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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blindside Interview

They have released six albums, toured with major secular rock groups like Linkin Park, Papa Roach, and AFI, performed live on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” featured in the P.O.D. music video for “Boom,” collaborated with Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan, and were featured on World Wrestling Entertainment. However, in 2007, Blindside decided to take a break from the music industry. During their hiatus, the Swedish rock group focused on spending time with their families, and deciding if they still wanted to record music. After four years, Blindside returned to the music industry in 2011, with their latest album, With Shivering Hearts We Wait. On June 16, 2011, I had the chance to speak with Blindside’s guitarist, Simon Grenehed, about their new album, the band’s silence during their hiatus, and about Blindside’s special relationship with the United States.

Webb: First, I felt like your new album was very diverse musically. You guys incorporate some new stuff, especially with adding stringed instruments, and a couple of songs are very radio friendly. But, you also stay true to your hardcore sound with the screaming vocals and driving rock songs. With all that said, did you intentionally want to stretch yourselves musically on this album, and have a diverse sound?

Simon Grenehed: I think when we make music we don’t really have a plan from the start. The one thing that we did have this time was that we wanted a really good production that sounded pretty powerful. That is why we contacted Howard Benson and his team. We have been working on this record and writing songs for more or less five years. Over that time, we have been going back and forth a little bit; but I think we narrowed it in, in the last year to what we wanted to do. Musically, we just found a direction that felt fresh for us. It is always like that for this band. We just try to follow our heart and see what comes out. This time we have had a little bit longer to work through that process. We were very happy with the response that came out.

As far as the extra string material, that was a dream for us to incorporate it into this record. It just came together in a great way. We actually recorded all the strings in Sweden, after we were done recording. We are very happy with how it came out. As far as diversity, we write the music that comes out, and just go from there.

Webb: Besides being a lyric in one of your songs, what was the inspiration to the album title of With Shivering Hearts We Wait?

Simon Grenehed: I think the whole wait thing for us has been very much. There was supposed to be a record in 2007, but it didn’t come through. The shivering hearts part I think in some ways defines our faith, just the expectation and adventure that it is to have a faith. I think for us it has been almost a scary thing to jump in situations that you are not used too, and just trust God in what is going to come out. So I think it sums it up in this title what this band is about at this point.

Webb: One song that really caught my ear was the hard hitting song “Bring Out the Dead.” I absolutely loved it. I was wondering, what was the inspiration or story behind the song?

Simon Grenehed: I think musically it has riffs that just came out and they drive the whole song. It is the same riffs over and over. Lyrically, I’m not the lyricist in the band, but I know it’s about dealing with your inner demons. Everybody has something we are ashamed about. At some point, you have to confront yourself, and confront it in front of the higher power. Sometimes it is scary to let go of these things that kind of hurt you. But, in some ways it defines who you are as a person. It is a tricky subject, but I think it is something that probably everybody can relate too.

Webb: Could you talk a little bit about the album’s artwork? The artwork really seems to tell a story right alongside the lyrics.

Simon Grenehed: We basically told the guy who did all the artwork to listen to the music and read the lyrics, and just see what comes out. Once we started hearing his plans for it, we definitely felt that it was representative of the music and the visual thing we were going for.

Webb: Do you have a favorite song on this album, or one that you are extra proud of?

Simon Grenehed: I think it is still kind of new. For me, personally, the first song on the album; as a guitar player, I have been working on that song for a couple of years. I had that riff. When I first brought it in, they [Blindside] knew that it was something good, but they didn’t know what we should do with it. I just had the vision in my head, and kept rolling with it. Once we got the strings in at the end that just really made the song. That one, I am excited about. Also, a song that we have been starting to play live is a song called “Withering.” There is a vibe on that song that is really interesting, and a lot of things are happening musically as well. Those two, I think are my favorites right now.

Webb: You mentioned that you took a long time on this album writing and recording. So in the recording process, which do you prefer: taking as long as it takes to get the album great like you did on With Shivering Hearts We Wait, or do you like working under a tight pressure or deadline?

