In the studio with The Bland

Axel Öberg on common mistakes, band democracy and songs which write themselves

It is always these Scandinavians who take guitar music to a new level, especially in terms of atmosphere. Somewhere between psychedelic rock and indie pop, the band The Bland definitely does something that we can call its own genre. And because The Bland belongs to the IMG STAGELINE family, we supported the production of the current album 'Beautiful Distance'. Singer Axel Öberg is telling us how the album was created.

Axel Öberg is singer of the Swedish band The Bland

With their mixture of Indie and Folk, the five members of the band inspire a steadily growing number of fans, even beyond their national borders, particularly in Germany.

Axel, you finally finished your new album 'Beautiful Distance'. Can you even describe what this means for you?

The album symbolises a great journey to a new sound, new friends, new venues and even new countries. This album includes our past and stories about our very own personal experiences from the last years, be it human or musical.

How long have you worked on the album 'Beautiful Distance' altogether?

It took us about a year, with a few breaks to go on tour. We started in the studio during the heat wave in summer 2018 which was a real challenge. Our studio is a small cabin on a hill here in the south of Stockholm. It is a beautiful location, but recording in this heat was quite difficult. We were almost naked and dehydrated most of the time. I think that contributed to the warm sound of the album.

A year for an album is quite a long time. Why has it taken so long?

Sometimes a song has to mature to develop and sometimes we have to record songs over and over again to find the right emotional mood. Other songs, you have to record within a few hours to capture that intensive feeling. Hence, you take just the right energy from the whole band and capture it on the track at just the right moment.

We have never been so daring about different recording techniques. Thus, the sound created itself. This is a new way of recording songs and we are going to stick with it. Nevertheless, this also takes its time.

— Axel commented about having the courage to record a new record

What was the most exhausting part of the whole production?

The end was the most exhausting part. With so many songs on the album, you sometimes forget details here and there or you just delay them. And suddenly, you only got days or hours until your deadline. One of our producers, Hannes, was also responsible for mixing. At the end, he had quite a spurt towards the finishing line because something was never quite right.

Did you know the producer or the sound engineer before?

Yes, the brothers Linus and Hannes did that. They are also part of the band. Hence, we know them very well. Linus Hasselberg plays the electric guitar and Hannes Hasselberg plays the drums. Linus was the lead producer. Hannes also did the sound engineering and mixing. So far, we have always done everything ourselves. We have all worked on our own sound tracks. This time, we gave fixed roles to Linus and Hannes. This also means that most of the ideas on recording techniques and the sound itself came from them. Anton Torstensson and I were able to solely concentrate on songwriting.


However, sometimes it is better not to know the producer too well. A recording process can be very emotional.

During the recording, you sometimes have to choose one of many paths, be it instrumental or when it comes to effects or intros. The sound engineer will then give you a choice which is not always a nice moment. However, it worked for us.

In case of disagreement, who decides how the finished song should sound on the album?

We always try to let the person make the decision who has a strong emotional link to the song. If someone feels a strong connection, that person should make all the important decisions regarding the song.

Do you have any tips for musicians who go to the studio for the first time?

It depends on how much time you have and what you want to record. If it is an expensive studio and you have a limited amount of time, you should know in detail what you want to record and how. However, we think that having your own technology and consequently having more time makes sense to us.


If you do home recording, the recording process is part of the songwriting. You automatically experiment more with the songs, get one or the other cool idea, you have more time and leisure. Your creative freedom grows with the free time you have.


In this case, it is better to leave room for some changes instead of finishing the song beforehand. We have created many magical songs in this way.

Can you give an example of a song which has changed a lot during the recording?

When we recorded the song 'Beautiful Distance' we were a little tired and a little drunk. We wanted to create the bass with an accordion and simultaneously make a melodic line. After the first recording, we noticed that the melodic tone was a bit too high for my voice. Due to the alcohol and being tired, we set the pitch higher instead of lower. The day after, we listened to the whole thing and started laughing. We then lowered the pitch digitally, i.e. artificially. This resulted in a magical sound which we never heard before. The song became one of our favourites on the album due to this 'mistake' from the previous day. Therefore:


Enjoy your mistakes - they can also show new ways.

However, do you not reach a point when you have to go into a professional studio?

In my opinion, home recording is always a good choice and the result can sound just as great as songs from a good studio. You would only really need a studio when you want to record a lot of different instruments at the same time, i.e. live in a room. It is hard to record drums, bass and guitar at the same time in your living room and get a real live recording feeling. However, many musicians get completely lost in the question of what equipment to use. Never underestimate the quality of a recording with reliable dynamic microphones.


The equipment does not usually cause your song to sound bad if you use cheap equipment. It is often due to something else.


That also applies to insulation and acoustic foam. Yes, those things can make the difference. However, standard rooms are usually just fine. We have not got a lot of professional gadgets in our studio.

Do you have other tips for young musicians who want to record their songs at home?

I always try to get a feeling of the room and the atmosphere when we record. It has to feel right. If you realise, that you are not having fun anymore, you should change to another song or project for that day. Otherwise, the feeling towards recording may become toxic. If you get hung up on a song, leave it for a few days. Maybe, you should even throw away the recordings of the song and start from scratch. You will find another approach later on.


The production doesn't go faster, it gets worse if you get stuck on a song. Sometimes you notice only after recording that a song doesn't fit. Then get rid of it!

Does that happen often? How many songs did you write for the album?

We have written about 40 songs. At the end, only a quarter of them made it onto the album.


As a band, you have to accept that some songs do not make it onto the album. Not every song sounds good enough. Not every song goes well with the others.

How did you decide which songs make it onto the album and which do not?

It was a democratic decision. We were usually in the studio with four members of the band. Most of the time, we were able to pick songs that all four of us liked. Sometimes, we chose songs that only three of us approved of. However, if only two of the four band members thought the song was cool, we dismissed it straightaway.

Which sound carrier did you use?

We use CD and vinyl. Vinyl is our favourite. We love the sound of vinyl and you always have great artwork to hang up on the wall. We have also recorded some songs onto cassettes, even though we do not sell any tapes. We do make our songs available via streaming to give as many people as possible the opportunity to hear us.

Talking about artwork, what is behind 'Beautiful Distance'?

This time I designed and edited the artwork myself. The 'raw material' consists of three photographs taken by our brilliant friend Olof Grind. The photos show us during exercises which help us to find our inner creativity.


Olof Grind is a master of analogue photography. We love this analogue look because it is exactly the way our album should sound: analogue.

What is important to you when cooperating with endorsers?

Every cooperation lives from talking to each other and feeling what the other person is feeling. IMG, for example, is building great microphones. Would it not be great to let someone use these mics and work with them every day in every possible way? We know absolutely nothing about building microphones. However, we are experimenting a lot with recording techniques. Maybe we could build something completely new together?

That would be cool. We hope to hear a lot more from you. Thank you very much, Axel.

Photos ©The Bland & Olof Grind