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“We are not short on songs, and that’s a good sign, I think”

Interview with Niklas Karlsson, vocalist-guitarist of Orbit Culture

2021. október 08. - moravsky_vrabec

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Orbit Culture of Sweden just released their latest material, Shaman EP recently, and we had the opportunity to have a good conversation with band chief, Niklas. Besides the new mini album, he talked about how new songs are born, how a young band can survive nowadays with such rough music, and also answered some personal questions.

I read somewhere that you created the name Orbit Culture with some online band-name generator. How was it exactly? Does the name still have some hidden meaning?
Haha, yeah, it’s very true that with the original line-up, we could not settle on a name for 6 months or something and just grew tired of it. We knew we wanted to have the word Orbit in it somehow and just found this band-name generator and put it in there and out came Orbit Culture. But to be completely honest there is absolutely no meaning or anything behind it. I’m sorry, haha.

If someone would describe your music, they’d refer Metallica, Fear Factory or Gojira. Are you happy with that or would probably mention some other ingredients?
I’m very happy about it actually. I am obviously very honest about the Metallica-side of things. Of course we tried to stray away a bit from it, I guess unconsciously, but at the same time it’s my favourite band and you know, I love everything, well, almost everything they do. But when it comes to Fear Factory, I haven’t listened that much. When I finally checked out their whole discography, I can see why people seemed to think that they have been one of the inspirations.

You, being the main songwriter in the band, how should we envision that process?
Actually what happens is, I write everything in this room and I basically write it here, produce it and mix it, you know, everything from scratch. Of course Christopher does his stuff with the drums, but we have never actually used real drums. Especially in the beginning we couldn’t really afford going into a studio, and got so used to mixing e-drums. And it’s such a part of the sound now and there is efficiency of using that sort of stuff. I guess the old generation is kindof bumped out about that but at the same time who gives a shit? It’s just the way we do things. So everything happens here in this room from start to finish basically.

It’s also true for the recording of an album, or only for the songwriting?
For the recording, too, the whole process. I think the production side of this band has so much to do with how do we deliver the songs. With a normal rock mix or whatever you would call it, it would just fall flat I think.

Your music and videos usually generate positive reactions and comments, which is definitely motivating, but does it put some pressure on you?
Yeah, I would be lying if I didn’t say it puts pressure. Especially when you start writing stuff, you think about that. But when you get more and more into your own bubble, you write for yourself in the end, and I think, it’s the healthy way. Because if you overthink stuff, usually the fans or reviewers would notice it pretty quickly that it’s just manufactured in some way.

As you are doing the production yourself can you rely on some external ears before finishing the recording?
It always comes down to just being so sick of it, and just pressing the final-export button and then just not giving a shit anymore. It’s a very draining-ass process, but I love mixing as much as I do playing music. But when it comes to showing people, of course the band members hear it, and my girlfriend who is not into metal at all, her ear helps, too. It’s more in my skull for a couple of months, getting all red-eye for not sleeping and shit.

So if you hear on the recording what is in your head than you push the I-don’t-give-a-shit button.
Yeah. Haha.

It’s also a new tendency that a lot of promotion work happens online and many of these tasks are done by the bands. Do you have some management company or you are DIY in this sense?
Yeah, we are pretty much 99% (DIY). Through our label we hire a PR company to get this sort of stuff, but when it comes to social media stuff, it is all done by ourselves.

Besides music you also do sound engineering and some graphic work, which comes handy to the band. Do you think that this approach is a must nowadays?
I think, it’s very good if you don’t wanna spend too much cash on that shit. But you know, I like to do that stuff, too. But I think as you said, many bands need to do that unless they have their parents paid for everything, but that’s not the case for us. I like color grading, editing photos in Lightroom and that sort of thing. It is another part of being creative.

Do you think a young band can afford today just to play music?
Oh, I think you have to at least have some knowledge of all the parts of the engine. It’s a funny thing because when we signed, the guys at the label just showed us so many marketing tricks and stuff like that because they had experience, and now we are just based on that in some way. But there is always people who lecture stuff. And my biggest friend has actually been Youtube but there is so much to learn that as a young musician you have to take it all in. And if you are passionate about it, there is no issue.

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With such rough music what level of success would make you satisfied?
Haha. Of course we have our goals and we want to be able to do this without having our daily jobs. But we just basically wanna go out and play. Since we haven’t done it so much, we have been only on one tour this far, and it’s not acceptable. Because people didn’t know about us until 2 or 3 years ago and we have been around for 8. The goal is just to go out and play and hopefully we can make a small sort of living out of it and just continue to record. If I can’t write or do this kind of stuff, I tend to go insane. I have to do this to keep my sanity.

