The Phantom Tollbooth

An Interview with Blindside
May 14, 1999
Mt. Prospect, Illinois
By Linda T. Stonehocker

Onstage, Blindside is a study in loud. Bass and guitars crunch, the singer bellows, and the drums keep a beat perfect for headbanging (although these days, the preferred physical expression is flinging oneself into a crowd of fellow listeners). Offstage, gathered around the minivan, Simon Grenehed - guitar & backing vocals, Tomas Näslund - bass, and Christian Lindskog - vocals are the exemplification of humility, as bewildered that people come out to listen to their music as any parent who stumbles upon one of their shows.

Tollbooth - You are over here from Sweden. How many times have you been to the U.S.?

Grenehed - As a band, two times. Last year was our first.

Tollbooth - How did you get licensed to Tooth 'n Nail records?

Grenehed - Actually, the president for the Swedish record label was at a Gospel Music Association week. He handed out our CD to people, and Brandon (Ebel, T & N) called us up two weeks later to do something. Then it took half a year before it was released. We actually have that CD out already; we recorded four new songs for the U.S.

Tollbooth - So you were interested in touring in the U.S.?

Näslund - Yeah, but we never thought we would. It's so expensive to get over here. We didn't think anyone would want us, but it happened!

Tollbooth - How long is your stay this time?

Grenehed - Two and a half months; we return right after Cornerstone. That's what we did last year. That's how long we can stay on our visas.

Tollbooth - What has the reaction of people been to you here?

Grenehed - Overwhelming, for us. When we got over here, we saw people who sang along on the lyrics. It was great to see them jumping around at the concerts, so it's been really good, way over what we expected. Of course, there are bad gigs, but altogether, it's been really good.

Tollbooth - Why do you think your fans like you so much?

Grenehed - I don't know. Maybe because . . .

Lindskog - . . . we're from Sweden! (laughs) It sounds stupid, but it's kind of cool. Tooth and Nail actually promoted us as "Swedish hardcore," but we're not hardcore. It's a thing now, to get Blindside from Sweden.

Tomas - And we're proud to be from Sweden. (laughs)

Tollbooth - Because of the Internet, we had heard of you long before you signed with Tooth 'n Nail. Of course, it's a lot easier to get your album now. You say you're not hardcore, so how would you describe your sound?

Lindskog - Uh, I don't know. We don't.

Grenehed - I don't think we fit into hardcore because hardcore is mainly
screaming, and we also have quiet parts.

Lindskog - And hardcore, in Sweden anyway, is very political. Here, there is the whole spirit-filled hardcore scene and everything; but to us, that's kind of new. I really don't know too much about it. Also, we have some violin stuff, some slow songs, very melodic. So it would be dumb for us to say we are hardcore, because we're not. And the new album's going to sound a lot different, more towards hardcore, actually, but still with those melodic parts.

Tollbooth - Is that recorded?

Grenehed - Yes. We recorded it in a place called Umeå, Sweden. It's kind of known for lots of hardcore bands. It's a pretty big place in Sweden. It all started up there.

Lindskog - They all recorded in that studio, actually, so it's kind of a legend.

Tollbooth - You picked up the vibe?

Lindskog - Yeah, I think especially since we're a lot bigger over here than we are in Sweden. It was fun to bring over, like, a more Swedish sound.

Tollbooth - More authentic?

Grenehed - Yeah. A lot of people said we sounded American, actually, on the first album.

Tollbooth - What would you say your message is?

Näslund - It's all personal. Basically, to be honest. Just try to live the way you receive. And not say too much. The next album that's coming out is very personal.

Tollbooth - What is the theme? Is it a story?

Lindskog - No, maybe it's about being caught up in a wrong way of living as a Christian, and finding his way.

Tollbooth - Through disciplship?

Lindskog - You can be a Christian and still have problems with some stuff; and you go to the Lord every time and say, "Oh, why am I doing this, and why am I doing this?" It feels like you're almost ready to give up all the time, but I want to show that there is a way, a personal experience.

Tollbooth - What do audiences in secular places think of that?

Grenehed - We don't really play that much, to be honest. Most of our popularity is in the U.S. When we started out, we never had any goals, and we still don't. It's just the Lord guiding us. All the time, people call us, and that's how we get the gigs. We've played some bigger contests and such, but it's been kind of a tepid response because we don't preach from the stage.

