Fredrik Solfors doesn’t have much use for arbitrary musical labels, preferring instead to allow his creativity to wander without restriction. The Swedish musician’s work exists in a world without genres, effortlessly melding aesthetics and creating some truly original sounds. Initially throwing his focus on the drums, he would later move on to guitar and piano (and try his hand at singing and songwriting) in various bands such as Wagon, The Low Season Combo and Kinetics. He also handled percussion for Swedish band Surrounded, which was eventually signed by labels Deep Elm and One Little Indian.
He took on the moniker of The School Book Depository as a way to loosen the reins of his influences – he wasn’t concerned for convention, just an unfiltered act of creation that would lead him through countless musical landscapes. He released his self-titled debut in 2017 to acclaim, and its complex cross-genre pollination only hinted at what was to come from Solfors.
From that record to his recently released sophomore album, “Bob and the Pitchfork Mob,” he has continued to explore both the differences and commonalities between various strains of music, resulting in a record that swings from garage pop to hip-hop and post-rock with no discernible difficulty. The new songs possess a vivid sense of their own construction – not self-aware exactly – but more about their ability to subvert the expectations of their audience. They’re intricate and surprising, filled with narrative twists and turns that highlight the complicated relationship that exists between Solfor’s words and the sounds within which he works.
He recently sat down with The Southern Sounding and revealed the inspirations and thoughts behind each track on “Bob and the Pitchfork Mob.” Check out the deep dive into his new record below.
01. “The Trail”
“The first song is about religious dogma and where it has got us. I realize that we all have some sense of spirituality in our human mind, which is fine, but I have always had a hard time understanding how we can subject ourselves so easily to authoritarian beliefs and rules. But as they say, the lord works in mysterious ways! I thought this had the potential of becoming an alt country hit in the American bible belt but that was before the lyrics. But what can you expect from a Swedish heathen? I like the chord progression and how it moves from minor to major. I recorded the drums with my friend Poppe who worked in a studio in my home town. He is a musician too so we help each other out on different projects. The only way to go with a zero dollar budget.”
“Obsessed by skateboarding and pop music I wrote my first song called California some 20 years ago and poured all my youthful longing into it. It became a semi-hit in some circles but then every song my band could get passed our zip-code area we regarded a ”hit”. Years passed until it turned up on a blog and I was a bit charmed by the lyrics about leading a slacker life in the Californian sun. I thought it would be interesting to continue the story I started as a youngster, what has happened to the references? How have I changed? Not much apparently but for the bitter lesson that, regardless of how grand plans you have for an alternative lifestyle, you’ll eventually end up at some government/municipal agency, tucking your shirt in and enduring endless meetings and drinking bad coffee. So dream on as long as you can!”
03. “Bob and the Pitchfork Mob”
“Bob is a fictional character from my first album where he is an old unemployed civil war reenactor trying to recapture some dignity in a world where he feels left out. In this song he has become a ”prepper”, viewing the world with growing suspicion, living off the grid and preparing for a post apocalyptic world. It’s interesting to see how the political landscape and social media has fed all sorts of movements and fringe groups that develop their conspiracy theories and alternative theories. Bob is a result of this postmodern era where some people feel forgotten and seek unity in these fringe groups. I’m a three chord-guy but here I went haywire, I’m proud of this one though!”
04. “A Tear in the Fabric”
“A song about how convenient it would be if you could travel in time, avoid mistakes and help your friends placing bets and so on. First I thought I would keep it low key in some acoustic Dylan-style but then I went ballistic on it with pianos, string arrangements and stuff.”
“On the surface it’s about the mythical Sasquatch trying to find a last resort to dwell away from explorers and Bigfoot enthusiasts pushing him further and further into the wilderness. But it’s also about mankind’s longing for simplicity and how the aim for ”progress” tends to devour our resources at an alarming rate and leaving the earth ravaged. It’s a desperate call for help, hence the distorted guitars and upbeat tempo.”
“I guess the flow and the laid back feeling in this led me to the lyrics. The song is about floating downstream on your back in an extremely polluted river in the German Ruhr-area in both comfort and utter disgust. As you gently float further down among plastic bags and dead raccoons, more and more people show up, following and sheering you on in the belief it’s some kind of symbolical manifestation or movement. It’s not. It’s just you in your sedated state letting you get swept away by the current. It’s a metaphor for how we tackle environmental issues, living comfortably on a growing dump, aiming to do something, but ‘not today’.”
07. “Lunar Billboards”
“What is left to privatize? Capitalism might be the system we agreed on but unleashed it’s a beast. When we have capitalized on every imaginable service or item on earth, what is next? Will sunlight be provided to those with the premium account and will planets be massive advertising areas? Pretty satisfied with the outro where I added timpani over my drums and the final line, ‘What tops pure good intentions? - a solid business plan!’”
08. “Out of My Hands”
“It’s about sticking up for yourself and your style even if you get mocked by others. My previous band shared the rehearsal basement with some older guys who played Stones-covers and things like that and I sensed that some people rolled their eyes at them, thinking they were stuck in a past that never will come back. But whoever thinks like that will probably end up in that position themselves some years down the line. It is not only sympathy for the old geezer getting educated by fourth graders on technological gadgets but also a salute to music as a rejuvenating force. On this one I recorded the drums in my friend Simeon’s studio in Gothenburg, turned out pretty well even though I suck at mixing drums. Live and learn!”
09. “Fly Over States”
“The definition of a ”Fly over state” is a state so insignificant and lacking tourist attractions that only a few people stop there, it’s often a rural, working class area far from the political elite. I think it’s such a sad term that shows the growing division between the urban and the rural on many levels. I also use it ambiguously as a state of mind, detached from both feelings and opportunities. Even though it’s an American term we have got the equivalent in our small Swedish towns that struggle to survive and not becoming ghost towns. For some reason I had Harmony Korine’s ”Gummo” in my mind when I set the tone for it. Both beautiful and disturbing. The piano theme has been around in my head for years but finally I got around to make a song of it.”
“Since this little song has such a lullaby-feel to it I thought I wanted to convey the feeling of fear you felt as a kid at bed time when rational thinking not yet had taken away the mysteries of the world. In order to overcome your fears, you sometimes turned to imaginary friends or fictional characters for comfort or guidance. It could be a poster of Luke Skywalker or Karate Kid who silently pushed you forward without passing any judgments. Musically it has a folkish, Scandinavian vibe to it which is kind of new for me.
So overall it’s not much ”amore” on the album but a lot of escapism, sarcasm, environmental issues, and views on our current society sprinkled with some kind of weird humor.”