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The right way from scratch: introducing new Swedish hardcore band CITY KEYS (ex-ANCHOR)!

18 mins read

One week after the introduction of THE LOVELESS CHURCH, the newest project from ANCHOR guitarist Mattias, we’re back with some more insights on the band members’ new endeavours. Born out of the ashes of the respected Scandinavian touring force, CITY KEYS (graffiti slang for ‘bolt cutter’) is a new straight edge hardcore pack with members carrying a history of being in more bands such as GUST, I AM HUNGER, and IRON. The band caught up with IDIOTEQ to discuss this chapter, break down their debut record, talk about current hardcore scene, some technical recording stuff and a lot more! See the full interview below.

CITY KEYS will releaase their debut EP called “Tip The Scale” on October 21st on Evil Greed (vinyl 7”) and War Records (cassette). Recorded and mixed by Fvck Life Studios except lead vocals who was taken care of by Gustav Brunn at GG ALL IN AUDIO, the effort was mastered by Brad Boatright of AudioSiege. Graphics and cover art by artist Marc Strömberg, who has recently unveiled new sounds of his electronic project SWAN SEX. “Tip The Scale” features guest vocals by Johannes Persson of CULT OF LUNA and Daniel of metallic hardcore Texans DIE YOUNG.

The band will be touring Germany in October with their Swedish pals from NEIGHBOURHOOD and will soon announce a follow up European trek for late November / early December (book via [email protected]). See the details below and scroll down to dive into our juicy interview that will satisfy your thirst for details behind CITY KEYS!

October 18th 2016 DE Kiel @ Alte Meierei
October 19th 2016 DE Hamburg @ TBA
October 20th 2016 DE Mannheim @ Juz Mannheim
October 21st 2016 DE Leipzig @ Kulturcafe Manfred
October 22nd 2016 DE Berlin @ Orwo Haus.
October 23rd 2016 DE Greifswald @ Jugendzentrum Klex
November 23 2016 DE, TBA
November 24 2016 DE, TBA
November 25 2016 DE, TBA
November 26 2016 DE, Essingen @ Koma Kultur
November 27 2016 CH, Zurich-area, NEED HELP / [email protected]
November 28 2016 DE, Munich-area NEED HELP / [email protected]
November 29 2016 AT, Vienna @ Venster99
November 30 2016 SK, TBA
December 1 2016 CZ, Prague @ Na Pul Cesty
December 2 2016 PL, TBA
December 3 2016 PL, TBA
December 4 2016 DE, Northern-are NEED HELP / [email protected]

Band photos by Julian Emile Guedj. CITY KEYS are: Claes, Calle, Martin and Fred.

Hey there guys! It’s so good to have you back in our pages. How are you? Please introduce your new project and tell us what brought you together under this new flag.

Fred: Hey! We’re all doing pretty well at the moment, thanks. I’m just about to leave Melbourne after six months of living down here, Calle is touring Europe with SPIRITS from Boston, U.S at the moment, Claes is working his ass off at the Swedish animal rights organization “Djurens Rätt” in Stockholm and the three of us doing our best to organize this new band of ours 15.000km apart! Its the way of the new world.

You may have seen our faces in some other bands. We all played in ANCHOR, but not the three of us together at the same time. Calle play drums in Iron and he’s also doing a bunch of step-ins for various bands. I played drums, wrote and recorded a bunch of stuff with my old band GUST, but decided to quit a year ago. All of us have pretty much a history of doing hard working bands, and now we’re starting a new one.

Both me and Claes always wanted a hard band together and when the decision was made to end ANCHOR a couple of months back this sort of came naturally since both of us wouldn’t go a week without having a major musical project going on. Fortunately Calle wanted to be a part of it, and he’s not only one of the best hardcore/punk drummers in Scandinavia, he’s a lovely guy and has the same drive as me and Claes.

So yeah, CITY KEYS. I’ve always been into punk, and I’ve always been into metal, so when it comes to hardcore bands I need a clear touch of both of those worlds to get hooked, and I’m sure both Claes and Calle feels the same way. We started talking about what kind of style we wanted to do, what kind of elements we wanted to incorporate and tried out a bunch of riffs, and gradually figured out what attracted all of us. Finding a “sound”, or whatever you want to call it, is something that always been attracting to me. It’s hard, especially 15.000km apart, and it’s a continuous process that takes time, and this EP we’re about to release is a start of that ‘journey’. We’re all excited of where it’ll take us next.

