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Fireworks Magazine Online 75 - Interview with Andree Theander

The Theander Expression: An interview with ANDREE THEANDER

Interview by Brent Rusche

The supremely gifted multi-instrumentalist Andree Theander returns to the scene with 'Wonderful Anticipation,' the second from the band sporting his namesake, The Theander Expression. Those familiar with the impressive 'Strange Nostalgia' back in 2012 would easily welcome a follow-up. The wait is finally over and happily worth every minute because The Theander Expression serves up another blissful collection of West Coast AOR. 'Wonderful Anticipation' is an effortless progression in the life of the band and possesses all the earmarks which made the debut so memorable. Thankfully for myself, I was given the opportunity to reprise my role and conduct another interview with Andree to discuss the latest release.

BR - Wow, I cannot believe four years has passed since we last spoke to discuss 'Strange Nostalgia and really excited to discuss the new album of which I think is fantastic.

AT - Oh, thank you very much. Yeah, it has been a few years for sure, but we finally get to talk again.

BR - Following up 'Strange Nostalgia' was no easy task, but proof be known, I think you did just that with 'Wonderful Anticipation.' It is every bit just as polished as its predecessor and consistent from the first note to the last. The commonly regarded philosophy is that you have your entire life to write your first record while all subsequent albums are completed under some sort of time constraint. Was 'Wonderful Anticipation' any more difficult to write and record as compared with 'Strange Nostalgia' and did you feel any additional sense of pressure when gearing up to write and record?

AT - Wow, you are very well prepared for this interview! [laughs] Everything you say is absolutely true. I did have many years to make the first album but it wasn't that difficult to make a follow up. I was actually writing for different musical projects that I was anticipating, but all the songs ended up becoming 'Wonderful Anticipation.' I am always writing music with my "partners in crime" and it all came to me pretty naturally so it wasn't that difficult.

BR - The last time we spoke, you suggested that The Theander Expression might be put on hiatus while you pursued other musical endeavors. Have you worked with other artists/bands in the years between the first and second albums and if so, who were they?

AT - Unfortunately, nothing really happened with any of those projects that I had in mind. It is hard to understand that it has been four years since we last spoke...time goes very, very fast. I gathered the best songs that I thought I had, finished them and made them into another Expression album. I was a bit worried about the different styles of the songs. I don't know if you can hear that or what your thoughts are, but I think some of the songs are a little more Pop-oriented while some are a bit more Hard Rock.

BR - I did hear a difference and feel the songs were a bit more straightforward on 'Wonderful Anticipation.' For myself, 'Strange Nostalgia' was a bit more delicate. I really have a hard time (if I needed to) deciding which album I prefer. My feeling is that 'Wonderful Anticipation' is a perfect answer...a natural progression (if you will) to the debut. Taken together, the two album transition seamlessly. You show a noticeable growth on the new album.

AT - Great, I am very happy to hear that. Thank you for those words.

BR - Certainly well deserved.

BR - Did you consciously set out to deliver an album with a specific concept or common theme that runs throughout 'Wonderful Anticipation?' such as venting personal frustration in your life or something else? Is there any common thread to the music?

AT - No, I had no concept in mind for the album. It was just a group of songs that I had been writing for quite some time. As I said before, I thought these tracks would end up being a different project or different band altogether. In the end, I simply gathered the best material that I had and make another The Theander Expression album because that was the solution that felt best for me.

BR - How many songs did you compose for the album? If there were, will any of those tracks not included be released in the future?

AT - Yes, I hope so. I recorded 12 tracks and 11 made it onto the album. At the start of recording, I knew not everything I wrote would end up on the record but had no idea as to which ones would not be included. The one additional song that did not make it onto the album is called 'Voodoo Life.' It just didn't seem to fit with the rest of album lyrically or sound-wise, so I left it out. However, I hope to release it in one way or another in the future, even if I just posted it as a YouTube.com video or something like that.

BR - This time around, you worked with almost completely different personnel. While some of the drumming features returning member Hermin Furin (Work Of Art), the drum throne also features Bengan Andersson. Was this because Hermin's schedule prevented him from performing on all tracks or did you specifically choose a drummer whose style you felt was most appropriate for the song?

AT - It was mostly to fit song. I thought Bengan's playing was more appropriate for some of the tracks. He owns a studio close to where I live and where I recorded all but the instruments for 'Wonderful Anticipation.' However, I also wanted to try something new and get a different sound. I wanted to continue to record with Hermin because he is a good friend and great drummer and everything works very well with him. It is not because I felt Hermin couldn't perform on those tracks, but i just wanted to try something different and in the end, enjoyed Bengan's performance.


Andree-Theander Interview

BR - Additionally, you employed all different vocalists this time around: Christian Erikkson, Christoffer Sarnefalt and even yourself of which 'Into The Valley' is a personal favorite! What influenced your decision to use new talent instead of bringing back Christian Hedgren and Goran Edman and what inspired you to take on some of the vocal duties?

AT - Firstly, Christian (Eriksson) is the same Christian (Hedgren) that sang on the first album. Since the last album, he has returned to using his original surname so like Herman, makes a return for this album. As for using Christoffer, I performed a couple of gigs which were all cover songs and was amazed by the way he was singing and like Bengan on drums, wanted to try someone new in the vocal spot for my band and thought it turned out very well and kept those tracks. We also co-wrote the lyrics for the songs he sang on as well. When it comes to my own singing, I have always been singing in one way or another and always record the demo vocals for every track. When it came time to record vocals for 'Into The Valley' for instance, it worked pretty well with my voice and when the others heard it they said, "Who is singing this one? It sounds pretty good!" So we ended up keeping the vocals I recorded myself which also included 'The Loner' and 'State Of Flow' where I am singing the low parts and Christian is doing the higher harmonies in the chorus.

