The Bucket Playlist’s interview with Two Year Vacation

‘We came out of the studio with four songs about dreaming of music with a cocktail in our hands’

by Sara Seddon at The Bucket Playlist

Gothenburg-based tropical pop band, Two Year Vacation, will release their EP, ‘Getting Into Real Estate’, in October, their tales of growing up in a small town, set to a jingly jangly backdrop that will make you want kick back with a cocktail in your hand and dream of summer.

The band comprises Jacob Ahlstrand (vocals), Max Hessman (keys), Johan Magnusson (guitar), György Barocsai (bass) and David Furbacken (drums). György and Max met at school at choir practice but didn’t really talk to each other until a decade later at the music studio where György works when Max came in with his former band. ‘We’re the only founding fathers left in the band,’ Max grinned. ‘We’ve had a number of configurations because at the beginning there’s a lot of searching for your sound but we’ve had the current group for about five years.’ They took their name from the Jules Verne novella, ‘Two Years’ Vacation’, which is essentially a Lord of the Flies type of story about a bunch of schoolboys stranded on a desert island. ‘It comes from the kids killing each other,’ György joked. ‘We haven’t done that yet!’

‘We went into the studio during some – to Gothenburg – rare, extremely hot summer days in 2020 and blended all the sounds that inspired us mid-pandemic’

They say of their upcoming EP, Getting Into Real Estate, that they have been letting themselves dive deep into a common existential crisis where they realized that they’re no big shareholders, they don’t own any designer houses or fast cars. As they put it: ‘We went into the studio during some – to Gothenburg – rare, extremely hot summer days in 2020 and blended all the sounds that inspired us mid-pandemic. We came out of the studio with four songs about dreaming of music with a cocktail in our hands. We’re Two Year Vacation and we’re getting into the real estate.’

As such, they are going against the grain in a city better known for its heavy metal scene. Next up is their second single from the EP, ‘Come Over When You Want’, which will come out on 16 July. ‘It’s about if you want to comfort someone,’ György said. Max interjects: ‘It’s about comfort and the general vibe of small town-ness,’ he said. ‘The whole EP has that feel. This song implies you live close to somebody because if someone can just come over, they probably live close by. I think it’s about childhood but also in a romantic way. It’s quite similar, instrumentation-wise to ‘What Goes Around’ but it has more dynamics. It starts softly and gets big.’

Earlier this month, they released the first single from the EP, ‘What Goes Around’, which Jacob described as ‘an arena anthem about growing up’: ‘The song is about the life choices and routes possible from growing up in a small town,’ he said. ‘Some tried their hardest to become something else, just anything else, really. Others stayed the same.’ Giorgio added: ‘We’re all from small towns, there wasn’t much to do, so we started playing in small bands. The ‘what goes around’ is saying that if you’re an arsehole in a small town, it comes back to you.’

As the song kicks off: ‘Dark eyes, you got me feeling that way. Alright, you fill my head with chemicals, hey. Lately I’ve been doing okay, I’m counting stars like one, two, three. Tied up you got me feeling that way.’

Another single will also come out before the EP launch and has a very different feel to it, according to Max: ‘The song, ‘Major in Broken Hearts’, has a duality, it has two themes: the lyrical theme, which is about a year abroad and the musical theme, which has more of a classical vibe.’ György joins in: ‘We went to Vienna a couple of years ago, it was Max’s birthday, we went to a concert. After that, we started thinking about adding something classical in.’ Max interjects: ‘Yes, we’ve used a cembalo, we’ve added a teaspoon of Mozart!’ György is laughing: ‘Yes, with white wigs!’

‘It’s the heavy one, I feel that we finally managed to do a beautiful song’

However, Max’s favourite song on the album is the final track, ‘The Wake Up Call’: ‘It’s the heavy one, I feel that we finally managed to do a beautiful song.’ György adds: ‘Max and I were in the rehearsal room, we started to sing the chorus line and we had the overwhelming feeling about the melody and words. It was even more amazing when Jacob came in. His lyrics were different but we kept that chorus line.’ Max joins in: ‘We contacted a really good string arranger – he’s worked with Taylor Swift -and he did an amazing string arrangement for us with violins, violas and cellos.’

If he could collaborate with anyone, György picks Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian operatic tenor who died in 2007. ‘That would be so much fun, his voice was so amazing, so beautiful. We could just stand behind him and play our guitars and keyboards.’ Max is trying to decide: ‘There are so many! I’d like to be able to work with someone like Brian Eno, what he did with Talking Heads, combining disco with something more eternal.’

