Last year, Swedish post-rock band EF celebrated its 10-year anniversary, an event that was punctuated with the release of its fourth full-length, “Ceremonies,” quite possibly the quintet’s best work to date. But though the final eight songs reveal a polished, melodic, and somewhat haunting exploration of sound, the process of creating was admittedly not as smooth as the end result.
“It was really hard for us to write this album,” shared member Daniel Öhman, while sitting backstage in Berlin on the tail end of the album tour last fall. “[It] took us a long time.”
A large part of why “Ceremonies” took so long, he explained, is because EF was transitioning from a three-piece to a five-piece, after the addition of members Erik Gustafsson and Emanuel Olsson a few years ago, adding to the already established core of Öhman, Thomas Torsson, and Niklas Åström. And part of that transition included learning to work together after having a set way of doing things for so long.
For example, on 2010’s “Mourning Golden Morning,” the band’s process was to write down a list of what it wanted to accomplish on the recording, then make certain to incorporate those things into the sound. But the approach to songwriting naturally evolved and the formula changed when two more people were added to the mix.
“By bringing new blood into this tiny, tiny constellation, it’s of course hard, because we already had our way of writing music,” Öhman shared. “We have, like, a special language that we use when we write, like in terms of talking about colors and landscapes.”
So the challenge that lay in front of them was to find a way to meld their styles, languages, and personalities together in order to make music that was representative of them all.
Complicating matters further was the issue of distance, as Öhman was living in Amsterdam, while Gustafsson was in Barcelona. Åström and Olsson lived in Gothenburg, but Torsson lives a couple hours away, in the woods. As a result, much of the music was shared across the Internet, with the members then meeting up in person every once in awhile to flesh it out. In the meantime, Olsson noted, the group’s “Delusions of Grandeur” EP came out in 2012, which is when the band had initially hoped to release “Ceremonies.”
But in spite of the challenges along the way, all’s well that ends well, and “Ceremonies” went on to be named Album of the Year and Vocal Performance of the Year on Postrockstar, something that can, in part, be explained away by EF’s Swedish roots.
“The Nordic feeling influences all of our music,” Olsson said, noting how the darkness and the long winters are evident in the sound. “[It’s in] the way we write melodies–the sad way, but always with a tiny bit of hope.”
Öhman agreed, sharing that environment has an affect on the resulting sound.
“I don’t think we would write this kind of music if would live in Cuba or LA or something,” he hypothesized. “Maybe skate punk.”
Now that 2014 has come around, the group is enjoying some well-deserved rest, after a long and extensive tour that took the five to Southeast Asia and throughout Europe, touring nearly straight through for two months. As is standard with life on the road, the band experienced plenty of highs, in the form of appreciative fans and sold-out shows, as well as a handful of lows, such as getting sick and being exhausted in general.
They also met some new people, including Jennifer von Känel, who did lights at one of the shows they played in Switzerland.
“We were so blown away by her artistic creativity,” said Öhman.
As a result, they took her on the road for two of their shows in Germany, part of an effort to “take [the performance] to the next level.”
And whereas some post-rock bands project images behind them during their sets, the guys in EF want to keep the focus on them and their music, and have found that an elaborate and dramatic light show is a good way to do just that.
Reflecting back on the time on the road, the guys in EF shared their sense of accomplishment from traveling, performing, and making new memories. Even so, the transition from spending all the time with four other people to being back at home can sometimes be jarring.
“I think the first thing is that you feel super fucking lonely,” Torsson said, referencing the return to “normal life.”
“Yeah,” agreed Öhman. “Post-tour depression really exists.”
As for what’s next for EF, members will focus on their own lives–with interests ranging from composition (Öhman) to furniture making (Torsson)–for a bit before hopefully setting to work on another album. There is also a short tour planned for the not-so-distant future, with dates in Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, where the band will find a way to continue doing what it does, while still growing and evolving.
“You want to develop as a band and not disappoint the old listeners, but you want to attract new listeners,” Öhman said. “Try to be true to yourself and not do things that you wouldn’t normally do.”