Last year was a tour-packed year for ORBIT CULTURE, with the crowning jewel being a monster Swedish package tour along with AT THE GATES and IN FLAMES. During their stop in Helsinki at the end of 2022, we talked with vocalist/guitarist Niklas Karlsson and bass player Fredrik Lennartsson about how 2022 has been for them and what else they have cooking up. Read the complete interview below…
Hello guys! Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me on your show day. How are you guys doing, did you have a heavy night?
Niklas: We did. I did, you didn’t.
Fredrik: Well, I slept pretty well. I slept like 12 hours.
Niklas: That’s the issue, I didn’t sleep. But we had a great time at this bar called The Riff in Helsinki.
Oh yeah, that’s a classic place for bands to visit.
Niklas: We can take that off of our checklist now, we’ve been there. We had a great time.
Was that like a bucket list place to visit?
Niklas: I think so.
There’s also a CHILDREN OF BODOM bar nowadays. Are you interested in visiting that one?
Niklas: Wasn’t that The Riff?
They have a bar now! It’s called Bodom Bar and it’s in Espoo.
Niklas: Oh okay! Because I saw that they have a sign there that they had their own lounge there.
Oh yes, they have a lounge there, but now they have a bar. Life goals, no?
Niklas: Now we have to visit that one too!
So, you’ve been on tour with IN FLAMES for about a month now at least in Europe and you only have a few dates left. How has the tour been in general?
Niklas: It’s been great.
Fredrik: Playing these bigger venues for us, I guess, is an experience. The last ones here are pretty huge as well. We did Spektrum in Oslo, now this here, and then we’re doing Scandinavium and Hovet in Sweden, which is like the big venues that you go to shows, you visit those, so it’s pretty huge for us now that we get to play them ourselves. The tour in general has been awesome.
Niklas: The time has been flying by, it was so fast. It feels like we’ve been on the road for a week.
Fredrik: Our bodies don’t feel that though.
Fredrik: But yeah, it’s great fun.
Yeah, you mentioned your bodies don’t feel it that way. I guess you guys have been on the road quite a lot lately. How has it been for you to go back from not touring to touring?
Niklas: I think, since we haven’t really played much before this – I think we have done more shows this year than we have done since 2013, right? We love every minute of it. We started out with the festival season, then headed straight to the US with IN FLAMES. How long were we there… 4-5 weeks?
Fredrik: 5 weeks.
Niklas: Home for like 3½ weeks. Now we’re here. I can’t complain at all.
Fredrik: No, we’re super spoiled to be able to do this in a way, because the bands that we ran out with, visiting the US for first time, and Canada as well, it’s just amazing.
Niklas: Living the dream.
Fredrik: Yeah, true.
I also was one of the people who discovered you during the pandemic, so how can you explain your sudden boom and rise with this band?
Niklas: I think there were a lot of people discovering us during the pandemic, but even though we could see the comments and shit rise and people were giving us a lot of love and support, it didn’t feel so special. Of course, it felt special, but it didn’t feel real until we actually came out to meet people, as if, holy shit, there are actually people wanting to see us here. [laughs]
Fredrik: I think we all were very amazed to meet all the comment-makers on the internet while doing these tours. It’s been really awesome to interact with them face-to-face.
Niklas: I think it started when we… the first festival that we did this year was Sweden Rock Festival, which is like a childhood dream coming true. We were… like 5 minutes before we went on stage, it was like, there were like fifty people there? Yeah, that’s about right. But when we hit the first note, everyone was there. Are they here for us? We were like, “what the fuck is going on?” But then we remembered the album media really took off. So it’s cool.
Fredrik: I think the stress for us has been getting all that recognition online during the COVID-times and knowing that after this we are going to go out and do a few shows and tour, being able to play that well live as well, but I think it’s gone pretty well so far, but you don’t want to be that band who’s better on record than live, you know. Of course, there are [rough] nights, but I guess that’s how it is for everyone as well, having bad nights.
Well, I hope this is going to be a good night though, now I’m a bit skeptical hearing you’re a little hungover. [laughter]
Niklas: It’s all good, the best treatment for hangovers is actually playing; it just washes away.
Niklas: I think we had to grow into being as professional as we could, in the fastest time we could. We worked, we put our hours in, you won’t be disappointed, I promise. [laughs]
Fredrik: It’s going to be a great show.
Being from Sweden, how important is it for you to be touring with IN FLAMES?
Niklas: Fucking unreal.
Fredrik: I mean AT THE GATES as well. That scene, the Gothenburg metal scene, yeah…
Niklas: It’s just weird.
Fredrik: It was really weird at the beginning, hanging out with those guys, but now we’re pretty much friends with them and hanging out.
Niklas: I think it hasn’t really landed yet though. I think it will during Christmas or so…
Fredrik: The fuck did we do?
Niklas: Holy shit, we were there with fucking IN FLAMES all along.
Did it help you going on your first tours with only Swedish bands?
Fredrik: I think maybe in the US, where we were the only Swedish band with IN FLAMES.
Niklas: They really took us in with open arms. This is an all-Swedish package, we have so much fun with everyone, from the crew to the top guy in IN FLAMES. It’s one big family for sure.
I checked your Spotify profile and from what I could see, Helsinki is one of your top locations – do you have any expectations for tonight’s show?
Niklas: We played at John Smith Festival this summer. We had a great crowd there. We were like, fuck yeah, Finland fucking rules. So we will see if they are as drunk and energized today as they were at John Smith. I love Finland, people are so polite here.
Niklas: I hope they’re drunk on their Koskenkorva [vodka].
Well, at least everyone is at least in a better mood because even though there was a blizzard some days ago, today there is even some sunshine. You came at the right time! You also released a single [“Vultures of North”], I’m guessing to promote the tour a little bit, so how did that song come to be? How did you write that one?
Niklas: I think the last video that we did was “Strangler,” that was almost a rock song, so we wanted to go the complete other way and make dark shit, no cleans, like a tractor just hitting you in the fucking face. That’s what we aimed for, we wanted some contrast.
What I was going to originally ask is if you intentionally wrote the most aggressive song ever, but I guess you did!
Niklas: We tried. [laughter]
I admit I’m a little bit scared to see how the audience is going to react because I don’t like mosh pits. How has it been received in general?
Niklas: Actually, earlier on this tour, we opened with that song, but now we switched it around and now we finish with that song…
Fredrik: I think that’s better.
Niklas: That’s when people are warmed up and that’s when they start to mosh during that song. We will see how it goes here in Helsinki.
I presume that the song is also part of something more. Did you have time to write any music during all this touring?
Niklas: It’s basically done, I just had to change some lyrics and re-do some vocals. I just need to be at home and get my ass working on it to finish it. It’s part of an album called “Descent,” which I don’t know the exact release date for, but it will also be strategically released because we have some other tours soon.
Okay, so I guess sometime during 2023 we will hear more about it. In terms of how it compares to your other discography, is it as heavy as “Vultures of North?”
Niklas: It will be a rollercoaster of things, I think what I aimed to do and we thought was the most natural thing was to combine “Nija” and “Shaman”; the big soundscapes of “Nija” but with a live-friendly touch of “Shaman,” but in the end just make this big-ass monster.
Cool! Your other stuff has been self-produced. Is that going to be the case for “Descent” as well?
Why do you find it important to produce it yourselves?
Niklas: I think it comes down to control. It would be cool to bring down a guy or girl to help us with the production, but we’re so used to this process and it saves us a shitload of money too.
Yeah, that’s smart. I can’t argue with that. You mentioned you would rather be a band that sounds better live than on studio recordings, but is it important to capture that live feel on the studio albums too?
Niklas: I think it depends on what kind of record you make. I’ve always found that when producing, I can make it heavier if it’s more cut-out edited, because you get that mechanic feel, but I also know that for a live flow, you shouldn’t edit it that much because that brings another kind of heaviness to it. We just like the middle somewhere. I’ve mixed some festival shows, I won’t touch anything of the files of the performance itself, I just want to crank my EQ and compressors up and make it slap.
Your band was originally founded in 2013, which means that in 2023, you have a 10-year anniversary – is there anything besides releasing the album that you are planning to do?
Niklas: We’ve done some interviews now, when people say that, but we haven’t really thought about anything.
Fredrik: We just keep going.
Niklas: Obviously we want to release the older stuff on vinyl, that’s a thing we will do. Maybe we can do some anniversary thing around that.
In 2 weeks, it’s going to be 2023, how do you look back to 2022 as a whole?
Fredrik: It’s been the busiest year ever.
Niklas: Of my whole life. We’ve done sixty-eight shows in the span of half a year. We’re not used to that, but we can’t fucking complain, it’s fucking great.
Fredrik: It’s amazing to be able to do this on this level. We’ve learnt so much, we gained so many friends, it’s just been amazing traveling all these countries and different parts of the world. I think for me it’s one of the best years of my life in terms of what I started to do when I was 12 years old: playing an instrument. This is definitely a year to remember.
Now, is there anything other than an album release in store for you in 2023? Are you planning to have some headlining shows?
Niklas: We’re in the talks about it, maybe for the fall we could do some headlining shows. We have two huge announcements coming soon, so it’s a tour and it’s a smaller tour, but also a big tour.
So more tours!
Niklas: And obviously we have a lot of festival shows again, which is great, then we will see what we will come up with during the fall.
Cool! Seems like there is no stopping you from playing shows anymore.
Fredrik: There’s no hand brake.
That sounds great! Well, thanks so much for your time. Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with your fans and our readers?
Niklas: Make sure to keep an eye out for some updates regarding our new album, “Descent.” You won’t be disappointed!
Fredrik: And major thanks to everyone who has come out to see us on this tour, and you as well.
Niklas: Especially since we started so early, it’s really cool that people show up and not go to some bar drinking beer. They can drink beer with us instead. [laughter]
Written by Laureline Tilkin
Photos by Janne Puronen