Sonic Syndicate is another band on the long list of Swedes who have created a storm in the modern metal scene. During their 8-year-long history, they’ve released four studio albums and have gone through quite several line-up changes. We met with Robin Sjunnesson (guitar) and Nathan J. Biggs (vocals) during the band’s visit to Helsinki on September 21st, 2010. The guys told us about life within Sonic Syndicate these days and what it’s going to be like in the future.
How have your fans accepted Nathan?
Robin: Really well. Nathan was definitely the best replacement and I like to think that he’s a way better vocalist too.
Nathan: Thank you very much! I think it’s more like the old vocalist was doing what he was doing with Sonic and with the style of music and such, and I came to put my own spin on it whilst respecting what the band used to be about as well.
How was it for you to step into a band that had already had another singer before?
Nathan: I guess I had to think about it a little more, like how to approach it, but I liked what they had already done, so I was comfortable with that style of music anyway and confident with my abilities as a singer and lyricist and stuff. I just really wanted to see what the band wanted to do in the future. These guys were all up for trying new things and evolving as a band so I had no limitations with what I could do in the band. It’s been really good and the fans have been absolutely amazing.
Robin: Since Nathan came in, it felt like a new start. Everyone got real charged again and wanted to write new music so we basically started to write music as soon as he came to Sweden.
Usually when a new member joins a band, the atmosphere changes to a new direction. How do you think Nathan has changed the atmosphere?
Robin: It became really, really good. At the end of the “old era” we were basically not seeing each other very much in private, we’d only see each other on tour and we fought a lot. When Nathan joined the band, he brought everyone closer together and now we’re seeing each other every day even if we’re not working.
Nathan: We just have so much in common, don’t we?
Nathan: Everything from… We can go out and eat sushi or me and Rob can pick up and watch horror films all day; same with the others, it’s really good.
You had a new album released just a while ago; can you tell us a little bit about that?
Robin: It’s a very fresh album. If you listen to the album, I guess it’s really interesting if you get what I mean. It has a lot of very metal influences in it but it also has a little bit more melodic pop vibes.
Nathan: There’s a lot of old school rock influences on the album as well and they really come through, but it’s still very much Sonic Syndicate. It has the rock and pop elements, but at the same time we still have the heavy guitars and we still have the heavy vocals, so it’s very much a metal album as well. We didn’t really do it consciously but there are eleven tracks on the album and somehow they’re all completely different. We really did want to do a diverse album and I really feel like we have.
Was the album’s writing process different with Nathan in the band?
Robin: We wrote songs so fast and came up with new ideas all the time because when I came up with a guitar riff Nathan just came up with the vocals, he already had a chorus in his head for it. He’s really… you’re brainstorming a lot!
Robin: And coming up with new ideas all the time.
Nathan: That’s the way I like to write mostly. I don’t play an instrument myself so I work really closely with musicians when writing songs, obviously. Being with Robin or Roger, if they come up with just a guitar line, I instantly start getting ideas in my head right away. We quickly start taping them with a Dictaphone or a computer and then we take them to the practice room and we all jam on it. Before we know it, we have a whole song put together.
Robin: We wrote this album together; [we] used to [have] just one person write all the songs for the album. Now everybody sat down together and we wrote it together. That makes us more proud of the album because everyone got the chance to bring their ideas to the album.
Nathan: We played like that for hours and hours every day until the ideas became finished songs and then we just tided them up. And then it took 52 days to record them [laughter].
How would you compare this new album to the previous Sonic Syndicate albums?
Robin: It’s better.
Robin: No but seriously, it’s way more energetic. Even though we have a few more “slower songs,” they’re still heavy.
Nathan: The energy is in the attitude on this album. It has a lot of groove in to it and a lot of feeling. I really think we put the emotion back into the music instead of being heavy for heavy’s sake. When we’re heavy, it’s got grit, it’s got attitude. It’s fuckin’ brilliant, mate.
How would you describe yourself personally and how would you say those qualities reflect in your music?
Robin: For me and Nathan, we really can’t sit still for example. I think that definitely reflects in the stage show. We really try to be as energetic as we can on stage and I guess that’s where the quality of not sitting still comes from.
Nathan: Wow. You really put your heart into that one, I’m proud of you!
Robin: Thank you!
Nathan: I guess Robin’s right – we always want stuff to do. When we were in the studio we were such perfectionists, all of us, and we really tried to be critical of ourselves. Once the songs were finished, we were still looking for something to do with regard to the backing vocals, harmonies, keyboards, and stuff. We put a lot of little things in there which I think provide really good ear candy for the listener. They’ll love the song to start off with but then later down the line they’ll notice these little things and go, “Ah, that’s cool and that’s cool!” So I think it definitely has a lot of longevity – like us, as people – because we’re not slowing down either. So I’ll link that question back around and give you the answer you wanted.
If Sonic Syndicate’s sound came alive, what would it be or what would it look like?
Nathan: Megan Fox naked!
Robin: [laughs] It would actually!
Nathan: But with like robot implants and stuff…
Nathan: C’mon that’s the best I can do! If it would came alive? It would be a giant bat and it’s going to rule the night.
