Leaving psychedelica and the backing band era behind: side effects interviewed

J.N. April 7, 2019

Playing as an opening act for a well-known band is often a major stepping stone in your band’s career. You’ll get exposed to a wider audience, create relationships with industry professionals, and possibly even turn the other musicians into your fans. Snagging an opening slot can result in anything from simply having a fun night out with fellow artists to landing a coveted gig as the touring band’s official opening act the next time they head out on the road.

For Swedish side effects (always small letters) one support gig to The Soundtrack of Our Lives evolved into a full tour when the band’s frontman Ebbot Lundgren embarked on his solo tour and brought the young lads in as his backing band, a tour that were supposed to last for a summer but continued for four years, leading to nationwide attention and being the in-house band at national television at the TV show “Ebbot’s Arc”.

With such a start of their music career it’s not strange that there has been a six year long hiatus between their debut album “A Walk In The Space Between” and their second album “Some Other Day”.

When Billy, Elias, Hugo and Joacim made a stopover in Hamburg on their first European tour ever, supporting Friska Viljor, we sat down with the lads to have a chat about their extraordinary career and their change in musical direction on “Some Other Day”.

“We’ve probably done four versions of this album”

Tell us a bit about the general feeling after having released your sophomore album and coming out for a European tour supporting Friska Viljor.
It’s really to restart in many ways at the same time as it is a bit of relief in there. It took quite much time to go through all the different stages of the album that we came to a point when it felt like we would never finish it. It’s an amazing feeling to have made it.

Your career in music is quite extraordinary when you consider how everything started.
Yeah, it’s not really a continuous progression but not something mediocre either, it has its own identity, let’s call it that (laughs).

How much of the story about how you got your first gig with The Soundtrack of Our Lives is true? Did you bother the band to a point when they couldn’t say no anymore?
(laughs) That’s to some part true but we just said that it happened like that as a joke at first, but it became the truth with time. Of course it’s not true!

I [Billy, vocalist] and Mattias Berge [guitarist in TSOUL] stayed in touch, they lived in the same area, and we sent him demos and live videos and asked if they needed a support act.

I texted him and asked if we could support Soundtrack at Katalin in Uppsala, that’s how it started. They just did one gig that winter, and Mattias came out to see us play in a small basement kind of venue under a church, just like it was an audition for the Soundtrack gig (laughs).

And through that support gig you stayed in touch with Ebbot [frontman in TSOUL] and were asked to be his backing band when he turned solo?
We did just one support gig for Soundtrack but stayed in touch and Billy made a stand-in job for Mattias in Soundtrack once. Ebbot also happened to book a few Soundtrack gigs without discussing it with the rest of the band and they couldn’t do them because of holidays and other things, and we temporary replaced the band and played as Ebbot Lundgren and side effects, but it was supposed to be a Soundtrack gig.

But you never hesitated about being Ebbot’s backing band when it basically meant that side effects had to be put to a halt?
Actually not at all. The reason for doing it was that he asked us to join him for a summer tour in 2014 and the tour didn’t end until four years later (laughs). We never would have expected that to happen, that’s the reason why there was basically no time to do side effects stuff for a long time.

We have worked on this album during these four years but it’s really hard to negotiate a record deal and writing and releasing an album when you’re on tour with Ebbot and work on his album at the same time. We just had to cut it down to do one thing at the time.

As you pointed out, “Some Other Day” is out six years after your debut album. Does it mark the end of you playing together as a backing band and putting more focus on side effects now?
We have been involved in many projects and we’ve done some side effects releases but not that often. There was a single coming out in 2014 and there was supposed to be an album release in the autumn later that year but it didn’t happen. Instead we released another single the following year – and then nothing happened again (laughs).

In an older interview, just after your debut album, you said that you already have songs finished for a second album.
It was like that!! We made those songs back then, when we were between fifteen and eighteen. Now we’re in the period nineteen to twenty-five but most of the songs we have now is from the period nineteen to twenty-one (laughs).

