Seattle-born, Nashville-based Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden have characteristics of The Cardigans, Cocteau Twins, and early U2 on their new album The Shape the Color The Feel.
It began with a rebirth, as Tucker moved from Seattle to Nashville via NYC, where she met Wes Chandler and Ethan Place, two musicians recently relocated from southern Illinois. Their combined sound was closer to the first KT+SOS record than it was to Tucker’s solo Americana work, so with the blessing of the original Seattle lineup, the Sons of Sweden name was resurrected.
Produced by Konrad Snyder (Kopecky Family Band) at The Brown Owl in Nashville, with additional production from Jordan Lehning, The Shape The Color The Feel was a collaborative effort from the beginning. Original Son of Sweden Nic Danielson joined the new lineup in Nashville to put his signature spin on the tracks, and singer-songwriter Matthew Perryman Jones lent his voice to a song, as did Wilder Embry, and Hannah Holbrook of SHEL.
Q: Tell us about your sound. Who do you sound like?
A: We play thickly layered ‘indie rock’ with sparkling melodies and shimmering soundscapes. We have some electronic synthy things happening, a little like Metric and Phantogram, and our songs are moody and often dark in the vein of The National and Interpol. We tend toward guitar over synth, but we like using them both.
Q: Tell us about the path you took to get where you are now?
A: I started Sons of Sweden in Seattle, and then I moved to NYC to make a solo record. In New York, I learned that the New York I wanted to live in was Patti Smith’s and Bob Dylan’s NYC in the seventies, and not what it is now. I was looking for a place where I’d have a little more creative space.
Q: Why did you choose Nashville over other cities?
A: My lease was up in NYC, so I packed all my belongings in a car and was traveling back home to Seattle, but decided to stay in Nashville for a week. In less than a week’s time I fell in love with the city. I met so many amazing people and wrote some good songs with them, so I knew it was where I wanted to be.
Q: How would you describe your writing process?
A: Usually Wes Chandler, our guitar player, and I sit down with our guitars and start with an idea, chasing melodies. We get the structure sorted out and then we bring it to the band with whatever visual and sonic ideas we have to help take the song in the direction it wants to go. Then with those cues, we arrange the song and give it its texture and feel.
Q: Do you have a favorite track off the new album?
A: I would say Wide Open Plain is my favorite. I love how the chorus opens up like a highway with nothing on it and everything moves so quickly. I also really love singing about Orion the constellation, speeding in a car on the interstate. It feels like a movie I’d want to watch.
Q: Could you tell us a little about The Shape The Color The Feel visual exhibit that goes with the album?
A: We asked Australian artist Jessie English to create a series of wet process photograms based on the songs and then form the album art from that series. The Shape The Color The Feel visual exhibit opened in Nashville on February 16, 2014 and is currently on display at Crema. You can see the mini-doc about the installation on our youtube channel. The exhibit will travel across the country to several cities throughout 2014.
Q: Will you about the Kickstarter project, and the short films that go along with the album?
A: We launched the The Shape The Color The Feel, on Kickstarter, to raise funds for the album and the production. In an effort to stand out among the myriad of bands looking to fund a record, we decided to make it more collaborative and since our songs often begin with film references and visual ideas, we thought, why not see if some of our favorite filmmakers might want to take the songs and give them their own unique visual form. We enlisted 10 filmmakers to each choose a song from the record and make a music video or short film based on it. The first of these, by Silver Point Studios owner Jason Smythe, premiered on the Vinyl District in November and the most recent, ‘Best Friends’ Love’, shot at the Cannery, premiered on Esquire. Overall, the project includes 10 music videos, 3 short films, and a documentary in addition to the full length album out now on vinyl and CD.
Q: How have you separated yourself from all the other bands here in Nashville?
A: I don’t know, I think we sound like we sound and they sound how they sound. It’s kind of like a bunch of different families on the same street.
Q: What’s your advice for others following their dreams?
A: Know your story and stick to it. Whatever is unique to your experience, whatever is honestly and truly you, that’s what you do best and that’s what you know best. No one will believe you unless you do. You have to believe in yourself first and show everyone else how to do it.
Interview by Mitchell Manning.