It could be one of those tragic stories on a band being dragged down a spiral of drugs, mental illness and prostitution, but after a revelation at the top of a mountain in Spain, they sold their crackhouse, put the band on hold for an extended period of rehab and returned on the other side being rejuvenated and having a second album ready for release in September.
This is the story about Tomma Intet. Or at least it’s the story they want us to believe because the seven-piece strong entourage we meet at Pustervik a summer day in July is nothing but the type of dudes and dudettes that at worst will have a few beers too much and spend the whole night at local karaoke bar Västerhus.
Out of the ashes of The High Hats an empty space in the four-dimensional space-time continuum opened up and Tomma Intet came into being out of nothingness. 2018 they released their debut album “…And the Fallen Universe”, a mix of punk, post-punk and shoegaze coated in a thin indie rock fabric, and the band quickly gained attention for performing their hearts out wherever they played.
Fast forward two years and two singles later the band is about to release their second album, and we caught up with all seven band members at Pustervik and chat about the band’s mysterious past, getting seven people together for band practise and gigs, and their upcoming album “D.A.B.D.A.”.
“Seven is sort of too many”
Your made-up background about the band starting while you were looking out in the vast emptiness of the Spanish landscape from a mountain top isn’t trustworthy at all. Does anyone believe in it?
Just admit you believe in it (laughs)!
It’s true to some part. Mange got a vision about Tomma Intet when he hanged out at home and was a bit sentimental, thinking about when he played with The High Hats in Spain and stayed in a lodge up in the mountains. [Editor’s note: It was supposed to be a detailed explanation here on how it really happened that Tomma Intet started, but for legal reasons it’s not suitable in print. The mystery continues].
We had some really bad band names before Tomma Intet turned up, but luckily we’ve forgotten about those today (laughs).
Tomma Intet are a bit of a mystery, an entity with no identity, and it seems like there’s a different set of band members from time to time. Does it matter who plays in the band?
Not really. The only thing we know is that Mange is always in the band because he doesn’t have a life (laughs).
The point is that we were so fucking tired of the type of people who always tell you what to do and how to do it, people who act like tyrants. Even if some of us have been in the band from the start it doesn’t put you in the top of some sort of a band hierarchy. Everyone can come up with ideas and write songs, it’s just great for the band.
We’re a collective of people, not individuals but a unit, and you can’t claim you’re greater than the band. It’s all fine for us if someone can’t join for band practise or play a show in Stockholm because we have normal lives as well, some has families, and then you should feel that it’s ok to say no. It’s not always possible to take on a sudden one-off show in Stockholm for all seven of us, but it’s possible to play with just four or five as well. Everyone returns to the band the next band practise or gig anyway.
But how do you get it to work out with seven-piece and drag everyone out for a tour?
When you say it like that we just have to admit it’s stupid (laughs), seven is sort of too many.
But as we said, we can do shows with fewer on stage as well. It’s not necessary to have four guitarists at every show, it’s possible to play with just one. A drummer is always necessary though and, again, Mange is always there although we nor he knows why (laughs).
“D.A.B.D.A” and an EP coming up
A second album is a tough proposition for any band. Debut albums normally have a couple of years of development under their belts, with plenty of trial and error from live performances to help the band determine what works and what doesn’t.
However, for Tomma Intet the biggest problem wasn’t to record a second album, it was to get people together to write and record the first album. When band members were spread out across Sweden, the only way to record the album was to meet during weekends – and that just extended the overall recording process. But as living conditions have changed and most of the band members live in Gothenburg today, the band can meet up regularly in the band cave to try out new ideas.
You recorded the debut album at different locations in Sweden because you lived in different cities at the time. Do you find the recording process for the second album more organized when most of you live in Gothenburg today?
Most definitely. Today we have our band cave where we hang out, at least try to hang out, on Wednesdays for band practise, but we’re all going to move in there in the future (laughs).
When you consider time and efficiency it’s much better today, everything is so much easier. Our debut album was to the major part recorded in Borås [city 50km east of Gothenburg]. Tobbe lived in Stockholm at the time and tried to come as often as possible, Gittan and Jacob joined in at most weekends, and we tried to record as much as possible at weekends because there was really no other option. But it was a very slow process when everyone lived quite far apart. Today we’re trying out new ideas in minutes, and that has speeded up everything quite much.
