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Surrounded Interview - Marten

Surrounded are just preparing their third album. If it is even as half as good as the "The Nautilus Years", we're in for a treat. Here's what Marten has to say about all that.

Hello Marten, how are you doing? What are Surrounded doing at the moment?

-Hi there, I'm doing ok, not much of a Christmas-lover though to be quite honest. After some delays we have finally started recording our 3rd album and will continue with it during the spring. I have put on just guitar and vocals and the next step is to set the drums and the bass which we will rehearse and record in January. Following that there is a whole lot of work arranging keyboards and guitar figures/melodies. It's like constructing a big house from the ground.

Your last album "The Nautilus Years" is one of the nicest discoveries of the year for us. Though it takes a couple of listens to really appreciate all its layers, it has this really amazing dreamy quality, that engulfs the listener. What can you tell us about it?

-Thanks. Well, the intention is not actually to draw the listener away from reality, rather the opposite I would say. But I understand that the music and the lyrics together may have that impact on people, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. I wouldn't call it "ambient" or "meditative" music since it has its steady rock elements in it too, the "message" may be surreal, but if you spend time with it you may possibly feel it has to do more with the real world than your dreams. I guess there are things in it for most indie-rock-listeners.

Which were your influences when making the "The Nautilus Years"?

-When it comes to the building of sound and production Dave Fridmann's works have always been a great source of inspiration. Other than that, I try to keep the song-and melody structures quite plain and simple even if we also include post-rock-like outro crescendos once in a while. I've grown up with a lot of influences, everything from early 70's folkrock to Tom Petty and the space-rock genre. Lyrically it takes more time and I'm really picky on the words. Perhaps it's only me understanding the total essence of a lyric and here the influences are varying: Swedish poets like Ekelöf and Tranströmer, excellent songwriters like Mark Eitzel and Leonard Cohen.

"The Nautilus Years" came over 4 years after your debut. Why such long time between the two? Was it the switch to major indie label or something else?

-The album was ready for release a lot earlier than what came to be. We had disputes with our former US label and therefore finding new collaboration partners took us almost a year. A shame but we are happy it finally came out, in Germany already in 2007 on Make My Day Records.
[ Surrounded ]


There is one thing that we are rather curious about - why the name "Surrounded"? Is it a reference to your sound or something else (because in a way it feels like it surrounds you)?

-We had to change our band name back in 2003 because there was already a US band called "Bread and Circus", our former name. So we agreed with Deep Elm on "Surrounded" I don't know, really, it's just another band name, no clear intentions. I find it kind of boring to be honest, but you have to have some sort of name, don't you?(laughs)

Unfortunately we haven't seen you live yet but we are wondering how hard is it to perform the songs live? Sometimes they sound like there are 30 people playing on them!

-I guess the sound and the songs gets more raw and with more attitude compared to the studio versions. We use sampled strings, mellotron and two electric guitars which add to a quite "fat" wall-of-sound anyway. We also use video projections for each song to broaden the audiences' experiences. It works quite well, I dare say.

Was it hard making it as a band in Sweden? Some bands like Kent that have more traditional british sound failed to make it worldwide with english lyrics even though they are absolutely huge in Sweden. Did you have any problems finding an ear that wants to listen to your music in the overcrowded music scene today?

-Yes. Our sound/songs/lyrics aren't that easily received and demands time and patience from the listener. We have worked real hard in reaching some kind of position where we are today. A lot of demos have been made and sent since we started up eight years ago, and they were refused many times. But stubbornness pays off, not laziness. Of course you have to have a strong material but I don't know about the future. There are no guarantees for anything and even the indie "market" is very narrow. We'll see what happens. Now we're just focusing on making another good album.

What's in store for Surrounded now? I hope not another 4 years of silence coming up!

-I hope the record we are working on will be released this autumn, otherwise early spring of 2010.

What is your opinion on all the release schemes going around these days? Do you think the future of music is online or that these are just clever marketing plots that work in a certain moment?

-Apart from some bands and artists, the reality will be harsher regarding the economic side. All of us have regular part-time jobs beside working with Surrounded, and for today we have no illusions about being able to live on it full-time. If that happens, oh well, that's a bonus!. I don't know what to think about the online future, sometimes it just makes me sick and tired because you sell less and get kind of used, but then there is always the opportunity to reach more listeners. It's a double-edged sword.

What are some of the Swedish bands that you like at the moment?

- I have always liked Kent, a great band with a high level of quality. Isolation Years, Silverbullit, Jose Gonzalez. Actually, there is a bunch of Swedish indie nowadays that I couldn't care less for. All too hyped and shallow.

Finally, what do you read and listen to lately?

-Well, my favourites of the year are Radar Bros "Auditorium" and the MGMT debut album. At the moment I rediscover "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" by Wilco, fantastic album. I haven't had the time for too many books but this autumn I've re-read "Heart of Darkness" by Conrad and Gorky's "In the World".

kris // 28/01/2009


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