

Related links: