A Conversation with Cristofer Johansen of Goatriders about their New Album, What the Band’s Listening to, and Getting Outside their Comfort Zones

The Goatriders hail from Linköping, Sweden, and they claim they’re from the middle of nowhere. But maybe it’s the center of everywhere. Maybe. Judging by the cosmic, groove-laden sound of their new record, Traveler, the space travelers from Sweden may have tapped into some astral energy we don’t know about yet.

The fuzzy psychedelic quartet of the Goatriders recently released Traveler, a follow-up to their 2020 debut album, The Magician’s Keep. Frontman Christofer Johansen told Maximum Level Music recently the new album “serves as a metaphor with inspirations split between interstellar space travel and witches gathering for a black mass.”

Tracks like “Atomic Sunlight” and “Witches Walk” are a sonic experience not to be missed. Goatriders’ new album has heavy jam-session vibes and throws in some 70s-era prog rock and harder riffs of modern Stoner Rock for good measure.

The Swedish rockers released the album on July 1st on vinyl through Majestic Mountain Records. The excellent sophomore album was also released on cassette tape through Evil Noise Recordings and on CD through Ozium Records.

I got a chance to chat via email with Christofer, the frontman, about the new album, what the band’s listening to, and other odds and ends.

Interview with Christofer Johansen of Goatriders

Third Eye: Thanks for doing the interview and reaching out! I really dig the new album. I love “Wayward Sun” and “Witches Walk” and the long, freaky jam sessions. So, this is Goatriders’ second record, a follow-up to 2020s The Magician’s Keep. What were you trying to accomplish with Traveler, and how would you say it’s different from your first record?

Christofer: Well, thank you for taking your time and doing this with us, and thank you for the kind words.

With Traveler, I think we first of all really wanted to continue with the momentum we got with the songwriting and jamming we had on Magician’s. Like we jammed a couple of the songs on Traveler already when we recorded Magician’s. And “Unscathed”, for example, is one of the first songs we wrote and was a part of our first two-song demo. So, honestly, to just keep the flow going was a big part of it. But also, and I guess this is on different levels throughout the band, we wanted to push ourselves. To do this a bit more outside our comfort zone, doing it in a live setting, with more songs, and pushing ourselves with the timeframe.

Like this is seven songs, one jam track and the acapella outro recorded over five or six days. The big chunk of it was all the instrumentation which was recorded live over a weekend; the vocals were done in one seven-hour session, while noise and percussion were on a Saturday one week after the rest of it.

Magician’s was more laid back, a bit easier on the ear, while with Traveler, we really wanted to push it and give the listener more of an experience.

Christofer Johansen

The big live session was a real piece of work, though; some songs just not “getting there” for several takes or like playing a 9-minute song over and over again from start to finish … it really takes its toll. But in the end, we got a truly honest and special representation of the songs.

And in the end, what really sets Traveler apart is the soundscape we created and how that affects the listener. Magician’s was more laid back, a bit easier on the ear, while with Traveler, we really wanted to push it and give the listener more of an experience.

That goes for the record as a whole, with the vinyl being the best representation of that with the cover art (Drawn to perfection by our drummer Daniel Pihl), the way the vinyl looks, and finally with the sounds.

How Goatriders got together

Third Eye: I love a good origin story. Who doesn’t, right? So, how did Goatriders start? How did all you guys get together and start making music?

Christofer: Well, it all started in our local Church of Satan, where we all attended a black mass. It was right before we made a child sacrifice to the dark lord … no, just kidding! Unfortunately, that is not true. It is mostly just a story of time. Our bass player, Jimmy, had a band that had taken on several different forms throughout the years, with many people coming and going.

So, with that, the name Goatrider took form and later changed to Goatriders and the idea of playing hard 70’s rock, which later changed to hard psychedelic fuzz. Over the years, the right people just found their way to the band. Either via friends or Facebook ads or that Jimmy and Robin (who plays guitar) are brothers. So even though Robin was the last one in, it wasn’t a long shot before he would end up in the band.

And with that, the band has really grown into something special; even though it started with one person, it’s not a one-man band. Goatriders gets its sound from all of us in the band and the different ways we approach music. It is not a band where one guy writes a bunch of songs and calls in some other guys to record and perform them. We do all the songwriting together via jams, where we play songs, and they develop naturally when we play them.

Where Goatriders draws inspiration from

Third Eye: It’s been noted that Goatriders takes a lot of inspiration from ‘70s metal, stoner and desert rock, and progressive rock. So, if you had to sum it up, what have been the biggest bands and musical influences for you guys?

Christofer: Yeah, this whole genre wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for bands like Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. But to be honest, we take more from current bands like Naxatras, maybe some Brant Bjork or early Monster Magnet (especially Tab and Dopes to Infinity) to affect how we sound.

Then there is more about how we take inspiration from bands we have little in common with. Like Cult of Luna or At the Gates, where we got very little musically in common but instead where we can listen to an approach to a riff or how a song develops and take something from that. Or lyrically, I can listen to bands like Integrity or Lewd Acts and nitpick stuff from their songs that gets me going.

Then, in the end, we know how Goatriders sound and what a Goatriders song should sound and feel like. So, we take those pieces of the puzzle and try to put them together in our jams.

Reading up on weird stuff

Third Eye: What are the members of Goatriders listening to right now? Give us some recommendations of great new bands!

Christofer: Right now, you should not miss out on CB3 (Charlotta’s Burning Trio). Their new album looks to be excellent; every single from the record has blown me away so far. Our friends in Satanic Youth Club are super cool, too; they sound like if Artic Monkey worshiped Satan. They really got something special in the works.

Another band on Majestic Mountain that releases their debut really soon is a band called Dröög, and from the sound of it, they really got it going. My personal summer soundtrack, though, has been a band called Spiritual Cramp, punk rock, super fun, and makes you want to start a band and ride a Vespa.

Third Eye: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from? It seems y’all are into space, wizardry, and black magic.

Christofer: Lyrically, I take a lot of inspiration from different arts around me; films like The Wickerman or The VVitch are great inspirations.

I like to flip through books and read up on weird stuff. Like the book Trolldom by Johannes Björn Gårdbäck, which is about folk magic in the north, was a book that I really took a lot from for Traveler. Also, The Book of Law is always great when you need inspiration. And there is a book called The Empire of Death by Paul Koudounaris that really gets me in the right place whenever I need inspiration. And when it comes to space, Cosmos by Carl Sagan is always a great read, or I just scroll through pictures on r/space on Reddit to get my juices flowing.

Hunting for shows

Third Eye: The past few years have been weird because of COVID and how that’s affected live music. But have Goatriders been able to play any shows lately? Do you plan on playing live more?

Christofer: Tell me about it. It’s been hard being in a band during COVID, not being able to meet up and jam. And just as everyone else, we’re hunting shows; we did play at an awesome space in Gothenburg called Sekten last spring and have a couple of things coming up this fall. A show together with Void Commander in Stockholm now September 2nd is first up.

Third Eye: What’s your favorite track on Traveler and why?

Christofer: “Witches Walk” is probably the one song that defines us as a band best on the record; it’s great fun to play, it’s dynamic, lyrically, it’s one of the better ones on the record, and also the outro is probably the best thing we’ve ever written. But one of the tracks that’s been a bit overlooked on the album is “Snakemother”; it’s one of those jams that get us going. It’s such a mad riff and one of those songs that put the listener on the spot and aren’t a comfortable listen. But again, defines us as a band and what we’re trying to do.

Third Eye: Traveler is your first record with Majestic Mountain Records. I hadn’t heard of the DIY label before, but they look great! Can you tell me about Majestic Mountain Records and how you connected with them?

Christofer: Well Traveler is actually released on three labels, Majestic Mountain, Ozium records, and Evil Noise Recordings.

Majestic is on the verge of becoming a real powerhouse here in Europe with their releases; they have a great ear and consist of people who want the bands to take the next step. We were friends from way back with Vesper, who handles the PR at Majestic, and Mats over at Ozium, that released Magicians, reached out to Marco at Majestic to do the release as a co-op. So, it was a natural step for the band to continue our journey together with MMR.

And with Evil Noise, we’re fans of Neils’s band Mystery Dudes and many of the bands he’s been getting out on cassette, so we reached out and talked it over. And since the feelings were mutual, it was a really easy decision to do the cassette release with him.

What’s next for Goatriders

Third Eye: What’s next for Goatriders? And what’s going on in Sweden?

Christofer: Next up is hopefully getting some shows done during the coming fall and spring. Jamming many new tunes and getting to work with the next record.

And with the ‘Rona losing its grip, a bunch of shows are happening now. A few on my radar are probably Cro-Mags in a week, a local show with Skreackoedlan around the corner, Gloomy Days-fest, and the Hällas tour in October. Also, Watain playing in Stockholm this fall should be a lot of fun. But there’s a bunch of stuff happening all over, hopefully with Goatriders showing up on the bill on at least some of them.

Support Goatriders by checking out their Bandcamp or find them on social media (Instagram, Facebook).

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