There are no secrets behind the closed doors of the rock star lifestyle. Notoriously fueled by sex, drugs, and rock and roll, we’ve seen many iconic bands and musicians fall victim to their vices and ultimately lead to their death or the demise of their bands. There are also bands whose ego simply got the best of them and they slowly fade away and are forgotten.
But that’s not the story of the Gothenburg hardcore-inspired band We Live In Trenches and their six year long hiatus starting in 2014: they simply became victims of family life.
After the release of their latest album Life Crisis in 2014, band members left for other projects and WLIT lost their momentum and seemed to have dozed off for good leaving their guitars on the wall. However, to our surprise a four-track EP turned up in our postbox in October last year signed WLIT thus announcing their return to the scene.
We met up with band members Robert, Ulf, Johan and Håkan at Fyrens Ölkafé a few weeks ago to find out what they’ve been up to the last six years, and one thing is for sure: they’re back to stay.
Returning from a six year long hiatus
It was quite a surprise to see you return with a new EP last year after a six year long hiatus. Was it a longer break than you expected?
Just like any band being away too long would say: it wasn’t a break, it just happened to take a while to release something again (laugh). Maybe we took it a bit too cool after Life Crisis. Johan left the band just like our drummer and we didn’t bring anyone in to replace them for a while. Robert also did a farewell tour with one of his other bands and put down lots of time on that. All of us had other projects and we didn’t have as much time as we wanted with WLIT.
You know, you lose momentum and direction when band members leave, and it ended up in that we all lost motivation.
Although we officially never had a break it felt like a comeback when the four of us restarted the band, like an upgrade but without a face-lift (laugh).
Quite many bands that started at the same time as you had a similar trajectory: releasing a few albums, leave the scene for a while but not officially on a hiatus and then returned six or seven years later. Your label’s frontman Per returned with Division of Laura Lee last year as well as your friends in Cut City.
Life happens and you realize you’ve reached an age when it’s natural to start families while trying to find money for your very expensive hobby which you don’t have time to spend time on anyway. It’s that period of life when it’s hard to find enough time for band rehearsals and you certainly won’t have much time to play gigs. It’s easy to just leave it there and stop doing what you love to do.
And when we finally were back, released a new EP and have planned for a few shows a pandemic turns up and kills off the live scene. Just when everything works out in the band and it’s fun to play music again, and after doing a great comeback show, pandemic darkness arrives (laugh). But we had to cancel shows as well because Håkan [the drummer] got sick and had to stay at home for two weeks.
Returning to the scene is easy if you have a goal, and a good start is to record new music because you’ll have something you can release and play live. It’s a lot easier to keep a band running if you do it like that – or at least harder to take a break (laugh).
But do you get more motivated when you see bands that started at the same time as you return to the scene? Just like “If they can do it, so shall we”.
The creative process is what makes music fun, it’s still something that we put lots of value on. We’ve always been that kind of band that rehearse a lot, and already from the start we’ve had a strict schedule of meeting up twice a week, and it almost came to a point when you needed to have a very good reason for not showing up (laugh). When I [Johan] joined the band it was new for me to have scheduled rehearsals that everyone followed. I was used to be in bands where you said “Let’s plan for rehearsal days and stick to it” and a month later you would say “Ok, let’s plan for rehearsal days and stick to it” (laugh) – and it just continued like that. In WLIT it’s the opposite. You almost get stressed now (laugh).
There’s no better way or method to get rid of anxieties you bring with you from work than coming out for rehearsals and play loud music, that’s therapy. That’s why you continue doing this 20 years later, just to leave the real world for a few hours. Time stands still, everything around you seems to stop and that’s just an awesome feeling. To get up on stage and show what you have done in that dark room the last months is just an awesome feeling, a reward for all the hard work you’ve put down. But as soon as the gig is over you always get this feeling “What happens now?”.
Refuse to get pigeonholed
WLIT continue on their punk hardcore trajectory on their latest EP Dead Class but at a slower speed than on previous releases, just to find a new and interesting path in a scene too tied up in a formula. But there may not be a third album; EP’s seem to fit the new and rejuvenated WLIT better rather than putting down time, effort and too much money in a new album.
And they promise one thing: they will be back on stage as soon as it’s possible again.
