Category Archives: Scandiwegian Music

A chat with: HandS

All it takes is just one idea, or two from a pair of capable HandS and BANG – before you know it you’ve got the makings of some gorgeous music.  Hakon & Sofie have, with the help of rising star producer Pete Hofmann crafted some of the most subtlety elaborate dream-pop you’ll probably hear all year. They deserve to be the dinner party music for everyone who bought the XX album and more. Here’s as good a place as any to get started…

Both of you hail from Bergen, which is where the amazing Annie and Royksopp are also from. Do you reckon there’s something in the town’s water supply or something?

Hakon: Well Norway is really small, and the music scene even smaller. We work together and support each other which is why music from Bergen makes it big, and the little cold city is making its way in the massive international music market. Perhaps when it’s from a little strange town in Norway people listen for the contrast. Maybe it’s exotic?!

How did you first end up making music together?

We met and got quite drunk when Sofie had just turned eighteen and FINALLY could drink beer legally. We had one or two or three or you know…seventeen together, and found out we both shared a huge love of Pop music. Quite different tastes but at the same time so similar. We’ve ended up spending every day together from the day we met.

You’ve swapped Norway for the UK – what was your main reason for moving?

The reason we went abroad is because we know the music industry in Norway and Bergen, its very indie and based on local music. Although we make everything from our beats to lyrics ourselves, our sound is so Pop, it sounded like we had to go to bigger cities to get accepted for what we wanted to do. It feel right to try something bigger and more challenging than what other Norwegian artists do and to reach for the stars!
A big influence on your upcoming album has been producer Pete Hofmann. What’s it been like working with him?
We LOVE working with Pete as it’s easy to go into this little world we sometimes go into, where we think only we know what’s best. All off a sudden a super-talented person from the outside can say “Hey, this and that could be different and more like this”, and so on. So  far all his ideas and talent have made the material better and us even more engaged.
Would you say that ‘Wake Up’ is an accurate reflection of the rest the music you’ve been making?
‘Wake Up’ is our first single and we’re very proud of it. We’ve kept it to ourselves for so long and couldn’t wait to show you guys what we’ve done. At the same time it might not be exactly the sound of our future releases, it’s just going to turn more dancey and darker as we move along. We’re fascinated by the mix of heartbreaking lyrics, dark beats and the “happy” pop sound that tops it all and makes it all surreal and different.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year in terms of releases?
We want to play lots of live shows, to demonstrate to you all what we’ve working so hard on. Our aim is to be shamelessly engaged in what we do and try to reach the goals we’ve been longing for and ultimately share our love of Pop and great performance with you all!
Check out HandS’ SoundCloud page for more brilliant material and keep up to date with their latest releases and performances by following them on Facebook and The Twitter.
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A chat with: Erik Hassle

In Pop music few have managed to feat of not singing about sunshine and kittens, but genuine heartbreak and emotion without coming across as mopey or depressive. Think a ginge, one-man version of Hurts and you’re not a million miles off with Erik Hassle. While not a heart-throb in the traditional Eric Saade/Danny Saucedo model it’s not hard to find equally feverish fans of the 23 year old Swede. With the experience of surviving a brush with a major record label under his belt he’s recently released his new album We Dance, which promises to make you throw some shapes as much as it’ll make you cry:

Pieces was one of the most underrated and overlooked albums of 2010. Looking back, how do you feel about the whole experience of being launched by a major record label in the UK?

First of all, thank you. 2009 to 2011 was a hell of a ride for me, getting such a good spot on a classic label like Island was for me, 18 years old and straight out of school, a bit hard to grasp.  I couldn’t get a better opportunity to reach out to so many people and it gave me an incredible bunch of fans that I’m very happy about today. I’m coming back for them!

You’re famous for your distinctive hair. Have you ever dared dye it a different colour?

There was a period when I was about 10-12 years old when I always dyed my hair black. I was not happy about having both curly and red hair. That was until a girl I liked boosted my self confidence, telling me she liked both the curls and my African sunset colour. It quickly turned back into a red afro!

