The guys from the Swedish indie pop band Simian Ghost work only with people who let them do what they want, listen to cheesy 80’s pop and dream of becoming rich and buying an island – or at least an apartment.
indieberlin had a chat with them a couple of days after their show in Berlin.
ib: You released your latest album ‘The Veil’ this year. How would you compare it to your previous albums?
Sebastian: Compared to the last album it’s more traditional pop record I guess, in a sense that we’re trying to incorporate harmonies and chord and structures that are found a lot in the 60’s pop, in the classical pop music, like Beach Boys and Beatles and stuff like that. We just wanted to try and get that there as well. And the record before that was a bit more of a contemporary menu.
ib: How is your song writing process otherwise?
Sebastian: It usually starts with someone having an idea and then we bring it to our rehearsal space that is also our studio where we work some kind of an arrangement out together. Or we just jam. It’s an open creative process. We don’t have any specific ways of doing things.
ib: Which artists have influenced your music the most?
Sebastian: For me personally, I’m really influenced by Sonic Youth or Björk even, though they may not be the most obvious influences. But we all listen to bands like Yo La Tengo and Grizzly Bear and Pavement. And we also listen to a lot of cheesy 80’s pop.
ib: You’ve played in Berlin also before. What do you think of the Berliner audience?
Sebastian: It’s been nice, we like Berlin. It’s a city with a lot of culture happening, it’s nice.
ib: Other thoughts about the music scene in Berlin?
Sebastian: I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve been in Berlin, there’s always something going on. At least compared to Stockholm or where we come from. Sweden is boring.
ib: Really? It feels like there are a lot of bands coming from Sweden.
Sebastian: There are a lot of bands but there aren’t that many venues to play at. Especially the smaller venues that you have here, that are very nice, we don’t have them anymore in Sweden. All the small venues are disappearing, and all we have left are the semi big stages. There’s a lot more opportunities to play music in Berlin and in Germany in general.
ib: So what do you think it’s the reason that you have so many bands coming to Berlin from Sweden?
Sebastian: It’s funnier.
Mathias: I think for a Swedish artist to make a proper tour you need to head out to Europe, it’s impossible to do it in Sweden.
Sebastian: There are too few venues in Sweden. A tour in Sweden takes you about a week, and then you’re done and you have to go back and do it again. There are too few people in Sweden, too. There are a lot of pine trees and a lot of bands and too few venues.
ib: Do you have a favourite venue to play at?
Sebastian: Kungen. It’s a punk venue in the city where we grew up. We’ve always had fun there. That is where we grew up so that place is special to us.
ib: Everyone agrees?
Erik: Yeah, of course. Kungen is awesome. The funniest.
ib: You also toured US this fall. How was it?
Sebastian: We did CMJ just before we got here, which is a festival in New York, and then we had a couple of shows in Austin and Chicago. That was really fun. I’ve never been to New York before so that was an experience and we also did some touristic stuff.
ib: And how were the shows?
Erik: Really good. At least most parts.
Mathias: The last show was packed with audience, it was great. And a great venue.
ib: Is it different to play in US compared to Europe?
Sebastian: We haven’t really done a proper US tour, it’s still ahead of us. We are looking forward to do a proper tour in US.
Erik: I think we are a bit spoiled about how we’ve been treated here in Europe and Sweden compared to US, like how the venues have been set up and stuff like that. It’s a bit hasher in US. And a lot more competition.
Mathias: And bigger cities where you can tour. I think doing a proper US tour would be awesome, I’d like to do that. It’s hard to compare it to Europe, though.
ib: Does it bring you pressures when you’re being called “the next big thing” and things like that in media?
Sebastian: I don’t think we care much about that. Of course we are happy that people like what we are doing. But we are still a small band.
Mathias: And in terms of creating new music we don’t care about it, because we always have big plans for the next record we are going to write. And it would be hard if we had those words in mind.
Sebastian: We just do music and whatever we like, and we are being very careful in keeping it that way. We work with people who let us do what we want.
Erik: And hopefully we’ll be the big thing one day. (Everyone laughs.)
Sebastian: Yeah, we’d like to be rich. And I’d like to own an island at some point. I’d live there all by myself.
Erik: I’d like to own an apartment. (Everyone laughs.)
Sebastian: Yeah, that’s a good first step.
ib: You’ve had a busy year touring and releasing the album among other things. What do you think have been the highlights this year?
Sebastian: The last show in New York was really nice. And we just did a show in Paris, which was really nice.
Erik: And the whole South by Southwest was really good experience.
Sebastian: We’ve been travelling a lot, or at least a lot more than we used to. It’s always fun to play. We had a great time here in Berlin a little while ago when we did the Berlin Music Week, though that was a year ago.
ib: And when you look back. What are the best memories from you career?
Sebastian: I really enjoy writing songs and making albums.
Mathias: The creative part of doing The Veil, I’m going to remember that. We didn’t do anything else that period, we just wrote music ten hours a day. I really enjoyed doing that. Just focusing in doing music.
ib: What are your plans for the near future?
Sebastian: The next thing we’re going to do is take a break from touring and start working on our next album. And we are going to make a tour later in 2015.
ib: You seem to be really productive. I mean you just released ‘The Veil’.
Sebastian: This album is actually old for us, we recorded it like a year and half ago, almost.
Erik: I think it was 2013 February–March.
ib: How long does it take for you to make a record?
Sebastian: A couple of days (laughs). No, but a few months. I don’t really understand why other artists take so long breaks in between records. But it’s probably because they tour more than we do. Or they have more money and can do other stuff.
ib: Do you already have something for the next album?
Mathias: We have a lot of ideas. I think that’s why we are so productive.
ib: Could you tell a little bit about those ideas?
Erik: It’s going to be poppier.
Sebastian: We’re going to try and build what we’ve done live, we are trying to create the feeling we have in our live shows. We want to make songs that build on that energy, because we’ve added more members to the band and we’ve got a whole new dynamics while playing live, that we want to have on the next album.
Maybe a little shorter than the 18-tracks album that we just released, but in terms of style we’ll just see what we’ll end up whit. We always have a very specific idea about how we want to arrange and how we want the next album to sound like, but we never follow it. So we’ll see, it could be anything.
ib: Is there anything else you want to say? Anything I didn’t realise to ask but you are dying to tell our readers?
Sebastian: Don’t text while riding your bike, that’s pretty dangerous, especially in winter. ( Everyone laughs.)
ib: Especially in Berlin.
Sebastian: Yeah, it’s like Copenhagen in steroids.
Mathias: And wear a helmet.
Sebastian: Yeah. A helmet can be a good thing when you’re just walking. I mean it’s such a cheap insurance.
Interview by Kiira Koskela