Avatar Talk Reaching Kickstarter Goal to Fund Mini-Movie in Just 90 Minutes & 'Avatar Country' Album

Johan Carlen
Avatar

Swedish theatrical rockers Avatar really went all in on their seventh album, Avatar Country, which eOne released earlier in 2018. The band described its second consecutive concept album as “a love letter to everything metal” when we spoke to frontman Johannes Eckerstrom in January. And while Avatar has released three videos from the album directed by longtime collaborator Johan Carlen, it had bigger plans: delivering a film that further fleshes out the concept: “A story about the battle for Avatar Country's survival, the prophecy of the forming of the band and the legend of the resurrection of the king,” according to Eckerstrom.

The band established a Kickstarter campaign with a lofty goal of $50,000 to make the “featurette” Avatar Country. It reached that goal in just 90 minutes, according to eOne. At press time, Avatar has more than tripled its goal and there are still three days left in the campaign. We reached out to Eckerstrom to discuss crowdfunding, the featurette, the band’s vision and how Avatar will expand the project now that it has far surpassed its original Kickstarter goal.

When you last spoke to Billboardyou discussed the band’s vision. When did Avatar get the idea to expand Avatar Country from several videos to a film?

The idea came along as early as during the writing of the music, and the first treatment was finished before we even started to mix the album. It was all dependent on what we thought was possible in terms of time needed and budget. The dream was the featurette, but the hard-set goal was the multiple-video approach. But the step between those two things aren’t as huge as one would think. It is still a music film, just with a bit more glue between the parts and meat on its bones.

Were you confident that you would meet your Kickstarter goal?

Yes and no. We wouldn’t have launched the campaign if we didn’t think we could make it, but all confidence left my body the second we posted it. I felt very vulnerable the first couple of hours. It is hard to explain, but there was a lot of second guessing [about] what asking people to pledge money really meant. It is incredibly important to me to be honest to our audience and true to my own values, and every decision involving other people's money requires some healthy self-doubt.

You funded significantly more than your goal. In what ways has the production expanded from the initial $50,000?

Fifty thousand dollars was the safe minimum amount for us to know that, by hook or by crook, we would pull this off. As we have exceeded that amount, we are now rest assured that we won't need to compromise with anything. Any shortcomings left are to be blamed on our own lack of ability. One of my favorite things is that the videos already made will get a bit of a George Lucas treatment (WHAT DOES THIS MEAN) for their inclusion in the film. We will of course not touch the versions already online though.

How long was it before the most expensive and limited-edition premiums were filled?

I think maybe three days. Those just make my head spin. It is so hard to value anything in money. It all depends on what a person makes, where they are in life and what's important to them. Just the fact that people pay to come and see us play sometimes baffles me. This is something I can't put into words.

Were there any discussions with the label about funding the film before you opted to crowdfund it?

No, not really. They had done their part with the first run of videos. This also leaves us in total control, which is the one thing I value the most when it comes to this band.

How involved was Johan Carlen in fleshing out the plan for the film?

Johan’s skills have grown alongside ours. We have also developed a common language over the years where it has become very easy for us to communicate our vision and have him help us put it in motion. He has become an extension of the band in a way. Through the years, it has varied a lot between whether he or one of us has been the main scriptwriter. This time, once the story and narrative were decided on, he got to do the heavy lifting, and that is a trust we don’t give someone lightly.

Can you give a brief synopsis of the film?

It’s a story about the battle for Avatar Country's survival, the prophecy of the forming of the band and the legend of the resurrection of the king. Avatar Country is a fabled land thought by many to be a myth. The oppressed metalheads of the world whisper about it, but few dare to seek it out. Avatar Country also has enemies. A house music-loving ruling class who harvest the energy of metalheads fights hard to keep their slaves in chains.

Will the film be screened theatrically, put out as a standalone release or added to a deluxe version of the Avatar Country album?

We are looking at different options. The first priority is to make sure that all the backers who helped make this possible will get their hands on it as quickly as possible.

This is your second consecutive concept album. Will the story of Avatar Country carry over to the next album?

We never intended to make two concept albums in a row. Granted, [they are] as different from each other as they can be, [but] we always make a point out of moving on to new challenges. I think an artist should limit the time he or she gets on a certain project before they have to move on. The essence of an idea can be lost if it is done over a too-long period of time.

With bands generally selling fewer albums across the board as streaming grows stronger, do you envision crowdfunding as an alternate way for fans to show their allegiance to a band?

It already is for some. I don't know how I feel about the idea of making a crowdfunded album. We value change, freedom and to ultimately only answer to our own expectations. Legend of Avatar Country felt like a fair thing to crowdfund since we could be very upfront with what the end result is meant to be, especially since the music is out already. We have enough to show people so that expectations probably will somewhat match reality. I don't know if I am willing to give the same kind of promises when it comes to the music, and I also think people get that. If I have learned one thing about our fans, it’s that they like us for being us, and they like us for being free thinkers.


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