Swedes The Moth Gatherer have come into our ears, eyes and hearts with 'A Bright Celestial Light', a divine-dark-deep-dense post-metal album. The band was actually a duo, consisting of Alex Stjernfeldt and Victor Wegeborn. Taking in flavours of Neurosis and Isis, the pair injected their sound with minimal electronics and atmospherics. Joined by Svante and Ronny, the Gatherers continued experimenting with electronica and explored post-rock qualities in their second album, 'The Earth is The Sky'. Their sound went through a significant change with the recent EP, 'The Comfortable Low'. Moving away from the endearingly post-metal soundscapes, the band stepped into unmapped territory where metal, punk, new wave and even pop-leaning elements intermingle. Dipping between light and dark, uplifting and vitriolic, Swedes teamed up with Denis Lyxzén (Refused) as a guest vocals for the track ‘This Provenance of Bones.’ I caught up with all four of The Moth Gatherer at DUNK! festival (Belgium, where the band conquered the audience with their bombastic riffing, forward thinking electronic interludes and sheer humbleness) to talk about their upcoming album, healing power of music and stepping into abyss.
[Alex Stjernfeldt - Vocals & Bass; Victor Wegeborn - Vocals, Guitar & Electronics; Svante Karlsson - Drums; Ronny Westphal - Guitar]
‘The Comfortable Low’ deals with depression and trying to survive each day.’
The Moth Gatherer have set the standards high with ‘A Bright Celestial Light’. I also read that the album helped you to deal with the loss of family members. What about ‘The Comfortable Low’? Does the EP have any special meaning?
Alex: Yes, it does. ‘A Bright Celestial Light’ was an introvert journey into dealing with loss. When we wrote Earth is The Sky we wanted to explore more extrovert themes. We didn’t want to lose track of who we were, but we wanted to explore new things. ‘The Comfortable Low’ deals with depression and trying to survive each day. It is introvert but in a different way than ‘A Bright Celestial Light’. It’s about what is happening within oneself, but no one else.
‘We all have seen a psychiatrist. That is one of the things we share (Svante). ‘I feel like I opened my eyes to what the world is and I cannot close them anymore (Victor).’
Have any of you suffered from depression?
Alex: All of us, just in different ways.
Svante: It’s a chronic state.
Alex: People who are sensitive are easily affected by depression. It’s kind of like a roller-coaster. Some days you feel great, some days you feel awful. I went through it and I went to see a psychologist.
Svante: We all have seen a psychiatrist. That is one of the things we share.
Victor: I feel like I opened my eyes to what the world is and I cannot close them anymore. It brings me down every day. But you have to find the light in life.
Svante: A Bright Celestial Light [laughing].
Would you say that music for you is therapeutic?
Alex: That is why we have started The Moth Gatherer.
Victor: For me when I scream into people’s faces, that’s a relief. Need to ease the tension.
Alex: To release the sound…
Victor: You are quoting the lyrics of ‘This Provenance of Bones’ [laughing]. It sounds like a cliché, but it does work for me.
Svante: I have the best instrument for pounding out the frustration. Even band practices, thousands of repetitions are meditative for me. What might seem meaningless, gives me gratification. Improving on my instrument and myself… I know that because I am the only one here who practices [laughing].
Alex: Svante is the best musician in the band!
Do you have a ‘classical’ education in music?
Svante: I have studied music for two years. Starting from jazz and moving to soul and blues. The main reason why I am into music is because of my dad. He plays clarinet. He was never home, of course. But he influenced me.
Ronny: Me and Alex we went to the same music class in the high school!
‘I feel that a guitar cannot express all the things I want it to. I am tired of playing the same riff all over again. You get stuck in a pattern. With a synthesiser you can go nuts.’
Victor, electronic elements in The Moth Gatherer is your responsibility, right?
Yes. Electronic music has been a huge influence to me. Actually, I produce more electronic music than I write for the band, but most of it just stays at home. In The Moth Gatherer we have a lot of layers, and that’s me. I feel that a guitar cannot express all the things I want it to. I am tired of playing the same riff all over again. You get stuck in a pattern. With a synthesiser you can go nuts. You can play around with oscillators, filter, effects. It gives another dimension to the music. I tried to write music without those elements, but they keep coming back. I love techno and fell in love with drum & bass recently. I want to incorporate that in our band but that’s hard.
‘Victor is writing a lot of music lately. He incorporates Meshuggah, Cult of Luna, the house scene and a lot of Coldplay. Push all that together and you’ll have The Moth Gatherer song. Victor should be credited as a great songwriter!’
You have been compared to Isis and Cult of Luna, who also incorporate the electronic elements. How do you feel about it? Have these bands actually influenced you?
