The Bucket Playlist – Interview with The Confusions: ‘It’s really exciting to get the songs in order to create a story’

Sundsvall, Sweden-based indie band, The Confusions, fuse the best of the 60’s and 80’s with their own, unique modern spin, giving us a 20 track album, Black Silhouettes, last month.
Link to interview/website for In The Bucket Playlist:
https://inthebucketplaylist.com/interview-with-the-confusions-its-really-exciting-to-get-the-songs-in-order-to-create-a-story/

The band comprises Mikael Andersson-Knut (vocals, guitar), his wife Zarah Andersson-Knut (keyboard, vocals), Mattias Löfström (drums) and Magnus Thorsell (bass). Löfström and the Andersson-Knuts went to the same school in Sundsvall in the 80’s and the band has existed since 1991. Thorsell was not the original bass player but they’ve know him forever and he also played on their first single, ‘Me And Marianne’. ‘There was a lot of discussion about our name,’ Mikael joked. ‘We took it from the lyrics in the Bob Dylan song, ‘All Along The Watchtower’. There’s a line “there must be some kind of way outta here said the joker to the thief, there’s too much confusion”.’

Black Silhouettes is a fascinating album, with the 20 tracks telling stories about everything from love, solitude, nationalism and Chernobyl. ‘When you make a record, it’s really exciting to get the songs in order to create a story,’ Mikael said. ‘We knew that it would be 20 songs.’ So far, the album has been released as a double vinyl album, with the first 10 tracks also available on Spotify. The remaining tracks will also be made available on streaming platforms as of August. Mikael acknowledges that the mood shifts from the A to D sides, with the A side being the rockiest, whereas the C side, which starts with ‘Don’t You Fall In Love’ is ‘colder’: ‘It’s more melancholic, whereas the D side, which includes ‘Sunday Mornings’ is sunny, there’s more of a 60’s vibe.’

The album cover features the four band members atop a mountain in silhouette, an image which is mirrored inside the album in a photo of them onstage with the audience framed as dark shadows. The title track, ‘Black Silhouettes’, is one of the standout tracks for me and sets the tone for what’s to come. ‘We had a session with our friend Daniel and did the first take but without the right chorus. Two weeks later, I’d combined what we had with another chorus, we feel that this song is special,’ Mikael said.

‘It feels like you’re falling into the story’

As the opening track, they wanted ‘Black Silhouettes’ to be particuarly story-driven: ‘I wanted that song to feel like a good short story, where you’re thrown into the situation,’ Mikael said. ‘I thought about this woman being alone reading a lot, the window is always open but she’s running away from something in her life. It feels like you’re falling into the story.’ It does, as evidenced by the way the song begins: ‘You’re all alone with your books in the summertime, the window is always open. The words hit your heart with a cosmic power, you wish you could be dancing. Soon it will be dark, this is where you keep your heart.’

The song was heavily influenced by American rock band, The War on Drugs, according to Mikael: ‘We wanted to have that straight drum beat that pushes the song forward, that’s how the song starts. We changed the key so that my voice would be higher. With the new bridge and the chorus, it fitted perfectly.’ I tell him that the song feels like a dream: ‘Oh, that’s good, that’s what we wanted it to be, happy yet still sad in a way. Zarah did the mellotrons in the chorus.’

Another track, ‘Into the Twilight’, has a very different feel to it, kicking off with synths and is most memorable for the dramatic chord shift from chorus to verse. Essentially, the song is about getting to know someone and their past and has a slightly wistful feel to it, which is captured by the lyrics: ‘Who did you kiss when you were 15? What was her name or was it a he? What kind of friends did you hang out with and what did you do when you were out of school? What did they tell you? What did they make you become?’

They weren’t actually sure initially about including it, partly due to the dramatic chord shift: ‘It might be a single now,’ Mikael said. ‘We’ve grown to like it very much, it’s very much a post punk song, in the style of David Bowie around the time of ‘Heroes’. Lyrically, it’s also about where we are going, everyone is a stranger these days.’

‘I think it’s a mix between David Bowie and the Twin Peaks music’

Some songs on the album veer into 80’s territory, notably ‘I Wish We Could Swim Now’, which I tell him sounds as if it could be an A-ha song. ‘I think it’s a mix between David Bowie and the Twin Peaks music,’ he said. ‘The verses are kinda dark, it’s about regrets in a way, it opens up with this big chorus. I found the chorus later on. We started talking about David Lynch, we like him and the intro synths of the song has got that Twin Peaks feel. It’s a song you imagine playing when there’s a vehicle driving in the dark with the headlights on!’ 

Mikael and I are chatting about the track ‘Maybe You’re Just Another One of A Kind’ when Zarah joins us, which is perfect timing, given that she does lead vocals on it. However, the track went through several different configurations to get to the version we know today, having initially taken the form of a duet between them: ‘Mikael often says it’s good to have a different voice, it makes it more interesting and this song was in the right key for my voice,’ she said. Structurally, the song takes an interesting form as it is essentially one long verse without a chorus. ‘Zarah said she should do a vocal overdub to look for new harmonies, so there are three vocal harmonies now in the song which creates a magic feel,’ Mikael said. ‘The song is a person talking to herself almost as if she has three personalities. The line ‘maybe you’re just another one of a kind’ comes from everyone wanting to be so special and unique, which means that nothing is special anymore. Everyone is trying to be something they’re not.’

They’re both big fans of Chicago alt rock band, Wilco. ‘We like them when they’re not too grumpy or too much country,’ Mikael laughed. ‘Our song ‘Sunday Mornings’ was influenced by them. One night, we were supposed to record a different song but I said I had this one that was like a 60’s song. Mattias was drumming, he said “Maybe we should speed this up” and it fell into place, it was like Ringo playing the drums! It turned out perfect. Sometimes, you pick up the guitar and it plays itself, in this song there are a lot of progressions and chord changes. Then Zarah did the strings – well, mellotron strings – and that set the tone for the 60’s feel.’

‘Sometimes you’re afraid that it will sound like something else’

For Zarah, one of her constant fears is whether something they’ve written is actually original to them: ‘Sometimes you’re afraid that it will sound like something else or that you didn’t write it but this time, with this song, it sounded good, like something new.’ I tell them that musicians frequently tell me this and that it must be one of the most difficult parts of the job. Mikael laughs: ‘At the end of the day, it always sounds like us anyway!’

She is a big fan of Gothenburg-based singer, Slowgold, who she describes as ‘amazing live’. Mikael loves the popular song ‘Young Folks’ by Peter Bjorn and John and the Swedish band, Trummor & Orgel: ‘They’re an instrumental band, they sound like 60’s psychedelia. They play really good jazz but it’s still indie, like The Stone Roses in a 60’s way! You get the groove.’

If he could have seen any band live, Mikael goes with Blur: ‘I have never seen them, I would like to because the whole Britpop scene was important to us.’ One of the best gigs they’ve ever been to was a gig put on by Radiohead in Stockholm a few years ago. ‘The sound was great, it was magic,’ he said. However, their standout gig to date was the first time they saw Wilco: ‘There were maybe 1,100 people,’ Mikael said. ‘We were right in front of the stage, you could see what guitar pedals they were using. You lose yourself in it, I love it.’

By Sara Saddon, In The Bucket Playlist

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