Calle, who’s into Graffiti, came up with the name CITY KEYS which is a slang for bolt cutter in that scene, and here we are.

Great! What brought you to this darker sound? Did any particular artists and albums influence CITY KEYS when you were making new music?

Fred: I don’t really think we got brought there, it’s just always been there. I mean sure, if you’d compare CITY KEYS to how ANCHOR sounded like it’s definitely darker, but none of the three of us ever wrote any music for ANCHOR and I’m the one writing the base of most of our stuff as of right now, and every band I’ve ever had has always had a dark vibe going on. It’s just a way of writing and playing music that inspires and resonates well with all of us. As soon as we’ve had a good potential riff going on for these songs, Calle has been the first one to push it into being darker and rawer and when Claes lyrics started to take shape it all got even darker yet again.

And I guess it all goes hand in hand with what Claes did before ANCHOR too, what he’s spinning in the van on tour and what bands he’s really into as well. I think this band has woken up a part of Claes that has been sleeping for a while and it feels like he’s getting natural space to maximize his lyrics and his voice. And that’s probably the most exiting part for me.

We’ve actually put together a playlist that we all contribute to with songs from bands were into at the moment. Right now it’s filled with everything from bands like INTEGRITY, GRAVE, TRAGEDY, FROM ASHES RISE and EARTH CRISIS to RISE AND FALL, BITTER END, PULLING TEETH and NO WARNING. Its a good mix of all of our favorite hardcore, punk and metal bands and it’s both old and new stuff. Since we’re all different ages we all have vastly different preferences of what’s old, new, cool, cheesy, real, fake etc. and it’s fun to mix it all up and get some inspiration from all sides.

Apart from that we’re all music lovers in general and we all listen to so many different genres all the time, and that for sure inevitably, sometimes unconsciously, ends up as inspiration as well.


What themes are employed in your work this time? Are their kind of central to your thinking? How do you determine something is worth writing about?

Cleas: It´s hard to say what determines what you’re gonna write about. Some lyrics just have to be written. They may not have to end up on songs you release but for me some thoughts, ideas and words definitely need to get out of my system sorta speak. If not to give space for other ideas. As cliche as it sounds but most of the song ”Weight Of Mountains” on our EP was written in the mountain peaks of different national parks in New Zealand after I had visited Fred in Melbourne, AUS earlier this year. At that time I dealt with having my father back in prison and it was a good way of cooping with those thoughts. In general I don´t have that much personal stuff I wanna sing about anymore.

Considering the state this world is in right now I feel people like us with a band like this one should be fucking pissed. I´m guessing songs that will come out after this first recording will be less forgiving and more straight up furious. And that feels like a natural development for a new band that still finds her self. It´s not that we feel that we need to (or even could) deliver solutions for the current humanitarian crisis we have in Europe or any other major ongoing tragedies in a 2 minute long punk song, but it makes a lot of sense to us just to express the anger, the frustration and the rage we feel in matters like those in a song like that. I guess that´s what makes it punk. “Self Defense” is just about that for example.

Would you mind breaking down how your new tracks were made and giving us your track-by-track commentary?

Fred: The distance between us basically forced us into writing and record these songs in a kind of unorthodox way – writing and then going straight to the studio without having a chance to try out the songs in a sweaty rehearsal or on the stage together. But I guess that’s pretty common nowadays.

Claes introduced me to some of his Australian friends, Adam and Chris from an awesome band called GANBARU, and they hooked me up with a guitar and recording gear right when I arrived so that I could start demoing some songs.

We started to send riffs back and forth between Melbourne, Stockholm and Malmö, went through tons of riffs, threw away a lot of them, started working on the lyrics and eventually ended up with four songs that felt like a good mix, representation and introduction to what this band is gonna be about and what we want to do.

