Interview with introspective band Black Light White Light
Black Light White Light, Broken Bells, The Beatles, Real Estate
Image credit: Jannick Boerlum
Black Light White Light is a Swedish Indie Rock band with a penchant for the personal. Their latest album, The Admirer, is a graphic depiction of the spectrum of emotions we all feel at some point or another. Not to mention the existential weight of it all.
Having earned extensive support from the media, featuring everywhere from Clash Magazine to BBC Radio 6 Music, the band continues its venture into international territory. In our interview with them, Black Light White Light explained the tumultuous circumstances under which they wrote the album, songwriter Martin Ejlertsen’s creative process, the meaning behind the band’s name, and much, much more.
You mentioned that The Admirer is your “most personal” release to date. Could you tell us why?
The time of the recording of The Admirer was tumultuous. Not least since the world around us with a Corona pandemic came very close and interfered with the whole creative process. Then the war in Ukraine and the energy and inflation crisis. And the climate is undergoing a very threatening change. But at the same time, a lot was going on in my personal life. There has been and is still illness in my immediate family. And all this has led to songs with very personal lyrics that reflect on this uncertainty and the fear of loss and uncontrolled change. This is reflected in what I find are my most personal lyrics to date.
The lyrics behind the lead track, ‘Epilepsy’, feels stream-of-conscious. What does your songwriting process entail?
My songwriting is often very impulsive and sudden. It comes in stages. Months can pass when all creative ideas have dried up and seem gone forever. And then suddenly they come back in waves. My songs are often captured by a sudden melody line on the guitar or piano, which I then translate into chords and a sung melody. If I can’t find a good melody, the idea doesn’t come to life as a song. Even my most quirky and edgy ideas have to have a melodic element. To me, songwriting becomes particularly exciting when a song can contain both the edgy and the soft – this is also reflected in the band name.
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
The band resonates swirling neo-psychedelia with a Scandinavian melancholic twist. Our new album, The Admirer, is our most personal, versatile, and certainly most adventurous release to date, with psychedelic rock, cosmic pop, and piano and lyrics about pain, doubt, love and confusion.
Which three albums have influenced you the most creatively?
The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.Beck: Sea Change.The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin.
Tell us about the key pieces of equipment that you use to define your sound?
On our new album, we have noticeably cut down on the use of many spaced elements in order to prioritize the more intimate ones such as grand piano, strings, and the acoustic guitar. However, there are still quite a few underlying effects, especially on guitar and keyboard as well as vocals such as space echo, delay, overdrive, and tremolo.
Is there any “non-musical” ingredient that is essential to crafting your sound?
No, what you hear is what we have created live in the studio as a band or individually afterwards.
Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
As the years have gone by, I have found greater and greater joy in being able to tinker and experiment with details and effects in the studio. This is where I can get an outlet for the creative joy and creation process: it is when several musicians enter the same room.
What has been your most memorable performance so far?
There are too many to let one outshine all the others. The coolest concerts typically happen when you have the least expectations and just go out and do what you like.
And which performance would you prefer to forget?
There are quite a few. When playing live there is so much that can go wrong. But that’s also the beauty of live concerts. Neither the band nor the audience knows how it all ends.
Any new or emerging artists on your radar?
I am constantly surprised by how new music can be made all the time with a little twist, which thus appears as new. But it gradually takes quite a bit for me to really get caught up in something new. Some newer artists I really like are for example Nik Brinkman, Big Search and BC Camplight. Or local Badlands whom we will tour with in the Fall.
If you could collaborate with, or perform alongside any artist, who would it be? And why?
It would be really interesting to be able to do a collaboration with The Flaming Lips. Their releases almost always offer new crazy ideas and inventions, and I think it must be a bit of a creative dream factory to be able to work with them.
If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
A journalist, which I am by education.
Tell us about any upcoming shows or releases you have in the pipeline.
In the fall, we will do a small string of concerts in Scandinavia with Badlands. She is from Malmo, like us, and does some really cool stuff. Should be interesting.
Watch the official music video for ‘Epilepsy’, via Forward Backwards Recordings: