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I live very safely and free here in the forest

Grift is a really interesting Swedish project that sounds as something in between atmospheric black metal and acoustic dark folk. But its just a rough definition. Based on old Swedish poets' masterpieces, Grifts essence is much bigger than any label. This music is very personal, introspective and sometimes its something like an attempt to catch the last ray of sun on gloomy autumn horizon. Rough and at the same time fragile, Grift's music inspires a certain category of listeners with a similar attitude. To be honest, I really like projects like this one, which are mostly far from the music media focus but contain an intimate but complex world with its own character. The founder and the only member of Grift, Erik Gärdefors, is a really creative, educated and very interesting person. He writes music, holds literary evenings, takes great photos and ... just lives, contemplating things that many of us consider to be common and routine stuff. If all goes well and the postponed Metal Over Russia festival takes place this year, well be able to see Grift on stage in our country. I hope so! In the meantime, I suggest you get to know this Swedish project better by reading an interview with Erik Gärdefors. And I suggest you take a good look at the Erik's photos on the official Grift Facebook page for a more integral understanding.
Hi Erik! I hope you are well. Let's start with the topic that turned the whole world upside down. Tell us how you survived the pandemic (COVID-19) and what is the situation in your area? How did this affect you personally and Grift?

Erik: Hey there, thanks for having me. I live in the countryside and do not meet many people. If you compare with how it is in the cities, I live very safely and free here in the forest. Grift has of course been affected negatively. This spring I released a new album that I intended to promote by playing many concerts. Now I can only focus on the future and hope for the best for us all.

You were supposed to take part in Metal Over Russia festival last year. But due to the coronavirus, the festival was postponed. Are you still in the lineup?

Erik: Yes I am. Grift is booked for next years festival. In 2018 I played two solo shows in Russia. One in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg. I really enjoyed to play in Russia and I met a lot of interseting and nice people on that trip. Now I am really looking forward to return Russia with my full band lineup.

Please tell me about the work on your recent album Budet. Was the approach to writing and recording process the same? If so, is it possible that one day your work style could change?

Erik: I always record and produce my records on my own. The only thing I ask for help with is the mastering. The actual recording process takes place in the same way every time. I start by recording the drums and humming the melodies in my head. Then I record guitar, bass, vocals, organ and all other things. To change the sound a bit between my albums I usually replace some equipment. I might buy a new guitar pedal or a new cymbal. I like to work with cheap and small means. Or rather, I have no choice, haha!

The album released via Nordvis Produktion, like all your other records. Such a long-term cooperation with the same label rarely happens in music industry. Tell me about your relationship with this label: do you only have a business partnership, or something more?

Erik: We work closely together based on trust and friendship. I am very happy to work with a label that understands my vision and wholeheartedly supports what I do. Nordvis owner is an artist himself and creates something very beautiful and unique.

Acoustics has become more and more important in your music over the years. If one listen to the sound of Budet, it is obvious that the music now bears the imprint of your experience of playing acoustic folk. The context of the music itself has changed somewhat. How would you comment on this tendency?

Erik: Us
ually I write everything on an old acoustic nylon stringed guitar. Even my metal songs are composed in that way. I think that for me it has become a challenge through the years to be more and more stripped down and try to get the essence of what I want to convey with Grift. Maybe my taste has simply changed over the years too. I get so much more out of listening to a street musician playing than listening to a new well produced metal album.

It seems that given the described tendency and your EPs such as Vilsna Andras Boning, Vankelsteg - Mot Okända Hembygder, it would be logically to expect a full acoustic album in the future?

Erik: Yes, actually I am currently writing on a full-length acoustic album. It feels very stimulating and challenging to do an entire acoustic album. I got so much out of doing my intimate acoustic solo performances over the years, so my ambition is to do more of these kind of shows in the future.

By the way, the idea of recording music right in the forest using only a guitar and a simple recorder seems very cool, as it was with Vankelsteg - Mot Okända Hembygder. Sometimes this minimalistic approach expresses the essence of this kind of music much better than studio effects and distortion. Isnt it?

Erik: I totally agree with you on that. The cassette you mentioned is a recording of my old songs that I made acoustic interpretations of. I recorded it in a hut not far from where I live. This was during the month of May, so the thrushes had begun to sing and the whole forest was full of life.

Dont you think that along with folk music, black metal (at least partly) is the most "ecological" and "rural" musical genre? Black metal and folk have a lot in common due to this natural approach.

Erik: I think that's true as you say. In Sweden, there were also more nature-inspired prog bands in the 70s. But today I do not know actually.

Some of diehard black-metalheads argue that Satan must be the main message in black metal. But recently Seidemann of 1349 told me this: There is a certain feeling, a spirit that has to be present for black metal to be black metal and I think that is linked to the nature. Do you agree with this statement?

Erik: For me it is not important to put a label on what I create. I know what I want to express and there is a great deal of freedom in that. Of course you hear that I like black metal and that I have taken inspiration from that since I was a teenager. But you can probably also hear and understand that I am inspired by other music genres as well.

I know that you have a certain dislike for black metal because of its lim

Erik: Well, I understand that some things can get more focused if you limit it to being in a so-called true way. This is how many systems work to make people feel important and exclusive to each other, but also to achieve something that feels just orthodox and limiting, like in a religious or community-building structure. I just feel very limited in my artistic freedom and as a human being when I have to adapt to how an elite or some rules says things should be. I constantly wrestle with questions of duty and righteousness etc. But then it's about slightly bigger questions than about what is black metal or not, haha!

Now I would like us to return to your past. Please tell me how did you start your path as a musician? And what influenced you?

