The Night Flight Orchestra – The New Classic Rock

Sunday, 24th June 2018

Who would have thought that it would take a bunch of established metal musicians to provide just the jolt that classic rock fans have been missing? That’s exactly what The Night Flight Orchestra have been doing for four albums to date. Comprised of members from Soilwork and Arch Enemy, it’s a total labor of love that takes many on a nostalgic trip to the late ‘70s/early ‘80s while still providing a fresh and invigorating touch to it.

The band’s latest, Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough, stands as their strongest release to date. Full of catchy and immediate hooks that hit you near-constantly, it also is a deeper listen. The type that you switch favorite tracks on a regular basis as you discover new little nuggets with each playthrough. We grabbed Björn Strid to wax on a bit about the new album, as well as Soilwork’s current goings-on, alongside being categorized as a metalhead guilty pleasure and his vocals over the years.

Dead Rhetoric: I spoke with David [Andersson] last year before Amber Galactic and he said that in a perfect world, there would be a new album next year. Did everything just line up?

Björn Strid: I guess so. I don’t think we ever left the studio, I think that’s what happened. I woke up to a post on Facebook from a year ago and it said, “Sorry we couldn’t stay out of the studio, our sincere apologies, The Night Flight Orchestra.” That sort of said it all right there since that was right after Amber Galactic was released. So we basically kept going – songwriting is a constant thing for us. We have two producers within the band with their own studios, so we can record whenever we want to. We just keep doing that, and we get together for sessions for like a week – we cook, drink, and record songs. That’s usually how it works. It’s never a situation where it’s like, “Okay guys, it’s time to write a new album. Let’s book the studio.” It just keeps on going, and I think it takes the pressure off a little bit too.

Dead Rhetoric: So do you feel that ‘fun/party mentality’ incorporates itself into the music?

Strid: Yeah, I guess it does [laughs]. You can obviously hear that we’ve had so much fun recording it. There’s so much passion and love behind it too. It’s really genuine. Some people sort of ask us, “Are you serious with this?” And it’s like, “Yes, of course we are!” We are not mocking things, but we are having a laugh as well. I think that’s only healthy in the end. It’s liberating, but at the same time, it’s something that we genuinely love. It’s sort of a lost art of writing and performing songs that we feel is sort of missing out there. We found the perfect people, who really have an understanding and knowledge – they really get it. It’s such a great unit – there’s no real way to stop this train. It just keeps going.

Dead Rhetoric: I had written a few things that come to mind with the band – it’s addictive, genuine, as you said, and smile-inducing. From my perspective, you can’t listen to The Night Flight Orchestra without a smile on your face.

Strid: That’s a good thing, for sure. I think it has to do with recognition as well, it’s something that many people haven’t heard in years. I’ve gotten that impression from people coming up to me and thanking me for starting the band, “I didn’t think I missed this kind of music but I did – I love it.” At the same time, it sounds refreshing to people. You can throw those references like, “Oh that sounds like a Journey song,” but I also believe that we have hijacked an era and sort of made it into our own as well. It is, in a way, pretty unique. Even if we are wearing our influences on our sleeves in a way.

Dead Rhetoric: Right – you are taking that aspect from there, but it’s not a direct thing where you get completely nailed as a retro act. There’s some modern trimmings too.

Strid: Yeah – obviously there’s nostalgia involved. But it runs deeper than that. There’s definitely that recognition smile [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: With Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough, do you feel that you have defined a clear vision of what The Night Flight Orchestra represents at this point?

Strid: I think so. It definitely takes you on a journey listening to it. We also aim to surprise. Maybe you go through the album and there’s a lot of catchy and direct stuff. Then when you think you know exactly what the band is about, then “The Last of the Independent Romantics” comes in, which is a 9-minute song and you are just left gasping for air when you are done and are like, “What the hell just happened?” But that’s what we want to capture as well – the element of surprise, and not being too predictable. But at the same time we are not trying too hard, it’s just something that we want it to be. It’s really creative, and I think we get really high on the fact that there’s no boundaries.

Dead Rhetoric: How important is the visual aesthetic in terms of everything from the flight attendants live and what you wear on stage, to the some of the videos with the ‘80s-esque effects?

