The Night Flight Orchestra began life as very much a side project – an avenue for members of Swedish metallers Soilwork and Arch Enemy to indulge their passion for classic rock/AOR. But since signing to heavyweight label Nuclear Blast several albums back, the project’s become a viable entity of its own, occupying increasingly more of its members’ time. They’ve carved a niche, too –seemingly becoming the go-to act for metal devotees who never knew they had a hankering for classic
rock. We spoke to guitarist David Andersson (also of Soilwork) the day prior to the release of new album Aeromantic II about the making of the record, meeting his AOR heroes, working as a doctor, the next Soilwork record and more.
Brendan Crabb: I found it interesting to note that this record is being released on the same day as the new Iron Maiden album. When did you become aware of that?
David Andersson: (Laughs) Yeah, I saw that. We’re not really competing with Iron Maiden (laughs).
(Laughs) Of course not, but it’s interesting to note. Even prior to the pandemic it seemed The Night Flight Orchestra were a prolific outfit. What do you attribute that to?
Well, it’s mostly because we really like what we do. I’m always writing songs and we always have loads of songs to pick and choose from. To us, it still doesn’t feel like a job to go into the studio, it’s still something that we do mostly because it’s fun. We’re all great friends, and it’s always fun to get to hang out in the studio and record stuff, create stuff together. As opposed to many other bands, it’s not like we go into the studio for like two months at a time. It’s more like we take a week every now and then, record some songs and then we take a break, and come back whenever our schedules allow us to.
So it feels more like a vacation going into the studio with Night Flight Orchestra. So I guess that’s our secret – that we still think it’s fun and we still like it (laughs), and we like writing songs. It’s never like, ‘oh no, I have to record a new album. Oh, I have to write songs’. We constantly write and record stuff.
It seems like since signing with Nuclear Blast, the band has just enjoyed this creative rush.
Yeah. And also back when we started, the first two albums were released on a small Italian label called Coroner Records. Both Soilwork and Arch Enemy back then, there was some really intense touring with both of those bands and it was harder to find a time where everyone could meet. For us, things have been different since we signed with Nuclear Blast. The touring thing, even before the pandemic, it hasn’t been as intense for either Arch Enemy or Soilwork as it used to be.
Getting signed to Nuclear Blast and being able to become a real band, and be able to go out and play shows all over Europe, do festivals and tours, it has certainly inspired us as well. Even if we hadn’t been signed to Nuclear Blast I still think we would have been doing it, just because it’s fun.
I understand you completed some European touring for the first Aeromantic album before the pandemic hit?
Yeah. We had like almost a month-long tour planned, and we managed to do like a week or so and then it was just… At the beginning of March last year, and the pandemic hit really hard. The borders started shutting down, so we had to cut the tour short and just go home, otherwise we would have been stuck in Germany for like six months. It was really sad, because the tour was going really well; we had great crowds and a great response. It was real sad that we had to go home, but at the same time, we ended on a high note. It would have been worse if the tour had been a disaster, but the tour was really successful, the few shows that we managed to do. Hopefully it will be even better next time; if and when there will be a next time.
Hopefully we’ll be able to go out on tour again sometime within the next few years at least, but it’s still quite insecure. We still have lots of other things… I mean, we want to go down to Australia obviously, and it would be great to go to the U.S., Asia. But right now, you can’t really count on anything. We have stuff planned, but it’s been postponed so many times. All we can do is just continue to create music, release it and keep up our online presence, and do stuff there. People seem to enjoy that too. I guess people need music, need music more than ever. The pandemic might change stuff overnight and you have to cancel shows, so we’ll see. It looks a bit better in Europe these days hopefully. I know you’ve been in lockdown in Australia, and it keeps going back and forth all the time.
Yep, millions of Australians are in lockdown at the moment with no real end in sight.
Yeah, it’s really hard. I’m a medical doctor myself, and I have no clue (laughs). Even the foremost experts in the field have no clue how to beat this thing, hopefully with the vaccine and everything it will get better. But there is still unexpected stuff happening all the time.
I wasn’t aware that you were a doctor. What type of medicine do you practice?
I’m a gastroenterologist; a stomach, intestine and bowel specialist.
How do you balance that workload with being in two bands?
I don’t know really (laughs). No, I just take leave. I have a deal with the hospital, so they’re okay with me leaving when I need to. There’s a shortage of specialist doctors in Sweden, so I made a deal with them and they’re fine with that. So it’s worked out pretty well so far.
Was being a doctor the “back-up plan” if your musical career didn’t eventuate?
