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Friska Viljor Interview

(Sputnikhalle, Münster, 2011)If there’s one combination of things that doesn’t go together too well, then it’s that of a ridiculous amount of snow falling within quite a short time span and an old car. Which is the reason why I never made it to that original interview appointment with Friska Viljor in Düsseldorf some months ago. Now, on a sunny day in 2011, however, I’m lucky enough to get another chance of finally chatting with Daniel Johansson and Joakim Sveningsson. Today they are making a stop in Münster for a sold-out show on their tour through Germany promoting their latest album The Beginning of the Beginning of the End. Wheareas this title might result in the impression that things might be coming to an end soon, Joakim and Daniel seem to be more than happy to do away with this assumption and we end up talking about Russian ice-hockey players, pirates, cowboys, things that make them get hard-ons and about the ticking of biological clocks .Now, your last album was called For New Beginnings, the latest one is called The Beginning of the Beginning of the End – so of what event or development? Or is this rather about going further down in chronology?Daniel: It’s more a word game.Joakim: Yeah, I mean it’s not like anything is going to end soon. I guess it’s got some sort of chronological thing to it as well, since it’s the new beginnings the last time and now it’s the beginning of the beginning of the end.I also had to think of this saying “Today is the first day of the rest of my life”. Is it anyhow connected to this?Joakim: Well, the first day of your life is the first day of the rest of your life. So this could be like a birth as well. I don’t know. A rebirth. And that is the first day of the rest of your life, I guess.Okay, so which Larionov is meant in the title? I looked it up and I didn’t know which one to choose.Daniel: Are there more than one?Yes, there are several people with this name. I think an artist, a Russian ice-hockey player or something like that...Joakim: Actually, the name itself... the song is not about that person, it’s just a working name, it’s a working title that just stuck to the song. And the working title was from the Russian hockey player, because I remember in the 80s I used to watch the Super Five or whatever it’s called with (bombarding me with at least for me incomprehensible foreign-sounding names). It was like the five best hockey players in the world that played in the Russian team. And I think the Russian names were really nice so all the songs were named after Russians. So it’s not meant for anyone it’s just a working title and the song is about different things.So how and where was the album recorded? Was there anything funny or extraordinary happening while recording it?Daniel: Hmm... nooo...No? It just went as smooth as that?Daniel: (laughs) Hm, we were supposed to record it, to write it in Berlin. We stayed there for three months and the thought was to come home with at least the material for a whole album. But we liked the city of Berlin a little bit too much. I think it’s two embryos that ended up on the record, plus You Meant Nothing, but that one we wrote when we were home in Stockholm during our Berlin stay.Joakim: Which one?Daniel: Isn’t that You Meant Nothing? That one?Joakim: Erm... No, it was also... the chords were made in Berlin at least...Daniel: Didn’t we write some, like...?Joakim: We wrote some song stuff in Stockholm.Daniel: Yeah, I meant everything of that was written in Stockholm, but I was thinking about this ... (doing some funny sound)... Joakim: I don’t know what he’s talking about... (laughs)Daniel: (laughs) That song... Well, maybe we didn’t do anything about it. You see, it’s not easy when your mind is like a big black hole...Joakim: The actual record wasn’t recorded until, like, last fall. We were supposed to write everything and do everything in the spring, I guess, or in the summer. But summer is too nice to do stuff...Daniel: Yeah, summer was too nice...Joakim: So, we had to postpone it until the fall. And then everything went really quick when we actually did it. So nothing special really happened. I don’t know if any songs were made in a special way or anything. I just think it was kind of smooth.Daniel: Yeah.Now, that’s good.Joakim: Not interesting or anything. Just smooth.Sounds good to me. So was there anything special that you liked about Berlin? Is it a place that kind of triggers creativity or is is just a nice place to stay?Joakim: It will be wrong to say that it triggers our creativity in any way because we didn’t do that much creatively when we were there.I think the biggest creative help we got from Berlin was to be off work for a change, having so much free time. So you could start to reflect on how life has turned out and stuff like that, which you don’t really have time to do today when you’re working and then you go home and watch television and keep your mind occupied with everything that’s in your sight, with computers and telephones and television and work and...So, that was the best, because we didn’t have TV there, we had, but it was only German TV, so we didn’t really understand anything, so we never watched it. The only thing we did was to hang out in the kitchen, eat food together, maybe play some boardgames or whatever and the rest of the time was for ‘contemplating’. If you want to call it like that. So that was the biggest inspiration.How would you describe you development from the last album to this one