Agrimonia is a unique quintet hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden. The band blends a variety of genres to create a truly unique sound and style, including sludge, crust, and post-metal. Interview from 2010.
Let’s start with an introduction to your band. Who are you and why form the band, are you terrorists, are you misantropes, are you nihilists? Why play music, and more to the point, what are you trying to do lyrically and musically both for yourself and for your listeners and adherents of fellow hardcore/punk/crust?
Agrimonia is Björn on drums, Christina on vocals and keyboard, Magnus on guitar, Per on bass and Pontus on guitar and backing vocals.
Magnus: I guess a lot of people, especially people on the right wing would call me a terrorist. But I for myself would not categorize myself as a terrorist since the word is politically and emotionally charged and doesn’t have a clear definition, at least not what I know about. Terrorism often seems to refer to acts which inflict damage to innocent beings and that is nothing I can support. But an act of defiance against any systems or laws of oppression does not for me constitute terrorism but as a moral obligation. When it comes to being a part of the band I guess the possibility to express myself through the use of music as an art form is the primary reason for me to be in the band. But politics and friendship is a part of all I do in my everyday life and since Agrimonia is a part of my everyday life it applies to the band as well.
Christina: For me the lyrics are an instrument as well, they add to the overall feeling of the music and they flow together and create something powerful. Of course I want to tell a story as well, but in a more poetic and epic way. I want the listener to create their own meaning to the songs.
Pontus: We are five individuals who share a taste and interest in playing the same kind of music, this provided a great breeding ground for creating Agrimonia. My personal reason for playing music is that for me it’s one of the most mind-boggling things I know of, both taking part of and creating myself. Myself I am a failed naiveté in my best years. Per: We are defenders of true metalpunk as it was meant to be, haha! No, we are just simple people that wanted to do some kickass music with kickass people. Since I can not write very good or paint or anything else music is my way of contribute to the alternative culture. We are trying to compose musical landscapes to make a reaction in people. What that reaction may be we do not answer for but hopefully some will find it nice and influental.
What is it about playing in the band that makes you most inspired? You’re all punks, why don’t you play just simple hardcore-punk music, but doing that type of slow and apocalyptic stuff?
Magnus: For me the opportunity to surpass myself as a musician and do something else than I have always done is a big inspiration for me to play in Agrimonia. And I do play hardcore-punk music in other bands but I don’t think calling it simple is fair, I always put a lot of myself in to the music we create in all of my bands and that is neither simple or easy to me. I listen to all types of music and for me only to play or listen to fast un-apocalyptic stuff appear to be boring so I try to get as much out of all types of music as possible.
Christina: For me it is about creating something, being a part of something lasting where I can express myself and tell a story. To do this together with my friends is just totally rewarding. Also meeting people all around the world, at shows or just through the net, seeing new places and playing with some good bands. It is also a good forum for me to make art (record covers and t-shirt prints).
Pontus: My interest in hardcore/punk music is no bigger than in any other musical field that I enjoy. To me all good music is good music. My personal connection to the punk scene is more to the mindset than the music in specific. However the former has let me down quite a few times so I’d rather not pinpoint myself nor our band to any scene at all. I’ll put it like this: there a are a lot of good dedicated people out there keeping an underground music scene alive, and a lot of them are active within the punk scene. As for the positive, inspiring aspects of playing in a band, there are two sides of it. One is the creative process, making a record and the work surrounding it which is just one of the best things I know (as long as you get satisfied with the end result of course). Playing live is a whole different thing, it’s a much more social activity, you get too see places, meet new people and hear their opinions of what you are doing. It’s harder physically (at least for tours) and you are dependent on other people a lot of the time. If a gig goes to hell, you won’t be able to repair it but usually it’s a great experience.
Per: I feel liberated and happy while playing our songs and I get inspired by the way we all do something together as friends and punks. It doesn’t really matter so much what genre you put us in but I would be very happy if the punk community likes us. We all play in other bands that are more of a raw hardcore punk sound so we get our share of that. I don’t feel we are apocalyptic at all but maybe we raise that reaction and its ok. We try to make beautiful soundscapes.
