To my ears Vignette is a great example of what modern, forward-thinking metal should be all about in 2018. Heavy, hard-hitting, atmospheric, emotive…the list goes on. Letters from the Colony have created a thoroughly enjoyable slab of modern heaviness with their debut album, one which I’m very pleased to be able to find a bit more about courtesy of the band’s drummer and co-founder Jonas Sköld.
Introduce us to Letters from the Colony
Hello! My name is Jonas Sköld. I’m the co-founder and drummer for Letters from the Colony. We are a Swedish progressive metal band and we are releasing our debut album on Nuclear Blast Records on the 16th of February.
How did the band form?
It started with me and LFTC’s first drummer (Henrik) when we were waiting for our band members that didn’t show up for rehearsal for the bands we played in at the time. We were watching The Simpsons on the TV, when we started talking and decided to jam. I was a drummer then but picked up the guitar for the jam. We thought it was fun and started to write some songs. Sebastian joined after a few weeks and we played some covers and wrote more songs. Johan (current guitarist) joined after a few months to play the bass.
We had a vision of what we wanted to be from the beginning and started to practice, practice, practice and write more songs. We released two EPs that were both mixed by our dear friend Alexander, who wasn’t a part of the band at that time but joined later as our vocalist. We then started to plan for an album.
I played guitar for LFTC the first 3 or 4 years but then switched to play the drums, where I belong. I’ve never regretted that decision.
What does the band name mean?
In Sweden there was a singer-songwriter of Dutch descent famous for a song called “Brev från kolonien”, which translates in English to “Letters from the Colony”. We like the name because it doesn’t really tell you what genre we’re playing, and it is a homage to our home country.
What are your influences, and how would you describe your music?
We’ve listened a lot to Lamb of God, Meshuggah, Gojira, Sikth and Opeth among others. We try not to think of these bands when we write, but you can of course hear the influences here and there. Sebastian, who wrote the song Terminus, said that some of the parts were like a tribute to Gojira, plus he’d always wanted that kind of riff in a song, just because it’s pure awesome.
We’re into music that takes multiple listens before it sinks in and you understand it. I think Letters’ music is the same. There are so many details everywhere so you can listen to the songs over and over again and discover new things every time you listen.
What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?
Leprous! What a band! They are sick musicians. I haven’t fallen in love with a band like that in years. There is a live show of theirs that on YouTube that I have been watching for a while – it has now been removed unfortunately. I’d love to see them live someday, or maybe tour with them.
How do you feel that you fit into the wider metal scene?
I think our songs are very varied and visit lots of different styles during a single song. We’re into crazy live performances – like those of The Dillinger Escape Plan – and a lot of people have said that they enjoy our shows even if they’re not into our kind of music. I think we’ll be an enjoyable band to watch live…that’s our goal at least.
Give us a bit of background to Vignette – any particular concepts or ideas you want to discuss?
The album isn’t a concept album. The lyrics do address a lot of issues regarding society and the environment, but we’re definitely not a political band or anything like that. There’s no agenda. To quote lyricist Alexander: “It’s not an exhortation for us to better ourselves, but rather a nihilistic observation.” The deer on the artwork is representing nature as something quiet, yet stately.
How were the songs written?
All songs were written at home on Cubase with the help of programmed drums and loop pedals. We’ve never come up with any good ideas in rehearsals when jamming. The songs have been pretty much 100% finished before we start to rehearse them.
How did you decide on the order of the tracks?
We tried to get a good flow of the album. The opener, ‘Galax’, is a favourite song among a lot of people who’ve heard it, and it’s a song that represents what Letters is about. After that we just went by gut feeling.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
‘Galax’ and ‘Terminus’ because they are so god damn fun to play on the drums. Well, all the songs are, but I think these two songs are just a little bit more fun to play.
Now that you have completed work on the album, what’s your view of it?
I’m proud about this debut album. I’ve put my soul and a lot of hours into the drums. I guess a lot of musicians think that they could’ve done “this and that” better, and the same goes for me. But I’m still happy about the result and it feels good to leave it for what it is and move forward.
If you had it to do over again, would you change anything?
Probably a lot of details. This is my first and only drum recording so far, so I’ve learned a lot from this process and will take this experience with me for the next album.
What lessons have you learned from Vignette that you will take forward for your next recording?
General experience and better skills on our instruments. Now we know how a lot of things are done and will be able to plan better for the next album.
The album artwork is very striking – tell us about this
The album artwork and title are both a metaphor for a picture where nature is a vignette surrounding humanity. We’re too focused on the centre to really see what’s going on at the edges.
We’re living as if our resources are endless, and this vignette will consume more and more of the picture until there’s nothing left, and society collapses.
Do you have any live shows coming up that you want to talk about?
At the moment, we are negotiating with a few festivals and bookers. Except for our release show on the release date, and a show at a local festival in May, we’ve got nothing concrete yet, but will announce it on our website and on social media when we do.
What’s it like working with Nuclear Blast?
It has been amazing! None of us in Letters had any experience with releasing an album on this scale, but NB has helped us with a lot.
What are the next steps for Letters from the Colony?
We’re currently talking with booking agencies and our goal is to play as many festivals as we can this summer, and to do some tours. Soon we’ll of course start planning for the next album. The last few months have been really hectic. Tons of interviews, the making of trailer videos and rehearsals for our release show on the 16th of Feb (the day the album is released), but hopefully the inspiration and creativity will come to us after that, so we can start writing the next album.
Any final words?
I hope that everyone who’s reading this will enjoy the album and that we’ll drink a lot of beer and gin & tonic together at future shows and festivals.