Kaipa, is a Swedish progressive folk-rock-fusion-band from Sweden. They have recently recorded their eleventh album, Vittjar, which will be released on August 27th 2012, in Europe and August 28th 2012, in the USA on Inside Out Music. Their unique blend of folk music mixed with progressive time signatures is always a breath of fresh air when it is released. Sea of Tranquility's Mark Johnson was happy to find both Hans Lundin, band leader, electric and acoustic keyboards and vocals, and singer Aleena Gibson willing to discuss the new album.
SoT-Hans and Aleena, welcome to the Sea of Tranquility! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule promoting your new album "Vittjar" and rehearsing to take some time out to answer some questions for your fans.
Hans, this and the last album have those powerful opening tracks, and then you stop and restart the album again. What is it about the double opening that you like so well?
Hans: The opening track "First distraction" is a battle between two time signatures 5/8 and 4/4. It opens in 5/8, and then drums, bass and guitar start playing in 4/4 while the chords and melody continues in 5/8. In the end of the song the melody is the winner forcing the whole band to play in 5/8.
SoT - Hans, this album seems to include more powerful guitar and much heavier drums. Was that intentional?
Hans: Yes in some parts it was definitely intentional. The music always becomes different when the other musicians step in and form the final result. Some parts are strictly arranged by me but often they have free hands to form the music in their own way as long as they play within the basic arrangements. With such great musicians in the band it's always a surprise but also a great pleasure to follow the development of a song.
SoT - "Lightblue and Green" is the first epic, over 12 minute track. It gives this album more of a live feel, as you seem to want to extend the songs longer. By the way I like Aleena and Lundström singing "Now, now, now!"…it is an early album highlight.
Hans: This "now" phrase was added spontaneously by Aleena and Patrik the last day we recorded. This is a good example of how some small, not predetermined, details can change the final result in a very positive way.
Aleena: We just have a ball working together me, Patrik and Hans, and now, now, now was born out of pure playfulness just before we ended the session.
SoT - If "Lightblue" was a nice opening surprise, then "Our Silent Ballroom Band" is the Pièce de résistance! Aleena is back! She sounds great. Hans and Aleena, please tell us about the development of a Kaipa song using this epic, over 22 minute track as an example.
Aleena: Thank you! It's always inspiring to sing melodies and lyrics one likes and this one is special and beautiful. The whole arrangement is an adventure and this is Hans's specialty. Both I and Patrik are Queen fans and this is the stuff.
Hans: I never decide in advance what I shall write and I almost never sit down trying to write a new song. I know that there are always situations, often when I don't expect it, when a small melody or idea starts to play in my head. If I have the possibility I record a small rough outline just to remember it. Then I can return later and listen to it. If it still captures my interest I start working with this basic idea. Often it leads me into a concentrated period of song writing where one thing leads to another in a very natural but sometimes also unexpected way.
This song "Our Silent Ballroom Band" is a good example where the inspiration took me on a long and unexpected journey. After Aleena's introduction there's a long ramp building up an almost atmospheric feeling with percussion, keyboards, distant voices, recorders, and fragments of guitar. The bass and drums come in after more than four minutes, that's where a normal song ends. There are not so many different parts in the song. It's built more on several variations of the main themes. Per is playing an almost two minutes long fantastic and beautiful solo at the end of the song, probably the longest solo he has ever played on an album. He really forced himself to be restrained in the beginning of the solo. This is far away from the solos he normally plays in Scar Symmetry and really shows what an extremely talented and diverse musician he is.
I've always been fascinated of what's going on in my sub-consciousness. All these silent activities, the never ending streams of words, ideas, pictures and melodies floating around often without a clear direction. They come and they go and mostly they're forgotten very quickly. Sometimes it's like if a silent band is touring and playing in my head. This was the inspiration to the song "Our silent ballroom band".
SoT- With "Vittjar", you switched over to Swedish lyrics. Why was it important to use native language to communicate the power of the lyrics in this song? For the non - Swedish speaking world, which may not have access to the lyrics yet, can you help explain the song's story?
Hans: The Swedish word, "Vittja" has no exact or direct translation into any English word. The term is a word that Swedish fishermen use about the act, (while they pull up their nets) to search/ check/ examine/ look for whatever catch the nets might contain. In this song I have changed the meaning; I'm checking the contents in the nets of my own sub-consciousness and my entire life.