While we’re on the whole hair subject – apparently in Sweden and most of Europe having red hair isn’t a big deal while in the UK kids get bullied at school for it. Why do you think there’s such a weird cultural difference?

I think it is because it stands out in a quite distinctive way. Everything that is different is easy to pick on as kid. I get that. But I agree that it is a mystery that being red haired is such a big deal in England, where it seems to be a very common pigment compared to other countries.

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve written a song about which you then decided not to record?

I wrote a song for this album called ‘I’m in love with your daughter’. The lyrics are aimed against this overprotective father who, no matter how long it takes, will be waiting for a wealthy Prince to ask for his daughter’s hand and who will not hide his dislike for you. The twist in the chorus was “I’m in love with your daughter, like you. Guess I’m more than a little like you” When I played it up for English-speaking friends they thought it was a bit of a weird line. They wondered what kind of father this was. They thought it was a bit inappropriate. The lyrics make perfect sense in Swedish though!

‘Back Under Water’ is surprisingly uptempo compared to your earlier material and the new album is called We Dance. Does this mean that you’re feeling less down-in-the-dumps musically?

In a way it does or at least did while writing this album. We  had a lot of fun writing the songs and the mood in it came quite naturally from when we first wrote a song on the album called ‘We Dance’. Me and my producer felt that ” We gotta do this album all the same way” and decided to fulfill a dream of recording an album live. I have a very loyal and fantastic band and I asked them if they wanted to help me record it. We rented a classic studio in Stockholm called Atlantis for 12 days and nailed one song before lunch every day. I think recording the songs in “takes”  automatically made us pretty much friends with a snare being played a bit out of the groove or a melody slightly out of tune and so on and so forth. We felt positive recording the album and I think the end result listening to it is feeling positive as well.

Do you have any good luck rituals before performing live?

I have a lot of “warming up” rituals that I won’t reveal!

Would you ever enter Melodifestivalen?

No

Your duet of ‘If I Could Build My Whole World Around You’ with Agnes was amazing. Anyone else you’d desperately like to perform with?

Since on of my heroes Bobby Womack is back in the game, I could die happy having done something with him.

The album We Dance is out now. For more information visit Erik’s Facebook page or follow him on The Twitter.

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A chat with: Rock the Sexy

Sometimes a classy, polished bit of pop just won’t cut it. A bit like when you’re on your way home from a heavy night out and you’re drawn against your better nature into a kebab shop – Rock the Sexy are that musical equivalent. Filthy, flirty and fun with a debut single that samples Snap!’s classic anthem ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’, they are just what the Doctor ordered…you to stay well away from. It’s time you were introduced to the most unapologetically trashy girlband since Girlicious:

How was the group formed?

RtS: Rock Star Music Sweden held auditions. We were the most bad-ass bitches who came out on top!

What made you choose the name ‘Rock the Sexy’ out of everything?

It’s a bad-ass name!

How would you describe your music to someone who was deaf?

We’d have to brush up on our sign language first…

Image-wise, it seems that the likes of Ke$ha inspire you, right?

Hell no!  We like Dr Dre!

Describe the worst dates you’ve been on.

We don’t do dates, we keep that shit tight!

Who have you worked with on your upcoming album?

We’ve had a scout around for the best producers in Sweden and LA . You can expect da shit!

Have you decided on a title yet?

Hmm, we’re working on it. It’s tricky choosing.

Danny Saucedo, Eric Saade and Martin Rolinski; kiss, have sex or marry. Choose!

Kiss Danny, have sexy time with Eric as he’s sweet and marry Martin.

Between you, who would win in a fight?

We would probably all end up dead!

The single ‘Dirty Disco Freak’ is out now. Keep up to date with all things Rock the Sexy by visiting their Facebook page and following them on The Twitter.

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A chat with: Beatrice Eli

With the influx in recent years of Swedish female artits, it’s sometimes confusing remembering who’s who. There’s obviously Robyn –  the “She’s not actually a lesbian, Mum” one, Agnes – the “Unsullied-by-Cowell Leona Lewis ” as well as “the one who never smiles” – Lykke Li. Fellow Swede Beatrice Eli is equally distinctive as the “sensitive lyrics but badass appearance” export. Resembling a cross between Lady Sovereign and Lisbeth Salander it’s an initial surprise when you first hear her pouring her heart out with such beautiful vocals. With  ‘The Conqueror’, her first of hopefully many more singles to come  released, it’s time you were introduced:

Tell me about the most awful live performance by another act/band that you’ve ever seen. Get bitchy!

