Interview by Miriam C. and Alessandra Cognetta
Hailing from the Swedish island of Gotland, MaidaVale brings together 70s influences and a more contemporary feel to create an energetic, groovy sound. We had the chance to have a chat over Skype with lead vocalist Matilda Roth to get to know a little more about the band and their work and to discuss the Swedish music scene.
Hello Matilda, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine! We’re very happy to have the chance to interview you for the first time.
MaidaVale has released via The Sign Records their debut “Tales of the Wicked West” on 5th August. For our readers that don’t know your history, would mind to tell us how you got together?
We met when we studied music together. We were on an island in Sweden called Gotland. It’s in the Baltic Sea and we lived in a small town, so it was a very creative atmosphere there. We met and formed our band during the second year and when we finished we decided to go on and move to Stockholm and continue with it.
“Tales of the Wicked West”, as announced before, is your first full-length and will be released in August. What was the process behind the creation of the album?
It was a long process actually! We played for a lot of years before we made the album. The songs came about during a long period of time. We rehearsed a lot and wrote music and we played a lot of live shows. The songs developed all the time and we always thought we were gonna record something, but we never got around to it. Then we got in contact with The Sign Records and they wanted us to do something together, so we decided on making a full-length album. We did some pre-production and finalized the songs, then went in the studio and recorded it all in a week.
I was really impressed by how the press release describes with a few concise words your album: “Tales of the Wicked West an album that stands out from recordings made in this time and age”. If you don’t mind me saying it, that’s quite a bold and courageous statement in this precarious times. How would you explain it?
I think we take inspiration from a lot of different types of music. It’s always very based on 60’s and 70’s rock, but all of us listen to different music and everybody has their own input. I think everyone is contributing their thing in their style of playing. I think we have a unique combination of all of us. You can hear influences from different genres. We’re pleased with how the album turned out and I think it’s something new we can bring to the table.
How about the lyrics? What kind of themes are you bringing into the album?
The songs are a bit different from each other, but I think you can somehow hear a connection. Some are more political than others, because we live in the time that we do and we get influenced by things, we think about things and we want to say stuff about what’s going on. Some are from a more personal perspective.
If you don’t mind me asking, you mentioned that you all met in music school, so what kind of musical formation and influences did you have?
For me, personally, I actually didn’t sing that much before. I’ve always sung, but I haven’t really done anything with it. I always listened to not only good singers, but to people who have something to say when they’re singing and people who write in an interesting way. I listened to a lot of different musicians, but Janis Joplin is a big influence for me – her voice is incredible. There’s also different writers and lyricists that I think are interesting.
Lately, Dutch artist Maarten Donders is making a name for himself thanks to the awesome artwork that he has produced for Blues Pills and Graveyard. How was this collaboration born and, personally, what did you want to express with it?
We found him because he did artwork for other bands. We saw their stuff and liked it, so we got in contact with him and asked him if he wanted to do it. He did and we’re very lucky that he wanted to make it. We wanted the cover to somehow show what the music was about. We gave him freedom to do his own thing, his own interpretation of our work. We talked about what we think and what we like and he did it from his perspective. I think it turned out pretty great.
In order to promote “Tales of the Wicked West”, you have released the single “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire” on which was featured on a video clip. Would you mind to share some insights about both song and video?
We’ve had that song for a very long time. I think it’s one of the songs we wrote first and it developed a lot through the years. When we decided on a single we had released two live tracks before and it felt like this was going to be the single. It’s pretty straightforward in a way and I think it kind of represent where we’re at with the album. We decided to make that the single and we decided to make a video that had a bit of a psychedelic vibe to it and not just us playing, it’s pretty boring (laughs). We worked with Holden McNeil who came up with ideas for it. We went to the studio and shot for a few hours during the night, it was a fun experience.
You said that MaidaVale has been together for a long time and that you’ve been doing a lot of live shows, so what I wonder is: did the songs change through time or were they pretty straightforward from the beginning?
They have changed a lot, actually (laughs). Some more than others, but we’ve been going back and forth with the songs, changing stuff and it turned out better and better all the time.
Listening wholly to the album, I’ve realized that although the band thrive on “the late 60’s/early 70’s music scene” as the main influence but at the same time MaidaVale manages to, as Holly Carson from Iron Fist Zine, said to not “slip into the muddied waters of overdone nostalgia”. How did you manage to find the perfect musical balance between old and new without being predictable? How did you bring something new to it?
Thank you for saying that, that we brought something new. I think a lot of it comes from us not listening just to that kind of music. We listen to a lot of different music and are influenced by it. We want to do something new, it’s the cliché of “something that hasn’t been done before”, but it’s hard to do. You always want to challenge yourself in the music to do something new.
You mentioned that you’re all from Goatland, Sweden. Since I also live in Sweden I was wondering, form your perspective as a band, how is the Swedish music scene? Is it difficult to stand out as a band or a musician or are there incentives to pursue a musical career?
I think it’s a good music scene, but there are a lot of bands so it’s hard to stand out. You have to be original to do that. There are a lot of clubs and festivals where you can get an opportunity to play and starting out when you’re a kid there are good opportunities to learn and study. It’s a good music scene, even though with rock’n’roll you just have to play and play and play before people recognize your music and you can take it further.
At the beginning you play at a lot of places and they just promise to give you “exposition”…
But I’m glad to see so many Swedish bands lately. Speaking of playing live, MaidaVale are going to play in selected Swedish gigs (and one French concert). Do you have any further plans for a complete EU tour?
Yes, we have had a small tour in August, a few dates in Germany, one in France, one in Denmark and then some in Sweden. We’re working on getting a small tour in Spain in October but then we would like to have a longer tour all over Europe, because playing live is what we want to do, it’s the most fun part (laughs).
So, Matilda, it’s time for our parting words – I really thank you for your time – please greet freely our readers and your fans!
Thank you for supporting us and for being so nice! The reception we got is incredible, we didn’t believe it was gonna be so positive. Thank you to everybody!