One week has past since Iceland Airwaves finished and after getting
our feet back on solid ground and trying to compose ourselves it’s
time to summerize Airwaves’11. When doing so we’ll highlight those
moments which didn’t make it in earlier reviews and picking some K7
highlights and low-water marks.
Reykjavík Art Museum
These guys tried to be secretive and mysterious to the point where
they lost contact with their audience. With smoke enough to choke the
front row and lack of light made the band almost impossible to see for
the better part of the set. It’s like Beach House doesn’t want to
really make the most out of the gig. And it sounds just like on
record, it’s just to perfect… almost like on record. The entire
point of seeing a band live is lost. Well except the fact that I now
get to say ”I saw Beach House on Iceland”.
Not worth it though. Maybe these guys need a break from touring? I
don’t know. Maybe I’m just spoiled after a cavalcade of great live
Of Monsters and Men
This young group is said to be the next big thing out of Iceland with
their folky approach on pop but I’m not so easily convinced. When an
entire set is spent waiting for that one last song you’re still a
one-trick pony. Admittedly OMAM do that trick very well and puts that
silly smile on your face but in order to be the next big thing you
need more than just that one song.
Cute, but have some growing to do.
Lockerbie looks like they’re barely of legal drinking age but that
doesn’t matter when you make pop music that good. When compared to Of
Monsters and Men above I for one believe that these guys are more
likely to be the next big thing. If you absolutely need put that
rather absurd title on any up and coming band.
The audience was small to begin with put grew as the set progressed. I
was worried about how these guys were gonna be live after seeing a
youtube video that scared me off but during the week I heard friends
raving about their brilliance live (they of course played their fair
share of off venue gigs). As many other Icelandic band they manage to
combine regular pop music with elements from their own string section
and that just makes me wonder… what’s up with the music education on
Iceland? How do these kids manage to compose string arrangements? K7
loves them to bits either way.
Reykjavík Art Museum
Pretty music, one-sided live performance. The singer danced the same
steps over and over, never standing still. Maybe Austra isn’t the best
live act ever, but I can tell that her whimsical manner is real and
that she really can’t be still. This is just to much fun. And it is,
and it should be. K7 let’s Austra do her thing while getting in line
for… a special someone.
Yes, that special someone is John Grant. K7 had the pleasure of
running into him again at the airport when arriving to Iceland. We
talked about touring, the magic of Iceland, him working with Swedish
producer Kleerup (”we’re both control freaks”) and how to get on a
crowded bus with 345 other tired and grumpy passengers shoveling and
muttering swearwords in Icelandic.
When he did his off venue gig at KEX there was a line outside with
enthusiasts trying to get in. K7 was in that line, in the heavy rain
and cold winds. Packed like penguins we tried to keep warm but to no
avail. The warmth came from two open windows from where John’s warm
and soothing voice spilled out.
The main gig at Harpa left everyone in the venue with goose-bumbs and
a lump in their throat. He started with walking up to the mic and
telling everyone about his upbringing, him being gay and the
difficulties that he faced as a consequence. His voice seems to
tremble and we kind of understand. Not really, but almost.
He gets all of the more well known songs out of the way early on which
leaves room for a more personal connection with the audience.
John declares his love for Iceland and we declare out love for John.
It works both ways, there’s even a dialog between him and the crowd
during the set. K7 smiles stupidly at this.
There’s so much to say and John is a K7 sweetheart for a reason. We
thank him for his warmth and honesty.
With John Grant Kentuckyseven rounded up Airwaves’11 in the best way
possible. Coming home to Sweden was a stark reminder of reality. With
the magic of music though we will survive this winter as well.
Until next time.
/Maja, K7 correspondent
June 4 The Low Anthem´s USA-tour hits our dreamvillage of Louisville, Kentucky. They play Headliners Music Hall (together with Daniel Lefkowitz and The County Line) and it will for sure be a night to remember.
Kentuckyseven had a chat with bandleaders Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky when they visited Gothenburg, Sweden. We talked about Pringles chips, the soundtrack of Sweden and the smart kids of Deer Tick.
Welcome to Sweden! Last time you played here were a much talked-about gig at Pustervik in the summer of 2010. You recall?
“Sure, that was one special evening. It was late, late at night, a really rowdy crowd who had their fair amount of Swedish beer. We started out with all our instruments on stage and I know we looked at each other and didn´t know which way it would turn. But after three or four songs we knew, everything connected and we really enjoyed it.”
