To be continued… Ebbot Lundberg

The album cover depicts the perfect middle age couple: pretty, beautiful eyes, perfect white smile. Man and woman look happy, they welcome us to their elegant house. On a closer look, the image is disturbing. Too much perfection. Both drink what it seems to be a super healthy green beverage -it actually is papaya coconut milk mixed with a heavy dose of absinthe. Too much happiness. These two individuals do not look real. Could they be replicants? Or maybe aliens that have just arrived to Earth?

That’s the artwork of The Soundtrack of our Lives’ album Communion (2009). At the time, singer Ebbot Lundberg explained they chose that particular image “because it is one of the images we’re being fed every day. The perfect life that does not exist. Some sort of modern mass psychosis that people subconsciously get sucked into. The cancer of corporocracy which now has spread all over our planet. And everybody is happy”. A gloomy look to society that did not even intend to mess with people’s heads because “Most people heads are in a mess nowadays. And maybe these images are to blame.”

Fast forward nearly eight years and times seem more somber. Ebbot Lundberg is set to play in Helsinki again after a long absence, but his band does no longer exist. The Soundtrack of our Lives split in 2012 after a series of farewell shows in Stockholm. For the last four years, Lundberg has been working on a solo career. After a myriad of projects, he’s put out an inspired album and has a solid backing band to support it and tour behind it.

The day Ebbot Lundberg and The Indigo Children took the stage in Helsinki is the day Donald Trump sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. The singer briefly acknowledges this fact on stage and I can’t help thinking of the couple on the cover of Communion. In this last seven years we can’t really say the world has gotten any better. In the era of Brexit, Trump, terrorism, financial crisis mass hysteria, we keep drinking smoothies to make us feel better in a ever-connected narcissistic society. Today, those aliens might not even want to come to Earth.

But the show must go on, and it’s a new beginning for Ebbot Lundberg. Or rather, it’s the start of the third act. First, in the late eighties, he was the wild short-haired punk fronting Union Carbide Productions in the late eighties, growling maximum dogbreath over Stooges-inspired guitars. Union Carbide would grow into more cosmic, spaced-out pop songs. From the ashes of this band, Lundberg went to form The Soundtrack of Our Lives and his musical journey embraced sixties sounds, psychedelia and a love for melody and pop forms without forgetting guitar riffs and power chords. Now, for his solo venture, he’s joined forces with The Indigo Children, a bunch of kids more than half his age -none of them were born when the first Union Carbide album hit the stores. In many ways, The Indigo Children are the perfect backing band. They grew up listening to The Soundtrack of our Lives so the songs are in their DNA. Lundberg feels mentally connected to them and plays well the role of a mentor. In response they band has reenergized his music. Without the heavy weight old bands carry, The Indigo Children are malleable enough to play any song, and Lundberg is not shy to go deep into his catalogue, including in his set old Union Carbide songs for the first in years. And, Lundberg feeds on the energy the band brings. Past the age of 50, the shaman-like figure of Lundberg is revitalized.

Greatest Hits Providers

Precisely is that energy what he seemed to be missing at the end of TSOOL. “We got lame towards the one. We had a big festival to play in Toronto but nobody felt like going there then, so it was better to split up”. This is what Lundberg tells me before soundcheck at Korjaamo, speaking quickly, without hiding his heavy Scandinavian accent.

Apathy, boredom, lack of inspiration… Whatever the reason, time was up for The Soundtrack of our Lives. Lundberg affirms he always envisioned the band would peaked in 2012 and so it happened. The muse was gone.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives (TSOOL) were meant to last forever. Or so it seemed. At the end of the nineties, the band from Göteborg, Sweden, rewrote classic rock for the 21st century. Firmly based on the heroes of the sixties: the psychedelia of early Pink Floyd and Love, the proto-punk of The Who and a Beatlesque approach to melody and grandiose arrangements. Lundberg fronted the six-piece group with his shaman-like immense figure. As greatest hits providers, the band recorded extensively. Long, epic albums followed by a torrent of B-sides and EPs.

By their third album, Behind the Music (2001), TSOOL were heading for the big time. The Swedes were going to be big stars. Songs like “Sister Surround” or the emotive “Nevermore” had it all to be worldwide hits. The hype machine worked, specially in the UK. Noel Gallagher proclaimed Behind the Music the best album to come out in the last six years, and Steven Van Zandt raved about the band. They appeared on the Conan O’Brien, on Letterman and other TV shows. It was even rumored that Johnny Cash recorded a version of Nevermore for his American Recording series.

Against all odds, TSOOL never got any more popular. They remained that little rock band from Sweden, playing festivals and club gigs across Europe. But the big breakthrough in the US never happened. Despite the TV appearances, the songs on TV shows like Californication, TSOOL remained unknown in the US. Sure it didn’t help Pitchfork beard a grudge against the Swedish band. Harsh reviews qualified Behind the Music as derivative and bland, dismissing the band for being in large part a classic rock band with no hooks and no energy. Nasty words without much arguments to back them up. Pitchfork being cooler than cool.

