In about three weeks, the world will know “Confessions”, the sixth studio album by swedish group Sonic Syndicate. We had a nice little chat with guitarist Robin Sjunnesson about it and some other music-related stuff.
TBP: Hi Robin! Thanks for taking a little time for this.
Hi! Thanks for having me! The Black Planet and Sonic rocking it out!
TBP: “Confessions” – is the title connected to the lyric theme of the album in general or is it related to the honesty of doing what you want to do?
I would say that it’s both. We all talked and decided that we wanted to be more open with everything, both when it comes to the music and what we want to say. We want to be honest about everything for once and really let people in and see the truth of what Sonic is. This album is really written from the heart, this is what we wanted to do for so many years but always felt like we had some sort of responsibility to live up to. Not that we’ve been repetitive, more likely the opposite, but this time we really felt “Fuck it – what do we wanna do now with the music?” and started to write. This album was definitely the most enjoyable album to write.
TBP: I’ve known Sonic Syndicate long enough and well enough to know the answer, but what would you tell someone who’d ask you if, this different direction is you “being true to yourselves”, were you pretending before?
We didn’t pretend before, but we always tended to keep the same structure of songs, in a way. We used the same arrangement on all the songs and didn’t really try the stuff which would be considered “outside the box” for us. Sure, we thought we were doing something new every time, but this time we really feel that we did something completely different. I mean, all our albums differ from each other, we’ve made sure since day one that we didn’t want to release the same shit over and over again. There are bands that do that and stick to their roots and that’s fine, but we never wanted to do that. I see every new album as a new experiment. It should be fun to write music!
TBP: I think it was Nathan(Biggs, singer) who said that there was already a bunch of material but then you started writing for “Confessions” from scratch. What did you focus on for this new chapter? Where did you look for inspiration?
As soon as an album is done, we start writing the next one. Maybe we’re not aiming to make all the songs as “album-materialsongs”, but we just enjoy writing music. Whether it is for us or for others. Before we start to pick the songs for the album, we always have like 30-40 songs in the loop to choose from. We’re like machines! I guess the thing that Nathan meant was that we were pretty much done with a new album that we thought, at the time, was great. I guess, at that point, we were pretending in a way, because we all talked and pretty much said “Is this good enough? Is this REALLY what we wanna do?”. We definitely wrote our most unique and diverse album up to date just because we started over with it. The thing that kept us inspired and driven was just because it was a lot of fun writing this. The writing sessions for the album were sometimes planned a couple of days before, and sometimes we came up with a melody or a beat when we were out partying at a club, grabbed the first taxi and went to our own studio SonicHQ and recorded it.
TBP: That other material, what happened to it?
We deleted most of the stuff and just started from scratch, which now in retrospect I am really happy about. Some melodies or parts of lyrics were used again for the second writing session. Some stuff might see the light of day later in time. I mean, our first single “Start A War” contains stuff that I wrote three years ago.
TBP: I saw the setlist of the shows in Japan and that you played “Start A War” and “Confessions”. What was the feedback from the audience? And from yourselves? How did those two new songs sound to you, among the older ones?
Yeah, we tried those two songs live in both Japan and China. Since none of them were released, we didn’t expect anything to come out of it but it felt like people grabbed the hooks instantly. The audience sang along during the hockey choirs in “Start a War” after they heard it in the first chorus, and that felt awesome. It worked really great! Obviously those songs were a lot more fun to play compared to the older songs, seeing as they are new and fresh. Haha, I know, all bands always say “Our new album is definitely the best we’ve done”… but I do really think so this time!
TBP: Speaking of those setlists, I noticed you introduced back “Turn It Up” and discarded “Diabolical Work Of Art”, which a previous tour was named after. How do you choose the songs to play, especially when there are new ones?
“Turn It Up” is definitely a love or hate song. I mean, either you get it or you don’t. We wrote that for fun back in the “We Rule the Night” days and of course that song brings mixed feelings. Ever since the “We Rule the World; Tour”, people have been shouting for that tune between the songs we play and we figured we just wanted to bring it back and see what happens. We re-wrote some of the electronics to match our new stuff more and it was a success in Japan and China.
You always wanna make sure that the audience gets what they paid for. So of course big songs like “Burn This City”, “Beauty & The Freak” and such are songs we have to play live – but every tour cycle is also about promoting the new album so there has to be some newer songs. I think we always choose for ourselves first like “Which songs are fun to play live and which songs make the audience go crazy?”. We’re going out as main support for Amaranthe in Europe this Oct-Nov and we’re right now discussing the setlist. I think that there will be some fun stuff going on there. We’re gonna make sure people get a good mix of what Sonic is all about.
TBP: Back to the new album – what is your favorite song from “Confessions” and why?
