For the last couple of decades, Sweden gave birth to many amazing bands that influenced and empowered DIY punk and metal culture and literally became an inspiration for so many artists and listeners. Today we’re pleased to premiere the oustanding debut record from Stockholm’s massive post hardcore band OKÄNT and give you some insights through their debut interview, as well as an insightful fist hand track-by-track commentary!
Sticking to their roots, ‘Hemlängtan’ is a huge, emotionally driven offering which shimmers with the band’s personal and dark lyricism. Their name means ‘Unknown’ and covers the tough issue of depression and its different stages, explained by the band’s vocalist in our track by track breakdown below.
Mixed by Alexander Härnlöv at Vall Recording Studio / Mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege / Drums recorded by Staffan Birkedal at Birkedal Music & Production.
Hey! Thanks so much for joining us here on IDIOTEQ. I’m so glad there are more torchbearers of the mourning, epic sound in the vein of bands like Vi som älskade varandra så mycket, who took our breath away in 2014 and have been too quiet in recent years. And there comes Okänt! Can you give a brief history of how the band came together and who’s behind it?
The band came together when Heart on My Sleeve called it quits and Kalle and Gabriel (guitars) wanted to continue playing together but with a darker and more raw sound in mind. Carl (singer) teamed up and songs and ideas came effortlessly and the foundation of Okänt was born. Later Michael (bass, ex Heart on my Sleeve) and Olle (drums, Disembarked) joined and the band was complete.
Given you’re not new to this, how has your motivation with writing and performing changed since you first started your first band? What’s different with Okänt?
Every band works differently, but in Okänt as we all have quite busy lives we knew from the start that we were not gonna be a band that would be able to spend lots of time rehearsing. So the writing process has been Kalle and Gabriel writing the basic song structures and then everyone writes their own parts and then brings it to the band, then we arrange everything together. Our facebook discussions about the songs could easily fill a novel. But in the end we all feel pretty good about the outcome. We are really looking forward to play these songs live, and hopefully the audience will be as into it as we are.
Ok, so let’s dive into what’s most important about this record – the content behind your Swedish lyrics. Are these songs autobiographical, or do they explore someone else’s experiences? Who’s the subject? Tell us about what inspired you to explore the tough issue of depression.
Please drop a couple of lines about the general concept and your inspirations for these themes. We’ll include the full track by track commentary right after your question in order to insightfully explore the dark themes you described.
Carl: Every letter of every word of every song is personal to me. I have always had a strong urge to express what I’ve been feeling for the past 10 or so years, but at the same time I feel very exposed. I guess that’s unavoidable. The lyrics tell what I’ve felt and still feel, although I feel that the lyrics are not always told with me actually being the subject of the story being told. Though most of the time they are.
When I sat down and started writing lyrics for this EP my main concern was that it had to be genuine. After a while I realized that this had turned out to be a concept EP about the stages I’ve experienced from being deeply depressed and suicidal. So the lyrics are ”inspired” by my own life for the past 10+ years. If you can even call it inspired, they feel like they tell a story about my life. Every lyric from every song is me tearing away a piece of myself and screaming it into a microphone.
How did you approach writing about such difficult subject? What was the process?
Carl: I can pretty much say that 90% of the time I write lyrics I struggle with them. I never simply pull them out of the air. So when I sit down and I either want to write lyrics or I know that I need to, my main concern is; it has to come from a place in my heart – it has to be honest and it has to have ALOT of meaning for me personally, while writing it, in that moment. It feels like this is giving me a very small plateau to be creative on, but at the same time I know I’m always in the exact place I have to be in while writing my lyrics. They have to be 100% honest and genuine, and even if they’re not always portraying events that have occurred to me personally, they are always about me. It is my hopes and dreams for these lyrics to be able to resonate and reach other people.
Is there anything cathartic in writing about that subject matter?
Carl: I would say that it is cathartic in the sense that I get to see something I feel or have experienced in black and white, on paper, and then eventually making it into something audible. That makes me calmer, when I know that I wouldn’t be feeling that calm at all without having that thought or feeling put into a song. If I’m happy with how it turns out I can even feel proud of myself, something I very rarely get to feel for some reason. I love expressing what I’m now able to express in our music, it makes me happy, which is very paradoxical since the subject matter is on the opposite side of the emotional spectrum. All that being said, rehearsing and even listening to our songs feels difficult alot of the time. Even if I’m happy with how it turns out and I get joy out of it, it still weights heavily on my heart screaming these lyrics out or listening to them on my way to the rehearsal. Sometimes it feels like a resumé or a CV of my life. Quite a CV that is… However pleasant it may be to feel satisfied with our material and my effort in writing the lyrics, it sure comes with a price. A price I am currently willing to pay though!
