FeaturesNestor - Still Rebellious

Nestor – Still Rebellious

Few bands can say that they took over three decades to release their first album, but that’s something Nestor can claim. Not only that, but they have now released a follow-up only three years later in the form of the hard rocking good time Teenage Rebel. The genuine ’80s flavor oozes from the act, so we reached out to discuss this second album with vocalist Tobias Gustavsson, who discussed the band’s appreciation of what they have now, authenticity when playing music from the ’80s and living through it, what makes a good ballad, and plenty of Teenage Rebel discussion.

Dead Rhetoric: Nestor formed in 1989 and you came back to release your first album in 2021. Do you feel that has made you appreciate being able to do it 30 years later?

Tobias Gustavsson: Definitely! I always say, that we kind of existed from 1989 to 1995 and we released a few EPs unofficially and we did a lot of shows, but back in those days when we were kids…or teens at least, you never really appreciate anything. You are always wondering what is next – the next gig or the next thing. Nowadays, we almost have to pinch ourselves, being onstage with thousands of people singing our songs. It’s a totally different thing. We are all quite good at reminding each other that nothing is for granted. We are so lucky to be doing this when we are almost 50 years old. It’s crazy!

Dead Rhetoric: Having had that very early formation, do you feel that it gives a little bit more authenticity than a band formed now that wants to play a ‘retro sound?’

Gustavsson: Yeah, definitely I believe it’s exactly like that. There’s been quite a few reviews where people have actually said that – the difference between Nestor and younger bands that were influenced by the ‘80s or play ‘80s music is that Nestor is from the age and you can hear it. So there’s the authenticity, definitely. Especially when we recorded this album. We used stuff from that era. We recorded it with analog live synths instead of doing it with the software. It’s not just because we wanted to, but it’s more of a feeling. 

I think back in the day, when you recorded or produced a song, it was really big thing. You rehearsed it for months and tried different things out. In the end, when you worked it all out, you recorded it. Nowadays, I think it’s very common that because of computers you can try everything out and decide in a second if it’s good or not. We did it the old way. We rehearsed and tried things out. When we felt like it was a song, we recorded it. That gives it authenticity in a way, I guess.

Dead Rhetoric: So in the sense of how you recorded it, do you feel that adds another piece in too? Like in analog versus digital, what are the pluses and minuses to doing that?

Gustavsson: I think that the drawback is that it takes, for example, recording drums – you can do it different ways, but when we recorded drums, the songs had to be finished. In a way that is a drawback in that you can’t really change anything. When you decide the tempo and the song, it’s the song. But the good thing is that you spend a lot of time making decisions along the way instead of pushing those decisions until the end. We had to record the drums, so we needed to know the tempo and the format of the song. So it’s good and bad in both ways. But for Nestor and playing that kind of music, I think it’s a good thing that we did it the old way. Even though we did use a computer to record.

Dead Rhetoric: Teenage Rebel is your second album and follow up to Kids in a Ghost Town. Was there any marks you wanted to hit with this new material that you missed out on with the previous album?

Gustavsson: Not specifically – we didn’t look at Kids in a Ghost Town and say that some things didn’t work or weren’t successful. It was more like we wanted to stay in the ‘80s, and not let our fans down, and wanted to keep on going in a way. Kids in a Ghost Town is mainly about growing up in a kid in a small town like we did in Falköping. 

Teenage Rebel is us taking things a little bit further. This album is about becoming a teenager and realizing that you can’t do things – you can of course do it – but parents, teachers, or whoever, tell you that you have been playing around in a rehearsal space and nothing happened so you need to cut your hair, get a job, and that whole thing. The only thing we knew that when we decided there would be another album, which I wasn’t initially sure about, we decided to stay in the ‘80s and doing the retro thing. Writing songs with maybe a glorified perspective and that was how we would do it. 

Dead Rhetoric: So I’m curious now, was there a thought in your mind, if only for a second, that you had covered the ‘80s and thought about doing things in a different era or doing things differently?

Gustavsson: There was, but it was a short window. I was thinking for a second what would happen if we went into the grunge period…I guess people would kill us I guess [laughs]. We thought about it, but in a way, if you look at the references in Kids in a Ghost Town, where all the references were based on Kiss albums from the ‘80s, this album is more about Survivor, Chicago, and even Toto sometimes. We looked deeper into the ‘80s and the melodic rock genre. But that’s a lot of influences and inspirations…I think we could do ten more albums just looking at this representation.

Dead Rhetoric: Yeah there’s a lot of bands that do that and continue to dig deep into a certain period of time and pull from that sound. 

Gustavsson: I just had an interview the other day and I was asked what kind of rock that Nestor is. I was about to say that it was up to the listener to say and that it was just melodic rock, but then I realized that I don’t even want to say that it’s rock. It’s kind of music for people who like music. We like distorted guitars, but the songs could be dressed up in any kind of costume.

Dead Rhetoric: What have you learned from playing shows with some of the biggest bands in the industry, such as Kiss, Deep Purple?

