NIONDE PLÅGAN‘s unique balance between post rock ambience and the darkness of crusty, screamo inspired post hardcore was something that caught my attention immediately. While it may seem a hard, discouraging task, their third release “Frustration” is a milestone record that is at its best when listened from cover to cover. With the introduction of new members and new focus on more progressive sonic forms, it seems the band has found the perfect balance, creating a worthy addition to IDIOTEQ’s vast collection of moving, euphoric, and emotional records recommendations, and one of the best records of 2015. Curious about some political and social issues, as well as the band’s anti-capitalism approach, we caught up with the band to dig deep into their story and learn more about their views. Unleash the beast by hitting the play button below and scroll down to learn about their inspirations, their thoughts on various social struggles, European migrant crisis, ISIS, the message in music, youth activism and a lot more.
“Frustration” by NIONDE PLÅGAN (members of TRACHIMBROD and I LOVE YOUR LIFESTYLE) is co-released on Through Love Records (DE), Zegema Beach Records (CA), Upwind Productions (IT), Friendly Otter (US), Dingleberry Records (DE), Unlock Yourself Records (RU), Epileptic Media (AT) and LTD Records (UK). The band is currently on the road with TENGIL and will release a split with Canadian band THE WORLD THAT SUMMER in Fall this year.
Live photos by Isabell Kirstinä.
Hey buddies! How are you? How’s this fine fall and early winter been treating you so far? Is it already freezing cold up there in Jönköping?
Hi there! We’re just fine! Actually we’re spread out in three different cities nowadays (Jönköping, Göteborg and Uppsala), but the winter is quite ambivalent everywhere, so far. Freezing cold one week and quite warm the other. Pretty grey everywhere, though.
Was it always like that? Please tell me more about the band, your recent lineup changes, how it affected you and how has NIONDE PLÅGAN evolved over the years.
No, the lineup has actually changed quite a lot over the years. Jonathan (singer) is the only one of us who’s a founding member from the start of the band in 2012. The band right now consists of Behzad (guitarist since early 2013), Lukas (drummer since early 2014), Jonathan (singer and founding member) and Amandus (bassist for a couple of months). During the work with Frustration in 2014 our bassist at the time was also one of the founding members, but he doesn’t play with us any longer.
We have changed our sound a lot with the release of Frustration, compared to the earlier ones which were leaned more towards the crust punk side of things. It’s obviously an intended change since all of us listen to a lot more screamo than punk nowadays, but it probably also has to do with Behzad starting to write most of the songs instead of Jonathan.
Not living in the same city is obviously kind of problematic at times. We have been spread out in different cities for about a year now, and it results in not being able to get together and rehearse as much as we’d like to. It also makes it pretty hard for us to play shows on short notice, or do anything spontaneously at all for that matter. But, for the most part we make it work, and it actually results in us appreciating our time together even more, since it happens a lot less frequently now than it used to.
Considering this revision of your sound, can you discuss one or more things that you pull from your new major influences that impact your own songwriting? What exactly caused this shift?
Alright, so this whole post metal/screamo-influenced sound was actually a thing even in albums before Frustration. Whenever we wrote a song or part of a song that was slower and more melodic, everyone in the band always got excited about that particular song or part of a song. It was kind of something that had been going on for a while. So even though this “shift” might seem very sudden and dramatic, it was kind of a very natural progression for us and was barely something we talked about a whole lot, it more or less happened by itself. In our heads we were like “hey, we like when it sounds like this more than when it sounds like that, so why not make it all sound like this and stop beating around the bush?”.
Obviously the changes in the line-up made the transition even easier as we consider it a “fresh start” both in terms of people and sounds, so it was a really motivated decision on all kinds of levels. The more specific influences from those kind of genres were always the contrast between writing some beautiful chords that might as well have worked in a completely different setting, and play some heavy drums and put some ferocious screams to it, which gives a very powerful and emotional sound to it all. We took it from there and Frustration is the end product.
Lyrics wise, was it hard to find some relevant political themes to accompany this music? What are some of the topics you touch on within the lyrics?
Well, not really. It comes quite naturally, since we always write about the things we think of a lot and care about the most. The general topics on Frustration, as well as on our earlier releases, are anti-capitalist politics combined with texts related to depression. Since all texts are written in Swedish it might be appropriate to dwelve deeper into the lyrical aspects of each individual song, so here goes:
The lyrics in ”Letargi”, ”Oändligt”, ”Orkeslös” and ”Samhörighet” are mostly emotional texts related to depression or destructive relationships. ”Revolt” and ”Leva eller Dö” are political songs about racism and anti-fascism, more specifically regarding the judging and blaming from liberal right-wing media during events that were occuring in 2013 and 2014 in Sweden. The song ”Vida Horisonter” has more than one message, since some parts are paraphrases of Henry Thoreau’s famous work “Walden”, but with a change in political point from a philosophic description of nature to more of a description of class struggle.
”Vän, I Förödelsens Stund?” is also a paraphrase of an old poem, written by Erik Johan Stagnelius, but the message is completely changed in our interpretation; it goes from being some kind of strange religious poem turned into more of a symbol of a resigned shout for help during depression. The lyrics in ”När Småfåglar Dör” are from an old song written by Allan Edwall. It’s a sarcastic but beautiful reflection of life under wage slavery. Lastly, the readings in the short interlude ”[mellanspel]” as well as the intro of ”Revolt” are samples taken from a radio show that was hosted by poet/activist Athena Farrokhzad, who is somewhat of a favorite writer of ours.
Regarding problems of racism and similar topics present in punk related art, how do you feel it’s changed since the 80s and the 90s? Do you feel like your country, and the whole world, has moved forward or do these difficult issues still pervade us?
It’s difficult for us to speak our minds about how punk has changed since the 80s and the 90s because of our relative young ages. For us, punk has always been associated with rebellion and resistance towards our inherently unequal and, in extent, racist economic and political system. Whenever we attend a DIY or punk show we always feel safe, confident and comfortable, sometimes even more so than in other places in society, because we know we are surrounded by like-minded people, and that most of us take racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination seriously. So even if the case has been that punk and punk related art has been associated with racism in the past, it’s either changed ’til now or it’s something that’s never been a noticeable problem in our surroundings.
Regarding the rest of the world and the rest of society, well that’s a completely different story. For the last decade or so, we’ve been seeing the development of increased and normalized racism, in society in general, and especially in our governments. The same kind of thought processes, world views and opinions have probably always existed before, but far less, far less obvious and far more hidden and concealed, and considered a specific and an individual problem, as opposed to an inherent part of our system. Racism is obviously a structural problem as opposed to an individualistic one, and reproduces itself widely in a capitalist society.
In Sweden in particular, which is our point of view, the normalization of racism in our parliament has been ridiculously noticeable. A relatively new and openly racist party, the Sweden Democrats, are now the third largest political party in Sweden and has been setting the bar for debates, topics and media coverage. They speak of how cultures should not be mixed together in a society for it to be thriving and in turn blame all of our troubles and the lack of prosperity on people who they consider are part of a different culture than the Swedish one. Almost all of the established parties have partly or completely accepted their premises and points of views in fear of losing (even more) votes to the Sweden Democrats. We’ve seen implementations and proposals of increased border controls, medical (unscientific) age determinations of under-aged asylum seekers, as well as the introduction of temporary residence permits. All of it with the outright purpose of decreasing the amount of refugees seeking shelter in Sweden, and all of it coming from a social democratic (supposedly leftist) government. None of this would have ever happened just a couple of years ago. Even worse is that these kinds of developments seem to be even more severe in other countries, in Europe in particular, but across the entire world as well.
Seeing it for what it is, one can hardly say that Sweden lately has moved forward in terms of solidarity or democracy. Except for changes in how debates are held, how media is covered and how established parties act, we’ve also seen an increased mobilization and radicalization of racist activists and the likes who have been taking action in response to the changes that have occurred in our country. For example, during the last two months there has been 20 cases of arson on refugee centres in Sweden, without the police trying to prevent them or society caring at all. An obvious example of how the process of dehumanizing certain groups of people makes other people commit hideous crimes without anyone else noticing, caring or counteracting at all. It’s a dark and truly frightful time we’re living in and we’re afraid that this development is far from over, which is absolutely terrifying to be honest.
Racism is obviously a structural problem as opposed to an individualistic one, and reproduces itself widely in a capitalist society.
Yeah, it’s a serious problem on many levels. How would you grade the general European response so far? What would you say to those who argue that opening up our borders would mean that refugees will surely change the culture and identity of our countries and the whole Europe as we know it? Along with other arguments such as infiltrating migrant groups by potentially dangerous ISIS militants, doesn’t it concern you?
Well, to this date, the European response has been awful. First of all we have rules regarding visa which forces people to flee over the Mediterranean sea, something that has cost the lives of several thousands so far. We also have the Frontex border police forcing boats full of refugees who’ve actually made it to Europe to turn back to an almost certain death by drowning. Lastly, Europe has recently started paying money to the Turkish state for closing its borders and to keep refugees out of Europe; a state with a fascist president, who in turn has been collaborating with ISIS, as well as killed countless of innocent Kurds. These are all examples of how Europe has responded terribly to the humanitarian crisis that we’re in.
Cultures mixing, interacting with each other and evolving is a simple consequence of globalism and migration. Identifying this simple fact as a problem is absurd. So what if our cultures aren’t identical to what they are now in a hundred years? No culture has ever been static or unchangeable in the past, why would they be today? Furthermore, we feel that these topics don’t differ much from when people used to say that races shouldn’t be mixed. To us it’s the exact same kind of simple bigotry in disguise. At least that’s how we see it from our point of view in Sweden, where this is exactly what has happened. Politicians in uniforms speaking of how multiculturalism is the wrong way to go, just so they can justify their racism and racist politics.
However, discussing these absurdities with the racists are never a meaningful way to tackle problems with racism. How absurd their allegations might be; letting them set the agenda, by discussing with them, only makes things worse. As we have tragically seen in Sweden; this is what causes normalization of racism, which of course also makes it grow.
The fear of ISIS ”infiltrating” our countries with migrant groups is also simply absurd. These people that are being accused of being potential ISIS members are the exact same people that are fleeing from said fascists. ISIS will continue to terrorize the world no matter how our response is to civilians fleeing from death and war. And people will keep fleeing from certain death no matter how much we’d rather want them to stay where they are. We simply need to make up our minds over how we relate to these certainties, and also remember what role we want to play in the history books as time passes.
How about this extreme form of expression you’ve decided to use with NIONDE PLÅGAN? Concerning all the hybrids and blends of styles we face these days, do you think music art can be still provocative today?
Music can probably still be provocative, depending on how one defines the word and depending on the receiver. It might be a lot harder to provoke moralists, since rock n’ roll or shouting isn’t considered as controversial as it once might have, but people in general still have a very limited definition of what music actually is or can be. Some of us in the band for instance listen to ambient and avant-garde music – music that by the majority of people might be considered provocative since it stretches the definition of what music is or should be. However for us, with the sound on Frustration, it was never a matter of trying to do something provocative, controversial or even consciously original. It was simply a matter of changing direction as a band. We knew perfectly well that people have done what we do before, and that’s totally okay. We simply enjoy emotional and heavy music combined with shouting and screaming and therefore we made an album that sounds like something we would like to listen to ourselves. Whether it’s considered provocative or not simply doesn’t matter to us.
Ok, and how about the modern digital age artists are living nowadays? Do you consider new technologies new exciting ways an artist can engage with meaningful artistic activism or with the wider public? Compared to earlier stages of independent music development, how helpful is it?
New technology is always welcome in our minds. It’s great that, in theory, anyone can do whatever they want with whatever means they have at hand, and then publish it to the internet where, in theory, anyone and everyone can enjoy whatever has been published. A big problem with this so-called ”freedom” is that a lot of art that is created and shared gets buried in the vast quantity of the internet. Meaning that if you have possibilities to stand out in the crowd you have a huge advantage when compared to someone who hasn’t. It’s like anything in our society really, if you’re born into the ”right” family with lots of money then you’ll probably have an easier way of taking time to do something that might not generate money at first or be able to support yourself, and you’ll also be able to promote yourself a lot more efficiently if you’ve got the means to do so.
Another huge problem is that the general principle of financing music is the one of listeners having to buy it from a market; a market which people generally are less and less eager to use to pay for music. Because of the internet, everything is free to download, or otherwise streamable through software and services where most of the money goes to the companies who are responsible for the distribution. The desperate situation of the music industry further increases the notion that only the most profitable music has a place in the spotlight, and is the only music that gets recognized by the masses.