Strid: I think it is important, and it’s fun too. That’s always something that I liked, when bands have a whole concept – the visuals, and also musically. Some bands just have the visuals, and the music is kind of crappy [laughs], but I think we have the whole package. When we play live, it needs to add a whole new dimension. It’s one thing to listen to our records, but live it needs to be something different. I always appreciated that, when I saw bands doing something else live – it’s obviously the same song but it’s a real rock show, the way it was meant to be. You hear so many people coming home from shows saying, “It sounded exactly like the album.” It’s like, is that a good or a bad thing? In my book, it kind of sounds boring. I would have stayed home instead and listened to the album. I want to see a rock show.

Dead Rhetoric: Are the covers connected between Amber Galactic and Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough?

Strid: Yes they are. If you see the cover for Amber Galactic, you see this girl who seems sort of curious about space. She is standing there with a helmet in her hand. On Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough, she’s convinced. She has made up her mind that the world isn’t enough. The helmet is on, and the spacesuit is one. That’s the connection there.

Dead Rhetoric: Is this something you can push farther and have the next album be completely out in outer space?

Strid: [Laughs] I don’t know where we are going to go from here – it’s so over the top with everything. David is reading 3-4 sci-fi books every week. He’s nuts! He’s a father of two, and he’s also a doctor. It’s just crazy. I’m sort of more into the old school sci-fi. I don’t really like new school/current sci-fi. He [David] sort of introduced me to space through this band. I’m happy he did – we sort of take our personal experiences…being on the road with Soilwork for 20 years, and put them in a different setting. We sort of take those stories to space – it makes it pretty cool I think.

Dead Rhetoric: To cut back to something you mentioned earlier, there is that immediacy to the songs, where they are instantly catchy. That tends to go away just as quickly as it came, but maybe because they have that more timeless feel, there’s something about Night Flight songs that stick with you for a long time.

Strid: That’s really cool to hear. It needs to be something timeless. That’s something we’ve been inspired by – bands like Genesis or Abba even. They had some complicated arrangements, but they really spoke directly to you and were really catchy. I think that’s why they last. I’m not saying that we are Abba – they were the masters, untouchable basically. But I think we’ve been really inspired by that, and I think that’s why it grabs you in the end and won’t let go. Of course, you can write something really simple and it can stay with you for the rest of your life, but that’s not what I’m saying. It’s sort of detailed music as well, and you can discover new things every time you listen to it. That’s what I like in music.

Dead Rhetoric: One thing I have seen come up in several interviews – how do you feel being a guilty pleasure favorite for metal fans?

Strid: I think it’s really, really interesting. The route we have taken is sort of unheard of. We’ve been in metal bands for 20 years and are still doing it and loving it, but we are also doing this, which is something completely different. It takes a lot of courage to do something like this I think. That’s one reason that we like it so much. In a way, it’s provocative. Metal fans are really picky as well. They can feel when it’s not genuine. But I’m fine with being every metalhead’s guilty pleasure. I think it’s a beautiful thing, and I think we are on a mission here in a way.

We aren’t trying to convert people to leave metal behind. But it’s like, “Wait, there’s this too, and it’s really genuine.” A lot of metal bands that you are listening to right now, even if they are really extreme, grew up listening to this as well, which inspired them. But it takes a lot of knowledge and love – it’s not something that you would come up with. A bunch of metal musicians saying, “Oh, let’s do something ‘70s/’80s.” It runs much deeper than that – otherwise it would be very easy to see through. This is something that was brewing for a long time, waiting to come out.

It’s really cool, the fact that we are on an extreme metal label as well. I was really nervous when we sent the master of Amber Galactic when we signed with Nuclear Blast. I was thinking, “What the hell are they going to say about the song Domino?” I was laughing, and then they called me up the next day saying that “Domino” was the best song ever! It was like, “What?” It wasn’t what I expected, I mean, I love it and we were really confident, but we weren’t quite sure what the label was going to say. It’s a label mostly famous for releasing extreme metal.

It’s interesting, but I think it’s going to crossover to other people as well. On our first European tour before Christmas last year, I think we brought out people who don’t normally show up at the same show. I saw this pop/hipster kid looking at this metalhead wearing Behemoth and Watain patches and it was like one asking the other, “What the hell are you doing here?” and the other one says, “I was going to ask you the same question.” That’s how I saw it, because it was a really mixed crowd. I guess we united people in a way, without sounding too pretentious. It’s cool that it crosses over.

