In the 21st century, with much help from the Internet, the musical landscape of Sweden's underground is reaching further than ever. Sweden is now the third-largest music exporter in the world, trailing only America and the United Kingdom. Melodic death-metal bands like In Flames and Soilwork have become some of the genre's most sought after. Additionally, over the last few years, a litany of Swedish-bred indie artists and bands (Jens Lekman, José González, Dungen, the Concretes, the Sounds, the Hives, the Knife have been hyped as "The Next Big Thing."
Love Is All With Amy Sedaris. Neumo's, 925 E. Pike St., 206-709-9467, www.neumos.com. $5 adv./$7 door. 6 p.m. Mon., Oct. 30.
But this year, there has been one Swedish band, the Gothenburg-based five-piece Love Is All, which has punctuated that list with a big old exclamation mark. Already, the band has won the hearts of The New York Times, Spin, and The Fader (where they were featured on the cover) with the release of their debut album, Nine Times the Same Song—proof that Love Is All are well on their way to becoming the new darlings of post-punk revivalism here in America and in the U.K.
Love Is All formed three years ago, while vocalist/keyboard player Josephine Olausson was riding a tram with guitarist/vocalist Nicholaus Sparding and drummer Markus Görsch, immediately after the three decided to break up their indie-pop group Girlfrendo.
"Girlfrendo went on for a little bit too long," says Olausson. "I think we realized that it was not much fun." The band then recruited bassist Johan Lindwall and saxophone player Fredrik Eriksson, and the group began feverishly rehearsing, committing everything to tape, issuing a 7-inch here and there. In March 2004, no longer than a year after forming, the band was invited to record a session with the BBC's taste-making DJ John Peel, who had previously recorded Girlfrendo. "At first, the BBC studios were so overwhelming. I had never seen anything like it—having engineers telling us what to do," says Olausson. "Back then, we didn't take anything seriously. We got wasted while they were mixing. They asked us if we wanted to change anything, but we didn't. We walked away thinking, 'What did we just do?' I think we feel a bit intimidated by the serious studio types."
But unlike Girlfrendo, who were bubbly pop aimed at the sun, Love Is All are a heady dose of spiked punch, discharging wild, reckless abandon on the late-night reveler. "[Love Is All] is definitely a completely new chapter," says Olausson. "It's a whole different mentality, much more open and more fun."
On Nine Times the Same Song, Olausson's shrill, stirring vocals echo those of X-Ray Spex's Poly Styrene and the Slits' Ari Up with as much brazen attitude as her predecessors, though with more perk. Much of the album is rife with lyrics plagued by being alone and antisocial, though you'd never guess from Olausson's extroverted stage presence. "I'm used to not picking up my phone. Sometimes, I hate myself for watching TV—when I realize I've been watching TV all night," she says, commenting on songs like "Busy Doing Nothing" and "Turn the TV Off."
The music of Love Is All is a dizzying array of disparate components cohesively wrapped into one—climaxing chants, '60s pop harmonies, nervous rattles, punk-funk bass grooves, klick-klack drums, carnal bursts of saxophone, serrated guitar riffs—all reverberated the fuck out. The band channels late-'70s punk and skronky no/new wave groups like Pop Group, X-Ray Spex, Essential Logic, and the Contortions—bands whose music was short-lived but incredibly polemic to the conventional styles of music of the time, not to mention influential.
Love Is All, in essence, retain the same ideals of punk rock, where DIY flourishes. The band self-recorded everything heard on Nine Times the Same Song in their practice space in Gothenburg before sending it to Comet Gain drummer Woodie Taylor, who mixed it in his New York studio.
"When we started recording, we had this idea of doing this super sparse, tight post-punk sound," says Olausson. "But sending it to Woodie changed it. We didn't give him any instruction. We had our fingers crossed, and everything fell into place. We were really lucky. Now when we play live, we try to do it the way Woodie would've wanted it to sound. I think it's great, not being there when he's working. These days, people are more picky and have opinions of what [the producer] is doing."
But will all the stateside success dissuade the band from its DIY mentality on its next album?
"I think we're going to try to keep it that way," says Olausson. "For us, I don't think we could be in a studio and have a big-name producer who's more keen on having his name connected to the album. I want to keep it like it is."
The band will make its inaugural Seattle performance Monday, Oct. 30, at Neumo's, following a performance by comedian Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy). "I think that's the highlight of the entire tour. I was just watching a rerun of the David Letterman show that she was on, and she is so funny. I can't believe I am going to be in the same room as her!" says Olausson.
If anything, celebrities are something Olausson might have to get used to.