So in one way, yes, the internet and today’s technology is great for most people and for distributing needs, but the reality of how well you can ”make it” as an artist depends very much on your material assets and what class you are born into, just like most other aspects in life, as well as how profitable your music can be in the eyes of those with authority and power, even more today than before. In general, the relative difficulty as well as possibilities are maybe pretty equal compared to before. But since we didn’t make records or tour with our band decades ago these are all presumptions and guesses, in other words; we frankly have no idea.
Thea Carinsdotter’s handmade artwork for the album’s inlay cover.
Do you have a couple of examples of local solutions for young artists, art incubators that provide opportunities for Swedish artists to create new work, or workshops that lead to particularly fruitful actions?
In Sweden, we’re kind of privileged with these kinds of things. As a promoter in any of the larger cities in Sweden it’s actually pretty easy to get a show financed with public funds from the municipalities. This makes shows less dependent of high entrance fees for instance, which in turn makes it easier to stay alive as a non-commercial promoter. This isn’t possible in all of the smaller cities though, but at the same time there are other forms of organizations who work with different forms of culture through “popular education” all over the country.
Sweden has a long history of “popular education” thanks to leading “popular movements” such as the workers movement and the sobriety movement. Some of these organizations are well over 100 years old, and therefore they organize a large part of Sweden’s population nowadays. As a band or an artist one can get help from these organizations with anything from learning to play an instrument or borrowing equipment, to being provided a rehearsal space or getting funds for a show or a tour. As a promoter, you can get help with equipment and some of the funding as well.
Taking a look at things more locally, we also have a great example from our home town in Jönköping regarding a large area called Kulturhuset (roughly translated “The Cultural Centre”). This house origins from a squatting in the 80’s and still exists and thrives in the same non-profit form today. Kulturhuset has been, and still is, an amazing place which incubates people’s interest and participation in both cultural and political work, ourselves included. The house is filled with activities all year round and is a place where promoters, political activists, gamers, dancers, musicians and other cultural performers all share the same roof. It’s a place for anyone to come and go as they please, whether if it’s to express your creativity or if you just don’t have anywhere else to go. Our city really has a lot to thank Kulturhuset for.
Sounds really amazing. I’ve always envied Scandinavia such solutions and fresh approach towards various art related undertakings.
Have you always been so active and willing to share your work with the world? What are the skills necessary for creative activity and art promotion that no school ever teaches you? Also, what’s the point of doing this? Is there a gal to it? Are there any relevant yet overlooked issues you think activists and artists should approach today?
Most of us have played music for a while now, and released music in different forms with various bands over the years – sharing music with people comes naturally for us nowadays, and we’re always grateful with any amount of response we get. When writing and playing music that’s kind of niche and non-commercial, the listener is usually someone who has actively been searching for that specific music. And when someone is that passionate about music and knows exactly what they’re looking for, they’re usually not concerned with bashing a band or an artist if what they find isn’t to their liking – either you like it and become a fan, or you don’t and simply move on in search for the next band or artist. It’s a different kind of atmosphere in the underground music scene when compared to commercial music. There’s no real ”threat”, no real ”number one spot” that we’re all competing for, and no one is forcing our music on to anybody.
Since we don’t mainly write and release music for the purpose of selling as many copies of an album as possible, or spreading our music to as many people as possible, we don’t really mind if not everyone likes what we do. Quite the contrary, we’re aware that a lot of people won’t like it, and we think that that’s further been a reason why we’re so ”willing” to release music, with this band and with other bands before this one. There’s no real pressure to satisfy as many people as possible, as long as we write music that we like ourselves and that a relatively small amount of passionate people enjoy as well, we’re satisfied and at ease.
Music in school is kind of a complicated topic. While it certainly doesn’t hurt to know your history, music theory or the technical aspects of playing an instrument, there’s no one way of teaching someone because of people being so different from each other. If there’s something to be said in general, schools should try to focus less on how things should or shouldn’t be done and rather try to inspire people to find their own way with music.