then?Daniel: Having the guts to be a little bit more... (saying a Swedish word to Joakim)Joakim: I don’t know what it’s called...Daniel:... hm, like serious? But... (turning to Swedish again)...Joakim: (laughs)Daniel: I described ourselves as being more... (thinking hard)... Rock n Roll. (laughs)Joakim: The content is that we doubt to be more... erm... now I’m at the word again... like, melancholic and serious and going into deeper stuff without trying to cover it up with all this boompaboompa music.Daniel: Taking ourselves a little bit more seriously.Joakim: Well, that would be a bit pretentious. In a good way. Not believing that we’re special in any way, just that we dare to do stuff that we didn’t dare to do before, with the lyrics and with the music. And combined. That’s the big difference. And I think there’s a lot of songs that’s a lot slicker than before. Like, more polished and it sounds a bit different.I think there’s one very good example of what you’ve just explained and that would be the song Useless.Joakim: Yeah.Daniel: Yeah, with the pretentious stuff, but it’s not slick.Yeah, but I also think that it’s a bit different in this way. So, when I listen to your music it’s usually like there are some serious lyrics going on, but the music is more easy-going and happy. With this song, however, it’s like the lyrics and the music really fit each other. Can you describe anything that you felt was different about this special song? Is there anything that triggered this development in a way?Joakim: Well... There was a situation that kind of triggered it, but I don’t know if it’s a good example. It was a night in a slow-dancing club, like, where everybody slow dances.There are special clubs for it?Joakim: No, it’s just like once every three months or so... And I was going out sober, without drinking. Everyone else was drunk at the place, but I guess I was the only one sober. So I didn’t have like any courage or any guts to do anything. I don’t know why, sometimes you do something, sometimes you don’t. I saw this really nice-looking girl and I kind of like, you know, when you get some sort of an instant crush on someone. But I didn’t have the guts to go up to her. But I looked at her and she looked at me, so I knew that if I had gone up to her we would have been able to talk for a while and then see what happens. And then someone else came in and swooped her away, which led me to “Okay, let’s just go home”. Then I sat in my... it sounds really cliché... but I sat in my window (laughs) and started writing some chords for that song. And that’s what triggered it.That’s pretty... I also think there are some parallels between the last album and the latest one. For example the opener on the last album Daj Daj Die and You Meant Nothing always make me think of seafarers, ships, pirates. Do you know anything about any seafaring ancestors of yours? Like tall Swedish pirates?Joakim: (laughs) I don’t think so...Daniel: (laughs) I always thought You Meant Nothing sounded like a Christmas song...Joakim: Yeah, it’s the... (I start swaying to and fro...) What’s it called? Takt? The three-four drumming (imitating three-four time). It’s that that makes it! And you can do that with like any song that is in that kind of tempo. Yeah. I could agree more with the Daj Daj Die, that it’s like a pirate theme, more pirate song. But it’s not meant to be one. And it’s not supposed to be.Daniel: (starts imitating a pirate)Joakim: But yeah, I get it.Or, there are two more songs that always make me think of, you know, I have some very imaginative things going on in my mind sometimes...Daniel: That’s good...... of cowboys, Western, prairie. I think I wrote in my review of your album that, if you ever did a video for Did You Really Think That You Could Change, that you would have to be sitting on horses, riding through the prairie.Daniel: Yeah, there was... Just like Larionov had its working name, that one was called “Cowboy”.Really?Joakim: (laughs) Yes!Haha, there you go then...Daniel: And we almost named it that.Joakim: Which one did you see from For New Beginnings?Erm... Lakes Of Steep.Joakim: Ah, yeah, that’s right. That’s... kind of right. It’s not like we try to make the same song twice, or the same kind of vibe song twice. I have no idea, actually...Daniel: The cowboy song on the new album was actually written, like...Joakim: Long, long time ago.Daniel: ... 2008 or 2007. It’s super old. It was written in our old studio.One other thing that’s always going on in my mind when I listen to your music is the following: I never know whether I want to punch those girls who have made you feel so miserable in the face, like “How could you be so cruel and do this to them?”, or whether I want to thank them for making you feel the way you feel or felt, because this resulted in you making the kind of music you make. So, would you say that you need suffering for being creative or do you just have a good imagination?Daniel: I don’t think that suffering is a must to be creative, but I think that happiness in general is really bad for it. Like, being a bit sad or, whatever, like, negative feelings trigger creativity.Joakim: I would say that it’s like the search for happiness that kind of triggers it. It’s to want something.Daniel: If you’re content, I mean, going to the studio is the last thing you’d like to do.Joakim: Yeah. And you want to go out and have fun all the time and enjoy life. No time for recording.So songs only going “Yeah, I feel so good” would also get boring in the end, wouldn’t they?Daniel: Yeah, I mean, there