Good news for not only THE SYN fans but also those who enjoy music by the Swedish Prog Rock band, MOON SAFARI. A collaborative effort by both sees the release this coming week of their new album titled TRUSTWORKS. If you want to know more about THE SYN then see my previous review of their Live album they put out not so long ago. The Syn Live at ROSfest
Keeping with a Scandinavian flavour, Jonas Reingold of The Flower Kings produced the album made up of nine tracks ranging from ‘British Invasion’ to a slice of country to full on Progressive Rock, but more on that in the interview with THE SYN leader, Steve Nardelli.
Suffice to say both these bands bring a lot of their own sounds to the table, and dare I say a smorgasbord is clearly in the offering making this an interesting recording. Steve provides vocals and great lyrics once again with Moon Safari solid harmonies so distinct, just colouring these songs perfectly. Moon Safari delivers also on the guitars and keyboards and other instrumentations throughout.
This World Of Ours
Something That I Said
Never Too Late
Seventh Day Of Seven
Much I wanted to say about the new release of this album is covered below in an interview I had with Steve a few days ago. Full credit to Steve, the members of Moon Safari and of course Jonas Reingold for a very enjoyable album to listen to.
INTERVIEW WITH STEVE NARDELLI OF THE SYN
Paul Watson: It seems like forever this album finally being released. When did you actually start writing it and what inspired you to do so? What was the first song you worked on?
Steve Nardelli: It certainly has taken a long time due to both my and Moon Safari’s separate schedules and coordinating between London and Skelleftea in the far north of Sweden. The songs were written and developed over the last ten years, the inspiration was to create a new album connected by a central theme and musical flow.
The first track we worked on was ‘Lucifer Hesitating’, I had gone to Skelleftea to meet up with Moon Safari to play them a few basic songs and over the weekend I was there we created a demo of the track. It sounded great, we got on very well and that was the start of Trustworks.
I know I’ve asked you this before when I interviewed you for your previously released live album, but just to clarify, it was during that concert at ROSfest you recorded (‘The Syn Live Rosfest’ Umbrello Records ) you met the members of Moon Safari. Can you remember the exact moment both you and Swedish band, Moon Safari thought it would be a great idea to record something together? Did you envisage it would be exactly as this wonderful new album of yours?
Steve Nardelli: We met at ROSfest when The Syn and Moon Safari were both playing at the festival and I was very impressed by them as an amazing harmonic band. Harmonies have always been a big part of The Syn sound going back to the 3 part harmonies of Chris Squire, Peter Banks and Andrew Pryce Jackman, the same harmonies that Yes inherited when Chris and Peter founded them with Jon Anderson, and they seemed the perfect fit for the music I wanted to create for The Syn in the 21st Century. The meeting in Skelleftea I referenced in my first answer took place about 6 months later and I knew immediately we would create a great new album.
Surely it has to be nearly 50 years or so since you picked up a mic and started performing. I’ll go into it a little bit more shortly but does it feel with the new album just being released TRUSTWORKS that you have done a complete circle and returned to where you began? I say that because this album on first impression and reflection has, contrary to an old sound, a very fresh appeal to it that most of us who turned on, tuned in and dropped out can identify with. Would that be fair to say?
Steve Nardelli: It is important for me to keep the spine of The Syn in everything I record out of respect and in memory of my original band mates from the 60’s and at the same time develop the band musically in a progressive sense. I think I have done that very successfully working with the immense coordinated young talent that is Moon Safari, their contribution in the creation of Trustworks as a modern classic cannot be underestimated.
When and where do you do most of your writing?
Steve Nardelli: Mainly at home in London surrounded by my guitars and family. I get ideas for melody and lyrics all the time of course and that can be anywhere. I wrote City of Dreams from Syndestructible in my head on the beautiful island of Pangor Laut in Malaysia for example.
We’re all not getting any younger – how’s your voice? Was there anything you did to prepare yourself before each recording?
Steve Nardelli: My voice is fine, the more I sing the stronger it gets and I sing a lot. I met a very nice young lady on the Syndestructible tour named Sharon Rudolph who advised me to use echinasea spray and that works wonders me, so a big thank you to her.
You start the album with a couple of speeches by some prominent names in the 20th Century, but there are many out there such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, etc. What was it that was so special about Swedish Democrat Olof Palme and Indian’s Mahatma Ghandi that made you choose them to share a minute or so on there?
Steve Nardelli: Jonas Reingold, who produced the album with us and contributes musically, had the idea for this intro. As you say, there are many great 20th Century names and speeches we could have chosen, but I wanted one to be Swedish as a reference to Moon Safari and Jonas selected Mahatma Ghandi because what he says links very well in content and to the sitar opening to the Trustworks track. I think it creates a perfect introduction to the concept of the album.
It’s interesting hearing, after the intro to TRUSTWORKS the album titled second track that has itself firmly entrenched into the 21st Century but it also seems like you’ve dug deep into your past and back to the late 60’s with the sitar type sound running through the first few songs here. If I’m not mistaken you’ve gone for a more psychedelic feel rather than Progressive Rock as such. Is that a fair assessment and if so, was this in anyway intentional during the creative phase of this music?