Didn’t see this one live obviously but Enrique Iglesias’ epic fail performance where they’ve added on his vocals to a playback performance is pretty amazing.

‘The Conqueror’ is a strange song as it manages to be both quiet and sad but also a massive declaration. Is writing a big synthy ballad how you’d recommend everyone dealt with heartache?

If you do it well it could potentully lead to some extra cash in your bank account…so why not?

In the video you seem quite comfortable in your typically baggy, Sporty Spice attire. Have you always been like that?

I think I’m regressing into my early teen self and I wore a lot of sportswear back then so I guess so!

When you’re writing a song and you get stuck with the lyrics, what do you do to “get in the zone”, as it were?

I’ll have a Swedish type of beer called folköl which only contains 3.5% alcohol. Doesn’t get you drunk, just rounds up the edges a bit. Although I don’t believe in the whole drug/alcohol myth when it comes to creating music, everything sounds better when under the influence.

What would you say the biggest misconception about Swedish pop music is?

There are no misconceptions!

You’ve swapped Sweden for infamous East London. Do you ever feel like you have to make more of an effort to fit in with the locals?

There’s your misconception, I’m actually still living in Stockholm although I’m in London every now and then. I don’t really feel the need to fit in although in some situations I unintentionally do so…if that makes any sense?

With a bit of luck you’re going to be giving us an EP in the next few months. What can you tell us about it?

Yeah, there will be an EP coming out late summer. It’s a little taste of what’s to come really….

If you had to create a Frankenstein’s Monster out of different pop artists, whose body parts would you use and why?

I’m not too interested in popstars’ body parts I’d rather take their skills and “Matrix-download” them into myself! Wouldn’t mind having Big Pun’s flow and Björk’s vocal style.

Beatrice’s brilliant debut single ‘The Conqueror’ is out now. Keep up to date with what she’s doing by checking out her pages on Facecrack and The Twitter.