How do you maintain your DIY ethics when playing much more complicated music and trying to sound more professionally than the usual d-beat crust and hardcore bands? Isn’t it very expensive when trying to reach a better sound and do so long and difficult songs?
Magnus: It is easy, we do everything ourselves! What we don’t do though is release the records on our own label. Since Skuld Releases isn’t in anyway a corporation that supports exploitative labor or anything else that would interfere with my ethics but rather share a lot of my D.I.Y ethics, I feel thankful and glad about the fact that he wants to help us get the music out there for people to get a hold of if they want to. I don’t think of our band as trying to sound more professional or to make long and difficult songs. For me I want all the music I am a part of creating to sound as good and as true as possible. And I agree that my guitar and amplifier was expensive but no more so than any other of the bands out there in the scene. But for the stuff we use to record they are in comparison to others really cheap. What we invest in is our own personal time and especially Pontus’ personal time since he is the one recording all of us.
Pontus: We don’t strive to sound professional, however we do strive to sound good and present our music at the best of our capabilities. As for expenses we are not spending much money at all, since we are doing all recording by ourselves. I’d say we spend a lot of time instead of a lot of money. I don’t feel D.I.Y has to do with the musical expression at all, you could be a D.I.Y symphony orchestra for all I know, as long as you just put your dedication behind it.
Christina: We try to do as much as we can ourselves when it comes to the band, from playing to recording to doing all the artwork. That to me is D.I.Y, not what the band sounds like. And we all play in other bands doing other styles of music, so we get our share of hc/crust there. Per: Ethics don’t have anything to do with how a band sounds. If we are professional I don’t want to see someone who are not, haha! No we are simple individuals with different ways to approach what we are doing. Agrimonia is a D.I.Y-band and we want to keep it that way. Maybe some of our musical equipment is expensive but we get that back in feeling and devotion. Our sound needs a little more than a normal rock band.
As we know what the affects that capitalism, consumerism and industrialization have on us, how much important is to live in an alternative way of life and trying to avoid corporate products, or supporting alternative media, buying localy produced and organic food, embracing veganism etc.?
Magnus: I guess you can not put an exact price or value on living in an alternative way or on the earth’s recourses and well being since they are both irreplaceable and invaluable. We only have one life, one earth and one chance to make it a good one for ourselves and all the future beings. For me the only chance to have the right to protest, or in other words try to change other peoples opinions and judgment in matters, is to live as you propose others to do. What I am trying to say is that if you for example are going to call yourself feminist then you have the responsibility to live as one. I am in constant conflict with today’s society because of this view. Ever since I was born the structures of this society has tried to force me to live against my views on animal rights, environmental issues, women’s rights, what it means to be a man and the list goes on and on. You will not make a change and contribute to the liberation of humanity and our fellow beings of this world unless your way of life reflects the ideal you are aiming at.
Christina: I think it is important to do what you can. Capitalism has consumed us all and I think it is very hard not taking part of that whole circus even though you do not want to be part of it. I do my best not to spend money on unnecessary things and stay away from the most evil corporations. In the summer I grow a lot of my own vegetables in my garden.
Pontus: It is important, of course. I feel however that the daily choices you make as a consumer is a never ending stream of compromises. I am a vegan and when I can afford it I’m buying organic/ecological food, I’m trying to avoid the worst corporations etc. I still put money into beer, records and musical equipment, and if I have to choose between buying new guitar strings or organic pasta for my last money I’d choose the former. A dedicated environmentalist perhaps would call that hypocrisy. I’d say that even a slight change of habits is a lot better than no change at all, then how far you want to take it is up to yourself. My personal belief is that I don’t think humanity in general will be able to stray off the beaten path to hell until something very radical happens to the earth and the environment. In a lot of situations, living environmentally friendly is only something you could do if you don’t have to fight for your own survival. A farmer who cuts down rainforest to be able to feed himself and his family – can you blame him? He’s got no choice. It’s better to look to the economic forces and corporations who have created such a situation. It’s all human error – greediness, money hunger and complete disregard of the well-being of other people and species. As I said, I am rather pessimistic about the whole situation. However, this does not stop me from doing active choices every day on what I consume and support.
