Interview mit Jacob Björnfot von Kvaen

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Although KVAEN have only been around for five years, their third album „The Formless Fires“ has just been released. However, Jacob Björnfot, the man behind KVAEN, is not only extremely productive, but also composes in a pleasingly versatile way. In this interview, he talks about what appeals to him about the concept of the one-man project, what motivates him to change his style and how KVAEN made the leap to Metal Blade.

KVAEN has been around for five years now. What prompted you to set up this project back then, and what goals are you pursuing with KVAEN?
My main goal was to write a really good debut album and to have a label release it on vinyl. I didn’t have any bigger plans at that time. The main goal now is to be on the road as much as we can and put out the best albums possible.

Why did you decide to run KVAEN as a solo project and stick with it, even though you now have a live band?
I needed this band to sound like me, I had so much music I needed to get out of my head and put into words and music without anyone telling me what’s wrong or right and I’m glad I did! I still arrange and compose all music and lyrics.

KVAEN is extremely productive for a solo project – you’ve already released your third album. Do you have a lot of time or are you very quick at composing and recording?
I have always been a very creative person, even when I was a kid. Composing songs and arranging them is one of my favorite things in life.

KVAEN im Dezember 2023 in München
Jacob Björnfot with KVAEN in Munich (2023); © Afra Gethöffer-Grütz/

When you write and record an album all by yourself, there’s a certain lack of control that automatically arises when several people work on an album together. Do you sometimes miss that, or how do you compensate for it?
I do play in other bands where people have the right to say or think whatever they want, and that’s the way it should be when you are a band. I still think it’s fun to meet up at the rehearsal place and jam on riffs, but in KVAENs case it’s different because I have chosen to do this on my own and I want it to stay that way.

Another risk when you do everything yourself is drifting into perfectionism – how do you manage to say: „OK, that’s done now!“ without external confirmation? – whether you’re composing or recording?
I think trusting your “gut-feel” is very important. I used to be terrible with that, but the older I get, the easier it gets.

You had a whole host of guest musicians on the last album – this time you also have two „celebrities“ on board, with Sebastian Ramstedt and Chaq Mol. Why was that important to you?
I always invite my friends to play on my albums, and I do that because they are my friends and also because they are great players. It’s always a lot of fun when they agree to perform on my tracks!

Fredrik Andersson, who also plays live with KVAEN, recorded the drums this time. To what extent did he also contribute to the drumming in terms of what was played?
Most of the drums were already written during the pre-production of the album, but I always want the drumming on my albums to feel human and not like a drum-machine which has become very popular these days. Fredrik is a killer drummer, and he has an own style of playing, which of course made the songs more interesting.

You’ve now also been signed to Metal Blade with the album – one of the established big labels in metal. Did it help that Fredrik was previously signed to Amon Amarth, or how did that come about?
It all started back in 2022 when KVAENs booking agent Jörg at Dragon Productions started talking with Andreas at Metal Blade about KVAEN. Andreas and I met at Summer Breeze the same year, and it was so much fun! And I guess you can say that the rest is history.

Musically, the album is more varied than the last one, you work more with mid-tempo, and it’s a bit more melodic. Was that a deliberate change of style, or did it just come about during the songwriting process?
I never want to do the same album twice. I am always searching for new ways to express myself, I love catchy choruses, variations and dynamics. I don’t know how else to explain it! (laughs)

How important are the lyrics to you as part of the overall concept – and what is „The Formless Fires“ about? Is there a connection between lyrics, cover and album title?
Lyrics should always have a specific meaning, if you ask me, I think it’s super important that you’re trying to be as convincing as possible when writing and singing the lyrics. There is a strong connection, everything you see on the album cover has something to do with the songs.

KVAEN im Dezember 2023 in München
Jacob Björnfot with KVAEN in Munich (2023); © Afra Gethöffer-Grütz/

For my taste, the album ends extremely abruptly with the short fade-out. Why did you opt for this and not a more powerful or fulminant ending?
I always like leaving something behind for the listener, I think it makes it more interesting and wanting more. That’s also why I never write an hour-long album, it’s better to write really catchy songs and keep the listener interested through and through.

What’s next – will we be seeing you live on tour in the foreseeable future?
Yes, a tour is being planned at this very moment!

Thanks for your time – let’s finish with a short brainstorming session:
European Football Championship: Music saved me from sports.
Dissection: amazing.
Artificial Intelligence: Both good and bad. Mostly bad.
Album of the year so far: Rotting Christ – Pro Xristou
KVAEN in 10 years: Rules the world!


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