Psychedelic Haze from Malmö: A Conversation with Henrys Sun
There seems to be a growing scene swirling in the city of Malmö, Sweden. The Beremy Jets, Orange Crate Art, and Echo Ladies have been our radar in recent years and now Henrys Sun has brought a psychedelic touch to the shoegazy, hazy scene of that Swedish city. The debut EP for Henrys Sun entitled Foggy Days recently came out on Shore Dive Records and it is a collection of psychedelia that pushes the listener into dream states only that kind of music can do. I had a chance to ask Henry some questions about his project, the possibilities around a full live band, how he goes about writing music and shaping his sound, and much more.
Hello Henry! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi there Jason! Well, I’m a guy living in Malmö in Sweden. Lost and found, a bit confused still sharp and constantly in the search for something. What that something is I don’t know, and maybe I will never find out. What I know for sure is that music is and will always be a huge part of my life.
I started my music career by playing air piano to The Riddle by Nik Kershaw as three years old. Since then I’ve been trying a lots of different instruments, playing in orchestras, bands and what not. Most of the time however I’ve spent making music on my own in my bedroom. I’ve recorded dozens of songs throughout the years but for some reason, I’ve not released something of my own stuff before. Unfortunately most of my recorded songs were lost forever five years ago because someone stole my computer. That made me stop making music for some time, but I got over it and went back to making music again.
I came in contact with psychedelic music early in my life due to lots of 60s bands that were in constant rotation in my home. I loved how these melodies and sounds had the ability to make my mind wander off to magical places, where I could loose myself in space and time.
Later on I found shoegaze and dream pop, actually just when the shoegaze era was over, and brit pop was the new shit. Britpop was not my thing really so instead I dove into the treasure of all these amazing bands like Slowdive, Ride, Loop, My Bloody Valentine and so on. These neo-psychedelic dreamy tunes had (and still have) the same effect on me as those bands from my childhood, letting me dream away on colorful hazy clouds. It’s this state of mind I want my listeners to be able to visit with my music.
How long have you been performing as Henrys Sun? Give us a history of the project.
I started the project in early 2017, but it got serious first during 2018 while I was on sick leave due to a mental burnout and depression caused by too much work. Making music became my savior with it’s healing abilities and helped a lot with the recovery. It was during this time I made most of the songs on Foggy Days, and that’s also the reason I named it that way.
The first song I finished was “Deltat”. I actually made as a pure ambient track some years earlier a late night in our family cabin located deep in the woods.
After that I created a Facebook profile as Henrys Sun, started networking with other musicians and posted the song. I got quite a lot of positive feedback that gave me the confidence to get going with my song writing. All of the sudden I found myself being in an incredible song writing mode which was an amazing feeling.
One day Fredrik Eckhoff from the amazing psychpop band Halasan Bazar asked me if I wanted to play a set in Copenhagen at an art exhibition (Joakim Drescher, check him out!). At that time I had barely finished my songs and the gig was two weeks later. However I didn’t want to miss this opportunity so I asked some musicians I know in Malmö if they wanted to join and they were in. We practiced intensely and played the first Henrys Sun gig ever. Obviously not my best gig technically, but it was hell of a lot of fun and it paved the way for more gigs later on.
Can you talk a bit about your writing process and how you go about approaching the construction of a song?
For me the music has always been more important than the lyrics, and the melodies always comes first in my song writing process.
I love working with details, applying and tweaking lots of effects. I usually add subtle sounds in the background that can hardly be heard, and I get surprised every time someone writes to me asking how I made that certain sound. To be honest, some things can really only be heard while being in a certain state of mind.
As you may have noticed I have a love for organs, and I’ve found that playing around with my organs has turned out to be the best way for me to come up with melodies. After I’ve made a melody I record a draft on my computer. Then I usually start experimenting with vocal harmonies and add guitars. As mentioned earlier I find true satisfaction in vocal harmonies. It’s an amazing feeling when you really hit that sweet spot when the vocal layers blend perfectly together.
Then I usually wait a couple of days before listening to the song again and if I still like it I get on crafting the song. I rearrange stuff, adding synths and or more guitars, effects, and lastly finish the lyrics and re-record the vocals before the last step which consists of hours and hours of mixing and tweaking effects.
Most often I make the lyrics from words that I automatically sing while experimenting with the melodies. However, I’ve noticed that they often tend to reflect what I feel at the moment and what’s going on in my life, so from there I have a foundation to work with which in the end actually means something to me. Hope that makes sense…
You just came out with Foggy Days on Shore Dive Records. How did your release come about and what made you decide to go with Shore Dive?
Well, as mentioned I posted the song “Deltat” on Facebook and not long after that Nico who runs Shore Dive Records contacted me asking if I was interested in releasing something on his label. By that time there were not yet so many releases on the label, but I liked what I heard. The profile of the label seemed to fit me well, and I saw there was potential in the label.
I decided to give it a shot, which I don’t regret a second. Nico is great to work with and he works hard networking and reaching out with the music. Most important he gives you the freedom to do whatever you want with your music without interfering, which is important for me.
Can you talk about writing and recording the tracks for Foggy Days and why you chose this selection of tracks for this particular release?
