If you’ve not yet come across The Night Flight Orchestra, or their fantastic vocalist Bjorn “Speed’ Strid, then hello, good evening and welcome to one of the most exciting auditory experiences you’ll have all year. Not this interview, obviously, but as always at Sentinel Daily we hope all our interviews fire up some interest in our readership to go away and perhaps discover a new artist that they hadn’t given an ear to before…and The Night Flight Orchestra are certainly worthy of anyone’s attention. Their third album, Amber Galactic, is out today, and is as good an exposition of ‘heavy yacht rock’ as you’re likely to hear, so I was delighted to be able to have a chat with the man Strid himself to find out a bit more about the record…
Amber Galactic is a phenomenal record, and it has a really massive sound – how long did it take to put the album together from start to finish? “Well, we’re lucky enough that we have two producers in the band, and they both have studios. So that’s where we were recording everything, and we had three recording sessions. So, in total, three weeks. We recorded some of the stuff live in the studio. So we’d basically set up, jam, arrange everything and basically record whenever we felt like it. It’s a different way to do things, but it turned out very cool. The production sounds very authentic, it captures very much the feel of the late seventies and early eighties”.
It certainly does! I said in the review that we ran of the album that the sound is almost frightening it’s so good. It’s almost uncanny – to say you recorded the album in three weeks is amazing! Some of those albums that were recorded in the time you’re talking about took nine months to record! It’s amazing that you’ve got so close in such a short time. “Yes, I guess (laughs)… you know when we started the band it was a matter of getting the right people, creative people who understood what it was we wanted to capture. We’ve been lucky enough to find amazing musicians and producers… for instance our guitarist Sebastian (Forslund) is also our percussionist, did all the artwork for the album and the mix! It’s really cool”.
Clearly you’re very pleased with the album – have you been pleased with the critical reception of the record so far? “Yeah, it’s been crazy! I didn’t know what to expect – we’re releasing this album on Nuclear Blast which is a whole new dimension of possibility for us. We’ve done a lot of press, and especially a lot of the metal press, and everybody seems to love it. There’s a lot of ‘this band is my guilty pleasure!’ But I think it’s going to go beyond metal in as far as… I don’t think it’s only going to be metalheads who listen to the album. I think NFO is something a lot of people might have missed, and also it’s not purely a nostalgia thing – it’s very refreshing as well in many ways. As I said before as a way of composing and producing albums we sort of rediscovered a lost art, but I think it makes sense as well and it’s needed out there”.
You’ve released three albums now (Internal Affairs (2012) and 2015’s Skyline Whispers) – would you say Amber Galactic is a successor to those two or have all three albums got very specific identities? “I think it took us two albums to maybe channel all our influences. Everyone in the band loves a lot of the same bands, obviously, but it takes time. This album almost feels like a first album in a way, especially as the two first ones were released on a very small label (Coroner Records) and Nuclear Blast is huge; so it feels as though it starts now in the sense that sound-wise and song writing wise it’s more focussed”.
Going back to the start, some ten years ago, were you worried that, being known as the singer in death metal outfit Soilwork, the Strid metal credibility might be somewhat damaged by being involved in this sort of music? “No, I didn’t think about that at all. I had such a strong feeling, this was something I’d wanted to do for such a long time; So for me at the beginning I really couldn’t care less what people said. It was something I really wanted to do, and something that me and David (Andersson, guitars – you may know him now as the guitarist in NWoBHM-influenced outfit Mean Streak) decided to form – we were really bonding over it. We were doing a lot of touring in Soilwork and we were trying to create a soundtrack, a classic rock soundtrack for the road so we said let’s create one of our own! So that’s where it started and at the beginning I was nervous as to whether I could pull it off as a singer, but it all came out very naturally and it was the greatest kick in the world when I realised that I could pull it off”.
You mentioned influences earlier – what are the acts you all love, the influences that pull the NFO sound together? “I would say Kiss, Foreigner, Abba, Steely Dan…. Those are definitely some bands that we all love. There’s a lot! Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, but also David, Sharlee (D’Angelo, bass) and Jonas Källsbäck (drums) are also into seventies fusion music… that’s something that I’m not much into. Or maybe I just don’t understand it yet! And I think you can hear that in the playing – there are some very smart chords going on!”
That fusion thing comes through as sounding like Toto to me in places. Those guys were involved in a lot of jazz and fusion sessions, as I guess the Steely Dan band were too. “I think you’re right. And Toto is definitely a band we all get influence from, especially the earlier albums – the first album and Hydra”.
Would you be tempted at any point to cover any of those bands or don’t you see the need? “No, we haven’t really felt the need to do that. We did however record a cover for the limited edition version of the album, and it’s a Mick Jagger cover… from his solo album She’s the Boss. It’s a song called Just Another Night, which he performed at Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985. That live version is so friggin’ fantastic – we were just sitting in the studio one night, it was late and we were watching You Tube clips, and saw that. It was like ‘can we do a cover of this one? Yeah, let’s do it right now!’, So we had to wake up the drummer, who was already passed out drunk and put him behind the kit, then we jammed it, ran through it four times and recorded everything live, apart from the saxophone solo, which we had emailed to us overnight by a friend! So it all came into place very quickly!”
You mentioned apprehension at being able to sing this style of music at the outset of the band – but what is more difficult for you as a vocalist? Death metal or yacht rock? How do the two compare? “Good question! To begin with, I think I needed to do the twenty years as a death metal vocalist with Soilwork as I built up a very tough voice that can take a lot of beating; Believe it or not I’ve built up a very strong falsetto through those years. I do a lot of back up vocals and there’s been a lot of falsettos there through the years (laughs), so I think I needed to do that, and then the switch was fairly easy. I don’t know – on the first two NFO albums it was still like a learning experience but I feel I’ve mastered it pretty well now and I feel way more confident and it feels very natural. There is some stuff on the album that’s difficult; Midnight Flyer has some pretty crazy high notes, but a lot of the stuff just comes to me now and somehow it works”.
It certainly works! You wouldn’t know your day job was singing death metal! “True!”
You’re all busy blokes – is there any chance of much touring for Amber Galactic? “That’s the plan! We all want to take this on the road! When the album comes out it’s really a matter of getting the promoters to pick up on it. The first two albums really went under the radar, but despite the small distribution we had we built up quite an impressive fanbase; but I think now is when everything is going to fall into place. We have tour support, we really want to take it on the road and we’d love to come to Australia!”
It’s hard to think of any ‘young’ bands playing this sort of music for you to tour with though! “I know! Maybe we should just wait for Abba to do this damn reunion and we could be the direct support?”
A man can dream can’t he?
Amber Galactic is released today by Nuclear Blast