For simplicity we decided to record the instrumental parts in Melbourne and the vocals in Malmö. David from 50 LIONS was kind enough to lend me one of his drum kits and I rented a day in Bakehouse Studios to record the drums and guitars. After that Claes and Calle recorded the vocals in Malmö, then sent it back to me for mixing and in the meantime Claes contacted some guys we really wanted for guest parts. Mastered by the one and only Brad Boatright.

1. “Tip The Scale”, probably the grooviest track on this EP. Lyrics about taking control over your life, not let bullshit or other people control the decisions you take. Calle is doing some of the lead vocal parts on this song.

2. “Self Defense”, pretty straight forward, has a lot of cool elements that we all really appreciate and a good blend of metal, punk and hardcore. Lyrics about the current state of affairs going on in the Middle East and the coherent disgusting, lack of responsibility taken and response from some of the richest countries in the world. Only guitar solo on this EP, and a die hard guest guest from Daniel, DIE YOUNG.

3. “Weight of Mountains”, another groovy one. Probably the first one we finished writing. Lyrics dealing with Claes relationship to his dad, and I guess unhealthy relationships to people close to you in general. I’m doing some lead vocals on this track.

4. “Lone Wolves”, kinda chuggy, slow song with a darker vibe in the guitar work. The song is dedicated to people who keep on fighting to change this corrupt and often scary world to the better no matter how hopeless it may be. Simply because its the right thing fight back if you´re in a position to do so! Guest parts by Johannes of the great CULT OF LUNA and RIWEN.

Oh yeah, please expound a bit more about that distance between you guys and how exactly you ended up being located in Australia. As you mentioned, apart from the vocal tracking in Sweden, the recording sessions of the record took place in Melbourne, Australia. Tell us more about the process and how smooth it was.

Fred: Don’t want to dig too deep here, but I left Sweden to take a few steps back and re-prioritize things in my life. Running my studio and doing my bands has always been my #1 priority, and that’s how it’s always gonna be, but spending that time and energy also means that other important parts of my life gets the 10th or 100th priority. I can live with that under the condition that I at least get back a portion of what I put in, but I stopped feeling that way with the studio and most prominently with my old band GUST. It all just ended in crazy complications, so I decided to leave GUST, end the contract for the place where I had my studio and take my chances and move to Melbourne for a couple of months for studies and work, travel around a bit and get back with somewhat recharged batteries and a fresh start to do something new. ANCHOR decided to take a break during these months at first, but eventually we all just decided that it was better to move on.

Claes was basically the only one who backed me in every single decision, he’s one of the few guys that kept checkin in on me and he even came down to visit me. To not start a band with a guy with that much loyalty and dedication would be insanity, and I think that’s what CITY KEYS is born out of as well. We all wanna make this band the right way from scratch. Going in under the same conditions, making sure everyone get’s back what they put in, backing each other up through hard times and at least try to keep this band as poison free as possible when so many things outside of this circle is pure shit. That’s of big importance this time around.

So on to the recording process in Melbourne. It all went pretty smooth. I rented this place called Bakehouse Studios for a full day. I don’t think it’s known for anything else than that someone recorded something with Nick Cave sometime in the past. The recording space isn’t really the best, the equipment is mediocre at best but the instruments and gear our Australian friends hooked me up with was all perfect for this recording.

As soon as I finished that day of tracking I sent a rough mix to Claes and Calle and they started recording the vocals over 2 days in Malmö. My side of the story is that Claes basically went in on day one, did his shit on two full songs while I was asleep in Melbourne. When they were done for the day, I was about to wake up for work in Melbourne and I had like 200 Facebook messages from Claes and Calle and a bunch of rough mixes with vocals. We all gathered some feedback and changes for the vocal tracks, and then Claes went in the second day and did the feedback and the rest of the songs and that was basically it. We’re definitely doing it another way the next time around, but it was an interesting way of doing it and it feels cool to know that distance definitely isn’t gonna stop us from doing this band.

How did you team up with Johannes and Daniel for these amazing guest appearances? Technically, how did you organize it?

