Sweden’s TRAIN TO SPAIN finally released their debut album ‘What It’s All About’ in 2015, having issued music in a variety of different line-ups since 2001.
Named after a lyric from THE HUMAN LEAGUE song ‘The Things That Dreams Are Made Of’, the duo’s first long player was an enjoyably flirtatious affair centred around a crashing metronomic heartbeat reminiscent of PHILIP OAKEY and GIORGIO MORODER’s joint eponymous opus from 1985. Featuring singer Helena Wigeborg and instrumentalist Jonas Rasmusson, the album imagined LANA DEL REY fronting YAZOO, particularly on songs like ‘Keep On Running’, Passion, ‘All About’ and ‘Screw It Up’.
TRAIN TO SPAIN could be perceived as being a bit pop and fluffy, but ‘Grab and Touch’ dealt with the rather serious subject of harassment. But there was also the perky electronic disco of ‘Work Harder’ and best of all, the marvellous Euro stance of ‘Remind Myself’ which enjoyable sounded a bit like TATU without the helium. Overall a promising debut, ‘What It’s All About’ certainly wore its synthpop influences on its sleeve.
Ever keen to move forward and enrich their sound, TRAIN TO SPAIN have now been joined by Lars Netzel who was involving the mixing of ‘What It’s All About’; a musician in his own right under the moniker of NOT LARS, things are set for a new chapter in TRAIN TO SPAIN.
Helena, Jonas and Lars kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the past, present and future of TRAIN TO SPAIN…
Jonas: It feels just great that we got a debut album out. It’s been a long but enjoyable journey.
Helena: It feels good! We’ve been working on that first album since September 2013. So to finally get the album in my hands felt like an achievement and I’m very happy with the result.
After you played ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’ in London 2014, things went really well and you got signed by a UK label…
Helena: That’s right. We were very lucky that night. It was a night to remember.
Jonas: It was a dream come true.
But the label went under and put TRAIN TO SPAIN in limbo, what were your thoughts at this time?
Helena: Well, to be signed by a label is good of course, but the music industry of today is not like it was, let’s say twenty years ago. There are so many ways of getting your music “out there” and I wasn’t too sad by the loss of our contract to be honest. And not long after we managed to be signed again, this time by Subculture records.
Jonas: I wasn’t that sad, because we had a solid proof that our music belongs out there. And I knew that we sooner or later would be signed to another label.
It gave you an opportunity to rework some of the songs, particularly ‘Passion’?
Helena: Yes that’s right. ‘Passion’ was one of the first songs we wrote, so we thought it could do with facelift.
Jonas: All the songs were in a kind of demo mode. The plan from the beginning was to go back to the studio and record the vocals again.
‘Passion’ is possibly your most immediate song, why did you not go for it as the first single to launch the album?
Helena: ‘Passion’ is a good song, but so are many of our other songs on the album. When we asked people around to get any idea of which song we could chose to be the first single, we got so many different answers that we decided to pick the first song that was recorded, and that was ‘Keep On Running’. It’s a song that means a lot to me.
Jonas: Like Helena said, there were many songs to choose from and at that moment ‘Keep On Running’ was all done.
What did you think of MACHINISTA’s Club Mix of ‘Passion’?
Helena: It’s definitely a good dance remix. It got power and that particular MACHINISTA sound to it.
Jonas: Since I’m a big MACHINISTA fan, I really liked it. It’s a good mix of Helena’s vocals with the sound of MACHINISTA, and it all comes from a song I made.
What influences do each of you bring to TRAIN TO SPAIN?
Helena: I get influenced by what is happening in my life and what is going on in my mind. That is the main reason why I write songs, I need to get the words out. The last couple of years I’ve listened a lot to LANA DEL REY and I like the sadness in her voice.
She is a great storyteller and she sings about her life and her experiences. I like to be true to myself and my lyrics come straight from my heart. When I’m in a flow, the words and the melodies come very easy.
Jonas: When I make the music, it just comes to me. It´s a kind of way to let things out, both happy and sad things.
‘Remind Myself’ is one of the best songs of the album, but which ones are your favourites on ‘What It’s All About’ and why?
