Kopparberg believes that life is what you make it. That opportunity lives in every moment and all we have to do is be open to it. To see, do, feel and experience life to the fullest and share it with the people we love. There's even a saying for it in Swedish, Fånga Dagen. 'In The Moment' is a celebration of the artists who do it to the fullest, those who have risen to where they are through creativity and ingenuity. Those who do it for the love of doing it. For our fifth instalment, Noisey followed Bloody Knees to the remote Swedish town of Kopparberg for a catch up and some naked lake swimming.
Words and photography by Jono White.
Most of you should have heard of Bloody Knees by now. The brash four-piece from Cambridge have been killing shows all over the UK for a good number of years, and if you've seen them live you'll be well aware of the energy that emanates from the stage and into the riotous crowd every time they play. Their friendship began at primary school and makes Superbad's Seth and Evan look like sworn enemies. It's a rapport that makes Bloody Knees as fun to watch offstage as they are on, so, when Brad and Sam announced they were off on an impromptu excursion to the tiny Swedish town of Kopparberg, we had to go with them.
Kopparberg is a real place, not some marketing agent's fever dream (Uncle Ben isn't a real guy, guys) though Kopparberg isn't the Willy Wonka factory I think we'd all hoped for, where precious cider concoctions are brewed by workers vivaciously pouring ingredients into humongous vats. Instead what they find is a small, unassuming town where two friends will find it impossible to keep their clothes on at the sight of a Nordic lake.
When I meet the guys, they're buoyed by friend, iPhone cameraman and cheerleader/bully, Cal McRae. It's 6.30am and they are at Stansted airport. By 7.30am they are kickstarting a blockbuster on Cal's Instagram. "Yeah, we do love an audience", Brad begins. "Whatever it is, it's fun to the band's personality and gives kids a chance to connect with the people as well as the music. It's all just a bit of fun really."
The mantra 'just a bit of fun' has been there since day one. Between drinks they talk about the band's genesis. "People used to call us the Tally Bandits," Sam begins in jest, referring to an "indie gang" they had with guitarist Chris Wilkes at secondary school. "We were soundtracked by [stands up and sings] ' Well oh they might wear classic Reeboks or knackered Converse or trackie bottoms tucked in socks '…"
The flight makes everyone settle down a bit and we're now piled into a rental car travelling the three hours it takes to get to the hotel. Bradley takes a moment to reminisce about time spent in his house in Portsmouth where he began writing what would be Bloody Knees' first tracks. Brad later dropped out of uni and returned to Papworth, a tiny village in Cambridgeshire that features the UK's largest specialist cardiothoracic Hospital and not much else. "There weren't many people that liked the same music and dressed the same way in Papworth," Sam says, "I think you need to have a couple of similar mates to express yourself when you're younger." Brad agrees: "When you're the only grebs in the village, you gotta stick together. There really weren't many other people into what we were into."
If you listen to Bloody Knees' earlier songs it's obvious that this band was born out of necessity more than anything else. "All we wanted was to get out of Papworth," Sam says. "It was socially and creatively crippling," Brad continues, "…really uninspiring, which in turn inspired me to write lyrics that were rife with ideas of escapism or feeling stuck. I feel like everyone is shaped by where they grew up, and when it comes to writing, it's obviously going to manifest itself somehow."
After a couple of roadside toilet breaks, we pull into Kopparberg. It's a town in the middle of nowhere, but the middle of nowhere in Sweden isn't a bad place to be. Bucolic landscapes surrounded by woodland seems an ideal setting to tuck into some duty free liquor Cal had bought and indulge in a few fruity ciders from the bar. When in Kopparberg, etc.
The guys embark on a one hour walk from the hotel in Bangbros (honestly, not making this up) to Kopparberg town centre in search of something to do. After trekking through some eerie woodland, we came to a road that's speckled with twee houses painted trademark Falu Rödfärg red, a colour made from copper pigment in the area – Kopparberg literally translates to Copper Mountain, FYI. As though it was law, every house has a trampoline in the garden, and it's not long before Bradley's displaying perfect 10 backflips on one he finds in a park. Sam also bounced around a bit, culminating in a clumsy dismount that had Bradley in stitches; all of this serving as the perfect analogy for the two.