Gustavsson:Tons of stuff! I think the most important thing…we are playing a big festival called Sweden Rock, and I we are doing a short thing with Europe, but we spoke to our team and backliners, and we talked about how when Europe plays their last song, they always put their guitars and bass in the same stance for the crew to know. You don’t want the crew to end up with two guitars when they are taping down the drums. It’s small things like that, which make the whole touring thing a well-oiled machine. When you leave the stage, you always leave left. 

Small things like that – do this, don’t do that. We try things out. So the small technical stuff, to get the show to be a well-oiled machine. With Kiss, it’s totally different because they have a small town traveling with them. With Europe, they are bigger than us, but everyone has a role. It’s not the sexy stuff, it’s more about knowing what to do to make the show happen.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve had Nestorfest going for a few years now. What goals do you have for it, and do you enjoy about the annual festival?

Gustavsson:The beauty of it is that we call come from this little town of 20,000 and we decided three years ago when we did the first festival that we wanted to do it in our hometown. We wanted to make it more like the festivals that we went to elsewhere. It’s hard to become a prophet in our hometown. We have been around for over 30 years, so the beauty of it is to bring all your friends from kindergarten almost and do a good thing for the community. So it’s to give those people something to be proud of, that we are bringing in bands from all over the world and to be able to be scream on stage and ask if we are still ‘sons of this town’ [laughs]. That’s kind of a goal as well. 

Dead Rhetoric: Since it’s your festival, how much say do you have in who will be playing with you?

Gustavsson: 100%, we decide ourselves.

Dead Rhetoric: Let’s talk about the “Victorious” video and its inspirations.

Gustavsson: We are influenced by movies from the ‘80s, and this one in particular is based on the Rob Lowe movie Youngblood. That was the idea, and the song has such a sports anthem vibe to it. We sent the song, with a few others, to an old friend of ours and asked him what one should be the first single and he said “Victorious.” So I asked what kind of video should it be. So he said some sort of hockey or horror movie. So we went with hockey, since Sweden is a big hockey country. We had a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work to get all these props from way back, but it was great. 

Dead Rhetoric: So in general, what do you look for when you are making a video and figuring out how to go about it?

Gustavsson: We have a friend of ours as a director who is making these videos along with us, and the first thing is that when we have an idea, we always vent it with him and ask if it is doable. He comes from a different perspective. He talks about the amount of story, the number of shots to make, to be able to tell the story, which we have to do in about 4 minutes. In the first few videos we did, we came up the ideas that way. He has told us that some ideas we had just wouldn’t work in the timeframe we had.

Dead Rhetoric: That seems to be a commonality that many groups who make more elaborate videos have someone they know with more video-making background to help make the videos or provide insights.

Gustavsson: That’s very true. Even though I believe there is a strength in being naive and wondering if you can make “November Rain’ [Guns N Roses]. Our friend would be able to give us rough costs about how much it would take to do or the length of time. He knows what is going on so it makes it easier to know what we can do.

Dead Rhetoric: Having been out on the road and touring, what sort of crowd do you tend to draw? Do you find that there’s a lot of younger people into this sort of sound or do you see more of an older crowd that grew up on this type of sound?

Gustavsson: First of all, when we started off there was the ones that were about our age as they lived through the music then too, and nowadays it’s mixed. My analysis is that those people bring their kids too. So now we have more of a mixed audience. There’s a lot of parents with their kids. Not too many teenagers. I think we have a gap in the 20 to 35 age range. The 35 up to 65 and the 10-18 groups are our audience. Some of it has to do with people taking their children to show them the type of music that they grew up with maybe. Then we get fans that way. We just released a series of merch called the Youngblood series and it sold out, and it was based on kids sizes. It’s like the Iron Maiden phenomenon. They have a young crowd again, and it has to do with that circle of age groupings.

Dead Rhetoric: You have lived through this period, so what is special about that ‘80s sound to you?

Gustavsson: I think the most important thing that sticks out, as I have worked with music as a songwriter and music producer since then, is that the songs were always in focus. There were a lot of harmonies and a lot of great melodies. The ‘80s, whatever you listened to, it was like the song was in focus and you could dress them in any costume and it would still be a great song.

Dead Rhetoric: You can make the fun and loud arena rock songs as well as the quieter songs too. What’s important to you when writing a good power ballad?

Gustavsson: It has to have some kind of meaning. The power ballads I like from these days, no matter if they were about heartache or whatever, they had something in them that felt true. It has to have some sort of authenticity that you can feel. Like the pain in his or her voice. I think that’s important. 

Dead Rhetoric: Having played with some bigger bands already, is there still a dream band that you haven’t been able to play with live yet?

Gustavsson: We would love to play with Bon Jovi. If they would go on tour, that would be the biggest. Kiss was a bucket list for sure, but Bon Jovi, I would love to tour with them. I think their audience would like us, since we are quite influenced by their music. I think it would be great.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your plans for the rest of this year?

Gustavsson: Tour, tour, and tour. We are doing a lot of festivals this summer and we are going on our own European tour in the fall in October. We might go to Japan in November, it is in the pipeline at the moment. There’s a lot of shows, since the album is done, it’s about getting out on the road.

Nestor official website