It’s not unusual for best friends to form bands, and Grapell co-founders Emil Erstrand and Nils Nygårdh have been friends and bandmates since they were teenagers. What is unusual, though, is for that chemistry to translate so wholly into a timeless sound, a style so fully-formed it feels borne from a lifetime of collaboration. The Swedish duo’s debut album Crier does just that, walking a perfect tightrope between simplicity and sophistication. Give it even a passive listen and the vivid sense of romance proves hard to ignore. Dig a little deeper though, and you find more of love’s complexity, the tug-o-war between a person’s head and his heart.
The road to Crier was a long one: Erstrand and Nygårdh formed their first band, Good Morning June, in high school. Describing it in hindsight as “five guys who couldn’t agree on anything” they moved on to form Grapell, which started as a multi-piece outfit before intimately paring down to the two friends working as a duo. They enlisted other talented cohorts as they needed to, but the songwriting and vision is now theirs alone. In 2016 the duo released the Love Chamber EP which included “Arrow” a track which set blogs and streaming services alight.
For their full length the duo decided to stick to what felt the most natural and recorded the album between their rehersal space and Emil’s house, the result is an album which is bold as it is smooth. Crier deals with themes of simplified love, romance and heartbreak, it’s arrangements are dynamic and bright, unique from song to song, but they also stick together perfectly to form a cohesive whole.
The recording process didn’t have it’s frustrations or set backs, deadlines passed and songs needed more time and attention but it wasn’t just what was happening in the studio that led to the delays. Erstrand explains how they managed to block out the noise “with a lot of things going on in the world, so much terrible stuff constantly taking up space in the papers, and also experiencing some horrors up close, it has sometimes been hard just focusing on songs about romantic love. But somewhere along the line it became really important to let yourself focus on only that. To create a little bubble where that remains being the most important thing. Even though totally different kinds of fears are lurking around the corner, threatening to make a couple of love songs seem pretty… meaningless or useless – in comparison to death, for example.”
Key tracks on the album include “No Longer Free”, the band’s homage to 70’s soul music and “On Our Side” explores the concept of truth and what role it plays in a relationship between two people. Another standout from the album is “Heartbreaker” which is perhaps the most pop heavy track on Crier shows the band at their best.
The songwriting on Crier is personal but Grapell don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves rather inviting the listener to make up their own minds and emotions as the songs wash over them. Erstrand tells us “If someone hears our music and feels something that’s great, the best complement is when someone says that they have cried to a song you’ve made.”