I recently gave a rave #albumoftheday review to The Poet and the Parrot by Bombus, a mind-blowingly good, red hot metal band hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden. Unlike most Swedish metal bands, Bombus are not a death metal band, sounding more like a cross between Metallica’s first few records and Motorhead at their prime. It always depresses me how so many metal groups cite those bands as influences but actually sound nothing like them at all, so I was overjoyed from the very first time I listened to The Poet and the Parrot. To my ears, The Poet and the Parrot sounded like a good old-fashioned thrash record, though, as you’re about to learn in my exclusive interview with co-lead vocalist/guitarist Feffe, thrash is only one of the many things that have influenced this extremely talented band…
You’re playing a small club — a pub, really — in the video for “Apparatus.” Is this somewhere you’ve actually performed before, or did you simply shoot the video there? Also, what’s the name of the place and where is it located? Who directed the video?
No, we have never actually played there. It´s a friend chopper/bike garage with a bar in it. But it´s a cool place where we hang out with friends and drink beers. All the ugly faces in the vid are good friends of ours who showed up for the occasion. It´s located in Gothenburg just as we are and it´s called Klaubi or just Mike´s Garage and a guy called Sebastian directed it. The video was actually kind of a quick fix that we did last minute just to have a video for that song, but it turned out pretty good.
The video for “Enter The Night” is kind of creepy, as you guys look like angry warriors and you have animal legs. Whose idea was this concept? Who directed that one?
Yeah, it´s creepy as hell. Ulf our former bass handler did that one. He does a lot of our artwork and he’s a brilliant artist in many ways. So the idea is his and he directed it. Since he is a good friend and was once in the band, he knows what we´re about. He´s still a part of Bombus, kinda like a fifth member, even if he doesn’t play.
In some of the promotional photos of the band you’re all wearing what looks like face paint/make up. Is that correct, or are you wearing masks? When I saw those photos I immediately started thinking about things like Greek mythology and Egyptian Gods. What is the meaning behind each of the designs you guys wear? Also, do you wear the make up on stage when you perform or was that just for those particular promotional photos?
Yeah, that´s actually the vibe we were after. It´s face paint actually, and it took hours to put on. It´s really no meaning behind the designs accept that we liked the look of and that we wanted to make something that had a King Diamond-feel to it but more in a spacey/tribal/mythological way. We have always tried to do something more than just standard press photos, even if we got a few of those to. But cool pictures of bands that stand out is fun and something we like. We never wear make up live however (thank god), it´s just for that particular photo.
I was starting to think that old school thrash was dead until I heard your new album. Do you consider yourselves to be a thrash band? If not, how would you categorize yourselves?
Cool, glad you hear some of that in there! We really don´t categorize ourselves however and we don´t consider us being a thrash band even though there are elements of that in our music. But we like being kinda “in between genres” and not having to limit ourselves to fit inside a narrow framework of rules that defines what we should sound like. We just write songs that we like no matter what they sound like really. I mean it´s all heavy music with riffs, electric guitars and all that (nothing new under the sun), but still we don´t label ourselves or stick to one certain genre. However we like to let our influences shine through in what we do, and you obviously nailed one of them.
When I searched for your band on Google to find your website, I discovered that bombus is the name of a type of bee. Is that why you’re called bombus or is there another reason behind your band’s name?
Yeah, it´s Latin for bumblebee actually. We´re not in to insects or anything like that. We just wanted a name that was short, sweet and that would stick, you know. We didn’t want one of those long “Once I Drove My Car In To The Endless Abyss Of A Never Ending Autumn That Never Turned To Winter” kind of names. Something more simple than that.
Your site mentions that your influences are The Melvins, Black Sabbath, The Jesus Lizard and Poison Idea, but I was wondering who else you would consider influences? I hear a lot of Motorhead and old Metallica and even Slayer in your music. Are they bands you’re into?
Absolutely! You just mentioned three of our favorite bands there, all of whom have had a great influence on us, so they are all definitely in the Bombus cocktail, alongside many others.
When I think of Sweden and metal I immediately think of death metal, particularly some pretty scary black metal artists. Were you ever tempted to become a death metal band?
We like a lot of Death- and Black Metal bands. Especially from around here. But we were never tempted to become one.
Do people – such as members of other bands – in Sweden ever criticize you for not being a death metal or black metal band?
