In that age old tradition of twinning various cities around the world, encouraging a sense of cultural unity despite there being hundreds if not thousands of miles in separation, it brings a recognition of the vast amount of similarities amongst us all.
Indeed the differences, besides superficial ones are actually very few. We generally have all the same desires, wants, needs and experience the same loses. It must also be case that there can be a union not just across horizons, but time itself. Equally recognising the unifying experiences of human existence and what it is to be alive in modern times, present-day Swedish band Principe Valiente could be spiritually twinned with northern English post-punk bands from the 1980s.
That’s by no means a criticism either, their work is no pastiche, nor a weekend covers band living off the glories of past on some nostalgia weekend ferry trip. They wear their influences proud, embracing them like a very dear devoted old friend, heart-warmingly familiar yet has so many new stories to tell. Besides, they clearly have such great taste in their DNA that they just sweep you up in their wholehearted soaring anthemic hymns to life and longs, past and begun.
When I was fortunate to discover them recently, their latest album ‘Oceans’ (the title in itself almost recognising the travelling of stories across the globe) felt like a bottled up treasure map washing upon my acoustic shores. As soon as I opened it, I knew I’d struck gold. On this their third album, they are honing and owning their sound, taking control of the epic, cinematic soundscape that permeates each track. The movie reference continues in an undercurrent of spectrum of what could be a soundtrack to a John Hughes movie, as if the kids from ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985) actually went on to form a really bloody great band together. In a lovely flourish of timeless reverberating sound, producer Ed Buller (ex keyboard player with The Psychedelic Furs, whose song ‘Pretty In Pink’ inspired a Hughes movie of the same name) has briefly worked with the band on their previous album ‘Choirs Of Blessed Youth’ (2014).
To a UK audience there is an immediate similarity in lead singer Fernando Honorato’s vocals to Brett Anderson of Suede, and indeed if you are going to be a singer, that’s one hell of a range to be able to run parallel too. Principe Valiente have a darker edge to their work though, slightly forboding, ominous, subterranean, with momentary hints of one of my all time favourite albums The Cure’s ‘Disintegration’ (1989).
But they don’t stay buried in the sounds of Hades for long, such depths if anything only parade the contrast of the celestial heights they reach later in such all consuming emotive, euphoric releases as ‘The Reason Why’ (which could go on for 20 mins and I wouldn’t complain), ‘Untouchable’ and ‘Running Juveniles’. The contrast of lush waves of instruments, synths and sounds perfectly at ease with the honest simplicity of lyrics that remove any pretension and immediately tap into raw sincere emotion. There is longing, learning, but always hope.
I’ve had the album for a few weeks now, and what’s great to see is how with each listen, it grows ever more enrapturing, changing with the different moments of day, or environment where you listen to it. It particularly takes on new depths when listened to at night, seemingly it’s natural habit, but again always with that perfect glint of light and hope. Hopefully we get to experience Principe Valiente live on our UK shores very soon, and repeatedly, willfully fall in love with all their songs once again.
FLUSH recently caught up with Fernando Honorato (vocals, bass) and Jimmy Ottosson (guitar) to find out a bit more about the band and the beautiful ‘Oceans’.
You’ve been around for a few years now, but I was lucky enough to discover you very recently. Can you give a bit of background to the band?
Fernando: Well yeah, we’ve been around since 2005 but it was totally different members at that time for a couple of years. We were also fond of and inspired by the post-punk era but also more of the post rock kind of stuff back then. The first EP came out in 2007 and the first album 2011, then “Choirs Of Blessed Youth” in 2014 and this year “Oceans”.
I was a bass player in different smaller bands here in Stockholm before but wanted to create something on my own and sing my own songs so I started this from scratch.
Where does the name ‘Principe Valiente’ come from? Where you comic book fans? (There’s a Prince Valiant comic strip about the world of King Arthur)
Fernando: Principe Valiente means short and simple “Brave Prince” in Spanish.
We think the words have a nice ring to it and at the same time a bit deeper meaning. Simply the romantic illusion that we as individuals hope somewhere that someone will come and save us. The Great Love, a guide, or some other form of security that maybe never come. Or a knight. This sums up the little dark in our sound too, but at the same time without losing hope. And as we all know, we can just save ourselves and become our own guides through experience, love and understanding.
But it’s very true that it is also a comic strip by Harold Foster. The series, however, I have no relation to but there are of course people linking the band name to the series now and then. It has anyway nothing to do with it. Rather, one can draw parallels to the French book “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince) which I used to read a lot during childhood.
