Last Sunday I asked on Twitter the question "What are you guys listening to right now?". A few replies later I was introduced to the art of Christoffer Franzen. I fell in love with his music just a few songs later and instantly, I knew I had to contact him someway or another. I hope you enjoy our interview and his evident talent. My personal experience of Lights & Motion - a magical and epic journey that transcends all describable feelings and sensation. Play the album at least once when you are alone at night. You will know what I mean. Such artists remind me why I love post-rock music.
Hey, Chris! I am sure you're already getting this question a lot, but could you tell a bit about yourself to our readers? How did you end up where you are today?
L&M: I am a self-taught multi-instrumentalist/producer from Gothenburg, Sweden. I started to play guitar at 16 (fairly late) but played so many hours each day that I probably made up for the years of practice that I missed. I played in bands previously, but I never really liked the fact that you were forced to rely on others in order to get work done, be it recording or writing. I often felt like I wanted to write and record more than the other musicians that I played with and so I was really into learning about music-production.
Two years ago I decided that I would try to really learn how to record music so that I could get what I had in my head to come out of the speakers. What followed was a long string of nights over 18 months where I learned by trial-and-error and by experimenting a lot. I never went to school for that kind of stuff so I had to find my own way to do things. That included picking up a lot of different instruments that I never really played before, like drums, bass-guitar, piano etc.
I posted a few songs on Soundcloud with no intention of creating something big, but then things started to snowball and I found myself signed to an amazing US Label and with the fans demanding an album I had no choice but to pursuit that wish. And what you hear now is the result of all these lonely nights of frustration, joy, excitement and relentless tries to get it right – “Reanimation”.
I: Can you share a bit more details about the recording process of "Reanimation"?
L&M: The recordings took place over a very long time, and some of the tracks like “Aerials” and “Dream Away” were recorded a long time ago. I tend to blurry the line between the recording part and the mixing part, meaning that I mix as I go along with the recordings. I do this because it´s always more fun to record and layer more stuff over a track that is already sounding good then to just pile stuff on there like a big mess and then "fixing it in the mix". The second reason is because I never know what to record next, when/if I´m done with a song etc.
None of these tracks on “Reanimation” were pre-written, it was all laid out as I went along. So I mix in real time because I need to be able to hear if I think something is missing or if it´s a completed work. When a band works out arrangements in their rehearsal-space they can go into the studio and know exactly what to do, where as I don’t have a clue. It´s like a painting a picture, stroke by stroke.
I: What's your opinion on web 2.0 and its influence on music nowadays? I'm asking you because I know the official Facebook group of Post-rock has helped a lot for your decision to record the album.
L&M: I really do embrace social-media and everything is brings with it. Yes, it is easier to reach out with your music nowadays, but there is also a wall of people/musicians/bands screaming for attention, so there is quite the layer to cut through in order to be heard. For me though, I tend to see it in a positive light. This album would never have existed without Facebook, and the reach that it brings with it. To be able to upload a track that you just composed to Soundcloud, and then 2 hours later you have tons of feedback from folks in USA, England, Spain, Mexico, thats an amazing thing.
The post-rock page gave me a lot of attention when I started out and for that I am very thankful because the effect it got was massive. My song "Aerials" was featured there alongside the lines; "Most anticipated release of 2012" and that certainly helped a lot. That’s a really cool site, because Aytac the admin promotes everything from the giants in the genre to obscure projects from all around the world, and I think that’s why it´s still growing. It´s very genuine.
I: You signed with the notorious Deep Elm Records, who represents bands like Appleseed Cast and Nada Surf. How are you feeling about that and what's the journey been so far?
L&M: “Deep Elm” is so very awesome and I have worked closely with them during the making of this album, bouncing ideas back and forth and we built a solid relationship during all this time.
I can guarantee you that that collaboration had an impact on the album and the way it sounds. I have always felt that the US market was tempting for me, so I always wanted an American label and Deep Elm is the perfect mix between being big enough to have some great, great contacts and experience but at the same time they have 100% focus on you and your music and you are not one out a 100 acts that all needs to be guided in some way. They got me the first placement with NBC, and their use of Home, which was an amazing day. That feeling when your song starts to play during a massive American network-show, that’s something I tell you.
I: In your bio, you mention you suffered a mild insomnia while recording “Reanimation”. How did that influence the soundscape of "Reanimation"? Do you sleep better now, after completing this epic journey?
L&M: I guess I have never really liked sleeping, even when I was a kid. I would always stay up until the middle of the night, and I still enjoy those hours more than I do with the afternoon for example.
When I recorded "Reanimation", and even before that when I tried to learn about music-production, I slept very little and very badly. I drifted towards spending my entire nights in the studio, working non-stop for 14 hours and not emerging until right before dawn, walking home in the snow and feeling completely alone in the world. Not in a bad way, it was just a palpable feeling of quiet and solitude, like you were the only person awake in the entire city. That became sort of the concept for the album, to create a dream-like world with these different elements that the insomnia brought on. You sometimes wished that you could just sleep like everybody else but at the same time those nights brought with them some kind of magic, and trying to bring that out in the music certainly shaped it in ways I don’t even know.
I: Since you recorded the whole project yourself, do you plan any touring and if yes are there any particular musicians you would like to invite on the stage with you?
L&M: Well, the thing is that this project have already grown be a lot bigger then I would ever have dreamed of. There is no touring planned simply because I haven´t had any time to think about it - I have lived in the studio for so long that it´s like coming out of hibernation. I know that there is somewhat of an interest for a live show and yes, I sometimes think about trying to get that to become a reality.
But then there is the process of finding the right musicians to tour with you, with the correct know-how and personal chemistry that needs to click. There is just a lot to get right and I wouldn't want to do something that didn’t support the vision that I have of this project to 100%. But you never know whats going to happen with that, I am certainly thinking about it..
I: I really enjoyed your voice in "Dream away", do you plan on incorporating it more in the future?
L&M: Thank you! “Dream Away” is the oldest L&M song and the first one where I gathered the courage to sing. There is some singing on the album, but it´s mixed very wet and it´s basically just harmonies.
I would like to include more vocals on the next album - Not sure about what way, but I have a vision of it taking on a certain narrating role. It´s too early to tell though...But I am already working on the next album.
I: What's next for Christoffer Franzén?
L&M: Well, I am already composing/recording for album number 2. It´s very sketchy so far and I am spending a lot of time on what I know will be the first two tracks on the next album. I will carve them out and then let them set the tone and shape the entire album around those two songs. I would also like to experiment some more with textures, space and production to bring out another element in the music.
I might also try to compose some for TV/commercials. I really like the challenge and I would also REALLY like to buy new Fender guitars, which as we all know costs a lot of money. We shall see what 2013 brings.
I: Chris, thank you very much for the amazing music and the opportunity to talk together. Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
L&M: Thank you for your interest! I would just like to round things up by saying how grateful I am for all the support that I have been getting during the recording and the release of "Reanimation".
I am very humbled by that and I will try to make the next album even bigger, more epic and beautiful. Let’s keep up with the close interaction that I have enjoyed with all of you on the L&M Facebook page. I read and reply to every comment I get.
I: Thanks again for your time! Cheers!
In addition, if you guys like the album you can get 99+ free songs from Deep Elm, including 2 tracks from LIGHTS & MOTION here and you can download in hi-res FLAC!