Storytelling, and making music the RIKE way – with Nike and Rickard.

“Songwriting became a way to solve our personal conflicts and most of the songs we have written are about our relationship. There is some kind of magic in the way music can help people communicate.” 


It’s a powerful thing to have a yearning, nostalgia even, for a past you never experienced. The phenomenon is called “anemoia”. I’m thankful I’m typing this as I haven’t the faintest clue how to pronounce it. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me I’ve found that the genre of music that evokes this feeling the most is the cinematic sound of folky country music. I think it has something to do with the storytelling element, which is then layered over guitar that is so often tinged with intricate melancholy, no matter how up-tempo it is. Either that or it’s the sheer number of Spaghetti Westerns I watched as a kid. 

Anyway, philosophising aside, we are here today to highlight the work of Nike Sellmar and Rickard Johansson, who are the incredibly talented individuals behind the band RIKE. This Swedish duo draw on a number of genres and have quite solidly adopted the descriptor “Americana” for themselves, as it is all encompassing for the “bluesy, folkish, country rock ballads” that RIKE embody.

Their debut album “Green Eyed and Bitter” (2020), aside from having one of the coolest titles I’ve come across, is a collection of narratives written collaboratively about the trials and triumphs in the lives of its creators. With regards to its sound, RIKE described their debut as a “shapeshifting” album as there is fluctuation in its tempo, in the feelings expressed, and even through the interchangeable use of electric and acoustic guitar. For example, it opens with a very up tempo ‘This Townand then immediately after we are met with the heart wrenching tune that is Papa’s Song.  As you move through the album you reach ‘The Hole, which is made up of what my mam calls “big-sky music”, something that is so large in its sound that that it could indeed fill a Montanan sky.

With regards to their latest work, I cannot quite put into words the sheer elegance of the vocals on the single ‘Ol’ Merle. Released in 2021 the track speaks on the universal experience of listening to very sad music and feeling very sorry for yourself, relatable eh? And if this does anything to foreshadow their next move, we are all in for an absolute treat.  

Now bear with me as this is a very tacky take on an incredible moment, but this duo and the music they create stands as a soft reminder that things are sometimes just as simple as they appear. I mean, for example, I was searching for some incredibly abstract reason why their debut is titled “Green Eyed and Bitter”, but in reality the answer was stunningly uncomplicated. The same goes for the origins of their name, wherein the answer was so utterly straightforward I couldn’t help but giggle at how deep I was trying to make it.

While it is very simple to romanticise the tracks on this album, to do what I did and try and find some cosmic reason behind it, I think it’s important to remember that “Green Eyed and Bitter” is an incredibly real, incredibly human album. It’s not so much that the music is simplistic, because you can absolutely hear the powerful craftsmanship that goes into it, but rather that the story it tells is relatable and raw. 

But anyway, it’s now time to read some wholesome content about a seriously magnificent album, and keep your eyes peeled as there is more to come from RIKE very soon! 

Hello, hello! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Let’s start this super simple, would you both mind introducing yourselves for our audience? Perhaps saying a little about how you guys came to write music together?

Well, thank you for having us! We are Nike Sellmar and Rickard Johansson and we met each other in Piteå, in the northern part of Sweden where we both studied music. Before we started our band we played together in different constellations. And after a while, we fell in love. Once a couple, we started writing songs together and we just could not stop. Songwriting became a way to solve our personal conflicts and most of the songs we have written are about our relationship. There is some kind of magic in the way music can help people communicate.

You guys had a super busy 2020 because after releasing the one single ‘Believers’ you fully unleashed your debut album “Green Eyed and Bitter” on the world! This is a solidly speedy turnaround I think, how did you find the writing process? And also releasing an album… many congratulations. How does it feel?

Thank you! Releasing our own material has been a long-time dream for both of us and once we did, it was like a milestone that we had worked so hard to achieve and it almost didn’t feel real. But of course, it feels great and we are proud of the songs we have written together. The writing process has worked really well between us, and that’s probably why we keep on doing it. We both kinda hear music the same way, you know.. 90% of the time we agree on the question of “where is this song headed?” or “which direction do we wanna take this song?” We mostly write the songs together but sometimes one of us have a song that’s finished, but we always try to give each other ideas that we may or may not use.