Steve Nardelli: The Syn has had many musical elements to it over the years, Freak Beat; Psychedelic; Prog Rock; so there are references of our history in everything we record, the important thing for me is that we keep progressing musically from one album to the next while still incorporating those elements that make it a Syn album. Having said that, the sitar sound and mystical opening to the track was the idea of Moon Safari, I had originally written this song as a rock piece more in line with the second part of the track. I think this track shows the synchronicity between Moon Safari with myself in the creation of what is an album from The Syn.
Listening to the third track, ‘Revolution Now’ I almost hear early Who here. Is that a band that has had any influences on you, because I’m liking what I’m hearing here? It’s almost like you’ve gone deep into your roots as said and put a kind of British Invasion vibe running through on some of these songs on here.
Steve Nardelli: You have got it exactly right. One of the big early influences for The Syn was The Who, they were a brilliant and defining band in the 60’s and Pete Townsend has always been a big personal influence on my song writing. I approached this song using Grounded as a reference and another early Syn song called ‘The Kids Have Gone Dancing’, something we did live but never recorded and very influenced by The Who. It is British Invasion based but it’s got a great 21st Century vibe, it is a track with a wide appeal from the feedback we are getting.
Did you have any songs from the 60’s that you hadn’t used before being on this album.
Steve Nardelli: I have mentioned one specifically in my last answer, but I use The Syn songs of the 60’s as one of my references when writing, more for the vibe than anything else, I mentioned before the importance to me of maintaining The Syn spine to anything I record as the band in the 21st century.
And then you change tack. There’s an almost country vibe running the 5th track, ‘06_Never Too Late.’ Where did that idea come from?
Steve Nardelli: The country vibe came from Simon Akesson with accordion and all, it’s a great track with a purpose, sort of a musical intermission leading to the grand finale that follows.
And then by track 8 ‘ The Wheel’ you’ve changed gears and gone for quite a faster and heavier sound. Did Jonas have any major input into this particular song?
Steve Nardelli: Jonas plays bass on ‘The Wheel’ but his input is all over the album, as you would expect from a producer of his pedigry.
What was it like working with The Flower Kings bass player, Jonas Reingold as your producer? He’s well known for producing a lot of heavier type sounding bands. Was that an edge you were looking for perhaps? How did that come about?
Steve Nardelli: I loved working with great musicians and music heads Jonas and Moon Safari. I recorded all my vocals with Jonas in Vienna and got to know the quality of his work very well, he is an exceptional talent.
You have got it again Paul, what I was looking for was the final edge to what I knew was a very fine album and that is what Jonas brings in abundance. It’s the final element that can make a good album a great album. I was introduced to him by Moon Safari who wanted to use him initially to record the drum tracks of Tobias Lundgren and it rolled out from there, so this album was made by six Swedish musicians and one Englishman!
You end the album with a really solid Prog song, ‘Seventh Day of Seven’ (my favourite) which runs in true fashion nearly 15 minutes. It’s a track that to me sounds like yourself and Moon Safari had found your groove in very familiar waters for you to prog out strong? How was this recorded and where?
Steve Nardelli: This is the grand finale, it showcases everything that makes The Syn/Moon Safari such a great collaboration. We recorded the music and backing vocals in Skelleftea and I did my vocals with Jonas in Vienna. The road map for this track, and the rest of the album for that matter, was based on high quality demos we created in Skelleftea over a period of years as it turned out. Jonas mixed the album in Vienna and Jeremy Carroll of Precision Mastering mastered it in England. For completeness, I should also mention Tommie Molecule who designed and hand-penned the cd artwork that opens a fantastic window to the album, he is a great artist.
Everyone talks about the amazing harmonies of Moon Safari and they are in abundance throughout Trustworks, but sometimes people overlook the quality of their musicianship which stands up to any musicians I have ever played with and I have played with the best, not just in technique, but also in the symphonic structure of what they create, the guitar solo from Pontus Akesson in 7th Day of 7 and the musical and harmony arrangements of his brother Simon throughout the whole album are truly remarkable as are the substantial contributions from Johan Westerland (bass and vocals) and Petter Sandstrom (acoustic guitar and vocals).
Moon Safari have a good following of fans and stand out for the distinctive type of sound they present in their albums and performing live. Did you feel at any stage that their sound might overshadow what you yourself were wanting to achieve with your music. In other words run the risk of it being a Moon Safari album and not The Syn?
Steve Nardelli: It didn’t cross my mind that there might be a conflict between The Syn sound and Moon Safari, quite the contrary, I envisaged this to be a perfect collaboration. I think it is a great credit to Moon Safari that they approached this album as members of The Syn making a Syn album, but of course their influence runs through all aspects of it from start to finish and so it should. We realised from our first test demo recording that my voice and their harmonies worked very well together and my voice and song writing are a distinctive part of The Syn, so there is a musical blend between us that has worked very well indeed.
What now once the album is released? Are you planning on touring with Moon Safari with this new album?
Steve Nardelli: We intend to tour, or certainly do some showcase events, I think you need to do live shows to enhance an album’s credibility as much as promote it.
Where can Prog fans purchase Trustworks on CD or download?
Steve Nardelli: Umbrello Records has great distribution around the world. This album is signed to Nova/Universal in the UK and Europe, Alliance Entertainment in America and we have just signed a deal with the prestigious Marquee/Avalon for Japan, the first time The Syn will have independent distribution there. The album is available everywhere in the world via all internet and download portals such as Amazon, Virgin and itunes as well as all major record selling stores.
Many thanks, Paul, for an excellent interview, I have enjoyed and been impressed with your thoughtful and well-researched questions.