New music out of Europe: Sweden’s Fride Hanberger, plus the Berkshire sounds of The Patient Wild
We belong to the generation born too late for tall ships, and too early for Starships, so we write songs that capture an idealized expression of that spirit of adventure.
~Ben Moxon: lead guitar and mandolin for the Berkshire band, The Patient Wild
“I saw that music had the potential to open minds and new possibilities. And I’ve been enjoying the struggle too. The struggle to keep creating and to never let go of the dream.”
~singer-songwriter/musician, Fride Hanberger, Stockholm, Sweden
There is a special pleasure in encountering talent just as it’s unfolding. To witness that emerging.
Recently, I interviewed twenty-five-year-old Swedish singer-songwriter, Fride Hanberger, who this spring will release his first album, recorded with fellow Two Trees band-member, Charlotta Frostenson Brolund.
Following Fride Hanberger here, you will find my Q & A with the band-members of The Patient Wild, whose distinctive Berkshire sound calls us to join them in their voyage out to the sea.
INTERVIEW WITH FRIDE HANBERGER
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Your songs are like lullabies. There is a sweetness here, a return to innocence. When you sit down to compose, what is going through your mind?
Fride Hanberger: The most important thing for me is to get to the core of the song and make it whole.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: How do you hope to move your audience with your music? What would be the ultimate response you could receive?
Fride Hanberger: I hope my music has the potential to be easy to get to know but that my audience has the patience to get through the surface to reach to the next level. It would be enough to hear people say that they like my music, because then I believe they have gotten through the layers. That effort is enough for me.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What inspired you to become a musician? What keeps you going now?
Fride Hanberger: Joy. From the very beginning. I saw that music had the potential to open minds and new possibilities. And I’ve been enjoying the struggle too. The struggle to keep creating and to never let go of the dream.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Do you find most of your ideas for your songs from your surroundings, the people around you? Or from within? Stories that are whispering to be let out?
Fride Hanberger: I look at most of my songs as a way to get peace around me. To release the burden onto my pencil and paper, to finally get rid of the weight.
Fride Hanberger: And to make friends with my thoughts and my feelings.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What is it about music that speaks to you more intimately that any other art form?
Fride Hanberger: When you come to know a language so well it’s easy to be comfortable with it and it’s very tempting to always be inside it. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had so many years of education in music, but it feels like it speaks very directly to me and possesses more dimensions. I’ve been studying jazz for many years, and the feeling I get improvising is very powerful.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: If you could duet with any other musician of your choosing, who would it be?
Fride Hanberger: This may be a boring answer, but I love to play together with my band-mate Charlotta Frostenson Brolund in our band Two Trees. We’re releasing our first album this spring so that is occupying my thoughts. I don’t think I want to make duets with someone else right now.
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INTERVIEW WITH THE PATIENT WILD (Stuart Heading: lead vocals and guitar, Ben Moxon: lead guitar and mandolin, Jen Ferguson: piano, James Smith on Bass, and Iain Delaney on drums)
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Tell me about the journey you are taking with your listeners. Are we leaving something behind or going towards something new?
Stu: From my point of view, the journey is almost exclusively leaving something behind. Most of my songs were written out of loss, which always gives me lots of inspiration. Combine this with a childhood spent reading adventure and heroic literature, an unhealthy love of the ocean, and an overactive imagination, and you have tales of lost love and tragic encounters.
Ben: I hope that our music takes our audience on an adventure through an unknown region. Like every exploration of new worlds, there are exciting new realms to explore, but what’s precious in the journey is what you leave behind.
Stu: Each song takes something important to me and turns it into something a little more. In recent years, the novel, House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, has inspired my song-writing and features in my songs quite a bit. It inspired me to learn the story behind Captain Quesada and Ferdinand Magellan. This has now inspired a lot of the later songs, mostly the Captain Trilogy, (third song as yet unwritten) from the point-of-view of him leaving his beloved behind, without really being sure of his return.
Ben: We spend every day driving to work, doing the shopping, sitting in offices, watching television and dicking around on the internet. Our songs are the opposite of that, with sweeping big-screen emotions. We belong to the generation born too late for tall ships and too early for Starships, so we write songs that capture an idealized expression of that spirit of adventure.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Can you tell me a little about each of the members of the band? Who is the songwriter in the group and who does the arrangements? Or is it a joint effort? How did you come together?
Stu: Well, there initially were just three of us, but we really wanted to focus more on the ‘rock’ element of ‘folk rock,’ and so added a bassist and drummer: James and Iain.
I’ve been playing and writing with Ben for a good many years now. Originally, it was only me who wrote the lyrics – I’m extremely fussy about what goes in and really have to feel what I’m singing. But the more Ben and I worked together, the more we realized that we bring our best offerings to the table when we work together. A great example of this would be the ending to our song, “Pickle,” about the ship that brought the news of Admiral Nelson’s death back to Britain. We spent weeks wracking our brains for that line, submitting and dismissing a number of choices which were excellent but just not quite right. Until towards the end of one evening, when we’d spent the last few hours bashing our heads against the lyrical wall, Ben came up with, “Across White Chapel the guns sing out for a victory won,” and we both knew that was the one.
It used to be that I had a very definite idea of what I wanted, but the more we play, the more we’re starting to write songs as a band, and slowly we’re starting to find our sound, as opposed to my sound.
I had worked with Jen, our pianist, for a few years, and had been playing music with Ben in Quesada & Molino, an acoustic act with a friend of ours on violin. Jen had suggested a few times that she should come and play piano with us, and I, somewhat foolishly, had always made some excuse. Eventually, on a drunken night out, I agreed, and told her to come along to the next practice – and instantly realized I had been an idiot for the last year or so. Without wishing to inflate her ego, she was, and is, the glue that holds everything ttogether. Each of the musicians in our band is exceptional, but when that piano kicks in, everything just falls into place.
As for Iain, we put an ad out for a drummer and bassist, and had very little response for what felt like the longest time. Before Iain, we had a couple of people audition , but they either didn’t quite get the sound, or just weren’t special enough for what I had in mind. I was starting to lose a bit of hope. Then Iain arrived. Iain is an almost seven-foot-tall, manic drummer. As soon as he started drumming, I had to play it cool. Jen and I shared a glance, which quite literally said, ‘Holy crap, this is our new drummer, now how do we get him to sign up?’ It was amazing. His sound was like nothing we had heard. Coming from a metal background his riffs were explosive and complex, and on more than one occasion, I found myself just staring at the blur of his drum sticks, completely mesmerized. We needed a really technical drummer to give us the sound we wanted, but never did we think we would get someone that good.
When James first replied to our ad (the last member to do so) he was extremely quiet, and for the first couple of weeks I did wonder if he would stick around. We’re all pretty loud in the band, and someone who isn’t might have struggled to be heard or fit in. In the end, it turned out to be quite the reverse. He is quiet, but he ‘gets’ what the band is about.
Ben: Songs begin with Stu because he is the one with the ear for a catchy tune, and then the rest of us pick up on them and build up the arrangement. We’re pretty democratic in how we develop songs: if anyone says something isn’t working, we go back and find out how to make it better. We’re all good enough musicians that we can confidently push each other to try different things without needing to get defensive about it, which is really important for writing together. Quite often Stu has a verse he comes up with and then he and I collaborate on the rest of the lyrics. Our discussions get quite animated, because ultimately, Stu has to sing whatever we come up with, and he has a lot of opinions about what works and what doesn’t.
Iain: Something I really like about this band is how the song-writing has become much more band-focused as we’ve grown. It used to be Stu bringing a tune he and Ben had been jamming for years to the table and the rest of us just fitting around it. Now we all contribute, and the songs as a result have started taking some musical twists and turns that, I for one, find very intriguing.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Can you remember the moment you knew you were meant to be a musician? That you actually had a chance of realizing your dream? And why music?
Stu: It was nothing like these people who go onto “X-Factor” and say ‘oh, music is my life, I just live for it’. I never believe that. I think music is just something you do, without thinking. Or, that’s how it was for me.
I like to use a line which I believe Lionel Richie once said – at first to annoy my friend (who is also a musician) but then I realized it was true: ‘I don’t write, the music comes through me.’ Now, I am aware how incredibly cheesy this sounds, but it’s totally true. My best songs are written when I sit down and just start playing.
Ben: I wanted to be a guitarist from my early teens. I probably thought it would impress girls, which was absolutely incorrect, but once I began playing, it was its own reward. For most of the time I have been in bands, I was a bass player, but I’ve always kept up guitar and it was awesome to be able to start playing mandolin live with this band and bring out that folky side.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Did you have any special teachers or fellow musicians who inspired you? If so, can you tell me a little about this?
Stu: I didn’t really have any major influences when I was growing up (not personal ones anyway) just the usual – listening to songs and enjoying them. My friend had started playing, and a combination of him showing me a few chords and me teaching myself, I sort of fell in to music quite naturally. I can’t imagine not playing music; so, while my story may seem a little uninspired, I think it is actually the reverse: there was no big revelation, no big event. It was just always going to happen, and so it did, naturally. I then started to write songs, a few friends formed a band, and the skills were refined. I played in a rock band and really got a better understanding of what made a great rock song. I then started listening to a lot of American bands, and these really influenced my sound. That said, the biggest influences were artists like Damien Rice, Tom McRae and Josh Ritter– they were (and still are) amazing acoustic songwriters that really know how to rock it up (especially Damien Rice) and after a few years’ break from music, I started itching to write simple, acoustic tunes. Of course, all that has changed again, and now it’s all about those explosive, heart wrenching riffs!
Ben: I’m strongly influenced by a lot of musicians from the folk scene: people like Michael Chapman and Richard Thompson, who can play the bass line, melody and accompaniment on one guitar, which boggles my mind, especially when I try to learn their tunes. As a lyricist, I’m always inspired by songwriters who can tell a complete story in a few lines without losing any nuance. Artists like Richard Shindell, Dar Williams and Emmy the Great are really inspiring to me. It’s way easier to find great musicians than it is to find great lyricists.
Iain: I have to butt in here. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am now without the influences of Danny Carey from Tool, Ben Johnston from Biffy Clyro (the earlier, Blackened Sky/Vertigo of Bliss dynamic stuff), and the two drummers from each of the two Beecher albums. In fact, like every good drummer, I’ve nicked some of my favorite fills and rhythms from them: the break in “Tight Buoys” and the build-up on “Old Worlds” owe their existence to various Beecher tracks. For me, these drummers really take a completely lateral approach to laying down a groove. Something that’s outside just straight 4/4 beats, and instead adding something that makes you sit-up and take notice.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: What do you hope your audience will feel when listening to your music?
Stu: Good question. I think I would add to this the experience they should get from seeing us live. We really, really love our songs and throw so much of ourselves into them. For me, each one is a little bit of myself. It’s telling a story of a time very personal to me, and so I would hope that comes across in our songs. I would hope there is a feeling of wonder at some of them and a feeling of adventure, to be sure.
Ben: I’d like them to get caught up in the sweep of the music, but we don’t forget that we’re there to entertain, so we try to make sure our shows are good fun for everyone listening.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: The most terrifying part of this work? The most exhilarating?
Stu: Hands down, it used to be playing on stage. I would feel terrified before we went on. I used to feel that our songs were wrong for the venue, and that no one would enjoy what they heard. Now, I have so much faith in our songs that I can’t wait to get up there and feel gutted when we come to the last song. I throw everything I have into each song and just can’t wait to be playing. You really have to see us live to get the full feeling of what we’re about.
Ben: I find recording quite nerve-racking because, I don’t have the other guys to back up my playing when we’re putting things down, instrument-by-instrument. It’s really obvious if your performance is rubbish. It’s exhilarating, and I’m sure this answer is the same for every band, when you play for an audience who is really enjoying it. Where the band fires off the audience, the audience fires off the band, and it turns into this awesome collective experience. The other thing that I think we all really enjoy is when we are writing new material and you drive home from rehearsal with a new tune stuck in your head, so you know it’s going to be a winner.
Iain: Terrifying? The fear that something really vital to my sound breaks mid-set. I have enough issues, lugging all the kit around as it is, without carrying spares as well. Exhilarating? LIVE!
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Why is music important? Art in general?
Stu: Another good question. I think an expression of emotion is vital. Though I have had many arguments about some pieces, and whether they should be considered ‘art.’ I guess the main thing is that it gets people talking. Music is my outlet because it’s all I know. I think of all the times I’ve been in a certain place, and music has been one of the few things that have really ‘understood’ just what I was feeling. I don’t think many other forms of art can connect with a person so completely and so truthfully as music.
Ben: I don’t know the answer to that, but I don’t think it matters why, it only matters that it is.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Best advice you’ve ever received?
Stu: Try everything twice, just to make sure you didn’t like it the first time.
Ben: Something a master ninja once told me that has been true in many circumstances: “If you can’t do it slow, you’ll never do it fast.”
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“This Too Shall Pass” by Fride Hanberger
“Lay Me Down” by Two Trees
“Your Woods” by Two Trees