A Free Man is traveling off across the North Sea today for a trip to the land of moose and Malmo, of socialism and Saabs. Whilst here, I’ll be taking some time to talk to some of the exciting new indie pop bands coming out of Sweden.
First up is The Sound of Arrows, a Stockholm based duo consisting of Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand. Their debut EP, “Danger” is due out in May on Labrador. I got a preview of “Danger” and was delighted – Scandanavian indie-pop at it’s most charming. Stefan and Oskar kindly agreed to join me on the virtual couch for an introduction to Swedish music.
AFM: Let’s start with where you guys came from. As I understand it, Stefan started out making house music. How do these electronic origins manifest themselves in The Sound of Arrows?
SS: Well to be honest, these texts always enhances the truth and this statement makes it sound like I’m this veteran house-producer. That’s not exactly true. Me and my friend Kristefer Lecander have another project together, Panache, that we started earlier. It’s true that we’ve mostly been making house and electro-disco, but when me and Oskar started playing together we were both novices when it came to producing music. We’re still learing every day. But all the same, making, or more truthfully, trying to make house has been a great school in producing. Since house music is often quite bare it’s really important to make the most of all the different sounds and soundscapes.
We’re both fans of electronic acts such as Simian Mobile Disco, Fischerspooner, Roisin Murphy, Massive Attack and many more. So it’s most probable that our future output will be influenced by some more dancier stuff. We like the idea to throw in a bit of every genre into the mix.
AFM: Oskar, you used to play in an orchestra. What did you play and is your contribution to The Sounds of Arrows inspired by that experience?
OG: Yes, I’ve played the trumpet in different orchestras and bands. Mostly big band and jazz music. This was in my younger years back in Gävle. But now with Arrows I’ve finally got a reason to dust of the trumpet and put it to use in our pop melodies.
I guess that the Jazz music does not manifest itself so much in The Sound of Arrows. But it has influenced they way I think in melodies and music composition. I think that the differences in our musical backgrounds compliments each other very well, and makes The ‘sound’ of Arrows more interesting.
AFM: Until the last couple of years, most of what I heard coming out of Sweden was either slightly scary death metal, The Cardigans, or Abba. But lately there’s some really great Swedish music getting some exposure – Peter Bjorn & John, Jose Gonzalez and I’m From Barcelona to name three. What’s changed in the Swedish music scene?
SS: Every couple of years there seems to be a movement in the Swedish popscene.
We’ve had disco-light (Abba), europop (Roxette, Ace of Base), twee/indie-pop (The Cardigans, Wannadies, Pineforest Crunch) and now a mixture of absolutely everything. It’s almost impossible to pinpoint the swedish pop movement of today. No genre is taboo, almost anything goes. I guess the one common component of all are the melodies. I think that Swedes have a very highly developed sense of melody. But don’t ask me why, I wouldn’t know the answer. Maybe it has something to do with the Abba-heritage.
AFM: On your myspace page you describe Stockholm as “Pop Heaven”. What’s so heavenly about it?
We werent necessarily thinking of Stockholm when we wrote it, popheaven can be anywhere as long as there are hummable melodies.
And while Stockholm is filled with some great popmusic, it’s actually Gothenburg that stands on forefront of Swedish pop. Who can argue about that when the place is home to such great acts like Sambassadeur, The Tough Alliance and Jens Lekman?!
AFM: A lot of the new pop I hear from Sweden, including your new single “Danger” is really sunshiny. I mean, it makes the Beach Boys look dark and brooding. I’ve spent a fair bit of time on the west coast of Sweden and in the winter that could be one of the gloomiest places in the world. Where does the inspiration for this shiny, happy pop come from?
Maybe it comes from exactly what you pointed out. The need for escapism and to dive into another happier place whenthe country is at it’s gloomiest.
But let’s not forget the summers, the summers in Sweden is the only reason why we put up with this country. The Swedish summer are hands down, THE best place to be in the world June-August. That is, if it doesn’t rain too much.
AFM: What other Swedish bands or artists should we be paying attention to?
SS: My favourite Swedish act happens to be a friend of mine, Niklas Tafra. He is one of Sweden’s most inventive pop-geniuses. Why he hasn’t become massive by now is a mystery to me.
AFM: You’re being sent into space to start a new colony on Mars. You’re allowed to bring three records with you on the trip. What would they be?
SS:Hahaha, what happend to the deserted island?!
AFM: The desert island is so last century.
SS: No matter where I go, I’d bring a best of Harry Nilsson to represent the oldies, something very contemporary to represent the now (Roisin Murphy) and someting timeless like a The Sundays album or something. I wouldn’t bother bringing any classical stuff.
OG: Well if your going to space you will have to have a good soundtrack! Not just for the life on Mars, travelling music is just as important, and hey, its a long way to mars! I would bring Jan Johansson‘s – “jazz på svenska” (jazz in swedish” as a reminder of the Swedish countryside. Maybe Handsomeboy Technique for the wild parties on Mars. And Badly Drawn Boy’s – “Hour of the Bewilderbeast” for everyday listening.
AFM: On your upcoming EP you have a number of remixes of “Danger”? Who’s doing the remixing? Which is your favorite mix?
We’re starting out totally unknown so we’ve only brought in friends this time.
Cotton Crew, Panache and Mr Pedro go for the electro-pumping sound. But the one we love the most is the version by Ice Cream Shout, that instead takes the route of super-mega twee. Complete with ukuleles and toypianos. It’s better than the original.
AFM: On your new EP, I hear hints of The Avalanches, Merz, maybe “Pet Sounds” era Beach Boys? Can you name some of the bands or artists that inspire you?
SS: Sure! I’ve only listened once to the Avalanches album and from what I can remember I really liked it. But I wouldn’t state them as an influence to our sound. We are more influeced by other acts (Handsomeboy Technique, Jens Lekman and The Go! Team) influenced by them! That also generally applies to all our musical influences, we’re mostly into contemporary stuff.
We’re both into The Shortwave Set’s first album, Saint Etiennes huuuuuge catalouge, Cut Copy, Tom Tom Club, The Sundays, Stereolab and lots of others. Like I stated earlier, I really like to throw in a bit of everything into the mix. Not that it’s always audible, but for us, we know where the bits and parts are from.
Actually, I’d say just about anything these days. When I hear something I like, it could be something from artist such Celine Dion, The Tough Alliance, Nelly Furtado etc. I place it in my brainbank for later usage. We’re not that picky.
Thanks to Stefan and Oskar for their introduction to their brainbank and what Sweden’s got to offer musically. Check out the title track from their upcoming debut. If you like what you here, then look for “Danger!” on May 7 from Labrador.