You even played to the crowd in line outside the bar who couldn´t get in?
“Yeah, that’s right (laugh). It was sold out and a long line of people stayed outside. It was raining, and we stopped and played a song for them outside. The night was dark, it was very special. “
The song “I´ll Take Out Your Ashes” is your most Swedish song ever, Ingmar Bergman-style. Beautiful, guilty, sad feeling. Like a soundtrack of Sweden. What can you say about that song?
“Really? Well now for sure we will play that one tonite. The song was written a night after hanging out at a bar with my friend who just told me a story about her mother passing away, about how her family was feuding about how to deal with the ashes. The family was fighting about who should come to the ceremony, and who shouldn’t. Meanwhile the ashes was at my friends house, on her kitchentable. For months. She more or less wrote the song, just telling me the story.”
In our ears you got two different type of songs. One aggressive, direct, rock-style. One slow, thoughtful, folk-style. Why does it come out like that?
”It’s all about commitment. We just don’t play the arrangements. We keep ourselves to a high standard of really being there emotionally in the songs. And whether it’s the loudest, most abrasive song or the most beautiful, inviting rich song, it’s the same level of commitment to it, so I think that is the same about those two styles. I really didn’t look at it as a matter of styles, just a matter of intensity.”
You´re from Rhode Island. What can you say about the place?
”We live in Providence, in Smithsville. There is a wonderful community of artists there, and an artschool, and Brown University, where we went. The schools are very liberal, and the area is very un-American. And also it is very off-the-map, no national music comes there. Which is kinda good.”
Deer Tick is another Kentuckyseven fav-band, also from Rhode Island, you know them?
”Sure, we know them. They are wild, but it is somewhat staged… they are actually smart kids, they are making an effort to look weird you know. They love the artistry, and they are cool like that. By the way, you need to check out another guy from Rhode Island, Death Vessel. And Brown Bird, you need to check them out as well.”
Social Media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Is that important to you? How do you handle it?
“We don´t. I think it´s pretty boring for the fans with a twitteraccount that some publisher or pressguy takes care of. It´s seldom from the artists themselves, and rarely any personal and interesting stuff.” But we do write all the emails, for the mailing lists and such.”
Finally, the future. Where will The Low Anthem be, say in 10 years?
Artist to artist:
Q: John Grant:
”How have you managed to keep from having your collective digestive systems destroyed by the ravages of Pringles whilst on the road?”
A: Ben Knox Miller: ”I think that the food at the venues saves us, coz if we were left at our own devices we would probably eat the food from the gas stations, you know those Swedish hot dogs, love em. So we balance the crappy food with Pringles. And ketchup.”
The gig after the interview was amazing, and the guys were as well. We hope to see them again in Sweden soon. And by the way, the played their most swedish song, upon request…
Read the review here: The Low Anthem @ Pustervik
Gothenburg was cold and crisp, sunny and grand. The gravel from the cold winter still on the citystreet. People wore mittens and thick overcoats. The warmth from the sun thawed our frozen Swedish souls.
We didn´t know what to expect. John Grant made Mojo´s best album of 2010, an album Kentuckyseven more than loved. ‘Queen of Denmark’ is 16 songs of intimacy, self exploration and self exposure. Who was this guy?
He sat relaxed by the great statue, behind some orange sunglasses. An hour later we were friends. No more, no less. We spoke over lunch. We spoke about life, music and everything in between. We spoke in Swedish, Danish and German too.
Photos: Jonas Löfvendahl / Magnus Säfström
You live here in Gothenburg, how did that happen?
“I got here to do a record with Andreas Kleerup, hadn’t really heard of Gothenburg before. I couldn´t believe how beautiful it was! I moved in with Petra, a friend I met after my gig at Pustervik. I’ve lived in big cities before, three years in New York, but I do enjoy the small town. I don´t go out any more, not like I used to. I don´t drink anymore, at all. It´s all about the people and the music.”
How´s the record with Kleerup coming along?
“We haven´t come very far, we have no deadline. We have ten tracks, five from me and five from him. When I get back from my tour I´m gonna start doing vocals. We first met DJ:ing at Strand together and just hit it off. When I came to Sweden, Kleerup was one of those guys I wanted to meet.”
Queen of Denmark made Mojo’s number one 2010, how about that?
