Stefan Storm is stuck in traffic in a taxi on his way to London’s 93 Feet East when he rings us, but it doesn’t prevent him from being upbeat and impeccably polite. He launches straight into conversation, talking at length about Bristol’s music scene – he apparently “grew up listening to the Bristol sound” – and recalling a time earlier in the year when The Sound Of Arrows played just before Tricky, one of his childhood heroes, at a festival. “He put on such a bad show,” Storm says. “He seemed like a super-nice guy, but the show was just terrible. I don’t know what it was about it – I hope that’s not how he usually does shows, but he just jumped around stage, he didn’t rap or sing or anything.”
It’s been something of a turbulent year for The Sound Of Arrows (Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand), but Storm seems very optimistic about everything – even the collapse of their UK label, Geffen. “I really liked the people there, but we’re no good with compromise,” he says. “Also, we come from such a DIY background it was just weird that people were supposed to do things for us, but we wanted to do it ourselves.” Does he feel more comfortable now that The Sound Of Arrows are no longer signed to a major label? “Yeah. Yeah, we’re very happy to be in full creative control again.”
Because, as Storm reiterates several times, doing things their own way is vital to The Sound Of Arrows. “This band is all about coming from the heart,” he explains. “That’s what we wanted the band to be about. It was supposed to be this melancholic, euphoric, epic music that didn’t let itself be confined by what’s cool and what’s not cool, and just allowed us to indulge in the things we like, not really worrying about if it’s too much.”
And it’s not just the music that Storm and Gullstrand like to have full control over. As Storm says, “The Sound Of Arrows is as much about the audio as the visual. We do everything in-house, me and Oskar do the artwork, we do the videos. With this album we wanted to create a world – even though that sounds a bit pretentious and naff – and therefore we wanted to do everything ourselves because we were capable of doing it, and we knew what it was all about.” However, just because they have a DIY ethos, that doesn’t mean that their output is amateurish and rough around the edges, qualities which are all too often synonymous with the do-it-yourself attitude. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. “DIY doesn’t have to equal bad production,” Storm says. “Because these days you can do amazing things if you have the talent. Sometimes we get so sick of ourselves for deciding to do everything on our own, because it’s a lot of work, but then again we’re very proud of this project.”
One of the best examples of The Sound Of Arrows’ stunning creativity and technical brilliance is the breathtaking video for the track ‘M.A.G.I.C.’. Storm explains, “Our idea behind it was to create a trailer to a film that didn’t exist. We didn’t want to be in the video, it doesn’t feel like a song where the performers should be in it, because it’s such a mental song, it’s so over the top in so many ways. We had this great idea of what it was going to be and we went to Spain and shot it with these kids, and they were just the best, and yeah – I think we managed to pull it off in the end.” To say that they’ve ‘pulled it off’ would be something of an understatement, as it’s much more than just a ‘decent pop video’ – it’s a grandiose cinematic experience, expertly shot and produced. However, as Storm tells us, producing such an impressive video also has its drawbacks. “I’ve been hearing that people actually think it’s a film, and that it’s kind of a cheap way to do a music video, just to cut scenes from a film… which is kind of flattering, but, at the same time, kind of annoying.”
Although he doesn’t think that The Sound Of Arrows sound specifically Swedish, Stefan Storm has some very clear thoughts on why Sweden’s music scene is so strong. “I really think it’s down to the idea that other people have done it before, and therefore you see making music as a possibility. I think the heritage of ABBA – even though I’ve never listened to them and they’re not relevant at all these days – them becoming such a big success has laid the groundworks for all of this Swedish pop.” But he doesn’t stop there. His ideas go back even further than ABBA; right back to the first half of the last century. “It could date back to the Second World War!” he laughs. “Because Sweden wasn’t really a part of it, it thrived afterwards and had a good standard of living, therefore people could have proper hobbies.” However, he also agrees with the suggestion that part of Sweden’s scene might just have been created (or at least exaggerated) by people simply lumping all Swedish bands together in one category. “Some of the reviews we’ve had of the album have compared it to Ace Of Base and that sort of thing, which I can really not understand.”
This year has undoubtedly been, in Stefan Storm’s own words, a “roller-coaster” for The Sound Of Arrows. However, they’ve managed to weather the, ahem, storm, and seem to have come out of it stronger – and more positive – than ever. “Everything has been very much up and down,” Storm says. “But I think we’ve managed to stay true to the original vision.” For Storm and Gullstrand, staying true to themselves seems to be the most important thing of all. It’s lucky that they don’t rely on anybody else to do things for them, or this year could have been catastrophic for them – but as it is, their DIY ethos and unfailing optimism has kept them going strong, and will, with any luck, see them going from strength to strength in the future.