Q&A with Swedish band of Julia & The Basement Tapes - they’ve made a success with unique sound and hungry attitude

"My hope is that the listeners will take control and realize what music they get fed with and what music they really like from within. Regarding blues music my fear is that sometimes there are purists that won't let new blues music take place."

Julia & The Basement Tapes: The Future

Julia & The Basement Tapes is an award winning young and innovative Swedish blues band. Since 2013 they’ve made a success with their unique sound and hungry attitude. In late 2015 they released their second EP ”The Dues” and following year the acoustic version of the EP. In the fall of 2017 the band entered in the prestigious competition ”Swedish Blues Challenge” and won first price. The band is currently doing shows all around Europe and are working on the recordings of their first full length album.

"The band name just came from me having a massive The Band-period, so since we recorded in a basement and our sound was kind of "retro" we just thought it sounded good!" (Photo by Olof Ringmar)

The band are: Julia-Lotta Tinglöf (Vocals, Guitar), Johan Borgh (Guitar), Samuel Söderberg (Bass), Richard Hamilton (Keys), Johannes Sidenqvist (Drums).

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos © by Olof Ringmar, Lennart Brorson & Christophe Losberger / All rights reserved

How has the Blues and Soul music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Julia: Well, without blues/soul music I wouldn't have played in this band I guess - and that would've made my life really different. I need to express myself in writing songs or I go crazy, so I think it's very good that I have this band haha... And listening to blues/soul/folk music gives me so much joy in life, it inspires me and makes me a better person.

Johan: I think my life would be completely different if I hadn't gone to an Eric Clapton concert when I was 12, also seeing Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks who were in his band at that time, it made a huge impact on me and to this day they are some of my favorite players. Music makes you travel to new places, meet new people and experience new things which is great, I feel that I get to do a lot of exciting stuff through playing music! I also think it is amazing with social media and the internet how we have followers from America and Russia and other places around the world, it makes me feel we humans aren't that different after all. Music is a uniting force!

How do you describe band's songbook and sound? What characterize band's music philosophy? What is the story behind band's name "The Basement Tapes"?

Julia: We are a modern blues/folk band. And with modern I mean, that I think you can hear that our music is written by twenty-something-year olds. We love the blues and all of that old stuff so we keep one foot in that world, while experimenting with mixing it together with more modern music!

Johan: Our philosophy is to write great songs with some sort of improvisational moment within them, like the Grateful Dead. The length of an intro or solo isn't always settled, we feel the vibe at the gig and go from there, and that's how we keep it exciting, doing it a little different and hopefully better every time. The band name just came from me having a massive The Band-period, so since we recorded in a basement and our sound was kind of "retro" we just thought it sounded good!

"I think it serves as a unifying force. When we go to concerts we put our grudges aside and go there to have a good time and enjoy a band or an artist that we have in common. When you go to a concert and see a lot of different people at different places in their lives, it is just proof that we are maybe not as different as we thought." (Julia & Johan on stage/ Photo by Lennart Brorson)

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Julia: I miss the genuineness sometimes. Commercial music tends to be blinded by getting a lot of streams and have a lot of selling points, and I can miss the real feeling of a song that just has to be written because it just has to. My hope is that the listeners will take control and realize what music they get fed with and what music they really like from within. Regarding blues music my fear is that sometimes there are purists that won't let new blues music take place. It's a fine line, I realize that - but I think the blues music has to develop and get mixed with other genres and such to be kept alive. Muddy Waters did not sound like Robert Johnson, he did something new. And so do we. As long as it's genuine! And as long as we don't forget where it comes from.

Johan: I don't feel I miss anything, it's all there for us to listen to and watch like every concert ever put on film through the last 70 years or so which is amazing, today we can look at the stage moves of Magic Sam any time of day on YouTube, which in his day you had to catch a live performance of him to see it. I love that the history of music is available for everyone these days. The downside of this is maybe the word-of-mouth legends like people talking about an amazing gig that you did not go to, like the legends about Robert Johnson. If every gig he did was filmed, the hype around him wouldn't be the same, and I like that mystery-hype! Like there are no videos of him playing which drives people nuts and everyone are guessing how he did things, which adds to the mystery around him.

A problem with blues and every other genre is that the audience have a mindset that music is free and don't want to pay for concerts, streaming etc. That affects the quality of the music which is the saddest thing in the music world I think. Like Stevie Wonder, would he get signed today? I don't know. The labels tend to push the "safe cards" that the kids will like instantly, so more people know about Calvin Harris and not Derek Trucks. Blues artists tend to have a more slow-growth career with a faithful but smaller audience. If the labels would push other stuff as well, maybe some more people could appreciate the rootsy type of music.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Sweden. Which is the most interesting period in local blues scene?

