There’s something exothermically enchanting, with a dash of quirkiness, about Swedish oeuvre. In a country where music and art are as important as Literature, math and science, you could expect plenty of Abba, Europe and Roxette-inspired artists.
Formed in 2011, the Swedish-based Blues Pills is nothing like their predecessors – sonically.
The quartet has recently released their third album Holy Moly! – and one could be forgiven thinking of a Motown or Columbia, rather than a Nuclear Blast production – thanks to their soulful and savvy lead vocalist Elin Larsson, breaking the sound barrier such as in California as she flirts with the Aretha Franklins and the Etta James’ signature octaves, while melancholically narrating a happy moment of the past during times of sadness.
It’s one for the ages that’d congruously echo in a jazz club in New Orleans or Harlem in the 70’s, as it’d be in The Swedish Rock Festival of 2019. And that’s one of the many examples where Blues Pills invite us onto a journey of masterclass musical propagation and uber chicness.
There are tracks that align with indie rock such as in Wish I’d Known, a ballad of a broken heart, seduced by the slow drum and sexy electrics. Alas, the sexiest of them all is the grunge vocals climaxing at the end.
Bye Bye Birdy has a 1-2-3 click feel at the beginning, with an anticipating vocal pounce, proceeding to dirty guitar resonating the Larsson’s frustration. Song from a Mourning Dove pulls the breaks, before taking the listener to more grunge and blues entwinement.
While “Holy Moly!” bruises the listeners with the bluesy love bites, there are faster tempos in Kiss My Pass Goodbye – a charged and controlled riffs that set the scene of moving on from the demons. Low Road takes a turn of “I got no place to hide, My destruction is inside of me”, adding to the spectrum of the album.
The album ends with Longest Lasting Friend, a melancholic and subdued take of the singer’s paradoxically “fucked” world. “Hey, oh, the pressure…seems like you’ve been the longest lasting friend.”
Despite having a cool job, the endearing and gorgeous Larsson tells Sheldon Ang of her depressive state and ADHD diagnosis. The album cover reveals a widower embracing a demon, and as life can be a metaphor at times, “Holy Moly!” is an undulating musical journey of nostalgia and present day drama narrated in bluesy melodies and grunge – casting a classy spell that we’ve been missing in a musical world dominated by pop candies. It’s a sexy album for grown-ups. 10/10.
Elin: Thank you for calling
Sheldon: Thank you for accepting my call (Elin: chuckles). When we think of Swedish bands we think of one band. Do you know who we think of?
Elin: Abba (chuckles)
Sheldon: Yes! What is about Swedish artist that stand out? We also got Europe, Roxette, Ace of Base, Avicci, Swedish House Mafia…
Elin: (chuckles) I have no idea…maybe we are a country that are interested in music. And it seems that early in school we have music, arts, drama…and painting and art classes are as important as learning English or Swedish or maths and science. Maybe that’s the reason…where you should be able to play instrument and sing (chuckles). So you have like Abba and Roxette, so you’d think, ‘hey if they can do it, maybe I can do it’.
Sheldon: It’s true…I mean Blues Pills’ latest album “Holy Molly” has so many great songs. But I had to double check if it was a Nuclear Blast or a Motown Records…and my favourite track is California…when you sing the part, I want to go back to California in high pitch – it reminds me of Aretha Franklin.
Elin: Oh well thank you…wow! Interesting you said that because my top influence when I was a kid was Aretha Franklin. I sang to her records and a lot when I was a kid…so that’s so awesome. And this album is so diverse. You have the song California and you have the song Low Road and we just mixed everything and we didn’t care if it is Nuclear Blast or not, so we just stayed true to ourselves and said, ‘this is a great song, so let’s put it on the album…’
Sheldon: So what does California mean to you and the band?
Elin: Me and Zack (Anderson, Guitar) met in California. And this was in 2018…Dorian (Sorriaux, Guitar) had just left the band…we had a break in a band and had a year off to do other stuff.
And during this time it was a difficult and rough time for all of us. I suffer from depression and I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD so I’m getting help with that…and you think that being a travelling musician and a recording artist, you’d think it’s one of the coolest jobs – but you missed a lot of stuff because you are always gone and constantly away.
So you don’t have time to reflect on how are you doing and so we had this year off…but a lot of shit hit the fan. And I lost my friend and I lost my dog, and California is about the time when you were really young but at your lowest point, and it’s about remembering the time when you were really happy for anything – and that’s what the song is about.