What goals did Sonic Syndicate first have when it was formed and do you have new goals now that the band reborn, so to speak?
Robin: In the beginning the goal was to release an album, basically. And we did that. Then we wanted to go on tour all over the world. And we did that. And then we wanted to release more albums, which we did. As soon as we reach a goal, in comes a new goal. We’re never satisfied when we reach a level; instead we always try to make us grow even more.
Nathan: We’re always really happy that we’re in a position where we can release these albums and tour the world and stuff, it’s amazing. But I think the important – talking about artists and stuff – I think once the artist is satisfied and content and when they reach a plateau is when it stops being interesting and I think it comes through in their work too. I think the fact that we’re always hungry to do these things – write new songs, make new a new album – that it’s always going to be interesting.
Robin: As long as it’s fun.
Nathan: I don’t know what the next goal is… I’ve always wanted to play Download festival and we did that this year as well, went to Tokyo…
Robin: Australia! We want to go to Australia, that’s the next goal.
The music industry is changing a lot these days; home studios and new formats are taking over and people are downloading music for free. How do you feel about those changes?
Robin: I don’t really know what to say about downloading because…
Nathan: Because you’re a hypocrite.
Robin: I used to download too but still I don’t want people to download my album, I want them to buy it.
Nathan: [raises hand]
Nathan: One of my favorite bands is the Deftones and I couldn’t wait until the album got out. It got leaked so I downloaded it for like a month or something before it came out and I listened to it and loved it to death. But then because I’m into the band so much and I’m to their music and their style… I came out and I bought the album when it came out as well. I think the true fans that love the band and love the music and their style and stuff; they go out and by the album or the merch because they like to be a part of it. They want to touch the album and feel it and see the pictures and everything that goes with the album. It’s not all digital still but I think the fact that people can share a lot more stuff by downloading online, people can get it quicker, that’s cool as well.
Robin: Internet was big for us too when we first started. We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for downloading. In the beginning, we were in a small label in America and it didn’t reach out to the whole world so people had to download it.
Nathan: We are one of those “internet-bands” because we do so much online, like blogging, music videos, tour diaries, we always talk to our fans on MySpace and Facebook. So we use all the online tools and we love that people can just go to our MySpace listen to the whole album. We’re up for internet sharing. Just buy the fucking album as well! [laughs]
How strong is the connection between the artist and the artwork? Is it possible to write a song about something you haven’t exactly experienced and is it possible for that song to be as good as if you were writing about something you were actually feeling at the moment?
Nathan: I think it’s cool to change what you write about. I’ve been through a lot of things and I like to write about them. I like my lyrics to be real as much as possible so if someone has been in a similar situation, then they can tell and they can relate to the lyrics and they can really help people, which is ace, which is what I do. But also I do think it’s great to write about fictitious things: supernatural and fictional stories, because in the end, me as a lyricist and Richard as well, we love to write for writing and we read as well. So it’s cool to make up stories as well, instead of being serious all the time.
Why do you think music is so important to so many people and touches so many people?
Nathan: Because it goes in their ear and then in to their soul and out their bum.
Robin: I’ve thought about that question before and I can’t really answer. I’m also one of those people for whom music is so important and I listen to it every day and…
Nathan: Every day… it’s weird isn’t it? For some people it’s just something that they put on in the background in their apartment when they put on their tie before they go to work, [for] other people it’s how they dress, it’s how they act, it’s who their friends are, it’s what clubs and pubs they go to, it changes their whole life. It’s a lifestyle and it’s a culture; that’s how it is for us and quite a few of our fans as well I think. That’s why they dig the band as well, because they know that’s who we are as people.
Robin: Music is…
Where will Sonic Syndicate be 5 years from now?
Nathan: Big beard! Dreadlocks! Leather pants…
Robin: Nathan! No. In f5 years we’ll still be in…
Robin: [laughs] Rehab! Fuck off! If you really want to answer this question then go ahead, where are we in 5 years, Nathan?
Robin: We’ll come to Helsinki in our Ferraris or Lamborghinis or whatever you want, they will roll down a red carpet for us, no wait, look, they already did!
Nathan: It’s a little dirty. They did roll out the red carpet for us, but they did it early, like 25 years too early but it’s still there. It was meant for us.
Robin: And we’ll have a glass of champagne.
Nathan: I think the point is that whether it goes bigger or whether it stays on the level where we are now, we’re always going to be playing and touring as long as it’s possible for us.
Robin: As long as we’re having fun. Right now we’re having so much fun and I can’t see an end to this. It’s a roller-coaster that just goes up at all times.
Nathan: We love seeing the fans and touring is one of the biggest parts of this band; we’re definitely a live band, I think. Some bands are very much like the studio: you buy the album, you listen to the album, and that’s what you love about them. Yeah, that’s the same for us, but people come to see the Sonic live show.
Robin: When we’re touring we’re not just going out to play, we try to have fun in private too, in the city or in the pubs. It can’t really get boring in the end because you always see something new everyday.
Nathan: So, in 5 years’ time, about now, we will probably be in a club somewhere grabbing a beer and getting ready for a show.
Text: Joanna Tzortzis | Photos: Jana Blomqvist | Promo photo: Michael Johansson