The Gravitonas Interview!

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Yesterday evening we met up with Gravitonas. It was an exciting day for them, and for music in general, as it was the day that they released their long awaited, and very eagerly anticipated debut single ‘Kites’. The formation of Gravitonas, the pairing of Alexander Bard and Andreas Öhrn, was announced last year. And since then, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the band’s refusal to release any teasers of what their music sounds like, excitement has been building and building as to what they were going to come out with. So yesterday was the day that the first single was released, the day that the video for it was unveiled on Sweden’s biggest news website, Aftonbladet, and the day that people could finally begin talking about the music of Gravitonas. The feedback so far has been wonderful. It’s been recieving rave reviews by both online music fans and the general media. Within hours of going on Spotify and iTunes, it was in the top 10 most played songs, and top 40 most purchased songs, respectively.

There’s a lot that we wanted to ask Gravitonas. And thanfully, there’s a lot that they wanted to say. And here it is!

scandipop: So here we are, on the day that your debut single is released. When you woke up this morning, and remembered what day it was, did a huge smile come to your face?!

Alexander: I had a lot of text messages on my cell phone.

Andreas: And I had a big big smile because I read a comment from a fan in Australia who’d written a super duper nice review of the single.

scandipop: Ah, so it was a nice thing to wake up to then.

Andreas: Absolutely, yes.

Alexander: It’s kind of weird that they are on the other side of the planet, and yet they get to hear the music the same day as everybody else.

Andreas: Yeah, he’d got it, and listened to it before I’d even woke up, so that’s pretty cool.

scandipop: Yes, the release date – you’ve done it in quite special way haven’t you? Rather than put a video out of a single that’s going to be released in a few weeks, you’ve unveiled the video and indeed the song itself, on the single’s day of release. There were no clips on your website before today either. And when fans have asked you when they’ll be able to hear the song, you’ve told that that they can hear it when it’s released. Obviously there’s a logic behind that, and in some ways it makes a lot of sense, but can you give us YOUR reasons for doing it that way?

Alexander:  Usually record labels will hold back the release date in order to get all the sales in one week, to get a good chart position – which is so cynical. And I think that music fans have discovered this and are so tired of it. When they wanna have the music, they wanna have it, they wanna be able to access it.  And it’s also a way of getting rid of the whole filesharing problem. Filesharing didn’t become a problem because people like to steal music, it became a problem because record companies started to disrespect music. And finally they’re coming to their senses and they’re realising that the way to go is to make music more democratic. And that means treating fans the same way you would treat media people. And treating fans the same no matter where they are in the world. It shouldn’t matter where you live if you’re a fan. Everybody hears it on the same day. So we’re not going to be charting in the UK singles chart this weekend. But we’re forcing Universal UK to work around what we’ve done, and come up with something different than their usual release plans. If they want our record in the charts, they have to work around it. You can not hold back the release date back and be cynical. You have to find a way of promoting the record even if it’s out there and available. Because we don’t care if we’re number 96, we don’t need to be number 1. Because if we’re number 96 for 81 weeks in a row, it’s better for us than being number 1 for 1 week.

scandipop: So what actually happens now internationally? The single’s out everywhere, but you’re here in Sweden promoting. What happens if the UK, or Australia, or Russia want you to start promoting?

Alexander: Well they’ve actually already started calling! And they want meetings! They’re all like; ”oh, so your record is out now, and if you want to sell it then we need to be on it right now”. So now it’s no longer; ”well we’re gonna listen to the record and decide three months from now if we’re gonna release it or not. Then we’re gonna spend another three months deciding when we’re gonna release it. Then we’re gonna spend another three months deciding what kind of priority we’re gonna give it”. Now it’s more like ”can we meet next Tuesday and talk about doing something with this right away?”. So we and the fans are together now putting pressure on the record companies. We’re showcasing our music directly to the fans and only really using the record companies as platforms. So we say to them that THEY can technically release the single – put it on iTunes, Spotify, pick up a share of the royalties. But at least give us back a share of the royalties so that we can put that into something which goes back to the fans, the people who broke the record in the first place. That’s the attitude we have.

scandipop: So essentially the ball is back in your court. The music is back with the musician.

Alexander: Yeah. We’re taking a big risk here, but it’s worth it.

scandipop: So when an international label does actually call you up and asks if you can come to meet them next Tuesday…..well, can you? If they all call and ask that, can you manage to spread yourselves that wide?

Alexander: Yes. That’s why he haven’t booked any gigs. We’re not performing anywhere this summer. We’ve basically set aside the summer to finish the album anyway. So we’ll be locked up in our studios in Stockholm. But that also means that we can hop on a flight and go somewhere if something comes up.

scandipop: Ok. Well it’s out today, but how many months of ideas, writing sessions, and studio time has been leading up to this day – the day that people can finally get to hear what Gravitonas sounds like?