Another aspect worth mentioning is how they rarely problematize the whole issue with music being a product in a market and as part of an industry. Music in a music industry is obviously going to have to relate to the ”industry” side of things, and in our sense completely compromises the whole integrity of music as an art form. Some people might argue that the two can co-exist, but we simply don’t believe that. Focusing more on how playing music can be for yourself, rather than doing it to please others or to try to become ”world famous”, is a step in the right direction if you ask us.
Yet you’ve decided to work with a bunch of independent labels to increase the reach of your art and offer it to as many listeners as possible. Tell me about the idea of working with so many distributors and promoters (Zegema Beach Records, Upwind Productions, Friendly Otter, Through Love Rec, Dingleberry records, Unlock Yourself Records, Epileptic Media and LTD Records).
Well, that’s actually just partially true. While it’s really great to have all of the labels involved and helping us out, and as you said probably does make it easier to reach out to people, that’s not at all the reason why we ended up with eight different labels co-releasing ’Frustration’. The reason was simply to fund the physical vinyl version of the album, which we couldn’t afford to pay for ourselves, neither could any of the labels individually, since they are all relatively small and independent labels with very limited means.
It all started with us reaching out to Paul at Through Love who Lukas had had contact with before with other bands. He really liked the record but couldn’t afford the cost of pressing the vinyls by himself. Since we were very eager to have the album out on vinyl this time, rather than only having it out digitally and on CD’s like we’ve had with the previous releases, we started discussing the possibility of co-releasing it and getting more labels involved, as in sharing the cost of the pressing. Paul suggested contacting David at Zegema Beach, who also really liked it but couldn’t afford enough records to make it happen. David in his turn reached out to Olin at Friendly Otter, while Jonathan at the same time got help from Andrea at Upwind. At this time, when the funding was still incomplete, we started contacting as many labels as we thought would be interested in joining our already relatively large number. We contacted about 60 labels before we could finally finance the whole thing.
In short, the decision was to not have the album released on vinyl at all, or to co-release it with the eight labels we finally made come together to share the costs. The entirety of it actually took a lot more work than we thought it would, but in hindsight it was really worth it – resulting in beautifully pressed vinyls which we can bring on tour, and new contacts and amazing friends who were so passionate and helpful, struggling ‘til the end in order for this thing to actually happen. We are grateful beyond words for the amount of work they put in and for the opportunity they have given us.
How long was the period of preparation for this release? The record was tracked in Summer of 2014, right? What took you so long to put it out?
We started writing on ‘Frustration’ early 2014, recorded during the summer and then a couple of months followed of mixing and getting everything right with the sound of the album. Since we did all of the recording and mixing ourselves we took our time and didn’t really feel like rushing things, and at the same time had to balance working on the album with full time studies and jobs, which can be demanding and difficult at times. By the end of 2014 we sent the album to be mastered by Ulf at HoboRec and also started looking for labels to get involved. By early 2015 both Paul from Through Love and David from Zegema Beach were in on the release, so from that on it was just a matter of finding enough additional labels to cover the financing of the vinyl costs. After finally getting all of the needed labels on board we agreed on a release late 2015 since that worked best for all involved parties.
Are you happy with the final result?
Yeah, definitely! We’re really happy with the new sound of the band and to have the album distributed through so many great labels. The final result was exactly what we had in mind when writing and we felt like we managed to connect better with the songs on ‘Frustration’ compared to our earlier releases. The time between the end product and the actual release of it hopefully goes a bit faster next time though, but at the same time we understand that the labels need to plan their releases a good time ahead and have to relate to the number of releases they can actually put out in a set amount of months. Otherwise we’re really excited to keep writing new songs and see where our next release takes us.
So what are you next steps?
First of all we’re going on tour with TENGIL in February, so right now we’re mostly focused on that. Since it’s our first Europe tour we haven’t really planned past the tour all that much. We’ll probably start writing on some new songs and work on new releases. We’ve talked about making a split record with Canadian band ’THE WORLD THAT SUMMER’ which we’ll hopefully release later this year if all goes according to plans. We wouldn’t mind hitting the road a second time again during the year either, but we’ll just have to see what happens. What can be said is that we’re really excited about the future and feel like we’ve just only started.
Sounds great! Thanks so much for your thoughts and this insightful interview. Feel free to add your final words and take care! Cheers!
Thank you! It’s been great talking to you. Cheers!