Stormfagel is a band I came across in recent months courtesy of Sun and Moon Records in Romania. Right away, I could tell that the distinct sound would appeal to fans of artists such as Death in June or Current 93. But Stormfagel goes a little bit deeper; a little more diverse. One can also surmise that there may be some influence from the likes of late 80s/early 90s alt rock like “Deep-era” Peter Murphy or even back a bit further to artists like Lords of the New Church.
In any case, it was extremely difficult to locate any kind of history on Stormfagel. It didn’t help that the Google search kept defaulting to “Stormfall.” Thus, I decided that in order to do this artist justice, I would go straight to the mind behind the band, Andreas Neidhardt, who was kind enough to take some time out to answer my questions.
- I had a hard time finding any kind of history online about Stormfagel. So for the readers, can you tell us a brief history including any previous projects that led up to Stormfagel.
I started making music under the name Stormfågel in 2004. Before that I had been in several Goth and EBM bands since the early 90’s. Mainly as a singer since I didn’t play any instrument good enough, but also as a drummer in a really good Neofolk band called Excommunion. There are some songs on Facebook if anyone is interested. After Excommunion I took a well needed break from music. After a year or three I realized that I had tons of inspiration and ideas for songs, and I also realized that I didn’t want to be in a band again. So, that was it really. Many people have come and gone over the years but Stormfågel were always a solo project. That has changed now with the making of Arla Gryning.
- Arla Gryning is the newest release from Sun and Moon records. What’s the meaning behind the title and is there a central theme throughout the album?
Arla Gryning means “early morning.” Aktionsgrupp Arla Gryning was the name of one of the Swedish Stay Behind groups. AGAG may have had something to do with the assassination of the former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, according to some. This has nothing to do with why I chose that name for the album. The reason has more to do with the current political climate in Europe and Russia. After the Russian annexation of Crimea and knowing that the Baltic Sea is in their “sphere of interest” I felt that maybe it’s time for the Stay Behind once again. Musically there is, I can’t call it a theme, but at least a wish to make an album that not sprawl too much. Lyrical there are no theme at all.
- Arla Gryning has a distinct difference from your earlier work. It seems erlier albums were more in a marital style. Was this a conscious decision to change?
Oh yes! And I’ve wanted to change the sound of Stormfågel since the release of Ett berg av fasa but by some strange reason the songs always turned out sounding more or less Martial. A friend told me “We play the music we can play, real musicians play what they want”, sad but true I think. The first two albums were supposed to sound quite Martial but after that I wanted to turn Stormfågel towards a more Post Punk sound. With the release of Arla Gryning we are now, at last, at least one step closer to that sound. And that is thanks to Stefan Traunmüller and Björn Kylberg. Stormfågel is now a days somewhere between a band and a solo project. I see myself as an enlightened absolutist and if I hadn’t listen to Stefans and Björns suggestions and ideas the album would never had turned out so good as it did.
- Some of the songs remind me of a combination of Death in June as well as late 80s/early 90s work by the likes of Peter Murphy (Deep-era), maybe even some Lords of the New Church. Are you comfortable with that and did any of that influence you?
Sounds good to me! My influences are mainly Post Punk and early EBM and for a long time I have tried to blend those influences with the sound that Stormfågel apparently have (with or without my approval). Of the bands you mention I must say that early Death in June is a huge influence for me. Nada is one of the best records ever and The Calling is more or less the archetype of a really good song in my opinion.
- How do you feel about the frequent association of neofolk & martial artists with Nazism? It often seems indistinguishable between that and some of the euro-nationalistic themes.
I think it comes down to two things. For the first: People never take the time to check the facts. It’s very easy to be judging but harder to try to understand. And it’s even easier to be judging something you find peculiar and strange. I can only speak for myself and Stormfågel but the few times we have been accused for being Nazi the reason has been that the person or organization just don’t know shit and haven’t even tried to check the facts. Some marching drums, a speech sample of a German poem and an old black and white video of Swedish soldiers isn’t equal to being a Nazi.
