You might know Rikard Sjo¨blom as the mutli-instrumentalist madman behind the microphone of the now-legendary Beardfish, who sang about everything from personal loss to dreams of sneaking into the backstreets of some sleazy '70s disco club. Wielding his keyboard like an 88-key progressive rock machine gun and a shoulder-slung guitar much in the same manner, Sjo¨blom truly was the face of the band. Beardfish came to an end in 2016, leaving room for new solo endeavors for Sjo¨blom.
With the same array of musical appendages, Sjo¨blom has carried on as a solo artist under the moniker “Gungfly” once more with his 2016 album “The Unbendable Sleep”, now followed by the new 2017 release “On Her Journey To The Sun, to be released on InsideOutMusic on May 19th. Just like “The Unbendable Sleep” before, “On Her Journey To The Sun” features Sjo¨blom's incredible vocal range, intensely personal lyrics, signature sense of complex-yet-catchy keyboard melodies, and guitar work that spans the spectrum of folksy to downright face melting.
“Gungfly was born out of necessity; songs came to life whenever there was downtime with Beardfish or if a song didn't quite fit within Beardfish’s (otherwise quite broad and eclectic) frame of styles. I basically started recording songs, mainly pop-oriented material, but being the type of songwriter and musician I am some prog slipped through under the radar as well. With the break-up of Beardfish all of the prog-related material I write needed to go somewhere and Gungfly was ready and able for this step!
Some background: I recorded what was to become the first Gungfly album between 2007-2008 and it was released in 2009. The name Gungfly is a Swedish word meaning unsecure ground, it came from a novel I read where it was used to describe that someone didn't have grounds to back up their statements, so I liked it and chose to call the project that! I've always been writing and recording lots of music and when I formed the live band to perform these songs for the first time I got to pick some of my oldest friends to play with and thankfully they wanted to be part of it! Petter and Rasmus Diamant (yes, they're brothers) on drums and bass have always been the backbone foundation in this line-up and sometimes we actually do gigs as the Gungfly trio. Sverker Magnusson has been behind the keys since the start and was recently joined by Martin Borgh too to be able to cover all of the keyboard work on the albums, so sometimes we do three keyboard players on stage at the same time! This is made possible by the fact that guitarist David Zackrisson (Beardfish) is in the band as well. Me then? I do what I've always done; sing, play guitars and a bunch of vintage keyboards (mainly Hammond organ) - and I have lots of fun :)”
In addition to his solo work, Sjo¨blom is the most recent addition to English progressive titans Big Big Train, having performed keyboards, guitars, accordion, and backing vocals on the band's 2016 album “Folklore”.
SOME MORE BIOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND INFO
Rikard Sjo¨blom was born in 1982 in Ga¨vle, Sweden, and at the age of 5 began playing accordion. At 10, he added guitar to his repertoire, and by 11 he'd sent a demo of Beatles covers to Sonet Records. It was rejected.
From 1994 to 1998, Sjo¨blom formed bands based on his love of skate punk, grunge, and eventually death metal. More fitting to the musician known today, Sjo¨blom became infatuated by the likes of King Crimson and Gentle Giant in 1999 and bought an L-100 organ.
With the new millennium came the organ and drum duo of Bootcut, which still consists of Sjo¨blom on organ and Petter Diamant behind the kit to this day. While Bootcut remained its own entity, the duo also became Beardfish in 2001, with the addition of bassist Gabriel Olsson and guitarist David Zackrisson. Drummer Magnus O¨stgren and bassist Robert Hansen replaced Petter and Gabriel in 2002, forming Beardfish's unshakable core line-up that held true until the band's demise in 2016.
In 2002, Beardfish wrote its 35-minute progressive epic "Sleeping In Traffic", though the song wouldn't see the light of day until 2008. Instead, the band released “Fra°n En Plats Du Ej Kan Se” in 2003, which was the only Beardfish release to feature flautist Stefan Aronsson. During this time, Sjo¨blom also wrote and recorded Bootcut's albums “Hammond VS Drums” and “De Fluff”, as well as what would become his 2006 debut solo effort “Cyklonmannen”.
Sjo¨blom's career took a turn for the international in 2005, when Beardfish's “The Sane Day” was released. The album garnered enough attention for Beardfish to play a handful of festivals, including ProgDay in North Carolina. The band also caught the eye of InsideOut Music, who would go on to release “Sleeping In Traffic, Pt. 1” in 2007, an album hailed by then-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy as one of the best albums of the year.
During this time, Sjo¨blom penned material that would become his solo project- turned band Gungfly.
Beardfish's fourth album “Sleeping In Traffic, Pt. 2” was released in 2008 and landed the band a tour with The Tangent and Ritual, as well as a slew of European festivals. Sjo¨blom's incessant need to write post-tour resulted in both the 2009 Gungfly album “Please Be Quiet”, as well as his favorite Beardfish record, 2009's “Destined Solitaire”.
2010 and 2011 brought about Beardfish's “Mammoth” record and Gungfly’s second album “Lamentations”. More Beardfish touring ensued, this time with Pain Of Salvation and Mike Portnoy's Flying Colors, as well as one-off festivals in France and French Guiana.
While things were going swimmingly for Beardfish, Sjo¨blom struck personal tragedy when he and his girlfriend went through a pregnancy that ended in the stillbirth of twin boys, Ludvig and Sverker. His heartbreak would later be chronicled in a song of the same name on Beardfish's 2012 album “The Void”, its heaviest and most abrasive to date. Sjo¨blom later became a father to his daughter Villemo that same year.
Beardfish toured with Spock’s Beard and Sound of Contact in 2013, and in his down time, Sjo¨blom recorded an album with a mystery line-up including Petter and Rasmus Diamant that has yet to be released.
In 2014, Sjo¨blom became a father to his son Tage, and began working with singer/songwriters Ulf Nilsson and Linda Varg. At this time, English progressive rock titans Big Big Train contacted Sjo¨blom to play guitar and keyboards live at the band's first gigs in 17 years. In his downtime, Sjo¨blom began work on what would become 2016's “The Unbendable Sleep”.
2015 proved fruitful for Beardfish and Sjo¨blom, with the release of its final album, “+4626-COMFORTZONE”, and a tour with the Neal Morse Band in Europe. Sjo¨blom continued his work as a guitarist and backing vocalist for singer/songwriter Linda Varg, and played three shows at King’s Place in London with Big Big Train.
Beardfish came to an end in 2016, leaving room for a new Bootcut album and future solo endeavors for Sjo¨blom aka Gungfly.