There’s plenty of fresh talent incarnating in the hundreds of sub-genres of metal, rising from the regions between the Oceania and the way up to the European division. From Sweden comes Letters From the Colony, who have just released their debut record “Vignette” through Nuclear Blast. We spoke with vocalist Alex Backlund who had quite a bit to say in regards to the making of the LP and the new experiences that he and the rest of the band had gone through.
“It was a long process and a long road to get where we are right now” he says. “I joined the band in late 2014, and in the beginning of 2015, when we started to kick this thing off, it was basically, my first proposition to the guys to say “are we gonna make our first full length album if we’re gonna take us serious?” I worked in the studio for quite some time, but it’s mostly been the bedroom warrior sort of approach with programmed drums. But this time, we were gonna do it for real, and our experience was lacking. We tracked all the drums and just realised it wasn’t going to cut it for an album. So, we threw them all away and started tracking drums again for another three months, and we had no deadlines during the process, so we were happy with that.”
To help bring the power and ferocity into the sound of “Vignette”, Letters From the Colony turned to legendary producer, mixer and recording engineer Jens Bogren, who’s renowned for his past work with Opeth, Ihsahn, Dark Tranquillity and more. To Alex’s surprise, the “loudness war” was something that was put aside by Bogren himself, as opposed to many other recording engineers and mixers that had been a part of that for years.
“I had him in mind throughout the entire process, so I tried to think like him in the terms of the record. Jens Bogren could easily have taken the record for a full production course. With the mastering, I learned a few things from him. The masters that we got back were particularly loud, and that’s a cool thing to see someone at that professional level just totally disregard the whole loudness war that’s going on. We got the songs back and it sounded good. It wasn’t extremely loud, but it’s dynamic and fitting for our sound, and felt like the loudness war was going to end.”
For Alex, Letters From the Colony has been in learning mode since day one. Considering that they had just joined one of the biggest international metal labels in the world, and released their debut record through Nuclear Blast, he’s had his doubts about whether the original line-up of Letters From the Colony would have been able to handle everything that went down during the progression and course of “Vignette”.
“It’s been a learning process. Everything that we’ve done with the album, and especially with the label, there is so much stuff that you don’t even consider when you’re only a demo band. The things that you think matter don’t really matter. So it’s like, we’re always learning. But, I guess the band has gone through a few members, and I don’t think the initial line-up of the band could’ve handled what we’re doing right now. That’s a bit tough at times, having to say goodbye to friends. But it’s been necessary for us to evolve as a band. It’s been sort of a two-edged sword to be part of Nuclear Blast. It’s a huge honour to be on the same roster as some of your favourite bands, but it’s also a bit scary now that we feel like we have a lot to live up to when we hit the road, and when start working on the next album. But, we had something going with “Vignette”, and it’s not only the work with the record label that got us to this point.”
With the word “Vignette” containing many different meanings in reality, Alex nominated it as the title of the album based on that exact reason. He states that while it’s not a concept-driven album, he does mention that the record is still consistent, lyrically.
“I picked it because it has many different meanings. It’s a metaphor for a lot of things. We sort of have a lyrical theme going on that ties into it. But, I think the main theme is the darkness around the edges. That’s how I feel about our music. It’s playful at times, and it’s bizarre at times. There’s always that dark, melancholic element surrounding it. It’s not really a concept album in that regard. But the lyrics address the same topics a lot of the times, because we had written them in a short time period. But I try to keep them as consistent as I can from one song to the next. There’s not a song on there that’s about politics and then another about love. It’s a pretty uniform kind of album.”
With “Vignette” just hitting the shelves to the general public, Letters From the Colony have released music videos for a few of the songs off the LP. With many selections off the album to look out for, Alex knows one that he feels should be a big deal to not just his audience, but also to himself and the rest of the band.
“If there’s one song they should be hearing from our band, it should be Galax. That’s for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a personal favourite with me and the band for a number of years and I still haven’t gotten tired of it. It’s a good song to sort of get a grip on, for Letters From the Colony. It was the most fun to work on, too. It’s an old song, and we got to spice it up with tons of guitar parts and pedals to get different sounds, and there was so much that just happened naturally. If you listen to the end, the bizarre chords and the reverb was something that Sebastian played to fuck with me in the studio” he laughs.
Now that “Vignette” has been unleashed to the world, the one thing left for Letters From the Colony to do is to go on tour and start booking shows. Alex has an idea of what he wants to do for touring, but at the same time, he’s also eager to get back into the studio with his mates and create more music for the world to hear. In the meantime, it’s the preparations for shows that he’s committed to at this moment.
“We’re talking to a few festival promoters right now and land as many shows as possible, because those open air gigs are my favourites. So, we’ve been talking to a few big name progressive/tech death festivals in Europe. We’re also in the planning stages for a tour, which will happen sometime this year. We’ve been talking to booking agencies and bands that want to bring us along and try to decide what to do and when for these shows. I wanna start working on the next album as soon as possible. That’s one of my favourite things to do – writing lyrics and recording shit. But, with this band, our mantra as of late has been to do things properly as much as possible as a real band. There’s no shortcuts, and bands go on tour and meet people.”