By Andrew Bansal
Sweden’s newest hard rock export Free Fall have just released their debut album ‘Power & Volume’ in Europe via Nuclear Blast Records, and the album will be released in the UK on February 25th and in the US on March 19th. The quartet have come up with ten tunes that should gratify anyone who considers himself a classic hard rock fan. To promote the release, the band will embark on a short European run with Witchcraft and Orchid in April-May. Yesterday, I did an interview with the band’s drummer Ludwig Dahlberg, to talk about the making of the album amongst other things. Read the conversation below, check out two songs from the album via the YouTube embeds, and visit the band online using the links at the bottom.
Your debut album ‘Power & Volume’ came out in Europe today and will come out soon in other parts of the world. First of all, tell me how long you guys have been working on this album, and what the whole process was like.
We only formed the band about two years ago. The guitar player Mattias and I weren’t finished with our old bands yet, so we had to wait to record the Free Fall album until those bands were finished. And once that happened, it was time to do it. We recorded it in two different sessions last year, one was in January and one was in June. It was a fairly quick recording process because we rehearsed a lot, and worked a lot on the songwriting for every little detail. So when we came to the studio, we were prepared and there was very little rearranging in the actual studio. The whole recording process was very, very quick. First we recorded 15 songs, and then we listened to those for a while. We went back and redid five of them, just to change minor things, mostly tempos and slight vibe changes. As you can hear on the record, there are very few overdubs. So it sounds basically like how we sound when we rehearse. We recorded everything live, and we redid only some of the guitars and some of the vocals because all the lyrics weren’t finished when we first did the basic tracks. All the bass and drums are live, as we kept all those. It was important for us to keep a spontaneous and playful vibe on the record, not to have it sound controlled in any way, which I think is a problem with a lot of contemporary heavy bands. Even though it’s heavy, it sounds controlled because it’s so well-played that it sounds ‘safe’. That’s what we wanted to avoid. When you listen to your old favorite live records like The Who Live At Leeds or something, you can sense this element of chaos that’s always underneath the surface that you don’t really know where it’s going to go. That is something we really wanted to keep, so it never sounds safe or controlled.
That’s the best part about this album, the fact that it sounds almost like a jam room type of thing, where you’ve just got together and jammed. So, did you pretty much use exactly the same set up as you would use on stage?
Yeah, exactly! There is not even percussion overdub on this record. The only overdub on the guitar, bass, drums and vocals is on the song ‘Attila’ where you can hear the piano in some parts. We did that using an overdub, to add a bit of drama to that song. But other than that there are no keyboards or percussion or anything else.
Interestingly, the title song ‘Power & Volume’ which opens the album sounds a little different from the rest of the album. The bass and drums are drier, and it sort of has a more raw feel. Is it because you recorded that song earlier?
Yes, that’s why! It’s a different drum kit on that song and on the songs ‘World Domination’ and ‘Meriola Blues’. Those three songs were recorded at the same time, and you’re absolutely correct that the sound on those songs specially on Power & Volume is a bit more like primitive and raw-sounding. That’s a different sound as compared to the other seven songs on the album. For instance, the song ‘Free Fall’ is a lot more crisp may be. We still wanted to keep the whole album sound refreshing even though it differs slightly between songs.
Would you say the album is a combined effort from all four members with equal songwriting contributions?
It’s very much a group effort! We jammed a lot, and that’s another thing when we started this band. With everything we do, even the name of the band, we wanted to be very free and give ourselves a sense of freedom and liberation playing music, as well as we want the listener to feel that way too. So when we write songs, it initially starts with a guitar riff or a bass line or sometimes even with a drum beat, and sometimes we just jam the whole time on a specific riff and see where it goes. Or a couple of times, Mattias has come up with more than just a riff, like a verse and a chorus, and then we worked on that. Jan the bass player also comes up with the riffs, and then it’s a group effort. We do everything together, all the lyrics and the arrangements. It all happens in the practice space.
Obviously, the sound is very classic which suits the music very well. Is that a deliberate thing where you work hard to get that sound, or do you just keep it simple and let it come out the way it does?
Yeah it’s more like the latter. We only play the music and the sound is a result of the stuff that we use. I only play vintage drums and I like the sound of them. Mattias always has that type of guitar rig and same thing with Jan with the bass rig. So that’s kind of how we sound, and then Martin who engineered the record and produced it together with us was very good at capturing the sound in the studio and just presenting it that way. For this type of loud rock, those amps and drums are the ones that sound the best, so it came very naturally and it was not a thought-out process where we had to sound vintage just for the sake of it. There also has to be a contemporary element of some sort. I mean, obviously our influences and our sound is from a classic period but at the same time there’s an urgency, or at least I hope you can hear an urgency that makes it sound like an album actually recorded today. It’s not just a nostalgia museum artifact, you know.
Exactly, man. So, the album is being released by Nuclear Blast. Is it also going to be released on vinyl?
Yeah, yeah. Vinyl is a very important thing for us. Me and Mattias only prefer to listen to records on vinyl. So the vinyl for our album was released today in Europe. It’s a single LP and the first edition comes with a bonus 7-inch that has the bonus tracks that are also on the limited edition digipak CD. And then there’s the regular black vinyl as well in gatefold. We’re very happy about that, because we put a lot of photos from the studio inside the vinyl artwork. The whole package and feel of the vinyl is great.
Most people who buy vinyl these days do it just for the collection purpose, I guess. But I’m one of those people who buy them to listen to the actual vinyl sound.
Yeah, and it sounds better! We did a special vinyl mastering so it’s going to sound even better than the CD. Not a lot of people do that nowadays but for us it was very important that it sounds fantastic.
That’s what I was going to ask you. So you specially mastered the record for the vinyl and it’s not just a conversion from the digital version?
That’s awesome. As you said, you’re not really like a nostalgia museum act. I think a lot of younger bands playing classic rock-type stuff these days are nostalgia acts. But, because of those bands does it become hard for you to compete because the listeners are going to compare them to you?
I don’t know, it will show itself in a matter of time, I think. We will stand strong because of the songs, hopefully, because we worked a lot to have good songs and not just a bunch of riffs piled up on each other, otherwise we would just end up sounding like those other bands. Hopefully that will stand the test of time. We spent a lot of time on the songwriting, so we hope we won’t be considered as just another retro rock band, you know.
Another good thing about your band is, you’ve signed to Nuclear Blast who’ve been great supporters of old-school heavy music over the years. How did that signing actually happen? Did they just spot you at a live show or something?
No, we did it the old-fashioned way actually. We just sent them a demo with four songs, and those were the first four songs that we wrote, ‘Power & Volume’, ‘World Domination, ‘Meriola Blues’, and a song called ‘Stand Up For Your Rock And Roll’ which is the B-side of the Power & Volume 7-inch. So those four songs are kind of like the statement that describes the band pretty well. It’s like an introduction. So we sent them that demo and they signed us based on that!
That’s amazing. I didn’t even think that people still send out demos anymore!
Yeah! But we just decided to give it a try (laughs). We’re a Swedish band and it’s very important for us to tour everywhere and not just in Sweden. So the most important and great thing about Nuclear Blast is, they have distribution pretty much all over the world. So the album is going to be released everywhere. We want to tour and play in front of people everywhere, because we really are a live band. The live aspect is extremely important, to communicate with the audience and spread the music. So we want to tour as often as possible, and being with them it’s working out perfect.
Yours is a classic four-piece lineup with one guitarist, bassist, vocalist and drummer. That’s the ultimate hard rock lineup which is not existing so commonly these days. Why do you think bands don’t go for that? Is it because each member has to do that much more and it would be easier just to get more members in the band?
Yeah, may be! I’ve always wanted to play in this kind of lineup because it gives you so much space and freedom, but also like you said it gives you responsibility too (laughs). If something fucks up, there is nothing to hide behind. If the guitar collapses during the show, it’s gone! There is no second guitar or keyboard to fill up the space. But for us that also adds an element of excitement because there is nothing to hide behind. I was always fascinated by this type of lineup through a lot of the bands that mainly influence us. Why more bands don’t do it, I don’t know, I guess may be because it asks too much effort from the players!
Related: ‘Power & Volume’ album review