Moving on to the topic of the new EP, the first obvious question is about the format. How did you decide on the 5-song EP format?
It comes back to the pandemic when that started and we felt that the Nija campaign got quite interrupted by the pandemic. We were so ready to go out and play but since we are so used to sit at home and writing already so we just said: let’s do another one, just to gather some more ammunition for the live setting once we get out there. But what I can say that I have it like a session in my DAW,  which is like a sea of songs basically. I call it the album pool and these 5 songs I just took right out of there.

It was in the press release that we can regard Shaman as a taster of your new sound which is closer to the live sound. Well, I didn’t really feel that, it’s still super-complex, super-dense. Sorry for the stupid question, but how did you mean that?
Haha. No, it’s a great question. I think, when it comes to the drums of course, these fucked-up weird patterns and shit is something that has always been in Orbit Culture in some way. But when it comes to the guitar side and vocal side of things, it is much easier to execute these songs. The construction of the songs, the drops and stuff are more live for us, I think. And of course the solos are basically just rock solos, because we can’t do anything else, haha. But you are right about one part, which is the drums. But at the same time Christopher is out there right now at the rehearsal place and he is practising 6 to 8 hours every day. We are not worried.

There is no song called Shaman on the EP, but in the lyrics or Carvings, we can find that motif. Can we say that the songs are connected by a concept?
For me this EP feels really jungle-ish in some way. When I close my eyes I feel there is a lot of green stuff. That’s what I’m hearing. That comes back into the A Sailor’s Tale with pirates, the Kraken and shit like that. But Mast of the World is just a big fuck you to media basically, Flight of the Fireflies takes on some addiction stuff or alcohol consumption. And Strangler takes on the influencer side of social media with stalkers and weird stuff like that. So it’s very mixed.

I feel A Sailor’s Tale is a bit different from the rest. Can you tell a bit more about this song? Do you also feel it different?
Yeah, and that’s what is exciting about that. I feel like if we just do the same stuff all the time, there is no spice to it. And as it started out as an orchestral piece with instrumental stuff first, and I just recorded some guitars onto it, and I couldn’t stop, and as the song progressed. I agree totally with you, that it feels a bit different, it’s a weird song, but we had to put it out, just had a gut feeling about it.

I can imagine it as a sing-along, as well.
Yeah, we hope so.

These 5 songs, will they make it to the next album or it will be completely new songs?
It will be completely new songs, yes.

That’s a lot of stuff you create!
Yeah, but that’s how I like it! Because I tend to write a lot all the time, so we are not short on songs, and that’s a good sign I think.

Do you already have some touring plans or the new LP first?
You know, we are constantly writing, and there will be an album, I think sooner than we think, but I don’t wanna say too much. When it comes to the touring side, both we and our new booking agency are very careful still with the Corona-shit that is going on. We are still working behind the scenes in the Orbit-camp on a new album.

If you could just mention one stage you would be happy to play on, what would it be? Like, next summer.
Oh, next summer… And you have to write about this! We need this fucking Sweden Rock gig! Once in a lifetime we come on Sweden Rock, we need that one, yeah!

You already mentioned that you have your day job outside the band. If I may ask, is it a “civilian” occupation, or connected to music?
Now, I am a caretaker for a man with autism, and it has given me quite a great schedule over the years, because you work like 24 hours shifts, so it has given me a lot of time to do the Orbit stuff without getting completely stressed out about everything. That’s what I do, yeah.

So it’s definitely not a 9 to 5 job.
No, that would be horrendous for me I think. Of course I tried it right after I quit school, but I just felt that I’m gonna get fired in like 2 days, if I keep my 9 to 5 job. Because I’m up all night, especially when it comes to writing songs, and you know the clock is just ticking and boom, it’s 5 am. I could never handle a job like that, but I give so much praise to people who actually do it.

My impression is that you are rather an introvert, sensitive person. Is it true or you are a real party animal?
I think that goes hand in hand. You know I have my fair share of shit which I have to go through, and the lyric parts come from just being down, and sometimes you party to get that shit out of you. I don’t know, but I think, during my worst days, I am an introvert, no questions asked there.

What is now on your current playlist? New bands, old classics?
Okay, one second here. (Niklas actually opened his playlist.) Oh my god, now I have to feel ashamed about this. I’m turning all red now. OK, the last played is Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri, then it’s Highway Tune by Greta Van Fleet and Talking Heads by Northlane.

So it’s quite diverse, we can say.
Yeah, absolutely.

Have you seen some good movies or TV shows recently?
I’ve seen it before of course but I went through Game of Thrones again, just to see if it was as bad as I remembered the ending, and it fucking was. I’m so pissed about that still. Just to make up for that me and my girlfriend went through the Lord of the Rings trilogy just to forget about Game of Thrones. I think that was the latest stuff that I actually watched from start to finish.

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