Andreas: For almost a year now. Since last summer.

Alexander: Yeah, almost a year. I’d been writing songs with Henrik Wikstrom. And the shocking thing was that when I met Andreas, he’d written several songs that were also perfect for Gravitonas. And the funny thing is that when you hear the album, you’re not going to be able to tell who’s song is whose, who’s melody is whose. Melodically I think that Andreas and I are very well connected. I think that’s why we work so well together. Melodically we’re very in tune. And one thing we did when we started working together, pretty soon, after a couple of weeks, was we threw away all the songs that we’d done on our own so far, whether he’d wrote them or I’d wrote them, and we rewrote them together.

scandipop: That’s what you want in a band isn’t it really, for both members to be so in tune with each other.

Andreas: Yeah, it’s great.

Alexander: We’d prepared a lot on our own before, but we immediately merged it, and out of that the album is going to be very diverse. Early February was actually the first time we let the record company listen to any of the music. They’d given us free reign! We gave them a mood board and said that we’re going to do it our way. And they were fine with that, they said that they trust us and told us to go and do it our way. And so they heard some songs for the first time in February. ‘Kites’ was actually one of the more adventurous ones they heard, so it’s great that they picked up on that one, that kind of surprised me. I think they took a gamble with that one. But we took risks, so they were willing to take risks too.

scandipop: Ok. So I mentioned in the last question, that now people can finally hear what Gravitonas sounds like. But can you tell us what YOU think Gravitonas sounds like?!

Andreas: It sounds very dramatic. It sounds expensive, like a lot of effort went into making it. It sounds big. And a bit dangerous!

scandipop: Oh, I like the sound of dangerous!

Alexander: A lot of indie and rock music right now is minimalistic, but minimalistic is not our thing. We like big sounds. And we like good musicianship – people that play their instruments well.

Andreas: We call ourselves studio hookers, because we like to just hang in the studio all day, getting excited when something great comes along!

scandipop: Studio hookers?! And would you say that you’re the £2,000 stay overnight hookers, or the £20 handjob-in-the-back-of-an-alleyway hookers?!

Alexander: The expensive kind! Escort guys.

scandipop: Good! Ok, so ‘Kites’ is the marrying together of dance music and rock music. Is every track on the album going to have that mix? Or will be some that are much more rock and some that are much more dance?

Alexander: I think that debut albums always deserve to be very varied. Because a debut album is always very experimental in the sense that it’s the first album you’re making. You should try a few different styles, to see how the voice, how Andreas’ voice, connects to the songs. So we have a purpose of trying to make a very varied album. It’s not finished yet, there’s still two months to go, but we’ve started mixing a lot of songs already. There’s gonna be punk tracks on there, there’s gonna be moody tracks on there, there’s gonna be ballads. And all very theatrical. There’s rock in there, there’s pop in there, there’s dance in there. Because we are inspired by different types of music, we are very open minded. We like great songs.

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Andreas: It almost feels like the album contains four EP’s. The songs connect with each other, but there’s one group here, and one group there, and one group there.. So yeah, it feels like a good mix.

Alexander: It’s like my Spotify playlists! I’ll have one track by Muse, one track by Mary J Blige, and one track by somebody else. And I’m wondering why one artist can’t deliver all of those tracks! It’s boring to stay in one genre. So we’ve taken a lot of risks.  And that’s why it was quite nice and quite gratifying that both Universal UK and Universal Germany loved ‘Kites’ and wanted it as the first single. Because it does jump from one genre to the other. It’s not a straight forward pop track or a straight forward rock track. It’s a track that combines different elements.

scandipop: So far though, ultimately Gravitonas has been perceived to be an act that fuses rock music and dance music. Would you agree with that, or reject that?

Alexander: No no, I think that’s right. But it’s got more than that to it as well.

scandipop: But of all those genres you mentioned, you’d say those two were the most dominant?

Alexander: Yes. There are guitars in every track. Which is a change for me! You don’t associate Alexander Bard with guitars. Or with not wearing shorts! So it’s a big change for me.

scandipop: Aww, but summertime is coming, the time when you wanna be wearing shorts!

Alexander: Yes but shorts are in fashion this year, so I won’t be wearing them!

Andreas: But yes, our sound is a big mix.

Alexander: Andreas can sing in a lot of different ways. The one thing we had in common besides musical tastes was theatre. That’s what I liked about his old punk outfit. And I was pleasantly surprised that we could hit it off musically as well. What I’d liked about Swedish Amateurs was that they were so theatrical, all the videos they made were very theatrical. They put on tonnes of make up, weird clothes – I fell in love with it straight away. I like that. And I knew that would be beneficial for Gravitonas. Even if it looks a bit straight now, it’s eventually going to explode into something big, rock theatre!

