It’s long been established that we here at The Line of Best Fit have a lot of love for music coming from the Nordic regions, and especially Sweden. If we were to narrow it down even further to a label in Sweden that we particularly love, Labrador Records would certainly be amongst the first of the names uttered. Since its conception in 1998, the label has brought us such musical delights as The Radio Dept. and Acid House Kings, and is currently home to one of Sweden’s most hyped new acts, Amanda Mair. So what does label founder Johan Angergård do when he’s not tracking down the best of Swedish talent to transmit via his much loved label? The answer to that is that he’s making music with long time friend, musician and photographer, Henrik Mårtensson under the guise of Pallers.
“I’m looking forward to the release, but I think it was the feeling when we finished the album that we thought was pretty great.” comments Johan on the upcoming release of the duo’s first full length album, The Sea of Memories. “It all happened quite quickly in the end, I thought we’d work on it for another 6 months or so, but all of a sudden it was finished and sounding good.”
The Sea of Memories was finished up in June, having been recorded in various locations as Henrik travelled around, writing and recording along the way before heading back to Sweden and recording various elements in his apartment. “Then we recorded quite a lot of the things in a studio of mine.” adds Johan. “It’s pretty convenient because everything is there, and everything is already set up. So if it was both of us working at the same time, we’d usually do things there. Lots of the most creative processes have actually been there. Henrik was sitting with his computer in one corner and I was sitting in the other corner – one guy in each corner!”
Pallers are not a band to rush themselves, and their 2008 EP release, Humdrum saw the duo heading to a studio overlooking the Mediterranean in an attempt to push themselves to finish making the record. “The Humdrum EP was recorded [there] because we had the opportunity to go there and finish something.” discusses Henrik. “That was the first thing we did, we learned how to work together and it just happened that we went to Spain.”
“It was also good because we needed to get away in order to finish it at all.” adds Johan. “When we went to Spain, we’d been working on the EP for, I don’t know, 6 months maybe? A really long time, and it was growing a little bit each week or so but we felt like it would never finish, so we went away. But then we missed the deadline! We went back home and listened to it and it didn’t sound finished at all, so we worked on it for another few months or so. But it was important to go there anyway – I think a lot of things happened with the music while we were over there, and I think the process of working, the two of us at the same time, was really good. That’s where we found the way to work together.”
The Sea of Memories (listen here) harbours a penchant for lush, involving melodies and engrossing production, and a sentiment which Johan describes as “three dimensional”. “It’s sort of difficult to describe in words,” he explains “but when music makes a three dimensional universe where you can really sink into the music, it feels like sounds are coming from everywhere, and it’s not like ‘oh, I can hear a guitar, and there’s a drum’, but to put parts together that sound a bit outer worldly.”
Having been friends since school, the duo have grown up with each other’s musical tastes and ventures. So how did it all start off? “We got to know each other’s taste in music through Karolina [Komstedt]” says Johan, “someone I was together with 20 years ago or something. Henrik was in her class and I actually recorded lots of mix-tapes for her.” The tapes made their way to Henrik, and years later in 2008, the friends decided that the time had come to record together. How easy is it to transfer friendship into a musical working relationship? “Sometimes it’s really easy to start a song and to find the tone or the mood for it,” responds Henrik, “but I think it’s a lot of hard work – because we’re two people and we have to both like the thing we’re working on. Although, I think we have quite similar tastes.” “The Pallers taste!” adds Johan. “Apart from that there’s a lot of stuff that’s like – one person likes it, and another doesn’t. But we work pretty hard, I think, on finding a way that suits both of us, and I think that process is really good because the final result comes a lot better because we’ve worked hard on each other’s ideas. A lot of things get thrown away, but maybe it’s good, or ok or something, but perhaps not great. So by being really hard on each other’s ideas, I think the album becomes much better in the end.”
The imagery surrounding Pallers is closely reflective of the tone and atmosphere that the music creates, so it’s no surprise to learn that it’s photographer Henrik who is in charge of creating the images to support the band’s promotional trail. His website boasts photographs of misty, hazy landscapes and peaceful, soft night time imagery. “Most are taken in the suburbs of the neighbourhood called Pallers.” he comments. “I think there’s a general thing or mood that I like when it comes to pictures, and music as well. I don’t think ‘I’m going to take a photograph that looks like that sound’, but I think certain people think that way. Certain people love certain things – I like the night time, and I like slow things and that tempo – I think it’s the same tempo – it’s just what I like. I like spending hours outdoors at night time with my camera.”
The conversation inevitably veers in the direction of current listening trends in the Pallers camp, with Henrik opting for “new British things, the post dub-step stuff is kind of interesting music because it’s new, and it’s happening and it’s beat driven which I find really nice. And then I spend a lot of time listening to old stuff, like Brian Eno… whatever’s good!” Johan goes for a more eclectic mix of Still Corners, Jay-Z and Britney Spears, in what would turn out to be a pretty good way to sum up the music of Pallers. It has the intelligence and foresight of considered, experimental music, yet retains the warmth and accesibility of pop hooks and structures. It feels as though it’s been a long time coming, but Pallers are a duo that need time and space in order to do what they do to its full potential, and The Sea of Memories was certainly worth the wait.
The Sea of Memories is available now through Labrador Records, and can be streamed in its entirety over at Ja Ja Ja.