Name: Principe Valiente
Members: Fernando Honorato, Jimmy Ottosson, Rebecka Johansson, Joakim Janthe
Interviewees: Fernando Honorato, Jimmy Ottosson
Occupations: Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter (Fernando Honorato), guitarist, programmer, songwriter (Jimmy Ottosson)
Current release: Principe Valiente's Barricades is out via Metropolis.
If you enjoyed this interview with Principe Valiente and would like to find out more, visit the band's official homepage. They're also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Fernando: Well, the impulse for me comes from restlessness I think. When I write songs it calms me. So that’s the primal need in doing this. And I want to create something that I will listed myself to a lot. Like my influences and teenage idols.
The ideas come mostly from theories about things, often personal relations, intimacy, hopes and fears. Then, during the process, I can realise that the mood of the song maybe reminds me of something specific from other bands or from a movie. And often from bands I unconsciously have as influences. So it’s pretty much out of my control, and it’s a quite interesting thing to experience.
Jimmy: Music is a perfect thing to channel creativity into. I have always been curious about the process of creating music and the techniques that leads to a certain theme of mood. Music is like a companion alongside ordinary life and work that always listens to inspiration and allows for a temporary escape from reality (or sometimes to bring me back to it).
The biggest non-musical inspiration might be film, but really anything that has a certain vibe. Never about politics, reasoning or even words.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Fernando: Good question, for me it needs to be concrete ideas, a vocal melody in my head or a few chords that feels promising. And then just take it from there. And along the journey discover what kind of song it would be. So it’s actually something that just happens and if it feels good I continue in that direction.
Jimmy: Well, there is always a vision and a goal, but the final result is never the same as the initial idea. Even the smallest embryos of a song has its own story to tell, so it kind of becomes a two-way communication if you only listen. A part requests a counterpart and the natural or unexpected transition in between is what makes the song in the end.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Fernando: Well, me and Jimmy do early demo versions to begin with, then we send them to each other and see which ways are the best. Then occasionally we rehearse them with the whole band or like with Barricades just record them "for real" to the album from there.
As for preparation, in my case it's just inspiration or to just force myself to sit with an idea, even if I’m not in the mood sometimes at that specific moment. Then after a while the inspiration and many ideas comes to my head during that time. It can happen during two sessions or just after 15 minutes. It’s a great feeling, when time stops and you’re really into the song. I usually tend to keep the music composing and the lyrics writing separate, in different "sessions".
The approach of waiting for the inspiration to come before I begin with an idea doesn’t happen that often as it did in my youth. The grown-up life with daytime job etc doesn't give me that mental time anymore I suppose.
Jimmy: What Fernando said, although we have a very different approach to the process. I could never force myself to sit with an idea, at least physically. A lot of the work is done while going along with daily life. An idea pops up one hot Summer day at the beach or from something you hear on the radio while driving home in your bathing trunks.
Distractions are not all bad because they let you linger on an idea for some time before you press the pen to the paper so to speak.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Fernando: Well, I don’t read that much these days but sometimes stuff from William Blake can come to mind. Or something by Bukowski, which I read a lot of in the past.
But I don’t have more specific rituals, besides just sitting down and seeing what comes out. Mostly in the evenings, but also daytime, specially during winter. I feel more calm on those periods of the year. Actually going for a long walk or running keeps my head clean and fresh as well.
Jimmy: I love books, and I have read a lot of them in my life. But I think it serves other purposes than for musical inspiration. Although Blake has been a reference point in our work sometimes, when exploring the lands of borderline madness, the timeless wisdom and those colourful visions he was able to create.
Can’t think of any certain rituals, but I would rather get up early and have a good walk through the forest before a session than sitting at home with a book in a haze of patchouli.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Jimmy: Usually a melody or just a texture of noise. I have a strong preference for verses and that is usually the main focus, so the chorus becomes an afterthought. Fernando is more of a chorus guy so we complete each other pretty well.
Fernando: I can experience more difficulties writing lyrics than the music. And the music comes always first. Sometimes I can just get a good line in my head and I save it on my phone or in my notes at home. Then when I have finished a song idea with a song melody I'll go back (when I remember it) to those notes and remind myself what I was thinking of at that time. And then take it from there and see if I still can relate to it.
So it's a bit of a puzzle but very rarely I can just nail a song lyric from scratch and finish it in one night. That feeling is amazing. I think the lyrics to "Dying To Feel Alive" and "Strangers In The Night" were like that. More spontaneous and fluid.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Fernando: When I can feel that I have said something in my own way. No matter the references. Even if topics like love, alienation, frustration and hope are very widely used in pop history I need to describe those feelings as personal as I can. And mostly of course, they're based on my own experience, but not always. Some aspects of the lyrics are also thoughts or just fictional.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Fernando: I can work on a song every day for maybe a week. Or just some days (on the demo / writing level) and then let the song rest for a week or so. And then work with another idea in the meantime. So I can reflect on it later on and see it a bit differently, and maybe do some changes if needed.
Mostly I don’t apply any changes at all or just turn the direction to another level with backing vocals etc ... But also to remind myself that there are different ways to do "the right thing" with a song. And also of keeping it balanced. Not do too much on it afterwards. Then in the studio maybe experiment with stuff but we often keep it like on the demos as much as we can. Just better produced.
Jimmy: I think the normal timeframe for a song being written, from the first idea to a track on a record, is about two years. Usually we start out throwing a simple embryonic idea, or a half-done song in a folder, then we iterate on it, switch out some part here and add something else there until it feels ready to be recorded with the band, along with a couple of other songs that made the same journey.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Fernando: Musically I like to discover where the song takes me, not that much in the lyrics but sometimes I can agree on that.
Jimmy: There is truth in that statement. Like when creating a character in a book or a play, you need to step out of yourself and become that character to make it come alive. But you also need to be aware about what role this character has in the greater story: Where does this sit in the whole body or our work, and do I repeat myself too much?