Helena: My favourite song on the album is ‘Pressure’. It’s a song that I listen to when I feel lost and stressed, and not knowing where I’m going in life. It’s basically therapy for me.
Jonas: Actually ‘Pressure’ is my favourite song too. But I know that ‘Remind Myself’ is one of the songs from the album that people like the most. That I´ve heard from many different people.
Some of the TRAIN TO SPAIN songs had been around a while and self-production can have the disadvantage of being too inward looking; was it the reason why Lars was brought in to help with the mixing?
Helena: Both me and Jonas are very productive and creative. We are both good at writing new songs and moving forwards. Lars on the other hand has an eye and an ear for details and perfection which is a great addition to the band.
Jonas: Since Helena was not involved in the production of the tracks, only me, I felt I needed someone to open new doors for me. Lars helped with that.
How did his contribution differ compared what you would have done had you’d handled production solely on your own?
Jonas: I would not have been able to do this production solely on my own. The overall quality turned out better.
Lars has now actually joined TRAIN TO SPAIN, so how do you think the band will change?
Helena: On ‘What It’s All About’ Lars was putting his effort into mixing. As a full member, he will be involved from the start with all tracks and most probably write new songs together with me and Jonas, he’s got some interesting pop-tricks up his sleeve.
Lars: Apart from many nerdy synthesizer talks with Jonas… we are in fact writing new tracks together, all three of us.
Jonas: There are only good things about having Lars as a full time member. We complete each other just great.
You have attended Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer 2015 festival recently. What state of health is the Swedish synthpop scene in at the moment? Are there any particular acts you like?
Lars: I love the Electronic Summer (and Winter) festival and we really needed a “bigger” synth event in Sweden after the Arvika festival went out of business a few years ago, so it’s very important for the scene. Apart from that, there are smaller concerts in Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö on a regular basis so the scene is alive and well. Personally I think HENRIC DE LA COUR always gives a good show.
Helena: I would say the synth scene is very much alive although the people are getting slightly older… at the moment I like to listen to KITE and HENRIC DE LA COUR. They both have a very unique sound to their music.
Jonas: I’ve never been to the Electronic Summer festival but I think the Swedish synthpop scene is just great, there’s a lot of good acts!! But like ourselves, it’s a subculture and if you’re not into it, you don’t know that it exists. My favourite bands are MACHINISTA, S.P.O.C.K, UNIVERSAL POPLAB and DISCO DIGITALE.
How do you think the Swedish electronic scene compares with the UK one?
Lars: Unfortunately I’m not updated on the UK synth scene at all. I might be wrong, but since the Vince Clarke-dominated scene in the 80s, for me, the UK has been more of a club music nation. Sweden has always had a strong electronic music community. Small but devoted to the 80s and 90s style of EBM and Synthpop. For those genres, Sweden has a great legacy of bands.
Jonas: To be honest before, I didn’t know too much about the UK scene. But since we went to London and played at 93 Feet East, and the fact that radio stations are playing us frequently, I’ve a lot of new Facebook friends who are in bands. And the scene is alive!! But I think they are struggling with the same problem as us, it´s a subculture. And since Sweden is one of the biggest music export countries, it’s hard to find a way out if you’re not signed to one of the major labels.
What next for TRAIN TO SPAIN? Perhaps some jazz influences? 😉
Helena: Jazz is in my blood, but synthpop is in my heart. I like to continue doing what we are doing, but I like to challenge my voice and what people expect from us. TRAIN TO SPAIN will definitely surprise you in a good way in the future. The plan is to release an EP in the first half of 2016, and we’re right in the middle of doing it. Next up is to record a video for our upcoming single.
Lars: Jazz huh? The first instrument I played was actually the saxophone and can really appreciate a good old JOHN COLTRANE track over a nice cocktail, but it’s doesn’t sound like a Roland TR-707 with gated reverb, does it? 😉
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to TRAIN TO SPAIN
‘What It’s All About’ is released by Subculture Records and available from
TRAIN TO SPAIN’s ‘Blipblop’ is included on ‘Swedish Electro Vol 3’, a 63 track free download compilation available from https://swedishelectroscene.bandcamp.com/album/swedish-electro-vol-3
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
7th January 2016