Q+A: 5 minutes with Black Light White Light
Black Light White Light is a band of the moments, a band who follows their collective intuitions instead of formulas or predetermined plans. Where other bands attempt, albeit unsuccessfully, to squeeze their music into a mould one size too small, Black Light White Light does the exact opposite.
Stream / Download: Black Light White Light – The Admirer
The band creates in the here and now, channelling the songs as they come to them, freeing themselves from hyper orderliness. And the result is a sound devoid of stuffiness. This has been made clear in their latest album, The Admirer, which contains one song in particular worth addressing. ‘Epilepsy’, which was named ‘Single of the Week’ by Nordic Music Review, exhibits the boundlessness of the free-flow process, which the band employed for the 10-track album.
Enough chatter. Let’s hear from the band:
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
For me, music is a mirror of the soul. It is a channel for my feelings, wishes, and dreams. And then it is through music that you can get an outlet for a desire to create togetherness and friendship and the unique feeling of creating something in the moment together with others. When the process of creating really works, it is completely unique.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
The idea almost always comes first. It is the idea that typically feeds the sound. However, it sometimes happens that a certain sound on the guitar or synth, which happens in the moment, can give birth to the idea for a song or a piece of music. The most important thing for me in the creation of the music is not to be locked into creating it in certain ways. An open mind typically breeds better output.
What’s on your current playlist?
The new record has collaborations with two artists. On the song, B.L.W.L. sings French chanteuse Claire Tillier duet with me in French. It sets the mood and gives the song a very distinctive sound, which I love. The album’s last song, Beautiful Boy, features Grammy-winning string composer Davide Rossi (Coldplay, The Verve, Goldfrapp). I am incredibly grateful that he wanted to collaborate on this track. It lifts the song and gives it the grandiose and almost epic cinematic feel that I was looking for.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
It’s great to feel when the listeners really take our music in at a concert. It lifts the band and our performance live when we feel the audience is with us. That’s probably how it is for most artists. And it’s always great when people come and talk to us after the concerts, expressing what they think of the concert and the band and our sound. It means a lot to get feedback and contact both during and after a concert. Probably much more than the listeners actually think.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
On the last two albums, we have gone very freely in the creation of the music. I have had some basic ideas, and we have created the songs out of them in the moment. It becomes very impulsive and alive that way. My experience has been that it shouldn’t all be so planned because it makes it all too locked. And then we give ourselves time to play with effects such as space echo and delay, weird old instruments, vocoder, and double track. Really no limits. Recording music should be fun.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
We usually meet at 9 or 10 in the morning, when the children have been dropped off, etc. My head is also clearest during the day, so it is clearly best for me to work during normal office hours. Approximately 8 hours of recording, interrupted by a lunch break and some coffee breaks along the way – It does not work to work anymore because one’s ear loses sense of what is good and what is not good. Then we make a plan for which ideas and song sketches we want to work with. We typically start by recording drums together with an acoustic guitar or electric guitar. Then we put on top layer after layer. Certain songs are also recorded live with all musicians in one room at the same time. This applies, for example, to ‘The Day Has Come’. It really is like a long flow of creation. With free opportunities to jump from song to song and idea to idea.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
I have never been fully clear about what I want with my life. My experience is, on the contrary, that if you try to plan everything too carefully, you just end up being disappointed. There are of course important impacts in one’s life that have set the direction. This applies when I started playing soccer as a 5-year-old and spent the next 12-13 years training hard and dreaming of becoming a pro. Or when I started guitar lessons at the age of 10 and quickly found out what it means to play for myself and perform for others. I met my Swedish wife and moved to Sweden, which has meant that I have Swedish musicians and friends in my band. Things just happen, but you often think there is a reason without it being apparent.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Nothing really special. Apart from my guitar picks in my pocket and placed around the stage, in case I were to drop one, and a set list indicating different keys for each song since they are quite different.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
It feels like we are inundated with new music all the time. Unfortunately, it has become more and more rare that I really come across something completely new that speaks to me. However, I think that in Sweden there is an undergrowth of smaller and more exciting artists like I.B. Sundström, Den Franska Villan, DULL, Råå, and Badlands, with whom we will tour in the autumn. I’m also quite fond of Halo Maud from France and Nik Brinkman from New Zealand who creates a very cinematic and sensitive atmosphere in his music.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Most often it is time and loneliness. It’s not often that I have both in my life. Stepping into a studio usually opens up the channel to the inner creative force.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
Most of all, it’s about my guitars and effects pedals. Most songs start on my Gibson J-45 or my Gretsch Tennessee Rose with several different delay pedals, Holy Grail reverb, Ibanez Tube Screamer and my own Gold Digger fuzz pedal as the most central and used pedals.
Any side projects you’re working on?
While the musicians in my band are all involved in various side projects, all my time is concentrated on Black Light White Light. This is where I give vent to my music-loving ideas and creative urge.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
In that case, I think it’s mostly about having a clearer idea of what I can and must do when we go into the studio to record new music. At first, stepping into a studio was almost awe-inspiring. Today, it is like a playground that you usually don’t want to leave again.
Break down the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
First of all, we have some concerts in Scandinavia lined up for the autumn. Maybe we’ll record a few new songs too. The future is quite open right now.
Famous last words?
That’s a hard one. But I kind of like Isabel Allende’s, “Dying is like being born: just a change.”
Watch the official video for ‘Epilepsy’ now:
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