Julia: I'm gonna have to say right now! And also, the year that "Ladies got the blues started" which was in 2014. I know the blues scene would've been nothing if it weren't for all the big players like Clas Yngström, Sven Zetterberg and all of those. But I think that we have history happening right now, because bands, projects, women - are changing the scene as we speak.

Johan: The blues was big in my hometown Södertälje in the 70's with household names such as the aforementioned Sven Zetterberg, who sadly passed away two years ago. Him and his band Chicago Express was really big and they had these outdoor "blues picnics" which was recently resurrected, and we got to play two of them which was great! We also had Louise Hoffsten who was really popular with her blues rock in the 90's. She is still active but she was really big back then. I think also now is a great time, more and more younger people are opening up their ears for blues through us, the younger generation of bands playing this music such as Among Lynx, Ida Bang & The Blue Tears, Lisa Lystam Family Band, bands all fronted by women which is somewhat new to the scene so right now is a good time for equality!

"Well, without blues/soul music I wouldn't have played in this band I guess - and that would've made my life really different. I need to express myself in writing songs or I go crazy, so I think it's very good that I have this band haha... And listening to blues/soul/folk music gives me so much joy in life, it inspires me and makes me a better person." (Julia, Norway 2018 / Photo by Christophe Losberger)

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Julia: Hopefully, It's getting better and better - but we all still have some work to do, that's for sure. We recently entered EBC and in 21 bands you could only find 3 women, including me. That's just a shame. We are in the middle of a revolution with #metoo and it's so important that everyone takes time to think about themselves and what you can do to make it more equal in every sense, in every situation and in every relationship. Book more women, play with more women and so on. Evaluate and try again. And behave. Also, this type of question is important to ask men as well. It is not up to women only to change how the world looks and not only up to women to talk about this, men needs to take their responsibility too.

I'm so tired of talking about being a girl that sings the blues, I'm just a person and a human that happens to be female and I happen to like something that's mostly been done by men. But unfortunately, we have not come to that point yet where I can just do it without it being a statement, and until then I know I have to talk about it. And I will until I see changes. I'm optimistic though, we are definitely going in the right direction.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Johan: That Jimi (Hendrix) and Stevie Ray (Vaughan) were alive.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio session which you’d like to share with us?

Julia: I remember when we played a contest in the summer of 2017 called the "Borgholm blues contest", it was in the middle of the summer and we played outdoors and the wind blew in my hair while I was singing and it was just beautiful. On top of it we won the contest and I also had a week of vacation a head of me after the gig! Also, a recent gig we did in Randers in Denmark, it was just one of those gigs when everything was on point. The audience was alert and hungry and we were on fire! It was just a really good night.

Johan: I remember playing another outdoors gig in Södertälje where I grew up, and we were playing Can't Find My Way Home by Blind Faith for the first time. That song was one that I watched a lot on YouTube after the Clapton-concert back in 2006, the live version from Hyde Park. So, it felt like the circle was fulfilled when I got to play that song on an outdoors gig ten years later!

"Hopefully, It's getting better and better - but we all still have some work to do, that's for sure. We recently entered EBC and in 21 bands you could only find 3 women, including me. That's just a shame. We are in the middle of a revolution with #metoo and it's so important that everyone takes time to think about themselves and what you can do to make it more equal in every sense, in every situation and in every relationship." (Julia & The Basement Tapes, Norway 2018 / Photo by Christophe Losberger)

What is the impact of Blues and Soul music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Julia: A lot of course, in our history as well as now. This question is so big, I could write forever. We are trying to impact the world with some political lyrics as in "Rewind & Retake" that is purely political. For myself, I've met so much lovely people trough music, people that I probably wouldn't have met if I wasn't interested in music.

Johan: I think it serves as a unifying force. When we go to concerts we put our grudges aside and go there to have a good time and enjoy a band or an artist that we have in common. When you go to a concert and see a lot of different people at different places in their lives, it is just proof that we are maybe not as different as we thought.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Julia: Maybe 1969, Woodstock. That would be a good thing to brag about haha. I'd like to go there and hang out backstage. Or maybe spend a day in the studio at chess records with Etta James in the 1960's... Either way I'd be happy.

Johan: Fillmore East, New Year’s Eve 69/70, Jimi Hendrix and the band of Gypsys! I would be there early to get a good seat and maybe have a chat with Jimi. And tell him to stay off wine and sleeping pills so we could have some great music from him in the 70's and 80's. And 90's.

Julia & The Basement Tapes - Home

Julia & The Basement Tapes / Photo by Olof Ringmar 

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