CyHra – Friendship & DedicationSunday, 22nd October 2017
Not every band can form, write, record a debut album, and sign with a label all in the same year. But CyHra isn’t any ordinary band. For starters, they’ve got a line-up that veteran metal nerds could have only dreamed up, with ex-members from Amaranthe, In Flames, and Shining (and more) joining forces in the name of melodic metal. One goal of CyHra is that of friendship and having fun as a band. Having members on board and moving in one direction. It seems successful – perhaps that is how they’ve been able complete and now release their debut, Letters to Myself, at the tail end of 2017.
But don’t think for a second that the band is moving too quickly or looking to simply reap the benefits of having been in established bands in the past. Letters to Myself is one of the most emotive albums of 2017, one that comes from a genuine place, and is full of heart. The album’s relatable nature makes for an even stronger selling point than that of the gorgeous choruses and excellent melodic riffing (of which there are plenty). One thing is totally clear when listening to it – every member put their heart & soul into this album.
DR was able to grab a Skype chat with Jake E as well as Jesper Strömblad to dig into what really makes the album tick. One thing that became completely clear was how genuinely excited both members are for this new band of theirs. Their passion and energy radiated from the interview, creating a jovial atmosphere that felt more like an informal conversation than the usual call and response. Chatting with the duo for nearly an hour (this scribe’s luck to be ahead of someone who never called in), we were able to cover a wide variety of topics concerning the ins & outs of CyHra.
Dead Rhetoric: I don’t want to get too far into it, because I’d rather talk about CyHra, but the impression that I got from when you said that you were done with Amaranthe, was that it was more about you not having your heart in it, from the way that the band had changed in the last few albums.
Jake E: I don’t want to go too deep into it either. I don’t want to make any situations with former bandmates. But I started the band together with Olof [Mörck]. We had a vision, but we came to a point where everything got centered around one person. I was always trying to make this band feeling out of everything, and all of a sudden it was a one-man show. As a founder of the band, I could have just told everyone else to go fuck themselves if I wanted to, but that’s not what I wanted to do. But I felt that if I was the one feeling the way I felt, and the rest of the band felt that it was the way that they wanted to do it, I would be an asshole if I told everyone to go my way. So I just said, “Ok, I’ll leave you to it and I’ll go do my own thing instead.” I think that I was actually the nice guy – I did a nice thing by leaving the band.
Dead Rhetoric: As a huge fan of Amaranthe since the first single came out, I do totally see your point. I think that there’s plenty of people that acknowledge that, and it’s nice that you’ve got something new here that is going to catch people’s interest.
Jake E: Yeah, I hope it will at least. I don’t know about it, but I hope it will.
Dead Rhetoric: So Amaranthe had the three singer aspect to it, but what do you feel defines CyHra as a band?
Jake E: It’s all about friendship and dedication towards the same goal. CyHra is something that I’ve never experienced before. Four guys…now we are five with Euge [Valovirta] coming in, but we have a clear goal. We do this for ourselves. We want to be the biggest band in the world if we can of course, but that’s not what drives us. We are five guys that do this because we love to play music and we want to go in the same direction. That was the main feeling that Jesper and I had when we started to take the other guys in. We wanted people around us that think like us and want the same things as us. It means so much – you are getting older and you are putting all the chips on black. It could go south – it could go the wrong way but at least we tried to do the right thing here. And we are having a lot of fun. That’s what means the most to us.
Dead Rhetoric: You bring up something I wanted to talk about – everyone is getting older at this point. Is it tougher when you say that you are going to start a brand new band, invest all this time into it, knowing the amount of work you have moving forward? Even if you do have a group of people who are very well known, at least in the metal circles.
Jake E: Of course, we have an advantage when it comes to people already knowing about the members. There’s sugar in everything, that doesn’t mean that it will taste good. That’s the facts. We have made an extremely good album, from my perspective. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else thinks that, or everyone will even give it a chance to listen to it. But we have an advantage in that there’s more people [interested] than a regular band. We have some sort of fan base to stand on from our personal perspective in the beginning, but we are just like any other band out there. It’s a hard ride. Hopefully this will continue – we’ll continue to do what we have been able to do, but there’s nothing that says it has to be like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Even if you are getting older, there’s still that energy and excitement when you first start something. Did that kind of tap into what you were creating with this first album?
Jake E: The funny thing is, for the first time in my life, or at least the first time in many years, I have been looking forward to every step in the process. You write songs, then you record songs, then you go to the studio to rerecord everything because it’s going to be on the album. Then you have to do a video, and you do all the press. Before, I’ve looked at it like, “Oh fuck!” But now, I love it, and Jesper loves it. All of us – we have been like, “Yes! Soon we are going to record the album! Yes, we are going to record a video!” There’s been all this excitement all the time.
Jesper Strömblad: Yes, except photo sessions. I hate them for some reason. They are so boring. It’s like, “Just take the fucking picture!” [Laughter] Some people take a few hours with it. We had a lucky shot. The first ever photo of the band is actually included on the vinyl.
Jake E: Yes, it’s included with the cd as well. We’ve been working with Patric Ullaeus, and he’s a genius.
Strömblad: But now we have a new member so we have to like, cut them into it.
Dead Rhetoric: Photoshop him…
Jake E: Fold him in – down here [points below]. Or just write that he was missing in the photo, he was sick that day [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of the name – I saw that you were originally going with something else but had to change it to CyHra. How much of an impact does the name of a band truly have?
Strömblad: A lot!
