Normandie: “I’d rather sink while having a new cool album that I enjoy, instead of being the band that gets stuck.”

Normandie: “I’d rather sink while having a new cool album that I enjoy, instead of being the band that gets stuck.”

By Gem Rogers

Jul 22, 2019 13:00

A little over three years ago, a small band from Stockholm, Sweden had just announced some of the biggest news of their career - their debut album had been released only a few months earlier, and now they were going to be heading out as main support on the final ever European tour by one of the biggest rock bands of a generation.

Three years later, that same band are in a sunny field in the Cotswolds to play their third UK festival in as many years, with a hugely successful headline tour in support of sophomore album ‘White Flag’ topping off three years of hard work – hard work that is undoubtedly paying off.

“The Yellowcard tour was the foundation I think,” says vocalist Philip Strand, as he sits down with drummer Anton Franzon at 2000trees Festival to talk all things Normandie with us (complete with some warm beer – it’s one of those rare hot British summer days).

“We did a UK headline tour before that and it was quite good, like 100 every night, and that was the first tour we ever did in the UK. I’d say the Yellowcard did the most [to increase our fanbase].”

Since that Yellowcard tour, things haven’t slowed down much for Normandie. Alongside the release of singles ‘Ghost’ and ‘Pay For This’, bassist Lucas Englund joined the band on a permanent basis shortly before a co-headline tour with friend and former tourmate William Ryan Key, and in July 2018 Anton Franzon stepped in following the departure of founding member Jesper Malmberg. With Franzon having already joined Normandie as a touring drummer previously, the result has been a band who form a tighter unit than ever before, and their live performances have continued to go from strength to strength.

“The Hands Like Houses tour opened so many eyes,” Philip says of the impact of some of their most recent tours, “cause we seem to share the exact same fanbase, so it’s not becoming one of those situations where you have to fight over the audience – you just join them in one big good night. And the White Flag tour! Every single tour. It keeps on growing!”

It’s not only their tours that have stepped up a notch, either. ‘White Flag’, released at the end of October, was a huge step forward for the band; where ‘Inguz’ pulled primarily on the influences of their metalcore roots, their second full length twists and turns through a stimulating ride of styles. The heavier core is still there – with tracks like ‘Dead’ and ‘Moth’ providing some of their best breakdowns to date – but there are no attempts to stay confined to a genre-labelled box. That it still forms such a cohesive collection of songs is testament to the passion that has been poured into the writing, and it has reflected in the reception Normandie have seen since its release.

“I guess people can feel that it came more from the heart than Inguz did because Inguz was such a rushed experience,” Philip agrees, speaking of the complete rewrite that was required on ‘Inguz’ following the sudden departure of two original members. “It was still an honest album, but White Flag took two years so there’s a big difference there. So it might be that, that people can actually feel like we’re more proud of this album in different regards.”

And they have good reason to be proud. After singles ‘Ghost’ and ‘Pay For This’ were gathered into a Gold Edition of ‘Inguz’, ‘White Flag’ represented a fresh start for Normandie; a chance to make their identity clear, and the opportunity was not wasted. Second single ‘White Flag’ is an unquenchable anthem, but more than that, its heartfelt lyrics about the end of a broken relationship are full of vivid imagery – “I’m breaking up my heart in two / getting rid of every part of you / we are standing in a burning field of clover”.

It was also one of the quickest tracks to come together for the album, as Strand explains; “White Flag was written on a bass only. Me and Håkan [Almbladh, guitarist] had a track previously that was called ‘Signs’, and we just took the verse and started jamming on a bass guitar and started recording on my phone. We just improvised the melody for the whole thing, and like 90% of that recording ended up being the final track. So it was one of those times we just sat down and everything worked fluently.”

From the summery pop (‘Keep Fucking It Up’), the thundering rock anthems (‘Enough’, ‘(Don’t) Need You’), to the downright heavy, (‘Maniacs’, ‘Moth’), the heart that Strand speaks of is clear to see, but nowhere more so than on the almost unexpected ballad ‘The Bell’. Nestled in the middle of the album, it’s the first time the Swedes have used their native language – and though different to their usual upbeat style, the song’s beautiful, layered sounds have been exceptionally well received since it was incorporated into their live shows. Other ‘White Flag’ tracks that have been making an appearance in the setlist include ‘Dead’ and ‘(Don’t) Need You’, but with so many to choose from, what of the other tracks on the album?

