Not so long ago I reviewed the debut album by Nephila, a recent Swedish band whose sound is rooted on seventies psychedelia, with elements from other genres such as blues or progressive rock. As you could read, I was enchanted by their lysergic music proposal so I wanted to interview them, to learn the ins and outs of this interesting band. In case you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to their first self-titled LP yet, I recommend you to do it at home, with a relaxing drink, while you read this interview. It has been a huge pleasure to be able to have this conversation with their two singers, Stina Olsson and Josephine Asker.
-To begin with, the mandatory question. How has the global situation affected the band?
Josephine: We have just kind of been focused on the album and we’ve only been able to meet through Zoom actually, but not physically. We’ve just met once I think through the year, so it has affected us… but you know we’ve worked through it.
Stina: Yes, I also would say that we’ve been more focused on the album.
-Why did you decide to name the band after the Nephila spider? Maybe its poison is the reason behind this, like in your song Belladona?
Josephine: Well, it was actually our guitarist Jacob (Hellenrud) who thought it was a funny name. But also, like the spider legs, we were the same number of members, so we thought it was a funny thing to have this name.
-You are part of a group of Swedish bands whose sound is part of a seventies revival. Which are your main influences? How would you define your sound?
Stina: Good question… I’m really bad at name dropping so I’ll leave that to Josephine. But how I’d define our sound?
Stina: Oof that’s also a hard question because I think it’s a mix of a lot of things like rock and roll, blues, and more psychedelic stuff. And I think that’s kind of the point and maybe what makes us unique is that we’re not afraid to mix up a ton of different genres, to try new things. I’ve never felt like restricted to having to sound a certain way and I like the fact that we’re pretty free.
Josephine: Yeah, I agree with Stina. Some bands we like are Jefferson Airplane or Rival Sons… I mean Stina and I love the singer in Rival Sons hahaha. I personally try to take a lot of inspiration from his sound.
Stina: And I think that amongst the musicians it’s a mix as well. I know a lot of them like Rival Sons but also, as Josephine has said, Jefferson Airplane and more actually seventies stuff… Led Zeppelin of course.
-Mm like psychedelic classics?
Both: Yes! hahaha.
-Despite the short time that you have been active, several musicians have passed through your band. Was it due to musical differences? Are your band members involved in other projects?
Josephine: Well, we’ve had several members through the years. The reason why we’ve kind of had a switch, a couple of years ago, with some members, was because some of the old members came to a point in life where they wanted to follow another path, so they dropped out of the band. We knew the new members through friends so it was fun to ask them to join instead. About the other projects… Stina has some projects with her school, I guess? hahaha
Stina: Hahaha well we all have different jobs and musical backgrounds. We do come from the same high school originally, but professionally I’m an actress at a musical theatre, so I do my acting stuff. Jacob works at a studio, and a few of the other band members also work in music, but they do sound or lightning and some of them are studying. So, we all have quite different lives outside the band. Regarding what Josephine has mentioned, it really was a switch because all of these band members dropped at the same time, and then all of our new members joined more or less at the same period, so indeed it was like a switch.
-So, you are not involved in any other bands?
Stina: Oh right! One of the musicians is in several bands.
Josephine: Jacob is in two other bands, one of which is a bit hard rock, Children of the Sün, and the other is more soul, though I can’t remember its name. The keyboardist, Johan (Larsson), has some cover bands with his father, where he plays groups like Pink Floyd. I also know that Anton (Athley), the other guitarist, has some bands with classmates.
-Something that draws attention are the masks, which have evolved since the beginning of the act. Why do only you two perform without masks? What do these masks represent?
Josephine: Well at first it was all just a practical thing, because it was really hard to sing with a mask on, even though it’d had been really cool to have something over the eyes. Then we just rolled with it. We thought it’d be great to have something for me and Stina separately, with the crowns.
-And what do these masks represent for the other band members?
Stina: I usually say it’s a myth, because when I tried asking the original band members why did they wear masks, I never really got a straight answer, but I think that’s pretty exciting as well. If even I don’t know, then that’s more like a myth.
– There’s a mystery behind hahaha.
