» B. Strid - The Night Flight Orchestra
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Interview conducted June 27 2017
Interview published July 18 2017

"It's a way of writing and a way of producing and a way of playing that we feel have been lost for a very long time."

For various reasons our interview with Björn Strid of Swedish retro act The Night Flight Orchestra has been postponed a couple of times, but when I in the end am able to get in touch with him over the phone to discuss the band's new effort Amber Galactic [Out May 19th] I get to talk to a humble singer that seems very happy with what he's doing right now and it's like this project is doing good for him as a different outlet and a temporary substitute to his light death metal band Soilwork.

"Yes, isn't it wonderful that you get to hear some bass?"

Tobbe: In what way have you guys tried to pick up the track from your two previous records, Internal Affairs [2012] and Skyline Whispers [2015], and tried to lead that into Amber Galactic? If you have, that is.

Björn: Yeah, I think we have. It has been kind of a phase of development. The first record was more kind of an experiment. It was a group of friends who had really fun together and wanted to create an own soundtrack of being in motion. That was the key to it in a sense. There were so many influences and a lot of knowledge and musicality that were going to merge into something really great. And it came out really great and it caught many elements, but there wasn't the same focus as on the new record.

On the second one things fell in place a little bit more and then prior to the new record it really felt that we had found the focus on what we wanted to create. We got rid of the Hammond organ and focused more on roads, bullets and early 80's synthesizers as well, because we felt that it was more our thing and there are so many other bands that deal with the early 70's in a good way. So we wanted to focus a little bit more on a different era and a different expression in a sense.

Tobbe: You know, your music tends to bring out a certain nostalgia factor, so how much do you have to twist and tweak to be able to get that atmosphere that makes the music kind of sound like it's stylistically 40 years old?

Björn: There is a certain love to this era and also incredible knowledge, even though knowledge doesn't necessarily mean that you can write a good song. But the foundation is there and, you know, it's not just a pastiche. I understand that people get nostalgic and I get really nostalgic too of course or else we probably wouldn't have started this band. [Laughs] But at the same time it's so much more than that. It's a way of writing and a way of producing and a way of playing that we feel have been lost for a very long time.

So it's more of an entirety thing and I believe that's why it feels so genuine too and not just a bunch of metalheads who have come together to simply just play some 70's and 80's stuff. So there's so much more to it and there's a lot of heart and a tremendous amount of joy behind this as well. You get completely high on life playing this stuff and it gives you an incredible kick and it's so damn fun too.

Tobbe: As you mentioned, there are many retro bands out there, but most of them don't play the same style as you do, so did you realize already in the beginning that you had to create your own type of music to not end up in the same style as everybody else?

Björn: We kind of felt that this style wasn't really out there and it was either the early 70's retro rock, which is often more passive and a little more downtuned and sometimes even a little bit like pseudo stoner, if you know what I mean? And pretty often with a kind of occult theme in a sense and often it sounds like pot and we wanted to sound more like cocaine.

I have never tried cocaine in my whole life and I will never do either. It's a damn unpleasant drug that can make terrible things, but in terms of sound and expression we glanced in that direction. It was a little more lively and glittery in a sense, if you know what I mean? There was a different shimmer around it and a little more spirited and not so weary and hazy. So that was what we wanted to create and specifically a soundtrack of being in motion.

Tobbe: You know, a lot of artists out of old habit say that what they write always comes naturally, but if you guys would say that, I would actually find it kind of hard to believe since you haven't really played this music up until a few years ago, at least officially, so how much of what you do then comes naturally, really? Even if you like what you do, you know.

Björn: I think that everyone involved has rehearsed during many years in their mind, so to speak. You know, we've been on some kind of training camp and then it has just been unleashed and thrown out on the table in a real mess and then we've been kind of searching, so maybe it hasn't come purely natural and of course we discuss a lot of stuff around it, stylistically and in detail. But that's what's so damn fun too, that you can go into detail in music.

But at the same time we can be very spontaneous since we have, like, two producers in the band who both have their studio, so we can just get our gear together and rehearse and we can just press REC when we feel like it. So often the foundation is quite spontaneous and maybe it doesn't sound entirely good, but it is occasionally, and then afterwards you can go and search a little bit more on a detailed level. But, you know, it has come out of our jamming too. We have jam sessions and then we record it when it feels good. I don't know in what other way I can describe it, really.

