SIENA ROOT: “people laughed at us when we came with our first vinyl record”

Siena Root’s new album, A dream of lasting peace, is set to be released 30th April. Some weeks before their European tour, the band played a show in Stockholm, and we had the chance to chat with the band on the making of the new album, the pros and cons of an ever-changing line-up and about the Swedish music scene, among many other things.

Your last album was from 2014 and we are now in 2017. What have you been doing all this time?

Love Forsberg, drums: Well…what have we not been doing?

Sam Riffer, bass: We have been touring…writing new music…getting Samuel into the band.

LF: We have been rehearsing and creating this new music together.

What can you tell us about the new album?

Erik Petersson, keyboard: I think…to me at least it’s our best album so far, both musically and sonically. We worked together on the songs, very focused, we tried to get something especial out of it. Also, we tried some new things with the sounds and the decisions on where to record them. As you maybe know we went out into the woods of Sweden and spent like a week there, in this old house which has a studio and just being…totally in a bubble. We got very creative over there.

LF: It’s gonna be different to the other albums, yet every Siena Root album is different (laughs)…this one is gonna be more song oriented, I think it has a lot of resembling to the first album, New day dawning.

How was your (Samuel) adaptation to the band so far?

Samuel Björö, singer: Well…Love contacted me by Facebook and he told me, “look, we’re looking for a new singer”, and I wasn’t playing at the moment, so I said yes, and we played at a festival in Sweden, and it felt really good when it comes to how we feel each other, the chemistry. For me it was very interesting to start doing music again because I hadn’t done it in almost four years, so for me it was like starting all over again, but just to get to know these guys and start making music again felt really good.

LF: And you were pretty new in Stockholm.

SB: Yeah, I had lived here for a year…I come from a smaller city in the north called Umeå…I started to study photography and art here, and all of the sudden I was playing in a band that I had been listening for almost ten years, so it felt like “oh, now I work with my teenage stars”. To be responsible for something like that felt like…woh. But it didn’t take very long to feel comfortable.

Would you guys say that this line-up will be more stable? You know, Siena Root has gone through so many changes…

SR: What do you mean? (laughs)

LF: I don’t get the question! (more laughs)

When you released Pioneers I read that that line-up would be The One, but here we are again…

LF: the thing is…we wanna time-travel, but nobody can! We wanna see the future and see what’s happening…we have a really good feeling now, and what we have done…it’s really coming together more than ever.

EP: we are talking a lot about it actually, like…we have a nice environment for everyone, and of course no-one knows what will happen down the road, if something completely changes in somebody’s life…but as of now everybody’s determined to…I mean, we are already talking about the next album, how we’ll do it, and everybody’s like “ok! let’s work on it already!”, even if this one (the new album to be released in April) isn’t yet released.

SR: Also, every time a member leaves lots of questions come up and there’s of course some doubt going on…but we’ve always tried to do something positive out of it, to say “ok, now we have the chance to do it better in all levels, musically, personally…”. I can understand for fans and stuff (I have as a child being also very conservative about bands that should not change line-ups and stuff like that), but I think that for us we try to keep it constructive and positive to make the best out of every change. It slows you down a little bit of course, takes some time to adapt to everything, but we have managed to make something good out of it.

“The music scene in Sweden is pretty saturated with a lot of good bands”

In a way, these changes are part of the bands concept as well, isn’t it?

LF: Yeah, it has become more or less planned. Some things are more planned, some others aren’t…it’s like life, it’s constantly changing, you just have to go with it, you can’t fight it all the time.

You have toured a lot around Europe -Germany, Spain…- but you don’t play so much in Sweden, even if you are from Stockholm. Why’s that? Are you more popular abroad?

SR: I think so. We are bigger in central Europe than in northern Europe. We have people working with the booking in another way in Europe…here it’s…sometime it happens and we make our show, but…Sweden is not very big, it’s not possible to play here all the time. You can play the major cities once a year…

EP: And also, the music scene in Sweden is pretty saturated with a lot of good bands. I think Sweden is the third biggest music exporter in the world, and we’re like a country of just ten million. So that’s also a reason why we or any band…that’s what everybody says, “if you have a rock band starting, you should go and try to play in Europe”, because it’s so many more people consuming…and Swedish bands have good reputation also.

LF: But also it has to do with the venues. You have these small venues, like this one (Undergången), that can’t pay the fees that allow touring a lot, and then you have the arenas, and there’s not so much in between. So no middle size band can really tour in Scandinavia. Not like in Germany or in France.

You mentioned the band saturation in Sweden. When Siena Root started weren’t so many, but now you can find lots of great bands that play similar music. Do you think there’s a revival of this music?

LF: Certainly, there is a difference…things have changed from when we released out first album…people laughed at us when we came with the vinyl record, like “hoho, yeah, funny stuff”, but now…(laughs) These days it’s mandatory, all albums are produced in vinyl, it has become a big hype about it. That you can tell. And also, live scene and rock music in particular has become bigger; more people, average people go to concerts now, it has become more of a lifestyle among every people…

SR: It’s also hard to tell specific changes when you are in it, because it’s like life itself, if I was to ask somebody “Ey, what’s the difference between 2017 and 2009?”, people would be “pfff, I don’t know”, ‘cause it changes slowly, and…Love said this thing about vinyl and yeah, that’s a very specific thing that we can remember, but I think we’ve always had the feeling that, for example, there’s lots of bands in Stockholm…

LF: True, but when we started with the band, I remember thinking “shit, nobody’s playing this seventies thing to the music”. Everybody was playing grunge and heavy metal, but nobody was playing the bluesy rock style.

