Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Listen Up: Swedish Gun Factory sings!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 3, 2018 at 4:38 PM

click to enlarge Swedish Gun Factory: Isaac Middleton and Thomas Bergstig - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Swedish Gun Factory: Isaac Middleton and Thomas Bergstig

Feet and hands are a big part of Swedish Gun Factory. But those guys who tap dance while they play musical instruments also open their mouths and sing on occasion.

Thomas Bergstig and Isaac Middleton, who comprise Swedish Gun Factory, sing on their album ”Chris Raines.” Except to hit the piano’s damper pedal or maybe keep the beat at times, their feet take a backstage to their voices.

They also write the music.

“I have so many songs that are just sitting around,” Middleton said. “I’ve had a few people I could show them to and be like, ‘Hey, I wrote this song.’ But nothing really could happen with it. Thomas was the first one that was like, ‘OK. Bring me your songs. Let’s work on it.’ And it actually turned into something."

Middleton wrote his first song, which was about a masquerade party, when he was 15. “I had just read ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ and it just meant so much to me I guess that I had to write a song about it. I’ve been writing ever since then.”

He described the song as “just singer-songwriter, folky. Whiny music, really. Very Death Cab for Cutie feel.”

Middleton got into recording towards the end of high school. “I started recording in my room a lot. I had some people who were older than me that kind of showed me the ropes of like, ‘This is an interface. This is a microphone. You can use this to record.

“Once I got into programs like Ableton Live and Logic Studio I definitely got more into electronic music. I still have a big place in my heart for that kind of stuff. As I learned piano I started writing more piano-based songs.”

Middleton also got into some “bad habits” as far as songwriting. “I was just always sad about some girl. So, all my songs were just sad girl songs of ‘Why won’t you be with me?’ Or ‘We’re not together because of this.’ I would just get so depressed listening to my own music.”

That’s changed. “I’ve kind of revamped that a little bit and tried not to be so sad with my music. I feel like people want to listen to stuff that lifts them up more. I mean it can be sad, but the subject matter should be on a happier note. At least for me.”

Bergstig began writing music when he was 12. “I wrote piano pieces when I was 12, but I didn’t sing, really,” he said. “I started singing when I was like 17. Maybe then I started writing songs more. I bet they were similar to his songs, too. The were really whiny.”

His songs were filled with anxiety. “I was extremely angst-y as a teenager. I was so moody.”

Bergstig’s first song was “a poetic observation of the first snow that fell that night.”

His songs evolved. “First of all, I’m not at all depressed anymore. Like almost ever. I’m actually a very happy person. I started writing quirky songs instead. A lot of words that, to me, sound funny together. And, usually, they mean something. And sometimes it’s only I who know what they really mean.”

“Thoms is a linguist,” Middleton said. “Not first and foremost, but that’s definitely one of his traits. I think he uses that to his advantage with his songwriting.”

They began tap dancing together after they both moved to Memphis, where Bergstig was music director until he and his wife, Alexis Grace, moved to Los Angeles, and Middleton still is an actor at Playhouse on the Square. They then began letting each other hear their songs and liked what they heard.”

“Well, he has a great voice,” Bergstig said. “I’m not the best singer. I can tell you that.”

“I like his singing voice, but I mostly just like the songwriting behind it,” Middleton said. “The first time you hear it you have no idea what he’s saying. Which I think is a good thing because you have to go back and listen to it. And then you really hear the words that he’s saying. It’s very fast paced and it’s very intellectual.”

“Sudden Sinking Feeling” is one of Bergstig’s favorite Middleton songs on the new album. “He has a great nerve on that song,” he said. “It’s very interesting to me to listen to.”

Nerve? “Well, that would be a Swedish expression, I guess. I guess ‘feeling,’ but without sounding presumptuous. When you have ‘nerve’ in Sweden it’s more like you have a really good feeling and attachment to what you’re saying and what you’re singing.”

Describing his music, Middleton said, “Whatever is happening in my life eventually makes its way to my songs. Toxic relationships. Anti-political statements. But, also, I try to keep it moving in a positive direction as far as, ‘I want this,’ rather than ‘Fuck this.’”

“Hook Me Up” is one of Middleton’s favorite Bergstig songs. He feels it’s an all-out “I don’t care if this is good or bad, just do it.” “That’s kind of the mentality I feel like that song has. Thomas is very cynical and I think that comes across in his music. It’s a very uplifting song. But it’s also cynical as hell about people.”

Bergstig said his songs are about “growing up” and “coming to terms with you simply (being) an outsider and it’s perfectly OK.”

He’s only spent about eight years in the United States and Middleton, who was born in Kentucky, lived in Mexico with his missionary parents when he was 5 until he was 18. ““We’ve spent more time outside this country than inside and I think that lends itself to our feeling of not being a part of this place (but) enjoying this place a lot."

More albums are in the future, but, Middleton said, “I enjoy writing music and I think us writing music together is great and I definitely want to do more of that in the future. But with Swedish Gun Factory, I would like to focus more on making videos and incorporating tap with instrumentation because there’s so much more you can do with that.”

As for their songs, he said, “This is music that we like to make and that’s great. But we do it for ourselves more probably.”

“It’s really just like we did this because we like to do it,” Middleton said.

Though Bergstig is in LA and Middleton is based in Memphis, the two plan to keep performing. “Individually or together we’re going to keep on doing it regardless,” Bergstig said. “But I think we both really want to be able to make a living out of it.”

“If I could do this for a living every day I would be elated,” Middleton said. “That would be great. And just have a weird cult following of really weird people who like our stuff.”

"Sudden Sinking Feeling" from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.



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