What happens when you’re in quarantine? You watch a LOT of movies! That’s when Chris Laney (PRETTY MAIDS) realised how many fantastic soundtracks there are out there. After an online chat with Allan Sørensen (PRETTY MAIDS, ROYAL HUNT) and Morten Sandager (PRETTY MAIDS, MERCENARY), they decided to contact some friends asking them to join in for some quarantine fun. When the mighty Björn “Speed” Strid (THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, SOILWORK) joined AT THE MOVIES was born.
The anthem No Easy Way Out from Rocky IV was first out and was already praised by it’s original singer Robert Tepper. In the meantime heavy weights like Ronnie Atkins (PRETTY MAIDS), Jacob Hansen (Volbeat/Amaranthe/Pretty Maids-producer) or Bruce Kulick (ex-KISS) have joined the fold as guest stars. Chris Laney tells Hi Fi Way more about At The Movies.
Congratulations on the album. It’s absolutely fantastic, it sounds like everyone had a whole bunch of fun making it. Did it seem like that when you were in the studio working these songs?
Thank you. We had so much fun. But seriously, all of us have not met so far, since it all came about under lockdown. We had our Zoom meetings and had a bunch of fun during those.
In terms of getting a group or a project together, did you have the people in mind that you wanted to be a part of this and how did that come together?
It was actually just an accident, all of it, to be honest. It started off with me watching a movie with my wife, and it was one of those cheesy rom-coms with Hugh Grant called, Music and Lyrics, I think. He played some washed up old pop star and he was a one hit wonder with a song called Pop Goes My Heart. I just loved it, even though it was cheesy. So my wife told me “I can see your body language. You want to go up to the studio right now. Right?” I said, “yes, please, please.” So I made a Def Leppard version of that and sent it off to Allan Sørensen (our drummer), just for fun. We usually send shit to each other. He went like, “Man, we should do some cool cover songss.”
That’s how the idea came about. Then I sent it off to Bjorn Strid, the singer, and he was like, “yeah, we need to do something.” So we just worked out that we would do movie tracks. The first one was No Easy Way Out. We started talking about who should be involved. Allan and I, as the brainchild’s behind this, we had an idea to maybe do this with different musicians on every song. When we got Pontus and Pontus in, whom are old friends of mine, we played together in a band called Zan Clan, like fifteen years ago. It was like, “No, we’ve got to be a band. We can’t be a project.” If we’re going to do one more song, we need to have the same line-up, so we did. We invited Linnea to be a part of it as well.
How did workout what the list of songs would be? Did you work out what your favourite films are, what the cheesy films are, the songs that are connected with those and what ones you actually thought the band could do something with?
We work fast and the whole idea was to make one song and then release it on YouTube. People really seemed to enjoy it. When we were all sitting on this Zoom meeting the question that came up was, “shouldn’t we do one more?” and then someone said, “Let’s do three.” so it’s not just a one song thing. Then three became five. Then it ended up at twenty four songs. The whole idea was to find songs that were not rock tunes because there’s no point of us doing rock tunes since they’re already rocky.
So we said, “okay, let’s go for the songs that will just change by us playing them.” We use the same key, we use the same tempo, the same arrangements. I mean, the easiest way for us would be to do a metal version of a song but there was no point of that. We went for the pop songs and ended up with a lot of ideas. Then on YouTube a lot of people were requesting songs and we ended up with even more ideas from that.
Have you been blown away by the reaction from fans of the bands that you all are associated with and music fans in general?
Yeah. This has reached people that normally wouldn’t listen to a metal band. Like Bjorn said, he has his band Soilwork and Night Flight Orchestra which are both very, very successful right now, “the strangest thing is, now when I meet old friends, family and everyone, now they think I can sing when at the movies.” I think this is great fun.
What were those initial Zoom sessions like particularly when you started throwing song ideas around?
We decided to release one song every week. We didn’t have anything else to do because we were in lockdown. After the first song, we had a lot of beers and wine, cheering over the internet. Then we said, “okay, so what’s the next song?” Maniac came up and then on the Friday I started making a demo out of it to see if it worked. Everyone said, “okay, this is the vibe.” Then I sent it off to Allan without the drum machine and then I got his drums back, mixed them real quick, sent it over without bass to Egberg and so on and so on. We had a deadline on the Tuesday, that everything needed to be done by Tuesday so I could mix it for a few hours and then make the video on Wednesday and then release it on Thursday. Then the next song, on Friday! So it was crazy for twelve weeks in the beginning.
Were there any songs in there that once you started getting into it and unpacking it, was a lot harder to arrange and play than what you originally thought?
Yeah, there were songs that we couldn’t do and ones that we gave up on. We tried to do them, When The Going Gets Tough, remember that one? The thing is it has this Aerosmith groove to it. It’s something in between a swing and shuffle. That’s the song you need to rehearse together. So we just couldn’t do it. Rather than panic we started on another track right away. There are songs that were harder to make, but I think it ended up really cool. For example, when we did, Time of Your Life, and who would do that song in their right mind? It’s a different thing if I did that with Pretty Maids or if Hammerfall did something like that because you would need to think about the fans and stay true to all of that. We have no boundaries and we can do what we feel like and have fun.
Have you ever wondered what each band member’s fans, even the most diehard of fans, would be thinking when they hear these songs?
The thing is we just had so much fun doing it. I think that stands out when going through the album. Also we’ve finished it in such a short period of time. It also shows that we couldn’t go back and redo shit. I mean, the drums are recorded in Allan’s drum room back home. This is not like a professional studio thing. We have been trying to make magic of what we have and I think that is in the people playing and performing.
Do you think this sets a bit of a blueprint in terms of how you will make future albums, whether that’s for At The Movies or even your main band?
For At The Movies, absolutely. We already are talking about volume three and I’ve done two demos so far. But this time I won’t stress about it. This time we need to figure out in what direction we’re going to go. We’re going to do it exactly the same way because there is no point in life to change something that works.
Are there any songs from particular movies that you absolutely dying to cover?
Oh yeah! Oh yeah! I won’t say because it will be too much pressure. We have thought about that, we did the eighties, the nineties and now people ask if it’s going to be the seventies or the 2000s, then I answered back and say, “we could do a best of Disney!” We could also do best of action movie soundtracks or whatever. I mean, there’s no rules.
I could just imagine Bjorn pulling off the Frozen, Let It Go!
Do you think you would tour this band maybe playing some of other bigger festivals or is it mostly a studio band?
Absolutely, when we started we did volume one and then we had a meeting where we though, “this is more than a project. Let’s call it a band.” So we did and we all signed the record deal together and we are planning on be able to play some festivals. We won’t be able to tour with it like a normal band because everyone has their own bands but festivals would be very cool. Can you imagine At The Movies after Venom, that would be awesome.
Are there are plans for volume three? Is there a timeframe or is it just fitting in between everybody else’s other commitments?
There’s no timeframe since we released two albums. I mean, it’s not often people release two albums on the same day, which I think is pretty cool. We have also released a box set. I think we can ride on this for a couple of more months.
Do you start to feel more confident about touring and maybe even more from an international perspective?
Not really to be honest. If you look at it every time you get your hopes up and then having to reschedule gigs and then postpone it again we are now two years in advance. This will be hard for a project like At The Movies. All the festivals have already booked their artists two years ago. It’s will be while before things get back to normal. That said, we have some offers, so it’s possible. Let’s just hope this shit goes away.
Interview By Rob Lyon