Two Year Vacation is a band born out of contrasts. The quintet was formed in Sweden’s second city, a seaport known for its rain, headwind and greyness. Their jangly indie pop has been inspired by musical influences ranging from ABBA to Fatboy Slim through to early Daft Punk, MGMT, Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Peter Björn & John. They say they thrive from finding the bright colours in between the tones of grey. With inspiration from daily routines and dreams, they make music that travels in a fascinating blend of disco and rock, through their beachy, joyful rhythms wrapped in tropical vibes that sometimes disguise darker lyrics.

György’s job as a record producer also gives them access to a recording studio, which means they are able to spend a lot of time there tweaking songs. ‘He knows a lot of tricks!,’ Max laughed. ‘We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of time in the studio, so we’ve had the opportunity to be thorough and to re-record songs until we’re happy with them.’

‘We have a lot of toy keyboards!’

They also have an impressive arsenal of kit. Max disappears momentarily and comes back with one of his favourite instruments to show me: ‘The big thing is that we find toy instruments,’ he said, showing me a red keyboard. ‘We have a lot of toy keyboards! This is a Keytar from Yamaha from 1986, it’s a big part of our sound. We layer toy keyboards, if we have a melody and feel it should have a special sound, we do an overdub to get the sound and the volume.’

I tell them that their songs are extremely distinctive and that you only need to hear a few bars to know it’s them. ‘It’s nice to hear you can recognise our songs,’ said Max. ‘When we start a session, we want the next album to be something new. We might even change all the instruments but then at the end, it sounds the same!,’ he laughed. ‘The songwriting is a huge part of it, it sets the mood and the melodies, it sets the other processes off in a direction.’ György is nodding and looks at Max: ‘It might be fun to fool around and take some sounds out!’

After releasing two self-funded EPs, Two Year Vacation joined forces with Hamburg-based label Clouds Hill and Warner Music Germany to produce their album Slacker Island, which was released in 2019. Last year, they released their singles ‘Don’t Know Anybody Else’ and ‘Never Been To Paris’, as well as the four track EP Bedroom Rock, which marked the first part of their sophomore album, Laundry Day, which came out last October.

‘Whenever we go on tour, we meet someone who knows a band from here or a friend of ours!’

Locally, they are fans of electronic band, Little Dragon, as well as folk singer José González. ‘We are very fond of Viagra Boys (a local punk band), they have something unique. We really like Diskopunk from Stockholm (who describe their sound as ‘drug-infused ABBA’),’ Max said. We chat for a while about how interconnected the music community is globally and how what a great thing that is: ‘Our first tour was very small, when you do that, you realise that you meet the same people,’ Max said. György agrees: ‘Whenever we go on tour, we meet someone who knows a band from here or a friend of ours!’

György’s most treasured musical possession is his Epiphone Flying V guitar, which he fetches to show me. It’s a beautiful bronze coloured guitar. ‘I’ve been dreaming of having one of these bass guitars, I found it five years ago. I’ve used it in every song since.’ Max is smiling: ‘After every show, people will come up to him to say how much they like it.’ Max is struggling to name just one thing: ‘I love so many things that we have but I’ll stick with the nostalgic Arturia MiniBrute, the first completely analogue synth that I bought. It’s cheap and there are better ones but I’m emotionally attached to it and I know how to tweak it to sound just like I want.’ György looks at him: ‘Didn’t you say that there’s a screw loose and that you can hear it?,’ he asks Max, who laughs: ‘Yeah, it’s falling apart, it’s a pain in the arse but I don’t want to open it in case I destroy the magic!’

If he could hear one of their songs anywhere, Max picks playing on the former Letterman show. György, however, has other plans: ‘I’d like to hear one of our songs on the news after – no during – some sad news – to cheer people up.’

The best gig György ever went to was by Arcade Fire, a Canadian indie rock band. ‘It was a couple of years ago, they’re absolutely one of my favourite bands. It was such a massive experience for me.’ Max picks Berlin-based musician and composer Nils Frahm, who is best known for combining classical and electronic music: ‘He was just breaking then, it was around his first record (around 2011). I got there early, thinking it would be really busy, but it was just me and four other people who wanted to see him. I was entranced but my girlfriend fell asleep!’

this story first appeared on: https://inthebucketplaylist.com/ on June 17th 2021

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