Liv Sin – A Return to SinWednesday, 3rd May 2017
Sister Sin seemed to be riding a wave for the better in 2015. Coming off of arguably their strongest effort in Black Lotus, they had been touring extensively in both Europe and North America. Culminating with a slot on the 2015 Mayhem Tour, which featured Slayer and King Diamond, among others. But once the band returned home, they called it a day, seemingly without warning. But tour burnout had shown it’s effects, with vocalist Liv Jagrell even having doubts about continuing with music after the disappointment with the whole situation.
But time always heals, and Jagrell picked herself back up again – ready to start over with a new band. But where would she go? What would she do? Last Friday saw the release of Liv Sin’s debut Follow Me. An album that should please long-time Sister Sin fans as well as any with an interest in pure heavy metal. Liv is back, refreshed and re-energized, with a heavier sound that should take her back to the head of the class. We were able to chat with Jagrell just before the album’s release date and get the details surrounding Sister Sin’s demise, Liv Sin’s formation, and everything in between.
Dead Rhetoric: The last time I had spoken to you was after off-date from the Mayhem Festival that Sister Sin was headlining. Talking with yourself and Jimmy [Hiltula] at the time, things seemed to be going well. There was talk about doing a new album and European headlining dates – what happened after that with the band? The end of the band seemed to come out of nowhere.
Liv Jagrell: I was quite surprised too…both myself and Dave [Sundberg], the drummer of Sister Sin. We were taken by surprise about what happened [to the band]. When we got back home from Mayhem, Strandh [Sister Sin’s bassist] said that he got so tired from touring – we were all quite burned out because we had toured so heavily. We had toured a lot in the years before, but 2015 was really heavy [touring-wise]. He said he had lost the fun in touring and he didn’t like touring anymore. So he quit the band, because he knew that we would be touring a lot. He said it would be better to leave the band and have someone who wants to tour in the band. We had trouble with bassists before, so we were sad but knew we could survive.
Dave and I started to get the feeling that Jimmy didn’t have the same goal as we did. He didn’t have the same drive to find a new bass player that we did. So we talked to him, and he also said that he didn’t want to tour anymore. So we had lost two people in the band. So both of us just felt that if we found two new members to be in the band, it would just not be Sister Sin. It would feel wrong. The core of the band was myself, Jimmy, and Dave. When Jimmy left, Dave said that we couldn’t be Sister Sin without him. So we decided to break up the band instead of finding new members. We were really disappointed, and we totally understand the reason that they didn’t want to tour anymore. We all get very tired from it – from touring too much, so there is no hard feelings with them. It’s just that we were surprised and disappointed by it.
Dead Rhetoric: It seemed like the band was finally beginning to get that foothold necessary in the States. But at the same time, it’s admirable that after losing members you decided not to continue under the Sister Sin name – which is more than can be said for a number of different bands in that situation.
Jagrell: Absolutely – often when that happens, the band starts to sound ‘not as good’ as they used to be. Jimmy was a big part of the songwriting. I think it was a good decision to keep Sister Sin “Sister Sin,“ and not make it something else that in the end would not have turned out as good.
Dead Rhetoric: And you end on kind of a high note as well…
Jagrell: Exactly…and we are all friends instead of enemies. If I look back now, I’m happy that we didn’t try to continue. I’m also happy because I have been able to start my own project instead. It’s a fresh start, so I was able to embrace a new beginning.
Dead Rhetoric: At some point I read online that you were disappointed with the ending with Sister Sin and weren’t sure if you were going to make music again. What ended up drawing you back into a new project?
Jagrell: I think I’ve always known that I could not keep myself from trying again, but when everything fails the way that it did…I built my whole life, my whole personality around being the frontwoman of Sister Sin, and then I suddenly didn’t have that anymore. I was pretty lost in the beginning. I didn’t know who I was without Sister Sin, or what I was. I was very lost, so it took me a few months to be sad and kind of depressed, and then finding myself again. I kind of talked to myself and said, “Hey, do you really want to try to be a normal person with a normal life?” Then I was like, “No, that’s not me…that’s not who I am.” So I gave it a try, to see if I could do something. I also had my manager from Sister Sin, who still believed that I could do something all by myself, which gave me the courage to try again. When I started to see it that way, it was like, “I can do something all by myself – I can choose the music, I can write the lyrics, and I can actually be in charge of something.” I saw that as an opportunity. So then I was back on track.
