In 2011, Swedish "supergroup" The Amazing released their latest effort Gentle Stream. A sprawling piece of pyschedlic folk that does Laurel Canyon proud, it made Andre's Top Ten of that year, and has been in constant rotation ever since. A few weeks ago the record was re-released in America by Partisan Records, and has finally been getting the attention and praise it deserves. Andre had a chance to chat with chief songwriter Christoffer Gunrup recently, and this is what he had to say about supergroups, jamming and Red House Painters.
CG: Some people refer to The Amazing as a supergroup, can you give us some background on how the collective came together?
Christoffer: I mean we started a few years back and it was just me needing to play with some people, so I contacted the former drummer of Dungen who is an old friend of mine and we needed a bass player so we contacted Reine Fiske and we just jammed and drank heavily and that is basically what we did for awhile.
CG: Did the idea of creating a band out of this really come as the byproduct of just getting together and jamming and saying “Hey this sounds really good, we should figure out songs and create a band out of this?”
Christoffer: Yes and no, I suppose because all three of us were in bands and we knew what playing was about, so we never really needed to talk about it, things just happened, and it just kept growing from there, and people came and went, but Reine was there from the beginning.
CG: Are any of you still playing in other groups?
Christoffer: Yes and no, its the main group for me and probably Alexis Benson, one of the bass players, but the other guys do a lot of stuff, the drummer Moussa Fadera is mainly a jazz drummer, so he is playing all the time with different jazz groups, and they also need him for all kinds of music, but he is primarily a jazz drummer.
CG: What is the process like for developing new material like the tracks on your latest album Gentle Stream in this kind of group dynamic?
Christoffer: Usually, so far it has been quite easy, I usually come along with a simple, straightforward song and melody and I just play, I never talk to them about what I want or what I want them to do, what I need or what I feel. I just play because it is awkward to talk about it, they just do it and usually it turns out the way I like it.
CG: Were there any songs on the new album that went into a direction that you couldn't have even anticipated?
Christoffer: No, they do turn out the way I imagine them in my head, but the thing is I also do most of the overdubs, such as the organs and choirs, additional guitars, so I kind of know what I want for some reason.
CG: This album, including the others all have a really warm, live sound which sounds like a single take of the band playing in a room. How much of the recording is done together and how much is overdubs?
Christoffer: Most of it is the whole band playing together, I mean all of the songs are just live takes, most of the time they are first or early takes, and then I need to do lead vocals and additional vocal overdubs, and sometimes I feel I need some sounds in the background to make it feel the way I feel it should sound.
CG: So the bulk of the tracks are just a live take of you all playing in the studio?
Christoffer: Ya, always.
CG: You’ve been quoted as saying that your music is inspired by the 60's and 70's laurel canyon community. Is playing live in the studio an aspect of that community that motivates you to record in this way?
Christoffer: Yes, that would be that loose feeling of just playing together all the time, I mean that is a part or image of the 60's, maybe not the reality of the 60's, but that's the feeling I come alive within. The one that is into these older bands is Reine and so he is the record nerd who really brings that sound to the group.
CG: Why would you want to make music that sounds like the 1960’s and 1970's in 2012?
Christoffer: Actually, when I make the songs it might first sound like a bad version of a Red House Painters song, but then when we all get together, you have all of these different influences and then it starts swinging and together we all give it a different feeling.
CG: So, it's maybe more of a byproduct of the collective coming together that makes it into that sound, rather than just someone sitting down and saying we want it to sound like it came from the 60's or 70's.
Christoffer: Ya, exactly, we aren't aiming for it, it's not deliberate, it's not like we listen to 60's and 70's music and are inspired to sound just like that, yes we do like old instruments and amplifiers, so some of the sound we get from that, but it's not a deliberate move. It's just important to me that the music swings and you can tap your foot to it at least, I really love it when the drums and bass get going, that is the most important thing for me. Then you have Reine on guitar and he is some kind of wizard doing stuff that might remind you of that old prog rock thing, but it all fits together really well. That's what we love, when you play music together and when you are so into it that you don't really care at all what is happening, we are just five idiots having fun. (laughs)
CG: Has the process evolved in anyway between your earlier albums and this new one in terms of the way you are doing things?
Christoffer: No, because we have released three albums/EP's and during that time we had access to a studio in which we could just show up at any available moment so it has just been one big flow of recordings. Up until now, so from now on things are going to change, where to I have absolutely no idea what we will be doing or how we will be doing it from here on out.
CG: Is there anything on your record player right now that is suiting your fancy?
Christoffer: Ya, I'm a sucker for Mark Kozelek, so I'm listening to the Sun Kil Moon albums a lot at the moment.
CG: You are going on tour with Tame Impala this fall in the states, is there anything you are really looking forward to in terms of that tour?
Christoffer: What I'm really looking forward to is the venues, they seem like quite nice venues, as here in Sweden we have played some nice venues, but there are so few, and coming from Sweden, even though some might not admit it, but it is kind of cool going to America to play.
CG: So, on the album you have a sense of jamming on the songs, does that play out more in the live show?
Christoffer: That is actually one of the few things that we do talk about when it comes to the songs, because I kind of like when it takes away and I don't mind playing a song for 20 minutes, but we have very different opinions on that in the band, because most of all Moussa the drummer does not like it when we try to fly away. And he has a point because it’s not always that good, sometimes its just five guys searching for something that never happens, so he has a point and we have to compromise.
CG: But, you do explore on the stage in the live setting in a similar way as you do on the album?
Christoffer: Ya, hopefully we will be able to explore something new in all of the songs. It is fun because something might happen on stage where it is louder and in the moment which makes it really fun to just play, if everyone in the band is up for it.
CG: You are touring with Tame Impala, any chance you will play some songs together.
Christoffer: If they are nice, well raised and decent, and smell good then we might be willing to play together (laughs)
CG: Maybe do some songs together at the end of each night?
Christoffer: Ya, that would be fun
CG: Cool, then you could make The Amazing - Tame Impala supergroup.
Christoffer: Ya, it would probably just explode into a huge jam, I guess you never know, we’ll have to wait and see (laughs)
The Amazing are on tour NOW with Tame Impala. Rdio subscribers can listen to Gentle Stream in the embed below (Spotify users can listen here), but it's pretty safe to say this is one that is going to sound a lot better on vinyl.