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Constancia's Janne Stark: "There are no egos in this band – if it’s better for the song – go for it!"

Interview with Mikael Rosengren & Janne Stark from Constancia
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 06 June 2021, 5:55 PM

A new era for an artist, a new era for the entire world. Changes can be bothersome, yet changes can also serve a purpose, to become better and stronger at one's craft. As for the world, currently it has been through a storm, which slow and easy is calming down, with a vague picture of normality shaping up. The melodic Hard Rock band, Constancia, has been on the rise, returning to action with new material, since its members have been busy, and are set to display their new album, "Brave New World", and what a world are they shaping up. Steinmetal had a great chance to talk to both of the band's key members, Mikael Rosengren & Janne Stark, about the experience and more…

Hello Mikael and Janne, it is great to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, are we seeing the light with this pandemic? How have you been doing over there?

Mikael & Janne: Thank you for having us

Certainly things have been changing around us, and as for you, things have been happening on your end, concerning the return of Constancia with fresh and hot material right from the oven. But prior to talking about the new stuff, I have to ask you. This has been your baby for quite some time, how can you really stand not seeing it active at all times? Is that merely patience or there are other things that are at a higher priority music wise?

Mikael: I think the short answer spells “life”. There are so much going on for all of us and that sometimes leads to that “your babies” must wait. But on the other hand, if we would have had a clearer goal for the band, it might have made it easier to focus on the next album. It feels a little too long waiting six years between the albums. Maybe that could change now, I hope so!

The departure of your previous vocalist, David Fremberg, was quite a shocker I presume for people that have been following the band. Nonetheless, I feel that you knew that it was only a matter of time before he called it quits. Wouldn’t you say that?

Janne: I actually had a hunch already when we recorded “Final Curtain”. David didn’t really have his heart in it. He’s also running a studio, writing songs for Japanese artists, plus has his new Reggae Kiss project which started hitting off. When we started working on the new album, we waited to bring David in until all the music was recorded and ready, to save him time, but once we were at that stage he gracefully bowed out. I can’t say I was surprised.

How much did Fremberg record from the new album? How deep was his involvement with the songwriting that he left quite a hole? How bad was the damage left behind?

Janne: Nothing. He was never involved with the songwriting even on the previous albums. Mikael wrote a major part of the music, I added some stuff and then he and I wrote the vocal melodies and lyrics. David just came in and sang what we had written. So, in that sense there was no damage at all.

The coming of Fremberg’s replacement, Pete Godfrey, was probably more than a blessing, it was a lifeline, an anchor to entrust yourself in. With your guitarist, Janne Stark, making the finding of this incredible vocalist, what was your initial reaction after hearing him sing the new tunes?

Mikael: That was an awesome feeling! It really lifted and completed my songwriting in an awesome way! The music stepped up a whole dimension, to something more mature. More like a unit and how our music should sound. And at the same time, without losing our soul. It’s still really Constancia, no doubt about that. I think the listeners also hear and feel that.

Choosing such a promising title as “Brave New World”, I assumed that it surrounds that new era for the band, an upgraded kind of image and with a new guiding voice to lead, like newfound possibilities available for you guys to explore. What is your take on it?

Janne: The thing is, we didn’t have a title for the album while we recorded it. Then when everything was in place, I was toying around with different album titles. Should we use a song title or come up with something completely different. This was in the middle of the political polarization going on, the pandemic, stuff was closing down and there was more or less chaos everywhere. I was thinking – I can’t wait for all this to end. I wonder where we will be after this? Maybe we have changed in some ways, and that’s when I figured “Brave New World” would work as both a hint to the novel, it was the title of a song and maybe we are facing a brave new world after all of this. I also felt I would try to reflect that when I designed the artwork.

In your view, what does “Brave New World” channel in terms of concept, even if the album itself is not under the title of concept? What do you think it represents?

Janne: The title and the artwork, as well as the lyrics, represent hope, I’d say. Hope that we can come out of this stronger than before.

Would you say that the message delivered through “Brave New World” has a relation to the pandemic going on, or rather it is your special place, where you can escape reality and deal with matters that mean more to you personally?

Janne: It’s definitely the pandemic, but also the situation, especially in the US, where it gets so polarized over a political situation that even families were split up and become enemies. Where we at this day and age have people who think the world is flat. What I tried to convey with the artwork and the title was this dark and gloomy world that we are living in right now, but maybe – hopefully – we can open this door to a brighter future and come together. You can always hope and try to do your own part at least.

Honestly, I have yet to listen to your previous albums, but your versatile musical direction is strongly felt, nothing is expected, surging from AOR to melodic Metal in a flash. Therefore, I ask, what would you say changed from your previous titles in the matter of songwriting? What was done differently this time around?

Mikael: Good question. I write a lot of music, so I guess I write songs first, and then sort them out to the right band. For example, Constancia and my other band Heartwind. But sometimes I write with the band in mind, so it directly fits the sound. And when I write it is really a mix from AOR to hard melodic rock. Most of all I love heavy hard rock with great melodies and vocals. I guess that’s what you hear on the Constancia albums. Not one style, but great variations.