Speaking of “Green Eyed and Bitter”, I absolutely adore the title it packs such a punch and is pure punctuated emotion! And it absolutely informs listeners about what they are in for, as the whole album holds such a powerful narrative. It has a huge essence of home, and perhaps even a bit of growing up, especially with tracks like ‘Papa’s Song’ and ‘Summer Break’. What were the overall emotions and the story that you wanted to tell with this album? And what made you choose the title “Green Eyed and Bitter” to sum it up? 

Well, as we said most of the songs are about our relationship. Many of the songs are written after a fight or after a good talk. For example, ‘Don’t Make Me Shout’ wrote itself after we sat down and had a talk about our friends getting married and having kids and that we were not ready for that part of life. The album is a sum-up of two human journeys together and apart, growing up and growing together. We thought the album title “Green Eyed & Bitter” was great, as we both have green eyes… and the “bitter” part refers more to the feeling of most of our songs. The melancholic vibe of the album helped us decide on the album title. Plus it sounds cool.

“Rickard wrote the song ‘The Hole’ at his parents house, drowning in old memories and nostalgia. Rickard comes from a mining town and the song is about not recognizing your own home anymore due to “tear-downs” and a growing hole in the town that gets larger and larger. ‘The Hole’ was the easiest song Rickard has ever written, but the hardest one to play or listen to…”

RIKE, speaking about the origin of ‘The Hole’

Now, forgive me as my Swedish is very poor, and my googling skills only average, however I was having a look into the meaning of your name “RIKE”, and I came across a definition of “kingdom” or “realm”. This definition made a lot of sense to me as it’s totally visible in tracks like ‘People That I Know’ or more literally in ‘This Town’. I suppose I’m just wondering if my googling was accurate, and if it was, what drew you to this name? And if I’m way off, please do let us know what is behind your band name!

We have gotten that question a lot, even from Swedish people! We’ve been asked, “is it like a kingdom of the many musicians that participated on the album or a kingdom of your music?”. All of the previous sounds very nice, and you’re more than welcome to think about it like that. But the truth is, it’s just as plain and simple as a mix of our names, Rickard and Nike. The fact that it also means the same as kingdom we thought was a cool treat.

You guys operate within a very distinct genre, which I think you refer to on your Facebook page as ‘Americana’, very accurate. It is weirdly nostalgic for me as it’s the kind of music my mate from a teeny tiny country town in Montana used to play all through high school! I guess my question is where did it come from, what drew you to this sound as songwriters and musicians?

Our music has more or less been brewed out of our influences. We both come from different places in music but we are not that different after all. Nike has a strong bond to Folk music and Soul and Rickard has grown up on Blues, Rock and roll, and Classic Rock, but we both have had country music very dear in our hearts since we were little. The genre Americana is pretty broad and ‘forgiving’ on what’s allowed in the genre and not, which makes it perfect for us as we write bluesy, folkish, country rock ballads. You get the idea.

Hope your mate from the small town of Montana is a fan! Or maybe one day will be!

“(This) was one of the first songs we wrote together. Nike wrote all the lyrics, about how it may feel to grow out of an old self and wanting a change but are too scared, and ends up going back to the “same old” and back to “The People That I Know”. Rickard showed Nike a guitar riff and some chords and Nike just started singing the lyrics. It became a strong song that we still love.”

RIKE, speaking about their track ‘People That I Know’

Throughout the entire album you guys switch between very pointed, bouncy sounds like ‘Don’t Make Me Shout’, or sorrowful and soulful tracks like ‘Just Like That’, with the variations being subtle but also so very distinct. I was however totally taken aback by ‘November’ which introduced a much scratchier, psychedelic-y, bluesy rock guitar riff and much, much deeper and fuller vocals. This was followed by the echoey, ethereal, and totally massive track that is ‘The Hole’. This introduction of a more electric sound was really interesting, what was it about these two tracks that called for an electric sound as opposed to a classic acoustic? And is it something you guys would try more of?