This song was written a few years ago just for my own pleasure and I had no intention to use it as a Kaipa song. For some reason I returned to it while I was working with material for the new album and I really liked it. I'm using some old Swedish words you can find in old traditional Swedish folk music and I realized it should be almost impossible to translate it to English so I decided to keep the Swedish lyrics.
In the early years (1973 – 1982) the Swedish language was natural for us, we were mostly playing in Sweden. It wasn't until 1977 we made some attempt to use the English language. We recorded some demo versions of songs from our second album "Inget nytt under solen". A rough mix of this English version was sent to our record label's English subsidiary, which eventually rejected it, disbelieving in our commercial potential.
The international interest for Kaipa among prog rock fans around the world started in the late 80's, several years after the band had disbanded. This lead to a first re-release of the three first Kaipa albums on CD on the Musea label in the beginning of the 90's. In 2005 these albums were included in the 5-CD box "The Decca Years" together with two CD's with previously unreleased material on Inside Out. These albums have also been released on the Marquee label in Japan 2009 as double CD's with original paper sleeve.
SoT - "Treasure – House" is a nice surprise. Excellent drums throughout. Great story and mood. Almost sounds like a children's fairytale.
Hans: I agree, it also has a bit of a reggae vibe in the beginning. I asked Morgan to use a second snare drum with a higher pitch. I remember I laughed and told him "you're playing here sounds like Stewart Copeland in the Police".
SoT- "A Universe of Tininess" is a wonderful fantasy adventure. Tell those who haven't heard it yet what they are in store for Aleena?
Aleena: "A Universe of Tinyness" is actually a mind war where tiny soldiers, like an infectious virus sneak into your train of thoughts and affect your happiness. These soldiers reach my shore and steal my thoughts but then I move in reverse to find myself again. There is a "jazzy" part in the middle where I go back and the end is victorious and strong, a happy ending of the song.
SoT- "The Crowded Hillsides" is full of power and some of the best guitar licks on the album. The bass from Reingold is out of this world. The soloing both on guitar and keys is some of the best on the album. Is that song as much fun to sing and play as it sounds?
Hans: Yes definitely, the song is full of power but it also contains one of the albums most relaxed part in the middle section.
SoT - "Second Distraction" is another masterpiece of instrumental precision. I like how you put the epic track up front on this album. But this closer is full of dynamic power.
Hans: This is a variation of the opening track "First distraction" using the same melody in the beginning and the end. Per is definitely the star here and I'm only playing Hammond organ except in the very first beginning.
SoT - You brought back Jonas Reingold for this album and he contributes some excellent bass. Man, that guy stays busy!
Hans: I didn't bring Jonas back; he is playing on all the six albums we've recorded since 2002. Besides playing with Kaipa he is running his own record company "Reingold Records". He also has his own band "Karmakanic" and plays in "Flower Kings" and "Agents of mercy".
SoT- The album drops August 27th in Europe and August 28th in the US. Will you support the album with a tour? If so, where? (Hopefully in the USA!)
Hans: Kaipa is strictly a studio project and we never play live.
SoT - What is next for Kaipa? You've done a spring and summer album. Will you be back for next fall…or this winter?
Hans: When the promotion period for the new album is over I'll probably try to write new songs, if I find inspiration and can come up with something that feels new and fresh, and not just a copy of what we've done so far. If it will sound like fall or winter I don't know. I often write songs during the autumn when the darkness comes and the days are getting shorter but I still have the energy of summer in my memory.
SoT - The artwork on all of your albums is fantastic. Where does the inspiration come from, the artist or the band, or a combination of both?
Hans: "Notes from the past" – Artwork by Per Nordin. Per is an old friend, he made the artwork for Transatlantic and I asked him to do the artwork for the Kaipa album. At that moment he had heard the music and was probably inspired.
"Keyholder", "Mindrevolution" and "Angling feelings" – Artwork by Jan Ternald. All these were made without inspiration from the band.
"In the wake of evolution" and "Vittjar" – Artwork by Hans Lundin. On both of these albums I've tried to create a connection between the artwork and the spirit in the music.
SoT - Is there anything else I did not cover that you would like to add?
Aleena: This was the most fun album to do and I am really excited to find out how our fans will receive it. I love working with the amazing musicians of Kaipa and Hans is true to his heart as always.
SoT: Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us. We at the Sea of Tranquility wish you and Kaipa much success with the launch of "Vittjar" and all that you do in the future.
(Click here to read our reviews of Vittjar)