Choosing the chosen ones

This is another track from the Seven Rivers Wild album, titled Choosing The Chosen Ones. Although this song has a message we feel strongly about, the actual video is mostly snippets detailing the past year of the band, life on the road in general, and a celebration of how much we love being musicians. Horns performed by Viktor Brobacke and Magnus Jonsson Szatek. Enjoy!

We also just released the full album on Soundcloud. Hope you’ll enjoy it! https://soundcloud.com/billymomo/sets/seven-rivers-wild-mixes

A weekend to remember

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Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

It begins as soon as we step out of the cars, just before midnight this past Friday.
The smells hit us right away. A plethora of flowers and trees in bloom. Summer has arrived in Österlen, the evening air is warm, and we have come to Franskans Crêperie in Rörum to see some friends, and play a show.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

For those of you who don’t know, Österlen is an area in the very South of Sweden which is legendary for its rural beauty and easygoing bohemian atmosphere. Florida might be where Americans go when they retire, but when the Swedes do, they move to Österlen, especially the ones who have an artistic spirit. Ok, so that’s oversimplifying it a little, but you get the idea. It’s the ’get our heads together in the country’ type vibe, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller

As soon as we step inside the house, we are greeted by our lovely host Beatrice, as well as her various family members and friends, some we have met before, others are new acquaintances, but it feels like coming home. Asparagus soup is served, as well as crackers with Sardinian cheeses and amazing wine. Did Billy Momo just die and wake up in Heaven?

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Photo: Birgitta Haller

We chat for a couple of hours, the conversation increasingly slides into drunktalk, Billy-style, and then people retire one after another (well, some quite a lot later than others), knowing that we have an intense day ahead of us.

We wake up to a bright, sunny and very warm summer Saturday. Some of us are nursing the odd shrunken skull, others eat breakfast in the garden.

Then we set up our gear for the evening’s concert. We take our time doing soundcheck, rehearse a couple of tunes we are working into the setlist, all very comfortable and relaxed.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

After a terrific lunch we take a sightseeing tour of some sweet spots in the area, including lush, green beech forests and a beautiful beach by the ocean that looks and feels like it could be Zanzibar rather than Sweden.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

After this, we spread out a little, everybody doing their thing. Some going off to check out the local flee markets, others prefer to sip wine and beer in the garden while eating some crêpes with baked cinnamon apples, Calvados and ice cream on top. Oh, and coffee, we do have a show to consider later…

As the guests for the evening start to arrive, we begin our little pre-show warm up ritual backstage, we get dressed and sing a couple of songs to get our harmonies in tune.
Some old friends drop in backstage to say hello, beards are being oiled, the setlist is going through some last minute changes. One band member, who shall remain nameless, gets introduced to a particularly enchanting specimen of the female variety, and promptly falls in love. Or something. Suddenly, it’s 9:00 p.m. We are ready.It’s steaming hot onstage. We are sweating profusely before the first song is over, but the performance is really cooking as well. The people are having a good time, hollering and clapping. Lovely ladies in summer dresses dance wildly around us, and surprisingly many are singing along with our songs. It’s a beautiful sight to see.

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Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

Then suddenly, in between two songs, we are being told the sad news of Gregg Allman’s passing. As a tribute, we launch into a spirited version of ’Midnight Rider’, one of the best songs ever written by anybody.

We play a really long show, by our standards anyway, we are not Bruce Springsteen. But the people won’t allow us to end the performance, craving more and more. We fittingly end the much extended encores with ’So tired’ after almost two hours.

The post-gig blues sets in, big time. But so does the post-show party. We sign posters and CDs. We drink wine. We chat with audience members and friends. Eventually a more exclusive selection of people pour back into the private area of the house and a more laid-back party ensues. Orren and Beatrice’s daughter Lova take turns playing an acoustic guitar, and for a while we get into some drunkenly slurred renditions of Beatles tunes. The vibe is chill, although the house is still hot, and nobody’s mellow is being harshened whatsoever. Beautiful.
Just like the previous night, people retreat one by one, or in some cases twos, until only the last men standing/drinking remain. Incidentally the same two guys as the night before. It’s already light outside when the house finally is silent. Apart from snoring.

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Photo: Birgitta Haller.

The last day. We rehearse for a little while before we start tearing down our shit and pack it all back in the van. We eat lunch outside, and give the guests at the crêperie an acoustic performance of ’The Weekend’.
Some last social calls are made, and one band member, who shall remain nameless, realizes he has another chance to encounter one particularly enchanting specimen of the female variety, and thus takes off running in her general direction. Literally. Running. Hilarious.

We say our goodbyes to Beatrice, Lova and the rest of the staff at the crêperie, and then get in the cars. We came, we saw, we played. Beautiful. We’ll be back, Österlen. Thank you.

Love! /Gramps

Recommended listening:
Allman Brothers: Midnight Rider
Radka Toneff: Moon’s A Harsh Mistress
Billy Momo: I’ve Got You 
Van Halen: Summer Nights
Spotify: Beatles: Rocky Raccoon

Roots

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Orren. Photo by Christopher Anderzon.

We all have our own roots, don’t we?

Even though my musical background has been influenced by where I was born and when, I doubt anyone else share my musical upbringing. In modern times, where I live, there’s not much musical heritage being voluntarily upheld. We all got our own music history. This is mine.

18575744_10154275780167396_926097322_oI was three when my big brother found our parents’ Beatles-collection. This was the first time music became an activity for me. We would sit and listen for hours. Sometimes we drew, sometimes we sang along, sometimes we just listened. It wasn’t the first band I ever heard, but being the first I really listened to, it sort of set the standard for how I would listen to music.

To me, the genius of the Beatles is in the attitude. They seem to never really have cared about what people would think or what they might expect. Everything sounds so naturally free. Free of any sort of boundaries. The attitude to reality in general I guess, that’s what I think made them. And that coloured my whole perception of music. Listening to music became one of our favourite things to do thanks to the Beatles and of course, after having dived so deeply into the complete Beatles collection that we would never really get out again, we started exploring further.

orren_blog 1My big brother was my best friend. We did everything together. And he was quite the explorer when it comes to music. Me and my brother found Joakim Thåström when I was about five. He performed on a big Swedish support gala for ANC, the anti-apartheid movement, if you remember. I think it must have been aired on TV, because I remember seeing it before we had the album. His performance was my first real musical chock. A genuine “what in the holy fuck is this??!”-moment.

He had this raw and totally destructive energy. He really was punk rock in a body. He radiated self abuse. I had, luckily, no experience of people with that sort of problems, but I believe I felt him. And since that discovery, every person I’ve met with abuse problems of any kind, have reminded me of him.  He was then in a band called Imperiet. They were a sort of post-punk pop/rock band. Very 80’ies I guess. To me, the songs were beautiful and honest. And Thåströms energy felt unique in every way. Imperiet albums would now be at the top of my wish list for birthdays and Christmas for many years to come. Still love them.

I think I must have been eight when my brother found Run DMC. I really don’t know how it happened. He was ten. None of our friends were into hip hop. There was no internet and only two channels on TV. Absolutely no music videos. I don’t think we even knew about the concept. But he found them, somehow. As soon as he was allowed to take the subway into town on his own, he started going to this store called Vinyl Mania. And sometimes he took me with him. They had everything in urban music. It was a dream!

We always recorded everything on cassette tape. I can’t remember exactly why. Maybe our dad taught us to do that so we wouldn’t fuck up the vinyls, listening so frequently to music. Anyway, we had been doing mix tapes for years, but when hip hop was introduced to us, we got inspired to take it to the next level. I remember how we worked for hours on our “Mary mix”, which was our chopped up version of Run DMC’s “Mary Mary”, made by recording it from vinyl through the air, using the pause button on the tape recorder. “Ma-ma-ma-ma-Mary Mary, wh-wh-why you buggin?”

We went through most of hip hop in the next four-five years. Erik B and Rakim, LL Cool J, EPMD. I remember getting my handprinted Public Enemy-jacket when I was nine. It was summer and one of the girls in my class accused me of wearing it just because I thought it was cool and not because I needed it to keep me warm. Well, duh! It was T-shirt weather! Of course I was wearing it because it WAS cool! I remember hearing NWA for the first time. It was almost too much! I was now determined to become a classical guitarist and a rapper.