I’ve always been a musician, and it’s always been what I wanted to do. But when I was in my early twenties, I played in bands and did some records, and some session work and worked as a guitar teacher. It didn’t really go anywhere, so I got a bit fed up, and went to medical school instead to get an education. Soon after I finished medical school I started playing on-and-off with Soilwork and suddenly I had a musical career going on again. Since then, it’s been about trying to find time for everything. But it works out pretty well.
Whereas once it was all about Soilwork, it seems like for ‘Speed’ (Björn Strid, vocals, also of Soilwork) and yourself that The Night Flight Orchestra is consuming more and more of your musical activity. Is that something that has really emerged in recent years?
Yeah, sort of. We don’t look at Night Flight Orchestra as a side project, it’s a band in its own right. I guess it’s probably a 50/50 split between the bands. We’re working on a new Soilwork album too at the moment. It’s been different since we haven’t been able to tour. I mean, Soilwork is still the more established band and Soilwork gets more offers for tours and stuff all over the world. But right now, when we’re not playing shows, it’s probably a 50/50 split between bands. Once we get back to being able to play live again, I guess Soilwork will take up more of our time because of the live part. But it’s not like, to me and Björn, both bands are a priority in their own right.
What’s the timeline for the next Soilwork album?
It’s going to be released sometime next year. I don’t have any dates yet, but hopefully sometime during the first half of next year. But we’ll see – we’re not done recording yet and everything.
I was a fan of Soilwork’s latest album Verkligheten, but it did receive criticism for having some The Night Flight Orchestra-style influences seeping in. Is that something that consciously happened? Were you aware of that?
Me and Björn are the major songwriters in those bands, so it would be strange if you couldn’t find any sort of similarity. It’s nothing that we’re consciously doing, and I don’t see a problem with it. I don’t mind, because it’s still… Soilwork, we’re still playing metal music and obviously if you do one thing it will
influence everything else you do. But yeah, I can definitely hear that some stuff could be vaguely reminiscent of The Night Flight Orchestra in Soilwork songs, and I don’t see a problem with it really. It’s not like we’re playing super evil, Satanic black gore metal (laughs). So it’s fine. We’re just trying to make good music.
With Soilwork’s music you’re sitting within a largely very serious sub-genre. Whereas with The Night Flight Orchestra there’s a nudge-and-a-wink to the era that’s influenced the band, but without mocking it. Is that a fine line to walk sometimes?
No, not really. We play this music because we love it. We don’t take ourselves that seriously, but we take the music very seriously. We put a lot of effort into the music, the lyrics, the presentation and everything. But it’s not like Steel Panther or something, we don’t want to come across as a funny, comedy band. Some of the lyrics for The Night Flight Orchestra are actually pretty dark if you really listen to them (laughs). There’s no element of mockery whatsoever – we all genuinely love this music. Personally, I don’t think humour belongs in music.
People can do whatever they want, (but) I’ve never liked any humorous music, when it just becomes mockery or a parody. I want music to be something that’s for real.
Given that multiple members have associations with metal bands, and you’re signed to a predominantly metal label, do you feel as if The Night Flight Orchestra may be a gateway to the style of music you play for some metal fans?
It’s not really a conscious decision, but obviously that’s how it works. Nuclear Blast offered us a record deal after the second album, and we have a really good relationship with them, and Soilwork is on Nuclear Blast as well. So of course, many of the people that first heard of us were metal fans, but it’s not like it’s a conscious decision. We’d like to reach out to and get people from all kinds of backgrounds listening to us, and I think we’re getting there more and more.
I mean, the last tour we did and festivals we were playing before the pandemic, you could see there were people from all kinds of backgrounds in the audience, not just metal-heads. Of course, we want to reach the mainstream with our music, but we are from a metal background and we’re on a metal label. I’m happy that we’ve come this far, and hopefully we can take it even further.
Have you had any feedback from the bands that influence The Night Flight Orchestra? Have you encountered any of the members of those classic rock/AOR bands on the festival circuit or at gigs?
Yeah, we opened up for Toto at a show in Sweden. They listened to our show, we talked to them afterwards and they really liked it, which was nice. It was a huge compliment. Obviously they’re a huge influence, and something we grew up listening to. So it was nice having Steve Lukather come up to you and say it was a great show.
For those readers who are new to the music of The Night Flight Orchestra, is there a track or two on Aeromantic II that you’d point to that they should check out?
I’d say either “Burn For Me” or “White Jeans.” I just like those songs – they’re catchy, nice and they make me happy (laughs).
By the way, best of luck clashing with Iron Maiden’s release date (laughs).
Yeah, we’ll see who wins (laughs).
(interview published September 11, 2021)