SB: I can feel that when I started (I’m a little bit younger than the rest of them)…when I heard Siena Root for the first time it was on a vinyl album, and for me it all started with that, around 2010, 2011…and it was the time when Blues Pills started, and Graveyard as well…but actually the first time I heard this music on vinyl was Siena Root. For me it was like “ok, this is a music that I wanna do”, so I started with my previous band…it didn’t work out and then I came to Stockholm…

EP: I have the same story, and I think Matte (Gustavsson, guitar) too, because…I’ve been in the band like for five years now, first as a guest and then as permanent member, and Matte came like three-four years ago. We all had bands playing pretty much in the same (style)…apparently good enough for them to ask as to play with Siena Root. And I remember when I did my old band from Norrköping…we also listened a lot to Led Zeppelin and those kind of things, we did rock music with Hammond organ, and everybody was saying “nobody’s doing this!”. And that was around 2009. So I think that you (Samuel) are onto something when you say that it’s that period when the style started to get big, but there were some bands that were doing it before as well.

SR: I agree with what you are saying, but there has always been an subculture movement playing…It still happens today that some old guy comes to you and says “Ey, nobody’s playing like this anymore” (laughs). There’s a difference between the mainstream and the subculture as always.

LF: Our perception is very much coloured by Graveyard in 2010, when they signed with a major. And then everybody got their eyes open, like “Woh, somebody can do this music on a major label”, usually it’s just pop they’re interested in.

SB: I remember when Rival Sons came out, and listening to the riff in “Pressure and time”, and I’m like…”man, this is Zeppelin all over”. Just one short bit of Zeppelin, but it’s Zeppelin, right off. I would play the song in the studio and I would ask, “ey, do you recognise this riff?”, and it’s like “yeah, it’s Zeppelin” (laughs). So yeah, this new wave of rock music started and…I don’t know if it’s gonna last forever…I hope so, because I think it’s great.

LF: I think it’s developing into new stuff, not only the retro stuff.

SB: It started off like a lot of stoner bands…

SR: Yeah, that’s interesting, because the stoner stuff has been existing for a long time, early 90s…and it was…not the same thing, but still people with bell-bottoms…

SB: Well, you know? Kyuss will never die. It’s been a big influence for bands that play stoner rock…It’s hard to compare because we are almost at the same stage, bands like Siena Root and stoner bands…we play at same festivals!

SR: Yeah, we play all from hippy festivals to stoner festivals, and all the stuff in-between.

EP: And the stoner people really like what we do, but compared to what other bands play, our music is a lot softer! It’s not repetitive riffs, and volume and lots of fuzz. I think you Matte don’t even use fuzz…(laughs)

Is there any country where you are especially successful in terms of sales?

LF: German, Switzerland, Austria…because we have always toured there a lot, we have a lot of good bookers there, and never good bookers in France, for example. Germany is close and there are a lot of people, ten times as much as in Sweden.

SR: And a lot of big cities. You have other countries that are also big like France or Spain, but they’re further away, kind of hard to get into…so that’s why a lot of bands start in Germany.

“A big part of the Swedish audience is more interested in bands from the US or UK”

I once talked with the guys from Mustasch and they said that they rarely play in Spain because the economic situation is so acute that, in order to cover all the expenses of touring (trips, staff), the tickets would get too expensive. Do you face the same problems?

LF: It’s like that, yeah. In some places people just don’t give a damn. We have played in Greece, and we have had a massive turn-up there, they have a big crisis going on…but sometimes people just say “fuck it, I want to do what I like”, I don’t know, eat less or whatever. But yeah, sure, it matters.

Sometimes, I read people complaining that there seems to be money only for big bands or festivals. Does it happen the same way in Sweden?

EP: I think that a big part of the Swedish audience is more interested in bands from the US, UK or maybe Australia. Of course, even if we are a big exporting country, the import is all from those anglophone countries. But we also have a big subculture in Sweden. The difference is that we have this concerts mostly during the summer, this festivals, like volunteer festivals, and we can see these small festivals popping up everywhere and we get called…sometimes we can get there, sometimes we cannot. I think in Sweden it’s different and it has to do with the climate.

Is it possible to live from your music?

SR: For us it’s not…we all have part-time jobs. We are not nine-to-fivers, but we all have fill-outs. Some in other parts of the music business, some others in other stuff.

You have launched this initiative to design the tour by popular demand. How is that going?

SR: It was an initiative created in the spirit of…instead of having a booker who says “yeah, I’m gonna nail a show in…I don’t know, in Burgos!” (laughs). Instead of doing that, I’m gonna see if we have many votes in that city, let’s bring them”…’cause then we can arrange a suitable venue, tickets…to match everything. It’s another way of booking.

LF: It’s like asking people, “where should we come and play?”, and many people say “We want you in Paris”. So we say ok, let’s go to Paris.

And you drive your bus all the way?

SR: Of course!

EP: Always! (laughs) Except in winter, because we have to carry a lot of wood in the winter…you can only warm it up with firewood.

So, any chance of seeing you guys playing in Spain in the near future?

EP: Yeah, we hope so…nothing confirmed yet, but we are working on that!

Julen Figueras
Apasionado de la música, de la política, y todo lo que las atraviesa. Aunque el rock pueda con todo, disfruto tanto con el soul como con el blues, con el metal como con el pop. Abogado del diablo. Defensor de pleitos pobres. Todavía empeñado en encontrar esperanza en el rock y en la palabra como armas para la subversión.
Si no quema, no es arte.

También escribe sobre música y feminismo para Pikara Magazine.
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