Stina: Yeah exactly, I kind of view it that way. But this mystery really does add to the show, because if you’ve ever seen us live it’s like: “of course they wear masks, they’re supposed to” hahaha.
Josephine: Yes, it’s mixing with our scene, because we always have some nature on the scenario, trees or something like that. But it kind of just began as a cool thing, like a mystery.
-I must say that I absolutely love your album cover. I’d like to know who’s the artist behind it. Does it have any particular meaning?
Josephine: It’s made by a Greek artist called Vagelis Petikas, from Revolver Design. You can see a moose in the cover because we’re from Värmland, in Sweden, where there are a lot of moose in the forests. Since we like to take nature with us, we told the artist to do so… I don’t know how to explain it.
Stina: Yes, I think that what you’re saying is that we wanted the artist to incorporate a part of the actual Swedish forests. But we also wanted a cover that didn’t look completely Swedish, so it’s kind of a mixture between beautiful nature and an art representative of this artist, blended with our roots I’d say.
-The last song of your recent album is written in Swedish. I would like you to tell me what’s the story behind it and why did you decide to narrate it in your native language?
Josephine: This song, Alla Galaxers Centrum, was written by our old singer, Eline Gustafsson, quite a long time ago. Since all of our members have always really loved to play it, we thought it had to be included on the album as well. About the lyrics, this is a love song.
Eline was in a relationship, where she felt she was giving so much and not getting the same back. When you have a lot of feelings for someone and they’re not corresponded. She says that it’s about wanting to be seen by the person you care for the most. You would give your whole lifetime to fight for this person. Though the person is falling away from you, the person is still going to be the center of the universe and have a special room in your heart.
The chorus can be translated like this more or less:
“Förmigär du allagalaxers centrum.
I mitt slåendehjärtakommer du alltid ha ett rum”
“Centre of the galaxy, you are for me.
A place in my heart, where you will always be.”
Stina: Yes, I think that’s how I interpretate it as well. I fucking love that song and I’m so impressed by Eline. I’m very grateful to be able to sing the song that she wrote, because it’s definitely very iconic. When I wasn’t in Nephila, but I was at some of their shows as a fan at first, that was always my favorite song. So, I’m really happy that we brough it to the album, because when you understand Swedish, it’s not only the music but the lyrics are very iconic as well as interesting. It’s an intriguing song.
-What subjects, either real or fictional, do you like to deal with in your lyrics? Who is in charge of the writing?
Josephine: The writing process starts with the instruments, and then Stina and I listen to it and talk about the vibe, what feeling we got. Maybe we have a lyric that we want to use or something like that. When we’re writing together, we come up with a subject since, in my opinion, Stina and I think very similar about different opinions that we find really important in the world. So that makes it easy to write together.
Stina: Yeah, I completely agree.
-So, are they more real than fictional?
Josephine: Yes. There’re some like Mushroom Creatures, one of our songs, that’s just imaginational lyrics, but if you take Guidance to Agony there’s more depth in it.
-You’re supported by The Sign Records, which is also behind other Swedish bands like Night, Hällas, Heavy Feather or Hot Breath. When did they contact you? Have you shared stage with any of these bands?
Josephine: They contacted us in 2019, when we won a competition that was near their city. About if we have shared stage with them… I don’t know. Have we, Stina?
Stina: I don’t think so, because we’d remember if we did.
Josephine: Maybe someday, it’d be fun.
-Finally, I would like you to tell me what awaits the band in the near future.
Stina: Our plan for this summer is just to promote the record and to meet up in person for the first time in over a year, I think. Is it?
Josephine: (joking) No hahaha.
Stina: We’re going to play together and we’ll start writing again. If we’re lucky, there’s going to be some new music, and after that it’s still quite uncertain, because stages are not open yet. Music is quite dead, but of course we’ll do our best to hopefully get on stage again soon to play as a band.
Josephine: Yes, as Stina said we’ll write some music and start our second album. In a couple of weeks, we’re going to record a live session. Because of the stages being down, we can’t have an audience.
-I’m guessing all the band members live in different places of Sweden?
Josephine: Yeah, high and low we come from very different places right now.
-Well, that must be difficult. Thank you so much for the interview, have a nice rest of your day!
Both: You too, goodbye!