Alex: I used to listen to Cult of Luna a lot. I have seen them so many times. I had all their albums. But when 'A Bright Celestial Light' came out and I read all of the comparisons, I stopped listening to Luna completely. About Isis, I think Oceanic is one of the best post-metal albums ever made. My grandfather bought me that album 15 years ago! Man, I am getting old!.. Subconsciously, influences like Isis, Neurosis, Cult of Luna came into ‘A Bright Celestial Light’. How I feel about being compared to Cult of Luna? I think that being a Swedish band we will always be in a shadow of Cult of Luna. They are forbearers of the genre. We cannot break out of that shadow. I hate it but also accept it.
Victor: I am a huge fan but I wouldn’t say we sound like them. I honestly don’t think so.
Alex: Victor is writing a lot of music lately. He incorporates Meshuggah, Cult of Luna, the house scene and a lot of Coldplay. Push all that together and you’ll have The Moth Gatherer song. Victor should be credited as a great songwriter!
Svante: I have only heard one song of Cult of Luna. Not listening to this type music at all gives me fresh ears. I don’t have a reference or preference. If I like it, I like it.
Ronny: It’s exactly the same for me. But I am just getting into that. My influences are starting to grow. I am starting to get the feel for it and I hope to write more riffs for The Moth Gatherer.
Alex: Svante’s and Ronny’s roles should not be undermined. They are crucial to our sound. Even if Victor writes the main body of a song, they act as amazing contributors. All of us as a group we want to go darker, create music that is painful. But we have different visions of that. Ronny likes Blink 182 and Metallica. Then we have Svante who comes from jazz and is too good for us. Then Victor with techno and house. Me and Victor are the opposites, Ronny and Svante are a crucial link between us. It’s a miracle we made A Bright Celestial Light without killing each other [laughing].
I see a change in a sonic direction within ‘The Comfortable Low’. A songy lyrical direction. Is this a path you are going to take?
Alex: No. The EP does not represent the new material we are working on. The reason why we did this EP was to push ourselves. If you listen to the songs, you find some parts that are similar our previous albums, but you can also find some post-punk, new wave, electronica, pop. We went all over the place with ‘The Comfortable Low’. With the new material we are stepping deeper into the darkness. I thought ‘A Bright Celestial Light’ was the abyss. But it is now we are going down. Let’s say if ‘A Bright Celestial Light’ was level 4, now we are going to level 9. A big step into the darkness.
‘We just wanted to look like Denis Lyxzen. Both of us wanted to be him.’
‘The Comfortable Low’ is indeed different from your earlier works also because ‘This Provenance of Bones’ features vocals of Dennis Lyxzén (Refused). Can you tell us more about this collaboration?
Alex. Me and Victor, we played in a hardcore band in highschool. We were young and pissed off at everything. We grew up listening to Refused, Breach, Nine, a lot of Swedish hardcore.
Victor: And a lot of Blink 182. I am being transparent.
Alex: When I was 16 I tried to look like Denis. I had the nose ring. Denis was always a big influence. He and Refused have changed the extreme music. I met him couple of years ago. Suddenly we had a chance to ask him if he wanted to make a collaboration with us. And he wanted to!
Victor: We were really hardcore back in the days. No, we weren’t. We just wanted to look like Denis Lyxzén. Both of us wanted to be him. But now it is hard to play ‘This Provenance of Bones’ live without him. Because none of us can sing [laughing].
What about Fred Burman (Satan Takes A Holiday)?
Alex: Fred is a friend of mine. I think that Satan Takes A Holiday is the best rock & roll band in Sweden. Especially live, they are so fucking good. He has a huge vocal range. Ten years ago he played in a sludge band where he was screaming. We allowed him to do what he wanted with the song. And knowing his wide range of vocals we didn’t know what to expect. The result was awesome!
Victor: This is how we undertake all of our collaborations. We want people to bring what they are good at.
Svante: Bringing their own nuances to our music.
Alex: It’s fun. Everyone who creates music, arts, have their mission. We want to incorporate their mission into our music. Free hands – do what you want!
‘Me and Victor, we locked ourselves in the basement for 72hrs to record vocals. All we could do was drink beer and record vocals.’
What about your vocals, Alex’s and Victor’s?
Victor: We write music first and then lay the vocals. Alex’s lyrics are great and we want to layer them on top of things. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Alex: To be honest we never focussed on vocals.
Ronny: Vocals is the last thing. We have a great song and then find a place for the vocals.
Alex: Yeah, we have a great song and then fuck it up with the vocals. Hopefully with our third album we will give vocals more time. Last time,
Victor: Which was a great combination!
Can we expect more collaborations and guest vocals in the upcoming album?
Victor: Yes, there are people we want to bring on.
Alex: Elvis Presley would be cool.
Victor: And Michael Jackson. But collaborations hit us hard. Now I have to sing Denis’ vocals and I am not a great singer. My lung capacity is low.
Alex: We love the idea of a collaboration, of having a guest vocalist. We hate the idea of performing it live. We are still discussing ir for the third album.
When is the record coming out?
Alex: In 2018, on Agonia Records. A black metal label, which makes total sense [laughing], because we are playing black metal.