Tobbe: You know, the bass in today's music, maybe more in metal though, tends to get hidden a little, but in The Night Flight Orchestra it gets plenty of room. So what were your thoughts around the bass play and how did you approach it?

Björn: Yes, isn't it wonderful that you get to hear some bass? But it's really great and, I mean, Sharlee D'Angelo is such a fantastic fucking bass phantom, you know. By all means, you can hear him in Arch Enemy too, but it's a totally different thing, like you say, where sometimes the bass kind of plays a little bit like the guitars, whereas here it gets to live out completely and live its own life. So it's incredibly awesome and it's so important to the sound and the music and it creates a completely new dimension, you know. We have kind of given Sharlee freedom to create and we've just been sitting there cheering for him when he gets going.

Tobbe: If you look at the whole record, in what way do you try to make different types of songs, in terms of up-tempo, mid-tempo and lighter ones, you know?

Björn: I don't think we really think about that, since we can record stuff whenever we want to. I mean, new songs come to life every Saturday. You know, still, even after we finished the record. The guys are sitting at home writing all the time and we got 25 new songs already that we can record whenever we feel like it. So it's more like we do whatever we feel like.

By all means, there have been times, like when I wrote Saturn In Velvet. The feeling when I wrote it was like "Damn! Something's missing on the album.". So of course that happens too, but for the most part you don't think about what we need, but it's more like "Just go!" and write songs because it's fun and therefore a whole bunch of songs get written.

Then it gets hard to choose and then you maybe have to reason about: If you have a demo, what will the song be like in its final form? You never know, really. Like "Damn it! It didn't even turn out as good as the demo was.". The magic can disappear once in a while too, so it might be a risk in a way to make too good demos sometimes.

Tobbe: I wouldn't say that the record is monotonous, but the songs are kind of all in one vein, so how far off that frame might you go with this band? Or do you feel like you have to stay kind of safe and not spread it out too much?

Björn: Someone in the band said "Okay. We sound like '82 on this record and on the next one we will sound like '85 and on the next after that one we're in '88 or '89.". No, I don't think that will happen. But you can do so much around this expression, I think. It's endless and you can find so many bands from this period that are so damn good, but never even made it to some chart whatsoever. It's like a never-ending stream of good stuff and you can find so many incredible bands and that's what I try to do quite often. There are no limits, really, for what you may come up with.

Tobbe: Most people agree on that most things are already done nowadays, so if we look at younger people who listen to music, in what way may they embrace this record? I mean, they have to choose too, just like you and I did when we were younger.

Björn: It's an interesting question, actually. I'm born in '78 and a lot of people in my age or maybe a bit younger and especially people who aren't musicians themselves say "Oh! It sounds like Miami Vice!". That's their reference when they listen to Night Flight. But it would be interesting to hear what teenagers or even people up to 25, that maybe don't have this reference, would say. I haven't actually presented this face to face with someone who is so much younger than I am, but it would be interesting. But I think it's timeless. Well, I mean, that era, it sounds refreshing today too and it's nothing you laugh about. At least I don't. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Are there any of the parents to the guys in the band that say that you have found the right way now, since they perhaps listened to this type of music in a sense when they themselves were younger?

Björn: Well, you know, my parents have always supported me regarding Soilwork and they have even listened to it. Even my [maternal] grandma, before she passed away, went to sleep listening to Soilwork and she was over 90 at the time. But yes, you're right, surely the parents say like "Oh! Here we get to kind of hear your real voice.", but I was expecting that too, so. And maybe it's because they kind of grew up a little bit with some of that type of music and they can relate to it a little more. So I guess it's just natural.

Tobbe: You got the ability to go from normal or clean singing, the singing style you actually utilize in The Night Flight Orchestra, into aggressive singing, like you do in Soilwork of course, and then back to normal singing again, and the ability to do so, do you think that it will eventually get more difficult when you get older?

Björn: Well, possibly. But, you know, so far I'm very grateful to feel that I still progress. So far my voice hasn't deteriorated, you know. It's rather the other way around and during the last 5 years I have made huge progress. You never know for how long this will go on, but I sing almost every day and I have built a very enduring voice. I never have to warm up, really, but just go and the voice usually works as long as I don't get sick. Knock, knock. Maybe I have to knock on wood now. [A second of silence follows.] I'm glad that it still works, but I'm not that fucking old, so the best is yet to come. [Laughs]

Tobbe: You know, a singer can't cope without his voice, besides doing something else around music, really, and do you have something to fall back upon, musically or in general, if your voice would suddenly stop working?