Secondly: Some bands may have themselves to blame. When you know, and you do know, that people are very quick to judge maybe you should take it easy with the WWII references, the German camouflage and the totalitarian aesthetics. Maybe it’s wrong, maybe you should never have to change or compromising your personal and artistic freedom. That would be wonderful and that is something we all should strive for. But, then again, people are morons and I for one don’t have the energy to explain myself over and over again. I’m also 42 years old now and don’t feel the need to provoke.
- I’d like to get your thoughts on a couple of things, relating both to something you said and something Gary Numan once said. In one of his tour programs he said that he feels that fans should just buy the album, listen to the album, go to the concert and go home; that even when fans write fan letters it can be a bit too much.
I also heard you state in a 2011 radio interview for Radiofakrik Salzburg that you “don’t want to change the world” and don’t want to mix in “too much of a message.”So the question is this.. “Where do we draw the line between reaching people and affecting their lives in a positive way (even if that’s not the intended result) and doing music simply for ourselves and tossing it to the wind?
If Stormfågel were a big famous band I guess I would try to use my voice for something important, something I felt strong about. But the thing is, Stormfågel is a small band in a very small genre that most people don’t even know exist. So if I went Bono on you it would be totally pathetic. Even the big bands in the genre are very small, yes they may be a big fish but in a very small pond, so acting like a diva or thinking they will change the world is in my opinion pathetic. If I ever have said something or made a song that actually means something for someone then I’m the happiest man alive. I’m truly thankful for every sold album, every downloaded song and every mail I get and I’ll never take that for granted. Being humble is important and yes, the law of Jante is strong in Sweden…
Maybe I went off topic now. It’s a good question. Most artists would probably keep on making music even if no-one listened but of course we want other people to hear it and like it. We’re just as big suckers for confirmation like everybody else.
- Are there any tracks that you’ve written and put on an album that you refuse to go back and listen to or are about a topic that is too painful to address? Maybe it was therapy to put it out but the chapter is closed?
Making music is therapy but not writing lyrics. Maybe if I were better on writing or wrote more in Swedish. When I write in English everything sounds so…flat. Some songs are about relationships gone bad and yes, they can be painful to listen to but not to that extend that I choose not to listen. If I listen to some old songs I usually just wonder why I didn’t play this or that instead. A song is never finished but it has to be. A song needs closure, otherwise I can go on changing tiny things in it for decades. So yes, when the album is released the chapter is closed and that gives me satisfying feeling of freedom.
- Ok..most important question (hockey) Linkoping vs. Frolunda HC?
Absolutely none of them! The only club in Sweden you need to know about is Djurgården! The home of heroes like Sven Tumba, Lasse Björn, Mikael Tellqvist, Mats Sundin, Niklas Kronwall and Gabriel Landeskog just to mention a few.
- You’re standing at the verge of the end of the world. What song do you perform that sums up Stormfagel or that means the most to you?
What a difficult question! Maybe Herrschaft Des Verbrechens. It’s not a typical Stormfågel song I think but I really like the atmosphere in it. And also, the words of Doctor Mabuse are still actual. Or maybe I rörelse. I’m really satisfied with that song and the lyrics (a poem by Karin Boye) is very beautiful. I think that song is the nearest I’ve come to perfection regarding Stormfågel. I’ve been chasing that sound for a couple of years but with I rörelse I think I got it. So one of them, sorry but I can’t chose.
- A distant relative locates an old box in a house once owned by you. In that box they find a copy of Arla Gryning and listen to it from start to finish. What do you want them to know or get from the album and what do you want them to know about your legacy as a band?
Another really difficult question! I would like if the sound itself stands the test of time. That it still sounds fresh ever after all those years. When I listen to some of my idols from the 80’s I can get that feeling that; it’s really good but would have been even better if it had been recorded with the technology of today. And even thou there is no theme in Arla Gryning I hope it still feels relevant. I’ve no desire for what anyone who listen to Stormfågel should feel or think. Once a song is released it’s not mine any more. It’s free, and will mean different things to different people. Regarding legacy…I don’t know. Is there much of a legacy to talk about? I’ve released a couple of records because I had to. So far they haven’t made a huge impact in the history of music but who knows? Time will tell.
I’m not sure how much Stormfågel say about me as a person, I’m afraid that the distant relative will get the wrong picture of me. I’m pretty much just a regular everyday normal guy.
Arla Gryning is available now on digipak CD through Sun and Moon Records.