It was 2006 when drummer Martin Lopez left Opeth. Thankfully for all of us, four years later he founded the amazing Soen, who so far have been very productive with five full-length albums. Their latest masterpiece “Imperial” probably will be one of the best records of the year, even if it was released on late January. It was only logical to contact the band to answer some of our questions.
Interview: George Terzakis
Rockpages.gr: First of all, congratulations for another amazing album. “Imperial” visits my speakers at least once a day. How long did it take you from the time you hit the studio until it was ready?
Joel Ekelöf: Thank you very much! The drums were recorded before our Latin America tour (sometime in early February I believe), and then when that tour was interrupted by the pandemic, we came back home mid-March and got to work shortly after that. It took us about eight-nine months to get it done.
Rockpages.gr: Considering that you put out a new album every two years, and you also have various tours and shows, how long does it take you to compose and record each one? You don’t seem to rest at all.
Joel Ekelöf: To put out an album every two years and also be touring you basically have to be working on new material as soon as the new album drops. The album also has to be done many months before the release date to plan for videos etc, so yes! No rest. We like it this way.
Rockpages.gr: “Imperial” sounds to me a continuation of “Lykaia” and of course “Lotus”. A sound that you established after the different approaches of “Cognitive” and “Tellurian”, as it seems that you now found your sound after experimentation. Do you agree on that?
Joel Ekelöf: Many have said, so I guess there is some truth to that. I think on the first couple of records we wore our influences on our sleeves but over the course of time we’ve evolved to forge a sound more unique to us. Really, we’re just doing what feels natural at the time, but I think the last few records are indicative of a sense of identity.
Rockpages.gr: In each record you had a different line-up and still your music is characteristic and easily recognized. Are there certain members who handle the songwriting or everyone brings ideas that fit for the sound of Soen?
Joel Ekelöf: Martin is the main visionary in Soen. The foundation of Soen will always be there because he writes the foundation of most of the music. But everybody plays a big part in completing the compositions – adding their own flavor and finding moments for their own creative freedom. Everyone is able to bring their ideas to the table, we choose the strongest of the bunch and roll with it.
Rockpages.gr: After your first three video clips that showed the band playing, you chose a different approach. Personal favorites of mine are “Martyrs” and “Illusion”. Who has all these ideas to release something more cinematic?
Joel Ekelöf: We sort of just happen upon talented videographers through mutual friends or people we know in the business. Sometimes the concepts of the videos are ours and sometimes it’s left in the hands of the videographer. We’ve enjoyed having the more cinematic videos, we feel they really suit the vibes of the songs we choose. We’ve worked with some really talented people and we’re grateful for that.
Rockpages.gr: The cover artwork shows a snake with your logo and title barely seen in the dark background. Thirty years ago, a band called Metallica released a…black album with a snake on it. Coincidence, a tribute or something else?
Joel Ekelöf: More a coincidence than anything else, but we felt there was something inherently strong and classic about it. It fit the mood of the record and we’re really pleased with how it turned out.
Rockpages.gr: Covid-19 couldn’t be left out of the conversation, unfortunately. Your country went against the easy solution of most countries and chose not to enforce a quarantine. Do you agree with that decision? How did this pandemic affect the band professionally?
Joel Ekelöf: It’s definitely been interesting to see how every country has dealt with the pandemic. In Sweden the mentality is like “You don’t want to get it? Stay home. However, it’s business as usual.” It’s probably not the way it should be, it’s especially dangerous for the elderly and there have been many deaths. We’ll see if anything changes. Obviously, we were disappointed to have to cancel our tours, but at least it gave us lots of time to work on “Imperial”. We’re all hanging in there now and staying as productive as we can be.
Rockpages.gr: I know it will be a long way until you can tour again properly. Do you have any booked shows or is too soon to think of something like this? Would you consider doing a live-streaming event?
Joel Ekelöf: Yes, we have pushed our European tour back to late 2021. We’ll see what the state of the world is like around then. We’re really hoping things get back to normal as we’re so excited to tour with this record. As for the streaming show, it’s tough because we live in different parts of the world (Sweden, Canada, Ukraine). But we’re thinking of doing something special for the fans when it’s possible for us!
Rockpages.gr: Speaking of live shows, any memories from your first visit to Greece in September 2019?.
Joel Ekelöf: Yes, we remember Greece very well because it was some of the hottest shows on the tour! We probably sweat out a few pounds during those shows. But we also remember how great the crowds were, we met many lovely people and ate great food as well.
Rockpages.gr: One last question. 2020 marked ten years since the beginning of Soen. Did you make any goals when you started? Did you achieve more or less of them and what would you want to accomplish in the future?
Joel Ekelöf: We’re super happy with where we are now. It always feels like a new chapter with every record and we’re excited to keep new chapters coming. We have the passion and the drive to do this for a very long time so we’re just going to see where it takes us! Thanks, stay safe, and hope to see you soon!