7 months after our introductory interview with Swedish metallized hardcore pack CITY KEYS (members of ANCHOR) and not even month after the initial announcement of their follow-up EP “Unrest”, we have teamed up with the band to break down their new offering, discuss their work with influential producer Tomas Skogsberg (Sunlight Studio, produced records from Entombed, Grave, Dismember, Refused, The Hellacopters, etc.), marrying metal with hardcore, and tease their future steps, including Summer touring and debut LP! Read the full interview below.
CITY KEYS just premiered a new single “Unrest”, featuring guest vocals by Bjorn Dossche of RISE & FALL. The track is available below, along with previously revealed single ‘Condemned’, featuring guest vocals by Tomas Lindberg (AT THE GATES). The band’s second EP “Rites” is slated for a June 16th release via Evil Greed label.
Was it initially your plan to write and record so fast?
FRED: Yeah, we setup a plan pretty early on to have some songs ready for a release before the summer of 2017. We’ve had plenty of chances to try out new stuff on these couple of tours we’ve done, got a better idea of what we want to do, what we enjoy to play the most and where we want to take it next. What works and what doesn’t. It’s been stressful to write on a deadline, but it’s also a good tool for inspiration. It means that you can’t be a brat and sit around and wait for inspiration to hit you, you just gotta go to work sort of, and it also means we’re sharing way more rough ideas between ourselves just to get things done. Breaking down some barriers.
How did you team up with Tomas?
FRED: Tomas is a good friend of my brother Nicke who plays in a Stockholm band called JESUS CHRÜSLER SUPERCAR. They’ve been recording together with Tomas for a good couple of years now and I’ve been in the studio with them a couple of times getting to know Tomas.
Sunlight came up super early in the process, and it wasn’t much of a discussion whether we wanted to do it or not, we just weren’t sure if Tomas would be up for it, but luckily for us he was.
He’s one of the most experienced and talented yet humble producers and recording engineers out there, we wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.
How does he approach hardcore and did you intend to join forces with an experienced metal producer?
FRED: We’ve always talked about trying to have a steady foot in both worlds, hardcore and metal, and recording with a metal producer is probably the best way to do that. But we’re also very keen on not having this generic, plastic kind of “modern” metal sound, and Tomas definitely knows how to make things sound organic, raw and genuine, something that we really want to squeeze out as much as possible for this EP.
We said right from the beginning that we’re going all in and giving him full freedom to do whatever he feels like doing, which probably means that he’s approaching us as a metal band in a lot of ways.
MARTIN: As Fred said, there was a strong desire for the production of the songs to sound professional but also to still be honest to who we are and what we sound like. We all have a background in metal in one way or another, so having Tomas on board was a way of delving a little deeper into that world but also knowing he would still be taking us in the right direction.
Do you think Tomas has a personal philosophy of production?
FRED: Definitely, his main thing is to make people feel relaxed, at home and well taken care of, which in hand squeezes out the best of everyone’s performance and makes the whole process incredibly memorable. He knows how to instantly become a part of the team and how to create a creativeatmosphere and above all – make everyone focus on the end result.
MARTIN: Absolutely. He instantly felt like an extra member of the band in a very natural way. Straight away everyone wants to do the best they can because you have this extra member in your team who is the best coach you could hope for. Not only is he recognising and encouraging your strengths, but he also is able to have an objective opinion on something that you have already heard many times, so his guidance on what works well and what could improve is always very on point. I think you can hear his influence in the recordings and we came away from there with not only a great sounding record but also many lessons learned that will no doubt help us progress even further as a band.
What kind of gear you use and what’s the analogue to digital ratio?
FRED: Nothing fancy going on really, the ones who knows Tomas and the way he works knows what’s going on. He’s a very simple man when it comes to gear. He’s using some analogue stuff, and his computer is basically closer to the Stone Age than to modern time, but his approach to gear is very rational and simplistic, whatever sounds the best is gonna be used and analogue or digital doesn’t matter – it’s just a tool to reach the end result. We basically ended up using all of his standard gear, the stuff he’s most comfortable working with and we wanted as much of his touch and Sunlight as we could get, and then when it came to mixing I blended in what I felt was missing from my usual productions.