“I’d love to play Heaven,” says Anton. And is there any chance it’ll make an appearance in future live shows?

“Maybe!” Philip nods. “I think the first in line is Moth, that’s the most wanted song that’s not on the setlist right now. And maybe Keep Fucking It Up, because we’re not doing Starting New anymore, which has a summery poppy vibe, so I kinda miss that easy going pop-rock thing. So we might squeeze in Keep Fucking It Up.”

They may both be keen to play ‘Heaven’ in future, but the album closer was also the trickiest one to get right – “It was a completely different track from the beginning and I struggled to find a place for it on the album,” Philip explains. “I had the whole chorus bit figured out, but it was the verses and the structure of the whole song took a long time. But it came out good – it’s one of my favourites now actually. The build up for the first chorus, I always get hooked on that.”

Normandie: “I’d rather sink while having a new cool album that I enjoy, instead of being the band that gets stuck.”

It’s easy enough, in a world obsessed with categorising everything, to throw a ‘Rock’ label at Normandie’s music – though it doesn’t feel like that even begins to cover what can actually be expected from a dip into their growing back catalogue. It makes sense, then, to learn that the four listen to a wide variety of music, not just from the scene they reside in – “I’m listening to Ariana Grande! That’s my jam right now,” Anton grins (he’s also wearing a frankly glorious ‘Sweetener’ t-shirt).

“I’m listening to a lot of Khalid right now,” adds Philip. “His new album is absolutely amazing, it’s out of this world. A lot of guitar is in that too, which is good. I’ve missed guitars in the RnB scene for a while.”

Those influences and their passion for music seeps through into their own creations – guitarist Håkan has previously credited his love of British rock legends Muse and their ever-evolving sound as a key inspiration, and fans were recently treated to a series of re-imagined ‘White Flag’ tracks, coinciding with the start of their March headline tour.

“We did four different versions; synthwave, I did drum and bass, folk rock, and like ambient pop, and it was such fun so I think we’re going to do that again,” Philip says of ‘White Flag (Reimagined)’. And the motivation behind the EP? “We wanted to try something new, and different,” says Anton. Philip agrees – “Yeah, a bunch of bands, they release an album and then a bit afterwards they go in and play like acoustic guitar in a studio and they record that, or whatever.”

“I mean it’s cool and it seems like a bunch of people enjoy the acoustic versions of tracks,” he continues, “but it felt more like we wanted to do something weird, cause that’s what I’m missing the most in the metal/rock genre – people stepping out of their comfort zone.”

It’s those steps out of the comfort zone that make Normandie such a refreshing change, in a world of bands that play it safe. They aren’t completely alone – the past twelve months have seen bands like Hands Like Houses, Emarosa, and most notably Bring Me The Horizon all take leaps away from their ‘established sound’ – but to come out of the gate and immediately follow an evolving path in such a bold, and yet fully organic, way is uncommon. It’s not all serious business, though… Aside from being infuriatingly catchy, their synthwave reimagining of ‘(Don’t) Need You’ also comes with a retro video that’s all the introduction you need to these Swedes’ sense of humour (and if you try to claim that you don’t want to learn these dance moves, we don’t believe you).

It’s safe to say that if there’s one thing we can expect from Normandie in future, it’s that they will never take the easy route – and their passion for music that is both new and exciting comes across clearly in conversation. “There’s so much going on right now with bands, not to name any bands, but there’s a lot of staying in the safe zone, and speaking to the audience that you already have. You know it’s not going to help by just throwing pyros on stage, you’ve got to evolve your sound and try new stuff and see what happens,” Philip says.

“You might end up with a cool clash, like Nirvana just finding the centrepiece of pop and grunge – that’s what I like about the new Khalid album, he’s sort of coming from an RnB, The Weeknd style, but stepping into like 90s rock style mixed in. That’s what I like about music sometimes, you can find a new genre all of a sudden. Like Skrillex came with a whole new genre, I think what Billie Eilish is doing right now is also the same thing, you’re kind of finding the middle grounds in between pop and punk and RnB, and Yungblud is another one like that.”

And when it comes to Normandie?

