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Baskery plays it full-out on stage, high energy combined with intuitive and flawless harmonies.
From Tackyland to Awesome-Town!
Baskery's third full length album since 2007, 'Little Wild Life' represents the sisters' wish and ability to 'renew and refine, to never dwell in any particular genre' but to do what they do best, which is pick and mix wildly between them to create their very own, unique sound.
How does Baskery describe that sound? Expressions like 'banjopunk', 'newfolk' and 'nordicana.' Regardless of how you try to describe Baskery, the Sisters have become famous for their energetic live shows at venues and festivals around the world, including Glastonbury and SXSW.
Not only are they all accomplished and well trained musicians, lyricists and songwriters, Baskery delivers killer sibling harmonies. No matter where they go in the world, people tell the sisters that 'they've never heard or seen anything like it' and that they 'have a completely unique sound and perform with what seems to be an inexhaustible energy.'
Baskery is a band built on what three people can do together. The trio is not bound to any genre and in speaking with the three sisters, that is the way the want to keep it. What you see and hear is what you get. It's all there in the live act. That energy comes across in the new album.
It takes a special producer to capture that 'real,' 'live' feel so it translates to what a person hears in a recorded song. Matt Wignall has done that through his production on 'Little Wild Life'. I asked Sunniva (vocals, electric guitar, bass and cello) and Stella (vocals, double bass) how they found Wignall. Stella shared that 'he (Wignall) used to work with a Swedish band called Mando Diao and heard of us through them. He said he knew how to take us to 'Awesome-town'! Haha! You gotta love a producer with the balls to say 'gonna take you to awesome town!' And he delivered.' Stella goes on, 'We had a session with him in Long Beach at his home studio (Wignall's studio is called 'Tackyland') and that convinced us to let him produce "Little Wild Life". Sunniva added that 'His musical references are in sync with ours''and he had a good impact on us being the calm, laid back surf dude that he is.'
So our conversation is going along well enough and I float the question that American and international press have been trying to get an answer to for quite a while. Where did they get the name 'Baskery'? Stella was feelin' the vibe and said ''We weren't supposed to reveal this initially, but since everybody wants to know, it's a nickname of a small village in the far north of Sweden. We hail from that place. It used to be a one horse town, they probably don't have any horses there now.' How cool is that from Baskery to Tackyland to Awesome-Town. So far a cool musical journey for three sisters who can't recall when or why they started playing. 'The music's always just been there. Performing live has become the most natural thing to us". In their late teens the sisters joined forces with their dad, who for decades was a one man band playing old blues and country tunes for a living.
I must know: how did a guy from a one horse town in Northern Sweden first find and then make a career out of American Blues and Country? Greta (vocals, gitjo, acoustic guitar drums, percussion and piano), Stella and Sunniva respond 'good question, you need to ask him about that. We've just always known him as a huge fan of old country, Americana and swamp n delta blues. Guess he was just curious being a musician and one artist discovery lead to another one, and another one. Dad has more of a black man's approach to music though, we think he sounds a bit like Jimi Hendrix singing.' Are you picturing this, too? Northern Sweden, Delta Blues and sounds like Hendrix. Can you imagine how proud papa Bondesson is of his three girls? Since 2007 Baskery has been touring and performing around the world. Had to know if Dad has ever joined them on stage? Stella responded, 'whenever he's in the crowd and in a good mood we're trying to make him play some harmonica. He's always welcome on stage since he's the most genuine musician we know. When we played a big festival in Denmark a few years back, he was there for his 60th birthday and we made him play, and we think that might have made his day.'
Whether you're in Baskery or Manhattan, there's a rite of passage for most musicians that the three Bondesson sisters endured as well. 'We got introduced to the music business in a quite a usual and unglamorous way: we played cover songs in pubs and bars, still we never played songs we didn't like just to please the crowd." The foundation of classic "roots music and Americana" settled in their hearts, but also awoke the urge of breaking the rules of traditional music. So who were some early influences? Greta responded, 'Oh, an eclectic mix of our parents' vinyl collection, to mention the ones I remember listening most frequently to: Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, The Who, Tom Petty, Joe Jackson, Kate Bush, Mozart.' So when the girls were able to purchase their first CD's it was, 'Bjork - Debut. It cost SEK 119, which was a lot of money for a kid.'
