Simian Ghost [Interview]


On an icy December morning I wait inside a warm room in London to have a Skype conversation with Sebastian Arnström from Simian Ghost. They’re one of Sweden’s most exciting bands and they mix catchy and dreamy 60s style pop music with modern production and clean indie guitars and synths. They’re on the cusp of releasing their third studio album ‘The Veil’, and are getting ready to do some serious touring as part of the promotion of it.

BS = The Boatshed

After a few rings, a slightly harassed voice answers.

How you doing?

Good thanks. I aplologise about being a little late, I have been held up by snow.

BS – is the weather quite extreme at the moment?

Sebastian - Not really, but I slipped and fell. I was out for lunch and the ground is covered in ice with snow on the top. It is pretty dangerous.

BS – are you ok?

Sebastian -Fine. I think!

Where do I find you?

I live in a place called Sandviken, and Matthias lives in Stockholm, which is about 200 Kilometers south of here.

Culturally, how would you describe Sweden?

It depends on which cultural scene you think of. In modern music, I don’t know if there is an easily distinguishable Swedish scene in music. I would describe us as pretty calculating people, who are good at mimicking what is cool in bigger counties.

BS – there are some Scandinavian stereotypes in music, and a lot of that is based around heavy metal. I think that this is being slowly taken apart at the moment, by new indie electro type stuff coming out and it feels like a new exciting movement of quite cool music is happening.

Sebastian – Yea. There is a lot of great stuff coming out at the moment. I just don’t think of it as something that is typically Swedish – it is just a bunch of Swedish people making music that I find interesting.

Where does the name Simian Ghost come from?

Errr, first of all it was a good Google-able name.

BS – So very calculated again!

Sebastian – YEAA! I have given all kinds of pretentious explanations for the name, but I guess the bottom line is that it is two words that I think sound quite good together.

BS – It does sound good. It has a good roll to it.

Sebastian – There is that thing where you count the consonant sounds in a word or phrase, and this number can affect people’s impressions of a word or sentence. Ours has three, and that felt like a good thing. The number three is good. Five is optimal, but I’m happy with three.

BS – I think I am right in saying that Jack White is obsessed with the number three.

Sebastian – He only has two of those points in his name, though.

BS – He is probably really pissed off about it.

New single, ‘A Million Shining Colours’ recently out – where did the song come from?

Musically it has a 60s vibe. It is aalmost like a Bryan Wilson tribute. It came from us wanting to do more with our songwriting, have bigger harmonies and more interesting chord structures. We looked at music that we like, and The Beach Boys is the holy grail of nuanced pop music so we really went for that.

New album, ‘The Veil’, coming out in 2014. Can you tell us more about this?

It is a long record. It has eighteen tracks on it.

BS – So you’re getting your moneys worth.

Sebastian – [Laughing] I hope so! We wanted to make something that feels like a real record. It record is nuanced and dynamic, or at least that is what we went for.

BS - I’m looking at your Skype profile picture and you have what looks like a cabbage on there.

{Laughing} actually it is rhubarb!

This leads me onto the next questions very nicely. I have heard rumors that Swedish people eat food from toothpaste tubes. Is this true?

No! it is not true.

BS – Are you sure? I read that people buy caviar in toothpaste tubes.

I suppose we do have condiments in squeeze containers. I suppose they are like toothpaste tubes. I doesn’t affect me so much because I don’t eat caviar all that much!

BS – So you’ve never had a few too many beers and then put pate on your toothbrush before bed?

Sebastian – I haven’t actually. I think this may have something to do with the fact I don’t brush my teeth in the kitchen. But I have done the thing of putting skin lotion on my toothbrush, but I guess that is a more universal failure.

BS – we’ve all been there.

Ever eaten Surstromming?

[A type of Swedish fish in a can that tastes very moldy]


BS – Would you?

Sebastian – No. Why would you put something in your mouth that tastes like that? I don’t know.

BS – I once tried it and it was one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life.

Sebastian – Was it good?

BS – NO! One of the people I was with was actually sick before we’d even started eating – just form the smell.

Sebastian – Everyone in my family eats it, but I usually flee. I’ve never understood it. It is rotten fish. It is a weird thing that Swedish people do.

If I were to turn on your iPod now, what would be playing?

I don’t actually have mush music on it. The last thing I was listening to was Prefab Sprouts actually. {sheepish laughter}. I was listening to Jordan: The Comeback.

Where do you like travelling to the most?

Hard one. Me as a person I don’t travel very much. I sit at home making music, and I feel quite good about that. The nicest place I have been is probably where we shot the video for ‘A Million Shining Colors’, which was 2 or three hours outside Barcelona. It had been a while since I’d been somewhere warn and sunny and I was really surprised by how amazingly beautiful Spain can be. I had no idea.

BS – Presumably you spend a lot of time away from home playing shows and stuff. Do you find anything about being away from home difficult?

Sebastian - It has always been difficult for me. For various reasons I have struggled a bit in social situation all my life.

BS – You seem pretty charming to me.

Sebastian – Ok, thank you. It is because I hide behind a screen! I do like hanging out with people, but large numbers of people freak me out.

BS – Is it better on stage?

Sebastian – It is usually ok on stage. It is getting better. Touring is becoming more and more fun - less insanity and more enjoying.

What is the plan once the new album has been released?

I had dinner with Matthias the other day and we started talking, because we haven’t met each other for a while, and we talked about the next step. We drew up some crazy plans for what the next release will be. I don’t know if I should even tell you, because I guess some label people will freak out.

BS – Don’t worry, in that case I will just write that you plan never to release another record.

Sebastian – This is what we are going to do with our lives, or it seems that way.