Andreas: Actually, the first video we did in Swedish Amateurs, when the record company saw it, they were like – oh that’s great, it looks like Army of Lovers!

Alexander: And Gravitonas won’t be afraid of wearing make up either!

scandipop: Excellent. Well I have some questions on the visual side of things coming up later, including one thing in particular I want to speak about!

Alexander: Ballgag?!

scandipop: Yes.

(roaring laughter from both)

Alexander: Yes, that’s what everyone wants to talk about! ha ha!

scandipop: But before then, you know, we can talk about which genres of music your songs will be, but at the heart of ‘Kites’ is the most important thing of all in a pop song – and that’s a really great melody. Have you kept that principle for all of the songs on your album? Is the melody an important key throughout?

Alexander: Oh yes. I love great songwriting. And I love Andreas’ songwriting. Actually, he had his first number one in Japan recently, a song he wrote for an act over there. We were in the studio and he was like, ”oh by the way, I’m number one in Japan this week”. And I was like ”WHAT?!”. I knew he had songs out over there, but I didn’t realise. I’ve told him that any song he can’t sing himself, he’s free to send it out. But em….yes, songwriting is a really really difficult art form. It’s easy to write a good song, it’s damn hard to write a brilliant song. And only brilliant songs are really big hits. Because only brilliant songs can touch hearts. And we respect that. We were determined to be the best damn songwriters around. That’s our number one priority. Gravitonas is about the songs. I don’t wanna put a bad song on my record.

scandipop: So Andreas, your background is more punk, rock, and indie. Whilst you were making that music though, did you ever harbour dreams to make a dance record? The type of music that your doing now?

Andreas: Well the outfit I had, Swedish Amateurs, we worked on a lot of music for other people. And it wasn’t just rock and punk, it was a lot of different sounds. But yes, I’ve always liked dance music and enjoyed making it. And now I’m just really happy to be making it and also performing it. Having the chance to sing it.

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scandipop: And Alexander, you’ve spent the last 30 years working within pop, electro, and dance music. Had you always wanted to try working with a rockier sound? Working with guitars?

Alexander: Yes. You know, I believe that anything you end up doing in your life is something that you wanted to do when you were seven years old. So life is all about ticking the boxes that you made when you were seven years old. You sat around with your idol posters on the wall, you bought your first record….Actually, your Mom bought your first record, and then you had to go and buy your own first record yourself! She wanted me to listen to Simon & Garfunkel because she liked it. And I hated that because she liked it. So I went and bought T Rex! Now obviously I’ve worked in a lot of bands and produced a lot of artists. And every time I go through a new musical phase and work with a new artist, it’s like – oh, that’s a door I haven’t opened yet, I’ve never been there! But then I still get asked questions like, if I want to do another disco album like I did with Alcazar – and the answer is no, I’ve done that. It doesn’t mean I don’t like those records, it’s just that I’ve done that. The same thing applies with Army of Lovers, the same thing applies with BWO.The whole challenge with Gravitonas is that I’m doing something that I’ve always loved, but have never had the chance to do before.

scandipop: Ok. And then it’s not just the rock elements that you’re getting to explore, it’s also all of the other genres that you mentioned were on the record earlier; r&b, punk, ballads etc….

Alexander. Oh yes, all of those, and there’s even some Andrew Lloyd Webber on there to be honest! And I’ve never done Andrew Lloyd Webber before of course. But I do it even better than him! Although maybe it’s more Jim Steinman than Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Andreas: I’m so pleased that this project is really theatrical. It goes back to what Alexander said about living the dreams you had as a child. When I was six, the first record my Mum bought me was of a metal, glam rock group. They wore lots of make up and the cover of the record had them shooting heroine.

scandipop: And your MUM bought you that?!

Alexander: Ha ha, I love his Mum.

Andreas: And I used to spend hours watching their videos. And so maybe I’ve brought some of that to Gravitonas.

scandipop: Ok. So… I must ask the most basic question of all – how did you guys actually meet?!

Alexander: It was actually the record label that told us to meet. The same genius behind Anna Bergendahl’s success. Henrik Wikstrom and I met with a lot of musicians first, but none of them blew us away. And we really wanted to be blown away. So the label asked if I knew who Andreas was, and of course I knew who he was, he moves me, his voice moves me. They said I should give him a try because he’s an obvious international superstar, and I said yeah, let’s give him a try. So we met the next morning at 9am. By 9.45, Andreas was walking with us to the studio, and by midday we had some recording done!

Andreas: I got the call one afternoon from the label, telling me about the project, what Alexander was doing, and that he wanted to meet me. And before I’d even had the chance to answer, Alexander had grabbed the phone off them and said ”hi, it’s Alexander. So shall we expect you tomorrow at 9am?”, and I was like, yeah, sure! And we met and got on so well. And then in the studio too when I was singing.

