Comprised of Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg and Andrew Wyatt, Swedish indie pop trio Miike Snow are currently celebrating their comeback onto the scene with their excellent sophomore offering Happy To You. Taking their emotionally uplifting pop sounds to another level with their new project, the band is likely to make another heavy-hitting impact on international dancefloors. We met up with the band in London and conversed about their beginnings, the evolvement of their sound, and today’s appreciation for music and much more.
You released your self-titled debut album in 2009 and now you’re back with Happy To You, what have you been up to in the time in between?
Andrew Wyatt: We have been touring most of the time actually, which obviously kept us busy. Life on the road is pretty intense. Sometimes it’s really fun and amazing, sometimes a little bit rough. It depends on the season, the type of bus, the type of gigs and so on.
Christian Karlsson: This tour should not be as crazy and busy as the last one when we did 260 shows. A lot of them were back-to-back with no days off. This time around, we want to map out things in a smarter way. A hectic tour schedule can obviously wear you out. We also have to be more selective on choosing the right shows because we have built this huge synth that takes up half the stage and it cannot fit in everywhere. So that alone, basically, solves a lots of decisions on what we can do and can’t do.
Andrew, you were residing in New York City and Christian and Pontus were based in Sweden, so how did Miike Snow come about?
AW: Me and Chris first met in a studio in New York because he was working on a project for Brooke Valentine, it was the same project I was working on. I became confident with their work and then my band was over in Europe touring and they stopped by their studio. We started to talk about writing for different people. After a few years of staying in touch, Chris and Pontus approached and asked me if I would like to form a band with them, and yeah, my answer was yes.
Chris, how did this idea come about to invite Andrew? Were there any other people involved at some point?
CK: There was never really anybody else considered to join us. We are all from bands. Me and Pontus got stuck on producing and writing for other people for a while, so we just wanted to get back to this band thing. Andrew was the missing piece that would eventually make us form Miike Snow.
Growing up we imagine you guys being really into music. Was there any specific genre of music?
Pontus Winnberg: My first thing that made me realize I want to write songs are The Beatles. Boring answer, I know. But they are still the best for pop music in my opinion. When I was 12 I stumbled upon Stevie Wonder. It blew me away so much that I wanted to be him for a while. (laughs)
AW: For me it was all kinds of stuff. I went through different phases. I remember my first really strong impact that I had that made me know what I want to do was “Pocket Calculator” by Kraftwerk. It sounded so good, it almost could not be true. It was one of those crazy experiences. (laughs)
You maintained quite an air of mystery about yourselves in the past, what with the surgical-style masks with tongues painted on them. Is that a theme you intend to continue?
AW: We are still using masks on stage. There are elements of Wizard of Oz for us because it shows a little bit of our backgrounds. We do not want Miike Snow to be about our personal lives or personalities even. I am sure that it will get affected by our personalities to some extent. The purpose of Miike Snow is to create something
that is an imaginative realm that people can just use to go out, or get it or do whatever I want.
So there is a bit of a disconnect between who you really are and what you fancy on the stage?
AW: I didn’t say that. We are not trying to represent ourselves. There is a subtle difference. Our focus is music and not personal lives. The way we make music also reveals certain elements of our personalities.
How has the sound evolved since your debut album, Miike Snow, and has the creative process in Happy to You been any different this time around?
AW: I think the biggest difference is that we now made an actual album whereas the first offering was a mere collection of songs. We were just writing and were not even aware of the fact that we were making an album. The process was slightly different as we were spending time in the recording studio with a special theme and concept in mind for a specific project.
What’s the story behind the album title?
AW: Christian bought a little toy computer down in Chinatown in Bangkok, Thailand. On the front, it says Happy to You on its front. When we saw this saying, we immediately knew that it was a keeper. (laughs)
So the saying resonated with the material that you had for the album?
AW: It’s one of the weird things that’s like, “Spot on!” It pretty much sums up a lot of who we are. Our sense of humor and also hints at something political. And of course, our music is very fun. (laughs)
What is your favorite medium to enjoy music and how do you evaluate today’s appreciation of this art form?
AW: In indie music, I think, it’s a return to good ways. People start buying a lot more vinyl again. Most people that I know have a vinyl player at home and it is still the best and most authentic way to enjoy this art form. When we got the vinyl for our record, we just opened it up, read the lyrics and enjoyed the artwork. It was a much more of a three-dimensional experience with its album cover. Having a physical format and putting it out. When you put it out on the record player, listening to music becomes much more of a valuable effort. It’s not like with MP3s where you can easily skip through the music. With the vinyl, you have to actually stand up and carefully redirect the needle in order to listen to other parts of the record and put it carefully pack it into the cover. As a result, people tend to listen to the music more times, thus experiencing it through different layers.
Who are you listening to in terms of new bands? Who are you co-signing?
AW: I enjoy lots of music that is currently coming from the Hyperdub label. I think James Blake is very talented, Burial.
How would you say the methods to which people discover new music has changed and how do you guys discover new music?
As far as finding new music is concerned, people find about new bands through YouTube and music blogs. I mean, there are at least two acts a day that come out. People find out about them through their own efforts, not just through the help of radio. When a new artist is getting some love on music blogs, they receive a certain amount of attention. But due to the immense amount of new artists, the ball of attention is getting passed on to the next, and next and so on. So it’s very hard for people who are not making big radio songs to come out as crowned victors off of the back of one or two works. You have to put in some work and time to get to the same level, like The Black Keys, that never had huge radio records. They became quite big, but in the course of 10 years. Let’s say you put out something really new and refreshing,
you won’t have the same impact of culture with it. Since information is being spread much faster these days, the torch of the cultural impact is being divided into up to 15 bands. The band Girls, for instance, I am really astonished that they don’t have a bigger following and not perform at such big venues like the LA Forum. It just takes time these days.
Interview: Aymen Ahmed
Miike Snow’s Happy to You is out now via Universal Republic.
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