Wow. Ask me in three months and I’ll tell you a different one most likely, haha! Hmm… it’s a tricky one. It’s almost too early to say. “Start a War” is definitely a top track for me and the others. “Confessions” is a lot of fun to play live. I really enjoyed recording “Halfway Down The Road”. We were drinking some whiskey and recorded the choir takes one night and had a lot of fun. Ryan Roxie (guitarist of Alice Cooper) also came by the studio and recorded a kickass guitar solo. “Falling” is definitely up there as well because it has all these cool electronic stuff. Shit, I lost the question, where am I? I say “Life Is Not A Map” is my favorite song, atleast for today, haha!
TBP: “Still Believe” features the alt-pop singer Madyx. Tell us a bit more about that collaboration and the song itself.
“Still Believe” is a song that me and Henrik Linder (bassist of Dirty Loops) started to write just to try out some stuff. Nathan joined in later on that same day and came up with these hooky melodies for the vocals. Pretty early on we realized that we needed some female vocals on the song. Somehow we found out about Madyx from L.A. and really liked her songs. Our management contacted hers, and the week after she was on a flight from L.A. to Stockholm! We all hung out for a bit, went to the arena and watched a soccer game. We realized pretty early that her vocals weren’t the only thing that was perfect, Madyx herself was awesome and we share a lot of the same interests. We’re really happy that she wanted to do this with us and it turned out great!
TBP: And how’s it been to finally work in the studio with Michel (Bärzén, bass)? He’s been with you for 2, 3 years but this is his first album with Sonic Syndicate…
Miche is great. I mean, me and Nathan have said it so many times but it really feels like we’ve known him for years. He’s just a fun guy to always have around. I knew that he played the bass great but as you said, upon till now, we hadn’t recorded an album together. Turned out that he’s great in the studio as well! Lucky for us, haha! It feels great to have a third guy with me and Nathan who really enjoys writing the same stuff as we do.
TBP: John (Bengtsson, drums) left in July and you’ve been touring with a guest/session drummer. So first, who recorded the drums on “Confessions”, and second, will you go on as a trio, with a hired gun for the tours, or will you eventually find a fourth permanent member for Sonic Syndicate?
At the moment, we don’t feel like we want a replacement. Everything works great the way it is now. Me, Nathan and Miche are striving for the same thing, we all wanna go the same way and ALL the way so there’s no need to involve more right now. It’s actually a good old friend of mine, Peter Wallenäs, who recorded the drums for CONFESSIONS and he’s also our session drummer live. Since I’ve known him for years, it obviously works great on tour as well. We all love him and are thankful that not only does he hit the drums hard, he also lives and dies for music.
It’s pretty funny when I think about it… Nathan’s first show with Sonic was at a small place in Helsingborg, Sweden. He was pretty nervous of course. Miche’s first show with us was in Germany, and of course he was nervous even though he won’t admit it. But Peter’s first show with us, that was in TOKYO and he lost it when we asked “Hey, Can you record our new album and do the upcoming tours with us? Your premier show will be in Godzilla town”. Haha, lucky bastard!
TBP: You’ve said that when Nuclear Blast dropped you, you stopped for a few moments to think if you’d still go on as a band. If the worst case scenario became real and you had indeed decided to call it quits, what do you imagine yourself doing in life and how long do you think you would endure without making music?
Personally, but I think the others feel the same, I wouldn’t be able to live without doing something in music. I’m really interested in studios and song writing so my guess is that I would start working with something like that. At the same time, I can’t live without knowing I’m going on stage or on tour soon, so it wouldn’t feel enough to just write the music – I would want to perform the songs as well!
When I was a kid, I dreamed about becoming a vet because I love animals, so maybe I would try that career. But I’m a high-school dropout because of all the touring we started with early on – so that’s pretty much out of the loop, haha! I’m a pretty simple person, I like hockey, Tequila and animals – but I love music in any form, so I have to stick with that, no matter what.
TBP: You wanted to start a band for the family concept that supports it, not just the music itself. Now that it’s been more than a decade, what is it that makes you keep wanting to have a band?
Not only do I get the chance to hang out with my two best friends all the time, but we all share the same goal and that is to be able to keep writing music and definitely touring. Touring is what’s really the most important for us, that is what we enjoy the most! But for once, we have fun as a band all together to do the stuff that used to be the “boring shit to-do’s” all the time as well. I wanna keep seeing the world, keep meeting new people and see all our fans from every corner. Since people seem to like the stuff we’re doing, we’ll keep on bringing it!
TBP: Thanks again, Robin! Hope to see you soon.
Thank you! And hey, by the way, I said early that “Life Is Not A Map” was my favorite song… I wanna change it to “It’s A Shame” now. Is that okay?
TBP: Ha ha, sure thing!
Interview by Renata Lino, promo pics by Mathias Blom
Special thanks to: Sonic Syndicate