Graveyard’s Innocence & Decadence

Gothenburg quartet’s chain-reaction chemistry still blinds

Swedish psych hammer Graveyard returns with its fourth LP, Innocence & Decadence, to the Mohawk on Saturday with time- and mind-bending instrumentalists Earthless. The bands leveled a stage at Encore Records in 2008 during South by Southwest when the metal haven inhabited Anderson Lane. Drummer Axel Sjöberg always emails us back since then.

Austin Chronicle: Given the new album title, is there any way to keep your innocence doing what you’re doing, or conversely, any way to avoid decadence?

Axel Sjöberg: Hahaha, good question indeed. I guess the answer to both questions is yes and no. Of course you get jaded and cynical, but that’s probably more a part of getting old rather than an effect of touring. I think the trick to keeping your innocence is allowing yourself not to grow up entirely – cliché warning! Stay hungry for new music, life, experiences. Regarding decadence, I think a touch of decadence is good for everyone!

AC: As a musician, what’s the most decadent thing you’ve ever done?

AS: Once, I was at a party in the house of [self-proclaimed “King of Rock & Roll Debauchery”] Mike Busey, in the swamps in Florida. It was a weird experience. They had sugary vodka, I had a punch-out with someone in a white rabbit costume, and we fired weapons into the swamp.

AC: Along similar lines, one of Austin’s nicknames is the velvet rut, because it’s easy to stay a stoned hippie here and do nothing – like pursue a music career in earnest. What have been you observations of our town in that regard?

AS: In general it’s kinda hard to describe a town in fewer words than what a novel takes. At least if you wanna do it justice. But I can see where that description is coming from, haha. Maybe it seems like Austin has become more Brooklynized, which I guess has both upsides and downsides. And it seems like SXSW has become more corporate, but who am I to judge. Big balls are kinda hard to stop once you’ve got them rolling. I like the slogan though, Keep Austin Weird.

AC: Graveyard first came here in 2008. All these years later, what are the things you must do when you’re in Austin.

AS: I’ve always done different things when I’m there. It’s nice just to explore the city. First times we always went to Magnolia Café. I always forget what places are called, but I enjoy just walking around, checking into record stores and stuff. One thing I appreciate is that you have a lot of outdoor venues, which is not too common in Sweden.

AC: Best Austin gig?

AS: For us, it was probably the first one at a Tee Pee [Records SXSW] showcase in a bar called something with B, if I remember right. It was just new, jet-lagged and overwhelming. A nice start. Then I’ve seen a few shows at the bat bridge. That was a riot.

AC: From the very start, there’s been a heavy blues element to Graveyard. What classic blues man would have been perfect for Graveyard to back, and why?

AS: Can I label Neil Young as a blues man? Feels like we share a lot of opinions both about unjustices and in regards to how he approaches music. I would love to back Irma Thomas! Dr. John? Becuase all of them are awesome and we have a good groove.

AC: Austin blues, sure – maybe the Vaughans, Stevie Ray and Jimmie – but is there such a thing as Gothenburg blues?

AS: Hahaha, I don’t know. In the making maybe? Ask me again in 10 years! Of course we have a lot of blues in Gothenburg, but maybe not too many that are known outside of Gothenburg. Bror Gunnar Jansson is a guy who is doing well in France with old-school classic blues.

AC: Favorite Austin act?

AS: [13th Floor] Elevators!

AC: One of your new songs, “From a Hole in the Wall” – also the name of a 40-year-old Austin club – reminded me of the great Sixties band Love. Any Arthur Lee fans in the group?

AS: Last time I counted, there are at least four Love fans in the band.

AC: Graveyard’s always had that fifth gear live, where the locomotive seems to be driving itself. How does the band tap into that – at will, live mostly? And is that simply chemistry? Some musicians have described it as having an extra person in the room, God or whatever.

AS: Cosmic forces? I don’t know... Difficult to explain. I heard that David Eugene Edwards says that Jesus speaks in his ear onstage. Chemistry definitely has a lot to do with it. And sometimes you can be driven by angst or anger, and other times just by the joy of playing. Transforming emotions into music turns up weird stuff you can’t explain. How sensory impressions becomes physical movements that once again become sensory impressions that might move someone in the audience to laugh, love, cry, or tell his boss to shut the fuck up....

Music, it’s a trip.

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Graveyard, Axel Sjöberg, Earthless, 13th Floor Elevators, Neil Young, Arthur Lee, Love, Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, Bror Gunnar Jansson, David Eugene Edwards \ Mike Busey

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