Yea, we get how people can be either put off or intrigued that the album is kind of shapeshifter throughout, but in a way that is what made the album so honest and genuine. and so much fun to record. We’re happy how it turned it out and as you said November is kind of the black sheep in the herd, but also a song that many wants to listen to when they play the record. ‘The Hole’ is also a song that we have gotten a lot of praise for. The song is about Rickard’s hometown and all the things going on there. These songs we thought called for a more electric, heavy sound as their meaning is pretty heavy. We always try to give the song what it is wanting, and we promise you there will be more bouncy acoustic songs as well as heavy electric songs.

Now then I’ll stop grilling you about your previous triumphs and let’s move on to more recent things! Your latest release is the single “Ol’ Merle”, and it is a perfectly dire narrative with lyrics that are so very simple yet so very visual. How did you guys find the process of releasing this latest one, what do you think, if anything, has changed since you released your debut?

It’s been a wild ride. The process of releasing this latest one has been more hectic than our debut, as we have put in more work on promoting than before. At the same time more relaxed because we have learned some things from our debut on what to do and what not to do. Our debut release was a chaotic time as we had literally no idea what we were doing and just went with it. The process of the “Ol’ Merle” release has been more calculated and more persistent with DIY-teasers, PR-photos, radio interviews, and just talking to the people we’ve made connections with since our debut.

Also, if I’m not mistaken, is this latest track “Ol’ Merle” a reference to country singer Merle Haggard? Because if so this track about sitting and listening to sad records got all the more relatable! This connection got me thinking thoughwho are some other artists that you guys draw inspiration from? Both past and present! 

Yes! The song tells a story about a person listening to sad Merle Haggard songs and feeling a bit sorry for him or herself. Which we all can relate to sometimes. We both are big fans of Merle Haggard’s songwriting and storytelling and love to indulge in the amazing storytelling of old great country artists. As we said before we come from different musical backgrounds on some parts and draw our separate inspirations from them. But there are some artists we both can sit and listen to a whole night till the break of dawn. Tim O’Brien, Colter Wall, Brandie Carlile, Pokey LaFarge, just to name a few.

Speaking of recent events you guys played in Luleå Live at Friends this last month, and were also featured on Blues Corner Radio Show on the 28th of November, which is totally cool! Would you mind speaking a little about those experiences ? How have you guys found playing live, and is there a venue that you would love to play at? 

Yes! We have had a couple of gigs the past autumn and it felt real good! For a minute there we thought this might be the “new normal”. We love playing live, that’s what it’s all about. Since we released our debut album in the beginning of the pandemic we have not been able to do a lot shows… so it has been pretty rough at times to keep the fire burning. We’re all hoping for better times soon.

To be played on the radio has really been the one thing that makes us light up. We think it’s so cool that radio stations like to play us, and even stations in other countries. To hear your song be played on say… British radio… and to be introduced by a British radio host! You just jump around the living room cheering. We are really grateful. To answer your question on a venue we’d love to play, we would love to play all the venues! Right now!

And I’m sure you’ll have no problems packing them out too! Looking forward to a UK tour for sure! I just have one more question… I think I saw on your Spotify bio that we are to expect more big things from you guys soon, especially if you follow the speedy pattern of your last release! Are you able to speak a little about what you guys have in store?

Yes we have a lot more new music coming for you, and we’re real happy how this new stuff came out. We think we have evolved a bit from our debut… in a good way! Or maybe we’ve just got more experienced. Either way, we’re real excited to release this new stuff to hear what people think. We’ve also been planning a charity concert with another band this spring. 2022 is gonna be packed with new music and hopefully gigs.

Readers can find more from RIKE on Instagram, Facebook, and all the major music streaming platforms. Watch out for their upcoming release… and, take it from us… it’s incredible!

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