By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
As singer/songwriter of the Gothenburg, Sweden metal band, Sister Sin, Liv Jagrell was at the pinnacle of her career during the summer of 2015. During that time, Sister Sin was touring North America on the Rockstar Mayhem tour, performing in front of thousands of metal lovin’ fans. Sister Sin’s high energy performances on that tour helped win over many new fans, who patiently stood in long lines to meet the band after their performances. The future looked very bright for Sister Sin. After a decade of hard work, they were finally gaining the attention they deserved in North America.
After the Rockstar Mayhem tour, Sister Sin returned back to Sweden to take a short break before starting recording their next album. But when they returned from the break, the unthinkable happened. Guitarist, Jimmy Hiltula, and bassist, Andreas Strandh, decided that they didn’t want to tour anymore, resulting in Sister Sin’s untimely demise.
Jagrell was devasted. But, soon after, she rose from the ashes and put together a new, heavy and hungry-for-success band, called LIV SIN. In addition to Jagrell, LIV SIN consists of outstanding musicians: Patrick Ankermark – guitar, Per Bjelovuk – drums, Chris Bertzell – guitar, and Tommie Winthe – bass.
LIV SIN’s debut record, entitled, ‘Follow Me,’ was released on April 28th, and features 11 incredible, traditional heavy metal style tracks. ‘Follow Me,’ is a true heavy metal masterpiece and could very well be Jagrell’s most solid and musically satisfying release, so far.
What follows is an exclusive Rock Music Star interview with one of the hottest and most talented vocalists in rock – Liv Jagrell.
Rock Music Star: Hello Liv, Let’s begin by discussing what led to the break up of your band Sister Sin? It kind of came at a weird time, because it seemed like the band was on quite a high, after doing the RockStar Energy Mayhem festival. You guys were playing in front of a large audience, and getting some great responses from everybody. What happened?
Liv Jagrell: Yeah. For me, also, the breakup was at a wrong time. We were headed on the way up. We had the Mayhem fest; we also had the opportunity to actually change labels, if we wanted to do that. We had four or five interested labels. But then, we decided to not continue. The thing is, after we got home from the Mayhem fest, two of the band members felt that they had lost the joy in touring, and lost the joy in playing live. They were so tired from touring; we were all very tired from touring. We did a lot of touring these past few years- especially in 2015. It started with the bass player- he said, “I don’t want to tour anymore.” And then, the guitar player said, “I don’t think I want to tour anymore, either.” Well, we were just four in the band, so that’s half the band that didn’t want to tour anymore. It was me and Dave, the drummer, who didn’t want to end the band. We talked about it, but then we said, “It wouldn’t be Sister Sin if it was the two of us; if we were missing Jimmy or Strandh.” But, especially Jimmy, because he was there from the start- it was the three of us. We felt that, when Jimmy left, it felt like one very important piece of the band also disappeared. It was just going to be band if we took in two other people. We didn’t have the energy to take in or find two new people. So, we said, “Fuck it. Let’s quit here. We did Mayhem fest and it was great. Let’s quit when we’re still a good band.”
RMS: Did you ever see any reason for that to happen, while you were on that tour, or was this just a complete shock to you?
LJ: It was a complete shock, but when I look back at it, I think I missed the signs. In my head, and I also think in David’s head, there was no such thing as not playing in Sister Sin. We were just so like, “Eh, we’ll get through it,” or, “Whatever. It’s tough to tour, but we’ll always be together.” I don’t think we saw the signs. I think we just ignored them. I was shocked. Maybe I could see it from the bass-player’s stand, but I did not see it coming from Jimmy. I mean, when I look back at it, I can see it, but I didn’t at that time.
RMS: Well, you took a negative thing and turned it into a very positive thing, in that you decided to start a new band, LIV SIN. At any time, did you think to join another established band? Or, once Sister Sin was determined it wasn’t going to continue, you thought starting over with a new band was really your only option?
LJ: No. At the very beginning, I was very depressed, and I felt like my whole world, and even the ground, was disappearing beneath my feet because I lived for Sister Sin. In the beginning, it was very turbulent and I was very depressed. But, after a while I was like, “Get it together. You can still do this. You don’t have to stop.” Then, of course, when people start to ask you if you want to join in this and that, in the beginning you’re just like, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Because someone asks you, and you’re just like, “Oh yeah, of course I want to play in this!” But, there was never any music that I was so interested in; it was more pop/rock, more sleaze rock, more of those styles. Someone asked me about one that was more industrial metal, which is cool and I like it, but I’m not sure that I would do it very well. So, after a while, it was more about- what did I want to do? What is my strength? My strength is that I can sing metal. There’s a lot of amazing females and males singing rock ’n’ roll and other kinds of styles, but I can sing metal. So, that’s my strength, and that’s what I love to do. The music I listen to- Machine Head and Pantera. I don’t want to play music that sounds like a sleaze band, or anything like that. I don’t listen to that music. So, I decided that I wanted to play that music, and I wanted to continue to play metal. I then had to think about how to form my new project. I actually am not solo- this is my band. I chose my band very carefully, and we work as a band. We are all part of the company. But, we chose the name, “Liv Sin,” for easier promotion, instead of a band name. It is still a band, even though, of course, it is from what I started.
