As guitarist and founder of Swedish heavy rock outfit The Quill, Christian Carlsson, has completed the circle from which his band’s new album, Full Circle, is named. Having started the band over 20 years ago, with their first release coming in 1995, Carlsson saw The Quill fall from grace following the touring cycle for their 2006 offering, In Triumph. Vocalist Magnus Ekwall split with the band altogether, and drummer Jolle Atlagic joined and toured with Hanoi Rocks, so it looked like The Quill might just fade out and have that be the end.
But of course, that wasn’t the end. Carlsson and bassist Robert Triches regrouped with Atlagic (his tenure in Hanoi Rocks now over) and began writing songs and searching for a singer. After an exhaustive search—of MySpace—the three stumbled on Magnus “Magz” Arnar. Having trained at the London Music School, Arnar is nonetheless a rock frontman in the grand tradition, which suits The Quill just fine, since classic rock is among the most essential components of their sound.
The album now complete and released, Full Circle is just that: The Quill starting all over again. Fans of straightforward heavy rock and roll songwriting will revel in its catchy choruses, blazing solos and beery good times, and as someone who digs all three of those things, I was thrilled to get the chance to have the following email exchange with Carlsson about the making of the new album and more.
We’ll do the obvious question first. What happened with Magnus leaving? Was there ever the thought of ending the band at that point?
Well, after promoting and touring for In Triumph we knew that SPV would not be interested in releasing another album with us. We wrote new stuff, demoing, tried to find another label but it was really hard. We struggled and Magnus was the one who lost faith in everything regarding the band. Then all of a sudden we got an amazing opportunity to do a big tour as support for a very known band.
We were all very excited again, everyone except Magnus. He refused to do the tour and we couldn’t do anything about it. There was no other way than to split with him. Then Jolle got the opportunity to join Hanoi Rocks and he stayed there for a year. Meanwhile Rob and myself were pretty disoriented, just hoping and trying to figure out how, or if, we could bring the band together with another singer.
Tell me about bringing in Magz. Was there a search for a new singer, or did you find him some other way? How far into the writing for Full Circle did he come aboard?
We scanned the Internet, particularly MySpace, trying to find the right guy. We found a couple that were interesting, but Magz was our number one choice. We contacted him and he turned us down! We found another guy who we wrote stuff with and did a three-track demo which didn’t get us anywhere. We contacted Magz again and now he was up for it.
Then things worked pretty fast. We already had a bunch of songs written, we continued writing with Magz and started to record the album in Grand Studios in Gävle, Sweden where he is a co-owner. The first tracks we finished we sent out to suitable labels and now we had offers! Metalville felt like the right one. Relieved and thrilled we continued recording and finished the album.
Other than lineup shifts, how do you think The Quill has changed in the years since the self-titled? How have you grown as a band, and you specifically as a player? Has your approach to songwriting changed at all over the years?
When we started out we were a lot younger, and didn’t have family, etc. We could spend endless hours in the rehearsal room, jamming, writing stuff. The first albums shows that I guess: More jams, longer songs and the ‘70s-vibe more present. Nowadays with only Jolle and myself living in the same city [Mönsterås], we don’t have that opportunity. So the songwriting is different.
Actually, with the new album, some songs had never been rehearsed with the whole band before recording them. We actually played them for the first time all four of us when we prepared for our first shows in May.
A lot of the songs on Full Circle have very basic structures, are very straightforward. Was that something intentional you wanted to do in writing—strip things down to the essential parts?
I guess it has to do with that we don’t write song at rehearsals with the whole band as much as we used to. We haven’t had the time to fool around with the songs as much as previously. But to me, I found that in favor for the songs.
The band’s sound has so much in common with classic rock—the grooves, the shuffle, etc.—but is still very modern. Are you conscious at all of not falling into the “retro” trap? Sweden seems to have no shortage of retro rockers?
Yes, you’re right. A lot of retro going on here. I think we did that on the first albums. Now we are more focused on the song. But I guess, the way that we play our instruments and what our influences are we still sound a bit retro.
Do you consider The Quill a stoner rock band now? Did you ever?
When we did our first album we weren’t ever aware of the term “stoner.” On the second and third albums, (Silver Haze and Voodoo Caravan) we were certainly influenced by stoner. But I think we draw influences from a lot of styles in rock.
How did you get hooked up with Metalville Records, and how has it been working with them?
Metalville was one the labels that we approached with the demo-outtakes of Full Circle. They seemed to us like the best choice for us, and they haven’t disappointed us yet. A small label but the right attitude.
What’s next for you guys? Will you tour Europe to support Full Circle?
Yes, we got a European two—three week tour booked with two other Metalville bands, Riotgod and Astral Doors. Then we are doing headlining shows in Sweden. We are also negotiating with booking agencies in North America. Hopefully we will cross the Atlantic and tour the U.S.A. for the first time with this album.
The Quill’s Full Circle is available now on Metalville Records. More info at thequill.se.
JJ Koczan has a thing for Swedish bands. Seriously. Ask him about it sometime. email@example.com.