Thursday, March 13, 2008

Super Extra Cardigans

While I was off on holiday last week, my previously-trailed interview with Sweden's best band, The Cardigans, was published on the BBC News website.

As is often the way, I had too much material to cram into a meagre 800 words - particularly because Nina and Magnus afforded me a very generous hour in their telephonic company - so I thought I'd put some of the "DVD Extras" from my chat with Nina up here.

Hope you enjoy.

How do you find living in New York compared to Sweden?
It’s really different. There’s hardly one similar thing about it. But when you have a life somewhere, everyday life tends to be quite similar.

Are you following the election? It seems kind of impossible to ignore...
We’ve been doing shows for the election – so we’re kind of engaged in it. I don't have a vote, though. I guess that’s why I’m compensating by doing other things. I wish I could – they need all the votes they can get.

I first saw The Cardigans on the NME Brats tour in 1996. Do you remember those early concerts?
I remember that tour was fucking crazy! It really took our virginity as a band. Everyone was really young and it was just crazy – we did so many stupid things on that tour. It doesn’t seem like 1996, it seems like 1982.

What's been the biggest change since then?
To me, it’s been kind of the same. My biggest change was about a year-and-a-half ago when we finished the last record and I moved here. And suddenly I was not working with the Cardigans. Actually being in the band is quite samey, because you make a record and then you tour, and you make a record and then you tour.

We did have one thing that was a big change - between Gran Turiso and Long Gone Before Daylight we were really not sure we were gonna continue and it was hard for us to come up for reasons to continue. But we didn’t want to throw things away...

So that was a big change in that we all got a little bit more concerned about the music. I certainly got more involved. It became a much more organic process. We stopped to think a lot more.

The music on Gran Turismo is quite clinical and precise, where Long Gone Before Daylight is relaxed and mellow. Does that reflect the way the band was functioning?
That totally reflects how we were feeling. Gran Turismo is quite a brilliant record just because we managed to capture this so well, but we were totally worked out and high strung. We were messes. We shouldn’t have done that record... but just because of that it was brilliant.

When I listen to it now, I’m like "wow". We were abusing ProTools. Nobody really knew how to use it because it was quite new back then. None of us could hardly send an email and suddenly we were making music on a computer. But it kind of became an instrument in itself. The album is so chopped up and patchy.

I heard My Favourite Game the other day and I thought "How could anybody let that pass through?" The way its edited, it’s terrible. But its so terrible that nobody could think it was just a mistake. It had to be on purpose.

Were you disappointed when the last two albums didn't sell as well as Gran Turismo?
It’s disappointing, but it’s not really very surprising. Things have changed so much and we have changed so much. We’re not up for playing the same kind of tricks we did when we were 22. So, we’re like, "okay, if we have to abandon our values, then fuck the million records".

It would be great if the Best Of could win back some fans who haven't heard the more recent material...
You know – yes, well sure. If they haven’t heard it, they should. But the market sucks these days. I don’t trust the market a bit. And with the market the way it is, it would never allow a band like us to become very successful. Of course it would be great, I always want to make more money and I always want people to hear it but if they didn’t hear it when we tried to put it out, don’t worry.

It seems like the people who do stumble across Long Gone Before Daylight really love it, though.
Yes, and in a way that makes me feel better somehow. That’s been so gratifying for the last few years. The way people have talked about our records has been different than in the past. Both the last two Cardigans records and the A Camp record I did - it's not as many people but you’ve made a bigger mark, for sure.

Did it ever annoy you that a lot of people who bought Lovefool thought it was a love song when really the lyrics are quite dark?
On the contrary, I find it quite interesting. I think that pop music totally needs to serve that purpose. Like, for me, there are songs I listen to at this stage in life that I first heard when I was 12 and only now to do I understand what they were about. And that’s the effect music has on some people and I think that’s equally important.

Not all music has to be an intellectual masterpiece. Pop music is brilliant.

What are you listening to at the moment?
When I make records [Nina is recording a second A Camp album] I can’t listen to music. It makes me really upset. I really like MIA and Alicia Keys and then I just listen to a lot of other stuff.

What upsets you about hearing music when you're writing?
It makes it really hard to write. There’s so much music that I really love and if I listen to that, then I feel like I can never write decent music again in my whole life.

On the other hand, I read a lot and watch a lot of movies just because you have a big need to feed your imagination.

Your main contribution to The Cardigans, apart from singing, is the lyrics. Were you ever tempted to write in Swedish?
No, never. I think it’d be fun for a project, but I can’t really see what project it would be. I realised that I have more fun when I get to travel out of Sweden and writing in English is my tool to get to do that.

A lot of your lyrics are quite cynical about relationships - have you suffered a lot of heartbreak?
To be honest I’ve been really lucky in that field. I’ve had some minor heartbreaks early in life but really I turned out to be the bad guy there.

I think it’s just a fun subject to keep digging into. Even if you’re happily married, there’s so much of that around you that it’s still a very strong inspiration.

Quite a few Swedish lyricists have similarly melancholy takes on relationships - I'm thinking of everything from Abba to Robyn. Would you say it's part of the national character to be gloomy?
Its very hard for me as a Swede to talk about that because I don’t feel like a melancholic person at all. Though I guess many people truly see that as a national feature so its possible.

I love the song And Then You Kissed Me from Long Gone Before Daylight... It seems to be about domestic violence. Is that right?
You’re reading it perfectly fine.

Is that a hard subject to tackle lyrically?
If you can feel it well, it’s not very tough to write about. This one is quite drastic because it’s about somebody who allows herself to be physically beaten up but its also an analogy for a thing that I’ve written about endlessly – how you put yourself through the weirdest things to get relationships right.

Do you find the creative process enjoyable?
Writing lyrics I find very difficult in periods. But the birth of songs is amazing. It’s really fun. That’s where you get all your energy to do this job. You have these new songs, they’re fantastic, let’s go and tour for eight years!

And are there any chances of a tour on the horizon?
It might be possible. If I get my new record out, there might be some touring. But I’m not sure yet.

The Cardigans Best Of album is out now, and entered the charts at number 32 last week. Buy it on Amazon, for it is amazing.

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