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Lars Ahlund: “You will never hear like “I wrote this song in five minutes” from us. It’s always a long process of writing and rewriting until the song is perfect enough.”

Soen is een band van uitzonderlijke kwaliteit. De Zweden balanceren op de dunne lijn tussen alternatieve rock en symfonische progressieve sferen en weten pure magie te vangen in weldoordachte songs. Na de knaller ’Lykaia’ is hun vierde album ’Lotus’ wederom een prachtalbum dat ontroert, imponeert en je niet meer loslaat. We waren dan ook opgetogen om met toetsenist/gitarist Lars Ahlund de huidige stand van zaken door te nemen.

Door: Vera Matthijssens – 7 april 2019

Hello Lars! ‘Lykaia’ was my number one in the year list of 2017, but congratulations now with ‘Lotus’ since it is a stunner once more! How do you look back at the making of this fourth, new album ‘Lotus’?
Hi Vera and all the Lords of Metal out there and thanks for the kind words. Looking back on the making of ‘Lotus’ is like looking back on the ‘Lykaia’ tour cycle. We started to record demos backstage and jam new riffs at sound checks on that tour. With Soen it’s always a creative process going on somewhere. Whether you are on the bus or backstage you can always find someone noodling on a guitar, working on something new. A lot of the ideas come together that way. Often Martin has a riff, Joel is trying out some melodies, I am working on some sounds and so on. When the tour was over we looked at what we had, wrote some new stuff and rewrote other. In the end we had like fourteen songs to choose from. Then pre-production, then drum, bass and guitar tracking. Then keys, vocals and overdubs. Then mixing, re-mixing and then finally mastering and BOOM! Two years later we have a new album. I guess now it’s time to start all over again.

What happened between 2017 and now, since the release of ‘Lykaia’. Could you tour enough for that album? Any special performances that you have good memories on?
One of the things I love with this band is that the passion for music comes first. Our passion is to play music live. However, doing that too much takes away that joy. I think we really found a good balance. We tour enough to get the music out there and meet our audience, but not so much that it becomes a burden. There’s a lot of shows that comes to mind that had something special. But since this is a Dutch magazine I can say that every time we play in the Netherlands it feels like a vacation. The venues and the staff are always amazing, and so are the audiences.

I was delighted about your gig as headliner on ProgPower festival in the Netherlands in 2017. How did you and the band experience that event?
That was a fantastic evening. I remember it was raining and a bit cold that day, but the show was fantastic and it felt that we really connected with the crowd, which is what it’s all about. We also hung out with some friends we got to know over the years so it was all a great night.

How did the new songs for ‘Lotus’ come into being? What about this writing process?
I would say it’s basically the same process as with the previous albums. Martin comes up with a bunch of riffs and song ideas, Joel tries out melodies and it’s off from there. The biggest difference this time, at least for me, is that I was way more involved with the creative process early on, bouncing ideas and sounds back and forth. You will never hear “I wrote this song in five minutes” from us. It’s always a long process of writing and rewriting until the song is perfect enough. Not good enough but perfect enough.

When and why did Marcus Jidell leave Soen? And how did you find new guitarist Cody Ford who’s Canadian?
Marcus decided to leave around March/April last year. He wanted to focus on his own bands and projects and we all understood and respected that. It was a bit of a stress though, we were going in to the studio in May and now we didn’t have a lead guitarist. Martin started to look for players on Instagram and tried out a few. Cody seemed to be the perfect fit. In the meantime Martin and I started to track guitars for ‘Lotus’. Once we decided to go for Cody we sent him a bunch of music to learn and once he came over to us in Stockholm he recorded his parts. It all worked out really good. His first live show with us was at Wacken and it felt like he had been with us for a long time.

It means you had a different team for recording ‘Lotus’, another producer as well. What can you tell about the recording process and your cooperation with David Castillo and Jens Bogren?
David recorded the drums on ‘Lykaia’ and also did the live mixes on ‘Lykaia Revisited’ and we have known him for a while. He was the obvious choice when it came to producers. On the previous albums we did the production ourselves, but this time we all agreed on letting someone outside the band help us to get where we wanted. Inaki Marconi has been working with us since the Lykaia tour, he knows our sound inside out. He came in as a co-producer as well. Inaki is a perfectionist, so he really made us perform better and David could capture our sounds just the way we hear them in our heads. A perfect team! Jens and David work as a team so of course we let Jens do the mastering.

Why is the album called ‘Lotus’ and is there a general theme or mood in the lyrics this time?
Well it’s not a concept album, but all albums have a certain concept right? The beauty that rises from the mud seemed to be a good metaphor for the kind of lyrics that is on this album and for our music in general.

Fortunately the howling, emotive guitar solos are present again, especially the ones in the title track and ‘River’ are breathtaking beautiful and Pink Floydish. What can you tell about these two songs?

They are both ballads. All good ballads need a guitar solo. Seriously, I think Cody’s solos on those songs show why we wanted him to be in this band. Personally I love recording ballads, they give you room to do more sound layers. In ‘River’ for example you have details like the slide guitar following the piano and the cello floating around underneath in the lower mids. That kind of arrangements really gets me going. On top of that we have two amazing performances by Joel on those tracks.

I also have the feeling that ‘Lotus’ is more thoughtful than ever, more quiet contemplation. Do you agree on that?
Maybe, didn’t really thought about it. Some say it’s the hardest and darkest album, others say it’s the softest and most thoughtful. I just think it’s the one with the strongest songs and the best sound so far.

The video for ‘Martyrs’ is a weird experience with a decadent approach. Can you tell a bit more about the choice for this approach and the relationship with the song?
I don’t see the video as decadent. I think it represents freedom of choice and acceptance, which is something we all support. The idea came due to the fact that metal has been a little behind when it comes to tolerance and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

I see many requests for playing in the US. Are there plans in that direction?
This year is pretty much booked, but we’ll definitely get over there next year. We’re looking forward to it but there’s no point in booking too many shows in a short period, because all the fun and magic of delivering our music live may suffer from it.

We are glad that in March/April there will be a European tour. What can people expect from the shows? Can you give a short introduction to your support bands Wheel and Ghost Iris as well?
Ghost Iris and Wheel are both really good progressive bands from Denmark and Finland. You should check them out! I think it will be a nice package for the entrance fee. You can expect us having a great time doing what we love. Some surprises will be there as well, so don’t miss out!

In the Netherlands we have a brand new prog festival Prognosis. You will be playing there. Any comments on this happening?
Prognosis will be the first time we play ‘Lotus’ songs on a festival environment and that is an exciting thing, to see how an audience that isn’t familiar with the band react to those compositions. It’s also a festival that will last, so we’re honored to be part of it from the go.

What can you tell about the artwork and its symbolism?
This is the first time we worked together with an artist to create something new instead of using an already existing piece of art. Martin is good at finding artists who create art that fits the band’s esthetics. This time Wriliya made the cover art by listening to the music and digest the lyrics. The symbols are her interpretation of our music. Stephanie Pearls images were added to complete the artwork. What does it mean? Like with all art, it means what it needs to mean at a certain point in time for a certain person in a specific place. Next week it means something completely different.

If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do it…
See you soon! And don’t forget to say hi to Cody.

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