Sheldon: Thank you for sharing of your story…because when I think of Erin of Blues Pills, I think of you having a rockstar’s lifestyle…
Elin: Yeah it is amazing with all the stuff I get to do, see, visit and experience with my work in the last ten years. It has been awesome…but you also lose sight of who you are…and when you’re home and back to the normal lifestyle with family, it is great because there’s more to life than just working.
Sheldon: Maybe you and I can swap jobs. I’m an engineer by day, and you are a rockstar, so let’s swap!
Elin: Yeah we can do that (chuckles)! That would be so good because when you have ADHD you’ll need routine. So that I can just go out and eat and have a normal lunch like a routine (chuckles)!
Sheldon: And is that why there is a gap between the previous album and this album?
Elin: Yeah we needed a break, we see a lot of bands and we didn’t want to break up. They just needed a break. I’m 31, I’m like, ‘I don’t give a fuck anymore’ (chuckles).
Sheldon: And there are so many great tracks on his album, what’s the most difficult part as a vocalist, technically?
Elin: Previously, I had to sing with my brains…with this record I had to sing with my soul (chuckles). So for me it is about finding the feeling, and when I take the lead vocals, I want to do the whole song. I don’t want to stop – I don’t want to cut stuff – is not a choir, so I need to get the right feeling. And the high pitch and screams are nothing new (chuckles).
Sheldon: You have such a sincere singing voice. What’s the secret to singing soulfully?
Elin: I’m an emotional person and I have nothing in between (chuckles). And because I was recording in our own studio, whenever I feel like shit or fucked or pissed off, I know exactly what song to sing. I have that energy. So this emotion is real. I got no filter (chuckles).
Sheldon: (Chuckles). The first two singles are Kiss My Past Goodbye and Low Road. They’re faster tempo songs. Is that why these two songs were chosen as singles.
Elin: There were a lot of debate. The record labels wanted to release five. And as for me, I wanted to release Morning Dove.
Sheldon: The album cover is interesting. Is it reflective of the tracks?
Elin: It is done by one or my favorite artist. It shows a widower embracing a devil or demon. For me, she’s embracing it and she’s making peace with the demon. So that’s what the record cover is about, reflecting the album tracks – they are melancholy, depressed and sometimes a bit funny. So with all these problems in our heads and the line-up changes, we felt that we just need to make peace with the problems we had. And with all this shit we had to move on from (chuckles).
Sheldon: Hopefully no more changes. And when things go back to normal, I hope that you can come to Australia.
Elin: We toured in Australia in 2013. We were planning to tour North and South America, but that’s not happening. And I heard we can only tour from 2022! And by then who knows we might even release another album.
Sheldon: In Perth, things are back to normal, pretty much.
Elin: Wow, do you guys allow people from other countries to come in?
Sheldon: With quarantine, perhaps. And when you do, let’s go for a drink
Elin: That sounds great!
Interview by Sheldon Ang
The history of BLUES PILLS can seem simple. The rock quartet formed in the Midwest in late 2011 by the bands songwriters Zack Anderson and Elin Larsson went straight from playing at dirty, crowded bars to play at some of the biggest festivals such as Download, Rock am Ring and Wacken Open Air.
A true success story. Or? Not really. Under the layers of heavy psychedelic blues rock and Elin Larsson‘s soulful and powerful voice, the core of BLUES PILLS has always been the restless search for change. Change in the human mind and the musical influences they embraced themselves with, from blackened soul to the trippy rides through 60s garage rock music and the devils blues.
During their break, BLUES PILLS has been through some kind of reincarnation. A reincarnation that leads to a new self-produced and recorded album summer 2020 mixed by Grammy Award-winning Andrew Scheps (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Adele, Black Sabbath, Rival Sons, Hozier et al).
If you were blazed by the heaviness of their first self titled album and tripped to the psychedelic soul of Lady In Gold (#1 Germany) you won’t be immune to the effects of this third dose of the pills.
Empowered by the definition of a cool bass player Kristoffer Schander, their banana loving drummer André Kvarnström, Elin Larssons haunting voice and Zack Anderson now on lead guitar the band has gone back to their roots. Back to the raw power of rock’n’roll and blues with a pinch of soul. During the bands short break they built their own studio, Lindbacka Sounds, in an old factory in the rural area of Närke, Sweden and filled it up with analog recording equipment, and their own personal demons haunting them in their sleep.
Exhausted and empty after the long years of touring all over the world they went back to basics, and the last years of highs and lows lead to a more autobiographical album. Elin, Zack and André spent most of their waking hours writing songs, recording and changing. Over and over, until they were all completely satisfied. And now they’re back and ready to give the world another helping of their heavy rockin’ tunes.