Swedish Synthpop music has always been and still is a trademark of quality Electronica music. Same counts for Estrange, although the musically expression of this project differs a lot to classic Synthpop projects out this country and allows acoustic elements and different music styles to enter a free slot. Estrange albums do always fascinate through their wide range of diversity, although this band invests a lot of time until they get a new album ready done. Their last album “On The Wane” (Life Is Painful Records) is their third in nearly 15 years of activity, so we at the Chain D.L.K. have been curious enough to ask band-leader Marcus Lilja for facts behind Estrange…
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Marcus, you’re the musically mastermind behind Estrange, but with your current release “On The Wane”, you’ve added two additional band members to your project. Please fill in some introducing content, and some generally words about the who, when and where of Estrange…
Estrange: Since Anders Persson left Estrange, it’s been kind of lonely when it comes to making music. It’s easy to fall into the same pattern without any feedback and opinions from others. I had known Joakim for a long time and we had always got along very well. It felt like an obvious thing to ask him, if he wanted to be a part of Estrange. His thoughts and point of views about the songs and arrangements have made it easier to focus on the goals of Estrange.
David is my brother. I was very impressed when he played some songs that he had recorded and asked him if he wanted to play in Estrange. In the beginning the plan was, that David and Joakim mostly would complete Estrange when playing live, but as time went by, they have taken part in all kinds of ways of Estrange.
Even if it’s me that comes up with the main ideas, the songs get a different sound when someone else adds his perspective. It’s been really nice to feel that we’re a proper band.
With the new record we’re working on now, we’re exploring our sound and attitude about music even further and Estrange sounds more organic than ever. This autumn we have a few gigs and we felt that we needed a drummer. So right now Estrange consists of four members.
Chain D.L.K.: “On The Wane” has been released by the German Life Is Painful Records label, which hasn’t been that active lately compared to earlier years. Could you please tell us a bit about this business decision, about the pros and cons regarding your deal with LIPR?
Estrange: Time flies and we’ve been with LIPR for quite a while now. Dirk, the head of LIPR, is a really decent guy with a lot of commitment to music. Creatively and artistically I don’t feel that we have had any boundaries, witch has been incredibly nice. LIPR is a small company without big resources and that might explain the minor activity. But compared to the freedom, I feel it’s worth it. When we got signed, it suited us well musically. So I had never any doubts in accepting the offer. Dirk has shown his enthusiasm to the work we’ve done so far. I hope it will stay that way and that our next record will reach as far as possible.
Chain D.L.K.: People who don’t invest time by listening to your stuff, may loose interest to check out the diverse arrangements of Estrange. What is your aim of composing and why do you allow acoustic and organic instruments to mix with your Synthpop-related foundation? Do you think, that your intention to install organic instruments may obstacles yourself regarding incoming success and recognition, if you compare yourself with some well-known Swedish Synthpop projects like Code 64 or Mr. Jones Machine for instance?
Estrange: My aim of composing, I think, is to develop myself in first hand. To find what is burning inside and what needs to be expressed. So, it is a constant struggle and a therapy for me to compose.
I don’t know why my music needs time invested, but it’s the same for me. Sometimes it can take quite some time before I get the chills from my own work. But I know that there are people who actually invest that time and then get more out of it and that makes it worth it.
I have never felt that Synthpop is an end in itself. It’s more of the mood, the sense and the context that I find appealing. As I get older, the more I seem to search the contrasts. Then it feels quite naturally to integrate more organic instruments. At the same time I love my synths and their sound more than ever. I think the next record, despite all acoustic elements, is more ”synth” than ever.
But I do experience that we often fall between the cracks and of course it can be an obstacle not being a pure Synthpop band. I find it hard to compare Estrange to Code 64 or Mr. Jones Machine and I find it hard to compare them to each other. We make such different music and they are great at what they do. There seem to be a great skepticism and prejudices among the organizers and industry in the genre. There is too much regimentation and far to little curiosity, acceptance and courage. I am certain, there are a lot of bands who feel the same way we do.
Chain D.L.K.: Electronica music and its lyrical content often blames religious themes. As for a quite interesting point out of your bio, I could read that you have studied religion and philosophy. Try to explain us a bit your points of view on these themes, their influence on you as being a
musician and give us some insight about the lyrical universe of Estrange.
