This noisy US duo had already impressed me with their recent CD and their energetic gig recently in Helsinki didn’t sound any differently – but simply let’s have those 2 introduce themselves, in perfect teamwork:
I’m Greg…and I’m Kyrsten…. and we are MAGNUSON, the instrument switching, guy/girl progressive rock duo from Los Angeles, CA.
Do you have some connections to Scandinavia, as your names suggest?
Yes, the band started as a solo project and when it became a band, it was easiest to just shorten the name to MAGNUSON. It’s a Swedish last name from Greg’s great-grandfather emigrated to the US from Blekinge, Sweden in the 1900’s. As a result, he was on the first season of the Swedish reality show Allt för Sverige.
What was your first time in Finland like, how does it feel now after several times?
It was really interesting. We had toured the previous year in Sweden and some of Greg’s family has ties to Finland so we were really excited to see what Finland was like. It was familiar but also different in many ways. We toured in Finland first in 2013 and we played in Helsinki and Oulu. We discovered Long Drink (“lonkkero” – gin and lemon soda, the ed.), saunas, and visited Santa’s house in Rovaniemi. Now we feel very at home, we have made so many amazing friends over the years that each time we visit it feels like we’ve never left. And we still love saunas. –
Which Finnish words did you learn?
Well, it is still quite a challenging language but we do our best to have a few phrases at our disposal. Kiitos, hauska tavata, anteeksi, and the ever important kippis! (which means Thank You, Nice to meet you, Sorry and Cheers/Bottoms Up, the ed.)
How did you find your musical style, or did the style find you?
We had the basic foundations of a prog rock aesthetic mixed with elements of accessibility, but were kind of forced into our instrument-switching duo mode. The first tour we booked was confronted by some line up challenges and rather than cancelling the tour, we just decided to do it as a duo. We experimented with some new pedals and discovered the Roland synth pedal and basically that solved our problems by allowing us to still play the low bass frequencies live.
How did you decide on becoming musicians; was it a particular band, a song, or some other reasons?
We both were raised in musical households with musical parents. Greg started playing guitar and bass basically because his neighbour started and he proved it was possible. He got inspired listening to bands like The Smiths, Primus, and Meshuggah. Kyrsten started due to a love of music at an early age and always wanted to learn how to play so that she could create her own. One day she had free time and found her mom’s old guitar in the closet along with a Beatles song book, and decided to teach herself 1 song at a time until she could play through the entire book.
How did you find each other?
We met at a music program at church, we needed to share a microphone since they didn’t have enough and found we enjoyed many of the same bands. We became good friends and then the rest is history.
When writing songs, how do you decide who will play which instrument?
That’s one of our most popular questions! Usually, it’s a matter of who gets what idea on what instrument. Greg might write a drum beat and then Kyrsten might jump in with a riff on guitar. But probably most often, one of us has an idea on the guitar and the other person figures out a drum beat. From there someone will come up with a melody idea and we’ll record some rough demos and just listen to them for ideas. Harmonies come sometime after that…but usually while we’re recording.
Is writing lyrics also done as teamwork?
It’s a team effort but often led by one or the other. Someone will have some ideas and write them out. Then the other person has some input, makes suggestions or changes…and then we’ll see how it feels in the studio. More adjustments…and done.
You work and live together, tour together etc, so what you do when you do need some “alone-time”?
We both have activities we pursue on our own. Kyrsten loves to sew and knit, and Greg trains in Krav Maga so we get some time apart. We also like to have alone time when we’re writing so we’ll go to our different corners and work on ideas separately and then put them together. But luckily we like spending time together, so we have a great time even when we are working.
What do you do when you don’t play music live and travel the world?
We train in HEMA longsword, go hiking & camping, surf, snowboard, cook delicious food, go wine tasting, and binge watch shows on the internet.
Is there any band you dream of touring with, or a festival where you would like to perform but could not (yet)?
Opeth, Muse, Solstafir, HIM….there are so many good bands it’s hard to say. As far festivals, Sweden Rock has always been a goal as it is down the street from Greg’s ancestral family land, and Iceland Airwaves. Its hard to narrow it down though….there are a ton of amazing rock and metal festivals in Finland and throughout Europe…we’d love to play all of them.
And finally: When will you come back to Finland again?
We are working on a new EP right now and plan to release it sometime next year. For touring, we’re looking at a few options. We may come back in 2018 or we may focus on US touring. But we hope to be back soon for some more Long Drink and saunas!