I read somewhere that you describe your music as something in between Sonic Youth, The Fall and Discharge. To me it sounds like Sonic Youth trying to do hardcore.
It’s not far from it, we do have a bit of Sonic Youth in the background. We all grew up with punk and hardcore although we secretly listened to lots of heavy rock music back in the 80s (laugh), at least those of us growing up in the 80s; Johan is younger.
There’s still some sort of hardcore essence in our music but how it turns out in the end, how we express it on record or on stage, is hard to tell. We’ve always liked to explore something new to combine with that core of punk music, something noisier and more ear-splitting than hardcore because hardcore could be too formula-based at times. Our music has become noisier over time but also a lot slower. It’s fun to do gigs with other punk and hardcore bands and be the slowest and ugliest band on stage (laugh).
Album titles and lyrics give you a hint of bitterness and men going through a life crisis. Is it a representation of your own reality?
You should interpret it as a reaction to hardcore values, especially a reaction to this whole youth crew thinking and always staying young and not growing up. In that sense it’s an interpretation of what we see in the scene and in our daily lives rather than trying to stick to the ‘rules’ that define the scene. But it’s also fun to be that annoying band that doesn’t follow the rules although it’s not a purpose, but there’s always someone not liking bands doing something different.
For those who don’t know us it may appear that we’re kind of rough people, just by listening to our music, but spend a few hours with us at rehearsals and you’ll see we’re just a bunch of fun people.
The Dead Class EP showcased four songs of We Live In Trenches 2.0 and I guess you have six years of unreleased music left to release and may have a new album on the way as well?
We have lots of songs but don’t know how we will release them, but we’ve discussed whether we should continue releasing EP’s and continue losing money on every new record or release an album and lose even more money (laugh). Everything we release is lost money. It’s a very expensive hobby (laugh).
People like us grew up with the album format and of course it would be interesting to release a third album instead of EP’s, but with EP’s we can release music more often. It’s a huge effort to write an album, and writing an album where all songs are good enough. Many albums tend to feel like an EP plus a few fillers but with EP’s you can put more energy into making four really great songs. At least it felt like that with Dead Class and that’s why we’ve discussed how to release music in the future. It also gives us an opportunity to make thematic EP’s, like “This is the punk EP and that’s the goth EP” (laugh).
For us it’s also about releasing something quite soon again with this setup, it just felt great to do Dead Class together, and in that sense an EP would fit better.
Despite the pandemic still plaguing the music scene your hope is to play gigs later this year again?
Yeah, that would be awesome! The problem is that everything has been postponed and bands release new records and try to book tours in some sort of hope that it will be possible to play live soon again, and it means that there’s really no slot left at all to book. Feffe in Bombus [Swedish heavy metal band] pointed out that when Bombus were having their breakthrough, every band that had ever existed did comeback tours and the scene was flooded. It was hard to get booked for shows.
Today we’re in sort of a new wave of comebacks and together with all postponed shows [because of the pandemic] it’s going to be tough to get booked when it’s back to normal, it will be gig mayhem. Bands that release albums now will probably have lots of problems finding venues to book – or they have to put up their own shows. Hopefully people will go crazy when it’s back to normal and want to come out for shows four times a week which may start a new and vibrant underground scene. Or there won’t be any clubs left because they all went out of business (laugh).
Our label Welfare will also push for our EP once more, we didn’t really release it in the best of times last year. It’s probably the first time ever for us to release the same record twice, but hopefully it makes us visible again.
And if you get the chance to play in Europe you’ll go out for a tour?
For sure! We have other bands and projects that take some time as well but they have to stand in line (laugh). We Live In Trenches are back for good and won’t stop in a long time and we don’t need to rush out on a tour either.
We’ve actually played Hafenklang in Hamburg once although it wasn’t our best experience. A friend of ours put together a mini-tour in Europe but promoted us as something similar to one of Robert’s old bands and WLIT don’t sound even a bit like that band. Let’s say that the audience didn’t really understand what we were doing on stage (laugh). After a show in Utrecht this guy approached and said “My friend just left but I promised him to tell you that it was the best show he ever has seen, but for me it was just horrible” (laugh). That’s We Live In Trenches, either you love us or hate us.
Photographer: Björn Vallin
We Live In Trenches pages