An Optimistic Spin; An interview with Erik Stephansson, aka. Suntrodden

Suntrodden is the songwriting vehicle for Erik Stephansson, who music media has called “a pop songwriter with the gift” and described his music as having a “breezy, minimal feeling that leaves an indelible mark via lo-fi and warm alt-rock jangling.” Suntrodden adopts a stripped down production approach and streamlined song structures that place Erik’s thoughtful lyrics at the forefront. Built on a foundation of restrained percussion and unhurried acoustic guitar or piano, the songs are draped in chiming lead guitar lines, warm organs, and tasteful analog synths. On III, he delves into the struggle to maintain blood-and-bone relationships and self-identity in a soundbyte-driven online culture. Suntrodden released its first EP in February of 2016 with a follow-up in October of the same year. III hit the streets in late June.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Stephansson to discuss the series and his plans for the project. This is what he told us.
Photo by Jonathan Crew
When did you first begin writing the material for this series?
I started writing during the press cycle for Suntrodden II.  I had general themes sketched out, but nothing fully formed lyrically or structurally.  Truthfully, the lyrics weren’t finalized until the eleventh hour when my self-imposed deadline was looming.  Sometimes, that’s when the best material comes out – it’s almost a fight or flight mentality at that point.
Were all of the songs written at the same time? Or was it more like the first EP was out before you’d written anything for III?
The EPs were written and recorded one at a time.  One of my friends had participated in a one-month album competition where everything had to be written and recorded during that time period.  While I didn’t limit myself to a month, I used his experience as inspiration of sorts in terms of setting ‘rules’ for how I approached the project.  I would say there are some commonalities across the records, because of the shortened timeline…but, in a sense, each one stands on its own.
What was the thinking of sharing three EPs instead of one LP? Was it way to stay in the public eye for a longer period of time?
There were really three reasons.  First, as you noted, it let me introduce myself a few songs at a time over an extended period.  People have short attention spans these days, and I did have concerns that a no-name artist like Suntrodden would get lost in the shuffle if it was a one-off release.  Second, it helped me get over my musical ADD.  I started a few records in the past that got derailed by boredom or new projects.  I thought a series of five-song EPs would be more likely for me to actually finish.  Finally, I’d never released music commercially before, so it was a bit for my own education as well.  I wanted to learn the process and get a sense for best practices.
Is there a different theme to each EP?
I think the first record has a certain brightness to it, while the second has a little bit more of an edge.  Suntrodden III is sort of coming to terms with the good and the bad.  In a sense, that’s really what Suntrodden was all about in the first place…an optimistic spin on my misguided steps through life.  I just try to get better as I go…I guess you could call it opt-pop.
What’s next for Suntrodden?
I had only planned to do the three EP suite when I started, so I’m on the fence with next steps beyond there definitely being new music in the future.  Part of me wants to take a drastic departure from the stripped down stylings of these EPs and make it bigger and louder.  That said, I have four, five or six songs kicking around right now that really fit more under the current Suntrodden aesthetic.  So, I think it’s really finding how the Suntrodden sound can expand without losing its core.  In any case, I’m looking forward to wherever it takes me.
(Visit Suntrodden here: