As a journalist, it is always a pleasure to talk to people who are passionate about something, in this case, their music. Subterráneo Webzine had the oportunity to talk with Nathan J. Biggs and Robin Sjunesson from SONIC SYNDICATE before their gig in Bilbao and revealed their thoughts about their new musical direction, the departure of some members and how happy they feel when they are on tour.
Subterráneo Webzine: So this is your last gig here in Spain. How have the sensations been so far?
Robin Sjunesson: Last night was really good. We were in Zaragoza, it was the first time for us, so we didn’t know what to expect. But the city was super beautiful…
Nathan J. Biggs: A really cool venue.
Robin Sjunesson: Yeah, it was a really really cool venue called sala Lopez…
Nathan J. Biggs: And the audience was really really cool as well, everybody was singing along and having a good time. We are taking that with us for the rest of the tour because we had a really good time.
Robin Sjunesson: It’s kinda like a joke we say on stage… But we want the audience every night to try be more engaged, more energetic, more happy, more singing-along and louder…
Nathan J. Biggs: We try to beat it every night, but the sala Lopez was amazing.
Subterráneo Webzine: And how are you working the live shows as a trio?
Robin Sjunesson: Come and discover it (laughs)
Nathan J. Biggs: Are you going to watch the show?
Subterráneo Webzine: No. I can’t
Nathan J. Biggs: Ohh…
Robin Sjunesson: We hire musicians for the drums. But I think that the less people we are in the band the most energetic we turn out to be actually.
Nathan J. Biggs: We’ve always been a pretty energetic band and we just wanted to take it to the next level. With this new album it’s a new kind of energy: it’s a lot more upbeat, there’s a lot more singing-along, a lot more dancing. I think overall the crowd just respond to how much energy we are giving them in the stage. We transfer it to the crowd and they go crazy.
Robin Sjunesson: Yeah. Because they see that we have fun while we play live and at the same time we see that they’re smiling and then we have the best time ever.
Nathan J. Biggs: It’s a chemical reaction. You see a metal band on stage with serious faces, that they take themselves so seriously and the crowd sure they rock out and get into it, but when the crowd see a band with a smile in their face, they also start smiling and the atmosphere is much more positive.
Subterráneo Webzine: So you definitely have a good time when you’re on stage.
Robin Sjunesson: Yeah.
Nathan J. Biggs: That’s why we do it.
Robin Sjunesson: If we could choose, we would be on tour all time. When a manager or someone tell us to record an album we say “no, we want to be on tour”, and they say “but you need to release a new album” so we make it and then we can go on tour again. We love being on the road, playing live and meeting new people. So definitely yes, we like to have the best time ever.
Subterráneo Webzine: Let’s talk about your new album Confessions. What does the title mean to you?
Nathan J. Biggs: Do you know what the word”cathartic” means? If you can’t go through something you have to go to the other side of it. And obviously, if you know the history of the band, from the beginning until now it has been a lot of changes: from members to kind of musical style, the influences… And this was a big chance for us to say “Wait a minute. What do we really want to do? What we are passionate about?” We have just been listening to so many different kind of music and just got this: a different outlook on life and this album was us saying: “This is us. This is SONIC SYNDICATE“.
Robin Sjunesson: Any negativity in the history is just gone and the three of us are just so happy because it’s a very possitive album in that way. We are free from all the stuff in the past and we just now look all about the future.
Subterráneo Webzine: So you now feel more comfortable than doing metalcore or all the old stuff.
Nathan J. Biggs: We started getting more comfortable when we stopped paying attention to the genres. We’ve got a few heavier tracks in the album like “Crystallize“, that musically is pretty heavy, or “I like it rough” which is dirty, more an american kind of metal song with some swedish flavour on it, but when we stopped thinking of ourselves like a metalcore band or a melodic death metal band we didn’t feel this responsability to sound in certain way, so we just decided to do exactly what we wanted to do, and then whatever we did sounded good. Total freedom.
Subterráneo Webzine: The changes in the band that you’ve suffered, like the leaving of Karin (Axelsson, bass player)…
Robin Sjunesson: That was something that had to happen, something that was meant to happen and something that we couldn’t got where we are today if hadn’t happened. So as a result we are all happy for it.
Subterráneo Webzine: Have these departures affected the situation, or the album?
Robin Sjunesson: The last one was John and I think that if that wouldn’t have happened we wouldn’t be on the road now, because as we said before, we always want to be on tour…
Nathan J. Biggs: We love John and it’s always going to be part of the SONIC family, but he didn’t want to tour. He was limited on everything: how many weeks we could be on tour or how many weeks we would be in the studio recording a new album, even how far where we going to tour.
Robin Sjunesson: He has kids and a family, that’s why. We don’t have any kids.
Nathan J. Biggs: It came to the point that we parted ways with him and then we started recording the new album.
Subterráneo Webzine: When did you start writing the album? Did anything spark your creativity?
Robin Sjunesson: We and Nathan have always been writing music, even if it’s not for a new album, only to have fun. So I guess that the “writing session” was kind of directly after releasing the last album. We had almost a full album, like ten songs or something like that done, but we just weren’t going to the studio, we were going to have a second listen to it and then we felt that we were not going to release it because it wasn’t what we wanted to do: it didn’t feel like unique, or real for us. So we scratched the whole album and started from zero again. It was a good thing for us paying attention and saying: “Is this really what we want to do?“
Nathan J. Biggs: It sounded fairly predictable from the last album, but with some progression obviously. We’ve always been a band that you could put in a genre: “melodic death swedish metal” or this kind of thing. It was fairly easy to do that, to compare us with other bands like DARK TRANQUILLITY, SOILWORK or IN FLAMES.
We just want to be recognised for what we do, and we decided between being in the shadow of these bands or adding more american influences, from bands like FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH and stuff like that. And then we started to create our own sound, I think that with this album we’ve been pretty damn close , but surely in the next album I think we’re going to reach it. We’re not going to be another band in the planet, we’re going to be SONIC SYNDICATE, and I’m pretty sure that there are not so many bands in the world that sound like us.
Richard Sjunesson: And in all the reviews we’ve received from the last album none of them said “This song sounds like IN FLAMES“, or “this one sounds like BRING ME THE HORIZON“. No one could put us in the shadows of another band so I think that for once we’ve found our sound and that’s something that we could take with us, but we don’t know how we are going to sound in the next album, we never wanna repeat ourselves, but for sure we’re going to have fun as well while writing it.
Subterráneo Webzine: You were also launched by Nuclear Blast, your record company since almost the beginning of the band. How has it been working with them until now?
Richard Sjunesson: It’s been really good. They’re a really great and powerful record label and we’ve made a lot of friends through them, but during the last year the guys that worked with us stopped working for them and then… I wouldn’t say that we parted ways but it was a little bit confused.
Nathan J. Biggs: They took big responsabilities as a label, which is great for them, deciding to work with bands like MACHINE HEAD or SLAYER, they’re really expanding. We’re a small band and we weren’t a priority for them anymore, and we felt the need to be someone’s priority. We found a local small independent label based in Sweden that is very active and really caring about their bands, great with online distribution, social media and stuff like that, which is something which we had our attention focused on. They pay so much attention also on the streaming sites.
Richard Sjunesson: Yes, they are modern. They really think about the future because now selling physical albums is gone. It happens to be collector’s stuff, but the main place where people go to listen to music is iTunes, Spotify and stuff like that…
Nathan J. Biggs: Online marketing…
Richard Sjunesson: The label where we are now are really pro’s in that, which is new to us…
Nathan J. Biggs: Yes, because we’re still learning.
Richard Sjunesson: Yeah, we’re still learning. So it’s sad to see that our contract with Nuclear Blast expired but it’s so happy also because that was meant to happen.
Subterráneo Webzine: Precisely my next question was going to be if you think that Confessions could be released through them.
Richard Sjunesson: I think so, because they never told us “you should sound like this”, but I don’t know if we would be able to write the record if we still were with them, because the split between us and them needed to have happened…
Nathan J. Biggs: We needed to start from zero.
Richard Sjunesson: Yes. We needed to not have Nuclear Blast behind us to re-think what we wanted to do. When we weren’t with them anymore we thought: “OK. It’s clear now. We want to do this”.
Subterráneo Webzine: In this album there is also a collaboration with Maddyz: “Still believe”. How did this come up?
Nathan J. Biggs: We’ve always been fan of ballads, especially duets: just a male and a female voice. And we wanted to have this kind of song so I developed this story of a kind of romance between a guy and a girl separated by the both sides of the ocean. The label was looking for a girl to help us perform the song and then this girl came from Los Angeles. We heard some of her stuff online, we thought that she had an amazing voice and she flew all over to Sweden, we hanged out for a couple of days and then we recorded the song. She’s a really nice girl.
Richard Sjunesson: She was with a band called LIFE DOWN HERE, they were like doing their walk-out tour, they toured with PARAMORE and bands like that.
Nathan J. Biggs: And she was starting her solo career.
Richard Sjunesson: Yes, she was very rocky and now she’s breaking out with her past in a way. So inmediattely we connected and we thought that this was the perfect collaboration for us in that way.
Subterráneo Webzine: DJ Zardonic also released a drum’n’bass remix of “Start a war”. How did the idea come up? Was it on your mind to make a remix?
Richard Sjunesson: He has been contacting us every year, trying to make a remix but we didn’t paid so much attention to it.
Nathan J. Biggs: We thought that having a remix wasn’t a priority for us.
Richard Sjunesson: Yeah, exactly. We never thought about remixes and anything like that, but nowadays we have changed your mind so he reshouted us again, he shouted also our record label… and the result is fucking cool. It’s a track we love and the work he has made was so cool.
Nathan J. Biggs: We said before that our musical tastes have changed and we’ve heard more of his stuff and it’s really cool! It’s kind of heavy…
Richard Sjunesson: Drum ‘n’ bass…
Nathan J. Biggs: Yeah, dirty bass. It’s cool though.
Richard Sjunesson: We haven’t met him yet, but we’ve been talking online at least…
Nathan J. Biggs: Yeah I talk with him online quite a lot, he’s a super cool guy.
Richard Sjunesson: So we’ll hopefully meet him. Where ‘s he living now, Venezuela?
Nathan J. Biggs: He lives in New York now.
Richard Sjunesson: Maybe we’re seeing him the next time we are being there.
Subterráneo Webzine: Now I would like to talk about your new single “Fire”, a PVRIS cover. Who had the idea?
Nathan J. Biggs: We were asked by Spotify Sweden to record some exclusive tracks just for them. And at the time we just have released the album, so we didn’t want to go back to the studio again (laughs). When we asked to do that for them we said “Yes, but, can we do some covers?”, something that we haven’t done before. We thought that we were going to enter the studio soon or after to record an album, so this time we thought that we wanted to have some fun while doing it, and it was a kind of treat with them, to have something extra. We did two covers, but the second one hasn’t been released yet, and we think that we’re going to keep in the racks for some time.
Richard Sjunesson: The only thing that I could say about that it’s very spanish influenced. It’s a south american guy what we covered… But yeah, “Fire” from PVRIS… That’s because we listen a lot of PVRIS and we feel that it’s a band we would like to tour with them as well if they would let us choose basing on our personal tastes of music, but we love the song and we just wanted to give it a go and it turned up pretty cool also. Maybe we could also add it to our live sets, not today, but we could think about it in the future.
Subterráneo Webzine: Before, were talking about how music business has changed, how records are not sold as much… And listening that you have a lot of techno influences…
Richard Sjunesson: Yeah, we love dance, electronic, techno music.
Nathan J. Biggs: We love going on parties and listening that kind of music as well. (laughs)
Subterráneo Webzine: Have you ever thought about releasing your music by singles, like DJ’s do?
Richard Sjunesson: Yes.
Nathan J. Biggs: That’s something we wanted to do for this record. It came because rock and pop bands in Korea and Japan don’t release albums anymore. If you look how they do it, they put singles and singles and singles with their videos, and then maybe, in a future, they would release an album. It’s a pretty cool way to do things because you are constantly giving the fans something new. Here it’s more like “Boom. Here you have an album” and maybe sometimes you don’t love every single track of the album, because we’re giving the thing as a whole, and there you can select in a way.
Richard Sjunesson: I think that it’s a cool thing to do but we are taking it on board. We’ve released quite a few singles: four and the cover, so it’s a nice way to show music out to people, especially in the digital market.
Subterráneo Webzine: And what is next for you?
Richard Sjunesson: We’ve got like a two days ride to Switzerland in our tour bus now and then we’ve got some more dates.
Nathan J. Biggs: It’s a long way away to our next show.
Richard Sjunesson: Yes. We’ve got a long travel now, but then we will join the dots and then go to Italy, and back to Germany Hungary… So we still have half of the tour left, we will be out for at least two weeks. But it’s what we said earlier: we love touring and we don’t want it to end.
Subterráneo Webzine: Earlier you also said that you love writing music. Have you composed any new SONIC SYNDICATE song for a possible new record?
Richard Sjunesson: Yes, but haven’t set the ideas together yet. Nathan have been writing some stuff, I’ve been writing some melodies also but we haven’t sit down yet, and I think that that’s going to come very soon. Soon we’re going to think about our next album.
Nathan J. Biggs: It’s always interesting on writing an album, recording it and touring it that you don’t really know when you’ll have the inspiration to write. But in the last month I’ve been getting some lyrics and some melodies in my head and I say: “Robin, I’ve got some lyrics in my head” and then he says “Oh yeah? I’ve been writing some stuff in the guitar and the computer”. So we say “OK. We’ll talk about it later” (laughs). We’re getting the creative juices again.
Subterráneo Webzine: This is our last question. Is there anything you want to say to your spanish fans?
Robin Sjunesson: We haven’t been here so often and definitely I hope we could spend more time here in a future. We’ve done five dates this tour and I think that is not enough because we love this country. We love his food, we love his people and everyone here has been so nice to us.
Nathan J. Biggs: It’s a big country too.
Robin Sjunesson: Yes, it’s a big country so maybe next time we can do more times here.
Subterráneo Webzine: A lot of swedish bands often do ten or fifteen dates in Spain
Robin Sjunesson: And we only do five (laughs). I hope we could change it in a future.
Nathan J. Biggs: Step by step. We’ve got a new album, a new label and it’s our first headlining tour since 2014, so it’s necessary to go step by step but we’ve enjoyed a lot and definitely we’ll come back again sooner or later.