No, because then we would kill them… No, but that has never happened. I believe they are pretty happy that not every band plays Death or Black. How fun would that be for them and how extreme would that leave them? Then they would play mainstream music. And imagine that, no music except Death or Black Metal. Horrible! Like eating pickled herring every day. Even though I´m from Sweden and love pickled herring, I like my burger now and then too.
To many listeners, The Poet and the Parrot will be the first album by your band that they hear. Even myself, I’ve only heard the new album. How does the new album differ from the first one? Did you take a different approach or make any serious stylistic changes with the new album?
Well, first of all the album took much longer to write and record. Partly because we were out playing live and touring, partly because we got a new bass player in the midst of it all, but mostly because we wanted The Poet And The Parrot to be something else than our first album. Our first album was more of a quick in-n-out of the studio thing. It´s rougher, more spontaneous and more incoherent like many first albums done before. The Poet And The Parrot is more worked through, more coherent and more solid, but still as varied as our first.
The Poet and the Parrot is entirely in English. Was your first album, or any of your earlier material, in Swedish?
No, only in English.
It seems like all of the bands from Sweden that we hear about here in the United States are singing in English. Are there many artists who actually sing in Swedish or does almost everybody just sing in English?
Yeah sure! There a lot of Swedish artists that only or partly sing in Swedish. But most of them don´t get out of Sweden for obvious reasons. But music is a big thing here and even though we are a small country a lot of them get by just playing in Sweden.
Why do you think so many Swedish bands sing in English – is it because they want to become hugely popular outside of Sweden?
Well I don´t know about “hugely popular”, but as I said, Sweden is small so you limit yourself if you only sing in Swedish. English is the common language in the world and Rock n´ Roll was invented in English so it comes natural. And we all know what you guys think we sound like, yeah we do, we´ve all seen “The Swedish chef” on The Muppet Show. And if we sound like that to you I will sing in English any day!
Do you hope to release your first album in the United States with your new label, Century Media, if The Poet and the Parrot does well enough?
Counting on it brother! Counting on it!
Is Century Media your record label worldwide or are you on different labels in different regions of the world? If you’re on other labels elsewhere, I’d be especially curious to know which labels you’re on in Europe and in Japan, being that I listen to so much European and Japanese music.
Yes Century Media world wide. Our debut is still on my own puny label “Mourningwood Recordings” in Sweden though.
I understand there’s a limited edition version of your album here with two extra songs. What can you tell us about those tracks? Are they on the vinyl or just the limited edition CD digipack?
Just on the limited digipack. The´re cool. Could have easily been on the album but we wanted it to be around 40 minutes so they ended up as bonus tracks instead. Jonas (bass) is singing on one of them called “Cut Deep” and he´s got a really cool clean voice that you will hear more of in the future. The other on is called “Styx” it´s slower and has a touch of “Ride The Lightning” to it.
I won’t ask you to explain what every song on the album is about because I’m sure that would get annoying, but there are two songs in particular that I was wondering if you might tell us something about, “Liars” and “The Poet and the Parrot”?
“Liars” is about religion and what it does to us humans if it´s interpreted the way it often is. For me religion is a lie, that divides, create wars and makes people do horrendous shit to others. Hence the name “Liars”. “The Poet And The Parrot” refers to “The Poet” as a creator of things, whatever it might be, and “The Parrot” as someone that repeats what others say without even knowing what it means.
How does the band approach songwriting? Do certain members work on the music while others work on the lyrics or does everybody get together and write in the studio, or is it some other way entirely?
I come up with most of the foundations of the songs, and then we complete them together as a band in the rehearsal room. Everyone gets their saying and contributes to the final result.
Do you start off writing with acoustic guitars or is it always electric?
Often on an acoustic or an unplugged electrical at home. Just fiddling around with different ideas. Then I record the stuff on my not so smart phone device just to remember it and after a while it transforms into a song. I often just hum stuff when I´m out or whatever and record that too, just to remember it. 90% is complete rubbish but 10% is usable and ends up on an album.
Aside from other bands who’ve influenced you, what inspires you when it comes to songwriting? Clearly, you’re not a band that writes songs about getting drunk every weekend and having sex with every groupie who walks in the club. Lyrically, I think the band you most remind me of is Slayer, since there seems to be a strong sense of social consciousness to your lyrics. Are you inspired by history? Politics?
Everyday life really. Daily observations, stuff that happens around us or in the world. We don´t write about drinking or screwing, that´s more fun to do than to write about. And enough songs have covered those subjects already. We are actually get inspired by – as you say – politics, history and the overall mind blowing stupidity of mankind (ourselves included of course) but we want to leave room for interpretation to the listener and not make it too obvious what our songs are about.
