Producing Taboo; An interview with Kris Ragnstam of Kristoffer And The Harbour Heads

Emil, Joel and Kris goes under the name Kristoffer And The Harbour Heads. Their physical U.S. album debut entitled EX/EX. EX/EX is about relationships and relations in where we all become blinded. The stories, told by friends of Kristoffer Ragnstam, are reflections of their experience being in an infected situation.
EX/EX was written and recorded chronologically. Some of the songs are tied together by evocative transitions that we were recorded completely live, with nothing added afterwards. The trio rehearsed thoroughly as they wanted the organic sound decorated within the frames of 16 analog channels.
The Harbour Heads are shear, soiled and beautiful at the same time. A mixture of artist such as Daughter, Curtis Mayfield, Little Dragon and Pink Floyd gives the band a unique expression.
James Salter (Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Black Rebel Motorcycle, B52’s) took a flight from the U.S. to Kungsten Studios in Gothenburg to co-produce the album. After the recordings were done, the album was mixed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Ragnstam to discuss the band’s endeavors, and the album, which was released November 4. This is what he told us.
When did you first begin writing the material for the EX/EX?  
I got inspired during an album session in Los Angeles, where I worked as a producer. Every evening when we were done recording, we’d close the day at a Los Feliz based bar Called Dresden. Dresden has an amazing houseband. The keyboard player used a Yamaha DX7. I noticed myself missing that sound. A lot.
I promised myself to dig deeper in the studio. I wanted the new album and songs to take off from the last tune I wrote for Skyscrapers with Seagulls, ”Elephant In The Room.” The first songs I wrote were ”Scandal” and ”When You Say Stay.” Two songs with two different album polarities. For “When You Say Stay,” I messed around with my Yamaha Ps-20 keyboard and drum machines. For “Scandal” I went with classic 60´s pop-rock chords played on tape and a distorted Kinks sounding, acoustic guitar. With these songs and a lyrical idea of writing about separations and capsizing relations, it was kind of easy to just go wild from there.

This is your first release since 2014’s Skyscrapers with Seagulls. How have you progressed as a band?
The big difference is that we recorded everything as A BAND. Earlier I had a tendency to change and play tons of stuff by myself. Trust me, I’m bored of that sound. Even more bored of musicians like myself who constant need to prove a point and play all the instruments by themselves. I started to play music in a band. A band-swing hardly shows up if there is a one man band, trying to sound like a full sized group.
Also this is our first album where didn’t record in our own studio. We finally had the budget and guts record somewhere else. We went to Studio Kungsten. It’s basically an analog time capsule with one big ensemble-room.
Also our co-producer James Salter made us very comfortable and pushed us to nail the songs as a band.
Do you feel more like a band now, compared to 2014? Or have you and Harbour Heads always felt like a unit?
Yes, Harbour Heads always felt like a unit.
Musically I always felt like we´ve got a band vibe going on. On the personal level we´ve been on exotic adventures like getting married, having kids, getting cancer, going into remission, getting a divorce, etc. Plus all three of us moved to three different suburbs to renovate houses. And starting a new chapter. I think it’s called being a grown-up.
Musically we are extremely tight and respect each others’ ideas. And we all love to hang on tour, in studio and to rehearse. But when where not doing music, we hardly see each other, just because there is a parallel life going on with families, etc.
Maybe that’s the recipe for us. We´ve been doing this for a long time now and we still get the high of it.
We hear some Arcade Fire in “Right This Wrong”, before it takes that crazy dog leg into disco terrain. This leads me to two questions. One, is Arcade Fire an influence? Two, where in the world did this song come from?
Ha,ha,ha,ha!! I’m sorry. It’s always tempting to bend, blend and mess up emotions in music. We just got our DX7 back from the repair shop when I did the demo of that song. Joel came up with the pitch-bend thing. The disco-strings did enter the song very natural. They sounded awesome and also a tiny flirt with a 2016 production taboo.
Arcade Fire never really have been an influence. Though I do like there albums and they have a unique sound and way of write songs. They manage to use very hard and gritty sounds with well written melodies. Neon Bible is one of the best album titles. Personally I feel it’s one of those classic alternative-music-albums that never gets boring to listen to. Markus Dravs did a killer job on that album. Hats off to that guy. What a freakin’ talent.
Do you have any plans for a U.S. tour?
We´ve got the most wonderful looking backline. I feel obligated to show it to everyone in America.
There are rumors about us hitting the U.S.-roads. Honestly it’s so F#CKING expensive to tour in America. Let me rephrase that. It’s expensive to enter America. Since we’re not U.S.-citizens, we need P1 working permit. And that cost us as a band a true fortune.
As I just said. there are people who want us to play. And we love to come back. It all looks promising. But promising isn’t related to a promise. Time will tell.
(Visit the band here: