Interview: Scraps of Tape

Scraps of Tape - Photo courtesy of Scraps of Tape

Scraps of Tape - Photo courtesy of Scraps of Tape

Not unlike its name suggests, the songwriting process for a band like Scraps of Tape is akin to assembling bits and pieces and odds and ends of music to create a landscape of sound.

The five-piece post-rock band hails from Malmö, Sweden, and consists of Fredrik Gillhagen (drums), Jerker Kaj (guitar/synth), Johan Gustavsson (guitar/vocals), Marcus Nilsson (guitar/vocals) and Kenneth Jansson (bass).

Yet not all of the members live close to one another, making band rehearsals few and far between. When they do get together, it’s once a month, if that. But it works for this quintet, and when those collective pieces are brought together, Gustavsson claimed that something almost magical occurs.

“I’ve noticed…me and [Nilsson] can sit in different cities, working on various riffs/melodies without talking to each other, and when we meet in the rehearsal space we can often put those riffs/melodies together pretty seamlessly,” he said. “We’ve learned how to play with/listen to each other so much that it’s sometimes subconscious/automatic writing in a way.”

This is something that came about as a result of working and playing together for more than a decade. But with less time to devote to writing and practicing, it’s a good thing for the five that songwriting is less of a meticulous process.

“Most of the time we jam songs into being,” Gustavsson said. “Someone might have one or two riffs ready when we meet in the rehearsal space, and we build from that. Everyone contributes to the writing process just as much.”

Seeing as Scraps of Tape is more prone to jamming than taking the perfectionist approach, Gustavsson admitted that they don’t agonize over details much, nor do they spend much time even discussing the intended direction of meaning of a song.

“We tend not to talk to much about [songs] while we’re writing them, at least not about what the songs are about,” he said. “We just play and let our guts and hearts lead us where we need to go, and sometimes afterwards we can take a step back and understand ourselves what might have inspired certain parts and feelings.”

Allowing the songs to come about in an intrinsic way also applies to the way they eventually evolve over time.

“We’ve always had a pretty open relationship to our songs,” Gustavsson explained. “If they need to change or develop after we’ve recorded and released them, we let them do that. We kind of encourage it even though it not always happens.”

He added that playing a song live after a certain amount of time makes it sound and feel different. Additionally, the band likes to mix things up now and again, returning to older songs, dusting them off, and refitting them for the road.

“You get to know them again and see what has happened to them since you saw them last,” he said. “As long as a song feels right and good to us we have no problems changing [it] up a bit…removing parts or certain melodies/instruments, [or] changing a quiet song into a monster. All that stuff is things we like about seeing a band live. Who wants to see a band play a bunch of songs the exact way they sound on the albums? Not [us] at least. We want some surprises and challenges, both for us and for the people who come see us.”

Because the group isn’t able to get together as often as the members might like, due to living in separate towns, holding down jobs, and taking care of families, they all have other projects in addition to Scraps of Tape, which vary from electronic duos to indie-pop songs for children to solo projects, and more.

Meanwhile, touring is the real time when the five get to put all the other distractions and obligations aside and focus on the band and nothing else for a short time.

“[It] is a mixed blessing,” Gustavsson said. “You get into [all] kinds of weird and exhausting situations on a regular basis and it can easily wear you out. But there [are] also these amazing moments/evenings when things are just incredible.”

Just like with everything else in life, there are just as many negative aspects as there are positive ones, but keeping the focus on the latter is what keeps the project going. And for Gustavsson, although he can’t speak for all the members, just the fact that he is playing music with four people who he has grown with over the years, makes it worthwhile.

“For me, the best part is the possibility of creating something original together with friends,” Gustavsson said. “Music is a fantastic thing, being a musician is a fantastic thing, and being able to stand in a room with four of your best friends and conjure music out of thin air is something that I personally think of as a holy thing. The most rewarding and magical [moment] playing music is the absolute moment when you are playing it.”

Scraps of Tape plays tonight at Kastanienkeller in Berlin. The show begins at 22.00.

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