The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Wildbirds & Peacedrums

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Interview with Wildbirds & Peacedrums.

“The love of something also brings the fear of losing it, so there is always a duality present.”

— Mariam Wallentin/Andreas Werliin

Words: Mark Carry

Wildbirds & Peacedrums

Late last year saw the eagerly awaited fourth full-length release from Stockholm husband and wife duo, Wildbirds & Peacedrums. ‘Rhythm’ –released on the prestigious UK imprint The Leaf Label – showcases Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin’s deep musical telepathy and the band’s incendiary live performance. Describing ‘Rhythm’ as ‘going back to our roots’ album, the album’s highly intensifying nine sonic creations incorporated drums (Werliin) and voice (Wallentin) with exception of a bass line added at certain sections. A relentless creativity seeps from the gifted duo whose previous records – ‘Heartland’(2008), ‘The Snake’ (2009), ‘Rivers’ (2010) – have incorporated multitudes of sounds (tropicalia, punk, R&B, spiritual pop and primitive blues) and soaring emotion.

Andreas Werliin’s wide array of collaborative projects include: Andrew Bird, Lonely Dear and Neneh Cherry. In addition, the acclaimed trio of Fire! (with gifted saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Tape’s Johan Berthling) and Tonbruket (with Dan Berglund). Mariam Wallentin has her own richly compelling solo output (recorded under the moniker of Mariam The Believer) and collaborative work with Susanna & The Magical Orchestra, Labfield, Lykke Li amongst others.

‘Rhythm’ is out now on The Leaf Label.

Interview with Wildbirds & Peacedrums.

Firstly, it’s striking that the songs of ‘Rhythm’ contains such raw emotion, intensity and energy that reveals the strength and power of your latest masterpiece. I imagine it was quite a liberating album to make in the sense that you both find yourselves coming full-circle in many ways, and returning to your roots?

Mariam Wallentin/Andreas Werliin: Thanks a lot for those kind words. We are very happy with the album and extremely happy that you like it. When we decided to take a break with W&P to do other projects and bands it was a bit of a slow process to start doing the album. First of all we needed to find the right meaning with it, since this somehow got lost during the last years of extensively touring. But on the other hand we were both filled with passion and love for the duo. We started to record some parts slowly and tried out and experimented a lot but it never felt right until we decided to go back to where we started; the drums and vocals.

Discuss the challenges you faced to effectively translate the intensities of your live shows into a studio album? It’s a question posed by many musicians and bands, and I wonder did you utilize any new techniques for the making of this album as opposed to the previous three records?

MW/AW: Our earlier albums have all been a fast process – squeeze in between tours kind of. But this time we bicycled to our own studio, working on finding the right tempos for the songs, testing different microphones, tuning the drums in right keys and so on before doing a take. We decided to stand close to each other, nothing between us to let the sounds blend in to the microphones and when we felt that everything was in place for the song we hit record and tried to do it as a live take. After that we did some overdubs if needed and then the mixing, so all was made with only the two of us in a room, quite a private and intimate process but with the urge to let the music out and in to other ears and bodies.

It’s amazing to think most of these songs were recorded in one take, again illustrating the monumental achievement of ‘Rhythm’. I would love for you to describe your Stockholm studio and the set-up you have there? The album was written, recorded and produced by the pair of you; which process of the music-making process have you discovered the most intensive that poses difficulties?

MW/AW: It’s basically just a rehearsal space, filled up with a lot of drums and percussion. Since drums are vibrating live instruments just as the voice is, we filled up the room with different reflective materials that would make this small room sound bigger than it actually is. Since we had no time pressure we could let each song find it’s very own sound by experimenting with different set ups and effects so it all was in place when we were done. Instead of trying to find the sound when mixing it was all done in the pre-production.

In terms of the writing process, there is a psychological element very much present throughout ‘Rhythm’ and subsequent emotions of fear, tension, struggle, dreams, longing and hope permeate the headspace. I would love for you to discuss the central themes to the record and what ‘Rhythm’ means to you both?

MW/AW: It is a special focus of tension present on this album yes -fear vs safety, doubt vs hope and so on- and over and over Mariam do comes back to that when writing lyrics, and to our inner emotional lives we have in our bodies and our minds, like the lives inside our lives. It’s a lot about falling, about crossing the line and never be able to go back again, the small steps that can be so small but still devastating. So yes, it is a lot about our psychology as humans, how we think and react, both instincts and more thoughtful. The love of something also brings the fear of losing it, so there is always a duality present.

One of the album’s defining moments arrives on the utterly captivating ‘Soft Wind, Soft Death’, a sublime tour-de-force. I love how the voice and drums effortlessly coalesce together, creating a truly transcendent sonic creation. Please recount your memories of writing and recording this particular song? Was this also a first take? The lyrics linger in your mind, long after the music is gone that results in a deeply enriching experience.

MW/AW: We had the idea of a repetitive haunting drum groove that would contrast to a more floating, thoughtful vocal part. When we recorded it we needed to do it separately so Andreas started to record the groove – we think it didn’t end until 18 minutes, all while Mariam was standing in front, dancing and forcing him to keep up the energy. We took out a 7 minute part and built the vocals from there.

You have shown relentless creativity these past few years, having collaborated with a host of wonderful artists and musicians. I can imagine these various projects you always have ongoing must feed healthily into a Wildbirds & Peacedrums record? What other projects do you have planned?

MW/AW: Even though W&P always have and will be our ”first born” it’s for the both of us very important and rewarding to do other projects and collaborations. Both feeds each other somehow. We have just finished a Roland Schimmelpfennig performance piece in Stockholm – a collaboration between Andreas trio Fire! (Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling) with Mariam and Refused drummer Davis Sandström. Mariam has her solo project Mariam The Believer that will go on tour with Damian Rice and Ane Brun this summer and fall, and she is also part of the improv trio Nuiversum. Also there’s the mayhem project Fire! Orchestra that we are both part of and that will play shows this year all over Europe. So yes, we like to keep us involved in many different projects.


Please go back to your earliest musical memories. How soon in your lives did you realize the importance music would have on you?

MW/AW: We started both very young to discover music – Andreas in my mother’s kitchen banging on cans, and Mariam has been singing since she was a child, both in choirs but also dubbing animated movies and stuff. No matter what else happened around us we have always had the music as a shelter and as a comfort.

When Andreas was about 8 he got a blue cassette from a student of his father with some classic rock on… He especially remember the Max Wienberg drumming on Born in the USA. Mariam remembers her mother’s Aretha Franklin and Beatles vinyls.

Discuss the records you’ve been listening to most during the last year or so? Are there particular sources of inspiration you find yourselves coming back to, again and again?

MW/AW: There’s a very diverse pile of inspirational albums in our living room. We guess what could be the red line between them are bravery. Both in songwriting and production. Records that stand out and takes unpredictable turns.




‘Rhythm’ is out now on The Leaf Label.

Written by markcarry

June 22, 2015 at 2:27 pm

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