Orren_blogJust like the Beatles, I knew no boundaries. When I was twelve, all of a sudden we were punk rockers. Just like that! I love that about kids. We saw no shame in changing our minds. Whatever sucked yesterday can always rule tomorrow. I don’t know if I had any real revelations musically in this period, it was maybe more about the lifestyle and the culture, which I knew at this point was just as important as the actual music. What did happen, though, was that I found myself on a stage at some sort of carnival at summer camp, with hundreds of kids watching – or at least being there. I sang a Swedish punk song and it was an amazing experience. But more than the actual performance was the sound of an electric guitar through a guitar amp with some distortion. That was powerful! I decided then and there that I had to have a band.

Of course, my brother was way ahead of me. He was already starting one and they wanted me on guitar. I had played classical guitar on and off since I was eight, never really falling for it, but I knew some chords and lord! This was something different. At the youth centre they were more than happy to help us out with gear and rehearsal time. This was now our whole world. We were gonna be big. I had always dreamed about a music career. Now I could taste it.

Through the Clash and “Rock The Casbah!” we drifted into more groove oriented styles of music. Fumbling at first, with disco inspired rock tunes like Rolling Stones “Miss You” or the Clash “Magnificent Seven”, but later getting into the real thing. Earth Wind And Fire, Anita Ward, Gloria Gaynor, the whole thing. This later moved into funk. And there they were. Funkadelic. I guess those early ventures into the Beatles catalogue made us receptive to that spaced out, fucked-up-on-acid sound. We were simultaneously discovering acid house and that whole scene at this time. We were ready for some real freaks.

Discovering P-Funk is of inevitable when exploring funk music. We first hit “One nation under a groove”. I loved it, but at first I was so hung up on that four-on-the-floor disco groove, that I had a hard time with most of the rest of the material. That changed, though, the more we listened. By the time we got as deep in as to “Music for my mother”, the first single they made as Funkadelic (they were earlier called the Parliaments, which was changed to Parliament, a parallel group to Funkadelic, with pretty much the same members but a pretty different sound), we were sold.

Funkadelic was going to be my greatest influence by far. I was maybe fifteen. I was determined to become a musician, though I had not quite found myself as one. Funkadelic taught me everything. Groove, dirt, blues, guitar solos, oh my god, the guitar solos! and again, complete lack of boundaries. But most of all, balls and attitude. It is impossible to be more confident than George Clinton was in 1969-1975. There are many cocky artists out there, many to be deeply admired for their lack of fucks to give, but no one beats George.

orren_blog 3After discovering Funkadelic, it’s all a blur, really. I never stopped listening to the Beatles or Imperiet and I got back to rap music later on, I discovered Johnny Cash, Wu-Tang Clan, Lee Perry and the Upsetters, Manu Chao, Amadou and Mariam, Ennio Morricone, Prodigy and thousands of other artists, well known or well hidden. Nothing compares to the experience of falling in love with Funkadelic. I can’t explain it, because words are futile in context. They did to funk what the Beatles did to rock’n roll. They totally ruined it. Made it something so much bigger, built a whole world of it. And once you’re there, you can’t get out. I’m still lost!

After this, there’s only two more things. First, writing songs with Barba. Discovering that I can communicate on that level with someone, was huge. Second, Prince live in Gothenburg 2007. And I won’t try to describe that one. I don’t know how exciting it is to read about all the stuff I’ve listened to. But there is no better way to know me, as a songwriter as well as a person. If you got this far reading, you know pretty much everything about me. /Oskar Hovell aka Orren

What’s on your mind?

Sometimes people come up to me after a show and say, ”You look so happy up there on stage. Your joy is really contagious! What’s going on in your mind when you’re performing? What are you thinking about?”

I am usually quite the brooder. I think a lot about stuff, and some would say I think too much. But not when I am on stage. I don’t think I am ever more ’in the moment’ than I am while playing music in front of an audience, except maybe while fucking.

Yes, obviously I do think about stuff when I play, but it’s like the world outside the venue disappears, and none of the everyday issues matter. My entire focus is on the performance, and the music. The most important advice I can give anyone who wants to play music live is: pay attention! Really be there. I listen to what my bandmates are doing, and I watch their body language for cues and clues as to what they might be doing next. When you’ve played with the same people for a long time this process is almost a telepathic thing, you are not really consciously thinking about it, just reacting.

If The Coffa plays something cool on the bass (which he is very prone to do) I like to be supportive, play something that enhances what he’s playing, or complements it. And it’s the same way with all the guys in the band. You pay attention, you listen, you respond. I don’t think too far ahead, my mind is rarely on the next song, unless there is a segue of some sort that needs to be focused on. If my mind starts to wander too far down the setlist, I find it distracting, and I don’t enjoy it as much.

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The Head, Orren and Gramps – photo: Marcus Landström.

Sometimes even a ”mistake” can lead to a very wonderful musical interaction, and it’s not unusual that songs are altered because of some unique event that took place, everyone thinking ”That was really fucking sweet!” and so we incorporate it into the arrangement. Serendipities like that are what makes live performance so exciting and joyous.

I am also aware of the audience, and the way they respond to the show. Often when you are on stage with bright lights in your eyes, it can be difficult to pick out faces in the crowd, but you can usually see a few, and I try to pay attention to them, and if possible make eye contact every once in a while. To me, a live performance is about communicating with the audience in every possible way, and I really dislike it when artists act as if the people in front of them don’t exist. I want the people who paid for a ticket to the show to go home thinking they really experienced something cool on a personal level, and acknowledging their presence by looking them in the eye is a very effective way of achieving that.

Also, I try to be transparent in my reactions to what’s going on. A lot of time funny shit happens on stage that the audience might not even be aware of, but I’ll laugh out loud, and they will understand that something happened, even if they are not sure exactly what, and they will sense that they just witnessed something spontaneous and special. It’s little details like that that make their experience special and your performance memorable.

So, in essence, the question ”What are you thinking about onstage?” can be answered with: ”Nothing. And everything.”

/Gramps

Recommended listening:
Henry Rollins – gig mishaps
Rush – The Big Money (live)
Frank Zappa – Tinsel Town Rebellion
The Band – Ophelia

Seven Rivers Wild

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Seven Rivers Wild is our third album and the latest we’ve released so far. But there is more to come, don’t you worry.

I would say that this is the first album we’ve released as a seven piece group. We are not a duo with musicians anymore.
Me and Orren still write all the songs and do most of the arrangements. But the whole process of recording it was much more of a group effort on this one.
Everybody had an input on the material.

We wanted to do a proper studio album. Much more serious recording from start to finish. On the first two albums we used way more programming and loops. But for this album we wanted to play everything. We even took in live strings and horns.

A lot of the lyrics on this album are a bit darker than before, I think. A big part in that is probably me going through a divorce in the middle of recording it. I had some shit to deal with to say the least. But hey, that’s why we have music, right? Way better to write a song like Seven Rivers Wild than actually hitting somebody upside the head with a hammer.

When time came to deal with the cover artwork we happened to meet this wonderful artist/photographer named Robert Eldrim.

He wanted to do our album cover and had loads of ideas. We started talking about building a machine that somehow would represent us as a group. So he started doing interviews with us to get a good feeling of who everybody was and what the dynamics within the group was.
And then he came up with a machine that was a sailboat and a fish, but at the same time a zeppelin that was an instrument that played our music. And we were supposed to fly it over the seven rivers wild. There might have been some mushrooms involved or maybe he’s just some sort of genius. But when he showed us the end result we fell completely in love with it. And him. Billy Momo loves Robert Eldrim. Check him out!

 

And now we are in the middle of touring this album and we are having a blast!
The years of grinding it out on the road playing in half empty bars are slowly starting to pay off. People are starting to find us and we are starting to build a very nice and close relationship with people who enjoy our music all over the world. And we love every second of it. The second I get off stage I’m looking forward to the next show.
Life is very very exciting at the moment.

And while we are touring we are making plans for how we will record the next album. I can’t tell you much about it at the moment since we haven’t decided yet. I’ll have to get back to you on that. But I can tell you that it will be different from the last album. We always want to do something different when we start a new recording process. We are forever changing and forever inspired to try new stuff.
Let’s keep things interesting y’all!
See you soon!
/Barba

Drunktalk

Albumcover-Billy Momo

Drunktalk was our second album.

It was written and recorded during a time that on paper should have been a really bad time to get shit done. In the beginning of the process I was on parental leave with my daughter, and in the end of the process Orrens son was born. But we were really focused anyway somehow. I recorded a lot of stuff with my daughter on my lap. You can probably even hear her doing her best googoo gaah gaah in the backround on some tracks. Orre recorded his ideas at home and sent them to me and I arranged them so that we could record them with the band when we had time to meet up in the studio.

This is the first album that the band was more involved. Maybe not so much in the arrangements still, but we didn’t play all the instruments ourselves as we did on Ordinary Men. We had been playing live with the band for awhile and really wanted their playing and attitude on the album. So we were comfortable with letting go of the control a bit.

The Coffa (bass) was the only new guy on this album. His audition is what you hear on The Weekend.

We were in the studio fiddling around with that track when he stopped by. Tony had played with him before and thought that he would be perfect for Billy Momo. He literally was in the studio for 20 minutes. He came in, said hi. Heard the track once. Played it through once and then we pushed record and played it once more. And that is what you hear on the record. That is also the first track that I started pretending like I could play the piano. And that was fun so I just stayed behind the piano from then on. Up until then I had mostly been playing guitar and banjo in Billy Momo. I think everybody was happy I stopped doing that. I’m even worse at guitar.

With Drunktalk we experienced our first two hits (from our perspective they are anyway). First we had the title track Drunktalk. It got a lot of love in the press and blogs all over the world. For awhile it had a thousand spins a day on Spotify. We were super happy and thought we had peaked.

And then out of the blue we got an email from a friend. He attached a link to a trailer for HBO series Better Call Saul, and asked us if the track in the trailer wasn’t a Billy Momo song.

Sure was! They had used our track Wishing Ain’t No Sin as the main theme in the trailer. The trailer had over a million views already and we didn’t know anything about it. That changed a lot for us. Suddenly we were able to reach way beyond the Swedish borders and got some real attention by press and radio. Super exciting times in camp Billy Momo.

We spent the rest of that year on the road going all over Sweden and even reaching UK and the U.S. That banjo riff on Wishing Ain’t No Sin changed the world for us, and it just happened by chance. We had just finished recording Wishing and were just sitting in the studio talking before we went home. While we were talking we had the track on in the backround and Orren was just noodling about on the banjo while we were talking. And I just stopped him in the middle of conversation like, “Dude! What are you doing? We have to record that before you forget it.” Orren was like “You think we need to? I’ll probably remember it.” But I just fell in love with it straight away and wouldn’t take any chances. It made me think of hooks like Timbalands production on Missy Elliotts Get ur freak on. Sometimes stuff like that just happens if you create a creative space for yourself where everything is allowed. You don’t have to think things out. They will come to you if you let it. That whole album was like that. We were just in a super creative space in time and just went with it. We weren’t in control. Good times and good people makes great music. Simple as that! (Tomas Juto, aka Barba)

Ordinary Men

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I don’t know how much you guys know about Billy Momo and our albums. But we are actually celebrating our 10 year anniversary this summer. I thought I’d tell you where it all began and about our first album, Ordinary Men.
The title comes from me and Orren having toured for what felt like forever with other artists and groups. An endless streak of airports, buses, hotels and backstage areas. Life on the road is fun, super fun! Don’t get me wrong here. But it is a strange world that can be quite disconnected from real life.
And there came a point when we just felt that we wanted something real and closer to what we really were. Be a part of real life with our real friends and family. So that is why we went home, started Billy Momo and named the first album Ordinary Men.