Per: It’s very important to me. I find/steal/get most of my clothes and if I buy any it’s second-hand. I dumpster dive most of my food and I spend very little money in the stores. The things I spend money on is records and musical equipment and it’s a little contra productive to buy so much records but it’s so small businesses so the hardly make any money out of it.
What kind of punks are you? Are you involved in activism and social organisation, do you like reading a lot of literature to become intelligent and educated people bringing a message of social and political awareness, or you just like to make music and waste your lives on drinking and taking drugs?
Magnus: I do not like to categorize myself or others, it just forces you to view your own life and others through boundaries and prejudice. But if I have to I usually use the self invented term of a fundamental democrat before any of the established terms such as punk, anarchist, communist etc. I must admit that my involvement in organizations and different political groups has declined in the last five to six years. I sadly think that a lot of my earlier good faith has been lost on the way and I wish that it had not. I truly enjoy both to study/learn and to “waste” my life. I have studied actively my whole life at least up until this summer when I graduated university after six years and two bachelor degrees. One in the science of Occupational therapy and one in Political science. And through it all, I have been enjoying the benefits of making music and drugs.
Christina: For years I was setting up shows, going to protests and the like. I guess due to lack of time I am not so involved right now. Working as a photographer, practicing with my bands, helping out at the collectively run cinema and trying to get a fanzine together I do not really have so much spare time. I would call myself an art punk.
Pontus: I like reading and I like to understand mechanisms within the human society and the human psyche. I don’t do this to educate myself or to be able to “educate” others, I do it because I’m interested. I’m not involved in any organized activism. I am keeping myself occupied with music in various forms, I sometimes record other (mainly punk) bands. Per: I am not so personally involved in political activism as I used to be but I support all who strive for social change. I go to demonstrations for animal rights and housing rights. I feel its more of adapting the ideals into your daily life and let it affect the choices you make. Sure education is important but I feel living the life and take part in the scene is the best way to learn how to be politically aware. It’s all out there.
What keeps you waking up every morning? Are you waking up with the desire to make something to express yourself and your emotions or to do something that’s going to have a positive impact on other people’s lives, or it’s just the same boring day with the same tasks and things to do everyday? Are you living the punk way of life?
Magnus: I wake up because I always do and at that moment I usually want to sleep a little more. But my happiness comes far most from the people whom I love and share my life with. I do not want to settle with anything less than happiness and well being for all. I do not think it is possible to make it happen, but it doesn’t mean that I am not going to try. I see a lot of trouble in the usual 9 to 5 way of life and do more or less everything to escape the boundaries of all structures and moral views that I haven’t personally agreed with. And not to try to have a positive impact on other people´s life would just be meaningless. And by that I don´t mean that I will be standing passively smiling at the side while a stockholder get´s monetary benefit and “happiness” from exploiting the earth or its inhabitants. But any action I may take to hinder this exploitation and injustice has the intention to make a positive impact on all life.
Christina: My passions are doing art, music, gardening, reading, hanging out with my friends and family and riding my bike. These are things that makes me a better person and my reasons to live. I love to express myself through photography and hopefully my pictures will have a positive impact on at least a few people. I like to live a varied life and not to get stuck in the same old habits every day. It is hard when you have a job to live too much outside the box though, I still have to get up every morning and slave away for someone else.
Pontus: It’s different from day to day. I have to work in order to pay my rent, and workday mornings are usually not filled with any desire at all, it’s rather something that has to be done. I currently work with kids and it can be quite fun though, and “morally” I’d say it’s one of the better jobs I’ve had, you’re working with human beings rather than making a profit for Big Boss, by building luxury apartments or any other stupid job I’ve had. On days/time periods dedicated to the band or a travel or whatever, it’s of course another feeling. You have to take the good and the bad and try to make the nicest cocktail possible, even if it’s sometimes hard to swallow.
Per: Since I don’t have a job it gives me the luxury of having more control over my time. I try my best to make everyday worth living and most days I succeed. Most things I do have to do with the punk community in a way or another. I like to paint backdrops for bands and making stencil cuts. Reading and listening to music takes most of my time when I am not rehearsing with bands.
What do you think have been your greatest accomplishments as a band and individually within the last year?
Magnus: We did our first tour together and I had a blast. So for me that is a great accomplishment that we all had an equal part of.