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A chat with: Alphabeat

Petula Clark sang “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown…” – what a cow. You’re more likely to get robbed and raped than have your spirits lifted by doing that. Instead, the safer and more effective way I’d recommend of banishing the blues is three words; “PLAY.SOME.ALPHABEAT.”   Since 2004, Denmark’s finest export have been on a personal mission to spread joy and catchy hooks wherever they go. Their first album managed the tricky balancing act of sounding indie enough to trick NME-readers but was everything a pop fan wanted too. While their second album, The Beat is… was a bit of a departure from all that, paying homage to Black Box and other early 90s dance, it was a gorgeous record too. So far the UK late spring/early summer weather has been predictably unpredictable, so what better than for the trusty Danes to whisk us off on a vacation…literally, with their latest single. What more could you ask for?
Where would the perfect Alphabeat vacation be?
There is no such thing as vacation when you’re in Alphabeat, but hey, a sunny beach on a remote island with everyone we love would be pretty good…
Your first album was mostly Eighties influenced, your second Nineties – does that mean we can now expect an early 2000s sound?
Nope, sorry! Would be kinda fun though. Late 90’s early 2000’s, endless sampled “real life” drum beats like Westlife, Atomic Kitten or what ever. But no. This time around we’ve combined the way we made our debut album with studio drums, guitar and the more “bandy” sound with the slick produced and modern sound we had on The Beat Is…with samples and all that jazz. It’s been a lot of fun to do it this way, nerdy and it’s been taking a lot of time but the result so far is absolutely amazing. You can expect an album with a lot of upbeat pop songs you can dance to!
For the past few years you’ve mostly been based in London. What non-obvious advice would you give to any Danes visiting?
We moved back to Copenhagen after three great years in London and all over the UK really. The road was our home for those years and we’ve been to so many lovely places. We’d probably tell people to enjoy the beauty of Edinburgh, go party all night in Newcastle, sightseeing in Bristol, shopping in East London and then end up on the beach in Brighton where the sun always shines for some reason. We love the UK and would love to go touring again sometime…if you guys want us back.
As well as doing your own material, you’ve also been writing for other artists. How have you found the whole experience of offering stuff to someone else with no guarantee that it’ll be released?
We did a bit of songwriting with other artists when we were in the UK and it was a lot of fun. It’s always thrilling to meet new people who share the same passion for amazing songwriting and then get into a room with a piano, a microphone and a Mac and then start recording stuff out of the blue. But we do prefer to do things on our own with our own touch though writing with other people is a great way to get outside the Alpha-bubble for a while…
Do you still have a record deal in the UK?
We don’t. But our Danish label Copenhagen Records (best label in the world, fyi) are distributed through Universal and that’s the reason why ‘Vacation’ is also available in the UK, Europe, US and a lot of strange places in the world. We still want to give every pop fan the possiblity to listen to our songs, so this is a great way to pay back for all the love everyone gives us by releasing our songs out there. You can have it if you want it. But it would be pretty good with a major label supporting us, so if anyone out there is up for helping us out we’d be glad to meet up. It’s hard to be a small band in a big world of pop without someone pushing it for you in regions such as the UK and US but we’re doing our best to spread the word ourselves on blogs, news sites, radio etc, and the help has been brilliant. It was fun to see ‘Vacation’ move into the Top 100 on iTunes UK on the day of release. All our hard work had paid off and the fans had heard the rumours of a new Alphabeat song. We are not sure if the new album will get a physical release everywhere, but at least we’re pretty sure our Danish label will release it on iTunes etc. for everyone who wants it.
Is the new album ready for release, or is it still being recorded?
It’s still in the making. So far 6 songs are mixed and done. We’ve still got a bunch of songs that needs the final touch and we should have a full album with joyful pop at some point late Summer, early Autumn.
Alphabeat has always been about fans lusting over Anders SG and Stine. Isn’t it time that the rest of the band showed their sexy side?!
Well, take a look at the new press photo. It’s 6 times sexiness!
Do you ever regret turning down the chance to tour with the Spice Girls?
Nope. It was way to early in our UK career to be thrown out there in front of 1000s of fans and we knew that we’d always be known as “the band who supported Spice Girls”. Today it’s more fun to look back and people know we are “the band who turned down supporting Spice Girls”. That tour ended all of a sudden, right? Good thing we said no. We played 160 live gigs in 2008 and got known for our own thing and not because we supported a big pop group. People know us for our very energetic live shows and we still hear from people who remember our small gigs at places like The Whelans in Dublin, King Tuts in Glasgow and The Water Rats in London. Always amazing. That we ended up selling out two nights in Shepherd’s Bush later that year was just the result of old school hard work and it felt so good!
Is there anyone in particular you’d really like to tour with?
Touring with Lady Gaga is probably the biggest act we could dream of supporting. And we did. It was an absolutely amazing tour around the UK. We also  turned down supporting George Michael back in 2007 when he was in Denmark, same reason as for the Spice Girls gig – too big and too early on. But if he reunited with Andrew Ridgeley and went on a “Choose Life – Again” tour we’d be there in a split second! The Talking Heads would also be a reunion we’d say yes to…”Stop Making Even More Sense”…maybe.
When people think “Alphabeat” they immediately think “joyous, happy” etc. Do you think you’ll ever write a misery-laden record about depression and suicide?
Probably not. We were once one of those boring early 2000s indie bands but found out it was just more fun to have fun.
We do what we do best and will probably make joyous and happy pop music till the day Alphabeat is no more.
‘Vacation’ is out now. Keep your eyes peeled for all the latest Alphabeat brilliance by visiting their Facebook page and by following the band and the hilarious Stine on The Twitter.
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Erik Hassle demands your tears

Sweden’s angsty ginge has written a new, heartwrenching ballad with Malin Dahlström from Niki & The Dove. Attempt not to snivel:

Now attempt not to drool over the new publicity photo:

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Why Sophia Somajo is Soso brilliant

Once upon a time there was a Swedish female electro-pop artiste, particularly talented for writing and producing her own material…

Let me stop you for a second. It’s not this lady:

It’s THIS lady:

What makes Sophia Somajo precisely so interesting is how little anyone seems to know about her. Her first album The Laptop Diaries was produced entirely in her apartment using her laptop. It’s a dark, twisted affair of 16 tracks which are mostly under three and a half minutes in length, flowing neatly into each other. After releasing it in 2008 she disappeared as mysteriously as she’d appeared, asides from resurfacing to co-write this gem with Max Martin.

