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Interview with Tom S. Englund , vocalist Evergrey

Interview by Adrian Hextall

Returning after the triumphant ‘Hyms For The Broken’, Everygrey have a new album ‘The Storm Within’. A tough album to release as the band set the bar so high with ‘Hymns’. Adrian Hextall caught up with Tom Englund, lead singer and founder of the band, to discuss how the band have roared back to critical acclaim and what it means to them. 

MGM: It’s good to see you back. You left us last time of course with Hymns For The Broken and to a fantastic reception and pretty much everybody hailing it as one of your greatest releases to date. But that must have been quite a legacy defining moment for you guys to get such a positive reception from everybody.

Tom: Yeah, I think it was a very necessary one as well. I mean, coming back with the old members and making an album. I mean, if the album wouldn’t have been received as well as it was then I guess that would have been the last one. So yeah. It was a big gamble; we put a lot of energy and effort into it so it was extremely important for us that it went well. So we sort of just — it was with the big sigh we said that okay, good. We managed to do what we set out to do and now we’ll see what happened and — and, you know, then we just keep touring on this album and then we said that maybe we should just keep on writing now while we have the inspiration. So that’s what we did quite early actually………

MGM: Two years from the last one coming out. And with such a positive reception, did it leave you in a different frame of mind in the way that you approached the new one as well?

Tom: I would say with more confidence of course. I think — but very eager and more confidence and also very — I would say, this time we really had our mindset on what we wanted to do and we had the formula for making not the same album but approaching the recording in the same way, in a way. So we used the same people and we did it in the same way but the writing was a bit — he writing period was a bit different. So yeah, it’s weird; it’s its own small universe, as any album, really. You know, it differs a bit but at the end of the day it’s music.

MGM: It’s true. This time around I mean you’ve done an album that deals less with, say, things that are wrong in the world, for example,` in a lot of negative aspects that you needed to sort get off your chest. It’s a lot of dealing with relationships this time around. And I’ve even seen a comment that said, you describe this almost as a love album.

Tom: Oh, lack of love I would say. Yeah, the album is based on people that I have around me, that I saw going through — while they were going through different times, difficult times, and I felt that I was thinking about the thought of when do you feel the loneliest and I guess that is when you’re — you know, being left or, you know, have your heart broken. And I wanted to put that sort of — we cannot place that — you know, I wanted to place that feeling in an environment, a desolate environment, so I created this in my head this universe where — I mean, where are you the loneliest? That would be if you were on a planet by yourself I guess. So that was the first sort of image I had in my head. And then the reason that we wrote the album out of that in that context. And with that eerie desolate feeling surrounding it. And you know, try to recreate all that imagery and the artwork and in the videos and I think we did extremely well with the whole package thing actually.

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MGM: You’ve talked about the where are you loneliest and the sort of desolate side of things. And especially around the videos as well. I mean that gives Distance such unique lead in as the main single to come in initially, doesn’t it?

Tom: Yeah, I mean it would have been easy for us to — and again we’re not a band that maybe do the smartest things and the easiest things to please people. We do music for ourselves and this whole world we have been in, devoured by, I would say, for the last year. We wanted to carry that out 100% and that was by writing the first — Distance was the first song that we wrote together with the next to last song. So we wanted to make that song come out first in order to — you know make people maybe feel the same way that we did about this conceptual cinematic experience that we are going through now. So it’s a bit of a slow start to the album but it really sets the tone, I guess. That’s what we were after. It would have been easy for us to do, you know, the song with Floor (Nightwish) as the first video or the second song which is you know the first radio single for instance. So but for us it’s bigger than that; it’s bigger than the individual song, so yeah.

MGM: That’s the question, really, you’ve always taken, isn’t it? You’ve never been about just finding that one hit single, for example, like an album. It’s always been about the whole structure of the album for you?

Tom: Yeah. And that’s — that’s what I meant by saying that we maybe didn’t do the smartest moves business wise but we have most certainly done the smartest moves in terms of artistic creativity and never feeling that we have sort of compromised with anything like that. We have always been very determined on having total artistic freedom in our contracts and going against the labels when they say, “Well you should do this. “Maybe you should do this first song or the second song, you know?” Whatever. So —

MGM: And I think your fans recognise that, don’t they? I mean they will pick up on the fact that you’re delivering the complete package to them rather than just looking for the quick fixes or the one really good song and then put inside filler in as well. I mean, again you’ve been quoted as saying you filled it up with no filler on this album, as well.

Tom: No. And I honestly feel like that. I mean it’s an easy thing to say this is the best album we have done, blah blah blah. I mean, I wouldn’t say that and I never say that. I say this is the best album that we could have written right now and when looking back on all the albums I would say it’s — I can’t choose one because they are all their own universes, small universes, and when listening to them — when I listen to them it just phases me in the time period and, you know, where I was and where my mindset was and how I felt at the time. So for me it’s very different to listen to our album. So I can’t say that anyone is better than the other one. But judging on people’s reactions and sales I guess the last one is the most well received album, I would say. I would say that it’s like the world understood Evergrey all of a sudden. We didn’t feel that we made something that was very different from anything that we did before, we just made another album. But all of a sudden it clicked with the world. And as you said, our real, true fans they understand that Evergrey is not releasing a single. I mean, it’s not our choice to release singles. And we don’t sell — maybe on some of albums. So the single thing is a bit stupid but it’s great for us to release a video, to introduce people to this world or that, you know, the world we have tried to create, anyway.

MGM: And in the entire video making process — I mean, I believe you’re doing three with Patrick ( Ullaeus – Director) on this particular album. It seems to be something that you’re able to do a lot easier than potentially you would have been say back in the ’80s or the ’90s when huge budgets have to be associated with a video. These days you can get a very high quality video as you are doing for far less.

Tom: I mean — I would say that we did spend a lot of money on the video, to be honest. More than the double of our budget that we had. So AFM has been really supportive in that aspect of this album. Because they also felt that this story was cinematic and they wanted to, you know, help us get our whole vision for the world to see. And we have done 3 videos, yes, and then we will do a 4th one as well. So yeah, it would be great if we could do a video for all of the songs on this album, on the other hand that I think we have used up all the money we could, so…

MGM: Is that ever an ambition do you think because when you get to the point where you are doing, let’s say half of the tracks of the album including a video too then if you could do the full album, that will mean you’ll not a million miles away from a movie almost, are you?

Tom: Yeah, exactly.

MGM: To reflect the story that you want to show.

Tom: Yeah, I would love to do that. Maybe we should crowdfund the rest and do that because I mean, it’s not like it’s for videos where we are standing in our rehearse room playing music. It’s where we have put money on travelling to Iceland and we drove around Iceland for 4 days and recorded as much as we could; for as many songs as we could. And that ended up to be 3 videos. I mean, the whole cinematic experience of this; I want people to sort of feel a bit like we do when we wrote it. Like we did when we wrote it and where we are now experiencing and listening and watching it.

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MGM: And with the overall team concepts of relationships on the album as well, if you tried to write this album say 5-6 years ago before Hymns have come out, would you believe a completely different outlook on life and everything and also the way you’d look at relationships of the time as well.

Tom: Absolutely and I think first — I think that you know releasing the Hymns album was an absolute necessity in order to write this album. Without the Hymns for the Broken album we couldn’t have — because for me this album is a bit more complex. It’s not that straight to the point and it’s a bit more rough around the edges too. That’s inviting, I would say. It’s an album that demands more of the listener and I think that’s a ballsy move to make after making an album like Hymns for the Broken. But it’s not like we choose these things. We just write music that we have inside and then afterwards we see, okay this is what it became and then — but I am fully confident that people — Evergrey fans take the time to listen to our albums. Most of them don’t disregard an album or after a song or after a sound or whatever. They want to discover this world that we are in — you know. And after 4 to 5 times it opens up and all of a sudden you understand it. I think that’s also the sign of an album that’s gonna be long for some time. That everything is not on the surface or easily discovered.

MGM: You said aside from it obviously meaning something to you at the point in time in which you wrote it, those complex albums that people almost have to grow into, they do last for longer because they’re not just throw away spur of the moment things, are they?

Tom: No, exactly. And I think it’s — I mean Evergrey is not your fast-food type of band. Evergrey — we could have done, as I said before, we could have done so many things much smarter in the commercial aspect or business wise but, I mean, we have been writing music for 20 years because we have a passion for writing music not because we necessarily wanted to — I mean, needed to live up the actual music making but now things are paying off for us now, actually because we stuck to our grounds and because we never compromised with what we wanted to do as far as writing for Evergrey. We’re very proud of that fact.

MGM: And I would say. I mean, it’s also comes with a landmark point in time, as well. I mean you just mentioned 20 years. I understand the 20th anniversary kind of snuck up on you. You didn’t actually appreciate it until the album was sort of in progress.

Tom: Yeah, but to be totally honest, the way I counted was that I counted from the day when we sort of released the first album, which was in ’98. So I didn’t — so that was where I was in my head. And that where was I was counting on. So being a recording artist for 20 years is something to write home about. And being a band for 20 years and not releasing an album, so maybe it’s not that much of a great thing. But yeah I understand and of course realizing that you have released albums every other year for 20 years in 2018, that would be like that. Then — I mean, that’s a huge accomplishment to be able to be sort of attractive enough to people to listen to for that long.

MGM: That’s definitely — I mean I would just like to offer my congratulations on that as well because a lot of bands

Tom: Thank you so much.

MGM: –would never make it that far these days.

Tom: Yeah, I’m very grateful for the fact that we were on the ’96, ’98 and we’re able to sort of make our mark on the world and, you know, sort of grab our sort of piece of the musical cake or whatever you wanna say. And we have maintained — I mean, we of course are obviously not the biggest band in the world; not even close and — but we have a sort of always gone with — we’re still growing, that’s the cool thing about it. So we never had a [inaudible], that’s mind boggling to me too. Because now it’s like it’s getting bigger and bigger. And by bigger and bigger I’m still being very modest about the word big. But were are still growing, selling more albums in a time and a period where sort of albums sales are declining, so which is great for us, of course.

MGM: It’s also the point, like you say; it’s almost like the album themselves, isn’t it? As you say, the albums on an instant fix. There are albums that you have to involve yourself and in depth; take time to appreciate them. They do the same as the case with the band and they are the people who have learned to appreciate you and now you got a second positive release after Hymns as well, you know. The two albums back to back. Maybe that growth will start to increase far more rapidly.

Tom: Yeah, I mean things like — like I mean we are honestly now we’re just extremely grateful for the position we are in and for the fact that we are able to play music together, first and foremost, since we weren’t for a couple of years, and then there is a brotherhood and the camaraderie here and the friendship that goes beyond the music making but at the same time when we do write music, we feel that we are doing what we should be doing in the world if we have a purpose or task. And we just, as I said, we’re happy to be around and extremely grateful for the position we are in right now.

MGM: And just looking as you say again about how you are writing the music, I mean you do have songs, of course, that contain quite a lot of social commentary, and you do see it in a sequence of events at the time and what you are thinking. It would have been very easy for you this time around to have written about a lot of the negative things that are happening in the world; the environment. I mean, there’s all there’s all these attacks going on around the world as well. But you managed to stay away from that and focused more on the relationships piece. Was it a conscious decision or that the relationships piece just fell into place at the right time?

Tom: I think yeah. It was due to the fact that I have a lot of friends — not a lot of friends, but a few friends that were going, as I said before,` through difficult times during these times. And I felt like in the end of the day be it a terrorist attacks or whatever — corruption, war — I think Evergrey has always been writing about the individual, the small person in a big threatening world. And I think that’s what we’re doing here too. Yeah, I mean we’re writing about feelings of being the loneliest in the universe and how you can be that while still being around other people. And that’s what the Storm Within title sort of means for me. I have a line on the last song where I say, “There’s not a sound just a Storm Within,” which for me means that you can pass and talk to people but you will never — unless they tell you, you will never have an idea what’s going on inside. So yeah, it’s about that, I guess.

MGM: And when we spoke around the release of the last album, one of the things we got to discussing was how people don’t normally talk about the fragile side of their life, their feelings, and of course relationships holds very much into that space as well. Does this album open up the more fragile side of you as well in terms of how you dealt with friends and these relationships or is it more observe and looking at how people are relating to these things?

Tom: I think it’s about — for me usually when I write about things that are like typical — this subject — I think I have a capacity of feeling or being very empathetic.

And I can place myself in the same situation and really not understand what they are going through necessarily but understand where I would have been if I went through the same thing. And which is a great quality for me to have when writing lyrics because then I can understand how I felt, would have felt, if it was me going through the same thing. And for the last — I mean for the Hymns album I was writing about me. So it wasn’t that hard and this fragile side I think it’s a sort of task I’ve taken on as well that I write about things that people do not speak about that much. It’s something that is ugly — I mean, in the world it’s ugly to be weak. That’s how we’re raised; don’t be weak, stand up, boy don’t cry –you know, all these things. I don’t know if I agree with that sort of psychology of upbringing or mentality around the world either. I think the world would feel better and be better if people were more true to how they felt and also talk about it in order to sort of get it out of their systems and also by not hiding it for everyone else. I mean, it’s not — it shouldn’t be seen as a weakness to show how you are. We’re very eager to show when we’re feeling great, right?

MGM: Yes, very true.

Tom: Posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram and whatever. Nobody is fucking posting pictures when you’re lying there on your own and feeling like shit. Because people think that they have to save the world from those things. I’m not saying that we should be pestering the world with negative pictures. Obviously, that’s not what I’m saying but I’m saying that people can — their honesty is many times lacking and I think that’s what I wanna do. I wanna put words to what people are feeling in many ways.

MGM: You envision that you’ll get a lot mail potentially coming in from people who listen to this, asking their thoughts, opinions, and advice?

Tom: I do — I’ve had that for all the — for as long as I can remember, I think. People coming after me at shows and very many people are approaching me on Facebook sending me mostly emails of gratitude, how the music have helped them through hard times and how they find comforting to know that somebody else and somebody like me have gone through the same things as they are, for the moment or has been, and I think it’s — I mean it’s a very — what do you call it? Being able to be such a person for people that’s — That’s a privilege.

MGM: As you say, I mean, the contents of your latest album, if there is that where you’re at your most loneliest, if there is somebody that they can just reach out to talk to, to have that connection for a moment, that could be the trigger that just pulled them back, couldn’t it?

Tom: Yeah, because the moment where you feel the loneliest and discovered that you are not alone, then that helps you. You know, that makes you realise that you’re in this dark place at least you’re not in this dark place and all that people have been experiencing these type of feelings or situations and have gone and gotten through them.

There are few bands in life that lay bare their own feelings and act as a conduit for people to embrace and explore their own psyche and emotional state as well as Everygrey do. Of course Tom Englund has been through it emotionally over the years but if the last two albums are anything to go by, he’s come out the other side stronger and is willing to use that experience to help others.

Everygrey’s new album is out and out review is here:

 

 

 

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