One of the most popular bands to come out of Sweden, Avatar are going from strength to strength and their most recent record, Dance Devil Dance, demonstrates they deserve the high praise they have been receiving.
Guitarist Jonas Jarlsby is, rightfully so, proud of the groups output as well as collaboration with Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale as well as the creative output afforded to her. It has been a wild ride for Avatar and this rollercoaster is still on its way up to the top as Damian found out when he spoke to Jonas backstage at Download 20.
Hi Jonas. First of all, sir, how are you? How’s the festival been?
Jonas Jarlsby: “It’s been intense. I’m doing good, thank you. We were playing a late show in Switzerland last night and now we played a relatively early show here in UK and as you know, those are two completely different countries, so it’s been an intense trip, a sleep deprived trip to make it here, but it was good. We did a Ramones show today.”
How did the show go today? Was it full of energy? What stage was it? Was it the Opus stage?
“I believe that’s what it’s called, yes. Yeah, huge crowd and, frankly, as nice as it is to be here, these sets are too short on this festival. So the best we could do with it was to go, like I said, all Ramones about it. So just 1 2 3 4 and burn through those 30 minutes, and you know, it was intense. It was good. A good time.”
Now, your latest record is, I’d say possibly the biggest one you’ve actually released really and its gained a lot of media attention, and recognition. Did you actually expect this one to blow up the way it has?
“Well, yes, but you always do. We, when putting out our first demo, when writing our first song, barely know how to tune our guitar, we thought so. So that’s, I think, it’s just a mindset we had from day one. That being said, the whole plague thing that happened gave us a little bit of extra room to not just write a lot, but just also think about what we’re writing and why and I think it’s, as eclectic as we are as a band, in the world of Avatar, this is a very focused album. I think that helped to put some kind of message across. Yeah, it seems to be working.”
Now, part of that album, you actually did a duet with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. It was “Violence No Matter What” I believe. How did you sort of reach this? How did you get her on board?
“Well, it starts, what I’m really pleased with is that really starts with like, it’s very obvious in this business, it doesn’t hurt to have a nice little feature on your thing, right? It’s always an attention grabber, but we never consider doing it for the sake of doing it. So what really happens is that Tim wrote a whole bunch of good riffs, that I then, when I started to put vocals on it and come up with ideas, all the first ideas were these harmonising colour response stuff, and first thinking well, okay, so Hendrick will be very busy singing this live, that’s fine, but when it really became a lot, it’s like, oh, wait, this is a duet. This is an opportunity.
So, the music part came first. That was a quick little train of thought were like, okay, Avatar is a sausage party, so a female voice in and out of itself would immediately add something that we can’t do ourselves and would be great. We have done some shows with Halestorm. They’re always been, you know, nice to meet, a good hang and I truly feel that Lzzy is one of the greatest voices of our time and especially when you see them live like she can go hard. I mean, Halestorm goes pretty hard and it sounds like she can go hard.
Asking was easy because of those connections. It was just, ‘hey, do you want…?’ ‘Yes.’ And that was really it. I just recorded all the parts and said you can pick if you want the high or the low one and thinking to myself pretty please take the high one. And she did. So no, it’s very easy and actually, yesterday was the first time, that was Switzerland was the first time we got to perform it on stage with her. That was incredible.”
Now, you sort of touched on this already, but what really was it like collaborating with her as a person? How did that all go? Were there any conflicts of interest in how it went?
“Not at all! No, no. And again, like she did it over in the States, we recorded it the Swedish woods all by ourselves and with Jay, our producer, as so she did it by herself, but I mean, she liked it, and therefore did what we had intended and then added a little salt and pepper of her own on top of it that just enhanced it, but it was really easy. We didn’t have notes for her or anything like that.
Then to me, what was really nice, gave an opportunity for us to do some press together in Paris, around the time of her album coming out and to sit with a fellow front person and do interviews and how she can talk! So where I maybe appreciate the collaboration the most up until us sharing stage now, you know, but yeah, doing press with someone else who speaks it was, if you meet the rest of my band, you would understand what an incredible rush that was to me.”
Now you’ve been touring a lot in support of this latest record, of course, I’m sure you’ve got more coming up as well, but was there a particular or has there been a particular show or event that really stuck out? You mentioned, was it Switzerland where you actually got to perform the song on stage with Lzzy?
“Yeah, that of course. So yes. Already, as late as yesterday, outstanding moments occurred like that. Also we did Sweden Rock Festival and it had been a minute since we did something, you know, very sizable in Sweden, and because, you know, when everything International is international, of course, with its own, it’s quite different than to do UK than the US than France and Brazil or whatever.
But then home is home, you know, you do with your own language, and always get pulled back to standing on a little stage in a school dining hall, you know, playing for classmates, your first cover of Ironman, and there’s a nerve that comes with that, and that we got to do that, but it did that it landed so well. Truly ended up meaning a lot.”
Now, apart from the touring, and to support the record, is there anything else you’ve got in the works? Could there be more collaborations that you’d like to do or possibly have?
“Nothing planned like that we’d really take those kinds of things as they come. A lot of those questions we get who would be your dream collaboration ends up being people listening, you know, artists they really like, but for instance, I’m a huge Devin Townsend head, for instance, but I wouldn’t want to get in there and bother him during the music I enjoy so much. You know, so I’m always bad at that. It has to start with the music. So it’s hard to have that answer before you have that song.
That being said, it is something I would like to do more of simply for the rush, the creative rush that comes with the reward in it. We are so used to be naked, literally and figuratively speaking in front of each other within the band, you know, the vulnerability that comes with like, I have written something look at this touch it, work with me here, you know, that gets very intimate.
It’s only a handful of times where we got, not even handful, less than what you can count, you don’t even need a hand to count it, that we have invited others into that world and to them, just to hear my lyrics sung by Lzzy, for instance and it’s at that moment, because I’m used to hear Jonah’s team play my riffs, you know, and they are used to me coming in delivering vocal ideas and whatever on there riffs and that whole thing. We’re very comfortable with it. So what’s the certain almost a scary feeling but in a good way? And yeah, more of that, please.”
Well, I want to thank you so much for talking to us today. I hope you get time to maybe have a break. It sounds like you’ve had a quite an intense few days, get some rest and carry on rocking on. Thank you so much.
“Thank you very much.”
For more information on Avatar, head over to the Official Avatar Website