A couple of the tracks on the EP were made from earlier ideas but most where created during 2018, and as mentioned earlier I got into a really nice song writing flow during this period of time on which wave I surfed.
I actually came up with quite a lot of song ideas, however I chose these specific tunes because it felt like they belonged to each other in some way. Even though many of them are quite different style-wise, there is something that binds them together. Also they represent this period of time in my life where I altered between hope and despair, so I guess the record make up a little story in a way.
Regarding the recordings, most of them where made in my bedroom, but drums and bass was added later in a studio where we also remixed the songs a bit and the masters were made.
I like to ask about a few tracks on an artist’s most recent release to get some more specifics about process, etc. Can you talk more about writing and recording “Salty” and “Rain”?
“Rain” was a song that came from an idea that I had wanted to record for quite some time. The melody came to me while I was having a pause from recording another song, and I made a quick draft before going back to the previous recording. 2018 I took it up again, because it happened to fit my current life situation well and I felt that the time was right.
“Salty” on the other hand was made out of an improvised riff made while jamming with some friends. I was in a good mood at the time and liked how it kinda made me feel electric. It was actually an easy song to make due to that fact and also gave me the opportunity to go wild on the guitar, which I love to do from time to time. However as usual the details and tweaking took quite some time, but that’s just the way it is. I’m sort of a perfectionist, which is both a blessing and a curse.
For the gearheads who read the blog, what sort of gear do you use? Is it different in the studio than it is in a live venue?
In my recordings on Foggy Days, I actually mostly used software effects, especially reverbs (tons!). Not only because of the ability to lay in bed without cables and pedals everywhere, but mostly because no physical gear I’ve tried so far has been able to beat the endless possibilities of what software reverbs can offer. It’s actually a blast to lay in bed with headphones and modifying and tweaking to perfection (well, nothing ever gets perfect but still).
When playing live I use Neubauer wet (for these spacious ambient reverbs), TC Hall of Fame, TC Flashback x4, some crappy cheap delay I cannot even remember the name of (for making things weird), Proco Rat 2, EHX Stereo Pulsar and Eventide Pitchfactor. I’ve recently started using Eventide Modfactor as well due to it’s endless possibilities and ability to create crazy sounds. However, if I had the money I would buy so much gear man. Empress Reverb, Strymon Flint, Strymon Big Sky (can go on forever).
My next buy however will be Boss VB-2W to be able to play this wavy, watery sound live.
I’m a big fan of a number of Malmö bands. How connected are you with the scene and how do you see the city as an influence on your sound?
Well, funny enough I haven’t yet had one single gig here in Malmö as Henrys Sun, simply because I haven’t yet asked any venues if I can play.
But that’s gonna change now when I have a full band of talented and dedicated musicians. Other than that I would consider me to be quite well connected to the scene here in town.
Recently I had a beer with Toby from Orange Crate Art (I think you know that band, right?) and we talked about having gigs together both here in Malmö but hopefully also in other European countries as well the coming summer.
Do you have any artists that you see as an influence on your music? It can be visual, music, or literary artists.
Well ever since I first heard Touch the stars by Spectrum on a non labeled cassette found on a floor at some party I totally fell in love with Pete Kembers sound, which in turn lead me into the realm of Spacemen 3, Spectrum and Spiritualized. And I would lie if I’d say that these bands don’t play quite a big role in my music. I actually made a cover of I Know They Say by Pete Kember some years ago and sent it to him. He replied that he really loved my version and got inspired and was actually thinking about using some of my ideas in his live performances. Wow, that was really something.
Anyway, I’m also a huge fan of The Beach Boys and especially Brian Wilson and his unique ability of making fantastic symphonic arrangements. And The Beach Boys fantastic vocal harmonies has definitely inspired me when it comes to my own vocals arrangements.
Colin Blunstone, Syd Barrett, John Lennon and Neil Halstead for sure. The recent years I’ve also listened quite a lot to Cory Hansons (Wand) solo stuff as well as Ty Segall, not to mention Brian Jonestown Massacre and I’m pretty sure they all has colored my music in one way or another.
However, one of my greatest inspiration is the nature. I enjoy walking for hours in the forest listening to the silence and feeling the vibrating energy from the earth. If you just stop and listen there are ambient songs to be heard everywhere. I’m also a huge fan of Scandinavian folklore. John Bauer and Theodor Kittelsen is definitely two of my favourite visual artists. And Terry Gilliams for sure, just because… well you know, the randomness and awesomeness.
What’s next for Henrys Sun?
After a couple of gigs in Copenhagen 2018 I decided to make a full band out of the project to be able to play the songs live in their full suite.
On a psychedelic event at a pub I found Pär, a really talented musician, who’s also a scientist with the mission to find a cure for Parkinson with the use of psychedelics. He’s now on keys and organ in Henry’s Sun. Then I asked these super talented friends of mine Joakim and Mikael who plays drums and bass on my record to join and they were in. And later I found this awesome shoegaze lady Mayasa, and the puzzle was complete.
We’re now practicing constantly and will soon be ready to hit the streets. Our plan is of course to find as many gigs as possible, not only in Malmö but throughout Europe the coming summer as mentioned earlier.
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