Simon Grenehed: I think there are pros and cons for both. The album, About A Burning Fire, we wrote and recorded in almost one or two month’s time. The good thing there is that we really just worked hard, and let ourselves be open with ideas. It is a weird thing with music. When we write, we don’t think too much before; we just go in and try ideas. So, we will play stuff at home, and you don’t really know if there is a song in there. When you get to the rehearsal place, it could be either dead or the next great thing for the band. That doesn’t really matter, if it is a long process or a short process.

I think after Great Depression, the last album, we did go into a mode. It was kind of hard to come out of. It was a little bit darker. We kept writing songs and they were along those lines still. It was probably meaningful to have enough time to instead of doing Great Depression Part 2, you really try to reinvent yourself and see what the next step is. We probably needed the time do that.

Webb: I do want to talk about your break a little bit. Was it intentional to keep the fans in the dark about what you were doing during your hiatus?

Simon Grenehed: Yes, I think so. This society right now, if you don’t put out a record every year or every two years, there is a lot of pressure to just keep banging out stuff. For me personally, I was kind of tired of that thing. When I was growing up, if I found a band, it took awhile before you figured out who they were and what they were about. There was some kind of magic in that.

Now, you know when a singer goes to the bathroom basically because of twitter and everything [laughing]. I think we felt like we didn’t want to come up with news unless we think it is something worth telling. But, I think now that we have our record out, it is more interesting to keep people updated. We weren’t afraid to keep people in the dark about what was going on. We just felt that it wasn’t something that people needed to know about.

Webb: Did you ever think about calling it quits?

Simon Grenehed: Yeah, of course. For us, being in a band and also having families, we have mostly built our fan base in the States. It is a big step to go over there and spend time away from your families. We didn’t have a record deal for awhile. It was very hard to motivate for your family, to go on a tour and see if we came back with the rent. I think as far as the band goes, we needed to step away a little bit and find our own identities. Also, we needed to figure out if there was more in store, and if we could contribute anything more. We prayed about it for a long time and discussed it. At the end, we felt like we had more stuff that we could do. I think it was a good decision, after having done this record. We really felt that we had more. Even when this record [With Shivering Hearts We Wait] is done, we still have the inspiration to write more.

Webb: One thing that a lot of bands have trouble with is keeping the same members. I think it is really cool that all the original members from Blindside have stayed in the band. What is the secret for you to keep all of the original members in the band?

Simon Grenehed: I think for us it has been a mutual respect. We have always tried to listen to each other, and also listen to the families’ needs. We are four very different individuals. But, somehow when we get in a room together and make music, we just love it. We feel like it is a gift. We learned to play together. I don’t think we could even keep going as a band if we lost one member. In some ways, we feel like this has and will always be the band and lineup.

Webb: I know you have toured all across the world, everywhere from the United States to Australia to South Africa. Do you have a favorite country that you have toured in?

Simon Grenehed: This is also something that I want to say about the hiatus. A lot of people thought after the Great Depression, that we just took a break. But, that was the period we did tour in some of those countries. We have fallen in love over and over with different countries. But, the States is where we felt like this band was something to do for real. I think we have gotten so much love from the United States. That is definitely the place where we want to go play again, and meet all of our friends again. So, that is the place that is very close to our hearts.

Webb: What does the future look like for Blindside? Are you guys going to jump back in head first into the music industry or are you going to take it slow? What can we expect from you in the near future?

Simon Grenehed: Right now, we are pretty busy. We try to keep things going on the web for people that do not live in Sweden. We are coming back to the States for a tour in September. That tour in the United States will decide a lot of things. We are up and running again. We are very excited about it. I don’t see us stopping or taking it too slow. What we did before of touring 11 months straight, that is not going to happen again. But, we are definitely going to try to move as much as possible.

Webb: Do you have any last comments?

Simon Grenehed: We are just excited to be back. We are looking forward to coming over, meeting all of our friends again, and playing some good rock and roll music.

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