A record like Sky City by Swedish band Amason doesn’t come about by a bunch of people just trying to figure things out. It’s by a team of seasoned musicians clicking together in new and exciting ways and it’s evident from the jump of opening track, “Älgen,” which jumps forward with nimble propulsion, tight acoustic strums, and delicate tapestry of dreamy pianos, puncy bass, floating keyboards, and a chopping cello part that sounds straight off of an Echo & the Bunnymen record. The projects that this quintet stem from are some of Sweden’s finest. Miike Snow, Idiot Wind, Dungen, and production duo Bloodshy & Avant, are the starting points for Amason’s members, which include Gustav Ejstes, Pontus and Petter Winnburg, Nils Törnqvist, and Amanda Bergman, the latter of which spoke to me for this one on one.
Bergman has a fantastic voice that is ssweet and comforting, while forcefully carrying her tracks. She frequently duets with Petter Winnburg, the two often sounding like Leslie Feist and Kevin Drew in a Swedish Broken Social Scene. So much of Swedish indie pop relies on frequent collaboration, and then process of songwriting in Amason goes the same way. On this interview, Bergman and I talk about the building of songs on their excellent debut, as well as getting into the songs that she loves that carry out the day (spoiler: She really likes Here We Go Magic!). Check out Sky City now, which is available on Ingrid Records.
Northern Transmissions: Your record bounces back and forth from lyrics that are English and Swedish. What’s the criteria for the language choice when composing songs?
Amanda Bergman: I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. I mean, the way the record was, we kind of wrote the song and recorded [it] at the same time. So it was done very fast. So I think when it comes to the lyrics, we always make the music first and then later we add the melody and the lyrics and I think whatever came up first had to be what made up the song. I don’t really care too much about what language songs are in. I think we just do the same thing.
NT: Are you someone who is more about music or lyrics when you listen to other people’s music?
AB: I think [of both] at the same time actually. I think that’s the song. The song is the music and the lyrics combined and that’s what I listen to.
NT: Does the band always build the songs from the ground up together?
AB: Yeah, exactly. I mean I couldn’t say we always do that. I think the “Moon is a Kite,” was done before we played it with everyone.
NT: Can you tell me about “Went to War”? That’s my personal favorite and I really like how everyone comes together on that one.
AB: I think it was just. I remember it was me and Petter [Winnberg] who started writing it, forming the melody and the lyrics, and then I guess everybody else came in [laughs] I don’t really remember. I just remember that we stood by the piano and started out [that way]. [Horns were] added later. The Winnberg brothers, they really like their horns. They just to squeeze them in whenever they can.
NT: Being from Sweden, would you say there are a lot of great artists there that North Americans don’t know about?
AB: I don’t know actually. I can’t really say I can make a fair judgment on that because I’m kind of the goldfish [laughs]. And it’s hard to see from the outside. I wish I could give you a theory about it. One thing is – it’s such a small country – and especially here in Stockholm, everybody here who makes music — we kind of know each other and it’s a natural thing to help each other out. I mean not that that’s always a good thing – it sounds like a dream world. I wouldn’t say it is, but it certainly has a lot of positive things. And I think that people tend to help out [that are] within your reach, and to work with people that support each other.
NT: Right, I mean you sang on Lykke Li’s last record, I Never Learn.
AB: That’s right, yeah! I sang some choir stuff.
NT: Did you sing on “Never Gonna Love Again”?
AB: Yes, that one and a few others. I kind of just sang the same things as her. But yeah, I’m in the background.
NT: Who are your favorite new artists from Sweden?
NT: What other music have you been listening to a lot lately?
AB: I really like the Here We Go Magic! record, A Different Ship. I really like that one, and today I’ve been listening a lot to Gerry Rafferty [laughs]. And Tina Turner.
NT: What do you like to listen to in the morning?
AB: I have this Spotify playlist where I have all the songs that I like and I do shuffle, that’s what I listen to in the morning. Specifically I like Bob Dylan, and after that, I have two songs from that Here We Go Magic! record, like “Over the Ocean.”
NT: What do you listen to before you go out for the night.
AB: Ooo, probably some music that makes me laugh. [Laughs] You know, Gerry Rafferty again. I listen to a lot of that ‘70s and ‘80s music, that is kind of a guilty pleasure, but where you really like it. It’s natural.
NT: How about when you’re stressed out?
AB: Yeah that would be, again! Here We Go Magic! That song, “Alone But Moving.” That one on repeat, I’ll listen like 20 times. It’s kind of meditative. It goes around, and makes you calm down.
NT: Who’s the first artist you really clicked with as a kid?
AB: I think I listened to whatever my parents listened to. I didn’t really have my own interest until quite late. Maybe it was because they fed me, so I didn’t feel like I had to do anything myself. Bob Dylan was kind of first for me, and what started me on my own initiative.
NT: And how about when you started discovering things on your own?
AB: Radiohead. I listened to that a lot when I was a teenager. That was kind of my favorite band back then. Kid A and Amnesiac.
NT: You’re going to be at SXSW this year. What are you most looking forward to?
AB: When I go to festivals, I like to not know [who’s playing], and just go and be surprised. And just go to concerts and just get into something that’s happening. It doesn’t necessarily need to be music that you like. It’s just sometimes it’s enough to just see a concert.
NT: How did Amason really start to happen?
AB: I don’t think that we decided on it. It just happened. Initially it was Pontus [Winnberg] who brought us all together. He was the one who booked the studio for a few days and dragged us there, and we started to record. And then from that, he continued and booked shows, and we were like, “Okay!” After that, we just felt that it was such a great thing to be a part of, and we all liked each other. It was just sheer luck I think. Suddenly, we were a band.
NT: Would you all consider Amason to be your main project at this point?
AB: I don’t think we have to put it like that I think. This is the first time where we actually took time from other things. It says Amason on our calendars, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t do other stuff. It’s the first time we could actually focus on it. We want to keep it that way, for a lot of other stuff we do as well. We think it’s a lot healthier for Amason to not be the only thing that we do. We think it will help it to last longer if we do other stuff.
NT: Well it’s like you said about everyone in Sweden helping each other out and doing tons of projects.
AB: Everybody has their own studio here. And there’s not too many bars, so people, they drink beer, and you have to say, “You know, we should start a band.” It’s like “We should grab coffee!” and it doesn’t happen, but sometimes it does. Like 10 times out of 1000 times, it happens.