Good artists may define their times, but it’s the truly great who transcend them. As Dungen’s (Doong-yen) central creative locus, Gustav Ejstes may very well slip towards the latter. Weaving together mixtures of pastoral folk, grinding progressive rock and dreamy psychedelia, Gustav would more humbly put forward that the band are simply creating music.
Cutting albums for over a decade the Swedish group retain a growing underground following world-over. Despite their relative obscurity, Dungen have toured extensively and count Jack White, Melody Prochet and Kevin Parker amongst their most outspoken fans. For the first time since 2006 Dungen are returning to Australian shores. Ahead of this long anticipated tour, we caught up with Gustav to talk Aphex Twin, Swedish winter and the psych-rock explosion he’s helped inspire.
Music Feeds: It’s been 15 years since the eponymous Dungen album. How do you feel about the record looking back?
Gustav Ejstes: It’s amazing, I mean…time flies! I don’t try to be that sentimental or nostalgic, I just try to look forward and make better and better music. But it’s incredible that amount of time has passed, it shows that I am 15 years older and that those who were young then are a little older too. Those who have just discovered our music now can listen to good albums which were made even before they were even born!
MF: Dugen has such an extensive discography already; someone who has just gotten into the band has a lot to digest…
MF: You recently released an amazing cover of Aphex Twin’s Alberto Balsam for Aquariam Drunkard. Do you have a favourite Richard James track?
GE: That song [Alberto Balsam] is essential. It’s always been essential for me since my teenage years. Back before the internet, Aphex Twin was sort of a myth. There was some kind of religion around him where we grew up. People would get excited if someone had even seen a picture of how he looked! One of the gods.
MF: Following Dungen has led me to some other excellent Swedish artists like Jonny Solling and Kenny Håkansson. The melodies! Do you feel that bringing awareness to this music outside of Sweden is part of what you do?
GE: It’s hard to be objective and look at it that way. I’m born here and what I can say about Sweden is this: Nine months a year it’s dark. People have a lot of time to make music.
MF: Australia is almost the other way around; there are 9 days of bad weather a year. But we still make music!
GE: It’s amazing, Australian bands are making some amazing music!
MF: Do you have a favourite Australian band?
GE: I mean Kevin, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, is from another motherland but some kind of parallel trend to us. The Perth guys and all that is very much amazing, but of course everything!
MF: You became fed up with Dungen in 2007. You also took a lengthy hiatus from 2010-2015. Fortunately (for fans at least) you’ve kept coming back. What is it that keeps drawing you to the project?
GE: I do a lot of music, but it’s obvious for me that that this project, this channel of expression, is necessary for me. I write songs and think to myself “This is a Dungen song!” I have been trying to quit quite a few times, but I can’t. I keep ending up with a bunch of songs and recording again.
That’s the songwriting part. But it’s also there’s this incredible bunch of people that I am surrounded by. They are amazing, efficient and great to play with. We have definitely established something together throughout our years as a live band. For me, that’s very special and I have to take care of that. Dungen albums have come from just me doing everything myself to recording as a group.
MF: Touring Australia for the first time since 2006. It seems like the times have changed, there’s this psychedelic rock revival has become increasingly popular. There’s a new generation of artists, many who would name check Dungen as a creative influence. Are you anticipating a different response this time around?
GE: We’re super excited. We can definitely tell that something has happened in these past years since Kevin and Tame Impala first came out. Since our five-year break we’ve come back and met all these people who are loyal fans of us. Speaking of the psych scene, it really exists and new bands coming up all the time. Even just from the groups we have been touring with we’ve seen a few portions of Tame Impala or some influences from us in their sound. I think that it’s amazing; it’s definitely become some kind of new wave. It’s exciting!
MF: Is Australia different to playing across Europe or in the US? It’s a small country; there are a lot less people here.
GE: I have discovered that these days, with everything being so global and interconnected, wherever we go there’s this group of people who turn up. We could go to Poland where about 150 people know about us in the whole country. But when we play all of these people show up! Sometimes when we play clubs we could have 500 to 1000 people, but there’s this few hundred that seem to be in almost every country in the world. That’s the beautiful thing these days. If you make music you can more easily find your listeners.
MF: While we’re on the topic of Australia, how do you handle in hot weather?
GE: We don’t handle it! (laughs) We just drink a lot and then play. But no, it’s great just to be able to go where it’s hot. It’s cold here in Sweden!
MF: How do you feel when you’re playing to a festival crowd of thousands? Do you get nervous?
GE: Of course, but these crowds, they’re not the main aim of making our music. I will always make music whether there’s a crowd or not. But it’s one of the cornerstones of the “business.” Spread your thing in front of as many people as possible. Get it out so as people can have a chance to hear it.
MF: What can fans expect from Dungen in 2017?
GE: We have a bunch of plans. We’re releasing an instrumental record in late October which is inspired by a silent movie. Instead of staying away for another five years we’re trying to keep it on the tempo. We have new records coming out and we’re trying to do shows also to be around. That’s the plan, just a lot of music.
This year Dungen will tour Australia for the first time since 2006. They’ll be heading up WA’s
Disconnect Festival, plus Meredith Music Festival and headline shows in Sydney, Brisbane & Melbourne. Head here for details. Their new album ‘Häxan’ is out November 25 as an official Record Store Day/Black Friday release.