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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 [2018]?

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.

If 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 genre.

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, hemisphere… What's the word I'm looking for? [Laughs] Well, whatever.

So 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 shows.

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.

In 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 rock.

Then 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 to tell.

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… Well, maybe 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 to perform… 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?

Tobbe: 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 reality?

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.

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