Claes: Happy to hear that you´re psyched for their parts, we´re also very happy how it turned out and what it contributed with to the recording. Johannes from CULT OF LUNA / KHOMA / RIWEN lives a few hundred meters from me in Stockholm. I´ve always been a huge LUNA fan and I truly loved when he started both singing and play guitar in that band. However I got to know him quite recently. He is working with a lot of TV stuff, casting to be precise I guess. I work at Animal Rights Sweden and we sat down and had a meeting about trying to make a veggie food TV show happen with some famous vegetarians. It didn’t happen at that time but we will see for the future. Anyways, I asked him when we went to see NOFX together and he was up for it. What better place right? Another dude in LUNA got a studio so it was easy solved to record it. His vocals is some of the hardest stuff I´ve heard. Truly love it.

Daniel is an old friend of ours. We played together in Sweden back in 2008 with ANCHOR. Funny detail is that Fred wasn’t in ANCHOR at that time but he was playing that show as well with another band, however we didn’t know each other back then. Daniel would later come to book the first North American tour we did with ANCHOR. He came with us to Mexico, sang ”War By Other Means” with us over there and bunch of other fun stuff. He has always been a good friend and supporting our old band. I´ve always found DIE YOUNG and Daniel to be very inspiring. The unwillingness to compromise is something that for me defines what being a true punk hardcore band is about.

Again we wanted someone who had really hard vocals and could put some content in them. Daniel just quite recently finish record vocals for DIE YOUNG’s new album ”No Illusions” so I knew he was in shape for it. He just went back to the studio where he had just been recording. It´s sounds really hard and got that desperate crushing vibe that I really love about his way of singing.

How would you assess the role of mixing and mastering process in the process of forming a hardcore punk record these days? What are some of the most important aspects you take into account when picking a studio and a producer?

Fred: That’s what makes at least half a record for me, and I would even go as far to say that it makes at least half of the band. Even if it’s a band going for the “one take in our rehearsal space/we don’t give a fuck” – sound, it’s still as much of a conscious decision that is going to have a huge impact on how you are perceived as a band and on who’s gonna pick up your record. You do give a fuck. But the bands that stay as a constant inspiration for me are bands that finds their sound by putting a lot of effort into recording and mixing in particular ways that stands out.

I can appreciate the classic hardcore punk attitude when it comes to recording, but I’m far too interested in music production to do something like that with bands I’m a part of. My favorite sounding records are ones that have both the sense of honesty and fierceness that comes with hardcore punk attitude but are well thought out, well played, well produced, well recorded, well mixed and well mastered. Records that are hard as fuck but still tend to sound organic and natural rather than generic. That’s my cup of tea. Records like OBLITERATIONS – Poison Everything, IRON AGE – The Sleeping Eye, HEARTLESS – Certain Death, LEWD ACTS – 2012 Tape and even BAD RELIGION – True North (the list could go on) are all records that are encompassing everything I love about hard music when it comes to production. If they sounded either crappier or more generic I would most probably not fall in love with them. And I guess a lot of it has to do with that I know that for a record to sound like that you have to write and play it well. No excuses. As soon as you start cheating too much and pay attention to mathematics OR starting to not give a fuck and be nonchalant you lose track of that magic spot in between.

And I think that’s the direction we want to go with CITY KEYS as well, and something we will put extra focus on for the next release. The aim with CITY KEYS is to sound urgent, hard and explosive and the way of producing, mixing and mastering the songs is definitely important tools for achieving that. That’s also why we wanted to go with Brad at Audiosiege for mastering, and why we’ll stick to him in the future as well. There’s none other that can achieve all of that better than him.

Since I’m in this band and I’m running my own studio I definitely want to take care of most of the recording and mixing myself, both to have an opportunity to learn and do what I love but also because it’s such an advantage for us to have that control. We are planning on co-producing the next release with someone, but that someone is going to be someone that can bring a completely different world into this and someone that can help us get closer to that magic sweet spot in between.

I could go on forever here cause it’s my number one interest in life, but I’m gonna stop right there haha.

CITY KEYS Evil Greed!

Great! :) Closing up the details about the technical stuff behind the record, how did you team up with Evil Greed? Also, will there be more cooperations in order to increase the reach of your debut record?

Claes: We had been talking about doing stuff with Pascal prior to when this band was started so it was natural for us to ask him and the Evil Greed crew about working together.

