The Concretes are a Swedish band that has released four downright beautiful albums. Their 2001 EP, Nationalgeographic, was reportedly "lost" by the indie label they were on at the time. They were recently scheduled to play in San Diego but had to cancel their American tour due to illness. Usually, we scrap features on bands that cancel, but because we really dig them-and because their answers were so blatantly tabloid-juicy (and maybe even partly true)-we bring you a Q&A, conducted via e-mail with the band, starting with a question about their latest album, In Colour.
CityBeat: Anything peculiar happen during the recording? Shit set on fire? Random noises caught on tape? Massive drug busts?
The Concretes: Anything we set out to do is peculiar from the get-go. Hard to explain why or how, though. It's just something in the air. The mixing in Lincoln, Neb., was probably the most peculiar part of the album-making. There were some serious decadent parties going on in that deeply Christian town-including fires, noises and drugs. In the middle of town stands a statue of a man with what, from a distance, looks like a burning penis. He pretty much summed up the weirdness of it all. But we have an image to maintain and will therefore leave it at that.
One of your songs was used in an advert for Target. Did they pay you bazillions? Did you get a free run at the household-appliance aisle?
They paid our record label and publisher bazillions, which means now we only owe them cazillions and we can tour North America again on their account, which would probably not have happened otherwise. But to keep our consciences as clear as possible, we also gave away a huge chunk of money to charity: ... organizations working with AIDS victims in Africa, tsunami, Doctors Without Borders and CorpWatch-the latter to keep an eye on Target so that they don't start misbehaving and thereby ruin our song completely. Basically, if we're gonna be guilty by association, the crime needs to be within reason. On a larger scale, we find it sad that the music industry today (if you wanna be able to live off music but don't wanna go down the Celine Dion path of songwriting) more or less force bands to compromise their integrity on some level. On the other hand, this means we're in good company and some of our favourite songs are featured in similar contexts. Which is comforting, in a strange way. At the end of the day, we hope that a good song is a good song and that the ends justify the means.
What the hell happened with the Nationalgeographic EP? Something about a dude disappearing with all the copies? Where is the bastard now?
He was last seen at a party on the Lower East Side in New York a couple of months back. His old girlfriend got in touch a year ago, though, and it turned out he left all our EPs under her bed. So they have since been returned, and we ditched that party for another. Lesson learned is: "Even bastards have their reasons," and "A record label called "Above Ground' is not to be interpreted literally."
Do any of you still have day jobs? Please give details of each. Dirty, gruesome details.
Maria occasionally works as a janitor at a club in Stockholm-although she sleeps with her boss on a regular basis and therefore we think she gets some perks most janitors don't. Ulrik is a part-time computer consultant, but apart from early mornings, he is disgustingly happy at his job and therefore we know of no gruesome details. Sorry, buddy. We all, however, live with the constant fear of one day having to go back to regular office jobs, if that's any comfort....
Explain to me the concept of "Jante's Law" [a Danish invention popular in Sweden] and how, if at all, it applies to your outlook.
You shall not think that you are better than anyone else. We do, however, but in a (probably quite Swedish) modest way.
What do you like about that somnambulant sound? What appeals to you about that sort of half-eyed soul?
"Somnambulant" is a beautiful word, for starters. We're gonna try and use it more often. Although most somnambulists we've heard of tend to pee in people's handbags or do other nasty stuff, which we want no part of. Musically, I guess it's that it feels like the opposite of exclamation marks, and I am not a fan of those. Understatements are nice, and room for interpretation is even better. Also, I like the meeting between light and dark, upbeat and sad, etc. If that makes any sense.
Lisa [Milberg, drummer], I heard you went up to Morrissey and sung him "Happy Birthday." Did you stare intently and sing the whole thing? Were you, like, nervous as hell?
That's a good story made a whole lot better, I'm afraid. I sang "Happy Birthday" to him together with a bunch of other people while some record label exec cut up a machine-gun-shaped cake. We did make eye contact though and, no, I am not just imagining it. But now I hear he has "explosive kegs" between his legs, so I probably shouldn't read too much into that.