Kingdom North is the new supergroup featuring members from bands such as Persuader, Nocturnal Rites, Daydream XI, Almah and Symphony X. Now the band is working hard on finishing the debut album, but thankfully two of the guys took some time off to answear a few questions from PowerMetal.no.
To get the story of Kingdom North right we have to go back to 2016 when Emil Norberg and Fredrik Mannberg started to create some new music together. Both involved in different bands at the time, Fredrik in Nocturnal Rites and Emil in Persuader, the music they created didn’t fit said bands. So, how did the “new” musical direction appear – and what differs the new music from let’s say Persuader and Nocturnal Rites?
Emil: Well, through the years I’ve recorded a bunch of songs and riffs that I just didn’t think fit Persuader and this material was laying around. I thought a lot of the stuff was pretty good, so I had the idea to do some kind of project that was more in the vein of maybe Kamelot, to give an example. After recording 2 or 3 songs I spoke to Fredrik to see if he would be interested in collaborating on this. He also had a lot of material that he thought didn’t fit Nocturnal Rites, so we started assembling our ideas and combining them and I think the songs have turned out very good. Not as thrashy as Persuader but a bit harder than the later Nocturnal Rites I’d say.
You mentioned «project»; at what time did you understand that there was a new band taking shape?
Emil: Yes, in the beginning I thought it might be more of a project thing to get the material out there but as things progressed, especially since we got Tiago [Daydream XI] onboard, it feels it has become more of a band. I think we all bring a special flavor to the sound.
And yes; about Tiago! After a while, as the new album was taking shape, you started looking for a vocalist. It has been said that you “stumbled” upon Tiago. Can you elaborate around that – and what was it with Tiago that you approach him?
Emil: When me and Fredrik started out we worked with another pretty well-known singer for a few songs, but as fate would have it he became a member of an another band and as they made a pretty successful album(s), which in turn resulted in him not having much time to work with us, we decided to part ways and thus we were without a singer. I don’t know for how long I looked but I really scoured YouTube in search for a new guy and we tested maybe 4-5 guys before I came across a vocal cover video by Tiago which just blew me away. So, after making an initial contact he agreed to test one song which turned out beyond my expectations, really. He has an awesome control of his voice and is incredibly dynamic and the timbre of his voice fits perfectly with the material. So, in the end, it turned out really for the best, although it took quite some time.
Can you, Tiago, remember the first time Emil took contact with you and what your initial reaction was?
Tiago: Yes, he sent me a message on Facebook and that stayed in my inbox request for a few days. I often forget to take a look at that, and coincidentally I remembered! And there was this guy dropping all these names and I thought he wasn’t serious at all!
Since I started uploading cover videos on Youtube and making myself available for sessions and collaborations I’ve been getting a lot of messages of people that just want me to sing on their stuff for free or because they think I’m going to fall in love with their music. But this is my job and I’m also very picky about what type of music I put my voice on. But, after talking to him for a while I realized that they really had something going on and that they were indeed the guys from Nocturnal Rites and Savage Circus, bands that I grew up listening to.
As Emil said, Tiago had to test one song, and then you shared some lyric drafts and got to know each other. How did that work out? Did you, Emil, travel to Brazil? And how was the first meeting; where you both clear from the start that this could work out?
Emil: At first, we handled everything over the internet for the first couple of songs and then we had some group video chats as well, just to get to know each other. It’s really easy these days sending files back and forth for pre-productions. And yeah, I think we felt pretty much from the get go that this would work, everybody in the band are great guys and great musicians.
Tiago: First thing I told Emil was that for me to collaborate in any project I must have some input in lyrics and melodies. So, he sent me a song that had a few vocal lines and lyric drafts and I polished it a bit and added my own style to it. While we worked on the songs we kept talking about music and politics and everyday life in Sweden versus Brazil and, after getting to know them better, I realized this could become something relevant. It felt right from the very start and that’s a bit rare.
At that time, how much of the album was done? Was all the music written, or how much songwriting was left for Tiago to contribute with?
Emil: I think we had 3-4 songs that were pretty much done when Tiago came on board and for those I think he pretty much followed our guide vocals. But as we became more familiar with each other Tiago has more or less taken care of both lyrics and vocal melodies and we also talk a lot about the arrangements for the songs.
Tiago: With time they began to trust my decisions a bit more and we started to discuss arrangements more openly, so I ended up creating some of the melodies from scratch. I wrote an additional song, co-wrote another one with Emil and kind of butchered one that he already had! So, it became more collaborative during the process. But most of what they had was already really good, so it was just basically having fun exploring my voice and finding cool themes to write about!