We take a bottle of duty free booze into an empty pizzeria, which was one of only two places open at 8pm, so we discuss the band and reflect on how it's all going. Sam and Bradley have recently moved into a house together in East London which is a gratifying shift from their hometown. "Living in London is great. For the band but also just in general. It means I get to go to more shows and hang out with all the people we've met through the band more often. It definitely makes you feel more connected to it all ", Brad says. "We're part of a bigger scene now," Sam adds. "Unfortunately, the first thing to do if you're a band in Cambridge is to get out of Cambridge."
They'll do well in a scene – Bloody Knees are a charismatic pair (is that coming across?!): the Bloody Knees' live show is tireless, dynamic and engaging. "The shows I have always enjoyed going to are shows where everyone gets involved and everyone goes ballistic." Brad says. "It's so much more fun that way. Everyone feeding off everyone else's energy. That's the kind of thing that leaves you feeling like you've been a part of something after the show. 9 times out of 10 I'll come off stage feeling completely messed up and like I'm about to throw up. I can't talk to anyone properly for 10 minutes and that's a good feeling." Sam adds, "If we were to just stand around and look a bit arrogant about it, it wouldn't really work. No one's going to take it seriously if we're not taking it seriously."
The following morning we make a move to Kopparberg's Opera House. Hours early for a date with a guy called Sten who's the director of the company, we kill time on Lake Ljusnaren where the Opera House is located. "That is begging to be swam in", Sam says. Before you know it they've dropped their trousers and are swan diving off the pontoon. Being naked is the trend of the day. It's here that they reluctantly address the subject of age and a scene that sees teens sign major deals and sell out massive rooms. "Yeah we're not kids anymore, technically, but I feel just the same as I did 10 years ago," Brad starts. "I'm a big believer in the idea that you only get one shot at life, so why not spend as much time as possible having the most fun you can? For me that's performing in a band and everything that comes with it." Sam agrees, "No one likes growing up do they? But music like ours can make it acceptable to feel that way". Brad continues, "Yeah, and the people… the places like this! Fuck it, I'm happy. We all work jobs we'd rather not be doing, so that we can continue to do this. It's worth it. Career and real life can come later."
A couple of hours pass until Sten pulls up, resplendent in bright red corduroy trousers, as you would hope a man who owned an opera house might be. He takes us on a tour around the Opera House; a huge space that was a saw factory in it's previous life. In 2003 he bought the entire building and surrounding land and by 2005 it was a fully functioning Opera House that sees up to nine thousand people from around the globe pass through its doors every year. Without any encouragement, he bursts into a 5 minute song with a loud baritone voice to "demonstrate the acoustics", which he claims are the best in Europe. He jumps up on stage. He falls off the stage. Sten's ok.
On the way back to the airport we drive past another lake, and once again, everyone's starkers. Now's as good a time as any to talk future plans with Bradley. "We've been quiet… We haven't put a record out since 2014. I mean, we put out a track earlier this year, but no official release. We have been working hard on the next record over the summer and we're all so excited about these new songs. Basically in the next few months you'll see a new record, tour and then hopefully loads more stuff throughout 2017". Sam describes the new songs as, "something in between Oasis and Nirvana… Grungy British rock that's cocky".
On the drive back to Stockholm they're eager to discuss what carefree people in a carefree band actually care about. " As a band, pretty much all we care about is that we, and everyone surrounding us, is happy and having a good time. It's as simple as that. We have no political agenda, no powerful message. There's a place for that and it is important, but it's not our main aim." Sam nods in agreement. It'd be a challenge for anyone to spend 48hrs with these guys and tell them they're not achieving their aim.
Read more 'In The Moment' articles here.