Sooner or later, most bands worth their salt, make their definitive album. The one that takes them to another level. The one that they just have to play to anyone who’s around, because they’re so proud of it. The one that eliminates any doubt.
A Perfect World is that album.
“It does feel like an accomplishment”, singer/lyricist Robert Pettersson attests. “We’ve never had this much fun, and I think everyone can hear that”.
Not that Takida are ashamed of their previous releases. Having formed 17 years ago, in the small town of Ånge in northern Sweden, they are already one of Scandinavia’s biggest selling rock acts and concert draws. The band took their name from the character Gohei Takeda in the Japanese anime series Nagarebishi Gin. 2006 saw the release of their first album “…Make You Breathe”. Their big breakthrough came a year later with the major hit single “Curly Sue”, and since 2009 the band always has headliner status in their native Sweden, selling out clubs, theatres and arenas, packed with their devoted and passionate Scandinavian fanbase.
In 2014, Takida had released five studio albums and one greatest hits compilation. They had also performed successful co-headlining club tours around Europe. But somehow they felt that that their definitive album had not yet seen the light of day. The fact that “in A Perfect World” self-assuredly towers above all their previous efforts, confirms that this was the case.
There are several reasons why this has happened now. One is that the band have challenged themselves as writers. Another one is the fact that drummer Kristoffer Söderström is truly coming into his own, complementing the band’s characteristic drive with living, breathing grooves and inventive drum patterns.
The biggest reason, however, is the band’s new producer: American recording artist, songwriter and producer Ryan Star.
“Ryan arrived with a different perspective, and helped us try new ways of working. Not that we were stuck in a rut, or had writer’s block. But there is a new sense of freedom. New Influences. New blood”.
Ryan was present from the first day of creating.
“We had initially met during a dinner in Brooklyn, when we visited New York City to hook up with our new American management, Tour de Force. Being managers of Ryan’s, as well, they decided to hook us up”, Pettersson remembers.
Star, a solo artist in his own right, has recorded several albums, has participated in TV series Rockstar Supernova together with the likes of Tommy Lee and Jason Newsted, and you can hear his songs in TV series like Lie to Me, and the Vampire Diaries.
Star arrived in Sweden without preconceived ideas or notions.
“We started from scratch”, Petersson remembers. “The first night Ryan had to deal with a serious jet-lag need to lose his jet lag, but the following day we went straight to work. And it was obvious that something happened when he was around. On the first day of jamming, we came up with embryos for as many as eleven songs, four of which turned into finished songs that can be heard on the new album”.
During the following session, they wrote three more.
“We were amazed. Ryan had not experienced anything like it, either. We were like a newly formed band. Same hunger, same energy. No one wanted to stop. The only thing that in fact could put an end to it, was someone actually falling asleep while standing on the studio floor!”
According to Pettersson, Star felt like an additional member.
“In fact, since we didn’t have a bass player at the time, I nearly asked him to join the band on a permanent basis. But I realized that it hadn’t been very practical to have a bassist who lives across the Atlantic ocean. But he did become a close friend, and an integral part of the Takida family. And we are very pleased with Johan Dereborn, who takes care of the bass playing duties while we’re on tour. His playing is tight, and heavy, and brings a sense of security to the whole band
Apart from not having a full-time bassist, Takida’s line-up has never enjoyed such stability, musically and personality wise.
“Our keyboard player, Chris Rehn, remains the technological wizard of the band. Guitarist Tomas Wallin and Mattias Larsson sound great together, and have a fantastic chemistry”, says Pettersson.
The first single to be released is “Better”.
“The band always has the last say when it comes to choosing singles, but we obviously want to feel that everyone involved supports our decision. We all felt that “Better” was a perfect introduction to the album.
The singer’s own favorite song, though, is album opener “Don’t Wait Up”.
“It sets the standard”, he says. “It was one of the two lyrics that we co-wrote together with Ryan. It’s about our need to escape from everyday life. A lot of people who are in relationships are secretly looking for someone new. And some are looking for an adventure that may add some extra spice to the relationship they’re in. The lyrics say “tonight I’ll go all in, and then I’ll be back home”.
Pettersson suspects that a lot of people will call the lyrics chauvinistic.
“And the fact that it was written in first person probably adds insult to injury. But a lot of women feel the same thing. There is a sense of sadness in the lyrics, and at the same time it’s hard to stand still to the music. It’s a melancholy party song.
It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but the song falls into place when you hear it. And intuition has been one of the band’s guiding lights this time around.
“We didn’t think too much, we just did”, Pettersson nods. “I may have brought that from my side project, Stiftelsen – that things don’t necessarily have to sound a certain way. Sometimes you just need to ignore outside expectations, and do what feels right”.
A lot of Takida’s lyrics revolve around the discrepancy between what can be seen on the surface, and what’s actually going on inside.
“A lot of the new album’s lyrical content has such a vulnerability and honesty that I have a hard time reading the words. But singing them feels good”.
As a lyricist, the singer has a long history of writing about betrayal, and fear of conflict.
“I don’t seek out conflict for the sake of creating more interesting songs, but I have also never been afraid of facing problems in order to try and solve them”.
Some of the lyrics that were fictional at the time of writing have have since come true.
“It’s almost a little scary, but at the same time it kind of gives me a kick”, he admits.
“Skid Row” is a song about some of the less fortunate people that can be found in our society.
“It’s not a political lyric in the obvious sense of the word. It’s more about humanity. It’s a story about a place in the universe – in this case planet Earth – that’s slowly going under, regardless of how much time wh thing we have left? It’s enough to just watch the news, and realize that a person like Donald Trump gets so much coverage, and may even be the most successful politician in America at the moment”.
The song can also be seen as a description of some kind of riot back in the Seventies.
So, what’s next for Takida?
“We have now surrounded ourselves with a team of people who share our hunger and intentions, and inspire the entire team to take us outside of Scandinavia in a real way. We already have a great home base, now we want to make a serious attempt to make it abroad. Everyone is along for the ride, both band members and associates. We are impatiently waiting at the starting line, eager to join the race”.
At the same time, Pettersson stresses, “there’s no pressure. It’s all about being fully charged, hungry, and curious about what will happen next”.
“We have everything to gain, and I have a feeling that the song “My Dove” may be the one that opens the doors for us abroad. It was one of the first songs we wrote for this album, and I still feel that it’s special. It has a great atmosphere and feels a little like a song for a movie”.
The time is right. The chemistry is there.
“We used to fight a lot”, Pettersson laughs. “These days, we focus our energy on other things. Sure, things are bound to happen along the way, but we are well prepared. We have been through a lot together, and we are all quite confident that we’ll be able to handle it”.
Looking back, it’s probably good that Takida’s international break-through didn’t arrive five or ten years ago.
“Now we’re ready”, Robert Pettersson says.
He sounds like he means it. And anyone who listens to “A Perfect World” will understand why.