Azure Blue

Tobias Isaksson is the main man behind Swedish dream pop band Azure Blue. His latest album Beyond The Dreams There’s Infinite Doubt sounds like a slice of sixties sunshine, but lyrically something much more melancholy is going on. We met to find out what.

Can you describe how your new record is different from the last one?
– The first album was looking back at my time in Gothenburg after I’d moved to Stockholm and I had a very positive energy that came from the move, because I love it here, he says. I joke about being part seal and there’s water everywhere in Stockholm. But the new album is lyrically much darker, I met a girl and we broke up and that story is part of the album. It’s much more here and now, much more present, and it’s very melancholy. There was melancholy on the first album too but it had hindsight, like ‘hey everything’s ok because I’m in this city now’, but on the new album there are some very dramatic sequences. On one song I sing about bringing three former loves to Stockholm and burying them right next to the Liljeholmen bridge… and now there’s four of them.

It’s much more here and now,
much more present,
and it’s very melancholy

So were you ending your relationship while you made the record?
– No, I finished the album a long time ago. The producer I work with, Claes Björklund, is very very busy and I got some studio time with him in March so I had to have it ready by then. He’s booked up all year and he played on the Ellen Degeneres show yesterday actually, he laughs. Anyway I had a deadline for March so I did most of the album at home.

Can you tell us what that process is like?
– Well, I do most of it at home first; I’m a control freak so I wanted my co-producer to know how I think before we start adding and taking away. He has a wonderful jungle of vintage synthesizers, but I started it at home and all those beats are intact, the way I made them. On the first album I didn’t have any equipment, but now I’ve started to build a home studio and I’ve recorded and remixed about thirty songs so I got pretty good. Actually this is my sixth album in total, because I used to record for Labrador Records. So I’m used to working in a studio, but I never got to touch the knobs myself before, so now it’s more fun.

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Tobias Isaksson. Photo by Mathilda Österlund.

Is it important for you to do some of the production yourself?
– Yes, because sometimes you can listen to a track that you haven’t mixed and feel like a stranger in your own song. But I think Azure Blue is going to be a collaboration with Claes for the next album too.

And now you’re getting some interest from other countries too.
– Yeah, I’ve got a network of journalists who seem to be discovering my music. The UK and US are printing stuff about me and I’ve been playing there too. But both in America and England they’re stuck on my Labrador legacy and indie pop, and when people there listen to indie pop they differentiate it from everything else. Here we listen to everything and because of Spotify’s influence it’s become very eclectic, Swedish people listen to Bob Dylan and Drake, and everything. That’s how I listen at home.

You can hear that on your record, it can go from a sixties pop song to something that sounds like an eighties movie soundtrack.
– Yeah, people think it sounds like the Beach Boys because a lot of the melodies are really easy to listen to. The sixties was a ‘don’t bore us get to the chorus’ decade, but the eighties had a lot of hits too I guess, and you’re right about the movie thing because I’m a big film buff, we even tried to make the sleeve look like a movie poster. But in terms of sound I’ve tried to mix styles on my record to create my own kind of dance music.

You’re one of the resident DJs at the Weekday store in Stockholm, do you play dance music when you DJ too?
– Well, it depends, if I play in a bar I play stuff that’s easy to listen to, and I play a lot of eighties as well, always things with good melodies.

Do you prefer playing live to DJing?
– Not really, I like them both. If I’m on tour I feel like I might as well DJ somewhere too, but in the past I got so drunk that I got thrown out of my own DJ nights so it got a bit decadent. My VJ buys shots and it gets out of control, if I’m part seal then he’s mostly alcohol, he laughs.

Both your DJ sets and your live shows get a really positive response, what do you think it is that people like about your sound?
– I think it’s because I do something really personal, so you get to know me from one track or one interview. And I pay the journalists, he laughs.

Listen to Azure Blue’s latest album Beyond The Dreams There’s Infinite Doubt here.

Photos by Mathilda Österlund.

The video for Time Is On Our Side is directed by David Kaijser and produced by Loyal Palace STHLM.