‘The songs we make are heavily blues influenced but we wanted these songs to be bigger than before’
by Sara Seddon at The Bucket Playlist
Black River Delta, an alt rock blues band originating from Bollnäs, Sweden, kings of the dirty guitar punctuated with honest, emotional lyrics, will bring out their third studio album, Shakin’, on 4 June 2021.
The group consists of Erik Jacobs (vocals, guitars), Pontus Ohlsson (guitars, harmonica), Måns Lindblom (drums) and Josef Boding (bass). They all grew up in Bollnäs together: ‘There are only about 10,00 people, so finding other musicians was hard, you had to stick with the ones you had,’ Ohlsson joked. Their name is an amalgamation of several things, including their love of The Black Keys and Californian rock band, Delta Spirit.
Shakin’ comprises 11 tracks, three of which – ‘California Sun’, ‘Shakin’ and ‘Burning and Burning’ – have already been released as singles. ‘California Sun’ came out last month and was essentially written around Ohlsson’s riff: ‘We wrote it together, we wrote it around my riff of Em, A and B,’ he said. ‘The lyrics came later. We recorded it in Malmö and did the vocals and bass at our producer’s studio in LA, so the song is about that trip.’ The track kicks off with thumping drums before Ohlsson’s riff sweeps in and cranks up the pace. It’s impossible not to play it as loud as possible. I tell him how much I love the look of his guitar in the photo: ‘It’s a Hagström Viking. I’ve made small changes to it, other from that it’s all stock so you can buy one yourself!’
”California Sun’ is about finding out what you want in life, and how to get it,’ Ohlsson said. ‘That’s not as easy as it sounds but at least my take on this song is that it’s about finally figuring out what or who you want, and finding the courage to go out there and get it.’
‘A lot of our songs are about running away from something’
The album’s opening track, ‘Burning and Burning’, features bluesy, slightly grungy guitars and two themes that recur in several songs, escaping from something and broken relationships: ‘It’s something we can all relate to,’ Ohlsson said. ‘A lot of our songs are about running away from something or travelling. Erik wrote the lyrics to that one. We sing a lot about broken relationships!’
‘Shakin’ kicks off with the lyrics ‘I’ve got a strong shiver rolling up my arm, I’ve got a strong shiver rolling up my arm, I should’ve spread my net, I should’ve pulled my break, I’ve gotta strong shiver rolling up my arm’ and I ask him if it’s about addiction. ‘It leaves you hanging a bit,’ Ohlsson said. ‘My interpretation of it is that it’s about missing someone or something. The lyrics came in pieces. All of the songs we make are heavily blues influenced but we wanted these songs to be bigger than before.’
Some tracks, including ‘Midnight Train’, feature some stellar harmonica playing from Ohlsson who, astonishingly, taught himself to play it a month before they recorded their first album in 2015. ‘I practiced hard for a month, playing the harmonica is very close to singing, you use your voice and your lungs, your heart is in it.’
‘It’s about a man in freefall from addiction and trouble with his love life’
Another track on the upcoming album, ‘Solitary Man’, is one of the most sombre songs: ‘It’s about a man in freefall from addiction and trouble with his love life,’ Ohlsson said. ‘He’s a messy, messy man, a war veteran suffering addiction. Eric wrote the lyrics. He writes most of them and then we work on them together.’ One of my favourite songs on the album is actually one of the most pared back ones, ‘400 Hours’, which really allows Jacobs’ vocals to shine. It has something of the Wild West about it, with the powerful, drawn out and evocative chorus ‘I rest with a gun hole through my chest’.It would be easy to take the meaning literally and figuratively, so I ask Ohlsson which of the two meanings is most appropriate: ‘This is not based on a real story but have you ever had your heart broken and been left by the one you love? It can sometimes feel like you have replaced your heart with a gun hole,’ he said.
Ohlsson is a big fan of Swedish country blues singer, Ludwig Hart, and American rock band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: ‘They’re the reason we started a band and that’s also where the ‘black’ in our name comes from. It’s the same with The Black Keys, we really love them. Their album’s coming out May 14th, it’s called Delta Kream, so it also has a bit of our name in it,’ he said, sounding delighted. He’s also a big fan of Britpop, particularly Liam Gallagher and says he wishes he’d written his songs ‘Greedy Soul’ and ‘The River’: ‘I’ve had that album (Why Me? Why Not.) on a loop.’ He also recommends American singer songwriter JD McPherson, whose retro sound is rooted in the rock and roll, rockabilly, and rhythm and blues music of the 50’s: ‘He’s a riff god, a rockabilly guy. Listen to ‘Lucky Penny’, it’s so good.’ If he could tour with anyone, he picks The Black Keys: ‘Who else?,’ he laughed. ‘The atmosphere would be great. I saw them in 2013, they were incredible.’
(Photo from left to right: Pontus, Måns, Erik and Josef)
this story first appeared on: https://inthebucketplaylist.com/ on May 20th 2021