Estrange: I’ve never been a person, who easily talks about the way I feel. I manage to talk about feelings in a kind of hypothetical perspective, but I have never been good at expressing what I’m feeling in the moment. I have always had an enormous need to be able to get away from everything, partly out of cowardliness but also as a tool to deal with my being. But the feelings and thoughts grow inside me and turn to music and lyrics.
I grew up in a religious home and I am carrying a great religious symbolic language. This conceptual world attracts me, not Christianity in itself, but its language and its connection to the transcendent. I can lose myself in writings, items, traditionally religious as well as occult and philosophical ones, everything that gives me a tension of something I had forgotten but lives inside of me.
On the other hand I do have a very scientific way of looking at things and it makes me feel very shattered when it comes to these contradictions. I would love to find a fixed point.
Chain D.L.K.: Staring a comparison to your predecessor “Interim”, I tend to say that “On The Wane” seems to be a bit more optimistic lyrically. At least such bitter sad tunes like “Consolation Song” or “Smoother” aren’t available on your latest album. What has changed to your opinion?
Estrange: My life shifts all the time. As I said before, I write about what I keep inside. What led to “Smoother” and “Consolation Song” is still leading me on different levels. I’ve never thought about the lyrics on “On The Wane” being more optimistic… maybe it’s like, as long as you’re on the wane, you better cheer up.
Chain D.L.K.: Lately you returned with a free downloadable EP, which features 4 tracks mostly based on a personal background and experiences. “Ending A Line” shall also mark a new beginning for Estrange. Please fill in some introducing content about “Ending A Line”. What will change and what do we have to expect?
Estrange: It’s a takeoff from our earlier work and a bridge to what’s to come. There is, I think an expression of a man in need of guidance, the need of salvation. A long come all kinds of undesirable consequences. It makes no difference if the need originates in the longing for religiosity or ideology. The need is always there I think, for most men and woman. At least for me.
Chain D.L.K.: Any plans for a new release already to confirm here? What do you expect for the future of your project? Any news in the pipeline of remix works, collaborations etc.?
Estrange: We have finished the recordings of our next album and have even played a gig with some of the songs. However, we don’t know when or how it’s going to be released. But it’s more of a concept album and a progress of the EP. There are a lot of musicians involved in the record playing for example tuba, shaman drumming, vibraphone and a lot of other instruments.
It has been a completely new approach, and now it suddenly feels like we musically have found our way home. Since the recordings and mixing has consumed all my time, there hasn’t been any time to do any remixing of old songs.
Chain D.L.K.: How does it look for you to do some live performances in Sweden and Europe for the future? Are there any plans and hopes for doing some gigs in the USA, too? And how does a gig of you look like, for all those who aren’t able to watch your stage action?
Estrange: The past year our main focus has been on recording the new album. But we do have new gear that makes it possible to perform without backtracks. Though no one of us is a skilled musician or a virtuosos on his instrument in any way, the broader range of instruments helps us to create a certain mood that we are beginning to feel comfortable with.
About upcoming gigs, it’s truly hard these days when all bands need to tour more than ever to make ends meet. This of course makes it even harder for smaller bands like us to get gigs. But when the new record is finished, we live in hope that there will appear more and greater possibilities. And of course we want to play in the USA, we want to play everywhere, but our resources are very limited. We hope that our new record will hit the stores soon and reach as far as possible.
Chain D.L.K.: Finally some words about the private person Marcus Lilja. Please give us some insight about hobbies, relations, scandals, and other things of interest…
Estrange: Well, the scandals are very few. I would never in the world google my own name, but if I by chance would have done it at any point, I would have found that there is a site saying that the lead singer of Estrange was being arrested for murder. However, I seriously doubt the accuracy of that statement.
Chain D.L.K: Thank you, Marcus, for this nice interview. Keep on your way to produce unique music. All the best from the whole Chain D.L.K. crew.
Visit Estrange at www.estrangemusic.com
Life is Painful Records, www.vivisektion.de
[interview by Marc Tater; proofread by Jean Mason]