BR - Also, Michael Ottosson and Linus Abrahamson did not return to reprise their roles on keyboards and bass respectively both of which were largely performed by you. Were logistics strictly to blame or was the decision influenced by any sort of budgeting concerns for the album?

AT – Um, no. I wanted to try and see how far I could take things on my own. Much like Boston and how they did their first album. Tom Scholz was a huge inspiration for this album because he pretty much did everything on his own...the keyboards, guitars and most of the bass tracks as well. I wanted to try and do something like that on my own.

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BR – So, it was ultimately a personal challenge.

AT – Yeah, but it is even that much more impressive since he did it back in the '70's in his own studio. [laughs] For me, doing that sort of thing now is much easier.

BR – Well, that certainly is a classic album and a great one to gain inspiration from. As I have said during our first interview, your guitar playing is outstanding and above reproach. Your insane technique is perfectly executed on the solo for 'Someday (I'll Be There To Meet You),' especially on the last phrase. Your extended legato phrases are not only hypnotizing, but every note is so well defined. How much of your time is spent keeping your chops in such sublime form?

AT – Too little time, but I don't know! [laughs] Wow, I am very happy to hear that. Thank you so much for those kind words. The legato technique that I use is something I came up with which must be over 10 years ago now and use it all the time. It just comes naturally and don't really think much about it.

BR - How did it materialize for Erik Martensson (Eclipse, W.E.T.) to contribute backing vocals on that same tune?

AT – We recorded Christian's vocals at his studio (Blowout Productions). So, it was natural that he contributed to the album with some background singing on those tracks. In addition to 'Someday...,' Erik also contributed backgrounds for 'You Always Ran Away' and 'Never Surrender.'

BR - Did you use mostly the same guitar equipment (guitars, amplifiers, effects) for this record as you did for the last one?

AT – No, it was a bit different this time. I used a Suhr Corso amp and it sounds amazing. I also used a few different Marshalls. When it comes to guitars, they are mostly the same like the green Fender Strat and white Gibson Les Paul. I did not use the black Schecter this time and instead used a red Hagstrom Northern Series Swede guitar that you can see in the promo YouTube.com...my new toy! [laughs]

BR - How do you think you have improved/matured since the release of 'Strange Nostalgia' with regard to songwriting, playing guitar, production and even personally?

AT - Uh, not much! [laughs] I feel like the same person. Of course, I am trying to constantly get better and improve in every aspect you speak of.

BR - If you do decide to perform the music live, will you include all vocalists to perform the songs as they did on the albums or will you choose one person to sing the entire set?

AT – It all depends on so many different things. Actually, we haven't been playing this live yet and I'm sure that we will, either. Including all vocalists would be the perfect solution, of course.

BR - The album seems to have a circular feel where the last song 'State Of Flow' gently returns the listener back to the graceful introduction instrumental of 'Anticipation Anthem,' and restarting the sonic experience. Was that simply coincidental or a conscious effort?

AT – No, not at all. That is the first time that I hear that. That is very cool, I never noticed it myself so it was completely accidental. Again, the songs are not related and do not tell a story.

BR – The sequencing of the tracks is really well thought out and the album flows effortlessly.

AT – What do you think of the lyrics this time?

BR – The phrases are ultimately less "wordy" this time which I'm sure makes it easier for the vocalist to sing. However I personally love the lyrical density of 'Strange Nostalgia,' especially with phrases like, "I'm no pundit with such pride, it's only my two cents." I also love your word choice, a lot of which many a person whose native language is English would not even know! "Sanguine" is a particular favorite, one of which you used again. Although different, your approach to lyrics and how they fit the music this time remains as consistent as the debut. 'Wonderful Anticipation' is that perfect, natural progression from 'Strange Nostalgia' and am hard pressed to pick a favorite [album]. The quality of music that you have released thus far is simply enviable.

AT – OK, thank you very much. I was actually reading a forum online where people were saying that the lyrics were too strange...they didn't seem to "get it." They didn't like it and described them as "horrible."

BR – Wow, I am shocked to hear that. I cannot point out any fault, musically, lyrically or production-wise that would suggest it is any less of an album than the first.

AT – This time around, it seems that people either love it or hate it.

BR - Is there is no significance/meaning to the five quotations marked as Memory Codex: in the liner notes.

AT – I'm sad to say, no. Carl [Beckston] designed the artwork and booklet layout and decided to those things himself.

BR – What is on the horizon for Andree Theander...are you going to try and bring The Theander Expression to a live setting, will you pursue other musical outlets or start working with other musicians?

AT – Yeah, I will try to do that once again and do not think it will end up as another The Theander Expression album. Honestly, I'm really tired right now because nothing really has happens with this project. But I am always happy and grateful when I hear something positive or seems to like it very much like you do. I can't thank you enough for your support.

BR - Have you ever thought about capitalizing on your guitar playing with online instructional content like YouTube.com videos?

AT - Yes, I have been thinking about doing something like that at some point. I know you would probably enjoy that, so maybe! However, have no specific plans at the moment.

BR – Every time I hear you play, your music urges me to pick up the guitar. While you pull inspiration from Tom Scholz, I garner my inspiration from The Theander Expression.

AT – Thank you very much. I don't know what to say. I am just sitting here with a huge smile on my face. It is all good to hear.

BR – Again, congratulations on a new album with 'Wonderful Anticipation.'


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