Can you give some influences to your music. There are loving and heartbroken/forlorn echoes of a soundtrack to an unmade John Hughes (Pretty In Pink, Breakfast Club) movie in ‘Oceans’.
Jimmy: There is definitely an 80’s vibe. Not denying that we have a lot of love for that musical era in time, but I think we are more influenced by new music by artists probably also loving that period, time warping the same clichés. If that makes sense?
Continuing the soaring, emotive cinematic soundscape theme, you had Ed Buller (producer for Suede, Pulp, Spiritualized and ex member of The Psychedelic Furs) work on your previous album ‘Choirs Of Blessed Youth’ (2014). Who did you have producing on the new album ‘Oceans’?
Jimmy: Apart from recording the drums and mastering the album, everything is done by ourselves: recording, producing and mixing. I (Jimmy) had a guitar in one hand, a bunch of cables and microphones in the other, tweaking the mixing console with my toes, and a band close by with great insights and perspectives. Previous album “Choirs of Blessed Youth” was predominantly made in this fashion also, but with the assistance of another producer, and of course Ed Buller who mixed the two singles Take Me With You and She Never Returned.
The contrast of deceptively uncomplicated lyrics matched with epic notes and music compositions are very potent and effective. There’s refreshingly little ambiguity, and an honest portrayal of loves lost, lessons learned. Are the songs effectively emotional diary notes? What are their backgrounds?
Fernando: Most of the time it’s just thoughts and theories about stuff in my life on a personal level. And sometimes two sides of the coin mixed up in the same songs which I’m aware can be a bit confusing, but I think most of the listeners understand that anyway.
For the most, the background to my lyrics is love losts as you mention, and also frustrations, the sense of being alienated sometimes to pretty much but always with a sense of hope. I try to write as honest as I can for myself actually in all it’s ambiguity that sometimes appears anyway. It’s very rare for me to write about one specific topic or person in one song, but I’ve done it a few times and it’s still something new for me so I’m aiming to explore it more. Like our track “The Reason Why” on the new album is about a real person who I was quite fascinated with.
I read that you opened for Peter Murphy (singer for Bauhaus) in your home of Stockholm. There seems to be a definite influence of Bauhaus on ‘Oceans’ album artwork. Who created it, and is there any particular meaning behind it?
Jimmy: Yes! It was a cool experience. We’re all digging Bauhaus, however they have no conscious influence on either music or artwork. The photo for the album cover was taken by a close friend of ours, Erik Undéhn, his work is very stylish and clean. We thought it would fit well as a contrast to the music. Industrial, clean and sterile meets the baroque, mysterious and shadowy, sort of. The motive is a big noisy bridge near where we live, work and play. It is like the vein of our daily dashing to and fro.
When I first heard your music I was stunned to read that you haven’t played the UK yet (I’m based in London). You’ve played Europe a great deal, but your sound has heartbroken notes of 80s (& beyond) post punk, new wave that has a ready made and welcoming home for you in the UK. Are there plans for a visit and tour?
Fernando: We’ve tried through the years to do it, both on our own or through booking agencies but it’s been quite hard. We’ve haven’t been huge enough for a larger audience I suppose. So we hope it can be possible now after the new album release.
And yeah, it’s no coincidence that the sound is very British, we all /specially I, listen to mostly English pop music, 80’s and 90’s stuff. I was a big Suede fan for example (and Nirvana) back in my youth so the first two Suede albums made a great impact on me and for my type of writing. Among other stuff too of course, and it’s important for us to do something as own as possible whatever the influences are. But sure, then working with their producer Ed Buller on the singles for “Choirs Of Blessed Youth” obviously affected the sound went a bit more in that British Psychedelic Furs/Suede-direction too.
The second single off ‘Oceans’ has a euphoric remix by Stockholm musician Big City Bright Light (another remix is by New Canyons). Are there any particular producers or artists that you would like to collaborate with?
Jimmy: Not sure about a producer, maybe we don’t need one really. It would be pretty cool to put Elizabeth Fraser’s heavenly voice on a couple of tracks. I would also love to share some studio tricks with Robin Guthrie. Too bad Bowie is not around anymore, otherwise he could probably make it on this list.
What does 2017 hold for Prinicipe Valiente, what are the plans and aims? Hopefully they include gigs in the UK.
Fernando: Now that the album is released, we are waiting for some feedback from bookers so we can start to plan some shows. And hopefully in the UK too of course.
But we’ll also work on new material already, we have a bunch of new ideas (the album was actually finished at the end of 2016) so we are pretty hungry on writing new stuff as well. Thank you!