With their unflinching third album, Stockholm post-hardcore trio Normandie – singer Philip Strand, guitarist Håkan Almbladh and drummer Anton Franzon - deftly deal in difficult truths and pushed-down feelings. 'Dark & Beautiful Secrets' explores everything from panic attacks ('Hostage') to religion ('Holy Water', 'Bury Me Alive', 'Renegade') with disarming honesty.
"This is a really dark album to me," Philip explains. "We decided to be as intimate and personal as possible, sharing true stories from our past for the first time."
"Everyone has secrets," he considers, "each and every one of us has something buried deep down inside that we desperately keep hidden away from the judging eyes of the world."
It's a step up for the group, and potentially - along with their recent signing to Easy Life Records - a sign that we'll be seeing a lot more of them on UK shores very soon indeed. Well, when we're not all stuck at home, anyway.
When did you start work on your new album, and what was your mindset like going into it?
We started working on it as soon as we delivered LP2 'White Flag' to mixing. It's nice to start playing around with new ideas when you're the most sick of your songs and sound. We usually delete all presets and start buying new plugins/synths ready for the next one.
What was the timeline like putting it together? Did social-distancing impact you much?
It's always the same, it's all cool and chill until it's not anymore. All of a sudden it was two months to mix deadline and we had to start narrowing down a 15-20 tracklist to about 10-12. Then came corona and saved our asses kinda. So we went back to the studio again to see if we could find new ideas, and we did! 'Babylon' was born post-deadline, thanks to corona.
We've met up every Wednesday, cause in Sweden we haven't had any lockdowns. The restrictions have pretty much been "Keep your social circle tight and avoid public transport." I got my first mask a few weeks ago!
Did you set out to do anything new with this one, that you hadn't tried on the first two?
Oh, yeah, just about everything. We mixed it ourselves this time, I did a bit of screaming again (first time since our first EP), and we drew influences from early musical experiences like Toto, Metallica and Tool.
What do you enjoy writing about at the moment? Does that come through on this record?
Since I also write for pop artists, I cover pretty much every subject that is love-related, so I've tried to stay away from that on this album. Up until this point, I've been wanting to write songs for the fans, songs that people can relate to and easily feel attached too, but this time I felt like I wanted to write about something that was very personal to me, write about personal growth, life and death and everything in-between. Hopefully, people can relate to that too.
It sounds like you're really putting yourselves out there emotionally, how do you translate difficult feelings and events into lyrics? Does it come easily to you?
Initially, it was very hard for me because I didn't want be too direct, but also not make it unrelatable. As soon as I got into it and found a rhythm, it all came at once.
Did working on this album help you resolve any of the personal issues you cover on it?
Yes and no. It's more about understanding HOW I've become the person I am. Looking back and reflecting on my past, finding small clues in my personality. For example, I've always had people around me since I grew up in church, so now when I'm older, I love being alone, and I can even feel very lonely in a social setting.
Which bands or artists do you listen to yourself when wrestling with dark periods?
I don't listen to much music at all, especially when I'm down. That is when I turn to writing music instead. But I do have a playlist for sleeping/calming myself in busy environments. Two songs from there are The 1975 'Me' and Jordan Rakei 'Tawo'.
Have you thought about where you might like to go with your next lot of music?
Just touring would be nice. Intimate, sweaty venues or arenas are both appreciated right now, very surreal to get back on stage. I think 2021/2022 will be the best live experiences ever, the suspense is killing me...
What else are you working on at the moment? Do you have a lot planned for 2021?
My 2021 is gonna be crazy... I've got a bunch of surreal releases on the pop side that are lined up, including going to Eurovision as a producer/songwriter. Can't say who the artist is yet, but it's been a cool experience so far! But the thing I'm looking forward to the most is, of course, our album, 'Dark & Beautiful Secrets'. We still have one more video to shoot and a new setlist to prepare for the tours next year!
Taken from the February issue of Upset. Normandie's album 'Dark & Beautiful Secrets' is out 19th February.
Featuring Architects, You Me At Six, The Pretty Reckless, Frank Iero and loads more.