Dead Rhetoric: I do have to bring up Soilwork, as I know you recently finished the next album. Is there anything that you can say about it at this point?

Strid: I think it’s bringing back a little bit of the keyboard elements that we had on Natural Born Chaos. The overall feeling that I get, is that it’s extremely epic and possibly the darkest album so far with Soilwork. It’s sort of melancholic, and pretty extreme at times. You definitely will be able to recognize us – it’s sort of a mix between The Living Infinite and The Ride Majestic but a little bit darker. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I’m really proud of it.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s interesting, because I thought that The Ride Majestic was pretty dark too.

Strid: Yeah, this might be even darker in a way. At least that’s the vibe I’m getting.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that Soilwork is more focused now that you have The Night Flight Orchestra to let you move in different directions?

Strid: Absolutely. I think a lot of things have happened with Soilwork since we have started Night Flight. It became my other outlet. I could channel all those influences that I had, which I couldn’t squeeze into Soilwork, which was kind of frustrating at times. You can’t be Lou Gramm and Tom Araya in the same band, it’s impossible. I think Soilwork has become more focused. It’s almost like I really know what to do with Soilwork more than ever, now that I have Night Flight. It’s sort of a yin-yang situation – both bands feed off each other. I think I’ve improved my vocals a lot with The Night Flight Orchestra and brought that with me to Soilwork. I feel like I’m more in control and I can do a lot of other things with my vocals. It’s like a whole new dimension. It’s very easy to sort of separate the two bands as well.

Dead Rhetoric: So does that mean we won’t get any high falsettos in Soilwork anytime soon?

Strid: [Laughs] Who knows? I have done some falsettos in Soilwork, but more as backup vocals. I think that has where I have built up a strong voice is through Soilwork, because I have been doing so many different types of vocals – be it backup or lead vocals. I needed to do 20 years with Soilwork to be able to do this band.

Dead Rhetoric: In terms of your vocals, do you still feel that after 20 years, you are untapping certain parts of your voice?

Strid: Absolutely. I’m really grateful for that. For some people, it ends as soon as you turn 30 as a singer. I’m really grateful that I’m still improving my vocals – every year I think I am getting better, at least I think I am. I feel way stronger and more in control. I can switch between different types of voices, and the transitions are easier somehow.

Dead Rhetoric: With the retro movement gaining more traction, what’s something you’d like to see make a comeback?

Strid: That’s hard to say. There’s never going to be a new Beatles. I think we are on a mission – we are providing a style of songwriting that’s sort of a lost art. Not that what we are doing is perfection, but I think we are bringing an organic way of writing songs. Whether we have some glittery, late ‘70s/early ‘80s keyboards, it doesn’t really matter in the end. I think it’s timeless – it’s about the song.

We are trying to provide something that’s missing out there – that was sort of the point in starting the band. We feel that era has been forgotten. The ones that are still doing it are the old bands. The ones out there touring and doing the casino tours, and they sound fantastic! It’s not Lou Gramm anymore, it’s Kelly Hansen, but what an amazing singer. We aren’t exactly kids, but we feel that there needs to be a new band out there, doing this the right way.

Dead Rhetoric: To dive into the super-cliché, what are the odds that you will bring over The Night Flight Orchestra to the US for shows?

Strid: We didn’t do much press on Amber Galactic unfortunately. We seem to be doing a lot more on this one, so I’m really happy about that. It’s hard to say – it’s in the plans. I think the word is spreading pretty fast, and we have a growing fanbase, but it’s also a matter of budget – there’s visas and this and that. But it’s in the plans, and hopefully, maybe next time this year we could do something.

Dead Rhetoric: What concrete plans do you have with Night Flight at this point?

Strid: We are going to do 3 German festivals in late July/mid August. Then we will see if there’s anything happening in September/October. Then we are going to do that long European tour. It’s like a two month tour covering most of Europe starting in November and going up to Christmas. Then I guess we will see. It’s also a matter of how the album is doing and if people are picking up on it. It looks like, it, and it seems like people want to see us live, which is fun.

Dead Rhetoric: You will have Soilwork right on your tail by then too.

Strid: {Laughs] There you go. Next year is going to be extremely busy. I’m trying to really take care of myself this year and get in shape.

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