Swedish-Canadian duo Thus Owls release their newest record Turning Rocks on April 8 via Secret City Records. The album is the result of a conscious effort by husband and wife duo Simon and Erika Angell to follow a particular creative process. In celebration of its release, Thus Owls play Toronto’s The Horseshoe tomorrow night and we had the opportunity of chatting with Simon and Erika before the show. Read our interview below as we discussed their creative process, haunting lyricism, playing live, and more.
AMBY: I wanted to kick things off by discussing your upcoming album. You release Turning Rocks next week which is pretty exciting! Tell me a little about the album – what was the experience like recording it?
Simon Angell: We got the whole thing started a little over a year ago, and it was a lot different from the last two I’d say when it comes to how we went about creating the beginning of it. We did this sort of scrapbooking type thing where we got ideas of different music, art, poems, paintings, and films and used that as a template or springboard to start off from. We kind of put that all together and started writing from that spot and that place.
AMBY: This was the first time working with a group of Canadian musicians, correct?
Simon Angell: Yep, absolutely.
AMBY: How did that collaboration work and feel compared to your past two releases which were done differently?
Simon Angell: It was fun, first of all, because it’s always fun to make a change. We always like things to shift and move, and it’s fun to do that with the same group of people along with new people. There’s a definite sound difference that you can hear right away from the last record and this one. I think that’s because of the different musicians, the Canadian musicians. They take care a little bit more of the silence in Sweden and it’s maybe a little more thought out in one way, and that used to be really fun for me since I used to be the only Canadian in the group. It’s not just working with people from here, but living here as well has had an impact on the music directly, you know? Especially for Erika to come move here and do the whole process from here, it changes the whole way you interpret things and the way they come out.
AMBY: When it comes to the title, what is the significance behind Turning Rocks?
Erika Angell: It’s part of a lyric for the song Turning Rocks, and I guess in that song I used it more as a metaphor. It meant that in life you tend to put yourself in new situations, open new doors, to challenge yourself, or to see what can change if you do something differently. I did do that, you know, when I was a kid. I’d look under a rock all summer because it was exciting to see if there were ants [laughs] or whatever.
AMBY: [laughs] I’d look for potato bugs.
Erika Angell: So I used it as a metaphor for that; if we keep challenging ourselves and try to see things from a new perspective, we can develop as human beings.
AMBY: While listening to the album, I think the aspect I admire most is the insane lyricism. When thinking about the lyrics “How, in my bones, that feeling of embarrassment remains like a tattoo on my skin”, I get shivers. When it comes to songwriting on the album, what inspired you to create such haunting yet beautifully visual lyrics?
Erika Angell: I think that’s who I am as a songwriter and lyricist. Before I start writing a song, it’s a picture in my head usually. When that picture is there, I try to express it. It’s not necessarily a picture, like a painting, but it can be a strong memory in form of a scent or feeling. For me to express those, I use a lot of visual ways of saying that I guess. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a clear picture in my head and then I need to seek out those words and all of those notes that fit perfectly in order to express that and give that emotion that I’m looking for.
AMBY: That lyric is taken from your new single How, In My Bones which I read is a song about learning from past mistakes. Did this concept of being haunted by events of the past have an influence on the new video you recently premiered?
Erika Angell: Yea, definitely. For that video, we talked about the whole album a little bit to use all of those elements to create a visual world that works for the whole record. The lyrics for the album are kind of more a generational diary which are stories from different lives and the past; we wanted to have elements that make us think of the past but were scattered in some sort of realistic world. There’s cutlery and teacups and soil and…
AMBY: The dollhouse!
Erika Angell: Yes, so things come from discussions and the brainstorming process.
AMBY: Well, it’s a very neat video. Once the album is released, you’ll be playing some shows in Toronto and Montreal and then have shows in France, Belgium, and Germany. What do you most look forward to regarding the tour?
Erika Angell: For us, it’s been a long waiting process to just release the album. It’s a big relief to release it and have fun and meet the people that we’ve made the music for. To meet the crowd and make intense and passionate moments through music is super fun.
AMBY: Definitely, those intimate moments are my favourite part of a show.
Erika Angell: Those moments when you’re able to be on stage with your music and the crowd are magical.
AMBY: What does the band do for fun when you aren’t making music?
Erika Angell: Simon loves to cook, for example. The other people in the band are all very much into food [laughs]. It’s like a food travel usually, or we try to discover that. We also try to visit museums or art instillations or go to concerts to keep ourselves inspired.
AMBY: Now I have the very last question for you: what’s something about Thus Owls that nobody knows yet?
Erika Angell: Do you know that Simon? What’s something no one knows about Thus Owls yet?
Simon Angell: Ohh…
Erika Angell: It’s hard to see your own band from the outside! I don’t know, I have no idea. Is there anything you’re curious about that you don’t know?
AMBY: Curious about, hmm… Now I’m on the spot! One of my writers was actually curious about this: what was your secret of a long distance relationship before moving to Montreal?
Erika Angell: It’s kind of a natural lifestyle since we’re both musicians and we like to travel and like our time alone. Obviously we have to spend a lot of time together now [laughs]. But the writing process and practicing are things you often do by yourself. I think both me and Simon don’t have a problem being away from each other since we have our solitude periods to be a creative person.
Thank you Thus Owls, for giving us your answers!
Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout