While they have been going strong since 1995, Evergrey never went through what they endured last year. After dealing with some internal issues, vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund announced that bassist Jari Kainulainen, drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage, would all be leaving the group. Down to only Tom and keyboardist Rikard Zander, the band had a serious uphill climb ahead of them.
Evergrey eventually brought in three brand new members: Guitarist Marcus Jidell, bassist Johan Niemann and drummer Hannes Van Dahl. They released a new album in February, Glorious Collision, to many favorable reviews.
The band is currently headlining a full U.S. tour for the first time in several years. You can catch them when they hit the Gramercy Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 20, along with Sabaton, Powerglove and The Absence. Below, Englund checked in with me for the following conversation.
What was it like recording Glorious Collision with three new band members?
Well, the actually recording was of course a bit new but, I mean, the writing of it, we pretty much wrote it—me and the keyboard player [Zander]. But I mean, as with anything new, it’s a bit strange to have people that you don’t really know yet doing your music, but I think it worked out for the best in the end and you just have to learn the new guys’ way to get down the drums or the guitars or the bass. But it was a challenge for both me and for them. It was fun.
How did you feel when the majority of the band left the group last year?
It was a mutual decision. It was actually me calling them up and saying that we had to make a change that would involve them leaving the band. I was prepared so it wasn’t really that strange and that this decision had been grown on us for a good while so for the people in the band it didn’t really come as a surprise. But of course, for the fans and the media, it came as a big shock, having three people leave the band. For us, we had already known for like, three or four months when we broke it officially.
Was it difficult trying to find replacements for those guys?
Yeah, I mean, not actually finding the people but emotionally it was a bit difficult to try to replace people that you have been playing with for 10 years. But actually finding them wasn’t that hard. We just called up friends of ours that we knew, that we respected as players, and we asked them if they knew anyone that would fit into the band and we actually based all of our decisions on that and then we met them and we just played and today we’re here, so that was actually extremely easy.
Did you ever think that Evergrey would come to an end as a result of the lineup changes?
Yeah, I did actually. I didn’t really even feel the urge to keep on going and I said to Rikard, “Well, maybe this is it, man. Maybe it’s time to do something different. Get a job, get a day job” (laughs). He was really shocked when I said that because he wasn’t prepared for that at all, he was really determined to keep on going.
I told him I had to think for a couple of weeks and that’s what I did. And then all of a sudden, the hunger came back in a way. So we figured, let’s just write some music and we’ll see where we end up.
Have you seen all of the positive reviews for Glorious Collision or do you not pay attention to that sort of thing?
Anyone who says that they don’t, I think they’re liars. I mean, of course we’re both provoked and inspired by anything that anyone and everyone says about us. We spend a lot of time making the albums and we are really interested in what people think but not to the point where we would alter the music because of somebody’s opinion. But yeah, we really appreciate the criticism that we do get.
How did it feel when the single “Wrong” became certified gold in Sweden?
Great, of course, but it was also a bit of a weird feeling to have our first gold single with three new members (laughs). It was a bit weird both for us and for the old members as well, I guess. For the new members it was kind of a great reward for them to come in and actually accomplish something. It’s a great honor to receive such a thing, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter that much.
What did you think of the music video you guys shot for the song?
We felt that we needed to do something different since we were sort of a new band. We just spoke to the director who had been working with us on the last three or four videos we made and we just told him that we needed to do something different and this is what we came up with. It’s surely different and I like it; it feels like a fresh start for us in a way. Not saying that we look like that on stage either, but that video suits that song, I think.
How have your shows been with the new band members?
Well, now we have done quite a few. We’ve been touring constantly since the album came out, and as I said before, it’s hard to replace three old guys that have been playing together with us for 10 years. That’s going to take a good while. When I was on stage with the other guys, I knew exactly where they were or what they were doing or whatever. These are the things that we are learning today, trying to get better at and know each other onstage and it’s getting better and better.
Are you excited to finally be coming back to North America?
Yeah man! It’s been too long. I can’t even remember when we were there—something like five years ago. We’re really looking forward to it and also playing with a lot of American bands as well as a Swedish band, which is great. I think it’s going to be a fun tour, and yeah, we’re really, really looking forward to it.
Have you ever toured with the other Swedish band Sabaton?
Yeah, Sabaton has opened for us before in Europe, a long time ago. And now they are really big in Europe so now we would open for them I guess in Europe. I think they’re getting bigger and bigger every day.
Is there any particular city you’ve got your eye on more than others?
New York is New York and that will always have a special place in my heart. When I came to America for the first time I came to New York and was blown away by the big city it is. And also, with all of the different nationalities that there are in New York, it feels a bit like Europe so it makes you feel at home as well, but 100 times as big (laughs).
But then also I have Atlanta, where we have been like five or six times playing at the ProgPower festival, which a friend of mine is the organizer for, so Atlanta has a special place for me as well.
What kind of expectations do you have for the tour?
I try to never have any expectations for anything that I do because I usually just get disappointed. We just expect to have a good time and we know that it’s going to be one hell of a show from the two Swedish bands and that’s going to fire up the American bands so it’s sort of going to be like an American versus Swedish contest every night. Maybe a drinking contest, I don’t know (laughs).
Will you be playing songs primarily from Glorious Collision or will it be a mixture of songs?
I think we could play like six songs from the Glorious Collision album but at the same time, we do have seven other albums that we need to play at least the most popular ones from, and with this many bands on the tour, cutting it short is not going to be that popular among the fans so we have a hard time actually doing the set list. But it’s going to work out in the end. We’ll see.
Do you have any plans for after the tour is over?
Vacation! No, actually, going to Europe on another tour. Then vacation (laughs). But yeah, I’m looking forward to all of it, both the vacation and the tours, so it should be a blast.
Evergrey will be playing at the Gramercy Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 20. For more information, go to evergrey.net.