The Grand Opening is a Swedish band led by multi-instrumentalist John Roger Olsson. Based in Stockholm, they have been together since 2001 and have four albums under their belt, the latest being Don’t Look Back Into The Darkness. To learn more about their beautiful melancholy folk, AMBY caught up with John Roger Olsson to discuss their songwriting process, living in Stockholm, and the influence on his first concert experience.
AMBY: Thank you for speaking with AMBY today. What have The Grand Opening been up to lately?
The Grand Opening: The last couple of weeks we have been rehearsing a lot for some coming shows. We did the first one yesterday at an art museum in Eskilstuna, Sweden, really nice evening. We’re gonna have different line ups for the coming shows so we need to figure out how to play the songs. Yesterday we did it as a trio and for the two coming shows in Sweden we’re gonna play as a four piece. And then on the German tour in March we’re gonna be a duo. A mini documentary will be released soon, my filmmaker friend Ola Fredholm followed me during the recording process of the new album and he is in the final stages of editing it.
AMBY: Your folk album Don’t Look Back Into The Darkness was released last year. What is the significance behind the record’s title?
The Grand Opening: The title is taken from a song called ‘Free’ of the new album. I was looking through the lyrics to find a title that would sum up the words on the album and then I found the perfect fit. When the album was released I read a review somewhere where the reviewer said the title is a game of words from the Libertines album ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, thought it was kinda funny, I didn’t even now there was an album called that.
AMBY: What was the songwriting process like on the Don’t Look Back Into The Darkness?
The Grand Opening: I was planning for this album for 2-3 years. Been coming up with song skeletons for a lot of songs since 2010. I actually tried to record with 3 different line ups before I ended up doing all instruments on the entire album on my own during a week in the beginning of 2013. This was a great way for me to finalize the songs, I came up with most arrangements while recording them. Later on friends joined in and overdubbed bass, drums and some other things.
AMBY: On the record, what were the band’s biggest influences and inspirations?
The Grand Opening: Didn’t really have any specific source of inspiration for this album. I didn’t have a clear view before I started to record how the final product would sound like. I knew I wanted to keep the instrumentation minimalistic and make every instrument or sound really important when heard on a song.
AMBY: What’s next as far as releases or recordings go?
The Grand Opening: No real plan right now for anything new. Though it’s been on my mind for the last couple of weeks not to wait for another 3 years before releasing the next album. As soon as I get new inspiration to write something I’m gonna get to work.
AMBY: Who have you been listening to lately?
The Grand Opening: Bought the William Basinski vinyl boxset of ‘The Disintegration Loops’ a while back and have been listening to it a lot. It’s amazing. I like the latest albums by Four Tet, Low and Boards of Canada. And I often return to my favorite Dirty Three album ‘Ocean Songs’.
AMBY: If you could trade places with another artist in the music industry for one day, who would it be?
The Grand Opening: Mark Hollis of Talk Talk. It would be interesting to know what he is up to these days, if he’s making any music.
AMBY: Does living in Stockholm have an influence on your sound? And if so, how?
The Grand Opening: I don’t know, I don’t think so. There are a lot of great bands and musicians in Stockholm though, going to a great concert always makes me inspired. But I guess that could be any city.
AMBY: What was your first concert experience like? Did it have an impact on your music?
The Grand Opening: The first concert experience I remember was in my home town Ånge, a local comedy band called Lars Vegas Trio. I started my first real band around that time and we played the same cover songs they did, and tried to be funny. We didn’t know any chords by then so we just strummed the guitars like hell and made up our own chords. I think I was around 10 years old. We were called RMS (meaning Roger Martin Stefan)… Comedy might not be the first thing you think about listening to TGO, but that first concert was an eye opener for me and made me wanna play music in front of people.
AMBY: What was the best release of 2013?
The Grand Opening: The vinyl re-issue of Stars of the Lid ‘The Ballasted Orchestra’. I listen to a lot of drone and ambient music these days.
AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about The Grand Opening that nobody knows yet?
The Grand Opening: Most people don’t know that I recorded an album with a Swedish producer during 2005 that was/is halfway finished. It was gonna be released by a Swedish label that same year but we didn’t agree on some things so I dropped out of the deal. It was partly because I wanted to be in full control of how my music was gonna sound. So I recorded an album myself instead in the rehearsal room and in my apartment which later on turned out to be the debut ‘This Is Nowhere To Be Found’ on Tapete Records. It would be fun to hear those recordings again someday.
Thank you The Grand Opening, for giving us your answers!
Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout