Greenleaf are just one of those bands that nature was trying to make happen.
Over the last 15 years the band have played with dudes from Demon Cleaner, Lowrider, Truckfighters and Dozer, and together they have pulled the best of 70s British rock and 90s U.S stoner to create a mix of heavy riffs, catchy blues vocals, traditional groove bass. And oh… some really nice drums.
Hailing from Sweden (where most of the good stuff comes from right now) Greenleaf got together with Steak to play a winter show at the Borderline. Tonight I’m catching up with Tommi Holappa before the gig to talk about their recent signing with Napalm Records and new album Rise Above the Meadows.
So Tommi, founding and longest standing member of Greenleaf, did you think the band would last this long?
Not really, it was just a side project from the beginning and we started in like ’99 or something, as just a fun thing to do. There were members from my other band Dozer, and some other band members from Lowrider and Demon Cleaner that wanted to play. We were all into the stoner rock thing from the 90s and 2000s
What do you think pushed the band to into full time project?
We took a long break with Dozer, my other band. We didn’t know if we would quit or if it was just a break. Greenleaf Oskar, who also plays with Truckfighters, was touring so much that we weren’t playing and I wanted to tour more, so I called Arvid and he joined the band and we released Trails and Passes. Everything felt really good and we knew that we should do this and play more.
Who did you grow up listening to?
Growing up it was definitely Kiss. Yeah, they were the reason I wanted to make music. From when I was 7 or 8 years old, and even now, I still listen to Kiss. And then in the 90s it was Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, and then I found Monster Magnet in, like, ’93. Then Kyuss around the same time. So it was like yeah, you can down tune your guitars and sound heavier, cool! I wanted to be a 70s rock band cause we loved all the British bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.
In the beginning Greenleaf was very 70s influenced, and now we have some blues and bit of the Dozer thing as well, and that’s because the riffs still come from my fingers.
Did you have a goal for Rise Above the Meadow?
Just to write some really good songs, try to grow a bit. We wrote some more mellow stuff, the beginning of ‘Levitate and Bow’, that song was something new for Greenleaf. We took the step and tried some stuff we hadn’t done before because we had limitations then, and this was a small step outside of the box.
Ha! Yeah, I know. It’s been a lot of work but now Arvid has been in the band for 3-4 years, and Sebastian has been in the band for 3-4 years, so now we only change bass players. Hans who is playing with us now has been with us for a year, but the most difficult thing is when you change singers, it takes a lot of work to find someone that fits and that can sing the old songs as well as the new ones. With Arvid we have released two albums and they sound great, it works really well.
Do you ever get to jam with old members?
Not really, no. We see them once and a while. We’re still friends and like a big happy family but we don’t see each other so much because everyone is off on tour.
What about the Napalm Records gig? How did you nail that one?
It was our booker, who is also our manager. He had some rehearsal recording with two, three new songs we had written that we sent him. It was a really crappy sounding recording, I think I actually recorded it on my phone, the sound was not good. He sent it there cause he knew the guy, who loved it, so he said he wanted to sign this band. So obviously we said, ‘Sure, why not?’!
Any plans for the future?
This UK tour will be the last for this year. We will take some time off then try to write some new songs, and then in March/April we might go to the US. Maybe. It’s not set in stone yet. There seems to be a bunch of people over there who want us to come over. Then after the spring it will be the festivals, and after the summer we will start recording.
Are there any other up and coming bands in Sweden you think we should know about?
Theres so many great up and coming bands from Sweden! But we did play last week in Oslo with a band called Skraeckoedlan.
Skraeckoedlan! It’s a Swedish word for Horror Lizard. That’s a cool band. I think they are doing pretty good in Sweden. I think they have a couple of songs in English but mostly in Swedish. But then there is a million bands, there are a lot of stoner rock bands, lots of 70s bands.
How much of the “Greenleaf” actually goes into the making of the music?
Ha nothing! Nope. I don’t think any of us smoke. I think only Arvid, maybe.
[Arvid] Maybe when I’m sleeping with the snoring guy, then maybe… to sleep!
Which brings me to my last question, which five albums are good to relax to?
I think the last good album I heard was a British one, the latest one from Wolf People. Its called Ruins. That album is really good. It’s really proggy, 70s sounding. What else is there? Midlake is a really good mellow one, its a bit more pop rock, lots of pop melodies. If I had to bring up some stoner rock stuff the latest Brant Bjork albums, and then there’s a million more! But then if you went back to the 70s theres all the Pink Floyd stuff.