Björn: It's a horrible thought. Well, there is stuff that I could do. I play the guitar and I could do that. And I could play the bass, and possibly the drums, I don't know. But outside of music… What the hell would that be? I really don't know. How about a nurse or something?

Tobbe: What about being a producer? Everyone seems to end up there.

Björn: Well, I've done that to some extent. I've produced vocals and so, but I want to be part of the music as well, like standing behind the microphone or play something, so that's a little frustrating. It can be fun to be in the studio and produce stuff, but I don't think that I could manage being in a studio 24/7, you know, and have it as a job.

Tobbe: Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra are musically two very different bands and is it important to you to considerably separate those two bands?

Björn: Yes, it's very, very important to me. It is, really. Even if I've done some other project that are pretty similar to Soilwork I've never felt so balanced as I do now. It's kind of a yin and yang situation, you know. So I feel a huge balance now and I feel, you know, complete in a way, musically, and that I don't need more than this in a way. I'm a metalhead, but I'm also a rocker and there's also some pop in there. So it feels like I'm able to include everything in these bands and I like to perform with both and write with both.

Tobbe: And if you will do Soilwork stuff as the next thing, will you be even more pumped when you have done stuff with Night Flight and focused on that for a while?

Björn: Yes, absolutely. We have tried to make things work and we're starting to slow down a bit with Soilwork and we haven't so many gigs left to do for The Ride Majestic [2015]. We have toured all over the world, several times, so we've been working really hard. So now Night Flight will take over a little bit and we will probably work with it until after next summer. We will write and record an album with Soilwork, but we won't tour.

I think it's quite important to take a break, because it must become fun again. If you work so hard and tour this heavily, in the end you get really exhausted and even a bit tired of it, but I guess that's just natural. So, I try to find the balance now and then we can approach Soilwork again when we've been doing Night Flight for a while and worked that cycle to the end in a sense.

Tobbe: In a long perspective, how much time will you put on each band, respectively? Will it be 50/50 from now on or what do you have in mind?

Björn: Well, we will see how things turn out, really. I mean, both bands really mean a lot to me, you know. By all means, Soilwork has also become my job and I've been doing this for 20 years and had this for a living since 2003. Maybe it's easy to see certain things as a job sometimes when you've done it for a long time, but at the same time when I'm going to a festival and meet the Soilwork guys it feels very natural and it doesn't feel like a job. You meet, have a few beers, go on stage and launch a set and it's really fun. I don't feel like there's kind of a business relationship that we have in the band.

I've seen a lot of bands that get huge and then quite inevitably it becomes like a fucking machine where they expect you to do stuff. But sure, if you completely ignore the business side, then it will go to hell, you know. So of course you have to nurture it, but so far it doesn't feel like routine, like a 9 to 5 job to go to. It doesn't and it's still fun.

Tobbe: If I look at both bands on stage, there's a more relaxed atmosphere when you're on stage with Night Flight than with Soilwork. So can you describe the feeling and the difference when you're up there singing those songs with Night Flight instead of singing with Soilwork?

Björn: So far we haven't done so many gigs so yet I haven't got the feeling of that this is the most natural thing in the whole world. We have just done our first Night Flight gig outside of Sweden, on the Rock Hard Festival in Germany in June, and we have only done, like, 8 gigs in Sweden in total. So it hasn't been a tour or anything.

But it feels kind of like an out-of-body experience when I sing and I almost see myself sing, since it's like a new persona that has been brought to life in a way. [Laughs] So it's pretty interesting, but at the same time it feels quite natural and it feels good and relaxed too and it's a different kind of expression, you know.

Tobbe: Do you sense somewhere that this band, with a little luck, can actually become quite successful? Or is it more a feeling of that this level is good enough? So what do you feel right now, you know?

Björn: Well, we have all the possibilities to reach a wider audience, even though that wasn't the reason why we started the band. But of course you're aware of that too, that we might do that. Some new doors are opening, so to speak, and it surely addresses more people, you know. It feels like we're playing our own genre to some extent. You know, there's nobody else doing this, really, and in that aspect it will be interesting. You know, by coming out with something that sounds very nostalgic and creates a lot of images in people's heads, but at the same time people have described it as very refreshing in a way. So, who knows? Maybe we will go far. You never know.

See also: review of the album Amber Galactic

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