photo by Johan Vall
Woods End has just released their second LP, titled “II” (apt). It’s a beautiful piece of Swedish Americana. The songs are graceful, skillfully crafted and played, and suffused with sadness. Their music has a stillness and a timeless quality that sets it apart. The band say they draw “inspiration from the landscapes of the Swedish north….and bring stories from where the daylight fades, and the long nights begin. Where the woods meet the shores, and the winter tells of tales uncovered in the snow.” Sums it up pretty well for me, they remind me a bit of early Big Country in terms of tone/mood – say tunes like “The Storm” or “Porrohman”. I do feel that us inhabitants of the Northern European fringes share an ancient connection and understanding that comes through in the music we make (then again I could be talking bollocks), anyway – we were delighted to catch up with Mats to find out some more.
When did your musical journey begin?
When I heard my neighbour shred the hell out of his flower pattern Ibanez guitar in the early 90s. Right there and then I decided to commit to the guitar and become a badass shredder. Never happened though.
How did the band come together?
I played in a metal band together with Nils at the time. Nils had some acoustic songs in the making and wanted a singer. I reluctantly approached the mic and the embryo for Woods End was formed. The four of us that now make up Woods End had played in different bands over the years, and we figured it was time to make something of our mutual influences. We all knew about each other, but it all came together musically sometime during 2012.
Are you excited/nervous about the release of your second LP?
Excited, yes. Nervous, no. This album has been in the pipeline for quite some time and it’s a great relief to finally unveil this piece of music.
How long have you been working on the new record?
For some time now! We started the writing process in 2015, began recording in 2016, and finished mixing and mastering by the end of 2017. We are a bit spread out geographically, so things tend to take their sweet time. And due to the time it takes, songs get re-arranged, parts get added and so on. The finishing of an album is like finishing a painting. There’s always another stroke of the brush to make, and the trick is to know when it’s time to drop it.
How would you describe it?
A dark, but beautifully sombre, collection of songs. A natural progression of the sound heard on our debut record. For the debut we wanted it to sound like it was made in an old log cabin, as it actually was. This time around we wanted somewhat more of a focused sound, and we do think we have achieved that. The songs are still from the darker side of the americana-genre, but with a much more clear and focused sound and delivery.
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
It was either “Sure know something” by Kiss or “Child’s anthem” by Toto. Not sure wich one came first, but both songs made a huge impact on me. In the case of Kiss it was probably more the video than the song itself. The instrumental Toto tune kickstarted my love for the electric guitar and grand arrangements.
What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?
We all have our favourites, and those tend to vary from time to time. But as of now, a new song called “Myling” stands out a bit. Check the title in Wikipedia to see why. We think we did a fair job of combining the sadness of such a story, with a really beautiful arranged song and melody.
What artists have been your biggest influence and in what way?
For me personally it’s been a lot about Toto, Tom Waits and Kiss. For the band, in general, we find common ground in a lot, from metal, through progressive rock to folk. If we’re to namedrop a few those would probably be Woven Hand, Agnes Obel, Midlake, Opeth, Feist, Steven Wilson, Christian Kjellvander, Gillian Welch and Mark Knopfler.
Do you argue much about songs, musical direction etc?
Actually, we don’t! We argue about small details, but never about the big picture. What we DO argue about is other band’s songs, if red leather shoes are OK to wear, and exactly how “true” Manowar really are.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
“Down In A Hole” by Alice in Chains. It’s just one of the best representations of what I like in a good song. Brutally depressive, but somewhat catchy in its own way.
. What’re the weirdest things that have happened to you recently?
Aside from Mr. Trump being elected president? Nah, that’s weird enough for all of us.
What’s exciting you on the Swedish music scene?
Sweden is known for sugary pop and/or really aggressive metal. Nowadays there seems to be a bigger diversity on the scene. We seem to do everything from EDM to really introverted singer songwritery, all with an inbound Scandinavian tonality. We have a heritage of really sad folk music and it seems to trickle down the generations. While the commercial scene is terrible, there is a lot going on underground.
What’s the best phrase you’ve picked up in another language?
“Ei tippa tapaa, ja ämpärin ei huku”
It’s Finnish and means “a tear won’t kill you, and you can’t drown in a bucket”. Need I say more?
What’s your idea of success?
As this is written in the middle of an unusually cold winter, even for Sweden, my answer must be; to not freeze my ass off every single day.
Which of these activities are you most likely to be found doing?
a) Making a soufflé
b)Tinkering with a motorbike
c) Doing the ironing
d) Putting up shelves
I took the liberty of assigning each band member one of the listed activities:
a – Nils
c – Kalle
d – Myself
What question would you like to be asked that you never are, and what would your answer be?
Q: Can I get you another beer, free of charge?
A: Well, certainly
Does the path of excess lead to the palace of wisdom?
Well, an excess of knowledge would certainly lead in that general direction.