Are you teaming up with some labels to release it?
We’re looking into putting it out on vinyl and we’re open to all suggestions.
Can we expect some live shows in support of this release?
Absolutely, we’re planning on playing live as much as we can. You will find info about upcoming shows on our facebook page!
‘Svart’ / ‘Black’
The song is about a subjects first encounter with clinical depression. A deep form of depression that seems to make everything in life black and meaningless. It’s expressing the panic of this new reality in life, aswell as the total indifference that’s inhabiting the subject of the depression, with all of the reflections that come with being new to depression. Nothing is what it used to be. Everything is now black, cold, unknown and with an aching, sinking feeling of sadness in one’s gut. It ends with expressing the feeling of having to break out of oneself, but not knowing how to, and it leads up to the second song which is
‘Förlorade’ / ‘Lost’
This song is in a fuzzy way describing love and a relationship scenario while still being lost in one’s depression. You can love a person all you want, but if you hate yourself while doing it you will probably end up with an unstable and unhealthy relationship. A destructive relationship, that can be toxic to your partner aswell. The song is as a whole literally expressing a want for the subject to die together with his or hers lover, in an eerie way. The song starts with posing the question; What is worth the most – a life of love, which will eventually turn to misery and more darkness, or a death while still being in the rush of positive emotions of love.
‘Kallt’ / ‘Cold’
This song is, to a hundred percent, a personal song for me. It describes a relationship or friendship being completely strained by sick and bad mental health. A scenario where both parts are assumably equally unhealthy and sick, and equally bad for eachother, while still being all the other person feel like they have left. It talks of regret of actions against this other person (and vice versa) and sympathy for his or hers situation, while still having to stand up for oneself in the process. The song is strongly expressing a want for the other person to hang on, to not give up and to try and not be so destructive, not only to his or herself, but also to the one uttering the lyrics of the song. It was originally meant to be a duet, where the one person responds to the other’s words, especially in the chorus.
‘Hemlängtan’ / ‘Homesickness’
This song is expressing a longing for a home never known before. A longing out of a stagnated life, out of woe, angst, depression and unhealthy relationships, that’s seemingly affecting everyone in the subject’s life. Atleast that’s what the subject is experiencing. It’s a song about the denial of death but also a weird longing for it. The last few words of the song is saying; ”I pretend not to know – I pretend not to see – The tunnel at the end of the light – The light at the end of life – Can I come home now?”. The song strongly acts as a red thread that eerily ties together the first three songs on the EP, with the last song, which is;
‘Härifrån’ / ‘Away From Here’
This song means the most to me, personally, on all levels. It describes the end of the road, the final conclusion to all of the misery the subject has been through during the phases of depression expressed throughout the EP. It’s a song about the act of taking one’s own life. The idea for the lyrics of the song is the following.
The subject of the EP tries to kill his or herself, but survives. While lying on the ground or floor, dying – the song starts playing, and the lyrics are the reflections told by this subject. Lying flat on the ground, unable to move, the subject’s thoughts race through his or hers head. He or she is thinking about everything that has led up to this tragic attempt to ‘get away from here’, before finally coming to terms with death and the fact that it’s now too late. The subject thinks to his/herself; ”To feel the pain that gave birth to me, is to feel the pain that is going to take me away from here – I want to get away from here”. This part of the lyrics is crucial for the EP, as it describes the understanding that, yes; I have made myself into what I am, which is the pain (both mental and physical) I’m feeling right now, but it’s also something predating my own life/birth. I believe we are all given our own opportunities in life, based on our genes, our upbringing and what we do with our time in this life, but last and not least – how we treat ourselves. That sums up this song. The red thread ends at the end of the rope, the subject ends up dying from the bodily damages from the suicide attempt. The song ends with the suicide note, left behind by the subject, supposedly not being read by anyone the subject had in mind while writing it: ”… there’s nothing more to write – you don’t even exist. Who’s going to read it then?”