Electro-pop from the Swedish countryside

{mosimage}Just a few hours before the gig, Johan T. Karlsson chats with journalists and fanswhile having a coffee in Klubi in Tampere. Within a few months, his project Familjen has taken his electronic music from his bedroom to live performances on stages around the world from Iceland to Australia. He still seems truly surprised of his success, even a bit shy about it in a very Scandinavian manner, acting like the kid from the little town going to the big city. And of course, he will not say no to a shot of vodka. "I like Finlandia vodka", Johan says. "That’s what Kent used to drink, so when we toured with them there was always a bottle of Finlandia vodka around". 


How do you prepare yourself for the show?

We don’t do anything special, really. What bands use to do, I supposed. We arehaving a party. The main thing is to get in the right mood, just listening to music, drinking and hanging around.

What do you listen to before the show?

Nowadays we are listening to quite a lot of early nineties acid house music.

How do you feel about touring and travelling to different parts of the world?

I am really excited about going to those places. When I was young, my parents did not have much money and we could not afford travelling abroad. Now I finally get to see the world. I don’t really like travelling much, though. You get tired all the time and there is a lot waiting. On the other hand, those are luxury problems. Being in Australia… Iceland… wow, it’s cool!

A fan comes to our table and greets Johan. They have a short conversation in Swedish. “I think the Finnish accent sounds lovely”, he tells me after the fan is gone. 

We were talking about touring, what are your favourite places?

We went to Italy. That was nice. We did some shows in Rome, Bologne, Milano…Beautiful cities, but we didn’t have the time to see much. One and a half hours to see Venice… that’s not much. We jumped into a bus and went around. Soon after that, back to the venue. It is weird. We go all the way, but we don’t have time to see much.

When did you start making music?

I got interested in music thinking about how sounds are created. When I was a kid, I did lots of different kinds of music. I played with samples, drum machines, I helped friends… Later someone would invited me to a project or a band and I would join. Since then I played in different bands and tried different sounds, pop rock, scratch-djing… many different things. But with Familjen Ithink I have found the right form and way to communicate my music. The Familjen project is me. With other bands, you have to struggle and fight for your ideas. No, no… you end up being mad. In Familjen I am the king, I get to decide.

How was the release of the album?

It was a bit unexpected. I had all the songs and a friend of mine that runs a record label in Sweden told me: “I really like the songs. Can I publish them on my label?” I agreed, so we first released an EP and then a full-length album. It went that well. I had no plans at all. People usually come to me and ask me to play. That is really cool, I don’t have to struggle and sell my ideas.

Did you have all the songs of the album ready at that time?

Not all of them. I was writing some of them when the record company decided to release a full length album. They told me: “Ok, we are doing it and we need more songs!” By that time I had done some live gigs, so I had started to understand what works well on the live set. Before that I had just played in my bedroom so most of the songs were instrumental songs and down-tempo. Playing live I realized that I needed some up-tempo songs that had an impact. A good beat, a good bass line. If you get that right, you get a good song.

Did you feel pressure when they ask you for songs?

It was a bit of pressure, but I think I made it. I had some time pressure. I finished the last song the night before we were supposed to master the recording and send it. Probably I need deadlines to make things happen.

Something slightly different about your music is that you sing in your own Swedish dialect

I thought about singing in English, but I chose Swedish in my own accent. I liked the challenge of making it sound good in my own accent. When I moved to Stockholm, sometimes when I was a bar, people would answer me in English. They didn’t understand me. My accent sounds a lot like Danish. I will continue in Swedish. Familjen will always be in Swedish.

The video of Det snurrar is min skalle got very popular and won an award in Sweden. How did it happen?

That’s funny. A guy I did not know at all did the video. He sent me a link to a video for the song. He said he had done this video just because he loved the song. Use it if you like it, he said. I saw it and it was awesome. It was mad. I loved it. That was the day before we were supposed to shoot the actual video for the song. Inmediately I rang the record label and everyone involved and I said we were not shooting the video. We already had it. I think the guy got around 2000 SEK as a reward. People love the video because it is so weird.

Do you have plans for a new album already?

I am working on it. We have been playing a lot in the last eight months and it is hard to get in the mood for writing when you are tired and don’t have much time. But now touring is starting to calm down, so I am getting excited to work on the new album. Hopefully, we will release it in spring. I need new songs because we have played the old songs so many times.