are songs like that which are nice as well, but that’s not our style of music, like, now anyway. I mean, living in LA, having a really nice life and have 25 degrees and sun all year around maybe you just feel ... But maybe, I mean, there’s a lot of good music coming from that end as well... So, it’s easy to say that it wouldn’t work before trying it.Joakim: And maybe it’s just from person to person.I’d like to refer back to something we talked about earlier. You seem to have the ability of mixing slightly, ah, well, not depressive, but rather highly ironic lyrics with those very catchy and beautiful melodies. So where do you take this positive energy from at the same time?Joakim: Both of us really enjoy melodies, so that’s the only reason, I think. We get hard-ons when we hear really good lyrics, so that’s what we have in our musical baggage, or whatever. It’s like melodies or nothing.Is there something like a Swedish musical heredity coming through?Joakim: (laughs) Nooo, I don’t think so... Maybe it is, I don’t know.Daniel: ABBA songs are full of it and a lot of that kind of 80s rock, Europe and stuff, there are really, really good melodies.Joakim: (to Daniel) Yeah, you mean like Swedish music in general has a lot of good melodies. I don’t think it’s in our heads.Daniel: (to me) Was that the question or wasn’t it?Yes... Anyway, I don’t think that’s a concious thing going on there...Joakim: No, and I mean, ABBA and Europe for me wasn’t the big artists.Daniel: No, me neither. I didn’t listen to that much Swedish music at all when I was a kid. So, Swedish heritage, we don’t have that.No? What would you say is more inspiring for you? Music-wise?Daniel: Everything from when we started to listen to music when we were four or five up until now. I mean, if you have a backpack that you filled with music constantly then it stays there even if you don’t think about it, at the bottom.Well, when I first really heard your music I was at a show, which was a kind of indoor festival. Originally, I went there, because I wanted to see Phoenix and I didn’t know any of your songs. In the end, when I left the show, I liked you guys better than Phoenix. So is this something you hear rather often, that you gain new fans by playing live?Joakim: (laughs) That’s the only way we’ve ever gained fans, I think. Almost. Yeah, I think 95% of everyone that listens to us have seen us live once, cause we have played so many shows now, 350 shows.Daniel: Yeah, but I think that we had a quite good help from media, for the first album, actually. To get people to the shows. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had any of the shows.Joakim:But, I mean, the first tour we did as a headliner? That wasn’t a sold-out tour, anyway. I think everything happened after Immergut [Festival]. The first time we went to Immergut?Daniel: Yeah!Joakim: And I think then it’s like, I think it’s a word of mouth after that, more than media. Because, I don’t know how people really listen to media.Daniel: I don’t mean that media had the biggest impact, but I think they had some impact in the beginning.Joakim: Yeah, sure. Anyway, I think we’ve heard this a lot of times that it works with our live shows. People always come up and say that it’s a really nice live show, which is really good for our self-esteem, because that’s not always on top. It can be quite low a lot of times. So it’s really good to hear stuff like that and it makes me feel even more happy that you’re doing this right now.(I can’t help but tell them a bit more about my first Friska Viljor encounter and the fact that they had me like after one or two songs...)Now, Wohlwillstraße is the one song I guess everyone who has ever heard of you guys knows. I’d be interested in whether you still have contact with those people with the record shop.Joakim: Yeah. Everytime when we come to Hamburg we try to go over to them and just hang out for a while. And we always invite them to our shows, which is not that special. (laughs) But we want them to come.So, my last question refers back to your last album and originally I wanted to ask it like months ago, but here it goes: The song People Are Getting Old... It’s interesting to see that also men can be suffering (Daniel starts laughing) from this kind of last-minute panic. But there’s no biological clock ticking for you guys, so what’s the hurry?Joakim: Ah, for me, it’s because Daniel has kids. I want my kids to be kind of the same age as his kids.Aaawww...Joakim: And my friends’ kids as well. They all kind of did it at the same time. Within a year three of them had kids. And I want my kids to be the same age...-ish.Daniel: He can jump on the train the next time.Joakim: Yeah, next time, maybe the third time. I guess it’s no hurry. It was just one of those times when you think about it. It feels like everyone else is maturing a lot more than yourself and it’s like you’re still in your, like... like you’re still a teenager, like still trying to do all this fun, crazy stuff. And it doesn’t really fit anymore. That’s what you feel sometimes. Sometimes, it’s really nice to do that still.Yeah, I mean, when they are like “Nooo, I can’t go out, I have to look after the kids...”, you can say “Woohoo, I’m going to paaarteeey!”.Joakim: Yeah, but I think it’s more of a problem for Daniel, actually, nowadays (laughs) that he has to stay home.So, how many kids do you have by now?Daniel: Two.Well, there you go, round two is coming in, then! You can jump on the bandwagon soon then.Joakim: Yeah, or the next time around...

Friska Viljor Interview