RMS: After the Sister Sin breakup in November of 2015, how long was it before you started forming your band?
LJ: I actually saw this on Facebook yesterday, or the day before. Me and my manager went public, that I was going to continue in the music industry- but, at that time, I didn’t have a band- so, that was a year ago. I think I found my guitar player, who I make all my songs with- Patrick Ankermark- in late May of last year. I remember we started to work on our first song in June. So, it was pretty quick, to find a new band, make songs, go into the studio, and release it. It was about a year.
RMS: That is a pretty good turnaround time. You started in June, and the record’s already out now; that’s pretty quick.
LS: Yeah, it was. It was crazy.
RMS: So, Patrick wrote the songs with you? Was any of the material maybe something that you had for future Sister Sin songs, or was this all new stuff?
LJ: No, this is all brand new. In Sister Sin, it was Dave and Jimmy who made all the music, and all the lyrics and everything. So, I kind of had to dig into myself again. I used to do lyrics, and I used to play guitar a long, long time ago, but that was twelve-fifteen years ago. So, I had to like, pick it up again, and it took some time. I was like, “Oh, fuck. How do I write a lyric?” I started to think, and I had all these riffs in my head that I wanted to have, but they match my fingers when I tried to play them on the guitar, because I hadn’t picked up the guitar in 10 years. So, that’s how I knew I kind of needed someone. Sometimes, Patrick comes up with some ideas, and sometimes I come up with my ideas, and I sing them to him. I remember I sang him some guitar riffs, which don’t sound very good, when you sing them. But, I sang them to him, and he somehow figured them out and played them on guitar.
RMS: Did you find this whole process as more of a pleasant experience, or did you find it more stressful, because your career was on the line?
LJ: I found it very stressful, especially in the end. The summer came in between, and we had like, two and a half song ideas in the middle of August, and we were supposed to start recording the first of October. That’s one and a half months to do like, 10 more songs. That was very tense. All our free time was used to make songs. There was no social life for that one and a half months, period. In the end, I had a lot of writer’s block. Patrick sent me more riffs, but I was like, “No! I can’t write another lyric.” It was totally fucked. It was a bit stressful (laughs).
RMS: I can’t even imagine. Shopping this record for a record label- did you have many labels that were interested, or was there one in particular? Was the label you signed with the one you were interested in from the beginning?
LJ: I looked a little bit, with the help of my manager, but Despotz responded very quickly; the same day, I think, that I contacted them. They contacted me back with a good offer. I felt very happy with that offer. I also felt that it was good to have a label in the same country, and also in the same city where I live. You can have more personal relationship with them, and it’s not a big label, so you’re not at the bottom of 150 bands. So, I felt that they would actually work for me, and they do. So, far, I think they’re doing a really good job. I do interviews almost every day. They do a lot of promotion. So, so far, I think they are working very well. The only bad thing with Despotz is that, it is a Swedish label, and not an American label, which makes it harder for us to come over and tour in America. With Victory, it was easy for us to come over. Victory helped us with Visas, but with Despotz, it is harder. It’s a Swedish label, and it costs a lot to take us over to America.
RMS: I want to talk about a couple of songs- actually, three songs- from the record. If you could just give me some details on how they came about. The first song I want to talk about is the title track, “Let Me Out,” which, I feel, is a very strong song. You released a video for that, and I believe it was the first single. Tell me how that song came about.
LJ: Yes. Actually, the riff to, “Let Me Out,” I think was the very first riff Patrick sent me when I was kind of still looking for guitar players, and someone to work with. I had a lot of producers and songwriters sending me songs, but no one understood what I was after. There was no metal, at all. I was like, “Ahh!” But then, Patrick sent me the riff to, “Let Me Out.” I was like, “Yes! This is a real guitar riff, and this is the kind of music that I want to do.” So, I think it’s pretty cool that it’s the first single that is released. It’s a catchy riff, but it’s still heavy. I like it very much. I think, also, it is maybe the easiest song for the old Sister Sin fans. I think it is the song that mostly reminds people of Sister Sin. That’s also a little bit of why we put it out as the first single, that hopefully Sister Sin fans will recognize me and the music, and want to listen more to the record.
RMS: I agree with you. The second song I want to talk about is the cover of the Fight song, “Immortal Sin.” It’s a great cover. I think a lot of people kind of forgot about that song; that’s a very powerful song.