Your original bass player Ulf left the band in 2012. Are you still on good terms with him? How did you find your current bass player, Jonas? I was especially blown away by Jonas’ playing on “The Poet and the Parrot.” I don’t think I’ve heard such amazing bass guitar playing in metal since the late Cliff Burton of Metallica.
F…ing hell! I will tell him you said that right away! You just made a new best friend in Jonas. But yes, we are on very good terms with Ulf. He´s an important part of what we do and a good friend. He never enjoyed the circus that comes with playing in a band. He just wanted to hang out and making music you know. Not touring and making an ass of himself on stage and all that. We knew Jonas from before, he used to play guitar in an awesome band called Burst, and we had seen him play bass as well. He blew our minds too, just as he did with yours. So when Ulf left we knew he was our guy.
You’re a very unique band because you have two singers who sing together most of the time, whereas the singers usually alternate parts in most bands with two vocalists. Was this always your style or was there a process of trial and error before it was decided that you and Matte should sing together at the same time?
Matte and I knew our voices were pretty similar (we´ve known each other since childhood) and when you record in a studio you often overdub your own vocals because it makes it sound better and kind of smooths it out in a nice way. So we said let´s try that and it sounded pretty cool. We´ve done that since beginning and we think it adds to our own sound in a positive way. And it enables us to work with harmonies more live.
Do you think you’ll ever do songs that are more like duets where you sing one verse and Matte sings the next, for example?
Yeah, we actually do that on both “Enter The Night” and “Let Her Die”. But it is really hard to tell us apart.
According to your website, it looks like you’ll be busy touring Europe throughout the rest of 2013. Is that correct?
I noticed that you’re playing most European countries but I didn’t see any dates in France, which surprised me because I’ve been to Paris four times and metal is hugely popular there. For example, I saw Iron Maiden there on their first reunion tour in 1999 and they’d sold out Bercy, which is a huge, major arena. At the time, they couldn’t even sell out a mid-sized venue here in the States. So, now that metal is hugely popular again, I can only imagine that you would sell a lot of tickets if you played in Paris. Have you ever played there before? If not, do you plan to at some point?
Cool, I bet that was pretty awesome. Yeah, we have played in Paris and Marseille before and that was cool! France is great and we will definitely play there again on the next leg of the tour. But Europe is big and it´s hard to cram all of in just one tour. But I think Maiden always have had it easier here in Europe than in The States. Sweden goes absolutely bananas for Maiden. As do we! We always discuss which album is their best but it´s impossible! I root for “The Number Of The Beast” though. But still… Their first, Piece Of Mind, Somewhere in Time… though nut to crack.
Of all of the foreign countries you’ve toured so far, where have you had the biggest audiences? What size venues do you usually play in foreign countries?
So far we have only been touring as a support act in Europe and then you really don´t know what audience you yourself pull. But we play clubs with like an 200-400 capacity. Festivals are of course a different thing.
Do you have an interesting or funny story about touring foreign countries that you could tell us?
It´s hard to come up with something specific. But touring foreign countries is always great. Just to see stuff, playing live, meeting new people, getting arrested in Paris, eating shitty food, eating great food, driving a big bus in Barcelona or a proper night out in Amsterdam. It´s all great!
What sizes venues do you play when you perform in Sweden now? Are you playing major arenas at home at this point? Or are you still playing in clubs there like in other countries?
Noooo arenas. It depends on if it´s a weekday or weekend and the size of the city but we still play clubs. In the bigger cities we play in venues with maybe a 600 to 800 capacity but in smaller town ´s it´s about 200 to 400 maybe.
Will you be touring the United States next year? If so, will you be opening for somebody or will you be headlining?
Yes, we are actually planning a tour in support of another band. It´s not in the bag yet though so I don´t want to spill it, but you´ll be the first to know! It will be great!
I understand the streaming music service Spotify has been around in Europe for quite some time now, whereas it’s still very new here in the United States. Many artists here are saying it doesn’t pay them enough, but some artists are saying that it’s better to get paid a little by Spotify than get paid nothing if people download their music without paying. What is your opinion about this?
I mean it would be great if people still bought physical copies like they used to, but times have changed and we have to change with it, so I definitely prefer that people stream music so the ones who have paid for it get a little [more] than the people who just download it. Streaming is much better and easier than downloading anyways so…