A Nighthawk

Just a few hours before their second child was born, Ted Malmros and Sarah Snavely of indie pop duo A Nighthawk finished their second EP Here We Are Out In The Open. We caught up with the couple to learn more.

Ted Malmros, usually bassist in Shout Out Louds, and Sarah Snavely from brother sister duo Dag för Dag, first met in 2006. Seven years later they’ve not just made two children together, but also two EPs. The first one, Until I Faltered, I Wasn’t Free, was released in June 2012, and in two weeks they drop their seoncd one, entitled Here We Are Out In The Open.

– Ted and I started writing music together out in the Stockholm archipelago during the summer of 2011, Sarah says. Both of our other bands, Shout Out Louds and Dag för Dag, were going through slow periods at the time and Ted started playing bass along to some of my broken guitar ideas. We had talked about writing music together since we met in 2006, but it wasn’t until our first child had been born and a few years had passed between us before the music arrived.

Where did you take the name A Nighthawk from?
– I was going through a sort of creative crisis when I met Sibille Attar, Sarah says. She had emailed me in the spring of 2011, asking me to play with her at one of her gigs. It was at one of the rehearsals for this gig, late on a very rainy Friday night, in a room full of exhausted musicians, that someone yelled out, completely out of nowhere, NIGHTHAWK! just as we prepared to run through the final song. The sound of that word in the crowded air hit home, and A Nighthawk was born.

Ted Malmros and Sarah Snavely. Photo by Carl Von Arbin.

Restrained when it comes to arrangements and production, but dense with harmonies and echoey reverb, A Nighthawk’s music is a unique blend of organic rhytms, taut beats, and shimmering pop melodies.

– Our sound has been a discovery through limitations. Not having endless amounts of time to write and rehearse, not having a drummer, not having copious amounts of money to use in the recording process. Our limitations push us forwards. A good friend loaned us a beautiful dusty old drum machine, which provides plenty of inspiration. And as ever, the darkness inside and plenty of echoey reverb keep the music coming.

How do you two work together?
– Most of our songs are written in our practice space in central Stockholm. If we are lucky enough, we find ourselves together down there, in which case the songs evolve through playing around. Ted on bass, me on synth or guitar, the drum machine banging on consistently in the background.

48 hours after I recorded the final vocals, our second child was born

–  I have also been spending time there alone, writing along to the drum machine, a loop pedal, and bass or guitar. Then Ted comes down and throws some ideas at my idea, and a song presents itself. In the past, most of the lyrics have come to me during the jamming process, but for our upcoming album I’m challenging myself to take the lyrics away from the rehearsal space in order to really perfect them, to figure out just what the hell it is I am trying to say.

In two weeks you release your second EP Here We Are Out In The Open. How did it come about?
– Our first EP, Until I Faltered, I Wasn’t Free, bled darkness. It sang sorrowful, forbidden, sad songs. For this second EP, we were both filled with so much more light. I felt like I was finally standing outside, not hiding in some dark internal place where no one could find me, but out in the open, with the air and sun and all the elements beating beautifully upon me. These songs came from this place.

– They were very rough sketches when we met with the producers, and over the course of 14 sound-filled days together, we fine-tuned, recorded and made the songs as they are now. And 48 hours after I recorded the final vocals, our second child was born. A very special time.

A Nighthawk. Photo by Carl Von Arbin.
A Nighthawk. Photo by Carl Von Arbin.

Produced by Björn Yttling and Mark Ephraim, Here We Are Out In The Open also features contributions by artists such as Asha Ali, Sibille Attar, and Sabina Ddumbas.

– Björn and Ted have worked together through the years, and I have always been in awe of the work Björn produces. He invited us to release our first EP on the Ingrid label, and when it was time for us to think about recording the second, we asked him if he could recommend anyone good to work with. He said, “Give me some time in July and we’ll sort something out.” So that’s what we did. We went to the Ingrid studio, met Mark, who had escaped to Stockholm from Brooklyn for the summer with his Swedish wife and son. For me, working with Mark was such a homecoming. My American blood was so overjoiced to be in the presence of another shit-talking, let’s-bang-on-those-drums-and-make-some-noise American. Thankfully we had the Scandinavian level-headedness of Ted, Björn and John Eriksson, on drums, to bring us back down to the ground when we started floating off on some Yankee Doodle joy ride.

– The three incredible women who sang on a few of the songs are all friends with very distinctive voices, which we felt suited the mood of the EP. Each and every person I work with in the writing/recording process becomes a very integral part of the music, an irreplaceable element, a member of A Nighthawk’s heart and soul.

Do you have any other thoughts on the future that you can share?
– The musical future contains A Nighthawk’s first full-length album, which we’re writing right now, with hopes of releasing in the spring. We are playing a few Swedish shows this autumn and winter and intend to keep on keeping on, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Music is blood.

Here We Are Out In The Open will be released on Stockholm-based label Ingrid on November 6, but you can already listen to it below. On November 23, A Nighthawk will perform at Debaser Medis in Stockholm.

Photos by Carl Von Arbin.