Swedish/American/French psychedelic blues rockers Blues Pills, release their self-titled, debut album this week. Bassist Zack Anderson calls SHANE PINNEGAR from his adopted home of Sweden to explain how this multi-national band formed and created their genre-defying sound.
Blues Pills bassist, Zack Anderson, says that he and fellow American drummer, Cory Berry, started jamming with Swedish vocalist, Elin Larsson, when she spent six months living in the US.
Upon her return, they duly followed and Blues Pills was born, sans guitarist. Luckily, Anderson remembered a young guitar prodigy he had seen in France.
“When I was on tour in Europe one time, I just saw Dorian (Sorriaux) playing in this little bar in France when he was just 15 years old, and he basically blew away everyone that was watching that day” the bassist recalls.
“I remembered him after that and then once I moved to Sweden and we started Blues Pills, I just asked him if he wanted to come to Sweden and try playing with us. He came and we just connected right away and it just worked instantly.”
Blues Pills’ analogue sound is unashamedly old-school: it takes you back to the days of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Big Brother & The Holding Company. Crucially, while the riffs are heavy and the solos fiery, Larsson’s soulful vocals soften the punch with an edge of Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. It’s an intoxicating mix that references without copying and sounds very now. It’s forward-thinking retro, if you will.
“There’s no question that classic rock and soul’s obviously influenced our music a lot,” Anderson concurs. “At the same time, like you said, we really aren’t trying to copy anything. It’s just that we like a lot of that kind of music and then it ends up being what we write, because we write music that we would want to listen to ourselves.
“It wasn’t like we just sat down and decided we wanted to sound like we were a band from the ‘60s. It was more just a blend of the music that we were listening to, which is soul and blues and rock, all from that era. Then, when we make music together, that’s just how it sounded really.”
With analogue recording comes a warm, vibrant sound, and with their classic soul influences comes an abundance of emotion to match the power of the music. It’s intriguing, therefore, to see so many metal festivals on the band’s European touring schedule.
“Really, none of us listen to any metal, I guess, other than maybe the really early stuff like the first Black Sabbath LP but that’s more almost blues rock or something!” Anderson chuckles softly. “Yeah, it’s kind of strange that the metal scene has embraced us so much. I don’t really know why – but it’s really just gone well and they really enjoyed it and we get a good response every time.”
As for the name, Blues Pills, Anderson is happy to explain what actually means.
“We got the name, Blues Pills, from a German music blog that I used to download a lot of ‘60s and ‘70s music from – just rare records and things they would post and you could download the music. That was a way that I discovered lots of obscure, unknown bands and things from the ‘60s and that blog was called Blues Pills. Basically we just liked the name and it kind of means for us, like medicine for the blues, or it also can hint towards psychedelic blues or something.”
An amazingly trippy piece of psychedelic cover art painted by artist, Marijke Koger-Dunham, completes the ’60s feel of the record.
“She’s from the Netherlands, but now she’s living in LA I think,” Anderson explains. “She was kind of known in the ‘60s for painting for the Beatles and she painted Eric Clapton and Cream’s instruments on tour. I just had the idea to see if this artist was still around, and she sent me a handful of different paintings that she did in the ‘60s.
“It can’t really get much better if you’re looking for a ‘60s inspired artwork you might as well have something that’s actually from the ‘60s.”