And within 40 days you three, Emil, Tiago and Fredrik, completed demoing the album. Where and how did you do that, practically speaking?
Emil: As I mentioned earlier, we did everything for the demos online, which I think worked out great. I prepared the songs here in Sweden and sent them over to Tiago. For demos, this is really practical, but I hope that for the album production we can manage to record/produce together to really maximize the ideas.
I’m curious about the 40 days! How did you work on the album; who did what and how did you three individuals affect the music? And were there times that you became surprised by the others on what they contributed with?
Emil: It was pretty intense. I’d prepare and send mixes to Tiago and at the same time trying to finish up a few more songs. I would send one song, and the next day Tiago had written lyrics and recorded the song and returned it to my email. I think we worked really fast for the songs that we already had the music for and at the end of the 40 days we worked a bit more together writing/arranging the last songs.
Tiago: I was positively surprised with every song they sent me! I was pretty excited throughout the process because I started singing heavy music because of power metal, even though I always leaned to the more progressive and heavier albums of the genre. And with time, and my own band, I became more of a prog guy, started playing guitar and that kind of limits you vocal-wise. It’s been almost a decade since I had the opportunity to work on something where I’m supposed to focus only on my singing. And the songs were well-crafted, groovy and heavy and that made a lot of room for experimentation. I guess the biggest surprise for me is when Emil started working on a mid-tempo, sort of 80’s, power ballad. One of the last songs we did. We worked together on the structure for that one and it became one of the coolest songs I’ve ever sang on.
And while working on the album you also had to complete the lineup. Did you spend a lot of time looking for the right drummer and bassist?
Emil: Well, not really. Me and Fredrik had thought about it a lot, but as we found Tiago and started discussing it, it all more or less just fell in place as Fredrik already knew Mike [LePond] and the same with Tiago and Marcelo [Moreira]. They both liked the material very much so there wasn’t much more to think about.
Kingdom North started with two swedes, why did the band end up so international? I guess with the new technology it’s no problem getting things done, as you Emil mentioned earlier, but at the same time it must also create some difficulties and challenges? Wasn’t distance an issue while looking for members?
Emil: As you say, with internet it’s pretty easy working on the material but you are absolutely correct that it does create some challenges. For some stuff, like rehearsing and recording together it is easier if you are living in the same city but hopefully we will be able to get together in the future for a proper recording session. Being in the same room recording, that’s when magic stuff happen if you ask me.
We are all now waiting for the first single “Madness”. What can we expect and why was that song chosen as the first single?
Emil: That song was one of the first we demoed, and I’d say it’s pretty representative for the album. It’s a pretty catchy tune and Tiago really brings it on this one, showing an impressive range.
Tiago: “Madness” was one of the songs that they had the vocal lines pretty much figured out, so I just had to take something that was already good and make it better! It was one of the songs that we didn’t have a second version, ever. It felt right from the start. You can expect some heavy, melodic and groovy stuff in there.
And the album as whole: what can you tell me about it?
Emil: Hmm, well, the songs turned out pretty diverse and the older and the newer material blend together really well and make for a very strong album. I think we have to see how everything turns out after the single is released as we are still looking for the right label to release the album. I’m pretty certain we will have one or two guest musicians on it, but we will have to see it in the end.
Tiago: I think this album has something rare going on. Every song could work as a single, because they’re all almost equally strong. And I tried to reinforce that with lyrics and names, so, whenever we start thinking about album titles, we can just select one of the names and they all work, pretty much. Another cool thing is that the song selection ended up being more dynamic and diverse than the average power metal record.
We talked some about it earlier in the interview, but for fans of both Daydream XI and Persuader: how does Kingdom North separate musically from those bands?
Emil: I think the Kingdom North style is rooted more in power metal where Daydream XI is more progressive and Persuader is more in to thrash territory albeit has some power metal moments.
Tiago: Daydream XI’s first album [The Grand Disguise, 2014] was a bit more power than prog, and we kind of went full prog on the second one [The Circus Of The Tattered And Torn, 2017] and that left some of the fans wanting more of the power stuff.
For me it’s very different from what I do in Daydream XI, because this band is more about attitude and having a good time telling a story and there is this freedom of just being a singer. In Daydream XI everything is so personal and deep and intricate and it’s a bit overwhelming at times.
What about the future? As I have understood this is a band and not a side project? So that means there will be more music and maybe a tour in the future?
Emil: Sure! That is absolutely our ambition and we are very much looking forward to bringing this album out and playing live.
Tiago: Yes, those songs were written for the stage and once there is some interest in it, we’ll be there!
Thanks for taking the time and I’m looking forward to hearing the new music!
Tiago: Thank you, all your followers, and your readers for the support!