How involved are you in the recording process aside from performing? How has Tomas made this process different from before?
FRED: Tomas was definitely the captain of the ship this time, and it feels great to let someone outside of the band be that. Someone that has an extreme amount of experience to tell us what’s good and what’s not, to help us bring the songs and the recording in the right direction etc. And I think it helps to have the recording and producing background in our band too. We’re only focused on making this record sound as good as it can and there’s really no prestige in it, he’s got tons of great ideas and we all respect him immensely and that’s probably the best way for a producer to start working with a band. He knew early on that there wouldn’t be much of any social barriers to climb to get his ideas across.
He’s been taking care of of the technical stuff and we’re more focused on doing the songs as good as we can. I use to shoulder most of the recording work myself, which I love, but this time all of us had more time and energy to focus on the songs and the performance and discuss where we wanted things to go.
MARTIN: Fred has extremely hard work ethics and always seems to be able to visualize the big picture of what we are working towards musically. While that is great news for the band, I feel like it can be a lot of work for him to physically put these ideas into a recorded reality. Having Tomas there to help us achieve that vision definitely opened up more opportunities for the songs to be all they could be, as more time could be spend fine tuning the small details that can really help a song step up to the next level.
Mix and mastering, how were you involved?
FRED: I took care of the mixing myself (Fvck Life Studios) and double checked the mix with Tomas before sending it for mastering. We all felt that it was very important for Tomas to give us a thumbs up and approving the mix before sending it.
We really wanted to mix both worlds, Tomas old school approach to recording, and my extremely new school way of mixing, but it’s also due to the fact that mixing is like a second instrument to me, and I really feel that a big part of this band is happening when the mix is happening, a control we like to keep within the band.
Brad Boatright (Audiosiege) did the mastering. He’s the best.
Photo by Makesfa
Ok guys, so how many tracks will you have after the process? Is there a plan to secure more songs for possible future releases, splits, etc.?
CLAES: The Rites E.P got four tracks. We just working on our first LP that we will release during 2018.
Concept wise, where did you find the inspiration for your lyrics this time?
FRED: For this one we left all personal perspectives behind, and I think it´s for good. I found a lot inspiration in documentaries and studies actually. We´ve been trying to portray whatever we feel is going in the world today and especially the direction we´re heading. Songs are dark and heavy now and I think we wanna keep the lyrics in the same spirit. I feel like its really the only thing that fits to the massacre of riffage the other dudes come up with.
Alright, so what are your next steps? Touring wise, how many shows can we expect from CITY KEYS in 2017? Will you go across the pond and tour the States under the War Records banner?
We got about +25 shows this summer and we´re doing some touring in the fall. We´re still just starting. It´s really exciting I would say! We´re pumped for the U.S and alla other continents and I´m sure that will happen as soon as we drop that first LP!
Cool. Thanks a lot for the update, guys. Feel free to drop your final words and take care! Good luck with the new record!
Big ups to IDIOTEQ for showing us the interest for this release. See you all out there!
26.06.2017 SWE Stockholm @ Cyklopen
27.06.2017 NOR Oslo @ Sub Scene
28.06.2017 SWE Gothenburg @ Sticky Fingers
29.06.2017 DK Aalborg @ 1000Fryd
30.06.2017 GER Leipzig @ Stö
01.07.2017 CZ Prague @ Eternia
02.07.2017 HU Budapest @ Dürer Kert
03.07.2017 HRO Zagreb @ AKC Attack
04.07.2017 AT Vienna @ Venster 99
05.07.2017 IT Bolzano @ Underground Horizon
06.07.2017 GER/CH TBA @ TBA
07.07.2017 GER Erfurt @ TBA
08.07.2017 GER Halver @ HHF Summer Fest
08.07.2017 GER Cologne @ Privat
09.07.2017 NL Hengelo @ Innocent
10.07.2017 BEL Antwerp @ JC Den Englatier
11.07.2017 GER/NL TBA @ TBA
12.07.2017 GER Essen @ Don’t Panic
13.07.2017 GER Braunschweig @ Nexus
14.07.2017 GER Hamburg @ TBA
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