A new album has been in the works since about 2010 with not much known about it except that she’d become fascinated with Chinese culture  – the first new song that emerged was called ‘Chinese Tekkno‘ from an album with a working title of Cinema Beijing.  A record deal with Universal was apparently in the bag and we later heard another new track called ‘Wristcutters Inc’.

For whatever reason she then suddenly decided to change her performing name to “Soso'” and a couple of new songs, the spellbinding ‘Who’s Gonna Love Me’ and the enjoyably bizarre ‘Joaquin Phoenix’ popped up as free downloads in 2011. Then, nothing once again.

Until last week…

If you go to youcancallmesoso.com you’ll be met by a rather nice surprise. It seems for whatever reason her record deal DEFINITELY didn’t work out as she’s now triumphantly declaring herself to be the arch-nemesis of the major label music industry in a letter/manifesto and giving her entire album away for free.

The album itself, T.T.I.D.S.D.I.E.U.I.C. (That Time I Dug So Deep I Ended Up In China), self- released on “Do It Yourself Bitch” records isn’t just “ok for something free”, it’s an unpredictable but ultimately brilliant mess  – a bit like the mind behind it.

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A chat with: Asbjørn

What are you missing from your life? Some decent Danish blokepop, that’s what. So here’s a chap called Asbjørn to fill the gap:
If you hadn’t become a performer, what profession could you see yourself doing instead?
I have a secret dream to become a paleontologist. I was a dinosaur freak as a child, Jurassic Park is still my favorite movie and I often hum the soundtrack in the shower!
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve in the name of your music?
I was playing support for Oh Land in October and halfway through the set I discovered that my trousers were unzipped – bummer! I’m trying to be more ridiculous with my music in general. As you may have noticed on ‘The Criminal’ I’m very much a melancholic!
Who would you say was your biggest influence?
I’m torn between the synthetic conceptualised pop and the simplistic organic singer/songwriter tradition so I’m trying to hit that spot in between. At one corner we have the Spice Girls, Michael Jackson and Destiny’s Child and in the other Ane Brun, Bob Dylan and PJ Harvey.
If you could go back in time and steal any song before it was released, which would you pick?
I would jump back to 1997 and sneak ‘Unravel’ out of Björk’s mouth with a bottle of ouzo and some sweet-talking! I think it’s the greatest ballad of all time.
Your new single is called ‘Strange Ears’. Are yours particularly odd ?
 I think my ears look extremely normal and boring – but the right one has always been a lot of trouble, earwax and stuff…
And what made you decide to call the album Sunken Ships? Sounds a bit desolate…
Back to the melancholy, yeah.‘Sunken Ships’ is actually taken from a line in ‘The Criminal’. It captures that horrible moment where you realise that you can’t deal with a wider picture than your own. Making this album has been so all-consuming, that I sometimes felt like I lost interest in the world around me. I’m back at the surface and I’m pretty damn relieved!
Are you a fan of fellow-Dane Medina?
She really knows how to make me dance!
The UK is currently gripped by Danish dramas The Killing and Borgen. Why do you think they’ve been such a huge success?
I’m a sucker for Borgen! Without going too deep into an analysis of nationalities, I think that Danes have a very direct way of saying things. No bullshit! And I guess that also makes us seem less open, compared to people in the UK. But maybe Danish and English mentalities are a decent match
Asbjørn’s singles ‘Strange Ears’ and ‘The Criminal’ are out now with debut album Sunken Ships released on April 16th. You can keep up to date by checking out his Facebook page and following him on The Twitter.
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Sound the Alphabeat alarm

They’re back, and they want to take you on a vacation…

Asides from a sunny holiday with Anders SG being a particularly appetising notion, the song itself is a lovely slice of tropical SAW-inspired goodness. It might be soggy March but a song that manages to make you dance around like a loony on a beach certainly gets my vote. They haven’t given much indication as to what the rest of their upcoming third album will sound like, but it’s probably a safe bet that “jolly” will be an appropriate adjective. You can buy the song on UK iTunes NOW and follow them on Twitter for all the latest developments.

