Interview with Ye Banished Privateers — “Respect your musicians – they are not a bloody Spotify playlist! ”

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On 7 February 2020, the pirate act YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS are releasing a brand new studio album “Hostis Humani Generis” through Napalm Records. We had the opportunity to talk about everything related to the new full-length record, and of course about a pirate’s life! Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum! Read our review of the album here.

Hi there! Thank you so much for this interview? How are you doing? 

We are great, thank you. Slowly recovering from shooting the music video for “Rowing With One Hand,” and now mustering up for the release of the whole album. 

You are releasing your new album “Hostis Humani Generis” on 7 February 2020. How are you feeling about the upcoming release? 

We are very proud of what we have achieved and we can’t wait to let our fans listen to our new songs. So much work has been put into this project by us and our collaborators. Although, like with any creative project, it is impossible not to worry about how people will like it. 

What can people expect from your new album? How is it different than your previous studio effort? 

Every song in this album was written with the theme of Hostis Humani Generis in mind. More than any of our previous productions, the album tells a single coherent story. We have also stepped up our game, even more, when it comes to the arrangement of soundscapes and voice acting, adding to the immersion and the storytelling. 

“Hostis humani generis” is a legal term originating from admiralty law. It means “enemy of mankind,” which is what pirates were seen as. Can you elaborate on why you decided to call the album “Hostis humani generis”? Is there a theme or concept present on this album, or does it contain certain stories related to the title? 

The album takes place when the end of what is now known as “the golden age of piracy” is closing in. The days when the poor could set sail to feast on the riches from some of Europe’s mightiest nations are over and reckoning is near. Free men and women now turn on each other to escape the gallows as their dreams of liberty have made them enemies of mankind. From the first song to the last, we tell the story of the last days of the free pirate republic Nassau, up until the bitter end in the Execution Docks gallows. 

A big part of the vocal parts come from using sea shanties as an inspiration. Where do the rest of the folk melody inspirations come from on the album? What can you tell us about pirates and music historically? 

From a lot of different places! We are many musicians coming from different musical backgrounds. Irish and nordic folk music might be our main inspiration but bits of punk and rock, as well as classical music, Americana, and Balkan tunes, might bleed into it. 

Music must have been very important to the early 18th century pirates. Both for work and pleasure. Take this line from Bartholomew Roberts Articles: “The musicians to have rest on the Sabbath Day, but the other six days and nights, none without special favour.” If you have a society where the whole of the law consists of 11 commandments and you have one of them regulating the hours for the musicians, it says something about the importance of music in the pirates’ world. Basically – respect your musicians – they are not a bloody Spotify playlist! 

How important is it to be historically correct for you guys? If so, do you collaborate with historians or how do you conduct your research? 

Storytelling is everything, may it be done with correct clothing or authentic settings for our lyrics. Many of the members are academics within history, language, literature, and music which of course adds a very academic approach to writing our stories, reading original texts and studying paintings from the early 18th century. With that said, every detail does not need to be correct. Aesthetic choices that support the story that we want to tell always come first. 

Now, you are obviously very much inspired by pirates. Music-wise, costume-wise, how far do you guys go to immerse yourself in understanding the life of pirates? 

This is, of course, an ongoing discussion within the band, how life was under the black flag during that time period and how we want to interpret and embody that part of history. Quite often someone raises a topic or a historic source that could be of interest to us. We also always learn from people who are as nerdy (or more) than us within the pirate community. One thing that gives us a slight insight into the perspectives of the historical, yet fictional characters we impersonate is such an easy thing as traveling and living in our pirate gear when touring. The smell of the clothes, the sound that the boots and buckles make and the reactions from bystanders all help with that understanding. 

I read somewhere that at the beginning of the band’s career, Peter and Björn wrote all the songs, but that the fourth album there would be a lot more songwriters. You surely have a lot of band members, more than the usual. How did the process for “Hostis Humani Generis” look like? 

For our previous albums, we recorded songs that we had played live for years, with few exceptions. That made the albums slick (well…) studio versions summarizing hundreds of gigs. This time most of the songs have never been played live and therefore the album is rather a way to present to our fans the course for the future, what YE BANISHED PRIVATEERSwill sound like in years to come. A part of this new direction is that more members, encouraged by the whole band, have gotten involved in the songwriting process. This means that we try out a lot more different ideas at rehearsals and that many new collaborations between different members appear. 

Most bands that are influenced by pirates have a variety of lyrics that usually is fiction, and mostly about drinking. Your lyrics, however, seem to be a lot more thought of, you take historical elements into account. What are your themes usually about? Is that so on “Hostis humani generis”? 

Drinking. But with historical elements… Na… but yes. If you read the few reasonably unbiased accounts of why ordinary sailors turned into pirates it’s a lot about the stomach. The food and drinks were horrible in the merchant navy and that was a serious threat to your life. 

A lot more sailors, even in the navy, died from scurvy, starvation and food poisoning than from blades and cannonballs. You thought of, dreamt about, and sang about owning your own time and filling your stomach. 

But yes. “Hostis Humani Generis” has a lot more themes. The main themes might be about choices, principles versus convenience, disunion and foreboding death. It’s a lot of songs about the gallows on this one. There sure is a few all-out party tunes – but on the whole, this is a darker experience than our previous records. 

I can imagine that having over 20 people on board of the album in the lineup, means that the recording process might not be the same as a five-piece band. What was the process like for “Hostis Humani Generis?”

We have always strived for an organic sound, with a very live authentic feel to it. For that reason, we don’t record to a click track, and we try to record as many instruments as possible at the same time. Our greatest inspiration right from the start has been Bruce Springsteen’s “Seeger Sessions”. It is an amazing album, where the whole orchestra is sitting in the same room, recording every song in a single take. As you might suspect, we don’t have the same budget as Bruce, so we can’t really afford a studio that would support 25 musicians in the same room, but when recording our albums, we try to use every nook and cranny in the studio. For instance, during “Hostis Humani Generis,” we put the choir in the kitchen, the mandoline in a small storage room and the sitar in a huge underground garage next to the studio. 

What are the plans for after the release of “Hostis humani generis?” Is there going to be a tour? 

2020 will be all about presenting our new material to the world and we sure have plans to plunder new territories. Keep an eye on our social media, where we present our tour dates as soon as any confirmed gig goes public. 

Do you have any last thoughts for our readers before we wrap up this interview? 

Well, first of all, thanks for your interest in our band. To all the Finnish readers, we’d like to say that we are working really hard to be able to come back to Finland soon, as we seem to have quite a lot of fans on the other side of the Baltic Sea! But regardless of where you are from, we hope to be able to see you at a concert in the near future. In the meantime, it means a lot to us if you listen to our new album and let us know what you think through social media or whatever suits you.

Interview by Laureline Tilkin

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  1. […] Ahoy! I have somewhat missed the boat on the pirate folk band YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS. I had never heard of the Swedish pirate-themed folk band, but when I got the opportunity to review the album, I grabbed it with both hands. YE BANISHED PRIVATEERS play authentic 17th century styled music influenced by sea shanties, drinking anthems, and folk melodies, which resulted in their fourth full-length album “Hostis Humanis Generis” out on 7 February 2020 through Napalm Records. Read our interview here. […]