Swedish supergroup Amason, is composed of Pontus Winnberg (Miike Snow), Gustav Ejstes (Dungen), Petter Winnberg (Little Majorette), Amanda Bergman (Hajen, Idiot Wind), and Nils Törnqvist (Little Majorette). Stateside, Miike Snow is likely the most popular of the bands, with their hit songs “Animal” and “Song For No One.” If you follow Swedish indie rock and pop music, the other band names are probably familiar to you as well. If you don’t, you should start.
Amason’s debut album Sky City, is a wonderfully mellow glimpse into the souls of five seasoned musicians; a collection of inspiration. As the album leans towards Zero 7, it veers off towards Fleetwood Mac, then somewhere else; becoming their own blend. It doesn’t overstep, but it doesn’t shoot for the moon either. The band accomplished a lot on their debut, it will be interesting to see what direction they go on their next album; if there will be a next album.
Less than a year ago, the group played SXSW. Now they are back in Austin to play Austin City Limits Music Festival next week. Amason’s Amanda Bergman discussed the difference between the two major festivals, why being a musician in Sweden is so common, working in a supergroup, and more, with Examiner’s Folashade Oyegbola.
Folashade Oyegbola: You played SXSW earlier this year, what was your impression of the festival?
Amanda Bergman: It was a lot of fun. I think we did 13 shows in six days, so it was like hectic for us, but it was nice you know. I think most of us have been there before with other bands. And it’s like you never know what you’re going to expect, except for some kind of chaos. And I think our kind of chaos is kind of good. We were really happy about it, we had a lot of fun shows. That was nice.
FO: Have you been to Austin city limits before?
AB: Yeah, I think so. I must of have been like once or twice before. My memory is really bad I did recognize those streets, I thought I must have been here before.[laughs]
FO: Do you have similar expectations for Austin City Limits?
AB: Well, I don’t know, maybe I should have. But I think that maybe Austin city limits, I get the feeling that it’s a little more structured. I mean for bands I don’t know about the organizations. i might be wrong but I think that SXSW, I get the feeling that that festival is very much for booking agencies. It’s more for the other part of the music industry that isn’t the listeners. I think ACL might be more for the audience. Am I wrong? You probably know better than me.
FO: No, I think you’re right for the most part. I think that’s a good way to put it.
AB: And I like that to be honest. It’s nicer to play in front of, ow do you say, regular people, and not just people who are there to see if you are something to invest in.
FO: I think a lot of people don’t realize that. They advertise it as a conference, but the majority of the people just think of it as a music festival, so they don’t want to think about that side of it.
AB: No, probably not.
FO: A lot of people know, or maybe don’t know, that Sweden produces a large amount of music. What do you think makes it such a powerhouse for artists, especially for pop and branching genres?
AB: We get that question a lot, and I don’t know if I have the right answer for it. But I think it has a lot to do with the Swedish mentality and it’s hard to explain that one [laughs]. We’re such a small country, are we even 10 million people, I don’t know. Most people live in Stockholm, and Stockholm is full of musicians. We have this thing where everybody can start to learn to play instruments really early in school. It’s something that everybody does it and it’s really cheap. And also the culture is really influenced by American and British culture, and that’s something that’s so far away. So I think that gives some energy to young people to try to connect with that through making music themselves. It’s like you can’t go there you, you can’t go to all those cool places. But you can try to sound like your favorite bands from there. So it’s some kind of, how do you say, escapism.
FO: Your band is sort of a super group, was there a conscious effort to come together?
AB: No, actually some of us didn’t even know each other before Pontus Winnberg, who is one of the guys in the band, he brought us altogether. Pontus is a very social person and he has a lot of energy. For many years, he talked to all of us I guess about how badly we should make music together. You know the things you always say to each other. When you’re drinking beer or coffee or whatever, when you’re being social. But he actually took it further. He all of a sudden called and said he booked some studio time. So I was like okay, I’ll take the train and go there. Then I meet Gustav for the very first time. Yeah, Pontus he really brought us together, and I think it didn’t take long for all of us. It was kind of very natural for us to be in the room making music together; we became a band, instantly. And that was fun.
FO: It’s interesting when artists from established groups, make other groups.
AB: Yeah, you don’t expect it to happen. You’re always was like okay, you’re kind of negative about it. Like well, I’ll give it a try. But it really came along instantly.
FO: How does that affect your work with the other groups? Does everyone make time to come together, then go back to your other groups?
AB: For us it’s never easy, it’s a never ending joke for us to find time together. It’s like okay, we have an hour here and there, then someone needs to pick up the kids, you know. We don’t really expect for us to be like a band. It took two years for us to get a rehearsal space, because we really didn’t rehearse [laughs], we didn’t have time. You just do things on the fly and try to make the best of it. Of course we don’t always make the best of it, but we do try. That’s the whole condition with this band, we understood quite early that we can’t demand so much from it. We just need to take whatever we can get and try to have fun with it, and see how long it lasts. It’s not a band that you can plan around.
FO: How did your debut album, Sky City , come along? Did you each write songs and then when you came together you worked on them? Or did you wait until you had time to write together?
AB: Exactly, we waited until we found some time, and then we wrote all of us together. That was actually the fastest way to do it. Of course, someone had some lyrics, or something written down somewhere, or idea for a song. But we wrote it and recorded it pretty much at the same time. It was a fast process in that sense.
FO: The band has been compared to Fleetwood mac, would you say that’s a fair comparison? How would you describe your sound for someone who hasn’t heard you before?
AB: Of course that’s really flattering to me to hear that Fleetwood mac comparison. On our sound is pretty much, oh that’s such a hard question. I think it’s the sound of five confused people [laughs], with old instruments and good ideas [laughs].Yeah, I think that’s the sound. Well it’s pop music, with a little bit of psychedelic touch. And confusion probably a key word [laughs].
FO: In that case, would you prefer for someone at ACL not listen to you beforehand and just see you live? Or would you prefer that they listen to you first?
AB: I guess that they don’t listen to it, and they just find out live. For me as a music listener, lover of music, I love to go somewhere and not know what band is playing in front of me, and find out later or just ask someone. I think that absolutely gives you a whole other experience, than you know and kind of expect what to happen. So I kind of recommend that, but at the same time I won’t be angry at someone who listens [laughs].
FO: And if they were to listen to one song which song would you pick?
AB: Well I would definitely listen to Duvan, that’s my favorite. Duvan or Elefant, no Pink Amason. But Pink Amason is a long instrumental song that’s probably not the best to introduce people to. [laughs] So I would say Duvan.
Amason will be performing on the HomeAway stage at Austin City Limits on October 2 and October 11. Their debut album Sky City is out now. Check out their music and other tour dates here.