“I really freaked me out. For me, Mojo is the bible. It’s is a new world for me now. This is gonna keep meaning big stuff for my career for a long time, meaning that many more people will discover my music. Because of my lyrics it won´t become mainstream in a bad way, this is just a good thing.”
What kind of music are you listening to right now?
“I love the new PJ Harvey album. I love her, what she does with her voice. I just discovered a Swedish band called ‘Pacific’, I really like the voice of that guy. It´s like electronic based indiepop. I also listen to ‘Glasser’, ‘Black Devil Disco Club’ and many other bands.
How did you end up on stage?
“I sang at the church quire as a kid. But I wasn’t considered someone who could sing. I knew I could sing, but I was too afraid to really sing out. Alcohol helped me. It was the only way to get on stage.”
Are you working on new material?
“It´s scares me to do a follow up. All you have to do is be yourself, but that is hard sometimes. I have to ignore the Mojo-thing and just do a record.”
“I´ve been writing songs for a while. I got half of the songs for a new album already. This one will be more about anger. I want it to be fuzzy and distorted with lots of beautiful melodies but with a harder edge. I want it to be a big wall of sound, and then down to nothing, very dynamic. I´m recording with Midlake, starting in September. ‘Queen of Denmark’ was no filters, the next record will be the same.
How do you write your songs?
“To me, it´s a long process. I tend to change things all the time. It´s really very strange, I want to be perceived in a certain way, I want people to see me as strong, and not gay. Like a real man, not emotional. Like I wrote about in ‘Silver Platter Club’. One of the things that fascinates me the most, are watching the interviews in the locker rooms after a game, any sport, and you see the look on these men’s faces. It´s total and complete selfconfidence. At least it looks that way. But I’ve never been able to even pretend. I wish I were a better liar.”
Do you see yourself ever becoming an author?
“I would like to see myself that way, but I don’t think I am ready for that yet, the more I read the harder it seems. It´s an amazing talent, like one of my favorite authors Scott Heim, whom I became friends with, who wrote ‘Mysterious Skin’. I do have a huge vocabulary, so I probably could write something, but it wouldn’t be fictional. Everybody has a story to tell. Look at the greatness of Nick Cave and Tom Waits. It could be about anything, this lunch or that wallpaper behind you.
Any other projects, down the line?
“I´m thinking about, maybe an EP or an entire album, doing something that Kleerups girlfriend told me. Her pets, and the accidents they had. I have written down all of them. And it is a lot of pets and accidents.”
“One is about a pony, called Moffe who falls through the ice and then there is the story of the rabbit Fetknopp who was blown up in an explosion, when her mother were killing roots in the garden. It´s Muffin, the chicken who was taken away by an eagle, when he tried to hide in a pile of wood, and just got swept away by the big bird. And you got Plommonsippan, the African Parakeet who flew into the dishwasher and died. Crazy stuff.”
The video to ‘Chicken Bones’, what can you tell us about it?
“It was like my worst nightmare, doing that video, because it was all real, you know. I had to walk around in that outfit, in that neighborhood, being called a fagot from the people there. It took me back to the times when I was younger. I don’t feel comfortable with my body, and wearing that suit made me feel really uncomfortable. The song is about racism and hatred and the video kind of captured parts of my life, parts of me.”
When did you decide to come out?
“It took me a really long time, I was probably 25. And what was painful, was that a lot of people knew and were talking about it behind my back – we all know about him, but he doesn’t seem to know it yet – that’s painful, cause you can´t deal with it. Everybody else knows, but you are having a hard time dealing with it yourself, for a while I was trying to see if I could stop it from happening, I didn’t want to be that way. That’s pretty heavy duty, the total rejection of the self.”
“And it just turns into panic attacks and depression, cause you can´t live like that. I didn’t wanna be hated. There were physical attacks on me, verbal attacks all the time. There was just this hatred in people’s eyes. You knew, you were disgusting to them. I started to believe in them, that they were right, and that’s the worst part of it. At this time, I started drinking heavily, but I still couldn’t talk about it all.”
Did your music help you?
“My music at this time was just about making noise, I didn’t think I could write about myself, I was afraid if I wrote about myself, my family would see that, my father would see that, and then they would reject me based on that.”
How´s the relation with your family today?
“I don’t know if my father has even heard my record, and I won´t ask him. We don’t communicate a lot but he definitely loves me, I know that. We live in different worlds. My father lives in a world where he still wants me to be a missionary in Russia or something like that. But he is proud of me, he is proud of the success I am having in the music business, but I think he´s also disappointed. My parents made it clear that they could never support my lifestyle, but – We love you, anyway. I can live with that, but I guess I have a lot of stuff to work through.