So actually, I don’t think much has changed. Many of the songs on this new album is written over a long period, many years. What IS a change, is the addition of Pete. He is amazingly good when it comes to vocal melodies and arrangements. So that has improved the songs. And at some parts, become a little Kamelot “The Black Halo” era. At least what I think. And I (of course) love that, ha ha!

Following the previous question, since you guys have the experience from the variety of projects that you are a part of, how would you say that the work on “Brave New World” contributed to your songwriting skills, your approach towards a song or treating melodies?

Mikael: I think you grow and become a better song writer during a whole life. One thing that is different in Constancia vs for example Heartwind, is that I can write the music exactly in my own way. I’m happy to have guys in the band who doesn’t grab the scissors and try to change a lot of things. The songs grow in a fantastic way anyway during the recordings of the different instruments and vocals. And for the next album, when I know we have Pete in the band, I guess I will write songs with him in mind, so that I can continue to be a better songwriter.

I noticed that you let Godfrey run free on coming up with new melodies to already written tunes, along with changing some of the lyrics. I wonder, as there are songwriters that aren’t too keen for their texts to be changed, how did it go down with Godfrey? Was it merely, go ahead and do what you wish?

Janne: I have no problem with that whatsoever and neither does Mikael! When Pete came in and wrote new lyrics it was actually the third lyrical theme for some of the songs. On some songs Mikael just had an initial basic idea, then I came in and wrote some totally different lyrics for the same song, then Pete came in with a curveball and changed everything. There are no egos in this band – if it’s better for the song – go for it! For instance, one song was called “Run Away Again”, then it became “Fight For The Heart” and it ended up as “My Disease”. I had a hard time trying to decipher all the files when doing pre-production (haha).

In contrast to your previous albums, what element was intensified on “Brave New World”? Would you say that it was a natural process or did you aim for that twist?

Mikael: It was probably a natural process and business as usual. I am hit by an extreme lust to write new stuff from time to time, and then I sit down by the keyboard and laptop, and don’t know what will be coming. I only know that a good song is on its way. So the process is quite agile so to say.

The general vibe of the songs is somewhat positive than most Metal related albums coming out, how were you able to maintain the cohesion between the actual music and the lyrics?

Janne: When myself and Mikael wrote our initial lyrics we definitely thought about the lyrics and music being cohesive. Pete came in and wrote all new lyrics and he also changed the theme in more or less all the songs, but he still wrote lyrics and themes that fit with the music. Even if I think it’s pretty cool sometimes when bands throw a curveball with the lyrics, like Tuff Darts love song “(Your Love is Like) Nuclear Waste”, but it didn’t really fit for this album (haha).

Now, I know that the band members have their share of work, and just around the band, and that is a challenge on its own. However, since the time period isn’t that friendly per se, what would you say were other challenges that interfered with the making of the album?

Janne: Well, I guess I’m very much the one to blame. Since the last Constancia album I’ve recorded and released a bunch of records with Overdrive, Mountain of Power, Falling Hazard, Bandolier Kings, Chris Catena’s Rock City Tribe and Merryweather Stark, plus guest spots and I do artwork for other bands and labels, plus I work on a new book (the history of Swedish hard rock) and I work full time. It’s Mikael who needs to poke me in the side saying – Hey Janne, isn’t it time? After three-four times I go, Yes Mikael, NOW it’s definitely time!

As a pure sucker for riffs, you nailed my senses with the melodic cruncher, “Stand Your Ground, the main riff, simple but to the point and the general vibe made me think of Night Ranger and Dokken. What is your appreciation of this track?

Mikael: I really like it! One of the good examples of where Pete has changed and improved the song just by his vocal arrangements and melodies. I also like the combination of progressiveness and pure melodic hard rock.

Which of the other songs of the album would you like to talk about, and I mean by a song, or songs that you have a stronger connection to, perhaps even on a spiritual level. Please elaborate

Mikael: Ok, there are several, but I can mention the dynamic “The Key”. I very much like the variation that this song gives you. A lot of different parts and not so obvious. Melodic, painful, beautiful, heavy, soft, hard … I just love it. And since I am a fan of Queensryche and Kamelot's “The Black Halo”, I like that it sounds a little like that. I had that in mind when writing this song. And the same with the song “Synchronistic”.

Is Constancia a live band as well or merely a studio project to come back to every now and then? How would you define it?

Mikael: We are a band, meaning that we are ready for live performances whenever someone wants us.

What do you miss most of the time period prior to the Covid-19 era? What do you wish for when everything returns to normal?

Janne: Definitely, hanging out with my daughters and their families, travelling, and playing live! It will be interesting to see what the new “normal” will be. Will we be able to get rid of this virus altogether? What happens with people who refuse to get vaccinated? I do think it will take at least a year or two before things get back to normal, providing we get rid of Covid, and no new variants occur that the vaccines won’t stop.

Guys, I wish to thank you a lot for your time and effort on this interview. “Brave New World” turns a lot of stones along the way when it comes to melodies and being sticky. I liked it. Thank you for the music. Cheers.

Mikael: Thank you very much for being interested and helping us to spread our word to the fantastic hard rock fans out there!

Janne: …and we hope to see you IRL!


 



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