Our neighbour from the Swamp
The end of 2015 saw the latest bog creation from Svartby come to life in the form of “Swamp, My Neighbour”, their 4th full length album. The favorite sons of St. Petersburg, Russia have once again solidified their spot in the swamps as kings of murktastic folk metal. Main purveyors of the muck Lindwurm (guitar) and Giftsvamp (keyboards) answered some questions for us regarding the new album, their first music video, singing in Swedish and a few other things, check it out….
Congrats on another epic album with “Swamp, My Neighbour”!! What has the feedback been like regarding it so far?
Lindwurm: “Hi, Jeff, and thanks for your congratulations. With Swamp, my Neighbour we have strange feedback in Russia. Of course there are a lot of people, who like our album, but this year we see many Russian “pagan/folk metalheads” saying: “This is shit! Folk metal must be like Arkona, Temnozor and etc. They should sing in Russian!!!” Why should we? We are musicians and our music is our choice.”
Giftsvamp: “Let’s not focus on the bad, shall we? There were some comments of the kind indeed, but the general response in Russia and abroad is very nice from what we hear. Admittedly we have noticed that Svartby has a strong fanbase now, which perfectly know what to expect of us and what not. Surprisingly most reviews and comments from our listeners perfectly match our own feeling about the album. It’s 100% Svartby, pretty good and strong stuff, but maybe it’s time to make it not so 100% and reach for new horizons. Can’t let you get bored, can we?”
I always consider you guys masters of what I call “Swamp Metal”….is this a relatively accurate description of what you do or too specific a sub-genre? What do you consider yourselves category wise?
Giftsvamp: “Swamp metal” is OK. Genre tags are normally used to describe a band or an album to others, so f you feel that it describes our music best, go for it. We never limit ourselves in borrowing ideas from any music style we feel fit in a certain track. You could find trve black, death metal, thrash, folk, punk, jazz, rock’n’roll pieces… Name it. “Svartcore” is our self-description, which refers to dark, black magic string which binds all these musical pieces together.”
How do the ideas and songs come together in the Svartby camp? Is it democratic or does one person oversee the concepts, lyrics and music?
Giftsvamp: “It’s voting, and always been that. Everyone may come up with his opinion and his ideas about all the band activities, from live shows to rehearsals to songwriting and recording.”
Lindwurm: “For example, “Goat Crack” was a swearword that Humla used. And we decided this is good idea for song!”
Giftsvamp: “But it requires a mature approach. If the majority thinks that your idea won’t work, you have to swallow it and go think a bit more. Many of the concepts, lyric ideas, song pieces are rejected by the band because they weren’t developed enough or appeared to be ridiculous or simply bad. You can’t blackmail oters: “It’ll be my way or I’m leaving the band”. Most likely, you’ll really have to leave the band the same day :)”
If I listen to older material vs. the new album there is not much deviation in terms of style, is there a conscious effort to stay rooted in what you started with and not get too far away from the original material?
Giftsvamp: “That’s a very good question because I think we’ve finally hit the roof in the last album. Yes, we have put much effort into creating “Swamp, My Neighbour”, and everything was done top notch, but we followed some old proved recipes. I totally admit that we didn’t try to surprise you in 2015, our focus was just to deliver some good songs. I promise we will try our best to surprise you in the next album. We are in search of new ways and new influences at the moment, but we promise to keep the mischievous svartcore vibe.”
Can you give a brief explanation as to why Swedish was chosen as the primary language for your songs? Would you say it would be difficult to now change to your native Russian or English on future releases?
Giftsvamp: “I’ve been learning Swedish at the time when I was working on the very first songs of Svartby, and one hobby just happily joined the other. It fitted well with the forest magical theme, and we recorded a pair of albums in Swedish. In the last 2 albums we wrote the songs in English, but we did a pair of tracks in Swedish again, and it appeared to sound as cool as before. I think any language is your instrument. If you like the sound of it and you like how it fits your music, you should use it. If someday we think that Spanish or Finnish or German language will fit some song, we will use it, rest assured.”
Who are the biggest influences, in or out of metal in the overall Svartby sound? Other influences outside of music in movies, books, etc?
Lindwurm: “As for me, I have begun listening to music from Iron Maiden. And it’s became my influence for all times. Later I add some thrash and groove notes in my playing. If talk outside of music it can be any books and films. When Svartby started I was very impressed by Tolkien. For Swamp, My Neighbour some details was taken from films about zombies.”
Giftsvamp: “Your life is full of different things – movies, music, books, videogames, real people and situations… Anything could be an inspiration and give you some ideas. We’re not limited with anything but our ability to take a sudden idea and merge it into Svartby.”
St. Petersburg seems to have folk metal acts such as you and Abracadabra, are there many others? What other bands are big in the area?
Giftsvamp: “We would count at least 10 folk metal bands in St. Petersburg and a huge amount of folk rock acts. Considering folk metal, you could have heard names like Nomans Land, Wolfmare, Der Galgen or Fangorn.
The city folk scene is somewhat unique in Russia. You won’t find a single band that promotes a “true Russian” music and concept. If you like pagan metal about old times of Russia and ancestors, you will never find it in St. Petersburg. All the local folk bands of St. Petersburg are enthralled with European and Scandinavian culture, often mixing it with fantasy and fairy-tale elements. Well, from the very beginning St. Petersburg was founded and developed as a European city, so both history and proximity to Europe played their role. It’s unlike any Russian city – now that you think of it, it’s also true for local folk metal bands.”
How important is playing live/touring for Svartby? Do you play shows because you feel you have to or is touring and playing live something you want to do?
Giftsvamp: “We absolutely love playing live shows, but we weren’t so active lately. Always want some more.”
The video for “Bog Bar” is an instant classic. How was the filming of the video for you? Why did you decide to make a video?
Giftsvamp: “The reason to make a video was the thought: the band has 4 albums and not a single video was made in 11 years. It just started to be disturbing. And with the new album coming, we thought it would be a crime not to give it a try.
Filming was great, it all happened in just 8 hours, and we had an amazing party during the process. We didn’t use any fake alcohol, what you see in the video is exactly the atmosphere of the filming ground. There was a bunch of good people who had a great party, listened to live music of Svartby, drank lots of spirit drinks, had friendly conversations and had fun. The budget was small, but surprisingly the result gives you the exact impression how Svartby gigs and parties look like. We wanted to drag you into our “swamp bar”, and we succeeded. Svartby is all about rock’n’roll and party. We hope everyone must understand that now!”
You have a lot of your music up on your Bandcamp page and it is easily accessible, how do you feel about the music “business” nowadays? Can you really make a living doing it?
Lindwurm: “Can’t say that music is business for us. We never received a lot of money from our music.”
Giftsvamp: “To live upon music you must have a rough tour schedule 2/3 of the year and lots of merchandise and digital/physical music sales. Not an option for an underground band or even not-so-underground band.
As for Bandcamp, we really think that in a digital era it is impossible to hide you music and blackmail people for buying it. So we put our discography online and let people pay if they want to support us. Be honest to yourself: when you buy a CD, you just pay the edition costs to the label. You don’t support the band financially, you support your opportunity to buy a physical CD, that is all. Through digital sales, you support the band.
Funny, but not surprising fact – through a couple of years of “pay-if-you-will” at Bandcamp we have earned several times more than we did through 11 years of selling CDs via labels.”
What are the future plans for Svartby recording and playing live wise?
Giftsvamp: “We just finished our latest album, so we will need a bit time to come back with a new concept and music.”
Favorite releases from 2015?
Lindwurm: “My favorite releases from 2015 was Riverside “Love, Fear and Time Machine”, Five Fingers Death Punch “Got you six” and Halestorm “Into the Wild Life”.”
Giftsvamp: “For me it would be Arida Vortex, Battle Beast, Dalriada – these would be the bands I always checked on the updates and I enjoyed their new albums in 2015. Also I’ve discovered Caro Emerald and Halestorm and listened to all their discographies – a lot! And the new Svartby’s album is beyond competing because I had to listen to it throughout recording and production stages up to the “sick of it” limits :)”
Giftsvamp: “Enjoy your life!”