All songs, save for one, were written in English on your debut, one was in Swedish. One of your 2020 singles is also in Swedish while the rest is in English. How’s the discussion in the band on mixing languages, especially if you want to play Europe more?
But isn’t it super fun? (laughs) We’re having more songs in Swedish coming up! But why? It just happened like that.
It’s two different things writing music in Swedish and English, in Swedish you can be clear about things and more honest. Someone had the stupid idea to write a whole record in Swedish (laughs), we didn’t do it, but when you think about it it’s really not a bad idea. Well maybe if you consider promoting the album abroad; there may be a tiny problem and it may seem stupid, but on the Swedish market it’s perfect. But does it matter, really? The black metal scene always mixes English and Norwegian but no one cares! On the other, there’s no fucking way you can hear what they sing anyway (laughs).
After we’ve released the album in September we have a full EP ready to record that will be released before the end of the year. There’s a Swedish song on the EP as well, but it would be great if the EP after that would be in English, just to have for promotion before we go on tour in Europe. But it would be great to write a whole EP in Swedish later.
It’s also a bit exotic to have a few songs in Swedish on the record, it works great for other Swedish bands. Dungen [psychedelic rock/prog rock band from Stockholm] write most of their music in Swedish and it works out great for them in America. It doesn’t always need to be a promotional suicide to write in Swedish, were an exotic country (laughs).
What is different on the second album from your debut?
It’s about the Swedish melancholy and starts off in the Kübler-Ross-model which is a series of five emotions, meaning the record is a bit melancholic. We’re trying to describe the Swedish melancholy. But Swedes are not sad people, we’re just trying to catch what it is. The Finns on the other hand, they have a rough life (laughs).
The singles sound more poppy, but maybe it’s because songs written in Swedish tend to become more pop oriented. Or have you left your punk background and become a pop band?
There’s a song on the record called “Krossad till döds” [“Crushed to Death”] which is kind of noisy. That’s the punks in us unfolding in one song. The EP we’ll release later is coloured in synth sounds and piano layers, and maybe it sounds more like pop.
Most of us have a background in punk and noisy music which is loads of fun to do, and for that reason it’s great to try out pop. Who doesn’t like pop music? (laughs)
Today, when we have new band members, we can work more with the dynamic of our sound and the harmonies in the music. On the first record it was just a wall of noise, and although we still think “Ok, let’s bring out the noise” we don’t need to have all four guitarists playing at the same time. That’s different. Maybe we have matured a bit, or maybe we have been drinking too many beers now and just think we have matured (laughs).
But have you ever considered that there’s a risk that the sound becomes too diverse on the record when you have seven potential songwriters and seven different opinions on what songs should be on a record or EP?
Maybe there’s a tiny risk. But we rather see it as our strength because we get quite many songs to use, and then we can pick songs that fit together on the album or on the next EP. That’s why it’s better that everyone just throws their ideas into the same pot and we can work on it together. The songs that won’t end up on an album will fit on an EP or maybe the next album. Like the EP we’re releasing later this year; it contains songs that were supposed to be on the album but they didn’t really fit with the overall album story, but they work great together on an EP.
When you listen to our debut album today you realize that we have a few songs on it that didn’t really work out that well if you ask us today. But that was then and it was the songs we had at the time. It’s important to feel free in your own creativity and not feel that you need to write music that fits some sort of Tomma Intet template. If someone writes an electronic song, it’s all fine. We’re not that sort of punks that would say “We don’t play any fucking pop music”, and throw pop songs in the trash (laughs).
Black Lips were one of those bands that released a quite diverse debut album where they mixed everything from country to noise, but it doesn’t matter, people like it anyway. It’s all fine as long as there is a theme. If a song has too much attitude and sticks out, just put it on an EP or release it as a single, but never throw it away.
But you won’t get stuck in concept albums or concept EP’s, like “let’s do a pop EP “ or “this is the Swedish album”?
No, that would be horrible! Just imagine how fucking boring it would be to think “Let’s do 35 minutes of pop music on this one”, that’s not what we’re about. We love our different musical backgrounds and influences and want all of that to unfold within the framework of Tomma Intet. If someone wants to record a guitar solo while being drunk in the middle of the night after a wedding party, it’s fine (laughs). That’s what Tomma Intet is about.
Photographer: Richard Bloom.
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