LJ: It is, because I forgot about it. It’s like you said- it’s an underrated song, it’s forgotten. We didn’t think about having any covers on the record, at first. This was happening when I was in Germany, and I recorded with Stephan Kaufmann (ACCEPT, UDO). Me and Stephan had one of these YouTube nights after my vocals were done. We were sitting down, we were YouTubing and drinking wine. We were having a Halford night since we’re both fans. We were listening to Judas Priest, we were listening Halford’s older stuff, and we were listening to some Fight. This song came up, and both of us were like, “Yeah, this is a good song. I like the riff.” We talked about it, because it’s forgotten and underrated. And then, Stefan said, “Maybe you should do a cover of it because of the heavy riffs. And also because of, ‘Immortal Sin,’ and ‘Liv Sin.’” So, why not? We recorded it the next day; easy recording. It was like, one and a half hours. Done. Sent it to the band who also liked the idea. But, we kind of felt like something was missing. So, I’ve been a friend of Jyrki of 69 Eyes for over 10 years, and I’ve always wanted to do a song with him; I love his deep voice. But, it never suited, or it never was a good time. But, when I heard that song, I remembered that. I was like, “Yeah! This would suit his low, dark voice very well.” So, I called him up, and he had time right away. So, a couple of weeks after that, he flew down to Germany and recorded it. It turned out good.
RMS: I agree. Did you get any response from Rob Halford about the song? Has he heard it yet?
LJ: No, not as far as I know. We’ll see. The video is out for it now, too, from yesterday. Maybe he’ll see it.
RMS: I saw the video. It was a pretty cool video. Very intense.
LJ: I really appreciated that Jyrki wanted to do a video, and flew over to Stockholm. I mean, that helps a lot, if we can get some of his fans, too, of course.
RMS: The next song I want to talk about, is the very first song that leads the record off, the song called, “The Fall.” Tell me about how that song came about.
LJ: That’s my favorite song. Oh, yeah. I love that. That’s one of the best songs to play live, too, because it’s so intense, and fast, and just.. ahh. I can’t express. I don’t know- but I like it. It’s my favorite song. That’s also one of the very first riffs that Patrick sent to me. I know when I first heard it, I was like, “Yes! This is how I want it to be! I want the whole record to be this!” But, maybe that might have been a little bit boring. So, I loved that song from the very beginning. I think it’s just a very good song to start with, because if anybody thought that I would turn softer, or more fleecy, they would know from the start that no, that will not happen. There’s a little bit of aggression in that song. It could be about one person, or people, or whoever who thinks a little too much of themselves sometimes; when their ego starts to take over. When their ego takes over, that’s when they fall down again.
RMS: You mentioned earlier about touring, and one of my questions, of course, is do you have any plans to come here, to the US to tour? Because of your label, do you not have any plans right now? Are there plans in the making?
LJ: Plans in the making. Let’s say if we got a very good opportunity, like a very good support start or something that would open the market or give us a bigger audience, I know that the label would try to help. We will also do anything that we can so we could take it. So, it’s in the planning. I can’t promise anything, but we are talking about it.
RMS: What are your immediate tour plans, right now?
LJ: We are playing mostly the festivals here, in Sweden. We have weekend shows in the beginning, and festivals in Sweden. After the summer, we are looking out for a longer tour in Europe. We have Spain, so far, but we will add on to that. We will do a longer tour in the fall.
RMS: Have you ever considered doing an autobiography- writing a book about your career and your life, and your adventures on the road?
LJ: (Laughs) Actually, sometimes, because we have some pretty funny stories. I guess that every band has funny stories, but Sister Sin was a very funny band on tour. We had a lot of bad luck always following us. Things kind of always happened around us; cars were breaking down, flights that didn’t happen, stuff like that. Sometimes I think it would be a pretty good book. You never know. I used to write when I was younger; I was very good at writing. So, you never know. My mom is an author.
RMS: Oh, really?
RMS: Does she have any books published?
LJ: Only in Sweden.
RMS: What would you like to accomplish with this first record? What are your main goals and priorities?
LJ: It is, of course, to get back out on the road, and also coming over to America again. All I want to do- and I speak for my band members, too- is to actually be able to live out of music, and to tour and record, and tour and record, because that’s the most amazing thing there is in the world, I feel. Music. I just want to get out and play again, and meet fantastic people. My goal of course, is to take this band, if I can, even higher than Sister Sin, because it was very rough, with Sister Sin. My goal is to take this one step further. We’ll see if I succeed.
RMS: I think you have a very strong record under your belt, and I think you have a very good chance of doing that. I want to thank you for your time. I’ve been a fan of Sister Sin, pretty much, since the beginning, and I was very heartbroken to hear when you guys broke up. I feel a lot better now, to know that you’re continuing. Your music is brilliant, as always. Congratulations. I’m looking forward to hearing a lot more from you, in the future.
LJ: Oh, wonderful! Thank you so much. Have a good day!
For more on LIV SIN, please visit http://www.liv-sin.com
Special thanks to Dave Tedder for setting up this interview, and also Dana Kaiser for her timely and accurate transcription.