Drummer Dave Sundberg and singer Liv Jagrell – Sister Sin
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Rachel Rosenberg at Victory Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Victory Records for the promo pictures of the band
Here’s a new interview with the Swedish metal band Sister Sin. They’ve just released a new album BLACK LOTUS earlier this year and its the bands 5th album. The band have raged on tour all over Europe but they did found time to do a interview with me and Metal-Rules.com. I spoke with the bands drummer Dave Sundberg and singer Liv Jagrell and here follows what they had to say about the new album, labels, future and the past. If you like metal with punk attitude, you have to check out this band right now.
Hi, Dave and Liv are you ready to kick off the interview?
D: We have quite the thought out formula by now since we try release a new album every two years; 15-18 months of touring and then 6-7 months writing & recording.
How long did it take to write the material and what are the lyrics about this time? I especially think about the songs “Desert Queen”, “Count Me Out” and “The Jinx”?
D: We spent around 4 months writing everything. We wrote or re-wrote some of the stuff in the studio on top of that as well. Almost all of our lyrics, give or take one or ten, are coming from my perspective or take on things in this miserable life ,haha. Whether it is social structures or just plain anger directed to left and right, him or her. “Desert Queen” however is pure fictional and thematic. An occult little story along the lines of Satan, darkness, sex and seduction. Very cute!
The previous album NOW AND FOREVER was released 2012, what has the band been up to in between the releases?
D: Well, we did 1 North American tour, 2 UK tours, 2 European headline tours, 17 festivals, a couple of shows in Russia and shitloads of dates in Scandinavia. We also made 3 music videos, played 5 cruises and wrote a new album. I guess you can say that we’ve kept busy! 🙂
Who writes the lyric and the music?
D: I write the lyrics and me and Jimmy writes the music.
Were there many songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
D: No, just one instrumental piece!
When you began to work on BLACK LOTUS did you experience any pressure from fans or label to deliver something extra ordinary?
D: Not so much from label or fans. We’re very proud of all of our albums so far (Switchblade Serenades, True Sound Of The Underground, and Now And Forever) so it more pressure on ourselves to top the previous stuff. Even though we hope the fans will appreciate and love it of course. We want, and need, to be able to stand proud behind the material and albums we make. Otherwise you can’t expect others to do it for you. Guess it’s easy for many bands to drop the ball at our point in a career for many reasons. Maybe you just have 1 album left on your contract and just wanna release something to become free agents or whatever. We don’t wanna be that kind of band, for our own sake and for our fans.
How come you named the album BLACK LOTUS, and who’s done the cover art-work?
D: When half of the album was written and we started looking at titles we wanted that title to somewhat reflect the songs. At the time we had written “Stones Thrown”, “Desert Queen”, “Count Me Out” and a few more and they all seemed pretty dark. I don’t remember how we came up with “Black Lotus” but it did seem to tie the songs together. And it’s a cool, memorable, title which is always important! A guy named Andrew Ghrist from Chicago did the art-work on this one. Someone from Victory recommended him and we just went for it. He basically got the title and a few pointers to do whatever he wanted.
How come you put only Liv, and not the rest of the band, on the covers of the two latest albums?
D: On this album, it was totally unintentional. Like mentioned above, we gave Andrew free hands to do whatever and he painted Liv in there. We said “cool” and went for it. I don’t have a problem with her being the front woman or identity of Sister Sin at all. I think it’s important to have that character that everybody identifies the band with. Like Dee Snider does for Twisted Sister, Blackie Lawless for WASP etc. For Now And Forever we had that album cover idea since before the album was written for that exact reason. I think it may bother people just because she´s female. As a small example, I doubt AVATAR gets that questions for their albums (Black Waltz and Hail The Apocalypse). Neither do rock dudes get+ 5000 comments on YouTube how they dress or look.
There are 9 songs and about 36 minutes of music on BLACK LOTUS, isn’t that a bit short for being a full length album?
D: We made a conscious decision early on to go for quality not quantity. We don’t wanna throw in a song there just because it has to be at least 11 tracks. Looking at the attention span of listeners in this digital era, most people cherry-pick a few songs here and there to add to their playlist and move on to the next anyways. Almost all of my 80’s and 90’s album have 9 or 10 songs on em and to me, 30-40 minutes is just long enough to be able to stay focused and absorb every track before getting distracted, bored or numb. That’s just my opinion of course bet hey, nobody complained back in the day and that was when people actually paid for the music they listened to.
You didn’t feature a cover song this time, why not?
D: Main reason we had covers on the previous three albums was that we found a track where we all thought “hey that could be a Sister Sin song” or we felt we could do something with it to sound like us, make it better or whatever. We didn’t really find a song this time that fitted that criteria. Plus, we can’t have cover songs on all our albums either! If we do record another cover in the future it will probably end up on a B-Side or on some bonus disc somewhere.
The last song “Sail North” features a vocal recording of the well known Swedish dead entertainer Eddie Meduza, who came up with the idea to put him in the song? It also sounds like Liv is singing a duet with someone, who is it?
D: The lyrics are about small town Sweden; the moonshine, cars, fistfights etc. The “live for the weekend” mentality. Eddie’s music fits right in there; both his lyrics and he´s main audience, so we thought it would be cool to sample an interview of his and squeeze in there. We all love Eddie Meduza in the band so that was of course a big part of the reason too. Jimmy (our guitarist) sings the half of the first and second verse on “Sail North” with Liv.
Before the album was out you released the video “Chaos Royale” what did the fans and media think of it?
D: Don’t know what the media thought of the video, since it’s not exactly controversial. But the fans seem to love it and the single itself is our highest charting track yet on American rock radio, so we’re all very pleased!
Sister Sin – Chaos Royale Video
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs from the album?
D: Yes. We will be filming a video for “Desert Queen” in December.
Sister Sin – Chaos Royale (Lyric) Video
How would you like to describe what kind of music Sister Sin plays?
D: There are so many subgenres and descriptions out there it can get confusing. But to keep it short and sweet; Sister Sin is rock and metal.
In my opinion, BLACK LOTUS is a brilliant album. Are you happy with the outcome of the album or do you feel you should have done anything in a different way?
D: Thanks man! Yeah we are super happy how it turned out! There are always minor things and details here and there you would like to change or done differently but this album is as close to perfect we’ve ever come. So far.
I also have congratulate you to the great reviews the album’s received from media. Do you care about what papers and critics thinks about your work?
D: It´s always nice when people say good things about an album we worked very hard on and are very proud of ourselves. Yeah! But the main thing is, like mentioned earlier, that we can stand behind the music we produced and display it proudly. If you have that, it doesn’t matter in the end what media and papers think really.
Are there any differences in how the band is treated by the press here in Sweden and abroad?
D: We’re fortunate to have received great reviews and feedback all over but aside from that, it seems like the American press is a lot more interested in Liv and her as a person. Over here, in Sweden and Europe in general, it’s more about the music and band itself.
The album in full was streamed on the Blabbermouth website. How did fans respond to this new album?
D: Overwhelmingly great! There are always gonna be a few people here there that say this or that album is much better, but that’s just the way it is. You lose some and you win some. In the end, we always gain more fans for every release.
Who produced the album and where was it recorded?
D: We recorded at Leon Music Studios outside Karlstad Sweden with producers Rikard Löfgren and Gustav Ydenius.
Who did the mixing and mastering?
D: Like the previous release, Now And Forever, Cameron Webb did the mixing. John Douche at West by West in NY mastered the album.
How does the band work in the studio? Do you all record everything together in the studio or do you record each part separate?
D: For this album we recorded everything separately.
How long took it to record the album?
D: 3-4 weeks.
Label and management
How did you chose to ink a deal with Victory Records?
D: We felt we needed an established label for the US market. Victory has been around for 25 years and had what was required to properly break, release, and promote a new band in North America. We had already signed up album 1 and 2 with Metal Heaven for Europe and it would be easy to just let them or some other European release it in the States as well. But the US is such a huge market and whilst there are a lot of labels here releasing and distributing their bands over there, they very rarely make an impact. It takes a lot of ground work and financial backing to make a dent over in America and Victory has the experience to do so for their bands. We were really excited when they took us on in 2008.
You’ve been at Victory Records since the release of your 2008 year album SWITCHBLADE SERENADES does that mean that you’re happy with the work the label have put into the albums and the band so far?
D: We have a great and personal working relationship with them since day 1 and I think they’ve done a great job. Especially in the US.
The first albums was released by VR and Metal Heaven but was it VR that released the albums in the US and MH in Europe?
D: Like mentioned above, we signed a contract for album 1 and 2 with Metal Heaven for the European territory. With Victory we signed album 1 and 2 for North America and album 3 and 4 for the world.
The partnership with MH ended 2012 what happened?
D: We fulfilled our contract with them in 2010 after the second album “True Sound Of The Underground” was released.
Your debut album DANCE OF THE WICKED was re-released by VR last year, why? Was it sold out or?
D: I wouldn’t call it “debut album”. It is and was our first demo tape we unfortunately signed away to a small label back in the day. Once we released our first proper album in 2008 the “Dance Of The Wicked” demo sold out and rights owner sold the master to VR who re-released it last year which we are very happy about.
Sister Sin – Rock ‘N’ Roll (Motörhead Cover) ft. Doro Video
Is BLACK LOTUS released world wide today? Or are there any territories where it’s not released yet?
D: Digitally it is available worldwide. Physically it’s not released in South America and Asia.
Are you satisfied with the co-operation you have with Better Than You Management and Danger Music Media?
D: “Better Than You” is our company we started after getting rid our former management. You can tell by the name we don’t think too highly of him, haha. Danger Music is our booking agent in Europe and he keeps us busy for sure! Then we have TKO in North America and recently JKM as management for the world. After a lot of classical beginner mistakes we´re now very happy with all our business relations.
What do you think of the downloading and streaming of music today? Does it kill the industry as many bands and artists thinks?
D: No doubt it’s killing the industry, yeah. But that’s just the way media has evolved so there’s no use bitching about it and it’s irreversible. If the labels and whole entertainment industry would have embraced the technology from the get-go I think there would have been a business model by now that all parties would have benefited from. Unfortunately as is now, neither artist nor labels, definitely not the artist, gets something out of downloading and streaming. The upside is that more people than ever listens and consumes music. Ultimately, the downside is of course nobody pays for it which naturally has consequences all over. From studios, producers, advertising, etc. Another huge disadvantage is discovering new music. It’s so easy for anybody to release an album on Spotify or iTunes that finding a new artist is like the old saying, “You can’t see the tree because of the forest.”
Personal with Liv
For how long have you been singing and do you have any singer that you are inspired by or look up to?
L: I started when I was about 19-20 to focus on vocals and before that I played guitar. As for metal singers or rock singers, Halford and Glenn Hughes have been important to me but also Aretha Franklin and Eva Cassidy.
Are you classically trained or self taught?
L: Mostly self-taught. I’ve been taking some lessons but that was mostly to learn how to keep my voice in shape, which is hugely important.
Do you play any instrument?
L: Guitar, flute and I play tiny bit of piano as well!
Are you also involved in the lyric-writing?
L: No not yet, Dave is really good at writing lyrics, but I do some myself for my own purpose.
You were a part of the all female metal act Hysterica before you joined Sister Sin. For how long were you a part of Hysterica and why did you leave?
L: Actually I was in Sister Sin before Hysterica, and I joined them when I moved to Stockholm and had some more time for playing music. After a while I came to a point where I couldn’t keep up with two bands so I had to choose one, and my choice was Sister Sin since I’ve been with them for a longer time and also it was more of my music style.
Have you been a part of any other metal acts before Hysterica?
L: I’ve been in several demo bands since the age of 15, but nothing that I would guess anyone would have heard about.
You also work as personal trainer/fitness instructor where do you find the time to do that?
L: Whenever we don’t tour or aren’t busy recording a new album, we all work so I squeeze it in as much as I can! It’s my second job!
Have the other band members been getting any healthier with you in the band?
L: No haha not at all, I would say the opposite almost!
What’s it like to be the only female in a metal band? Is it hard to be taken “serious” as a woman in the metal world? After all that music genre have always, sadly, been dominated by men.
L: Yes, I have to say yes to that question, even if for me today I feel I mostly get a lot of respect. But when I started out it was very difficult. Nobody took me seriously or believed in me. I am happy to see that today there is a lot more females in metal!
Do you see yourself as a role model or an inspiration for other younger girls and women who wants to make it in the metal/rock industry? I think you’re a great source of inspiration!!
L: Thank you! Yes I really hope I can be that. If I can inspire young girls to follow their dreams and don’t listen to stupid people, I will be very happy.
As singer you have been given the role as front-person for the band and I imagine that you do the most interviews, does that bother you sometimes? I mean everyone in the band are equal and contributes to the bands music and sound.
L: We all have our part in the band. For example, Dave and Jimmy write the music and I get a lot of interviews, but we help each other out so no one will be forgotten or not heard, I think that is very important!
Do you think it’s important to stay in touch with the fans on Facebook and Twitter? What’s the most common question you get from fans?
D: It is super important! FB, Twitter, Instagram is a great way to connect and build a fan base. For any artist today I’d say social platforms are essential.
The band got a really nice website, who runs it?
Before the release BLACK LOTUS the band was out on a long European tour, how was it? Did you play any of the new songs?
D: It was great! We did a headline run all over Europe and played 2-3 new songs. Now that the album is out we scaled it up to 5 new songs a night.
You haven’t done much shows in Sweden lately why?
D: We did so many shows in Sweden 2013 it felt like we oversaturated the market a bit. We’ve already done 3 so far anyways and 2 more to go before New Years. We’re also doing Stockholm, Borlänge, Gothenburg and Malmö towards the Spring with U.D.O so I would consider it being a quite a lot shows this time around as well. Come party!
You performed in both Norway and Finland but not in Denmark why?
D: I don’t know really. We just get the request via our agent and Denmark hasn’t showed up. Until now that is! On March 14th were doing a show on the UDO tour at Godset in Kolding.
The band had two shows in Russia at the beginning of December, how was it?
D: We just came back from Russia a couple days ago. Second time we´ve been there now and its nothing short of amazing! The fans are super awesome and dedicated. In Moscow we played a 1,300 seater, which is bigger than most venues we play over here. The response was amazing!
You’re going to end the year with doing two shows in Sweden together with Wolf, are you excited about that?
D: Yeah, it’s gonna be great for sure!
Are you going to tour as much next year as you have done this year?
D: 2015 looks like it’s gonna be a lot of touring! We got 50 dates with UDO around Europe and about to announce a whole lot more in a couple of weeks. So from mid-January to mid-May we’re already fully booked! Stay tuned!
When can the fans expect the next Sister Sin album out in stores?
D: We just released Black Lotus! But let’s say October 2016, why not!
What are the plans for Sister Sin during 2015?
D: Touring, touring, and touring!
Is the band big enough to do headliner shows now?
D: Yeah we do headline shows all the time. Mostly in Scandinavia but we’ve also done 2 headliner tours in Europe and the UK plus a bunch in Russia and the US.
Do you have any festival shows booked for 2015?
D: Yes. But we can’t announce them yet!!!
Are you happy with what the band have achieved so far?
D: Definitely yes!
Is the interest for the band big in the US and Asia?
D: In the US yeah! We would go over there a lot more often if it wasn’t so damn expensive. Asia, I have no idea. We haven’t released and promoted any of our albums over there yet but we do get a lot of fan mails from Japan etc. We’re open to it!
Is Sister Sin aiming to be one of the biggest metal bands in the world in the future?
D: We’re planning to get bigger but not the biggest metal band in the world. That would be something, though!
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Sister Sin yet?
D: Are you crazy?? Do so now!
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy BLACK LOTUS?
D: Because it kicks ass! Because you will love it! Because I say so!
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
D: Live your own life, for you will die your own death.