Dead Rhetoric: Given your voice, you could have branched off in any direction – what made you stick around with heavy metal?
Jagrell: That’s funny that you asked that, because a lot of people contacted me when Sister Sin broke up. Different projects, bands, or producers who wanted me to send me songs and wanted me to be a part of something. Everything [I got] was more pop-rock. More rock ‘n roll, sleaze rock; there was someone who wanted to do something that was more industrial metal sounding – something more like In This Moment kind of stuff. In the beginning, I was like, “Of course, I want to do anything…because you just want to play music.” But as I talked to myself I thought that there are so many people out there…so many girls out there playing rock and roll who have a great rock and roll voice. There are so many other girls who play pop-rock or something softer and more commercial. There’s tons of girls doing that.
But what I can do? I can sing metal. There’s not a ton of girls who sing heavy metal. There are some really good ones who can growl, which I can’t do, but not heavy metal in that way. Then I thought about what I liked to do. I wanted to play to my strengths, and my strength is singing heavy metal. So it might be a bad choice, because I didn’t choose a more commercial way, or it might be a good choice, because I might be standing out by doing that, and not just being one in the sea of other pop-rock artists. It’s too early to say, but I sang what I wanted to sing and what I feel that I’m good at.
Dead Rhetoric: Ultimately, when you look back on this down the road you can say that you made the right choice, because it was what you wanted to do – maybe it wasn’t the choice to be a superstar, but it’s what works for you.
Jagrell: Exactly – starting over again, I wanted to do it with my whole heart. I have to put my whole heart into it because it’s so much work. It was a lot of work with Sister Sin, which is why people got burned out. For me now, it’s taking a step back with starting a new project and if you have to do so much work, your heart has to be in it. Otherwise you won’t be able to do the work, and things [won’t get off the ground].
Dead Rhetoric: So you decide you are going to go this route – what were the next steps that led to the album being created?
Jagrell: That’s pretty funny too – I used to play guitar when I was a teenager. I wanted to be a guitar player instead of a singer. But then I left the guitar under my bed for 10 years. I brushed the dust away from it, and said “Hello guitar, let’s make some really great heavy metal tunes!” But it was like – nah, it’s not working very well. I had a lot of ideas and riffs in my head, but they didn’t come out the way I wanted in my fingers, since I hadn’t played in 10 years.
So the next step was finding a guitar player who could understand the riffs that I was after and had in my head, but could actually play them. I started to think about people that I knew. I had an old friend of mine, Patrick [Ankermark – now Liv Sin guitarist], always wanted a band. He had played in several bands but they were smaller. I knew that didn’t have a band at the moment, but he played punk rock, so I was not sure he was the right guy. But I was kind of desperate, and I knew that he was good at making songs. So I contacted him and asked if he wanted to try, and sent him some references – some Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir, Dissection, Amon Amarth. So he sent me back the riffs that became the first single “Let Me Out.” I liked it immediately – it was hooky and it was what I wanted…guitar-driven with melodies. I like the music to be based around the guitars. When he sent me that, it was like “yes, he’s the first one that understands what I wanted to do.”
So we started to make the songs – myself, Patrick, and Per Bjelovuk [drummer]. Then we found the rest of the guys: Christopher [Bertzell], who is the solo guitar player, and Tommie [Winther]. Tommie we didn’t find until after the recording because we didn’t have time before due to the stress with deadlines. So Chris is on the recording but Tommie joined the band after the recording was done and we understood that we needed a bass player. We found him one week before we had our first photo shoot and video – that’s when he joined the band.
Dead Rhetoric: You said you were playing around on the guitar at the start – how much of the material did you end up writing, musically?
Jagrell: I worked with Patrick on all of the songs, but most of the riffs are his ideas. I would sing riffs to him, or recorded myself singing guitar riffs that I had in my head and I sent them over to him and he actually made something out of it. So it’s a little of both in there. “The Beast Inside” is the one that I did almost all by myself, but it’s not based as much on guitar riffs. I can still play chords, but the really heavy guitar riffs, I have to work on them [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Are you interested in practicing your guitar skills or now that you’ve got a line-up set, are you okay going back to just vocals?
Jagrell: I think I’m going back to the vocals – I wish I had time to play guitar because I like it. I think its fun to play guitar but I don’t have any time for it right now. I wish I did, because then I would practice.
Dead Rhetoric: As I listen to the album, it sounds more traditionally heavier than Sister Sin in some ways. Were you looking for something that was at least a little familiar but still identifiable on its own?
Jagrell: Absolutely – I wanted to have it heavier and more aggressive. But I also tried to keep a little bit of the melodic ideas that we had in Sister Sin. The first single, “Let Me Out,” is more towards Sister Sin than the rest of the songs, so that’s why we put that out first. So it wouldn’t be a very big step from Sister Sin.
Dead Rhetoric: With being more involved, does it seem busier than Sister Sin in some ways?
Jagrell: Definitely! Making songs is not very easy. I had some things served to me in Sister Sin. I didn’t have to think as much. Now I have to think, and you start thinking…is this really good? Can I say that? How do I do this melody best? It is harder than it was in Sister Sin, but it’s also more fun because it’s something that I’ve done, it’s my lyrics, etc. Even though it is more work, I am happy to be a bigger part, or the biggest part, of the songs. I know that Patrick makes great riffs, and he will make the kind of music I want, and we will put it all together.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you end up signing with Despotz Records?
Jagrell: When I was looking for interest, I remembered that Sister Sin was in a meeting with Despotz a few years ago. They were interested in signing us if we didn’t sign with Victory again. So we met them, since they are in Stockholm it was easy. I remembered that, so I asked my manager to contact them. They answered immediately and offered me a contract the same day. So far they’ve done a really good job and it’s nice to have the label in the same city.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of the title of the album, Follow Me, is there any deeper meaning behind it?
Jagrell: Yeah there is. It’s a line from the song. It’s from the second song, “Hypocrite.” I sing, “Follow me into the dark, where my demons still hide.” I think that what the audience does when they listen to an artist. They follow them into their deepest thoughts and the soul of the artist. I share my visions and my thoughts/frustrations/etc. As an audience, you can follow an artist to their heart. Follow Me can also have a meaning for Sister Sin fans. Even though Sister Sin is no longer here, I am still here and I’m still trying to play music for all of the fans.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that there are any tracks that define the album?
Jagrell: I’d probably say that “Hypocrite” is one of those songs that defines the album, because there is a little bit of all the songs in that one.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of where the band goes once the album is released, are you trying to do much touring or are you trying to take a more laid-back approach due to the touring load in those years before?
Jagrell: We are going to try to tour, because I love to play. I’m a live person and I do this to play on a stage and sing for an audience. But I’m going to be smarter this time. I’m going to really look at all the tours and shows to make sure they are worth it so we don’t burn out.
Dead Rhetoric: When you play live, will you play any old Sister Sin songs or are you trying to just start with a clean slate?
Jagrell: We will squeeze in one or two Sister Sin songs for the fans, of course.
Dead Rhetoric: So what will be happening with the band in the next six months or so?
Jagrell: We will release the record on Friday [April 28] and will have our first show on Friday. So we will be doubly nervous that day [laughs]. I am really nervous but it will be very fun to finally hit the stage again. We will play Friday and Saturday, and then we will have some festivals in the summer. We are rehearsing to go out and play.
Dead Rhetoric: This will be the first time you’ve been on stage since Sister Sin?
Jagrell: Yes – 1.5 years. That’s why I’m nervous because it’s never been that long. I think the first two songs are going to be shaky but then I’m going to be right back into it.