“Every time I open the newspaper I find subjects to sing about,” says Graveyard’s moustachioed sticksman Axel Sjöberg. “That’s the beautiful thing with the blues, you can take laments, everyday problems and this universal human angst that people face in their daily lives and use that to express yourselves. The blues came from hardship and that is still there. It always has an aspiration and a sense of authenticity. Sometimes with other types of music you can just play and not get the same connection.”
Sjöberg discovered the blues through Jerry Williams, a Swedish rock’n’roller who helmed The Violents. “He was in Hamburg playing all those clubs with Little Richard and The Beatles – I think Little Richard even hit on him once. My brother and I had a VHS at our aunt’s place of a live concert. He came up on stage on a motorbike, and when he started playing, you could feel the deepness and the tremble in his voice – he sounded dangerous.”
Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, the heavy blues quartet – line-up completed by frontman Joakim Nilsson, bassist Truls Mörck and guitarist Jonatan Ramm – sound dangerous too on Innocence & Decadence, their fourth and most electrified record yet. Produced and engineered by Johan Lindström of psych jazz band Tonbruket, it peaked at No.2 in their home country’s chart, went Top 20 in Finland and Top 40 in Germany.
One listen tells you why. Their music has a way of getting to your senses with pinpoint accuracy. It unfurls with the same humility and heartbreak that the blues was founded upon. That energy, according to Sjöberg, stems from having finally upgraded to a studio bigger than a shoebox, recording the entire band live.
“You don’t get the same sense of togetherness otherwise. There’s something in there that happens when we play together – it’s cliché, but there’s a real chemistry there. A lot of the albums I like are captured live. When there are flaws in the recording it adds to the character of it. I like looseness in music.”
Yet while the diversification of sounds on their latest album is vast, they still maintain a sense of cohesiveness wherever their musical path takes them, from soulful acoustic passages to more abrasive moments where they flirt with metal’s angrier side. “Nothing is off limits if it feels good,” says Sjöberg. “There are no preset rules in Graveyard. With each album we widen our musical universe in terms of what we can do with songwriting and how we sound. Although blues has always been there. It’s very allowing. What The White Stripes and Queens Of The Stone Age do with the blues is very different to Little Richard or Muddy Waters. It’s there to be taken in whatever direction you want.”
“We listen to a lot of desert blues like Ali Farka Touré in our practice space. Electric Mud and This Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album… are landmarks for me, and Kris Kristofferson is an excellent lyricist – he’s great at capturing a moment and really gets to the core of what’s important.”
Innocence & Decadence is out now via Nuclear Blast