Baskery plays it full-out on stage, high energy combined with intuitive and flawless harmonies. They capture an audience, collectively as a band and as three individual talented front women. So who are the Front people they admire? 'David Bowie and Kate Bush for their artistry and diversity, but also all the artists that allow themselves to change and renew, like Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Wilcox, Neil Young, Damon Alban (Blur/Gorillas), Joni Mitchell.'
Greta and Brian Setzer's Gretsch
Since touring worldwide, have you had a chance to meet any of the bands or artists you covered when playing pubs or grew up listening to? 'Well, Brian Setzer's manager contacted us after hearing our version of "Please Don't Touch" (which was a cover of a cover of a cover'),' shared Greta. 'He wanted us to support him on his European tour. That was pretty awesome since Brian is one of the guitar players I think really highly of, cause he's such a diverse player. We had a great tour with him and his band! We got to sound check his Gretsch baby.' This is coming from a girl who brings a new appreciation and sound to the banjo. Greta explained the history between her and her six string Gitjo. 'I've played the six string banjo since the start of Baskery, it's my main instrument, and it's been present on all our albums. It's basically a guitar neck on a banjo body, merging the sound of the two. It's a whole other different instrument than any of them though. Mine is electrified and I run it through a pedal board, too, and sliding it gives it one more dimension sound wise. If playing it straight up and clean it simulates the sound of a banjo but not entirely, that's how we like it.'
Baskery put together a great promo video for the recording of 'Little Wild Life' which provides a glimpse of the recording process and studio setting in Berlin. In the video, which can be viewed on their website, www.baskery.com, I noticed an analogue tape machine, which prompted me to ask which parts of 'Little Wild Life' were recorded to tape. Sunniva provided the details, saying 'we tracked everything but the vocals to tape. There was not really channels left for the vocals and sonically you can't really hear a big difference on these high frequencies.' So, where do the sisters weigh in on the 'Analogue vs. Digital' debate? In unison they respond, 'Yes, of course tape is the shit, it sounds warmer on the low ends, and it's great for an instrument like the double bass and big sounding drums. But honestly, most people probably don't hear the difference. We are true supporters of analogue technique and believe some of the best sounding music was produced back in the 60-70's. Still, we appreciate the modern techniques and are taking advantage of all the short cuts it offers.'
How did Berlin become the location of choice for the recording of 'Little Wild Life'? The sisters shared that, 'Sunniva partly lives in Berlin and we all love it there for the same reasons as other artists who moved there. Although it's constantly changing it still has that flare of freedom and a healthy dose of decay and disobedience. We wanted to be isolated but have the possibilities to go out and dine and hang out after recordings. The studio was in a part of old East which offers a lot of solitude, and still you have the thriving 24 hour big city life around the corner. You're being left alone, people are very individual, you never feel like an outsider.'
After spending four years producing and hosting the UPOP Sessions at Abbey Road for WorldSpace and XM, I could see how the space an artist records in impacts their performance and final product. How important is the studio and atmosphere to Baskery? 'We would be lying if we said the atmosphere is not important, 'cause it brings a lot of vibes to the recording,' said Greta. 'The sound of the room is deciding though, but it helps if it gives you a comfortable feeling, too.' Sunniva adds, 'Voxton in Berlin had it all'a big, industrial feel to the main room, and a cozy hang out area, and not to forget a very retro-looking, awesome control room with an Italian tape machine from the 50's.' Stella summed up the core qualities of talent and creative by saying, 'We are good at making any place the studio for the day. We've basically recorded everywhere, using hotel mattresses for padding, etc' It worked out, too! The music is in your head, all you have to do is close your eyes.'
Baskery is all about turning the music on its head, reinterpreting and blending the straightforwardness of punk with the subtlety of singer/songwriting. To maintain that creative control they formed their own label, named Mother Tarantula. So whether you call them Punk Country or Banjo Punk, my suggestion is to leave any definition or classification at the door, and let the music take you to 'Awesome-Town'! Baskery performs live in the Washington DC/Maryland area June 10 through 12, then onto Brooklyn and New York City.
Ted Kelly, Senior Music Editor: Ted Kelly, an internationally recognized digital media pioneer, brings his unique interview style, commentary and proven ear for new talent to AND Magazine. Ted Kelly’s over two decades at the forefront of music and media ranges from major market, national and international morning radio personality to executive management for some of the world’s largest media companies in New York, Washington DC and globally. As Program Director of the world's first and only global pop music channel,... (more...)