Christina: Definitely the tour we did in March was a great thing for us. For me personally it must have been learning how to play the bass.
Pontus: We did a European tour in March which went really well. That together with the beginning of our new recording, were probably our greatest accomplishments. For me personally, I wrote quite a lot of music and didn’t drink too much.
Per: That we are so good friends and manage to keep a flow in the music even though we don’t rehearse so much anymore. The tour was crucial for us since we learned we could stand being around each other for that long a period of time, hehe! Individually, I survived.
How’s the scene in Gotenburg and Sweden right now? Any other bands from your area that you would recommend us?
Magnus: The scene in Gothenburg is living and is a possibility up for grabs for anyone who wants to contribute and evolve it. In my opinion there are a lot of good alternative forums that you are able to be active in, but unfortunately not enough people are active-participants in the scene and it’s different forums. But I guess that there never are, and never can be. Bands I recommend are: Corrupt, Dörrterror, Cortex – It’s not a new band and a lot of you probably know about it but I still recomend it.
Christina: It is quite a lot going on in Sweden and Göteborg right now. Here in Göteborg have at least three places that do punk shows, Underjorden, Egalia and Truckstop Alaska. We also have a really good vegan café that started during last year and is run in an alternative way by punks. It has also been a smaller squat-scene in Göteborg and also other places in Sweden. They try to focus on the shitty housing situation in this country. Bands from my area that I can recommend are Leda, Vicious Irene, Contorture, Monachus and Miasmal. From the rest of Sweden: Våld, Counterblast Sju svåra år and Masshysteri.
Pontus: I’m not living in Gothenburg these days but check out these bands: Vicious Irene, Insidious Process, Moonshine and Cashcrops.
Per: I feel the scene is alive and well, I want more raw punk bands though. I think the musical climate in Sweden is very good and diverse with good bands from every genre you can imagain. Bands from here that I like are Miasmal, Leda and Styggelse.
So you’re playing dark and pessimistic music with message based on politics, human relationships, and where the society in general is leading us to. Are your lives full of frustrations and grief? Is there a place for a better world? It’s just the beginning of a new year, what’s your hopes for 2010?
Magnus: My hopes for 2010 is that I will find a good way to get enough money to pay my rent, the way things are going right now doesn’t look too good. And for Agrimonia I hope for our new record to be released and that we get to have one more wonderful tour. In the case of world politics I truly hope the bastards of “power” will be forced by us the people to at least take some responsibility and stop blaming everything on each other. As they for example did at the Copenhagen climate conference. You can think whatever you want about the purpose of such spectacles but I really want to puke when they point finger at each other like little babies and get away with it. Where are we the people? Let´s fire their asses!
Christina: I can agree that we play dark music but I would not call it pessimistic. I think some good words are dark and epic. I am a really positive and happy person in general. Sometimes things go wrong in life but I always find my way up again. Surrounding yourself with good friends and meaningful things to do are always helpful. I think this coming year is going to be great for us as a band. We are going to have our new record out and hopefully a tour will follow. My hopes for Agrimonia are that we hopefully can go and play in the states and also Japan at some point. I think if we all contribute I think there is a place for a better world.
Pontus: I’d actually like to view our music as uplifting in a way. Darker music usually helps me feeling better about life and not the other way around, otherwise I’d never listen to it! I wouldn’t consider myself as particularly grief-stricken lately, however life is fragile and can be turned upside down any minute. Lots of things shall not be taken for granted. My personal hopes are that the new Agrimonia record will turn out great, that we will play a couple good shows and that the world will find peace and justice.
Per: I have left my pessimistic old ways for something more lasting. There is definitely a place for a better world, look on it in a small-scale and you will see. Try and make everyday the best day ever and be true to what you desire and see to get it!
Any last words or advice to the readers you would like to impart? Is there something important that you would like to say, but I missed to ask you?
Magnus: Make your own ideals and live by them or you will end up dying for somebody else! PEACE OUT!
P.S. thank you for the interesting questions and interview.
Christina: Just a big thank you for taking the time for this interview and keep up the fight!
Pontus: Thank you very much for the interview and for the interesting and thought-provoking questions!