A Ripple Conversation With Sanne Karlsson, Vocalist Of The Swedish Heavy Rock/Stoner Punk Band ELECTRIC HYDRA
Interview by Mark Partin
"Known for delivering high energy shows, the band has played live at Sweden Rock Festival and Malmöfestivalen; toured Europe and shared stages with Lucifer, Monolord, Truckfighters and Greenleaf, among many others. The quintet is keen to prove exactly why they are considered one of the most exciting new acts on the Swedish rock scene."
1st,thanks much for taking the time for this interview. Your debut album "Electric Hydra" carried a great vibe to it, something unique to you that people are looking for.Can you describe how you came to be?
Well thank you and thanks for having me! In the beginning it was all by coincidence. I randomly sent a text to Ellinor after getting a tip from my close friend Elvira, asking her if she would be interested to play some music. At that time she was playing with a group where our former guitar player Jonathan Möller also was involved. Those two had briefly spoke earlier of maybe doing something musically together and so it happened. The night before our first rehearsal they where out in the small city of Uddevalla and they bumped into Jonny Pettersson and they asked him if he maybe would be interested in joining. It hung by a thread if the jam session was gonna happen or not because of those three being really tired from the night before. But eventually it did happen. It was on such level that we did not even know who would play which instrument. But after a while things started to fall into place and that was the beginning of Electric Hydra as a band.
In listening to you live (on my must do list asap) there is emotion simmering to the surface of the music, grooving to your artistic output. Do you prefer live or in studio to share your music?
For me personally it is definitely live. No question about it. Hopefully that is something that shows. But of course if you don’t have songs it is kinda hard to go on tour heh.
Having a band with one superb vocalist in it is special, yet 'Electric Hydra' has had 2 at times like on the song "Iron Lung". Are the lyrics and music written specifically that way? This process sounds fascinating.
Yes this song is written for two vocalists. Having two vocalists is something that is really appealing to me, it brings a new dimension to the song!
The title ’Iron Lung’ is referring to an old type of mechanical respirator which encloses most of a person's body and the song is about the feeling when a relationship is ending and you are desperate to be able to breathe again. The theme and the title was something that Ellinor had in mind and we wrote the lyrics and melody all together really fast.
Seems like the band has changed their musical direction from the early Desert/Stoner sound to a more heavy hard classic rock sound interwoven with a punk flavor? What does the future bring for you?
I think one of the reasons for that is the shifting of members. Jonathan and Jonny were more into Stoner music I think. At least more than me. But I like the feeling of mixed influences, it brings something interesting to the sound. Hopefully we’ll manage to do so in the future as well. But by no means do we have the intention to reinvent the wheel. If people don’t think we are innovative -that’s OK.
Basically we’re planning to do basically the same thing we already did but a bit more of everything. For me personally it comes down to write more and larger choruses and vocal parts that are fading into guitar structures etc. I have also bought myself a keyboard which will help me in the process of writing songs.
There have been a few personnel changes in the band since 1st starting out, and as I understand it Jonne was the drummer in the original line-up?
As I said earlier Jonny Petterson (drums) and Jonathan Möller (vocals and guitar) left the band and where replaced by Dennis Åhman (drums) and Jonas Stålhammar (guitar). We also had the honor to hook up with our latest member Peter Söderberg who is a great addition not the least when it comes to live shows.
Sweden has a history of great metal and rock bands. Your new album generates great hooks with sweet rhythm and superb vocals and starts at 60 KPH and just never stops. Like some of the rockers from the 70's and 80's. Are ballads and guitars solos not part of 'Electric Hydra's' DNA, going forward also?
Thank you Mark! That is really nice to hear and I think that that is just the thing we want to accomplish. No small talk, just straight up rock’n’roll! Plus (forgive me everybody) but personally I’m not a great fan of guitar solos either but that’s just me. When it comes to the Swedish scene I think it is a great community to grow up in as a musician. Not only do we have a lot of great bands to look up to, but for younger people you can get some economic help with rehearsal rooms and public music school.
Sanne, you have a very exceptional, distinct vocal style and 'metal' range. Did you always sing this way?
