It would be easy to focus on things like the MySpace hype that’s followed Dead by April. Or the awards they’ve received as ”newcomer of the year” before even releasing anything. Or the numerous shows and tours they’ve done during the not even two years they’ve existed – a live schedule that would have most bands watching with envy.
But, what strikes you most is the strength of the songs. The way they relate to metal that refuses to be locked in to standards and preconceptions of how hard rock ”should” sound or be. A refusal to compromise – where the riffs have a weight that puts the heaviest bands around to shame, and where Jimmies angry, angst-driven growl pierces sharper than an industrial chain-saw. Where the melodies are larger, stronger and more beautiful than most music one hears today; a rainbow-wide spectre of expressions in one voice. The resulting music defies all rules; a stroke that touches deeper than most of the modern culture that gets shoved down your throat.
Early 2007 saw the embryo of Dead by April take form. Jimmie Strimell, at the time vocalist with Gothenburg metal-band Nightrage, felt he needed an outlet for the melodies he was writing, that didn’t suit the band. He heard some of the work by Pontus Hjelm and saw a possibility to collaborate. Said and done. Dead by April was born. The first result, ’Lost’ and ’Stronger’ were posted on the bands new MySpace site. It was only a matter of a week or two before they hundreds of listens every day. Jimmie wanted to play live, Pontus refused. He suffers from a massive stage-fright and had no interest in getting up on one to play live. But as interest in the band grew, the demand to see them live grew equally. After looking among friends and fellow band-members and wearing out the rehearsal room, they were ready to play their first shows. There was no doubt that the project now had become a band. A band with a strong force as well.
Meanwhile, Pontus and Jimmie wrote more songs. The main idea – to dare leave the given rules and boundaries within heavy metal, is something they stand by to this day. While the new songs were added to MySpace, and more shows were done, the traffic grew avalanche-like on their site.
From day one, the band spent a lot of time answering emails, messages and comments they got. A lot of work, but work that felt natural and necessary:
We want a direct contact with those who’ve found our website and put in the effort to listen and comment on our songs there. It feels important that those who support us also get to know how much it means to us, and that we really, really appreciate it, says Pontus.
The insistent work on keeping up a close contact can also be part of the explanation to how the word-of-mouth effect spread so quickly on the band. After a couple of months, the band had fan-sites in Asia and Japan, and quickly sailed up to the top of the ”unsigned bands” chart at MySpace.
Not only fans discovered the band, but now the music industry started to raise an eyebrow. It wasn’t long before they were courted by publishers, booking agents, managers and record labels from all over. The band took the attention calmly and decided to follow their gut feeling rather than listen to other people’s advice. They gave everyone a friendly ”thanks, but no thanks” before signing up to a booking agent and publisher to enable moving forward as they wished.
Dead by April then hit the roads opening for bands such as Ill Niño and Sonic Syndicate, and were booked to a number of festivals during the summer of 2008. The peak came when the band arrived to Hultsfred, the biggest festival in Sweden, to play the ’Stora Dansbane’ stage. Already during soundcheck, the venue was packed, and when the actual show started, the attendance record for the stage was a fact.
At the same time, the band finished off the negotiations with the record labels who’d shown serious interest, and finally chose to sign with Universal Music.
The autumn of 2008 was spent writing more songs and on a stint round Scandinavia with metal magazine Close Up, on a triple bill featuring Dark Tranquillity and Engel. Discussions were picked up with producers for recording the debut album. After meeting several metal-producers, the band got a tip on Henrik Edenhed. With a CV that didn’t boast much metal, a few questioning voices were raised (he’s worked with Jordin Sparks, Lady Sovereign, Robyn and Teddybears), but once again the gut-feeling of the band led the way. In December they started work on drum recording at Kingside Studios in Stockholm.
We spoke to several producers, says Johan. Most of them were more ”classic” metal producers, but for us it all clicked with Henrik, even if he mostly has worked with other genres of music. He understood what we wanted to achieve and had an angle of his own to approaching our music.
After the Christmas holidays, the band started work again, this time at Cosmos Studios, south of Stockholm, only allowing a couple of short breaks to go to the Bandit Radio Awards, to play two songs and where they also were given the ”newcomer of the year” award, Rockbjörnen where they were nominated for the MySpace prize, and Swedish Metal Awards, where they picked up the ”New band of the year” prize. All this, still without releasing anything – it was all down to live work and the MySpace activities.
The same MySpace page which has now passed one million plays, towards 15.000 friends from all over the world, waiting for the bands debut album. Even if the band today haven’t got the same possibilities to answer every mail and question they get from visitors, they put even more energy into blogs and updates to keep the contact close and frequent.
Now that we’re finally putting our first album out, it feels extra important to make sure that all those who’ve followed and supported us from the start still feel that they are our first priority, Johan explains. Of course, we hope that things will start to take off, but without the support from those who helped build the band from day one, we wouldn’t be anywhere.
The first single is ”Losing You”, already a live favourite of the band’s, and everyone agrees a good starting point to navigate your way into the music of Dead by April. Internationally the machine is beginning to rumble as well, and Dead by April are looking forward to releasing the album and touring around Europe and Japan later this year.