We’ve always been quite hard to categorize, musically: Interview with Elin Larsson from Blues Pills

Holy Moly!, there’s been a chaotic year for the music business! But finally, Blues Pills long awaited third album has hit the record stores and fittingly enough, it’s entitled “Holy Moly!” Lead singer Elin Larsson had a talk with Stargazed Magazine about the new album, influences and how to deal with the music industry in the year of corona.

The first time I saw Blues Pills was in 2013, before your first album was even released, included in a secret line up at Muskelrock, Swedens number one festival for cult rock and metal. Did you feel you’ve come a long way since that concert seven years ago?

Yes, we’ve been getting somewhere, says Elin Larsson, lead vocalist in Blues Pills. We played Hellfest before the first album too, and then it just rolled away. We kicked off good, really good! It’s been fun, and really scary too. You know, I didn’t have any experience from this business at all!

After your debut, two years passed before Lady in Gold was released in 2016. Now it’s been four long years until the release ofr Holy Moly! this august. How come?

When you release an album you can usually tour for two years on that album. So we toured all the way until 2018. After that we took a year of, because we all needed a break. There was so much of everything. Most our our lives was just touring, releasing an album, touring, getting back into the studio in Gothenburg… So we were all pumped out. And on top of that, our guitar player left back in 2018. So I don’t know, we’ve been doing all kinds of things. I went to music academy, took a class there, and then we just needed a year doing non Blues Pills related things. But then again you might just do Blues Pills related things anyway. And in 2019, me, Zack and André met in the studio we built outside Örebro, a place called Lindbacka, and so we began working on this album. And it was all finished in janurary this year! So this year, we’ve mostly been waiting to get to release this album.

Because of corona?

Yeah, that and also the industry. We have to send the album to the record company six months before release, which I find quite wierd, but I guess that’s how it works. They have so many artists and bands, so I guess it’s about getting a schedule together. It was originally due to be released in june, but then we got the call they wanted to push this date further on. There was some panic, because no one has known how to deal with this situation. No one knew and we didn’t know either, so we’ve just been listening to the business people who has a better knowledge about how things are working out in Germany and how things are opening up down there… And then it’s so much harder to promote an album when you can’t play live. Partly it is our income, we can’t make a living on selling records, the record company gets the biggets cut out of that any way. And then to spread the music further on to people who haven’t heard us, that’s impossible if you’re not into all this with algorithms and getting songs into the Spotify charts and so forth. So that’s really hard, and I guess that’s why the album was delayed. For me it has always been me longing for the album to come out so I can focus on the next album!

Will you enter the studio soon again, now that you can’t tour?

Yeah, that’s the idea, I think, and we have several songs that didn’t make the album that we’d like to do something with. And a couple of covers that we should record that I think we do really well. We did Rage Agains the Machines Sleep Now in the Fire, I’d like to record that one. And then a couple of other things; I did a collab with Lucifer, the Stockholm based band with Nicke Andersson and Johanna Sadonis, and then we did a collab with Bror Gunnan Jansson who is a blues musician in Gothenburg, and then I’m doing something with a german band… You have to come up with things beside touring, and be creative! But the whole idea when we can’t play is to make a music video to each song. It’s gonna be home recorded videos, with wifi and everything, but there’s gonna be something visual to the songs.

Holy Moly! feels deeper and more varied than your earlier albums. I think it’s your best to date.

Really? Thanks, that’s great! Yes, I think it feels more matured. Especially how we didn’t give a damn about genres. We’ve always been quite hard to categorize, musically. We’re not enough metal, but we’re too heavy for this and that… For me it was such a liberation to say “this is a great song!” and even if it’s a country song, let’s record it! The same goes for the heaviest songs like Low Road, and also a song that didn’t make the cut where I’m like screaming… There’s such a variation on everything, and that I think makes the album interesting.

You’ve always been a blues based band, but the new album also has a strong soul vibe. Is this something you’ve noticed yourselves?

Yeah, I’m soul based myself, soul is why I’m singing. Blues is so… you can interperet the word blues and the genre blues in many different ways. What I think is the most bluesy on this album is the lyrics, which are torn and depressing. Fighting your way through things, that very much comes from the blues, which emerged from a time where it wasn’t all that nice. It doesn’t feel like we’re blues rock either. Actually, I don’t know what we are!

I can hear traces from both Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, both musically and vocally.

