Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, A Swarm of the Sun is the product of a long personal and musical companionship between Erik Nilsson and Jakob Berglund. After their well-received first album, Zenith, they have spent the last five years continuing their quest through the deep realms of the human soul. Their newest album, The Rifts, which is coming January 30th, exposes a never before seen, darker side of their music. We got in touch with them to chat about their story, influences and the journey that led up to their most emotional record to date.
Before we get to talk about your music, can you share with our readers a bit about your lives before the project, and how did it affect your music and inspire you to choose this path?
Jakob: We’ve known each other for more than twenty years, and I think the need to create has always been the driving force in our friendship. I can’t remember a time when Erik and I didn’t have some kind of project together. It’s how we relate to each other. While other kids did whatever other kids in the nineties did, we watched horror movies and made music.
And somewhere along the way it turned into what it is now. So it’s hard to say what inspired us specifically. We just do what we’ve always done. It’s just that now we’re older and do things on a different level.
This must be an exciting time for you, as your new record The Rifts is scheduled to be released by the end of this month. How did your harmony and composing process evolve since Zenith?
Erik: Compared to Zenith, writing The Rifts was more of a fluent process; it was mostly because the concept of the album was well-defined early on. We started off by creating something similar to a storyboard that we followed quite strictly throughout the entire process. It’s very pretentious for sure, but it’s exactly how we enjoy working. These are exciting times indeed. We’re both extremely proud of this album. It’s everything we wanted it to be, and now we get to share it with everyone.
It always caught my attention that your creative and composing processes take a considerable amount of time. Ten years of musical composing before the first release, and five years between the new release and the previous one. What are the reasons behind these long gaps?
Erik: After Zenith, I wanted to finalize the debut album with one of my other bands Aoria, so that led to an inevitable break. We wanted to start working on our third release when the time felt right, and nothing else distracted us so it would get our full attention. With that said, we’re both people that like to keep busy in general. I have my label, the studio and the other bands I’m involved in. Jakob is involved a lot in his video productions. This band makes it possible for us to combine all of it into one single entity.
The earlier records revolved around the idea of struggling with oneself over the purpose of one’s own existence, and running away from what one was meant to do. Does the emotional and melancholic aura that surrounds the new release mean that the struggle has come to its final stages?
Jakob: Well, no, because then there would be no reason left to write. Many people seem to do everything to forget this stuff exists, but I don’t see how anyone can avoid struggling with themselves. I guess facing your demons is inevitable. They have to manifest themselves in some way; this is my way of doing it and it’s the only way I know. To me, writing is a very introverted thing.
You described before that one of the main unique aspects about this new release in your eyes is that it is fearless. What are the fears that you struggled with before, both musically and personally, and how did you break through them in this release?
Jakob: When we set out to write something, it has to be really meaningful, both on a deep personal and creative level. We have to be completely honest when we write, and to reach that we can’t shy away from anything. We have to stay true to each other and to the music, and that means poking around in a lot of emotions, which can be a scary thing. This time I think we pushed it much farther than before.
The simple yet profound artwork is one of the remarkable things about this record, especially because it’s made by Jakob. Can tell us how you came up with it and the idea that lies within?
Jakob: Thank you! I knew from the beginning that I wanted something based on photography. I had a few ideas that were much more complicated, but I gradually simplified it into what it is now. There’s a lot of fitting mythology and themes with the iris flower—things like light, death, the underworld and the depths of the sea—but to me it really symbolizes something else and personal. The whole thing is much more intuitive than it is intellectual.
Being a two-member team, how difficult was it to transfer your music to live set-ups, and are there any special plans or musicians who are going to accompany you in your future shows?
Erik: We don’t bother thinking much about live arrangements when composing. The song has to be able to take whatever shape it wants, and the same applies if a song is to be performed live. As far as live musicians go, we’re pretty much set up already. One thing for sure is that our drummer Karl Daniel Lidén will join us. We wouldn’t have accomplished what we’ve created so far without him.
It seems that we have been hearing a lot of good music coming from Sweden lately, and the underground scene seems to be in its high peak. Can you tell us a bit about how did the Stockholm scene influences you and shapes your musical preferences?
Erik: I can’t really say that we have a particular connection to any of them. The influences we had for The Rifts were a lot of the things that we listened to during that time. Everything from Anna von Hausswolff, Mogwai and Wolves in the Throne Room, just to name a few.
So as this long emotional journey of creating this record comes to an end, what are your future plans for the band? Should we expect some live action soon?
Erik: We’re both very eager to lay out the concept for a next release. I know Jakob has already many ideas in mind, and so do I. Right now, while I manage the label-related things for the release of The Rifts, Jakob is working on something video-related that we’ll reveal during the coming spring. There are no plans for live shows yet. We’re more creators rather than performers. But with that said, we won’t say no if the right opportunity turns up.