As TSOOL started to fade away, loud guitars dwindled and melancholia took over. Filled with mid-tempos and ballads, mostly acoustic and folky, the band’s last album, Throw It to the Universe (2012), was a fitting goodbye. Sad, but positive as the last song sung “Shine on/ There’s another day after tomorrow/ There’s another day after the end.”

“I felt I was the only one who wanted to continue”. There’s no bitterness in his voice when Lundberg pronounces these words. Just acceptance. Fuck it! If they don’t want to do it, I’ll do it, he seems to say.

Shine On (There’s another day after tomorrow)

And so there was another day after the end. After nearly three decades fronting bands, Ebbot Lundberg launched a solo career. Since those farewell shows, many projects have kept him busy, even though there was not a clear direction or touring: a self-release one-song psychedelic album, a self-made album of demos and a few singles. He even participated in the Swedish version of the reality TV/music show The Best Singers, in which different artists cover each other’s songs. “Oh that made me suddenly famous”, he chuckles. That show led to one EP, The Freereelin’ Ebbot Lundberg. This is one of the few recordings in which he sings in his mother tongue, in Swedish. “I always preferred English”, he admits. “I was never interested. I listened to English music when I grew up. I remember listening to ABBA for the first time and they were still singing in Swedish before they got famous. I was six years old and I thought, meh, what’s this shit, turn it off. English appealed to me much more”. Despite that, he remembers singing in Swedish early in his career: #I was in a punk band in the early 80s before Union Carbide and I sang in Swedish. It was a fun dadaist thing. We just had a title and wrote down whatever came to mind”.

For the Ages to Come

After some time in the making, waiting for right time to release it, For the Ages To Come was published in 2016. And with The Indigo Children, for the first time in four years, the singer has a solid band to tour behind this album. These new songs don’t represent a departure from the TSOOL sound. “Heck, it could have been the next TSOOL album”, Lundberg says. “It’s a continuum of TSOOL. You can hear it.”

True. Right from the opening track For the Ages to Come is a continuation of Shine On. Written and produced by Lundberg, it is another trip through much-loved 60s sounds, with a few experiments along the way. Melodic psych-rock with a strong folk-vibe. The album sounds inspired and focused, with anthemic rockers like Backdrop People and gentle folk ballads such as In Subliminal Clouds. A couple of songs (“Drowning in a Wishing Well”, “Little Big Thing”) connect directly with the melancholic vibe on Shine On. Unlike the last TSOOL album, this time there are no scornful feelings, a bitter farewell, but a rise of energy, of positive energy.

Maybe it’s age, or maybe it’s just a phase, but mellow sounds are predominant. “I’m really connected to the West Coast of Sweden. There’s a mystic aura around it”, Lundberg tells, thinking of home. “It’s like paradise to me and the biggest inspiration in my sound. There’s this magic forest next to where I live, I wonder around, thinking and writing music. I can’t live without it.”

To Be Continued

As a closure to For the Ages to Come, Lundberg shows himself as the last man standing. “Here I am again/ Here I am the only one again/ And it’s the story that will never end/ With all the unfinished dream I had before I was gone…/ With the sound that made me believe in anything”, he sings in the closing track “To Be Continued. Those lines are the right follow-up to TSOOL’s “Shine On (There’s Another Day after Tomorrow)”.

For the Ages To Come contains two cover songs. One is a hard rocking version of the fuzz-fueled song Don’t Blow Your Mind, a song by The Spiders, Vincent Furnier’s garage band before he transformed into Alice Cooper. “That’s a song I always wanted to do, even with Union Carbide. But nobody else wanted to play it. Now I decided to record it with The Indigo Children and it’s a great live song too.”

The other cover on the album is even more surprising. After falling in love with the song, Lundberg translated Los Pekenikes’“Cerca de las Estrellas”. This is a rare Spanish pop nugget from the sixties and Lunberg is fittingly translated as “Calling From Heaven”.

“A friend of mine sent me this song and I thought wow, this is really good! If I could translate it and adapt it, I could record it. “Calling from Heaven” felt like a good title and had the same theme as the original. After I recorded the song I found out the guy who wrote had passed away. I looked up on what date he died and it was the same day I got the song. And it’s titled “Calling From Heaven”. Shivers! Mind blowing!”, Lundberg explains.

None of these two songs were played in Helsinki. The show was not very well attended. It’s a cold January night and there were plenty of other shows around the city. Despite notable guests like 22-Pistepirkko’s P-K Keränen, half the venue is empty. Years ago, TSOOL would have sold out Tavastia. Today Ebbot and his band can barely fill a smaller venue. Psychedelic rock is not selling tickets this year any more.

Full house or a small audience, it does not really matter. Ebbot Lundberg continues his journey. One that started thirty years ago with the punk rock of Union Carbide and continued with The Soundtrack of Our Lives. Now, with The Indigo Children, it’s time to revisit the pass while moving forward.

What’s next? “I don’t know what the next thing is going to be. Probably crazier.”, Lundberg guesses.

Your guess is as good as his.

To be continued…

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