All Axess Exclusive Interview With Martin Lopez Of Soen

Press Release: It’s hard to put a handle on SOEN, but if progressive music is “entertainment for those who are easily bored,” then this Swedish outfit fits easily under that heading.

As their forthcoming second studio album Tellurian makes plain, SOEN – that’s drummer Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth, Amon Amarth), vocalist Joel Ekelöf (Willowtree), guitarist Joakim Platbarzdis and bassist Stefan Stenberg – are not concerned with the simple or the shallow; their musical journey takes an altogether more ambitious path, and the result is an expansive body of work, wrapped up in the stunning art of Mexican painter José Luis López Galván, that consistently challenges without being “clever-clever” or tough to enjoy. The melodies are intricate, the playing muscular and the choruses soaring; overall, the feel is one of a band whose intent is very much in synch with the sort of core values —skilled musicianship, emotion over precision, importance of album artwork— that seem to be back in vogue.

Produced by Platbarzdis, mixed by the legendary Grammy Award-winning David Bottrill (Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, King Crimson, etc.) and mastered at Bob Ludwig’s Gateway set-up in the U.S. by Adam Ayan, also a Grammy winner, Tellurian sees SOEN taking the approach of their Cognitive debut (2012, Spinefarm Records) and pushing the boundaries in terms of musical scope, the whole thing shot through with the confidence of a band who have found their voice.

Rhythmic, experimental and flowing, and with the “muso” side never taking precedence over a good song and a telling chorus, Tellurian (“relating to, or inhabiting the earth”) will appeal to anyone with an ear for quality playing, and there’s further reward to be had below the surface, with the lyrics taking a more direct route than on Cognitive, and the construction of the material – including first single/video “Tabula Rasa” (“Clean Slate”) – allowing room for the raw emotion to shine through. SOEN make music for the head and the heart.

All Axess recently caught up with Soen drummer Martin Lopez for the lowdown on the new album, the band’s new recruit, bassist Stefan Stenberg and a whole lot more. Check it out below.

Your new album Tellurian was recently released, how’s the reception been so far?

ML- The reception has been very positive from both reviewers and audience so we’re quite happy with how things are going at the moment..

Who came up with the title, what can you tell us about its meaning?

ML: We had a bunch of titles we thought would fit the music and the idea behind the album so as democratic as we are we voted and Tellurian was chosen.

How would you say the album differs from Cognitive?

ML: It differs quite a lot. It’s more direct and carries more emotion, we worked hard to find the right balance between technicality and emotion and to do a record with songs that differ from each other so that it would be “adventurous” to listen to.

What was the writing process for the album?

ML: I wrote most of the music at home, then I’d get together with Joel and go through the vocals or just bring what I have to the rehearsal place where we would put all the parts together, polish and form them into Soen songs.

Unlike many progressive bands, you seem to place an importance on writing quality and catchy songs as well as on technicality. Is this something you set out to do while writing songs?

ML: It comes naturally, songs need to be more than musicians showing how good they are at their instruments, that is just empty for me and doesn’t give me anything more than a few minutes entertainment so we focus on writing good songs and then try to add complicated and intelligent backgrounds if the space is there to actually do so.

It is also the first album to feature bassist, Stefan Stenberg, how is he fitting into the mix?

ML: Very Good, he’s a great musician and an important piece of the puzzle.

Did he contribute to the writing?

ML: Yes, everyone did.We work for months on every song so that there is space for every band member to add their ideas and be a part of the writing process.

What was it like working with producer, Platbarzdis?

ML: He is our guitar player so there weren’t any surprises. He’s involved in the songwriting like everyone else and we record quite often with him being the engineer so it was more of the same even if he pushes everyone a bit further on their playing when it is time to record for the album.

You recently unveiled the music video to ‘Tabula Rasa.’ How much input did you have to its theme?

ML: It was done together with Kirke, the director. We wanted to do a more direct video without using any props, just the band and a few of our listeners showing their anger at how the world looks like today, simple and honest.

Why was the song chosen as the single?

ML: We had a few songs that we felt were good singles but couldn’t decide which one to use so we asked a few friends and the label and decided to go with Tabula.

Do you plan on touring in support of the album?

ML: Yes, we’re currently going through some options and I’m sure a tour to support Tellurian will be announced very soon.

Which bands would you cite as your major influences?

ML: Pink Floyd, Tool, Opeth, Carmen, Genesis and about a hundred more.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

ML: Thanks a lot for the interview and we hope to get the chance to tour the US soon so that we can share our music with our audience.