Jake E: Especially the fact that as a new band, it’s so easy to try to find something that is [the same name]. It could be brand of a car in Korea or a medication in China, or whatever. We were lucky enough to find CyHra. We added the H in the middle, and when you searched it on Google, there was nothing to be found, except CyHra.com and our Facebook. So whenever you are searching for CyHra, our band is the first thing that shows up, which is really important nowadays.
Dead Rhetoric: Likewise, as we said, everyone here is pretty well known from playing in established bands. Was it important to make sure that CyHra had its own sound to it from that first step at the start?
Jake E: Absolutely yes.
Strömblad: We want to stand, musically, on our own two feet. We don’t want to live off any old merits. The only common thing is that Jake used to play in Amaranthe, and I used to play in In Flames; we really want to stand on our own. I hope that people, when they listen to us, don’t compare us to the older bands.
Jake E: That’s the thing – if I had ever wanted to make an acoustic album, for example. I would never call it CyHra, or Amaranthe, I would call it something else. It would be completely, something musically different than what my band stands for. You always want to have something unique for a band you are creating. What’s the reason for doing an In Flames 2.0 or an Amaranthe 2.0? That’s stupid.
Strömblad: There was a reason that I quit the band [In Flames], and there was a reason that Jake quit the band [Amaranthe], when it comes to the musical part. But also, the media likes to think that there’s going to be a power struggle between CyHra and In Flames, or CyHra and Amaranthe. It’s inevitable. Being a member of In Flames, to quote Spiderman…it’s a curse, but also a gift. It has helped me a lot to promote myself as a guitar player at this level…the same with Jake, so it’s impossible that people will talk about me and [not] have In Flames in mind.
Jake E: Of course – the new singer for AC/DC [Brian Johnson] has been with the band for 30 years, so he will always be the new singer. That’s the same thing with Jesper. He will always be the guitar player from In Flames.
Dead Rhetoric: The lyrical content is personal to both of you – do you feel that the message of the songs is as important as the music itself?
Jake E: On this album, for me, it’s almost more important lyrically. But the lyrics and melodies could not be there without the music. So I would say that it’s a 50/50 thing. The whole album, the amount of time, and the amount of feelings that we invested in the lyrics goes way beyond. Usually you spend a couple of weeks putting down the lyrics, but we were working on it from day one until we were sitting in the studio in New York. When we were in New York, the pieces just feel into place. The last few pieces of the puzzle got thrown in there. We were throwing things back and forth; every day when we were recording a song, we were still adjusting. Like putting in different words to make the meaning stronger.
Strömblad: The lyrics weren’t complete until we laid down the tracks. They are important, and it’s accompanied to the music having a certain atmosphere. It’s very melancholic sometimes, with happy and big sing-a-long choruses sometimes.
Jake E: Listen to “Closure.” It says it all.
Strömblad: That’s a bad ending for a guy with an addiction. These kind of feelings of sadness makes it really strong and personal for me. I went through that shit. It’s very special. But the whole album is very special to me, because I relate so much to the lyrics.
Jake E: I relate to them as well, but from my own perspective. It’s so cool that we could find a silver lining in it.
Dead Rhetoric: So did you find the album to be a cathartic experience then? Being able to put the demons behind you…
Jake E: Yeah, in one way it is. It’s also a way to bring them up again. Speaking for myself, I have had so many bad things going on in my life. I buried them a long time ago, but they are still there. I brought them up again. It helps to bring them up to the surface. You are getting older, and you are also getting wiser. You can deal with them in another way. You can start sorting them out for real instead of just hiding them under the carpet.
Strömblad: I get older, but I get more and more stupid actually [Laughter].
Dead Rhetoric: What do you hope that listeners get out of the album, in terms of that idea?
Jake E: I want them to listen to it and make the lyric content their own. There’s actually a lot of people, reviewers and journalists, that say that they completely understand and have been going through the same problems. They don’t know if it’s that problem that we are writing about, but they feel like we are writing about their problems. An addiction can be so many things. It could be drugs, it could be sex, it could be gambling. You can be addicted to licking on walls – what do I know. But addiction and anxiety are taboo to talk about. So I think it’s a good way to actually bring it up to the surface. I want people to feel…
Strömblad: Destructive relationships as well…a lot of guys, a lot of men get abused in relationships. But we are so macho. We can’t talk about it. There’s such shame I think. You get owned by a girl. But it happens more than people think.
Dead Rhetoric: Personally, I could see some of those things when I was listening to it. A few of the songs really hit close to home with some problems I’ve had in the past.
Jake E: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. The lyrics are in such a way that you could relate and make the content your own. That’s what I think is so powerful about music. I would never write a forward on a lyric like some bands do, “This song is about…” because you destroy the whole feeling. You know what it’s about. Or songs like “Yellow Submarine.” You have to make a trip on your own to make it feel like anything else other than a yellow submarine.
Strömblad: Lots of talk about yellow submarines lately. We were visiting a submarine when we were in New York.
Jake E: We were in New York a few weeks ago. We went to a museum on the east side of Manhattan [Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum]. It’s got an aircraft carrier and a submarine. I’m an aviator nerd, so I really wanted to go there.
Strömblad: It’s actually a little bit band related. If you ever complain about a tour bus, you should see the bunks that those guys – the privates – they were sleeping 23 guys on top of each other. It was so shitty. They couldn’t even turn around.
Jake E: They were packed like sardines.
Strömblad: It was like a crawlspace. So when we see the bus, it’s like…think about that submarine! [Laughter]
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