Interview conducted January 29 2020
Interview published March 3 2020
"It's not like you're able to stash a lot of money
in your mattress."
Metal Covenant talked to The Night
Flight Orchestra's vocalist Björn Strid
about their new album Aeromantic. [Out on February 28th.]
Tobbe: To what degree do you think that
this new album follows your last album Sometimes The World Ain't Enough
Björn: Pretty well, even if I feel that there's
always something new on each record. But I mean, the last three albums
are somewhat linked to one another, although we perhaps broaden stuff
on the new album. The new album feels more focused maybe, and sticks
out quite a bit from song to song.
I pick two songs as an example, like Transmissions and Servants Of The
Air, and shows them to someone who hasn't heard the band, they wouldn't
believe it's the same band and from the same album. That's what's kind
of fascinating with this band, that we're able to do that, but still
keep stuff together and create a flow on the album.
I have always liked bands that have made albums
that even have different types of music on them, like The Alan Parsons
Project and maybe Genesis and stuff like that. I like it when it takes
you on a real journey. You don't really realize what's happening, but
then they tie it together in the end anyway, you know.
Tobbe: But still you end up in the same
Björn: Yes, but we make it to something own,
you know. No matter what we do, we find a Night Flight expression. Maybe
over the years it has become a little more crossover in a way, like
some songs could be played anywhere, you know. But we see no limits
to what we can come up with. There might be an Elton John ballad over
here and there might be a biting Rainbow song over there, but we still
do it in our own way in order to not make it an imitation.
It's not like "Now we're gonna sound like
Rainbow! And look over here. We can sound like ABBA too.", because
there's too much presence and knowledge and love behind it to end up
that way. It's not some idea about "Let's start a band. Let's capture
this. Really cool!", but there's something deeper there.
Tobbe: Lyrics-wise. Where have the words
landed this time?
Björn: Well, maybe we have landed a little bit.
I don't think we're so much out in space anymore. There's relationship
drama and overall everyday stuff put in a different context and in a
different framing. David [Andersson, guitar] writes most the lyrics.
I write a little bit of the lyrics, but maybe I have started to focus
more on writing songs.
Sometimes I feel that I'm better to express myself
that way. You know, emotionally through melody, etc. But this time we
try to capture travel romance and maybe fly high, but not as high as
the space, you know. We've come down somewhere within the inner, well,
What's the word I'm looking for? [Laughs] Well, whatever.
we keep going with these everyday problems in some sort of glamourous
framing, yet keeping them serious. There's some of that ABBA melancholy.
They were so incredibly good at that. A lot of people think of them
like a happy, party disco band, but their lyrics are kind of melancholic.
So there is a seriousness in our music, but there
is a balance too, because it's quite uplifting in terms of the full
concept that we have. So we're kind of toying with the listener. And
we're toying with ourselves as well a little bit, which is quite fun.
Tobbe: Is it perhaps easier to find subjects
to sing about with Night Flight than with Soilwork?
Björn: Well, I guess it is. It's this boundless
thing that is so attractive when you've maybe been in a metal band for
20 years. Surely you can do so much within metal as well, but there
are moments where you feel a little limited and feel that you're lyrics-wise
maybe doing the same stuff to some extent again.
Tobbe: Do you prepare yourself in different
ways when you're recording with Night Flight than with Soilwork, or do
you simply just go in and sing the songs no matter what you're gonna sing?
Björn: I think I just go in and sing no matter
what it is. It's a different expression and maybe it's like I put on
some kind of a Night Flight hat when I do that and maybe a metal vest
with Soilwork. But at the same time I connect emotionally with both
bands and the switch between them is pretty simple, for some odd reason.
But it's one thing to be in a studio and record with Night Flight and
another thing to be on stage, because it took some time to realize "Who
am I in this context?
I've been part of the songwriting and have sung
the songs with passion and I have connected emotionally and now I'm
gonna get it together in some way with some sort of stage persona.".
But you find that pretty quickly. And it's fun to get to dance a little
bit on stage as well. It's not like I'm doing any advanced stuff, but
it's a different moving pattern. But it feels natural. It does.
Tobbe: Describe the difference between the
sound upon stage that you personally hear on Night Flight and Soilwork
Björn: It's definitely more naked with Night
Flight, where the vocals are maybe even more in focus in some way than
in Soilwork. But at the same time it's absolutely not easier to sing
that stuff than the Soilwork stuff. But that's maybe because I've been
doing Soilwork for over 20 years. I don't know; maybe that's the reason.
the beginning it was kind of scary, like "Oh, my voice is heard
very clearly now.". You know, through passages where there's only
a little bit of Rhodes piano and vocals. But that gave me such a boost
as well, and that's stuff that you have to do in order to grow.
Tobbe: Has last year's Soilwork album Verkligheten
in any way affected this new Night Flight album? I'm thinking about the
intro on that album for example.
