Magnus Sveningsson. (Photo: Jenny Baumgartner)
Magnus Sveningsson is a musician, producer and bassist in The Cardigans. With the project Råå, he has in recent years released two albums, a remix single, a cover EP and a live album on the record company Malmö Inre, which he runs together with, among others, The Cardigans colleagues Lasse Johansson and Bengt Lagerberg.
Can you tell us how Råå’s latest album Ljungens Lag came about?
– I and the producer Carl Granberg had an idea to mix more of Jamaican and African influences in Råå. Some times I just listen to afro or reggae and it seemed like a fun way to try. I did my demos on my own in my studio in Österlen but shared them with Carl a little earlier in the process than I usually do. I collected a large pile of records that we listened to for drum sounds and found a lot of Rastafarian drums. With these we started to build rhythms which we then mixed with the crunchy vintage synths.
– We wanted to create sound combinations that felt unexpected and fun and we were both very careful with the nature of the sounds. Frequency, density and grunt were constantly under discussion in the work of Ljungens Lag. All in all, it was a fun record that is not reminiscent of so much else. I’m very proud of it, but am now working on the next record – so I have shifted my focus to new interesting combinations.
Råå – Ljungens Lag
Can you name some favorite combinations of sounds on the album?
– The bass clarinet has become one of the most important elements in Råå’s music. Bebe Risenfors, as our clarinetist is called, is extremely good at finding out what is suitable to play for each song.
– First minute of the song A thrilling moment later is wonderfully mixed with a Gambian balafon, spinach from an East German Vermona Piano strings, a Juno 60 arpeggio, a tight bass kagge and then Svante Lodén’s masterful percussion.
– Night falls over Holma is a wink to the fine band Yo la Tengo, both the title and purely musical. There you will find bass clarinet, Fender VI bass and a kind of drum set made up of a dustbin and various sheet metal lids. Beneath it all is an impromptu drone by Arp Odyssey and Crumar Performer.
Other well-used synths are Baldwin Syntasound whose cello sound is magically solitary, ARP Omni which surprisingly has a super nice accordion sound that we used in the title track, Roland RS 09 and then the world’s first keytar; World Champion Basset. The latter has a sick subwoofer fixed with a touch of key sound similar to a Fender Rhodes. Extremely useful for the right song.
The music you release with Råå is instrumental. Does the creation of music look different to you when it is text-free compared to songs with song and lyrics?
– I decided to try my hand at instrumental music precisely because I did not feel like writing lyrics and absolutely did not sing anything more. If you have no words that burn in your chest to get out, you should of course ignore writing anything at all. I became very free in the creation when the combination of old vintage synths and effect pedals gave results that I could not calculate. I’m neither fluent on piano nor guitar, so there was zero chance to surprise myself. I’m too bad at instruments. Råå actually makes very simple music. It is in the mood and instrumentation that it happens… Or is expected to happen.
Magnus Sveningsson. (Photo: Jenny Baumgartner)
I really like the titles of your songs. Do you have any tips or tricks to come up with song names?
– Thanks! I am also very fond of them. I immediately write down words I hear, or perhaps rather think I hear. Then it can be a joke or just something unexpected. My first record had several Scanian place names as song titles. Ljungens Lag was first intended to have flora and fauna as its theme. Now just Bid your time videung left from this spread.
– The song Vispen got its name from one of our oriental cats. By the way, he and his best friend Doris will decorate the cover of the next Råå record.
Is it different to work with the project Råå in comparison with the band The Cardigans?
– It is not even possible to compare. With Cardigans we had a pronounced songwriter in Peter and a wordsmith in Nina. However, the last two albums Long Gone Before Daylight and Super Extra Gravity are quite democratically created. We really made an effort to play together in the studio and sculpt the arrangements.
– Another difference is that we all lived under pressure to deliver with Cardigans. There was always a tension in the air, even though we generally worked without conflict. The record company Universal had quite high expectations of us. Remember that 400,000 copies of Super Extra Gravity sold were seen as a disaster. Different times then!
– With Råå, I feel very much in control of the music, even though I absolutely need a producer / mixer to squeeze the best out of the sounds. It would be interesting to record something new with Cardigans now and bring some of my newfound knowledge of old synths. The same goes for my bandmate Lasse who will soon release his debut album at Malmö Inre under the name Lost Johansson – there it is very melancholic Moog for the money!
The Monday interview is a series where @Lotta Fahlen interviews interesting people about various topics in music creation, and is published every other Monday.