Coming ‘Full Circle’ with a New Singer and a Firm Direction
When Sweden band The Quill started in 1994 from humble beginnings, they might never have envisioned being around almost 18 years later. Releasing seven albums, touring in front of thousands and going through the most lethal change for any rock group, losing their lead singer, the band have survived and maintained a dedication to big riffs, big grooves and big hooks. Their new opus Full Circle celebrates their allegiance to seventies rock while adding their trademark Soundgarden edge to 13 compositions that explore everything from women to mystical folklore. The band formed through the friendship of guitarist Christian Carlsson and drummer George ‘Jolle’ Atlagic. They remain the core of the group. Atlagic’s took a second job drumming for Finnish glam band Hanoi Rocks in 2008 and recorded one album with UK band Firebird. Original bassist, Roger Nilsson also recorded with Firebird as well as Spiritual Beggars and Arch Enemy. He has since been replaced by Robert Triches.
“Bands from Sweden are very inspired by American culture and American music,” says drummer Jolle backstage at the band’s recent San Francisco debut. “Every kid has a dream to become something. In Sweden, education isn’t the main thing, it’s more we do whatever makes us happy and things will work out.” Guitarist Christian Carlsson interjects. “There are not very many homeless people or poor people in Sweden which means pretty much every parent can afford to buy their kid an electric guitar or some other musical instrument. There’s a lot of education for kids to become musicians. In their free time they can go to music school for a term or hire a music teacher. Most kids in Sweden try to play an instrument for one or two years this is why we have such a musically diverse country.” That diversity is rich within the deep cuts of Full Circle from the Deep Purple-inspired “Sleeping With Your Enemy” to the Zeppelin-esque “River of Moonchild.”
“Our other albums were recorded in Malmö,” says Carlsson, “but this one was done at Grand Studios in Gävle and mixed by Chris Laney at Polar Studios, ABBA’s old studio.” The attention to production is what gives the album its big sound without being overly cooked with modern pro-tools. It adds to the record’s warmth without being clinical or stale. “It’s been hard to keep the band going all these years,” says the guitarist. “Without big record sales we struggle but having a good sounding album takes time and the right people.” Carlsson also feels some of the past band members have held back the progression of The Quill. “Jolle and I want to try new things and keep going to do everything to make it. It was very difficult with our old singer (Magnus Ekwall). The main problem was he hated the touring you have to be into to make it work. Touring is very special to us, we are not flying around in jets, and so it’s a lot of hard work.” In ’04 The Quill did a massive 40-date European tour with Gluecifer and Monster Magnet. “We shared the same label and our manager worked very closely with them to get us on that tour,” says Carlsson. “We played these big places, and felt like real rock stars. Monster Magnet were great to us, we became fans touring with them.”
Drummer Jolle describes the agony of going from such an overwhelming and positive experience touring with Monster Magnet to then coming home and having to find a new lead singer. “After the ’06 record In Triumph we were offered the UFO tour. We knew we needed a new singer and tried hard for a couple months with no success. We had to say ‘no’ to the tour, which killed us because we love UFO’s music and have great respect for them. Eventually we found Magnus Arnar through Myspace.” After looking for singers throughout Sweden, they found Arnar two hours north of Stockholm. The Quill are based four hours south of Stockholm so it was relatively easy to hook up. “We recorded a demo of ‘Sleeping With Your Enemy’, a song we’d written for the new album,” says Jolle. “We asked Magnus to give it a try. He was really excited about it so we wrote him some more songs. When we decided to record a new album everything became more serious. He has a wider range and a more raw approach than our old singer. He’s more of a metal vocalist in the vein of Dio or Coverdale with a lot of attitude a classic rock singer.”
Carlsson says the band have done 40 shows with the new Magnus. “He wrote some of the lyrics for Full Circle. Everyone in the band contributes equally. In the old days the old Magnus (Ekwall) did 100% of the lyric writing. It was a little new to us but we have greater input now. We tend to write lyrics with the melodies in mind. We decided when we first started the band to only sing in English. We wanted to be like our idols that were from America and England. Even though our English was crap we tried.” There is a slight element of Seattle sound in the band’s retro grooves. “We like Soundgarden and Alice In Chain a lot,” says Carlsson. “When I first heard Audioslave (the post millennium band with Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornel and 3⁄4 of Rage Against the Machine) I thought they were going to be the greatest band in the world. After they broke up, I did see Chris Cornel as a solo artist and thought his show was amazing.”
With a new record label and a US tour under their belt The Quill are positive about the future. “When we lost our label and singer we thought no one would really care if we disappeared,” says Jolle. “Now with our new label and singer, a new record that we are really proud of and some great shows ahead we are feeling better about moving forward as a band. We are very competitive and when we would see Swedish bands like the Hellacopters and Backyard Babies doing so well we got jealous. We wanted to be where they were. We were always comparing ourselves to their success. Now, we’re just happy to be working as a band, making great music and hanging out with people that dig it.” The Quill’s video for the song “Medicine” can be viewed here. The clip was shot in October at Tierp Arena in Sweden Northern Europe’s most acclaimed new raceway for drag racing. It was shot live in front of racers, personnel, firemen and, of course, the thousands of wild drag racing fans on site.
Website: The Quill
Words: TK Smith © TCE 2012