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A chat with: Daníel Óliver

Although I’ve always been a huge fan of Nordic music, mentally I seem to have geographically separated that bit of the hemisphere into different genres; Sweden – Land of Pop, Norway – Kingdom of Indie and Metal, Denmark – a giant soup bowl of pop and rock. But the more I explore, the more I’ve come to learn that Iceland isn’t just an isolated island of the brilliantly avant-garde, it’s fiercely snapping at the heels of its mainland Scandinavian dance-pop contemporaries. And here’s an example:

Internationally, when people think of Icelandic music, they generally tend to think about Bjork or Sigur Ros when actually there’s a thriving Europop and Schlager scene. What sort of music inspired you when growing up in Iceland?

Actually, Björk has always been a huge inspiration to me, not only for her music but also as an artist from a little island that didn’t fell under the pressure of changing her style or appearance like the music industry wanted her to, but followed her own voice instead and became Iceland’s most successful artist of all time. That’s really inspiring and she has all my respect for that.

Was the video for your single ‘Dr Love’ your idea and did you expect it to get the controversial reaction in Iceland that it did?

It was a mutual idea between me and my agent from my former label in Iceland, Earlymusic. We wanted to try something new and shake people up as well as the industry here so we decided to make a music video that dealt with sexual matters in a whole new way. The reaction was bigger than we ever expected and there are still people that stop me on the street and ask me about the song. I found it all very amusing!

Your big break came when Örlygur Smári, Iceland’s most successful modern pop producer collaborated with you for your first English single ‘Superficial’. What makes him so good?

Örlygur is extremely talented. He’s just as good musician as he is a producer. He has made several songs for Eurovision and had the biggest hits in Icelandic radio for the last few of years. He is Iceland’s Max Martin so to speak. I enjoy working with him because he understands musicians and he is very collaborative and professional.

Is your upcoming new material going to be like your most recent Smári single ‘Takin’ It Back’, and when are we likely to hear it?

I think the new material will have a fresh sound to it, I love to make music that is pure pop but still has some clubby vibe about it and I try to keep it that way. I’m going into the studio in the next couple of weeks and the first single for the Swedish market will hopefully be released in the Spring or early this Summer. It’s going be HOT, I promise you!

What made you decide to move to Sweden?

In the same way that Athens is the capital of Greece I believe Sweden is the capital of pop music. Music is the biggest Swedish export and also the third biggest music industry in the whole world, if I’m correct.  If you hear a great uptempo pop song that sticks to your brain like gum under your shoe, it was probably made in Sweden.

Who do you particularly admire in Swedish music?

I admire the fact that Swedish musicians and producers are fearless of making great pop music and take it all the way. There is nothing holding them back when it comes to music. Swedish people are very nice and polite, very prim and proper but surprisingly they also make the sexiest music. I love that about them!  If I had to name just one special Swede I would have to say Robyn. She’s absolutely fantastic, I really admire her talents.

Are you aiming to be the next Eric Saade?

I have huge respect for Eric and his team for being on the verge of making him an international superstar and I think they work really hard and that’s admirable but personally I don’t wish to be like anyone else. I am always looking for my own sound and try to find my own path. That’s what life is about.

Finally, what do you think of this year’s Icelandic Eurovision entry? Do you think Jónsi has got what it takes to win his time?

I think the song is very patriotic. It sounds like a Viking anthem! Jónsi is a great singer and I hope they get through to the final. I don’t know if the song has what it takes to win, but you never know. That‘s the beautiful thing about the competition.

Check out Daníel’s website and ogle follow him on Twitter.

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