We’ve probably done four versions of this album because much changed over the years, but we definitely had songs for a new album ready back then, but other songs than those on “Some Other Day”.

But did you feel any pressure to release a new album to not get stuck in being a backing band?
Of course we did. We will still do session jobs, individually, but won’t tour as a backing band the four of us together. Sometimes two of us will do a project together but it will never be as before, that’s something we’ve put an end to.

But it might also had something to do with being on the road with Ebbot incredibly much. We did amazingly many shows together, and went around in a tiny tour bus and shared hotel rooms, and when you finally get home again you don’t really want to meet up on Monday and start working on an album. You just want to have a break and not see anyone in the band for a week (laughs).

The new album sounds completely different from your debut. The Tame Impala sound is gone together with that sixties feeling. Is the psychedelic phase of side effects buried and gone?
That’s right! Because the years have passed kind of quickly since our debut we almost forgot how we sounded (laughs), but it was another thing then and we were really into this sixties sound and were basically stuck in it.

Is it the long break and lots of influences from those projects you’ve been involved in and toured with that brought this change in music?
We don’t really know, and we still have lots of unreleased songs which are more influenced by sixties music and psychedelica.

When you’re stuck in something like that as we were as teenagers, it kind of feels good to change something a few years later. But our taste in music has also changed quite much during the five years since the first album. We discovered the eighties and realized it’s not that crappy as we thought and didn’t had to be stuck in the sixties anymore. There was other kinds of music that was great as well, but you didn’t reflect on that when you were young.

”A Walk In The Space Between Us”, the debut album, were nominated for a Grammy in Sweden. Have you felt pressured to make something as good with the second album as well?
No no no, not at all, or at least that pressure faded away years ago. We didn’t even think that someone would review this album! It doesn’t even feel like we’ve released it because you’re so used to work on it and when it’s finally out it’s hard to believe it. I [Billy] couldn’t even imagine that people would listen to it.

There was some sort of pressure to make a second record, like ”We have to make a second one like the first”, but that was somewhere around 2014 or 2015. That’s far gone by now and you’ve started to think about other things. That kind of pressure doesn’t exist anymore.

Today, we feel like everything restarted with this album, almost like a new band was born out of the ashes of the old one. The difference is that we can go out and play Europe and don’t need to play the same venues in Stockholm all the time, that’s something giving you a sense of rejuvenation.

Already professional musicians

Other musicians are by far your strongest allies when starting out. In the beginning, the best shows will usually happen through other bands, whether they ask directly or refer somebody to your band.

For side effects, that have been on tour with many Swedish top artists and played with a wide range of renowned professional musicians, the road to success may be open already considering their huge music network and many opportunities for future collaborations.

Because you have toured with Ebbot and worked with him on his TV show ”Ebbot’s ark” [“Ebbot’s Arc”] it’s natural that whenever you are promoted there’s always a reference to Ebbot in there. I guess it must be a bit tiring to hear it all the time especially when you want to stand on your own, but how important are these connections for you today? I’m not only thinking about Ebbot, you’ve worked with Daniel Gilbert and many other well-known musicians as well.
We don’t push for it but our label promote us like that when they send out press releases and we’re like ”Ok”, but we really don’t like to brag about it. But it has for sure been a great help for us both to get gigs with the band but also session jobs in other projects.

You also have to understand that we’ve had lots of hours on stage that we wouldn’t have got in any other way and free TV promotion in Ebbot’s show, where we did all the arrangements. All these things combined made you grow as a person, especially working with that kind of responsibility we had on Ebbot’s TV-show; it felt like we made it to a new level of how to work professionally with music.

We’ve also had amazing moments just like when we played with Radiosymfonikerna [Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra] in the Berwald Concert Hall, that was massive for us!

