2004 may very well be the year that Sweden's Tad Morose are finally launched deep into the consciousness of suburban (and, sure, urban) America, the year that finally sees them break wide the American market that's been teeming with enthusiasm for the quintet for some time. SoT's Jedd Beaudoin recently spoke with Tad Morose vocalist Urban Breed about this moment in the band's history and their new album Modus Vivendi.
Sea of Tranquility: I'm really struck by your performances on this record. In my mind, this is the band's strongest recording yet. What can you tell me about how you got your performances?
Urban Breed: As far as the backing vocals, I did everything at home, so that made things easier. Maybe that has something to do with it, if you think I'm singing better on this one than on the others where I had to do everything in the studio. That makes for long days and puts a strain on the voice. I was more relaxed in the studio this time. I didn't have to do eight-hour shifts where I sang constantly.
SoT: You've been doing this for a long time, do you take care of your voice in a different way than when you first started singing?
UB: Sort of. I try to, anyway. [Laughs.] Whenever I need to. One of the most important things for my voices is that I get enough sleep. I'm really terrible with that. [Laughs.] So if I know that I have an important vocal session, I take care of it but otherwise I don't.
SoT: A lot of people have problems with smoke and so on when they're on tour, they complain that the smoke bothers them and harms their overall performance. Do you have a problem with that?
UB: It doesn't bother me that much. There is one thing that most people do wrong when they are on tour is that they talk too much. And I do the same.
UB: I'm no better than other people. But I know about it now and so I try to get away from the fun part of everything and take better care of my voice.
SoT: Tell me about the lyrics for this record. Were you in one particular emotional state while you wrote them?
UB: I didn't write them in a week or something like that. I wrote lyrics for one song here and the other song there. It takes a bunch of months. I can't tell you that I was in one specific mindset. That's why I think that some of the lyrics are pretty much different from others. They differ in both subject and style.
SoT: It's interesting. The song "Life In A Lonely Grave," to my mind, covers a lot of different emotions. Is it hard to capture those emotions as you're recording the vocals?
UB: I don't know, really. What happens, mainly, is that you either feel for a song or you don't. If you don't feel for a song, it doesn't matter if it's just one emotion or if it's 10. If you feel for it, then you get into anyway. If you don't feel for a song at all, though, and you keep working on it, you might find after a while that you do feel something for it. That's what happened with "Life In A Lonely Grave." I didn't take to it immediately. It was one of Daniel's [Olsson, guitar] ideas. I instantly came up with the melody for the verse. That was easy. That was the natural way to go with it. And when I presented it to Daniel, he said that that was pretty much what he expected me to do. [Laughs.] We've been writing songs for quite a while so he knows what I'll be coming up with. On the other hand, I had no clue as to what harmonies I would add to the chorus and the middle verse. He said that was some kind of a curve ball.
SoT: How has making records changed for you since you first started? Were there things that you thought would be more interesting than what they turned out to be?
UB: I was just excited to be doing music in any sense. I thought that writing songs and recording them would be the most fun part of it all. I wasn't all that excited about playing live because there were so many things that could wrong and that kind of worried me, whereas now, it's the other way around. If I go on stage now and something goes totally wrong, it's not the end of world. Even the audience will remember that, as long as you give them a great performance anyway. If you screw up big time and you can have a laugh at it yourself, then everyone will probably laugh with you instead of at you, which is what you think when you're sixteen: "If I screw up on stage, no one will ever let me up there again." Nowadays, I think I could skip a whole verse of a song and that no one would care as long as I keep going. Or not.
I remember one show where I forgot the first line of one song and it came out just hilarious and I started laughing. These things happen. Studio time isn't that fun. Some people might think it's the best part. To each his own. But, personally, it's no fun at all. It's just work. The fun part is creating stuff. We've always done that. When we're in the studio, it's just the mechanical work of trying to get the performances there. For me, personally, it's hard. Sometimes, I've put in a killer performance on the demo and I'm trying to reproduce that and trying to, to top it off, is hard. Other times, I didn't do so good on the demo, which makes it a lot easier.
SoT: I have this sense, sometimes, as a writer, that the stuff that everyone loves is not my best work, that I've missed the mark on it; but somehow that stuff, almost invariably, is exactly what people wind up loving. [Laughs.] That's not always the case, of course, but it happens. Do you have a similar sense?
UB: I have a little theory about this. When we do fail, when we don't get it, that's probably when our true selves shines through. So, when you are yourself ... normally, we want to do the things that we can't do. We aspire to do something that we don't do right now, something that would be a bit more than ourselves but when we do, as you say, miss the mark, then maybe that is exactly what people like to hear anyway, or see or read. In the end, it was you who wrote that piece, it was me who sang that song, it was Daniel that played the guitars over there. Ultimately, it's what makes us human and what makes us the characters we are. If we were all flawless, then we'd be pretty much all the same anyway.
I think it's some kind of Indian saying that if you do make the perfect piece, you better put a fault in there somewhere. I think it's like with crafts, maybe weaving, where it's perfect and they go through great lengths to put an error in there somewhere. I think that's cool. Otherwise, it might be mechanical. That's just my theory.
SoT: Well, to go back to the album for a moment, I have to say that what I appreciate about it is that it's not overstuffed, if you know what I mean.
UB: It's a matter of dynamics. It's what makes some bands really great. They know how dynamics work. We're still learning. We're trying to make this thing a bit better. We're still in the learning stages with this, whereas other bands are close to perfection. In my eyes that is. [Laughs.] It's something where ... if you just squeeze in every piece you can everywhere, it'll just be bland. That's the result. With painting, if you put in every color there, you get either gray or black. If you put in red, green or blue and mix them together, it'll be gray or black, whereas on the other hand .... If you use your tools sparingly, you'll get a whole lot more detail and you'll be able to focus on the details that you want to focus on. Otherwise, you'd just drown them out. If it's sound, if it's lights, if it's painting , even carpentry, it's all the same.
SoT: What does your family think of your career?
UB: I think they're kind of happy with it. They know it won't pay much. I do other work as well. The only downside to them, I think, would be that [they have to listen to me singing] the same lines over and over again while I try to find the right expression. You can imagine how irritated you might get while hearing one line over and again. [Laughs.] I put my computer program in a loop and I just try it over and over again and do very small variations. Sometimes I don't have any luck with it at all. In the end, I end up throwing the idea away. If you listen to it, it's totally in vain.
SoT: Do you get distracted from your daily life when you're working on a record?
UB: Absolutely. That's so true and I think it's true for most people who do this kind of thing. If you're ready to leave the stuff that you're working on all the time, then maybe you lose the nerve. Whenever you're doing it, it feels like the most important thing. When you leave it for a while, you might lose all your inspiration and when you come back to it, you might think, "What am I doing? What is this? This is crap." Whereas if you followed through with it from the beginning it's .... It's a very illusive thing, really. You've got it on the tip of your tongue and then all of a sudden you get it. Or you don't. But that's why you pretty much drop everything. You all of a sudden get it and if you leave it be and you go do dishes or put in laundry, then it's just gone.
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