Emil Gustafsson, singer and writer in the band Urban Cone, talks to Stripped about music and life on the road.
Hi Emil and welcome to Stripped Creative! Part of the band Urban Cone you have now been rocking the world for 7 years. Maybe its a good thing to start at the beginning, how did you all meet?
So yeah, we have been band now for seven years. Most of us met at school (Rytmus). Me, Tim and Rasmus. Rasmus and I went in the same class and Tim two years above. Then there was Jakob, who was an elite basketball player when he was young. He is the tall guy with a hat, he always wears a hat.
You released your first single ’Urban Photograph’ pretty early didn’t you? Even before you got signed?
Yes we did, we released it all back in 2011, on MySpace. Which was still in the era of music and indie blogs and very randomly ’Urban Photograph’ got picked up by this mp3 blog called ACE. They made it the ”add of the week” and we didn’t really understand what that meant or what the blog was. Then an extreme sport site used the track for a trailer and suddenly Universal reached out and asked who we were and came to our third gig. I was 17 when we signed the deal and back then you didn’t really think of the negatives that would be a part of that deal, I just wanted to become a rock star.
That part of the story seams to be a pretty common story when musicians and bands signing deals with major labels at an early age. But if you had not signed the deal would you have been at the same position you are today?
No, I don’t regret signing it, but you grow up and staying together as a band for such a long time is very hard. We started out as 5 members and now we are 4 as our drummers dropped out. But it is still so demanding to be around 3 other people constantly — sleeping in the same bed when touring and etcetera. It does though prove that we all really want it, it is almost a chock to me that we can still do this. I mean we hang out when we aren’t playing and even when we are back home not touring we mainly just hang out together.
You also made music individually as ’Emil Heró’ a couple of years ago?
Yeah, Emil Heró, the name actually came from my grandmothers grandfather, who was a poet and his surname was Heró. So it isn't the superhero thing even though it might mean that in french.
The reason for my side project was because of my love for dance music and especially French Electro. Artists like ’Danger’, ’Daft Punk’ & ’Justice’ just made me want make that kind of music.
What is in store for ’Urban Cone’ in 2017?
We spent most of 2016 writing new material and recording them so we have a big amount of songs now. We aren’t sure of what to do with them though, if to release them all separately, or just singles and then an album. In todays industry climate there really isn't a good or bad way to release your music. Which is both scary and exciting as it gives you freedom to try out now methods. Saying that, I really do want to release an album — as it was the best way of experiencing my favorite bands, was when they released a new album.
So how was it write songs and live a rock n’ roll life in California?
So it is me and Rasmus who write the songs in the band and we have always felt that the best way is to go away and write songs, just him and me. The first album ’Our Youth’ was a collection of songs written in our teenage years. For the second album, me and Rasmus went away to my holiday house in Sweden and for this album (or whatever it becomes) we have been around at a few places. We went to Berlin for a bit, rented an AirBnB, made it into a studio and then spent all day hanging around the city, meeting new people, to then go back in the even and use the experience and mood to write new songs. It is good to get away from the feeling of convenience and security that you feel at home. When you’re away you enter a natural state of exploring and you might not write about what happens there, but the mode really helps writing in general.
That all sounds very logical and good, so what made you spend a long time in Los Angeles?
Well, someone, I can’t remember who, said that you can’t really write songs in english if you don’t dream in english. Which makes sense when you think about it. We also wanted to explore the idea of writing with other people. People that work with song writing more than we do and in that way be inspired in a new way.
Also it is really interesting and powerful to interact with a person who’s born into the english language, how our ideas clash and create inspiration.
Who produces your music?
We do! And have always done. Which is a great thing because that means that we get to keep our sound and vision even though label people might have ideas and thoughts. It gives us more control and until we feel that we aren’t progressing in our sound there is no reason for us to change that. The day we need that, thats the day to take on a producer.
What long term goals have you got as a band? I mean you have a possible album around the corner but how do you see yourself in the long future?
Right now we have all agreed that the band is our life, its Urban Cone 24/7 and we all have to put 100% into it. We have to put all into this 3rd album, because usually on the 3rd album you make it or break it (literally). Because we have now released two albums, one in Sweden and one in Europe so the natural step is to reach for new territories and the United States is that natural step or at least ambition.
Even though its a cliché, is their any wise words you would like to share about being a musician?
I still believe that you should get out there as much as you can, get out and play any gig you can get. Firstly you get much more motivated to continue, even though you only have 10 people at your gig, that is still 10 people. And the more gigs you do, that number will rise. We still mainly make music for ourselves but there is no better feeling than seeing someone in the audience singing along to your own song. Continue making small steps and see them as a part of a bigger goal, because the worst thing is to get stuck and that will surely make you stop believing in what you do.