Interview: The Sound of Arrows
As I’ve bleated many a time, nobody does pop music like the Swedes. From ABBA to Lykke Li to Robyn, there’s definitely something contaminating the Baltic, or some radioactive mutation that causes one in every thousand Swedes to involuntarily make brilliant pop music. No exception to this rule are Oskar Gullstrand and Stefan Storm, who comprise the brilliant electronic pop duo The Sound of Arrows. We first came across them back in 2009 via their epic debut single ‘Into the Clouds’, with its magical Neverending Story-meets-Pet-Shop-Boys video.
They disappeared after that, and for a while their fledgling fans worried they had split up, or worse still, been captured and forced to work on the new Britney Spears album along with every other Scandinavian songwriting team. Fortunately, it turns out you sometimes simply can’t rush art. They’re back with an equally entrancing and dance-inducing slice of synthy goodness with their new single ‘Nova’ and an album’s on the way, as Stefan revealed in his chat with us…
Stefan: Busy days. We’re currently shooting a new video, rehearsing, doing a remix and finishing off one last song for the album. All in this one week. A lot of early mornings, late nights and take-away.
How was The Sound of Arrows first formed?
By chance really. We both wanted to work in film and started collaborating in that field first. Me as a producer and Oskar as a director and visual mastermind. I actually remember the first day we tried making music together, sitting in my apartment working with my old eight-track. It began as a hobby and still is. A hobby day job.
Was your original concept of what The Sound of Arrows was very different to what it is now?
Yes and no. Sonically, there’s almost nothing similar. Well, apart from the grandeur. We were never ones for playing it down and cool. Aesthetically it’s not all together that different. We’ve both grown up on on sci-fi and fantasy, so to us that part of our look came quite normally.
You’re a very visual group with breathtaking fantasy-influenced artwork and videos. What inspires this?
We are both big film geeks and we just want to combine the best of both worlds. Big synths, alongside epic visuals.
Although you’re a typical Scandinavian pop group in the sense that you’re rather brilliant, there’s something slightly more wistful about you compared to the jolliness of Alphabeat and Le Kid. Why’s that?
Thank you for noticing! I enjoy really happy stuff too, but I find that harder to write. The slightly melancholic tinge comes naturally to me. A lot of my lyrics are about escapism and ‘longing for something better’. The latter is very much a part of who I am as a person. I lead a blessed life and have great friends and loved ones but there’s this restlessness that I can’t help but always carry with me. One of our songs, ‘Magic’ has the lyrics, ‘seize a chance, follow a dream’ and ‘the world is full of magic'; it is actually about fatalism and finding hope in hopelessness. That there’s only one thing we know for sure in this life, and it’s that we will all die, so one might as well try to make the best of it while it lasts. Another lyrical sample is ‘Through fear and fire, past love and lust for gold. Within the darkest hour, there is still hope’, which is from the album’s centerpiece, a big seven-and-a-half-minute epic track about not giving up.
What do you think the British music industry could learn from Scandinavia’s attitude to pop music?
I think both sides of the pond could learn from each other, actually. I really like how central contemporary music is to the British culture and I like that in Scandinavia the turnaround of artists isn’t as big, nor is it so hung up on chart placements.
Aside from the Pet Shop Boys, obviously, who else would you say influences you?
I get this all the time and I absolutely understand why people would assume this, but I’m gonna let you in on a not-so-secret-secret: I’m not a particularly big fan of PSB. I appreciate them as great songwriters, but for some reason their music has never really grabbed me. Music that is central to TSOA and that has influenced me a lot is early OMD, Vangelis (I want to be him), Richard X, Kylie (particularly her breathy vocals) and RÃ¶yksopp.
We first heard your spiffing debut UK single ‘Into The Clouds’ back in 2009 but nothing since, aside from touring. It’s been driving us to distraction. Why the delay?
I had a baby. No, actually I didn’t. But it apparently takes time to create one! Ours is coming now in late summer.
How did you end up being signed to Geffen?
Colin Barlow, a great person and great A&R, took a liking to our universe and seemed like the perfect captain on the perfect ship. We’re very humbled by people’s belief in us.
Describe your new single ‘Nova’ to us.
It’s a song that we actually struggled with a fair bit in its creation. It just wouldn’t sit right and we’ve got at least three different productions of it lying around on the computer, but it’s finally seeing the light. I’m very happy with how the lyrics came out in the end, the second verse especially.
Does the album have a title and a release date yet?
The title is still pending. But the release date is in early September.
What can we expect from it, aside from utter pop brilliance?
It’s a vast pop album with big, big songs. It’s very upbeat but not always in a clubby way. Some of it is a bit darker then what we’ve been doing so far but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s going to sound naff, but I think that most of it sounds quite unique: we’ve truly managed to live up to the term ‘Widescreen pop’ that we’ve used to describe our music. The first, the middle and the last track are the best ones. Just like it should be on a great album.
Which producers have you worked with?
We’ve actually ended up producing most of it ourselves; this is partly why it’s taken time. We had, and still have, so much to learn. Apart from Dan Grech, who’s mixed the album brilliantly, Richard X is the only producer that has done some work on the album. He’s also been like a mentor to me. Without him, I would’ve probably eloped back home to Sweden and moved into my parents’ summer house.
Will any of your Swedish EP tracks be on it?
‘Magic’ will be on there in a reworked form and ‘Into the Clouds’ too.
Aside from the already fantastic remixes you’ve done for Lady GaGa and Alphabeat, do you have any other upcoming remixes planned that we should know about?
Yeah we do, but maybe this is stuff we aren’t allowed to talk about… so… erm, I take it back. No. We don’t. No plans. None.
Do you have any UK tours or festival appearances confirmed?
I don’t know if they are 100 per cent confirmed, but we’ll be playing a lot of dates in the summer. Come join us! We’ll go partying afterwards!
Finally, something that needs clearing up. Are you a couple, or is it all just about looking endearing together in your videos? Like a rose-tinted blokey version of t.A.T.u.?
Sadly we’re not. We’ve held hands and slept in the same bed. But never beyond that… Or actually, one time I threw a huge New Year’s party and got quite drunk and kissed everyone at the party. Including Oskar.
For further information, including upcoming tour dates visit The Sound of Arrows’ website