Miike Snow Q&A

[V] Buzz Artist Miike Snow are heading back to Oz for this year's Splendour In The Grass. The Swedish indie pop band are touring off the back of their sophomore album Happy To You, the follow up to their hugely successful debut self titled record. Led by singer Andrew Wyatt and producer/DJ duo ChristianKarlsson and Pontus Winnberg (Bloodshy & Avant), these guys have worked with some of the best in pop, including writing tracks for Britney Spears ('Toxic'), Madonna and Kylie. We caught up with Karlsson to talk about the new album, touring, and crazy music videos.

You guys are no strangers to Australian shores, what is it that makes you want to keep coming back?
We love Australia. The crowds there have been amazing. They're definitely the hardest going crowds we've ever had over there. So definitely looking forward to it.

Second time playing Splendour in the Grass , what do you plan to do differently this time apart from playing new tracks?
Well a lot has happened since we were there the last time. We've done about 250 more shows, so hopefully a lot has changed stage wise. We've also done lots of new production through a lot of new crazy machines on stage. Yeah, we’ve got new toys to play with, so it should be fun.

What are these "crazy machines"?
We built one we called The Blob which is an extremely huge synth which takes up half the stage and it's something we worked on for almost a year with some really cool people, to try and make the ultimate "Miike Snow machine". We don't like to use laptops when we record stuff, so we couldn't play what we wanted to play without that. It's really expensive to fly though.

I was going to say- how do you travel with it?
That was actually the big thing. After we came up with and we knew how to use it, the big problem was, how do we pull it apart in small enough pieces to travel with it? But we've done it and we've been out on the road for a while with it and it's still working so we're happy.

You mentioned you don't use laptops on stage. Listening to your recordings they sound really complex. How do you translate the music on your records to a live, on stage setting?
I've got to say, the first record we never thought about it because we didn't know we were going to play live. We didn't know what we were doing more than we wanted to do our own music. We didn't even know we were doing an album. So, that was a huge challenge for us and we took it really serious and we went in and had rehearsing live. That whole thing, we started, we kept it going even on tour and learning more about what Miike Snow is live. We have taken it to a whole other level for the second record because we wrote the whole record knowing we were going to do it live. I'm going to say it wasn't easy but we definitely knew it was coming, so it's definitely more fun this time because we could prepare and we could build this huge production just to perform to you.

Was that something that you were consciously thinking about when you were recording each song? As in, you were like, "Okay, how will translate live on stage?"
I think subconsciously it was there when we did it, but I don't think we were trying to have any limits to what we do in the studio. I think it's better to have a challenge, "How do we do this live?" because so far it's been good for us to have that challenge. It's taken Miike Snow's sound to the next level. Just to have to come up with new ways to do this live and I think a lot of the versions [of songs] from the last CD have come to life in new ways in a live setting.

With this second album, what was the biggest thing you wanted to do differently this time?

I don't think it was one thing, I think it was a lot of things. You know, it's a big difference going into the studio knowing that there's people that want to hear this music we're doing. The first time I had no idea and we were making it only for ourselves because we wanted to. So, I guess the whole approach going into the studio and knowing it was going to get released, it's completely different- it completely changes. So we actually did everything we wanted to do in terms of what we wanted to record and in what studio or whatever, if there was a musician we wanted to use or to bring in a full orchestra- we did all that.

You guys recorded 'Black Tin Box' with Lykke Li. What was it like recording with her and why did you decided to use her vocals on the album over other female artists?
Well, Lykke is a very close friend of ours and she has been for a long time and we also have this collective together called Ingrid, which is Lykke and Miike Snow and Peter, Bjorn and John and some other people, so when we had most of the album we played it for her and she really liked the song and of course we wanted her on that song. So, it came really natural.

You've written songs for the likes of Britney, Madonna and Kylie. Is there anyone left that you'd love to produce or write a track for?
Probably, but I guess we have now, because it was Depeche Mode but we did two remixes for the last release they did. They're definitely my heroes, but I wouldn't mind working more with them.

Have they influenced a lot of your music or if not who has been a big influence?
For me, it's definitely Depeche Mode. For me it's the reason I started loving music as a kid. They're one of those bands that have been with me all the time and I still think that everything they've done is amazing. So, definitely they've influenced me and "us" a lot.

Many of your tracks contain dark lyrics, but upbeat melodies. Is that a conscious decision?
I don't think it's a conscious decision, I think it's a part of us. I think there's a lot of great music right now that doesn't have a great lyric [sic]. I don't want to always listen to something that's simple and is a "hands in the air" type lyric, you know? I definitely understand if people hear an upbeat dance thing and a lyric that are super upbeat as well. I think it's the beauty though, to have that contrast. It's definitely a part of us.

What did you want listeners to get out of Happy To You? What do you want them to feel when they're listening to it?
I don't want them to... This is just something that... Making music is what we do. I don't even think we had another choice. I would never, ever do anything else. I'm just happy that people like it and are listening to it and that's totally up to them how to interpret anything from lyrics to what they think the music is. I don't want to tell them what it is. This is just what we do and there it is, you know. There is actually not much more thought than that into it. That's actually the way we've been working, what comes out of us.

That seems to be true in a lot of your music videos as well- they seem to be left open to interpretation. Like, for the release of your latest videos for -Paddling Out' and 'The Wave', you’ve created the idea of the "perfect man"- how did that concept come about because they're pretty weird and wonderful videos.
We worked with a director, Andreas Nilsson, who we're huge fans of. We worked with him on the first record as well and that's when we started talking about creating this world around, Happy To You. I guess it was a collaboration with Andreas, after we created what we wanted to do in the direction we let him go with it I love both videos and I do love that it’s up to anyone to interpret it, how they want to. Andreas is amazing, so we're definitely looking forward to working with him again.

Yeah, I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that first meeting and see what went down in that first meeting.
[Laughs] There was a lot of laughs.He has a really... He has a strange mind. It's a very beautiful mind.

Well I look forward to seeing the next instalments of those. But finally as a performer, do you prefer DJing or performing as a full band?
It depends. For Miike Snow, of course I prefer performing as a whole band. But that's a completely different thing, but I definitely have a love for both.

Pip Cowley

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