Thursday 11 February 2016

Rising Above: An Interview with Arvid Jonsson from GREENLEAF

From their beginnings as a side project of Swedish stoner rock royalty Dozer and Demon Cleaner to their incarnation today as a fully fledged concern to the band members, Greenleaf have always been masters of the riff and this is demonstrated to stunning effect on their excellent new album Rise Above The Meadow. We caught up with vocalist Arvid Jonsson to talk about the album, what inspires their lyrics, touring with Clutch and classic rock.

Q- Your new album Rise Above The Meadow is out in a couple of weeks. What can you tell us about the new album?

You could in some ways say that it is the heaviest Greenleaf album yet, but still in some songs also the softest one. So yeah, we really worked on the dynamics of the songs, trying to squeeze out as much as possible. I also think it has much more of a live-feel then the previous album Trails and Passes.

Q- How does the album differ from Trails & Passes?

As said the live-feel and maybe a little bit more truthfulness and roughness. On Trails And Passes we we're kind of finding "the new Greenleaf sound" and on the new album we explore it.

Q- Was it important to start the album with a track like A Million Fireflies, a track that is heavy but catchy and a perfect example of the Greenleaf sound?

Yeah we decided in a pretty early stage that Fireflies would be a great opener for the album. You know in a "-just hit the gas hard" kind of way. An eye opener. Also it is a pretty good track to sum up the album. Heavy but melodic, and soft in the middle. Like a good candy bar.

Q- There seems to be more of a classic rock element to the new album. Were you listening to any of that classic stuff while making the album?

We always do... Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, King Crimson and so on. It's our bread and butter. And then we mix it up we other stuff we like... Kyuss for the heavy. Freddie King and Johnny Lee Hooker for the blues and stuff like Fleet Foxes and The Black Keys for a more pop-side of things.

Q- Golden Throne has to be my favorite song on the album. Do you have a favorite yet?

I'm not sure but I really like Howl and Levitate And Bow Pt. 1&2. It think it's because both song bring a bit of drama. And I like that sort of thing.

Q- You have made a brilliant video for A Million Fireflies. Can you tell us about the video and the concept behind it?

Free falling through life in very peculiar way surrounded by UV-glowing naked ladies and festival lavatories. It's the Greenleaf way of life sort of.

Q- The artwork for the album is stunning. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Well I guess Sebastian Jerke should have most of the credit. He's and amazing artist! But we had an original idea with a bear rising above a meadow and then Sebastian came up with the planet idea and we instantly loved it! The whole booklet looks like an old kids-book almost, with all the these forest creatures inside. It's really cool!

Q- Does the albums title have any significance?

Yeah it's a title that sort of reflects on the theme of the lyrics. But it's also sort of a statement on we're Greenleaf are now as a band. Ready to "Rise Above The Meadow" haha.

Q- Where does your lyrical inspiration come from?

I'm very inspired by song writers who tell a tale but still leaves a lot to the imagination. Guys like Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Jim Morrison are a huge inspiration. The songs are often about strange relationships and outcasts seeking a new path.

Q- This is your second album on Napalm Records. How are things working out on the label?

This our first album on Napalm Records and so far it's been great haha.

Q- Are you still as big purveyors of stoner rock as you when you started out?

That's probably a question for Tommi. But I don't think we look at ourselves as a typical "stoner rock band". We play a sort of heavy rock which sometimes takes us to a very hazy stoned out place and sometimes let's us sit on a wooden porch sipping filthy bootlegged whisky. It all depends on the mood for the day, we try not to have to many boundaries. Tommi's favorite all time band is still KISS so...

Q- Obviously the band are part of a great lineage that includes Dozer, Demon Cleaner, Lowrider etc, is the Swedish scene that you were all a part of still as close nowadays?

Well people are getting older and are more busy nowadays with grown-up jobs and so on, but yeah we're all still good friends.

Q- How did your latest European tour go?

Very good indeed! We just good home from Spain and Portugal and all shows we're great... It's still such a fucking rush to come to a place where you haven't been before, start playing and noticing that you have a audience of 200 people who kind of knows your songs and are singing along. It's pretty magical.

Q- Have you been playing much new material?

So far we have been doing 3 songs from the new album and people seem to really dig them. Now this year we will do a lot more of new material of course.

Q- How would you describe a Greenleaf live show?

Well we try to be as explosive as possible and really try involve people in the show. At end the goal is that people feel included almost like they all played in the band rather then just standing there watching. I'm very influenced by guys like Otis Redding and James Brown who did everything in there power to make people move.

Q- You're about to head out on the road on the Up In Smoke 6 tour with My Sleeping Karma and Mammoth Mammoth. Are you excited about that?

Yeah of course! It's a great line-up. And I think we're going to have lots of fun together.

Q- Have you got any plans to do any festivals this summer?

Yes we'll be playing a lot of festivals year. But we will announce them a bit later..

Q- How did the recent tour with Clutch go?

Very well! It was great opportunity for us and we are very grateful to Clutch for giving us the chance to tour with them. Now it's always though to support a mighty live-act like clutch... But I think we did alright

Q- Have you got any memorable tales from the road?

Well on the Up In Smoke-Festival two years ago Bengt Bäcke our former blind bass-player lost both he's shoes in a muddy ditch due to some strange drunken circumstances and had to walk around barefooted for the rest of the day before we found him a couple of new sneakers. It was pretty funny seeing him standing there blind, hungover and in very muddy socks haha.

Q- What does the rest of the year have in store for Greenleaf?

Touring. It's not much time for for anything else.

Words by Gavin Brown and Arvid Jonsson



Thanks to Mona and Claudia at Napalm Records for helping put this interview together. Thanks to Arvid for taking the time out to talking to us. Rise Above The Meadow will be released on CD/DD/Vinyl from Napalm Records on Feb 26th 2016.