Tag Archives folk

Swedish Duo Smith & Thell Discuss How They Got Started and Their Journey So Far

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Smith & Thell, a duo from Sweden, began making music together shortly after meeting at a local event in their hometown. With recognition in the industry as “Best New Artist,” and selling out shows including one in New York City, they are quickly rising up in their pop/folk genre. Their song, “Forgive me Friend,” from their latest EP, Telephone Wires has over 1.5 million hits on Youtube. Smith & Thell took time to answer some questions for Cliché about their origins, including getting to know each other musically; their first tour, which included a sold out show in Berlin; and their creative process.

Listen to “Forgive me Friend” here: 

 

Cliché: I’ve read that you met at a local music event in your home town and started creating music together after that. What was it about each other that drew you to one another to create music collectively?

Smith & Thell: At first when we started rehearsing and writing together we realized that we were very different musically. Today we’re happy that we were curious enough to find our differences interesting rather than seeing our differences as something negative. Instead of thinking the other one was weird we really started introducing each other to the music of the bands we loved, broadening each of our perspectives. We would switch iPods for the day and listen to each other’s influences and that really helped us grow. What wasn’t different was our passion and drive for music and as people we found that we were very similar emotionally. When we started writing songs together instead of separately the songs just became better and better.

 

What role would you say winning the “Best New Artist” award from Sweden’s Denniz Pop Awards had in launching your success?

It meant a lot to us. We sent in our song “Statue” as a demo before it was released and it was a real shocker that we won. Winning the award was our first real “industry” win and it gave us some extra confidence to continue to be us.

 

In the past year you had the opportunity to tour Europe. What was that experience like for you? Was there a favorite city on your tour?

It was a real indie tour haha.  We carried our gear on trains and airplanes. We played shows at small venues in Berlin, Hamburg and Holland. Our favorite show on that tour was a small gig at Grüner Salon in Berlin where we realized we have fans in Germany that travelled far to come and see us.  We also played in a container store in Berlin that was so small it only fit 20 people. It was really intimate and special AND we can also brag about selling out a show in Germany.. haha!

 

You both have experience writing for other musicians and artists. How would you say this has shaped how you write your own music?

We learn a lot from all artists we write with. Every artist has their own vision and it’s our job to help them find their musical identity in every new song. It broadens our perspective of what we’re capable of creating and that will push us to think outside the box when we write for our own project.

 

I’ve read that sometimes you create music with very direct lyrics and other times to evoke emotions that you have felt but that you cannot define in words. How would you say you create the music that evokes these emotions? Is there a process to it or does it just naturally happen?

We never force ourselves to write songs for Smith & Thell. The song ideas usually happen when we don’t think about writing. Voice Memos on our phones is our best friend. We can go weeks without writing and then all of a sudden something will bubble up from under the surface and we may write three songs in a day. The process is always different, we don’t have a formula, but we always stay patient and choose not to force it.

 

What has been your favorite song that you’ve written together so far? Why?

Though “Statue” wasn’t the first song we wrote as Smith & Thell it still feels like it’s the first song we wrote. It was the starting point of how we like to write lyrics and something just clicked after that, we felt very free creatively. “Forgive Me Friend” is our favorite song, melody-wise, written up until this point.

 

You just had shows in LA and NYC. How was that for you?

It was amazing to see that we have fans on the other side of the planet, knowing the lyrics to even our lesser known songs. Our NYC show was extra special as it was sold out. That was a milestone for us.

 

What can listeners expect from you in the near future?

They can expect a lot of experimenting with sounds and rhythms. We are working on our second album and we’re in a creative flow at the moment which feels really free and relieving.

 

Read more Music Articles at Cliché Magazine. 

Swedish Duo Smith & Thell Discuss How They Got Started and Their Journey So Far: Featured Image Credit: Shervin Lainez

‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’: How Courtney Barnett Bears It All & ‘Turns It Into Art’

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Although comparing artists to each other commonly brings up complaints among artists and critics alike (there will never be a new Beatles!) there are certain situations where this side-by-side is unavoidable. Like when Patti Smith invited Australian punk-folk-rocker Courtney Barnett up on stage last April at Melbourne’s Festival Hall. Whether it’s the hair, the fact that Smith is one of Barnett’s favorite artists, or the way both women write with such a sharp wit (one that recognizes its shortcomings, and doesn’t take itself too seriously,) there’s something strikingly similar about these two voices–especially on Barnett’s most recent release, Tell Me How You Really Feel.  

There’s an underlying kinetic energy present on this album–one that drives the tracks through the storm, that relishes in the emotional swells instead of trying to avoid them. In the first verse of the first track, entitled “Hopelessness,” Barnett sets up expectations for the emotional work that this album is going to do: “No one is born to hate / We learn it somewhere along the way / Take your broken heart / Turn it into art / Can’t take it with you.” This track begins with an eerie slow burn, the powerful guitar licks picking up speed before they explode in a beautifully screeching finale—a pattern that can describe the album as a whole. Barnett has become known for strumming with her fingers rather than a pick, a technique she first developed on the acoustic guitar and later translated to her (lefty) electric guitar. Not only does this not hold her back, it seems to actually give her a sort of edge.

“No one is born to hate / We learn it somewhere along the way / Take your broken heart / Turn it into art / Can’t take it with you.”

Lead single “Nameless, Faceless” acts like scar tissue—showing Barnett dissecting her own theme and feeling the full extent of the pain before letting it go. The interaction between the verses (which all end in the repetition of “I’m real sorry / ‘Bout whatever happened to you,”) and the no-holds-barred chorus (“I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them”) is a negotiation of her reaction to this learned hate. This moment comes across as particularly Patti-esque, the deadpan critique of gender-power relations evoking memories of Smith’s poetry (think “seventh heaven.”)

After this, the soon-to-be-punk-anthem “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” snaps into place. It may not even be necessary to discuss how this song relates to Smith, who has been given the title “godmother of punk.”

Courtney Barnett is not a carbon copy of Patti Smith, but she is doing the same legwork. She’s unabashedly intelligent, unafraid of addressing herself and her shortcomings, and fully prepared to go against the conventions that usually relegate singer-songwriters to Adult Top 40 stations and movie soundtracks. Through her lyricism and performances, she is embarking on an important project: carrying Smith’s energy forward to a new generation of listeners, who are eager to listen and learn. At the very least, they are kindred spirits–something I, as a young woman, can’t help but be very thankful for.

 

Read more Music Reviews on ClicheMag.com.
‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’: How Courtney Barnett Bears It All & ‘Turns It Into Art’: Featured image courtesy of Courtney Barnett