Thanks, how nice! Yes, they are geat influences to me. I mean, Aretha Franklin, that’s the reason I sing at all! She was my great idol. And the same thing goes for Tina Turner… I was so fascinated when I was a kid, I didn’t understad these songs that they did, what they represent. And doing it back then too, how Franklin did a cover of Otis Reddings respect in those days… So it’s even more cool now that you can reflect on how they’ve been such a great part of both soul and female music history.

I can also hear traces of more recent female vocalists such as Amy Whinehouse, Adele and Duffy. Have you broadened your influences towards these directions as well, or has the more current music scene slipped in undetected?

I like Amy Whinehouse a lot, I’ve got her on vinyl here at home. They are all super cool! I haven’t listened that much to Duffy, I guess I just heard one of her songs, the one that was all over the radio… She disappeared, didn’t she?

She recently made public that she has been abused and assaulted.

Oh god!

I think she’s about to make a comeback, there’s been some news about it.

That’s great! She only did make one album, didn’t she?

She made a second one as well, but it didn’t make as big. But the first one is really great.

Yeah, there was a lot of stuff coming out around that time… Amy Whinehouse was the “Wow!” for me. So I think I’m gonna listen to both her albums, then. It’s wonderful that she’s coming back!

Do you feel these new influences have broadened your sound and can break you to a wider audience, beyond the hard rock crowd?

I don’t know, I don’t think we’ve thought about broadening our sound, we’ve just based it all on what we’ve been listening to. Some songs are inspirated by No Doubt, for instance, especially the sound, and the same for Artic Monkeys, The Black Keys and The White Stripes. But I don’t know, it ends up the way it ends up. I just hope we get the right audience. I think people get scared of us being on a metal label if they’re not into metal, and that together with the fact that we’re called Blues Pills, the idea that we should be a blues band in our fifties sitting around… you know. I just hope we end up with our right crowd!

You have been bundled into the retro rock scene, which now has been around for ten years. Are you afraid that time has passed you by and that the rock audience will jump the next trend instead of checking out your new albums?

No, because I don’t see us as retro rock. I got that question earlier. We have many bands that probably are inspired by the same albums and the same bands, but it doesn’t feel like we have anything in common apart from that. And it’s the same thing when we play at metal festivals and I walk around carrying some vinyl I’ve found, and then a person like the singer in Opeth comes up to me and says “that’s my greatest inspiration!” about a Joni Mitchell record! We probably have as much in common with them as a band like Witchcraft. But I guess it’s easier to bundle us into the same category.

Do you feel it’s limiting to be bundled into categories?

Yes I do. To me it’s not about the style itself, it’s about making good songs. That also differs the bands within this category. Those who have good songs, they are “this band”, not “this retro rock band”. So no, I don’t fancy that stuff.

Being a woman in rock business, do you feel you have to avoid themes like the opening track Proud Woman in your lyrics, or on the contrary, that it is expected of you?

I haven’t reflected upon that. What I think is interesting in our band is that I can write from a female perspective. Rock and metal overall is very male dominated, and in that way I can reflect upon things that someone like the singer in Opeth cannot. Now I used him as an example again, but you get the idea. So for me writing that song, I didn’t reflect that much that it would become a super feministic song or something like that. It was more an attitude and me wanting to empower other women and young girls. Nothing more to it! But it is like this, which I find strange, that only because you say something as a woman, it ends up super political too. I don’t know, for it was also about that this is a song I would have loved as a kid. Have I heard a song like that, I would definately have know that “damn, I’m gonna be a rock star too!” When I was a kid, sure, there were female rock musicians, but not as much percentage as male. So my rock idol was Ozzy Osbourne! Which is great, but not… you know.

My favourite track is California, which feels straight out of 1970. What does a song like that come from?

Well, from the heart! We in the band, I met Zack and Cory in California. So you could say that when you’re down, you can think back upon places where you’ve been feeling good. So I guess it comes from that.

And what does the future hold for Blues Pills?

Yeah, well… We don’t know. It’s a bit fuzzy now with corona. We’ll see, we have a tour booked for the autumn, but I’m guessing it will be postponed. We wan’t to release the album and then perhaps we start working on album number four.

Could all this staying at home boost the number of albums getting made?

Yes, I think so. And then I think it will be chaotic when everybody starts touring again. Totally chaotic! But that’s good I think, I just hope it’s not all about corona, it gets so worn out. Like if every album would be about corona, that would be a drag.

Holy Moly! is available through Nuclear Blast Music and on Spotify.

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We’ve always been quite hard to categorize, musically: Interview with Elin Larsson from Blues Pills

September 20, 2020

I just hope we get the right audience. I think people get scared of us being on a metal label if they're not into metal

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