¤¤¤ Lunchtime was over. The room emptied. Outside the window the afternoon sun hit people hard, knuckles, guard down. It was a story to be written and John Grant walked away, down the street. He looked like he could use some shelter from the storm, a place to call home. We watched him go and got back to work. The song ‘Queen of Denmark’ echoed our white office walls.Who’s gonna be the one to save me from myself?
You’d better bring a stun gun and perhaps a crowbar
You’d better pack a lunch and get up really early
And you should probably get down on your knees and pray
It’s really fun to look embarrassed all the time
Like you could never cut the mustard with the big boys
I really don’t know who the fuck you think you are
Can I please see your license and your registration?
John Grant gigs Gothenburg tomorrow, April 27th @ Nefertiti.
1. Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
Det är svårt att ta ut 7 plattor på ett år. Men att The Black Dirt Sessions skulle hamna på den här listan var solklart.
Skivan har snurrat i min spelare sen den kom ut, och det känns inte som den kommer att försvinna på rätt länge. John McCauleys röst, melodierna, känslan och soundet är magiskt. Magiskt på så oerhört många sätt. Det är en lugn och rätt mörk platta, men med en nerv som talar om vad det här gänget är kapabelt till. Deer Tick kommer att bli ett band som kommer att betyda nåt. För mig. För många.
2. Wolf People – Steeple
Psych-rock är som jag tidigare har skrivit om, balanserar ofta på en tunn linje. Lätt att tippa över, mest åt fel håll.
Steeple, som är brittiska Wolf People’s debutplatta, är på rätt sida om gränsen. En platta som dånar, klirrar och får en sugen på att skaffa en afghan-päls. Ett suveränt sound rätt igenom.
3. John Grant – Queen of Denmark
Efter att ha fastnat fullständig för Midlake efter deras senaste alster, The Courage of Others, blev bekantskapen med John Grant helt naturlig.
Grant har lyckats göra ett album som påminner, känslomässigt, mig om Anthony & The Johnsons debutalbum. Skört, sorgset och väldigt personligt. Jag är glad att ha fått lära känna John Grant, för det är så det känns efter att ha lyssnat till hans musik. Lyssna bara på ”I Wanna Go To Marz”, vill man inte bara åka med?
4. Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking it Easy
Phosphorescent med Matthew Houck från Athens GA, känns stort redan på namnet.
Phosphorescent, som för övrigt är oerhört lättstavat, är bandet som vet hur man lirar, hur man gör en riktig countrydänga. På den där sköna bluesiga tonen. Houcks röst känns som den är gjord för att sjunga denna musiken. Fanns det något val? Bästa på skivan: Mermaid Parade, och alla andra låtarna.
5. Mountain Man – Made The Harbour
Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig och Amelia Randall Meath, har lyckats med sin debut. Amerikansk folkmusik när den är som allra bäst.
Det är svårt att inte förtrollas av harmonierna, rösterna och gitarrspelet på detta mästerverk. Saknar ingenting, när jag hör Mountain Man, det känns komplett. Bruset fyller en funktion. Ljudet när fingrarna flyttar från ett band till ett annat. Svårslaget.
6. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
Precis när man trodde att, det är omöjligt att följa upp en sån debutplatta, släpper Tallest Man nytt.
Och som han gör det. Helt omöjligt var ordet. Det är inte mindre Dylanesque än tidigare, det är inte mindre svängigt. Om man kan lyssna på den här skivan utan att klappa på knäna, stampa med foten, gunga med huvudet, så har man inte riktigt kontakt med sin musikaliska ådra. Omöjligt säger ni, jag säger Kristian Mattsson, det är inte slut med The Wild Hunt, det är säkert.
7. I’m Kingfisher – Arctic
Thomas Denver Johansson, var för mig ett rätt okänt kort innan I’m Kingfisher. Men nu.
Det är häftigt när man hittar plattor som man bara gillar från första tonen. Arctic är en sån skiva. Det är som att den är skriven för mina öron, Kentuckyseven-musik. Texter och melodier är rättigenom ärliga, vackra och lagom lågmälda. Med en känsla av vinter, mystik, rött vin och kärlek förmedlar Arctic nåt som känns nordiskt på det där sättet som vi är stolta över. Inte det andra. Bara att svepa in sig och lyssna.