Yeah we will hopefully put it out in Asia, Australia and South America too on different labels but I couldn´t give you any specific details about that right now. In North America Andrew from STRIFE / WORLD BE FREE will put out Tip The Scale on cassette on his new label War Records and it will be distributed through Revelation Records.


Ok guys, so you’’re hitting the road in late October and mid November to let people know about the band and shout out your lyrics. Where are you heading first and how do you book your shows?

Claes: Yes we´re getting out there the same weekend as our 7” is released. First little tour is with our friends in NEIGHBORHOOD from Stockholm, Swe, whom we’ll do about a week with in Germany. In late November we´re doing 1 1/2 week covering a bit more of south and east of Europe.

We got a third thing going in February with some confirmed shows and fests, but more info on that will be seen in our social media in the future.

For booking its been simple for us, which we are truly grateful for, we have done a lot of shows with previous bands so we just basically talk to friends prior to this about help, contacts, shows and such. Joe from Stateless Society out of Berlin being one of those kind souls.

Carl also did 5 weeks this summer all over Europe when stepping in for SPIRITS from Boston, U.S. It helps to be out there for sure.


Lastly, how do you see the hardcore scene nowadays? How would you compare your rookie days with the new era of digitalized punk rock and hardcore? :)

Claes: Oh I don´t even know how to give that question a fair answer. I´m pretty sure it’s way easier for bands nowadays to record, tour and do cool stuff.

When I look back at the Swedish scene I feel like bands were more independent back then, they did their own thing, created their own ”sound”. Of course people had obvious influences back then as well but today I often feel like its too obvious on Swedish/European bands what American band they wanna be. (Referring to the bands who were around from the mid to the late 90´s)

Maybe it’s always been like that and I couldn’t spot it from the older days. Maybe they just hid their influences better. Cause as much as I love CRO-MAGS, MADBALL and other legends it doesn’t really attract me when a band does everything to copy to try to be their favorite band.

Steal a riff or two like everyone else and then try to at least partly do your own thing and bring something new to the table. Thats how things are kept interesting, at least for me. And I feel like thats how you do it to keep it hardcore but still make something new out of it. And my standards for progression are low, I promise you, my favorite record with REFUSED is not “The Shape Of Punk To Come”.

I´m not sure if thats really the answer to the question. I feel like an underground community like ours got a lot to gain from being able to keep in touch all over the world. Who really cares for record sales when I can go to Peru tomorrow and before I´ve landed I´ll probably be able to find a kid who’ll probably be psyched to take me to a vegan restaurant, show me the city and just talk shit. Thats pretty unique and something I really value with our scene.

Most things seem to go straight to hell but to be able to communicate and share songs with people all over the world is not one of them. I mean we haven’t even practiced yet but we got 4 songs recorded coming out on a cool label. Thanks internetz.

Haha, right on! By the way, what do you find most challenging about starting new project?

Claes: I think that would be to find people you can connect with and do a band with for a longtime term. It´s hard to find people that you have the same vision and share the same idea of what kind of commitments that comes out of having a band that records, tours and take its stuff fairly serious. I guess the biggest thing of them all is to be in a group of people that stick together and support each other when everything sucks. Your van broke down, you got no money, you´re gonna miss the show. Someone is sick, someone is heart broken or deal with life in general. Who are you gonna be and what will the band be about? I think my first commitment to this band will be to try to suck less on tour and be the best brother I can be, for my brothers who I’ve got the privilege to share this journey with. It shouldn’t at any time be taken for granted and it’s often not valued for what it truly means, at least for me, that is.

Finally, if you could change anything in the world right now, what would it be?

We talked about this question while rehearsing this weekend and Carl is fully convinced that if the price on candy would be lower the world would be a better place. Maybe there’s some truth to it!

Thank you for doing this interview and we really appreciate all the good stuff IDIOTEQ is doing!

Haha, great! Thanks a lot for your time. It really means a lot. Take care and good luck with CITY KEYS. The last words are yours.

If you find this band interesting and like the way it sounds make sure to give us a like on Facebook or follow us on Instagram to get updates on our plans, and if you hate those communities just write us an email and we’ll keep you posted on what’s up!

CITY KEYS Bandcamp
CITY KEYS Facebook
CITY KEYS Instagram
[email protected]

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