Alexander: It was actually even before you sang. I heard you hum and I knew you were the guy. I knew you could deliver.

scandipop. Andreas, you obviously knew who Alexander Bard was before forming the band. He’s famous all over the world and especially in Sweden. But in Sweden, as well as being famous for his music, he’s also well known for his opinions, and how vocal he is about them. As a result, a lot of Swedes in turn have an opinion on him! What was your opinion of him before meeting him?

Andreas: My only opinion of him was that I thought he was a great artist. I had no idea if I’d be the right person for the project, but I thought it would be great to meet and write some songs with him. And then when I heard the songs we started to come up with, I was like, woah!

Alexander: The great thing for us is that Andreas is from Swedish Amateurs and I come from BWO. And we haven’t left those groups. I can always do another BWO record and Andreas can do another Swedish Amateurs record. Yeah we’ve split, but we’ve split for now. People ask if there’ll be another BWO record and no there probably won’t be another BWO record this year, and there probably won’t be one next year either. But it doesn’t mean that I can’t do another BWO record and it doesn’t mean that Andreas can’t do another punk record with Swedish Amateurs. If he wakes up one morning and decides that he wants to do it, he can do it. So that’s the great thing. We both came from two different genres where we’d both been very successful, and so we understood each other.

scandipop: And Andreas, given that Gravitonas is a new project involving Alexander Bard, there’s straight away been a lot of attention focused on the group, before you’ve even released any music. There are a lot of eyes on you from both the Swedish media and also from Alexander’s huge fanbase, who’ve got their high expectations. Has it made you feel under any pressure at all?

Andreas: No, no pressure at all. Just excitement. Alexander’s great you know, in photoshoots and in interviews he’s always pushing me to the front. People ask if I’m nervous about all of this, but no, I’m not nervous at all. I just feel very excited.

Alexander: When you walk into the studio and someone tells you, ” we’ve got the studio for the next six months, now WRITE”, the first thing you think about is the fans. What can I write that will touch the fans? What can I take from me, that I would be touched by, and give to them? That’s what songwriting is about. And after 25 years, the first thing I knew, talking to Andreas, was that he had that too.

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scandipop: It’s actually quite touching to hear you say that. That the first thing you think about when in the studio is the fans. With other musicians it might be money, or hits, or radio that they think of first.

Alexander: And that never works. The great thing about living here in Stockholm with this great songwriting scene, is that we all know each other and we all learn from each other. I’ve known Max Martin for 20 years now and I know that he has his heart in every hit song that he writes. He knows that it wouldn’t be a hit unless it came from the heart. It’s weird, but you can’t write a hit song from cynical reasons, it just doesn’t work. It just sounds formulaic.

scandipop: Ok. So moving on to the video now. It’s quite a visually stunning piece! Was that the vision of the director or was it a vision that you’ve both been consciously tailoring for yourselves for some time now?

Alexander: It’s both really. It’s Andreas, it’s me, it’s the director, it’s the stylist, it’s the set designer. It’s a brand new director, this is his first music video. We wanted to work with a young, fresh director, because he has fresh eyes. And we liked the script that he gave us. The video is based on the film, The Beach. Because the song is based on the same theme that is used in that film – failed dreams. It’s about allowing yourself to dream, then failing, but then allowing yourself to dream again.

scandipop: And what is that contraption in your mouth Alexander?!

Alexander: That was the director’s idea!

Andreas: And I thought it was great!

scandipop: It looks so sinister in those scenes where you’re just turning around looking at the camera!

Alexander: It’s evil. It’s funny because the director and the stylist were arguing over whether it should be used. And then I suggested that it should be used because, in Sweden at least, the headlines will be ”somebody finally got Alexander to keep quiet”. And that’s what happened!

Andreas: His first reaction though, when the director brought it out, was to ask what it was……

scandipop: Yeah, as if you haven’t seen one of those before Alexander!

Andreas: …..and he was like, ”a ball gag? Yeah sure, I’ll do it”!

scandipop: And keeping with visuals, have you started looking ahead to your first live shows yet?

Alexander: Not yet, no. We’d like to wait a while longer because we’d like our fans to really know the songs before they come and see us live. And also being honest about it, it’s about the resources too. It’s different to how it was ten years ago since the filesharing problem, budgets have dried up. And we wanna spend a lot of money on something that the fans will value. But for now it seems a better idea to spend the money on the studio sessions and the video making.

Andreas: But we’re looking forward so much to being on stage, we can’t wait.

scandipop: I can’t wait either. Thank you both very much for your time gentlemen!

Well, they’re certainly one of the most exciting things to happen to music in a while now aren’t they? Globally at that.

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