Calle Stenqvist, Bali Harko and Karl Johan Råsmark are a busy trio of musical Swedes who work at Plan8, a dynamic group of seven composers in Stockholm specialising in music and sound design. We met up with them at their production space – a former fire station turned into recording studio. Many of you are involved in different types of music making: chart pop and folk music and more. But how do a team of composers go about making a track together for a project like the A1 video soundtrack? Calle Stenqvist: Usually, for a bespoke composition like the one in the A1 video, we get a brief from the client’s creative director. It’s often pretty abstract and describes the overall feel of the piece, especially how it’s meant to support the visuals. It’s my job to decode this, ask the right questions so that I can translate it into something meaningful in music terminology. Then we sit down as a team and talk about what we need to create. After that either Bali or Karl Johan takes over and starts fleshing out the track. In the case of the track we made for the A1 video it was Bali who did the groundwork, and then Karl Johan and I came in later to add different pieces to the puzzle, like lyrics and vocals for the chorus.
Bali Harko: Yes, the collaborative nature of making music is really exciting, and it can be really frustrating when you’re stuck with your own ideas and can’t find a way out. Most of the time though we’re too busy to be several composers working on the same piece through all stages of the creative process. But we jump in and out of each other’s compositions a lot. I’m interested in how the track for our A1 video came about: were you thinking about specific moods, activities or scenes when you made it? Also, does the song have a name? Calle: With work like that it always starts with the brand and the story we are trying to tell in the film. To me, the A1 film is about the poetry found in everyday life. Little beautiful moments that make you feel alive. The song needed to feel warm and positive but have a stroke of melancholy and emotion to it.
Bali: Calle put together a video with some nice stills of people hanging out during the summertime, childhood memories and warmth to set the mood. So I wanted the song, and especially the vocals, to kind of hug and envelop the listener – for me, the vocal is like the little voice we all have in our heads – warning ourselves not to do something stupid, questioning, reminding ourselves of things n– but here it’s telling us to try and see (and hear) Karl Johan Råsmark: … exactly, Bali said it! What are your creative backgrounds? Did you all come out of a conservatory or school, or are you self taught? Bali: My dad is a musician and also a luthier, so it started with him giving me a violin that he had built for me when I turned six. Then he started teaching me how to play. I went to several music schools from age seven until I was twenty-two, studying jazz and contemporary guitar playing, and also music law. I started recording bands that my friends were playing in during high school, and that’s how I found music production. I took a few production classes when I lived in Los Angeles, but never anything extensive. It was just a natural step to go into it since I always played in bands, and have always been interested in how all these sonic pieces come together to sound like one song.
Karl Johan: My musical path took off as a result of early violin lessons, and singing and playing a lot in church while growing up. This gave me the musical foundation I needed to start exploring other instruments on my own. As teenager I was all about playing in various bands. My interest in music production started then as we recorded a lot of demos. Later, after I graduated from high school, I started studying at the Songwriters Academy in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, and after that I moved straight to Stockholm to try and make it as a music producer. And that’s what I’ve been doing since. Calle: I was brought up in a musical home where singing and playing instruments was part of everyday life.
I went to several music schools and eventually started producing myself. I was always technically interested and started fiddling around with recording and DJ equipment. When I finished university I rented a studio space and started taking on music production jobs, recording bands and writing my own stuff. Soon it grew and we started Plan8. What’s the voice in the A1? Who is it singing in that robot-like vocoder voice – and what are they singing about? Bali: It’s me! I recorded myself singing the lyrics kind of softly like a lullaby. I then vocoded it, doubled it and pitched it just to make it really hug the listener. It was important to make it feel comforting while being big and surrounding, and the vocoder did that in a nice way, I think. The intro is pretty basic, so the effect helped out a lot. The singing at the end is myself and Karl Johan doing the chorus in full voice. But wait a minute... you haven’t answered the full question: what exactly is the voice singing about? Bali: It’s a secret. You’ll have to listen very closely to figure it out…
Listen to “Out Of School” at beoplay.com/A1_school