The Virtues’ new album Oh Dear was released in January. This was the bands’ sixth full length album and contains eleven tracks. They have just released the track Anyway you wanna fight it as a single and music video.
The band consists of Per Bergkvist, Jesper Andersson, Per "Flamman" Westling and Fredrik Moberg. Svip.se had a little chat with the singer Per Bergkvist.
Your last album is said to be inspired by Kiss’ album Rock n´Roll Over?
It was a measurement for the new album. Personally I think it’s Kiss’ best album. Likewise it’s just right in length, it’s direct and simple. They were at the top at the time.
Pardon my question, but you don’t look very old…
Okay, good (laughter). All of us passed forty, so we’re not very young either.
I was more thinking of what age you were when Kiss released that specific album…
I was two when it came out. I started out listening to Kiss around 1979. I had an older cousin who wallpapered his bedroom with Kiss posters. I thought it was really awesome and after hearing the music, even better. Kiss holds a speciell part of my childhood heart. We don’t sound as much Kiss, it’s more like the spirit of rock´n´roll, punk and tunes with us in the band. Kiss was at the time based in guitar riffs and not so very aggressive.
But you do have a few other influences?
The 60: s with Kinks and The Beatles above all. From the 70: s Led Zeppelin, an all time favourite we all share. We also like the power pop line with Big Star, Teenage Fan club etc. We’re all musical omnivores so there are influences from all over. During different periods of your life you’d listen to different things. I usually say that the only thing you’re doing today is to recreate the music you grew up with but with your personal interpretation and there’s nothing wrong with that.
As long as you’re not making a total carbon copy…
I never start out with the intention to write a new song sounding exactly like another one. But with some distance to a song you can actually hear where the inspiration came from. That’s cool.
Are you the person behind the writing?
Yes, mainly. I’ve written all of the tracks on the latest album, usually the guitarist Flamman contributes with one or two songs but I do most of the writing and it’s simply because I write so much.
This is your sixth album, is it a similar sound to the others?
When you listen to our first album, you really get why we sound as we do today. Since our fifth album we’ve become more garage rocky-ish then we were. On the album Rerepeter we went all in with an eight channel tape-player and recorded the album live in the studio, it was fun. We’ve gone from rock to pop and back again to rock and on to garage.
So it depends a little on where you are in life and your feelings at the time?
Just like that, we’re in such a period now and it doesn’t seem have an ending right now either. We’ll see what happens. We already have half an album ready which we recorded in the garage. We’ll see where we end up. At some point you’d want to do something different. Maybe an acoustic album or something more laid back.
Nothing like Kiss The Elder?
That won’t happen (laughter). Even if I have a soft spot for that album, I would never make one myself. I have no interest in that.
Have you always released you album on vinyl?
No just the two latest. When we made our debut in 2003, the vinyl was close to stone dead. It was gone up until five, six years ago. It’s also been extremely expensive to make the vinyl’s which also played a part. Now it’s possible again without making deep holes in the budget. But I love vinyl and I’ve continued to buy vinyl every time I get the chance, it’s more for real, with a big and nice cover. You can see the artwork. And they smell nice! It’s a special feeling when you take the vinyl out from its cover, smell it and put it on...
Then I have to ask you which vinyl you like best, the German or the American made?
There you have to cross listen. It depends, if you buy a 180 gram from Germany and a 200 gram from the US it’s easier to feel that the 200 gram sounds better. You can establish the fact that at the end of the 80: s the press wasn’t as good over all. They made 120 grams that was blowing in the wind really. So I can’t say which one’s the best.
You also release your album as a CD?
There’s accustomedness amongst people. Some prefer to be able to put the record in their pocket and not under the arm. There’s a need to release a small edition on CD too. Even if there’s talk of a large consuming of vinyl’s, the sales is still small. It’s the streaming services that commonage uses. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard: awesome album and you’ve asked if they will buy it and the reply you get is: I’ve got it on Spotify. Okay, keep on listening, it’s beautiful like that.
Financially speaking it must be better to be able to sell an album than to have it streamed?
It must be a mega hit if there’s gonna be any kronor to count with. The physical tour sales are the real deal. We’ve noticed during the passed years that people are more apt to buy a t-shirt then buying the album. They’re listening to some digital channel but still want a souvenir. This is nice because you get a penny in there. Every little helps when you are fighting as we do.
You are touring on both sides of the Atlantic?
Yes. We’re in the middle of live stage now. All of us have had children, which is the main reason to why we haven’t toured as much over the last years. The record company that we signed with in the US has also opened in the Netherlands so we’ve been there and are going back this fall. It’s about a minor campaign towards the Benelux countries. After that we’ll see if we can put things together and go over to the US for next year. It’s an expensive apparatus so there can be a discussion about where to invest our money. You can tour several times in Europe for the same amount. Right now our focus is Sweden and a few tours in Benelux.
What environment do you prefer when out on tour?
Festivals are special, a lot depends on what slot time you get and between what bands you end up. We prefer to play at clubs. Partly because it’s easier to get those gigs and partly since you get closer to the audience. Easier to reach out. Festivals are good fun too as you get the possibility to walk around the area and watch stuff on your own. You never have that time normally as a family man.
Do you bring your families when you go on tour?
No. We go on our own. We do a maximum of three, four gigs so there’s a not long period away. As you can understand. So everyone is happy and it works for us. You really want to spend time with the family and children while they are young. I have a seven months old baby, so I’ve started all over again in the swamp of nappies.
Do you have a fun or odd tour memory you would like to share?
There’s been a time when one of us has forgotten his pas port and just realized when boarding the plane. That caused panic. But usually it’s possible to fix with a temporary pas port. I can’t think of anything better than that. We’re no scandal band. However one has feared for our lives when playing in England. And their standard on the wall outlets, wow, so many times you’d said your goodbyes before pushing the cable in. You have no idea what’s about to happen.
You mentioned you have half an album already, is that something we can look forward to for next year?
Yes, we count on a release for next year. Spring or fall we’ll see. It depends on how the album Oh Dear is received and how much we’re out playing. We’ll see if we’ll have time for the studio recordings to finish it. It requires time even if we’re extremely disciplined and fast. There are many demos before the product is ready.
Are you perfectionists before releasing material?
We’re absolutely not perfectionists when we have our sessions. We play everything live. It’s about give and take. It can be a really good take even if someone slips somewhere. We keep t anyway and when you listen to our new album there’s a part which is pretty funny (laughter). You learned over the years that the fiddling about rarely leads anywhere and is better left as it is, if it’s a minor thing.
The spontaneity disappears…
Yes and we’ve played together for so long so we think we have such a good grove and excellent timing together. It’s there so it’s absolutely the best thing when we play together. It’s sparse with impositions; we try to keep to the things happening there and then. It works fine and it’s fun. We were a bit off when we recorded our first album. We fiddled a bit too much and made too many impositions.
Did the unfamiliarity play a part in the studio?
I think it was our ambition. The unfamiliarity in combination with our record deal. You wanted to show everything at once. It was us who set the level of a one million budget, when it wasn’t that many zeros behind our budget. We simply smeared too much, but we learned something from it. So now everything is under control.