Erik: I started playing drums when I was twelve years old. A friend and I discovered punk music and an alternative lifestyle. Since then, I think my music and my way of life have gone hand in hand.

I know that you are a very educated person and you have education in the fields of art, literature and philosophy. Tell me please about your path of intellectual, personal growth and about your path in philosophy. What brings you to this way?

Erik: I have been curious about many different topics from an early age. At the university I studied several different subjects and finally I got a master's degree in library and information science. In recent years, I have devoted more time to studying the nature around me. I can sit out in the woods and watch a woodpecker or smell an orchid. I'm starting to learn more about plants and animals. From what the environment looks like I can understand a little bit more now how vulnerable everything is.

How did you come to the idea to tie together both elements? When your passion for music and passion for literature and philosophy become one?

Erik: When I formed Grift I decided to try to be as honest as I can with my expression. It may sound ridiculous and pretentious, but it's harder than you think to create such honest lyrics and songs that I strive for. So I wanted to put together several completely different things that have shaped me as a person and make the best of it. I want to try to avoid these categorizations, genres, and stereotypes that we mentioned above, and embrace everything that constantly influences me.

As for me, Grift is a prime example of how creativity in rock/metal music stepped much further compared to the earlier period of rock music, when it was just entertainment. Today, some musicians consider it important to convey a certain feeling and even philosophy in their music. This is a more introverted side of music.
Do you think this attitude is a natural development or just a side-effect that is not decisive and will not affect further development of music on the metal scene?

Erik: Hm, I really don't know. I can just talk for myself and for some friends that also are creating introvert and emotional music. For me Grift is a very private expression. Sometimes I feel that I don't want to spread what I create. But when I got that feeling I understand that it's genuine and that some other people also can feel something for what I do. Then it feels meaningful to release and spread my music for what it is.

Grift was originally a duo, with drummer J. Hallbäck in the first couple of years. Why did you decide to continue on your own?

Erik: Johan still plays with us live. He's one of my best friends. We just decided together that it's better if I do everything myself because I have all the visions and want more than him with Grift.

The first EP Fyra Elegier was recorded in 2011 but released in 2013. Why it took so long?

Erik: Yes that´s true, we recorded it and then it took a while before I started contacting record labels and then signed to Nordvis.

Honestly, I got interested in Grift thanks to your photos and videos. In my opinion, your photos and videos that you post on Facebook and Instagram are an integral part of Grift and the band's philosophy. It's like a way of art, a way of life. Is that so?

Erik: Yes, it really is. I dig where I stand and often try to capture the feeling of everyday life, but from a certain perspective. For me it's very important that music, lyrics, artwork etc. capture the same kind of feeling.

Would you describe the place where you live and what is its role in your work? Please tell me about the general lifestyle and the people of Västergötland. Your Facebook photos give a rather archaic feeling.

Erik: I live on a small mountain called Kinnekulle which is located by the lake Vänern. Vänern is Europe's third largest lake. Only Ladoga and Onega in Russia are larger. The climate here during the winter months is very raw and cold. It is constantly humid and foggy which you can see in several of my photos. The weather, nature and the folklore here inspires me for sure. But as I wrote earlier, there are many other things that also inspire me to write songs. When I moved back to my homeland a few years ago, I decided to try to make the best of the situation. I think many people can relate to the feeling that I many times try to capture the feeling of being home but at the same time longing away to something different. Wherever I am, the longing in me grow

Do you know the feeling of nostalgia for the impossible? This is a kind of transcendental yearning.

Erik: I think I understand what you mean, yes. The older I get, the more nostalgia I feel when I am walking the same paths I walked when I was a kid. Many people who lived here when I was younger are now dead and forgotten. I have a lot of memories from when I played in fields and forests, and I think about that almost every day.

Your father can be seen in the Grift video and photos. Please tell me about your relationship with your father and his impact on you as a person. What is his role in Grift? If I'm not mistaken, he helps you in recording, playing the accordion?

Erik: We help each other with different things. I'm glad he want to be a part of what I create. He plays accordion on the song Skarprättaren yes, and he has read poems when I had a release party for Vilsna andars boning.

I read some of your interviews and I had a question: how do you manage to combine both the ability to convey such a deep atmosphere and focus on the culture of the place where you live with an interest in other cultures and a willing to move to another place at the same time?

Erik: I think it has to do with my interest in a little bit of everything, haha. Sometimes it's good for yourself to just bring in things from the immediate environment. Sometimes it is good to just bring in knowledge from completely different cultures and lifestyles. Finding a balance between all this I find exciting and rewarding.

The question is quite delicate, and I know that in Europe you have to be pretty careful with such topics. Don't you think that today's individualism and nihilism in society has gone too far? Today we see a society of mundane consumers indulging sick forms of hysterical tolerance. Don't you think so?

Erik: I sometimes wonder if the secularism that characterizes the western world makes people becoming increasingly empty inside. But at the same time, it may not be so good to believe too much in something higher either. Martyrdom also has a downside. These are great philosophical questions that can be discussed forever. Everything we rush with and never get enough of. To name just one Russian thinker that I think capture this is Dostoevsky. In his last book The Brothers Karamazov he really capture these kind of paradoxical issues through the characters that all man wrestle with.

At the end of the interview, please tell us about your plans for the future. And what could you say to those who decided to read this interview but still haven't heard your music?

Erik: Thank you very much for an interesting discussion. I'm planning for next year with Grift. There are some festivals booked and a European tour in June. I will concentrate on writing my next album, which will be an acoustic record with some guests participating. For those who never have heard Grift I ask them to listen with patience and with an open mind.

Photo by Nathalie Ericson
"Budet" cover photo by Erik Gärdefors

Questions by Alias

14 2021
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