interview by Jim Beckmann
photos by Chad Syme
With all the buzz surrounding Sweden’s musical exports of late, it’s surprising that these longtime friends from Stockholm often lag behind. However, the band now finds itself on the mighty Merge label, recently appearing at Langerado and selling out back-to-back shows in NYC. How did they get to this point? Between 2005s Howl Howl Gaff Gaff and the recent Our Ill Wills they have successfully curated their knack for Cure-esque pop, including singer Adam Olenius’ relativity to Robert Smith. Their penchant toward downtrodden lovers sounds brighter than ever with producer Bjorn Yttling (of Peter Bjorn and John) at the helm. Though the tracks were written before Yttling entered the fray, he is often credited with Our Ill Will‘s more percussive and orchestral feel. The vocal presence of Bebban Stenborg has also increased this time around, adding even more sensitivity to these tales of the bereft. The PB&J connection runs deeper as SOL bassist Ted Malmros received a Swedish Grammy for directing the
Young Folks video and Stenborg filled in on female vocals for the same track at last year’s Coachella. Fans old and new, expect another big year in Swedish music and from this great band especially.
I got to sit down with Adam Olenius and Eric from the band
Jim: SXSW is one of the few places you guys are visiting right now in the US, is that correct?
Adam: Yes, we did a festival in Florida called Langerado.
Jim: How was that?
Adam: Um, good. It was a weird festival. There were a lot of hippies and I’ve never seen a drug culture like that in North America before. I’m not really familiar with that American music scene.
Jim: Were a lot of the other bands in that sort of genre?
Adam: Yeah, Ani Difranco and others. We saw the National and a few others. It’s a great festival.
Jim: And here you’re doing a couple shows?
Adam: Yeah, this one today and we’re doing all of these sort of parties.
Eric: Our main show is tomorrow night here; it’s the Merge showcase.
Jim: And then you guys are flying back home?
Adam: We’re heading back home on Saturday, yeah.
Jim: OK, do you guys have an EP coming up for “Impossible” and all the remixes are done by Swedish musicians, is that correct?
Adam: Yes, there are two remixes — one by a group from Gothenburg called Studio and also some folks from Stockholm. Then there is a b-side and a video.
Jim: I imagine you got requests from other people, but did you want to stick with Swedish artists?
Adam: Yeah, we really like to stay local.
Eric: There are so many Swedish musicians doing remixes.
Jim: Are there any other Swedish musicians in that regard breaking through into other markets? I mean Studio is just barely starting to get in there.
Adam: Yeah, there’s The Embassy and… The Field and others. So there’s a lot of good electronic music. There are also good electronic artists over here, but we chose to stick with Swedish musicians.
Jim: And speaking of Swedish musicians, you also worked with Bjorn of Peter Bjorn and John for this particular album. He produced it?
Jim: Is that the first time you’ve worked with him?
Eric: Uh no, he actually did three tracks on the previous album. That was an EP released in Scandinavia that we included on the American release. We like how we worked together.
Jim: Did that change the sound a little bit? It sounds more orchestral.
Adam: Yeah, it’s less lo-fi, a little more cinematic, and Bjorn really did that. We have really similar tastes in music so it really works.
Jim: Is it a fairly close-knit scene in Sweden?
Adam: Well, it’s kind of two. Gothenburg has one and Stockholm as well.
Eric: There’s like three bars, so everybody meets everybody – it’s a good scene.
Jim: Any plans to come back through the US after this?
Eric: We’re doing Coachella.
Adam: We’re just doing this now and we might be back in the summer. We’re going to be in Europe a lot. Our schedule is quite busy and we’ve decided to take May off. Our situation is weird now because we have like ten different labels.
Jim: OK, well we’ll let you guys go. Thanks for sitting down with us.