Because you’ve experienced professional music work already by touring with established artists, you also know what it takes to organize an economy and live off music. Do you think it would be possible to do it for you as well?
Sure, you can definitely live off music but you won’t get rich on it. Well, maybe if you’re a major artist but very few reach that level. We make a living by doing sessions with other bands; to live off what you do with your own band will take many years of work and promotion.

As professional session musicians it’s fairly easy to get jobs at the moment. We play quite much with Hurula, The Hanged Man and Sibille Attar to mention a few and that’s more than enough to get around.

As side effects we save everything we earn and don’t use it as salaries or something. Even if we would have a lot of money left we would probably put it into an awesome show just to make things more fun. So yes, we make enough to live off music but I know it’s few who can do that.

We’re not a super well-known band either but many people know who we are as musicians, they know that side effects know their instruments, but you have to have in mind that we haven’t released anything for a while (laughs). We’re more like a company where you can rent musicians, at least until the album came out. Please call us party planners!

But we never had any plan for things, everything just happened because we worked so hard. Ebbot just happened by chance and spontaneity, and that gave us more jobs. But none of us have aimed for being professional musicians, rather the opposite. We studied music in high school and looked with much disrespect on classmates who just had it as their main goal in life, and now we’re in that position ourselves (laughs). The point is that we just play stuff we like, no one has done a job where they didn’t like the music – that wouldn’t probably work out either.

Speaking of touring as session musicians; how do you experience gig opportunities in Sweden? There’s a new generation of bands coming out of Sweden and I guess it’s quite competitive at the moment.
Stockholm is completely dry on good venues. You can play Debaser Strand, an 850-person venue, but there’s hardly anything for smaller bands, like 200-venues. They’re all gone. Our six latest gigs in Stockholm have been at the same venue, it’s not fun for anyone in the end; it’s difficult to get people to come out for another show at the same venue. Nobody is surprised when side effects play at Debaser Strand. But we don’t want to play too much either; we’ve just played once every six months in Stockholm.

About the competition; there’s not that many rock bands at the moment. It’s more that an artist have a backing band or a dude with just a computer. Not that it’s something wrong with it, but we don’t compete with that, they’ll beat us every time (laughs).

How does it work out in other Swedish cities, like Malmö and Gothenburg?
Both cities have better scenes but they also have problems with increasingly fewer small-sized venues. Just look at Plan B in Malmö which lost their license to sell alcohol and ended up in trouble. People were protesting and signed lists but nothing will change the bureaucracy.

And your upcoming tour?
It’s not completely planned yet but in the works as we speak. But there’s also a great opportunity opening up for us when we do sessions at festivals with other bands and just happen to be at the same location and can do a side effects gig, it’s a good selling point (laughs).

It’s also quite different playing abroad, people are different. It’s hard to get Swedes to come out for a show. If they do it, it’s when bands they already listened to for years play but here in Germany everyone comes for the support act as well. I [Elias] realized that when I played at this venue with The Hanged Man for about a year ago when we supported Shout Out Louds; people really came out to see to support band.

Start working on the third album in 2019

If you consider that you just released a brand new album, going around on your first European tour at the moment and then continue in Sweden; will this be the breakthrough year for you as a band?
We talked about it earlier today and said that 2019 is all about getting started on our third album as soon as possible. It would be really great to have it ready for release at this point in time already next year. We have quite many songs and it shouldn’t be that difficult to manage that.

If you allow yourself to look forward a bit; you’re about twenty-five today and the expertize say that you have your peak around your early thirties but where will side effects be at that point, in about five years?
That’s interesting and I [Elias] talked to a friend about it, that kind of person who always plan the future, but we’re not that kind of people and just try to go with the flow (laughs).

At this speed we won’t be anything (laughs), but if we can keep the spirit alive from the release of this album, maybe it will look different. But in five years you say? The dream scenario would of course be to live off what we do creatively and economically and I really believe we have the potential for doing it.

At this point we just enjoy being out on our biggest tour so far and our goal is to do more of this in the future because we love to play live, that’s where we feel at home.

Photographer: ©Julia Schwendner
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About The Author

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.