Greenleaf talk to Steven Loftin in this exclusive GIGsoup interview. Edited by Ben Kendall.
Just after their show supporting Clutch at The Ritz in Manchester, Greenleaf spoke to GIGsoup about the future of the band, what it’s like actually being ‘stoner-rock’ and of course, the new record ‘Rise Above The Meadow’. The band, literally just off stage, were still in the post-gig state as they sank into the comfort of the green rooms couch, basking after the triumphant show.
So how are you doing, what did you think of the show?
Tommi Holappa: “I’m good, well as good as can be (post show), it felt good to be on stage though!”
Arvid Jonsson: “It was a good day for being here”
Tommi Holappa: “People came early so it’s really nice”
It’s a shame more people didn’t come earlier, that’s the peril of an early support, but those who were there loved it! By the end though it was a packed venue full of people loving it.
AJ: “That’s what you want, if you can make them interested, that’s good.”
For the uninitiated can you tell us about Greenleaf?
TH: “It was a side project, some us before were in a band called Dozer and we haven’t really played live much since 2009. For the past two/three years it felt like two/three shows a year and that’s it. So, yeah, I felt like I wanted to tour more and play more.”
And Greenleaf was the way to do that?
TH: “Greeleaf is the way to do that! I asked those guys and ‘Trail & Passes’ (Greenleaf’s 2014 album) had such a good response, we should try doing this and see what happens”
AJ: “I think we played quite a lot since we released so I think around 70 shows this year. It’s pretty full on and it’s not going to be less next year since we’re releasing.”
TH: (To Tour Manager) “How many shows next year?”
Tour Manager: “100”
TH: “Fuck off.” *laughing*
The band itself has been around since ’99, 16 years in, and members have come and gone, do you feel a growth personally toward the band? It was just a side project after all.
TH: “Since Arvid joined the band and we wrote the songs for ‘Trails & Passes’, it felt different. It felt good in a different way, like we thought we had something here. I loved our old albums too but that was all just for fun, when I had time off from Dozer for a month or so with my friends. I’d ask them if they wanted to record some songs and they just came in, especially the first EP and album, I don’t think we even had half of it written we just went into the studio and jammed and what came out, came out.”
You can hear a definite difference when you compare Trails to your older stuff. Onto the next album, is there a progress here?
AJ: “I think it’s like, from ‘Trails & Passes’ there’s a red thread and we’re going to spin on but if you look at the dynamics of an album you have a song like that and a song like that and when you make it you have a picture of how you want it to be. With ‘Trails & Passes’ we nailed it in that way, we kind of built it up how we wanted it, with ‘Rise Above The Meadow’, it’s kind of the same idea, but then you don’t know till after you’ve recorded it and it’s done and you see what happens.”
So more an evolution rather than being different for the sake of it.
AJ: “Exactly, that’s why the name as well. Sound wise, I think it’s a little bit more straight forward. Like, if T&P was a little bit ethereal, you know huge in that way, RATM, it’s still huge but also like a little bit more honest.”
In terms of writing, what does this process look like?
TH: “Arvid lives in Stockholm and we all come from a small town in Sweden called Borlänge, so we go to the rehearsal, jam a little, record it with an iPhone and then Arvid comes up and writes something.”
AJ: “I come up and jam and then in the studio, this time, it was very similar to ‘Trails and Passes’, we do everything live and then we over dubs, no click just recording.”
All natural, that’s how you get the real sound of an album.
AJ: “I think we recorded everything in four days actually, except the vocals.”
TH: “I think you can hear and feel the energy when you do it live, instead of recording to a click. I think it’s probably easier when you come to mix but you want whats on stage.”
In terms of promo what’s the plan?
AJ: “Well we released a video today [10/12/15] but I think that’s going to be it.”
TH: “Maybe another lyric video before the albums release.”
How has the reaction been so far with it being in the early stages?
TH: “There’s been some good comments on Facebook.”
AJ: “No bad ones yet, I think..? I haven’t checked after the show, that’s when they’ll come.” *laughs*
TH: “We were talking about that yesterday. People never get satisfied, always like “Oh I like ‘Trails & Passes’ more.”
AJ: “Why didn’t you do more like ‘Trails & Passes’?! That’s what I think they sound like”
So what other bands should we be checking out from Sweden?
AJ: “I guess, there’s a lot of stuff in our genre, which guys should we push? We have some good friends, who made a pretty good record recently, called Skagurgen [Apologies for incorrect spelling] and they do stoner rock in Swedish. Like Mastodon-oriented stoner rock but it’s good! Skagurgen. You can say great band because otherwise they’ll be disappointed.”
I’ll edit that in.
TH: “But they’re doing pretty good in Sweden.”
AJ: “Yeah, they’re good! And they’re working hard as well which is nice.”
How do you feel about stoner rock as a genre, is it harder to break into that mainstream?
AJ: “It’s not really about the mainstream, we want to hit the peak, do good rock. We will probably always stand into the stoner circle just because we like heavy riffs and the fuzz, but other than that the idea is never to make a stoner rock album, it’s just to make a good rock n roll record. I kind of like the stoner bands that do that, I don’t like the bands that just go in and they think “ok now we’re gonna be a stoner band”. It’s like two dicks going at each other, you need a butthole or something.”
TH: “I think that’s one of the good things about us, we don’t really think, oh that’s not stoner enough. There is some stuff, like I’ll say, we have one for the girls now or something *laughs*. It’s more mellow, people who listen to it will sleep or something like that, they’ll go ‘what the fuck is this’. But that’s the good thing about us, we can just mix everything we like and we enjoy it.”
Not doing that kind of makes it contrived and plastic.
AJ: “Yeah, you can’t think about that stuff when you’re writing music. When we made ‘Trails & Passes’ I was a bit like, oh they like it? I was new and they had Oscar [Truckfighters], and there’s always this stoner mob, a little bit. That’s how I felt anyway, but people liked it. I’m a huge Dozer fan from before. It’s good we can do what we want.”
TH: “It wouldn’t be fun to do 70 shows in a year if you couldn’t do what you want.”
Are you coming back to England for more shows?
Tour Manager: “February is the only London show, maybe in fall we’ll come back for some headliner shows but it’s not booked yet.”
TH: “We’re going to America also and Russia!”
‘Rise Above The Meadow’ is out on the 26th February 2016 via Napalm Records.