In Swedish, Fika (pron. “fee-ka”) refers to a moment when we slow down and enjoy the good things of life. For Elysian Fields, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba ensemble, it is also the title given to their new Scandinavia-inspired recording project. Financial contributions to the project are fully tax deductible (see link below) Matt Keegan, band member, composer and producer explains.
Philip Pogson (PP): Matt, you have taken on the Producer role for “Fika”, the latest Elysian Fields CD. Can you just outline what the Producer does from your point for view?
Matt Keegan (MK): When working with such excellent musicians and composers in a group such as this one I see my role as producer mainly as a facilitator for an open creative space in which everyone understands our creative objectives and hopefully feels musically comfortable to be themselves and contribute ideas and sounds in a supportive, focused environment.
I’ve set up processes that are designed to get the most out of the band members and the sonic potential of the music.
Working closely with band leader, Jenny Eriksson, we’ve chosen an appropriate and homogenous set of music that best represents the Fika concept. I’ve also spent time with engineer Richard Belkner discussing the overall sonic personality we are looking to create for this album. I have also put together rehearsal and recording schedules to help get the most out of the time we have together.
PP: I understand the CD track list is all Scandinavian music or original charts by band members inspired by Scandinavia. Could you give us an overview of some of the music including your own contribution?
MK: About half of the material has been generated by band members in the form of original compositions and/or arrangements of traditional Scandinavian music. My own work draws on personal experiences from time spent living in Sweden. The rest of the material is made up of arrangements of music by Scandinavian composers.
PP: The band has such a unique line-up – voice/violin, saxes, electric viola da gamba, piano, bass guitar and drum. As a composer and band member, what does this enable you to do?
MK: A unique line up provides opportunity to create unique sounding music! Over the past 4 or so years we’ve been together, as the band has matured, so too has the quality of the material we present. The compositions and arrangements, including my own, have shown a deeper understanding of the sonic strengths of the project while at the same time exploring new options for melodic and rhythmic possibilities, instrumental combinations, and a wider understanding of the textures and timbres available within the ensemble.
PP: Recorded music is going through another revolution, this time driven by paid streaming. What are the opportunities and challenges for bands when they go into the studio?
MK: I think the general challenges of producing an album in the studio remain the same however after post-production the game has changed somewhat. Although there are opportunities to have music presented on wider number of platforms thanks to streaming services and You Tube etc, the enormous amount of new music being created makes it a challenge to produce and frame a product that is able to grab the attention of an audience. This fact has demanded a shift in mindset and perspective especially for those of us old enough to remember how things worked pre-internet!
PP: Finally, what are you hoping that Fika will achieve?
MK: I hope the Fika album will raise the profile of the group and help provide wider opportunities for performing at festivals and touring abroad.
Tax deductible donations to the Fika project can be made here – https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/fika/
One of the Swedish tracks Elysian Fields is recording: https://soundcloud.com/elysian-fieldsjazz/vi-ska-stalla