The Night Flight Orchestra – A Journey through Space and Time

Sunday, 28th May 2017

A classic rock band containing members of both Soilwork and Arch Enemy, The Night Flight Orchestra carries some serious prestige from the metal community, even if they aren’t exactly playing metal. But as guitarist David Andersson eloquently states below, good music is good music, regardless of genre. Originating back when Andersson was a touring guitarist for Soilwork, he and vocalist Bjorn Strid found some common ground with a love of classic rock…hence The Night Flight Orchestra was born.

Now TNFO, three albums in, are at the top of their game with the recently released Amber Galactic. A welcome trip back in time to a period where a mood and vibe were just as important as technical ability, if not more so. More importantly, it reeks of fun – a perfect album to sit back and get lost in and just enjoy it. Not too many bands have that feeling nowadays, and as we often do at DR, we set up a chat with Anderssson to discuss the band’s successes to date, touring possibilities, and what Soilwork has going on as well.

Dead Rhetoric: When you and Bjorn [Strid] concocted the idea of the band, did you think it would have the lasting power it has had so far?

David Andersson: We always wanted [The Night Flight Orchestra] to be a real band. I think even if we hadn’t succeeded in creating it, we would still be talking about doing it. It’s just a continuation of a conversation we started about 11 years ago. It’s worked out much better than we ever dared to expect, but at the same time it feels really natural that it’s happening.

Dead Rhetoric: You had done two albums on Coroner Records. What prompted the move to Nuclear Blast?

Andersson: Our old contract expired and Nuclear Blast actually reached out to us and offered us a deal. Obviously they have been aware that we have been doing The Night Flight Orchestra on the side, and somehow they felt that they were up for signing us now. We had talked to them back in the beginning, but they weren’t really ready to sign stuff like us [laughs]. But they’ve broadened their scope a bit, so we didn’t do anything. They asked if we wanted to sign with them and we said yes, of course, because it’s a great opportunity to reach a bigger audience.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s got to make things a little easier for you two [David and Bjorn], considering Soilwork is signed there too…

Andersson: Definitely – they’ve been really enthusiastic so far. In a way that I didn’t dare to expect either, but they really seem to like it. I guess there’s some sort of nerve in metalheads that we seem to strike in our music.

Dead Rhetoric: Digging into some of the tracks themselves, one that really seems to stand out is “Domino.” Could you go that one a little bit, as it seems like the biggest departure into funk you’ve done with the band?

Andersson: The actual song was written by Bjorn and myself on a tour bus for Soilwork somewhere in Austria. There are a few Swedish ‘80s references that might not be familiar to people in the US, but I was bored one day and started feeling the synthesizer melody and starting building a groove around that. We started creating melodies, and the theme and being in love with a mysterious woman – walking around in art galleries but being a secret agent somewhere in Cold War eastern Europe in the ‘80s. We built that whole feeling around it.

To us, it’s very natural because we listen to that kind of music all the time – cheesy Swedish ‘80s funk/pop. But yes, it’s a huge departure…compared to Soilwork or Arch Enemy, it’s quite different but at the same time, it’s very natural. The building blocks of the song and the melodies are quite similar to a Soilwork song. If you strip away the instrumentation and the double-bass drums and everything, it’s all still music. A great song is a great song, regardless of the genre.

Dead Rhetoric: It feels like there’s more early ‘80s vibes in Amber Galactic than the previous material, is that a fair assessment?

Andersson: I think it was a semi-conscious move on our part that we wanted to explore the early ‘80s feel. There’s a lot of bands out there doing the ‘70s retro thing, with fuzzed guitars and everything. But the early ‘80s, the glitzy Miami Vice feel…it’s really good. There were a lot of really great songs created in that era and we sort of felt that we wanted to explore that a bit more. Just to do something different, because no one is doing it these days. It’s either fuzzed guitars and the Black Sabbath retro or a more pure-synthesizer vibe but no one is doing the crossover thing that happened in the early ‘80s. Bands like Yes and Genesis were trying to find their feet in this new decade [laughs] and that’s really interesting. When you had guitar bands trying to do something new – that’s what we wanted to develop.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that The Night Flight Orchestra separates itself from, as you mention, the growing number of retro bands?

Andersson: I think that it’s not that we are consciously trying to be a retro band, it’s more that we are just trying to do the music that we love and are trying to create the music we would want to listen to ourselves. No one is doing this anymore. There’s also a big misconception in a lot of reviews that we have had for this album – most of them are really good and really enthusiastic – but a lot of people are saying that we don’t take ourselves seriously or it’s a big joke. But we actually take ourselves very seriously [laughs]. Of course, we understand that you have to be a bit humorous, but that whole thing about doing things that are too far out there, or that everything is too much…that’s something that’s missing from today’s music scene. Great, old albums like Toto or The Eagles, or Journey, or Genesis, or ELO [Electric Light Orchestra] – they all were a bit too much. But at the same time, back then no one really questioned them or said, “You can’t be serious about this” [laughs].

These days, everyone is a bit too self-conscious. It’s kind of nice to do something without caring about if it’s serious enough. To us, it’s serious and something we really want to do and it’s nice to just do it. If someone questions our motives – we really like it and we are really serious, but we understand there’s a humorous aspect to it…but we want it to be the way it was back then, when people were rock stars [laughs]. If you’ve seen Steve Perry’s solo videos, or Toto’s “Rosanna” video, or “Secret Messages” by ELO, it’s hilarious but at the same time, they are taking it very seriously and that’s what makes it fantastic.

Dead Rhetoric: Yeah, the idea that it doesn’t have to be hyper-serious and you can have fun with it, instead of worrying how everything connects together.

Andersson: And at the same time, the lyrics, they are still serious – there’s always an autobiographical element in all the lyrics. Just because we are doing an album about space and female space commanders and whatever…there’s still that Swedish melancholic thing in there that’s very serious. The whole thing about The Night Flight Orchestra is that we want it to be an escape from reality. Escapism is something that should be taken quite seriously. At the end of the day, most of us are leading quite miserable lives and want to do something completely different from what we are doing. Having that sort of outlet – either listening to it or creating it/writing it – it shouldn’t be underestimated I think.

Dead Rhetoric: Absolutely – music is always there as an escape from the day-to-day to push you through to the next one.

Andersson: Yeah – we are really proud of what we are doing. You shouldn’t underestimate the over-the-top rock star dreams [laughs] that we all have.

Dead Rhetoric: There’s been talk about the importance of spontaneity with The Night Flight Orchestra. Is that something that’s grown more with each album?

Andersson: I think it’s been there from the beginning. The first time we all got together in the same room and played music was back in 2009 I think. Everyone in this band – we are all really seasoned and experienced musicians; Bjorn and I talked a lot about who we would want in the band, and when we finally got together the chemistry was there from the beginning. We’ve never really had to talk much about the way that things should sound. Everyone is really familiar with the idea of what it should sound like. So from the beginning, we’ve never had to talk about the actual sound [of the band]. We talk a lot about music and playing – we can all just turn around and talk references for a certain song and then play, like David Hungate or Jeff Porcaro or whoever, and everyone just gets it and we just play. It’s always falls in place quite easily.

That’s one of the great things about this band – we never have to fight in the studio. We just put up some mics and start playing; it’s quite easy. I’ve had people comparing us to groups like Steely Dan and asking if we are perfectionists…we are really not [laughs]. We are just playing and it seems to work. We produce and record everything ourselves, which we have done since the first album, and it feels very natural. We don’t want to change that concept – it’s quite fun. We don’t have producers or anyone from the outside monitoring our progress in the studio. We just get together and hook up a few mics and press record. It works!

Dead Rhetoric: You kind of eluded to this before, but how do you keep the music sounding genuine instead of ironic or kitschy?

Andersson: First of all, we are all great friends in this band. We don’t see each other very often because we have busy schedules with Soilwork and Arch Enemy, but we stay in touch through social media all the time. We have long discussions about Swedish ‘80s videos or Toto basslines or whatever, so we always have that connection. We have an ongoing discussion about music all the time – what’s important and what’s not, and what’s funny and what’s not. Whenever we get together it’s more like a vacation/party [laughs]. So we are always posting musical ideas or sending stuff to each other. We are always discussing what we want to do next. So I guess that’s our secret – we are constantly staying in touch like a bunch of teenage girls – gossiping and discussing things. When we eventually get together, it’s there like background noise, but it makes things really comfortable.

Dead Rhetoric: In a press release you mentioned that it’s the ideas and visions behind the music that are important, more so than the technical aspects themselves – what were the ideas and visions that were discussed while you recorded Amber Galactic?

Andersson: Personally, I’ve been talking about this for years – I’ve always wanted to do a space opera or a space-themed album. We have a loose theme, at least in my mind, where we have this utopian future where the women are space commanders and the males are subdued and often in an underdog position [laughs]. A lot of our songs are about unrequited love, and it’s kind of nice to get to make it more polarized. Having this utopian future, the females are the dominant gender and the males are more like a service position and always in love with those untouchable, distant females. Having space as a metaphor for the distance between people in love, it’s a super cheesy subject [laughs] but it’s kind of nice having a starting point for doing something bigger. We’ve spent quite a few late evening discussing this as well, during recordings. I think we’ve created an atmosphere where everything has this slightly sci-fi aspect to it, which I think rubbed off on everyone’s performance.

Dead Rhetoric: I do have to ask – is there anything going on with Soilwork at the moment?

Andersson: Yes – we are going to do our first festival show [of the year] this weekend on a boat between Finland and the Baltic. Then we are doing festivals all summer. Then hopefully we will get together and start discussing and writing a new album later this year and perhaps record it next year.

Dead Rhetoric: As a doctor, how do you manage doing all this music with a professional career?

Andersson: [Laughs] Actually I don’t! I’ve been sitting out a few tours over the past year because my schedule has been too much. I have kids as well, and I’m an M.D., Ph.D in gastroenterology, so I’m a physician and I also have research going on. But I think that for the next record/touring cycle I will be there more. There’s been quite a bit of turbulence in the Soilwork camp over the past few years with people leaving, but I think if we plan things a bit more carefully for the upcoming cycle it will work out much better.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you see much touring for Night Flight, or is it too problematic given the exhaustive touring schedules of Soilwork and Arch Enemy?

Andersson: We’d love to do more shows with the record. Right now it’s a bit of a catch 22 because even if some of us are in well-established bands, we [The Night Flight Orchestra] are not an established band. We can’t really promise promoters that we can draw X amount of people to the shows. So we’ll have to prove ourselves first and show that we have a following before we can do any serious touring plans. I’d absolutely love to do some touring with this band.

We’ve done a few shows locally, and it’s always great fun. It’s a whole different vibe playing Night Flight Orchestra as opposed to playing metal, it’s really nice. It feels like comparing Deep Purple to Metallica – it’s a whole different vibe. Hopefully this album will sell a few copies and we can have a few tours…we’d love to come to the US as well. But it’s the whole thing with money and visas and everything, so we have to prove we have a following before you can actually do anything.

Dead Rhetoric: Between Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra, does it make it easier to do two bands that have very clearly different agendas and themes? In terms of going between one and the other?

Andersson: Yeah – I think with Soilwork, it’s easier to focus on the metal part. To be able to focus on the thing that sets Soilwork apart from other bands. It’s nice to have The Night Flight Orchestra as an outlet for all the other stuff that we are influenced by. I think in the past, before I was in Soilwork, Bjorn was often trying to sneak in various influences from non-metal bands. Nowadays, we can focus on trying to make Soilwork as unique as possible. The thing with Soilwork nowadays is that we have that Scandinavian, melancholic atmosphere. It’s easier to make it more pure…there’s no need to try to sneak in other elements. We can make a metal album with the atmospheric elements put in, and save the rest of the stuff for The Night Flight Orchestra.

Dead Rhetoric: You have the album coming out, but what’s next for The Night Flight Orchestra?

Andersson: We are doing a festival show in Germany – Rock Hard Festival, in the beginning of June. We are hoping for a European tour later this year. We’ve already started preparing the next album…just because it’s fun! Then we’ll be busy with Soilwork this summer and we are doing a Scandinavian tour with Soilwork as well. In a perfect world, we’ll have a new album out a year from now, and hopefully do a bunch of classic rock festivals next summer.

Dead Rhetoric: It almost seems like you have to work ahead a little bit anyway to balance everyone’s schedules.

Andersson: Yeah – we have tons of songs, and The Night Flight Orchestra is pretty much a vacation band. Everyone is really enjoying doing it – it’s not like its hard labor. It’s more like a party. If things work out and people really like this album, and we get the chance to do it more, it’s like a bonus. It doesn’t feel like we’ve worked for it; we’ve had a great time and if people enjoy it, that’s fantastic.

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