ABOVE: PETTER WINNBERG (LEFT), NILS TÖRNQVIST, AMANDA BERGMAN, GUSTAV EJSTES, AND PONTUS WINNBERG OF AMASON IN STOCKHOLM, AUGUST 2014.
Throwing around the term “supergroup” relatively loosely in the recent past has diluted the “super” aspect, allowing the general public to assume that a bunch of people from old, dissolved bands have convened to form a perfunctory new project, oftentimes with no longevity in sight. Amason, an emerging five-piece from Sweden, however, breaks the mold, meriting both the term and its nuances, proving that artists can be flexible and free in their creative endeavors.
Comprised of Pontus Winnberg of Miike Snow, Petter Winnberg and Nils Törnqvis of Little Majorette, Gustav Ejstes of Dungen, and Amanda Bergman of Hajen and Idiot Wind, the new band Amason haphazardly discovered their sound—a type of newfangled, indie-folk, unlike any of their respective previous projects. Due in part to the members’ established statuses in the music industry, Amason sold out shows before even releasing any material. Earlier this week, the band released its debut album Sky City.
Amason’s Sky City will fill the void for those looking for the next Edward Sharpe or Fleet Foxes. The echoing and playful melodies—typical of Swedish songwriters—mix with both acoustic and synthetic instruments to form compelling songs. The use of male and female vocals, sometimes harmonious while at other times responsive to one another, summons a modern, ABBA-esque feel, a comparison drawn regardless of the shared Swedish nationality.
Despite the band’s Scandinavian origins, the music paints imagery of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, Maine’s endless forestry, and California’s Mojave Desert. The album’s appropriateness for road trips is no coincidence; one of many inspirations for the name Amason comes from the Volvo model of the same title.
While all five members have their own fanbase, Pontus Winnberg’s success with projects like Miike Snow bodes well for the future of Amason, which has already won over music critics internationally. As one half of the music production/songwriting duo Bloodshy & Avant, Pontus has also penned songs for many modern and throwback favorites (think Christina Milian, Britney Spears, Sky Ferreira, Madonna, et al). We spoke with the musician over the phone while he took a lunch break from recording in Stockholm.
MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG: How did everyone in the band meet?
PONTUS WINNBERG: Peter and me, we’re brothers, so I met him when he was a couple of hours old. And he and Nils, the drummer, they’re buddies from school, so I met Nils through Petter. He played some show in Gothenburg and he saw Amanda play many years ago. He told me about her, I checked her music out, and was completely floored. So I went and had a beer with her and we decided that we should do something together. Then me and Gustav kind of did the same thing a couple years later. And then, maybe two years ago, we decided we should book some time in the studio.
ROSENZWEIG: Did you find it hard to actually get together and start the project?
WINNBERG: It feels like the older you get—or maybe that doesn’t even matter—you have to get a forcing incentive to do stuff. It doesn’t matter how fun it is to jam or have dinner with someone or whatever. You just have to force yourself into making it happen. That’s my technique for doing things that I really like to do—it can happen on so many things. It can be when you meet an old friend from school and you say, “Let’s meet up this weekend!” It never happens. It’s not that you don’t want to do it, it’s just that there’s so much shit going on all the time, so you have to up it a step. It has to cost you something to not do it. That will make your life more interesting. That’s my theory.
ROSENZWEIG: So how did everything finally come together?
WINNBERG: All of us had only met together once, maybe not even that. We called up our local booking agent and said, like, “Book a tour.” And for some magical reason, he was able to do that without having any music….maybe I tricked him into it being a “must-have.” So there were then three options: cancel, go on stage to make complete fools of ourselves without having any music, or just figure it out.
ROSENZWEIG: Since you all come from such strong and varied musical backgrounds, what was the creative process like? Did it ever feel like there were too many cooks in the kitchen?
WINNBERG: Everything beyond getting together felt like a bonus and made everyone feel really relaxed. It’s not like people don’t scrutinize their own decisions or those of others, of course, but that’s both good and bad. The feel of this band is, “Whatever happens, happens.” There’s not too much brain activity engaged. It’s just like, meet up in the studio, jam, and if we like what comes out we’ll release it, and if not, we won’t. It’s not very thought out at all, which is nice. I have other projects and I’ve made music in other situations where it was rather the opposite. You have to be so clever about things all the time and that fits sometimes but it doesn’t necessarily make the music better.
ROSENZWEIG: Why is the carefree nature of this band so important to you?
WINNBERG: When someone has too much of a thought-out idea, that can be a big obstacle to get anywhere. Because it’s like [if] you have a preconceived idea of what’s going to happen in the studio in an hour’s time, then you’re not free anymore and you lock yourself into your own expectations. I don’t think that’s very creative. It doesn’t work well with me.
ROSENZWEIG: I noticed that the album has songs in both Swedish and English. I’m assuming that this was a result of just going with the flow rather than overthinking everything?
WINNBERG: Might be Finnish next time. If something comes into someone’s mind, we record it.
ROSENZWEIG: It honestly sounds like this was just friends getting together and jamming more than anything else.
WINNBERG: Yeah, totally. This is definitely more like friends meeting up. But then again, that’s kind of how Miike Snow started as well. It doesn’t necessarily have to be successful, but things happen and the band gets a life of its own, and then you don’t know which way it’s going to end up.
ROSENZWEIG: Amason’s music is still fairly new to the U.S., but what has the reception been like thus far in Sweden?
WINNBERG: It’s kind of overwhelming, actually. We’re just getting the album reviews now and we got one from the most prestigious critic here. He gave us five of five and…I’m overwhelmed. I mean, I didn’t expect anything. I’ve never really thought about getting reviews until now, because the process has been so different. But it’s overwhelming and we have sold-out shows.
ROSENZWEIG: I think the album will definitely resonate with Americans. Would you want to tour and promote the album here?
WINNBERG: I love touring the U.S. I hope this will get at least enough people to buy tickets so that we can afford to tour in the States, because that’s the best place to tour. Over here, it’s so scattered. One place can be so fantastic and then the next day it’s a nightmare. In the U.S., it just feels like it’s a part of a culture that you find in the whole country, even though America is so different, different parts [of the country] are like night and day.
ROSENZWEIG: What are some of your other hopes and dreams for this band in the future?
WINNBERG: Given that we haven’t thought that much of the future, I think that the only thing that we actually have talked about is touring in America. I guess the other dreams will unfold along the way. Further down the road we’ll want to record more. It’s fascinating to me to be in a band again at this early stage, because the band takes a life of its own and an identity of its own and I’m curious to see what this band’s identity will be—we have the idea of what we thought the band was going to be, but combined with everybody else’s ideas…
ROSENZWEIG: Does your participation in Amason mean the end of Miike Snow?
WINNBERG: I can’t talk too much about it, but I can say that there will be something new. And it’s rather sooner than later.
SKY CITY WAS RELEASED IN THE U.S. ON JANUARY 27 VIA FAIRFAX RECORDINGS/INGRID. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE BAND’S FACEBOOK.