But we took our time finding what we wanted to do. We wouldn’t rush this. We started writing songs together in 2007. But we didn’t release our first album until 2011. It wasn’t 4 years of constant recording. We were going through everyday life at the same time. I opened a bar with Preacher Man and had a daughter. Orren met his future wife and was doing his thing. Like we sing on the track Billy Slomo. “We’re coming up slow, ’cause we’ve got time to grow”.

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Tomas Juto (aka Barba) and Oskar Hovell (aka Orren).

It all began with us packing a car with instruments and going to a house in the woods for a few days. We didn’t really have a plan. We just knew we would write something. Not sure what. The first song we came up with was Come my way. And that kind of set the course for where we wanted to go.
I think we wrote like 10-15 songs that weekend. We really wanted to do everything ourselves. Write everything, play all the instruments and record it and mix it. But our knowledge of studio recording back then was modest to say the least. So after a while we realized that we needed some help. My brother-in-law had a studio and we had worked with him before in other bands, so he was an obvious choice. You probably know him as The Head (Oscar Harryson), electric guitarist in Billy Momo by the way.
And as he began listening to what we had recorded it became obvious that not everything we had recorded was as good as it should be. So we added auxiliary players on a few of the tracks. Most of the guest musicians we found through the bar. Some of them played at the bar. Some of them just got drunk there. And most of them are now full members of Billy Momo.

The music publishing company Hype Music found our album 2 years after its first release and they wanted to help us out. So we re-released the album through Hype and MTV Networks in 2013 with a bonus track, They fuck you at the crossroads. And that is probably when we started realizing that this was something that maybe other people would want to hear and not just something we did for our own creative pleasure. So from there on we kind of stopped playing with other people and started really focusing on Billy Momo. It was a slow process getting that first album out of our system. But that process really laid the foundation for what we are today.
(Tomas Juto, aka Barba)

Still drunktalkin’ after all these years…

When a band makes an album, a song and a video called ’Drunktalk’, you can probably figure out that they’re not exactly teetotallers.

 

Billy Momo’s songs are sometimes inspired by true bender stories, and some are results of drunken imagination. A night out with Billy Momo is typically a pretty simple affair, but a lot of fun for those involved.

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Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

We usually find a nice spot not too far away from the bar, and engage in our favorite pastime, The Drunktalk. We have quite a few raconteurs in the band (myself being one of them), and we never want for entertaining stories. We take turns getting rounds and everyone has to deal with whatever is put in front of them. If Coffa’s buying, we somehow always end up with Fernet shots, although no one really likes them, not even him!Most of the guys in the band enjoy IPAs and fancy hipster beers, but my drink is the Jack Donald’s. For those of you who don’t know, a Jack Donald’s is one part Jack Daniel’s and two parts Diet Coke. Not regular Coke. Not Zero. Diet Coke. I discovered years ago that if I stick to that formula, I can drink all night and not be hungover the next day. I don’t know if it works the same for everyone, but for me it does. But as soon as I throw anything else into the mix, all bets are off. Anyway, I digress…

There’s a terrific movie clip that someone shot fairly late at night on my birthday, where Preach and myself are having a good time, but the drunk talk has escalated to the level where we are basically down to hand signals, grunts and guffaws. You can tell that we are communicating and enjoying ourselves, but I dare anyone to explain what the ”conversation” is all about. That clip would make for an excellent ”caption this” contest.

Now, you are probably wondering where I’m going with this. The answer is: nowhere. I’m just letting you know what our orders are the next time you spot us in the bar and want to buy us a drink and join in on the drunktalk. Let’s have some fun! You might not wake up the next day where you expected to, but you will have had a fun evening. Mine’s a Jack Donald’s, please.

Peace!

/Gramps

Recommended listening:
The piano has been drinking – Tom Waits
One scotch, one bourbon, one beer – Thurston Harris
I ain’t drunk – Jimmy Liggins
Up on cripple creek – The Band
Gin and juice – Snoop Dogg
Livet är en fest – Nationalteatern
Last call for alcohol – Julia Lee and her boyfriends
Armpit farts – Zilch Fletcher (Spotify link)
Just dropped in – Kenny Rogers & the First Edition