“I think it’s boring when people get stuck in the same sound for ages. There’s a bunch of bands out there releasing the same album over and over again and I don’t want to become that band. I’d rather sink while having a new cool album that I enjoy, instead of being the band that gets stuck. I hate that.”

Normandie: “I’d rather sink while having a new cool album that I enjoy, instead of being the band that gets stuck.”

You might expect that, after such a big year so far, the four might want to take a break for a little while before gearing up for album number three – but when talking about their ambitions for the next year, rest is clearly not something on their minds. “I want to tour a lot!” Anton smiles.

“Yeah, me too. Tour more than this year, I think. More festivals for sure. I want to do Glastonbury next year cause now we’ve done Download, and Reading + Leeds, and now 2000trees. We want to do Slam Dunk, and Glastonbury, and then I guess we’re going to do way more in Germany.”

The inclusion of more German tours will likely be down to booking agents Avocado Booking, who the band switched to earlier this year – with an impressive roster that features some of the biggest and best names in the business, including Parkway Drive, Comeback Kid, and Crystal Lake, the team’s base in Munich is perfectly placed for making the best of the thriving scene in the country. Normandie are already no strangers to Germany – their first ever sold out headline show was in Cologne earlier this year – and, having spent a significant amount of time over in the UK in recent years, they’re keen to spread their wings a little more across the continent.

“We’ve been favouring the UK for a long time, we’ve toured here three times this year and we might do a fourth one this fall. We have a few options to pick from for support slots. So we’re just overtoured in the UK, so I think we’re going to give you a little bit of a let down next year and maybe come back and do festivals, and maybe headlines, I don’t know.”

Philip is definitely keen to emphasise his desire to play one particular legendary UK festival, though – “The ambition for me is Glastonbury. I’m just going to put it out there… Hit us up! We’ll pack a tent, let’s go!”

When asked about favourite moments at festivals they’ve already played, Anton is quick to answer – “Reading was amazing. It was incredible.” Their set in The Pit/Lock Up tent last year was a huge moment for the band; not only did it run perfectly with one of their strongest performances, but the tent was packed with enthusiastic fans at one of the biggest music festivals in Europe.

“Set wise, I’d say Reading, that was my favourite set,” says Philip. “That and Leeds Key Club the other week [the band played a headline show there as part of the run up to 2000trees]! Those two are I think are my top two favourite gigs of all time.”

From the beginning, Normandie always put their all into delivering a powerful live performance, and now have a growing reputation for high energy and high quality shows; each tour has seen an improvement in their skill and, together with their anthemic, stadium-filling songs and keen attention to detail in the form of lighting, they are a band well poised to take on the world. And what of album number three – they’ve already been teasing on social media that demos are in the making, so what direction will they be taking this time?

“I think the best answer is to listen to the cover we released today,” says Philip – on the day we spoke, the band had just released a cover of Zara Larsson’s ‘All The Time’. “I think that’s the best way to describe the new album. I’m going back to doing a bit more high vocals again like on ‘Believe’, I’m going to push it higher than on ‘White Flag’.”

Following the largely guitar-led ‘White Flag’, the approach to the forthcoming third album will be a little different, too, as Philip explains – “A lot of the songwriting [is going] into the drums and the vocals, and [letting] the guitars and the bass just sort of fit in. I think that’s the way we start every single track on the new album actually, drums and vocals, and a bit of synths and guitars in there as well.”

All four members of Normandie have the kind of warmth and easy-going friendliness that makes time spent chatting fly by, but all good things must come to an end – with a packed schedule ahead before their set the following day, there’s just time to squeeze in one more question… As guest appearances from other artists remain an ever-popular album feature, who would be top of the dream list for Normandie?

“Hayley Williams,” answers Philip, without skipping a beat.

“That would be sick,” Anton agrees, as Philip continues – “For something heavier I’d like Loz from While She Sleeps, or Sam Carter. But I think I’d be up for Hayley the most.”

Whether it comes with guest appearances or not, the future is bright for Normandie. Like the sense of fluttering anticipation at the start of a rollercoaster, it feels like we are joining them at the beginning of something huge – and this is a coaster that’s only going up. Exactly where we’ll go along the way is yet to be determined, but it’s guaranteed to be the wildest and most exciting of rides. Jump on board, and you won’t regret a moment.

‘White Flag’ is available now on CD and Vinyl here.