Björn: I understand. Well, both for me and for
David they are two different units. You know, the sense for melody follows
you everywhere you go, but maybe you channel differently from time to
time. David and I wrote the whole album Verkligheten and then we started
writing for Night Flight too, so we have this sense of melody that we
work with and maybe it's not so strange in the end that some stuff might
remind you of something else.
We decided for Verkligheten that we would use
another type of keyboards. Like ditch the Hammond that we had been using
for a while and work maybe more with '80s synthesizers. It was definitely
not like "Well, this works with Night Flight so let's do that with
Soilwork as well.". Absolutely not, but it felt more like the right
thing to do, you know.
Tobbe: If you guys were going out on tour
supporting some other band this year, then what bands of today could Night
Flight actually fit with? Are there any, really?
Björn: Well, that's a tough one. Considering
how Turbonegro sounds today, maybe that would have worked, but we would
probably have gotten killed by Turbojugend. [Laughs] But it's hard for
me to know, but Hank von Hell maybe? I mostly come to think about the
old dinosaurs, but still, even if we are influenced by those days, it's
not the same thing and then it becomes more like a nostalgia act. You
know, that gets you touring casinos in USA. Well, that would have been
nice though, to go on some kind of resort tour. I wouldn't mind that.
But new bands
We're pretty one of a kind,
I feel, in this genre, which we in some way have kind of created. There
are all those AOR bands, who to 90 percent are on Frontiers, and they're
not doing at all what we're doing. It's a different expression and it's
supposed to sound modern and the drums are slamming. It's almost melodic
we have bands like H.E.A.T and Escape and maybe they would work, but
still it's not really the same expression. You know, Alice Cooper would
have been a great tour, I think. But I don't know. It's really hard
Tobbe: And if you're headlining?
Björn: Who we would bring? It's really hard to
tell that too. Now we're going out with One Desire, who are, like, a
nowadays melodic rock band. But to find someone that's like, let's say,
disco punk, you know
Maybe when they see us and listen to us it's
not the same thing. But it feels like this thing might attract different
kinds of audiences.
We took notice of that on the last European tour
we did. In the beginning there were all those curious Arch Enemy and
Soilwork fans, more or less, that had read about us in metal magazines,
but now there are people from, like, old dads with ponytails and teenage
girls who know all the lyrics in the front row, to metal fans with Behemoth
back patches, to hipsters. It's kind of uniting.
On our concerts people that would normally not
visit the same concert show up. And that says a lot about the band.
Everyone is so keen on putting a label on something, so they're going
"AOR", but what is AOR? In the '80s it was everything from,
like, Eurythmics to Journey to Steely Dan. Well, you know. So it's not
simple. But AOR today, then I'm like "That's Frontiers.".
But it's classic rock, but at the same time it's not classic because
it wasn't made back then. New classic rock? [Laughs] No, I don't know.
It's so hard.
Tobbe: Yes, like you said, it started with
the metal fans that knew you were doing a side project in the beginning
and then it's interesting to see how it changes over the years. In the
end it's just time to put those metal bands to rest
not, but you never know.
Björn: Well, I wouldn't wanna see that happening,
because I personally feel very balanced to have both bands, even if
I don't want to do everything simultaneously. Perhaps it will be easier
Well, maybe not. I don't know if it's so much easier
to get older with Night Flight than with Soilwork. But if I'm standing
there when I'm 60 and I'm still performing, I don't think that I would
have chosen Soilwork. Maybe it would have been easier to relate a little
bit more to Night Flight when I'm 60 years old. But who knows?
To a different subject. The band Gathering Of Kings. Is that a finished
chapter for you now?
Björn: Well, it is. I couldn't give it the attention
that it deserves. It needed more time than I initially thought. It was
more like a fun thing to me, but then gigs were booked, like Sweden
Rock, which was cool though, but then in Germany and somewhere else,
and I had to tell them that I couldn't give it the time it needed. But
sure, maybe there could be a song here and there in the future, but
I don't wanna go out on tour and so.
Tobbe: You made guest appearances on quite
a few records last year and tell me about how those appearances come into
Björn: Well, I record everything at home. I
have a shed in my garden that's been furnished to a vocal studio. I
record Night Flight and Soilwork and everything there. Well, not everything,
but a lot. And I'm part of something that's called metalforhire.com
and that's where stuff often appear.
It's a very good thing when you're home for longer
periods when there's not so much going on with the other bands. And
to keep yourself floating, and to keep your voice in shape, and of course
to make some extra money too. In this industry it's not so easy to keep
yourself floating economically, you know. It's not like you're able
to stash a lot of money in your mattress.
It's also a great way to grow vocally, because
there are things coming in where I'm like "Okay. Why did they have
me in mind? This is not really what I do.", but then you sink your
teeth into it. Sometimes they have no ideas at all and they're just
like "Go!" and sometimes they are very specific with what
they wanna have.
So it's always a challenge, whatever it is, you
know. Sometimes there's things that don't sound so good, like a rehearsal
room recording, but I always do my best to make the best out of my performance,
to make them happy. And I get happy too, because I'm still able to keep
living off music, which isn't always so easy.