Lindskog - We really can't. Because I'm not a preacher. Did you see Andy? He's like totally awesome, he just goes up and has total control; he has that gift. I don't. (laughs) Maybe God will develop something along the way, but I don't know.

Grenehed - I think we reached the first step because I think the first step is acceptance for what you are. I think we've reached that.

Näslund - Our goal is not to play Christian gigs, even though we do that a lot and we have a large Christian following right now. Our goal is to be able to go into secular clubs.

Grenehed - Our goal on the tour was to play with bands like P.O.D. which is awesome. We've learned so much from those guys.

Tollbooth - How long are you all together?

Grenehed - One month. 30 gigs in 32 days.

Tollbooth - How long have you been together as a band?

Lindskog - Since the fall of 1994. In the beginning, it was more like we just rehearsed together, and then we kind of got more gigs, and a record deal. We've always had the band. We've never broken up. I don't think we could play with anyone else. We're not musicians.

Tollbooth - You're not musicians.

Grenehed - No, we're not.

Tollbooth - You're not preachers, you're not . . . (laughs)

Lindskog - We never went to school to learn instruments, we just love to play with each other.

Grenehed - We really, really sucked in the beginning.

Lindskog - Yeah! We really sucked. Now we suck less. (laughs) We take a very long time in the studio because we have to practice. We almost always play over our limits.

Tollbooth - You're pushing yourselves. Why are you onstage? You don't preach, you're not musicians. No really. It's a fair question. . .

Grenehed - What drives us? We have so much fun. And you have the feeling that you're in the right place at the right time. That's how it is for the band. All the time when we're going down, we just get carried through. It's very obvious. Like last summer, we actually found a booking agent who contacted us through the Internet. We came over, and he screwed us over--we didn't have any tour. So we're stuck in Sydney, Ohio two weeks before the tour was supposed to start, and the guy just disappeared.

Lindskog - We had an opening band from Virginia. They had a manager who has done some booking. It usually takes three or four months to get a tour going. But the manager just called everyone, called Tooth 'n Nail, got so many numbers, and in like a week, we had a full tour with 40 gigs. It's been like that.

Also, the fact that we were in a new country. We didn't know anything. We didn't have anything, we just trusted God and went on with this thing (nodding to their minivan) and 30,000 miles later.

Tollbooth - I was going to ask you about this van. You've made some permanent changes to it. Where did you come up with it?

Lindskog - Grace. Some friends of ours bought it in Ohio last year with our royalty money. We stored it at a friend's house, so that's where it's been, waiting for us.

Tollbooth - What do you think your audiences are getting out of your shows?

Lindskog - We try to put as much energy as we can, since we're not that good at playing. People come up to us after shows and say, "I got all spirit-filled when you were playing last year."

Näslund - I think we have an emotional stage. We try to live out what the songs say on the stage. We try to be positive as well. It's not like all serious, it's a lot of fun.

Lindskog - And we're always hanging out after the show if someone wants to talk to us. It's more like, Blindside's family. We meet a lot of new friends. It's just cool to be able to play for them.

Tollbooth - The new album is out in September?

Näslund - It's not like we have anything set, but it's recorded and done.

Tollbooth - You said that it is different from your previous album. Do you think you'll be able to keep your previous fans?

Näslund - I hope so.

Lindskog - I think we will. It's hard for us to say, because you can't really tell about your own music; but people say, "Yeah, it's still Blindside, but it's a different sound."

Tollbooth - It seems like all the heavier bands get to a point where they go so light that their fans go, "Ack!"

Lindskog - Not this time, but we don't feel any pressure, like, yeah, we need to do this to keep the people happy. We just always go with what we like, and if people like it, that's cool.

Grenehed - We can go heavier and we can go lighter, too.

Tollbooth - What would you say is the biggest difference between spending three months in the U.S. and three months in Sweden?

Lindskog - Everything is so much bigger here.

Grenehed - The coffee sucks.

Tomas - Taxes are not included (you have to add it).

Lindskog - Nice people, very nice people.

Grenehed - From our experience, just people talking to you on the street. That doesn't really happen in Sweden.

Christina - No, people don't go by, "Hey, man, how's it going?" And we're like, "Uhhhh." We don't know what to say.

Tollbooth - What's wrong with the coffee?

Lindskog - It's too weak. You know, my wife, she used to work in this coffee shop in Sweden, and they had American coffee. American is for wusses. A Swedish cup of coffee is like one ordinary cup of coffee with a shot of espresso in it. Sort of. There's a different taste to it, too.