After the release of one of the best albums of the year, an interview with the band that released it seemed like a no brainer. Totta, the singer of the band, takes up the task to answer all our questions about the differences of this work than their previous one, the message behind the cover, the band’s influences, Sweden’s musical majesty and more. The only thing for sure though is that bands as talented and fresh like The Riven, the future of our favourite music seems safe. Interview: Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: How many times they mixed up your band name and called you “River”, or “Raven”?
Totta: Well, it happens sometimes, there’s also rhythm thrown in sometimes! However, we are The Riven and hopefully it’ll stick!
Rockpages.gr: What would you say are your influences? I thought of Uriah Heep (without keyboards!)and Black Sabbath…
Totta: Absolutely, both Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath are both fantastic although very different from one another. All of us have some different influences but a couple that we share are Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest. A favorite band of mine is Journey
Rockpages.gr: Sweden is a huge tank of great music coming from almost every genre. Where there any Swedish bands that you consider as influences, or even as role models? Listening to the record I thought of Heavy Load…
Totta: Absolutely! Some bands that we grew up with are Hellacopters and Europe, but there are also bands like The Ark and Abba that are true hit makers. More recently there are bands like Hällas and Graveyard and Horisont to mention a few.
Rockpages.gr: “Peace And Conflict” is your second album. Was this more difficult to make than your debut?
Totta: Both yes and no. In a way we are defending or improving what we did for our first album which can put a bit of stress on a project but in other ways no, cause we had a lot of fun recording this album! We also didn’t have a very strict timeline which allowed us to play around with the songs a bit more.
Rockpages.gr: In the cover there is a candle burning and there is an orange flame and a blue flame on the bottom. On the backdrop there are mountains and fire coming from the sky and water, or ice running. What is it all about? Is there a meaning in all that, or was it a random image you liked?
Totta: We work with an amazing artist called Maarten Donders. He has done all of our artwork (Blackbird, The Riven, Windbreaker/Moving on and Peace and Conflict) normally we have given Maarten an idea of what we want and sometimes exactly what we want. Sometimes he draws what comes to his mind from listening to the songs. For the artwork of Peace and Conflict it’s a mix of the two. We wanted the duality of Peace and Conflict with the candle burning in both ends and the background, Maarten added. I think what he drew is very intriguing and mesmerizing.
Rockpages.gr: Listening to the album there are some heavy fast songs and some longer ones that change pace, speed and feeling. Which ones are the hardest ones to write?
Totta: I would say it can be both. It depends on your own mood or feeling that day. The fast ones can be tricky though to actually get your personality to shine through and not just be another head banging hard rock tune.
Rockpages.gr: “Fly Free” sounds like something familiar that might have been released 40 years ago, but it also sounds fresh and is very catchy. How did you come up with that?
Totta: The riff came first and then the vocals and then everything just fell in place. Originally we had the chorus swung but then we changed into a straight feel and we never changed back. It is kind of a love declaration to a lot of amazing rock songs that have been written over the years. And it’s also a homage to being on the road driving.
Rockpages.gr: I think that this album is better than the first. What did you do differently on this one?
Totta: We have added Joakim Sandegård on guitar, which means we have two guitarists now and we also had a change of drummers. The big answer though I think is that we let the music breathe a little more in Peace and Conflict. We’re not too hungry to fill up every little inch of space. I also think that this album is a bit more coherent and also we’ve played together for longer, meaning that the song writing process is a bit smoother.
Rockpages.gr: Do you have immediate plans to make another album? Have you already started working on new material?
Totta: We have some songs brewing. No studio booked yet though! First we’re going on tour to perform Peace and Conflict live, then we’ll see what’s next. Maybe a Netflix documentary, haha!
Rockpages.gr: What’s your way of working on music? Do you jam in the studio, or rehearsal, do you write separately and present your work to the others, is it all that? What works better for you?
Totta: Both, mostly together in the rehearsal room. We’re a very democratic band. The Riven are its members so everybody writes songs. If someone writes on their own, it’s usually not more than a riff or a chorus and then the gaps are filled up by jamming and collaborating together in the rehearsal. I like when someone has a riff or verse, I find it very inspiring to elaborate on someone else’s ideas, it takes you places musically you might not go yourself.
Rockpages.gr: Playing ‘70s retro/vintage rock puts you under a label with a lot of other bands, some people might call it hype. What would you say that is the things that set you apart from all the others?
Totta: The whole rock genre is vintage nowadays I think. I love honest song writing and head banging music that make you feel something. Vintage/70s retro rock allows you to play your instrument and actually sing instead of modern music that uses autotune and computerized triggers and what not. Maybe it’s a hype but it’s still not mainstream today. We are all strong individuals that have come together. Every member is responsible for The Riven’s sound, that for me keeps the songwriting interesting. We are also a good live band and I dare to say that we are best live on stage, that’s when our music gets real.
Rockpages.gr: How do you imagine The Riven in 10 years from now?
Totta: Old, bald, beer drinking and nostalgic!