I had been singing a lot in different choirs earlier so that I think that has shaped me in some way. When I was younger I had a kind of dream to be able to sing rougher. But when I tried to sound more like a ”rock’n’roll guy” I felt that is not the way I actually sound and my voice was temporarily damaged from it.
My voice has a more clean sound either I like it or not. Since I had a break from music for like 10-15 years it took some time to pick up where I left and I am still developing. One thing is that when I stopped focusing so much on doing it ”right” and stopped trying to sound in a specific way things got better. I just put more emotions into it and that did it for me in the recording process of the album.
Previous bands that you all started or came from?
I have only been in smaller obscure bands from my town and did a short session thing playing keyboard with Swedish doomers 'Draconian' a long time ago. But that was never intended to last long.
Jonas Stålhammar may be recognized as a member of 'At the Gates' and a thousand more bands, Ellinor played guitar in an action rock band called 'Dying For Some Action', Dennis has played in a band called 'Odcult' in my opinion a great rock band and Peter also plays in 'Capricorn' (who has their rehearsing space next to ours and is a little bit better as they have a fridge in their room).
Do you feel your music talks about life experiences and people good and bad in general?
I do think that the music talks about a lot of think that I experienced in life. In the process of writing lyrics and song melodies. Often it goes like this, I focus on finding a melody that I like and sometimes try to find places where I can add a chorus (don’t know if that is something I do because I have done so much singing in choirs before). After that I am trying to make the rhythm in the melody sound comfortable and that often includes ridiculous phrases that just suits the things I just wrote.
Finally I dig down to some event that took place in my life. Something I feel for like an event or somebody that annoys me and from there try to do the lyrics. I won’t mention any names but some of the songs are about people that I hold dear, so it doesn’t always have to be some serious issues.
I have a short temper and sometimes I overreact so there is plenty of material to pick up when writing lyrics haha.
'Iron Lung' is a personal favorite off your debut lp release. Doom heavy with great choruses, It stands out for that reason but 'Rebel' is one killer tune. The hemi-charged engine that runs this bullet train, the rhythm section of bassist Ellinor Andersson and drummer Dennis Åhman along with the great, great riffing from the duo on the guitars, Jonas Stålhammar and Peter Söderberg.....Just wow. Sanne's emotion filled stellar vocals seal the deal on the album ending tune. Does the band have a personal favorite?
We did the recordings of this one mainly last New Year's. The main vocals on those two songs are from our former guitar player Jonathan Möller. I only do the chorus. He has a great kind of Chris Cornell vibe to his voice I think. In earlier recordings we did some duets which I thought was really fun! I really like the dynamics in hearing two voices and I hope that this is one of the things we can take with us to the next record. Back to how the song 'Iron Lung' was made. The song was written by Jonas Stålhammar. Jonte and I were paying a visit to Dennis' (our drummer) studio to write some music and celebrate New Years Eve. Jonas had sent us the guitar track some days earlier and I really loved it from the start! It hit's a special nerve if you know what I mean? Jonas and Ellinor were also heading down to Småland and we came up with the vocals during a spontaneous party and the whole process went really quick. The day after was New Years Eve so we just continued what we started the evening before.
'Rebel' as I remember it is written by Dennis and the demo was recorded over at my father's place. He has a studio in his barn near by. Nothing complicated about that song, just a good riff, great energy and a catchy refrain. I was only involved in doing the melody for the vocals in that song and Jonathan wrote the lyrics.
Something we paid a little extra focus on in the album process was in which order we put the songs. Starting out with three singles, continuing a little heavier with two songs tuned in 'B'. A little side story to that is we did not have any bass guitar for this at the time so Anders Iwers from 'Dark Tranquillity' lent us one of his. It turned out that he lives about 400 meters from my dad's place where we recorded the string instruments (right in the middle of nowhere).
On the B side we have five more songs and I think that 'Rise From Below' is a really suitable song to end the album with. As I said earlier it’s no frills -it just ends.
I think we all have different favourites but my personal one is the third single 'Won’t go to War'(with myself).
Electric Hydra music and merch can be purchased on their bandcamp page https://electrichydra.bandcamp.com/album/electric-hydra
Singles from their s/t debutWon't Go To War (With Myself)