Interview with The Concretes

Having just released their latest album, “WYWH”, this past November, the eight member of Swedish indie-pop band, “The Concretes”, have just kicked off their first North American tour in over four years. Before they invade Philadelphia (for the first time ever) this Monday night, band members Martin Hansson and Per Nyström took some time to answer some questions from Independent Philly’s Bridgette Bonner about the band, touring, Philadelphia, their favorite foods, and a few surprises:

Independent Philly: Since Victoria Bergsman left the group to focus on her solo project, “Taken by Trees”, how has her absence affected the band?

Martin Hansson: Of course it’s a big thing for a band when the lead singer leaves. But Victoria left the band for a reason and our break up was good for everyone involved, both musically and personally. We didn’t want the same thing. When Lisa took over the mike it felt like starting over again which was really a feeling of freedom and creativity. It also meant that other people, especially Lisa, had to get more involved in the working process. Even if The Concretes has always worked as a collective, it was mostly Victoria’s melodies and lyrics. I think Lisa has made a fantastic progress, both as a singer and as a songwriter.

IP: Lisa Millberg took over vocal duties in 2007 for “Hey Trouble”. How does that album compare to “WYWH”, the first album with Millberg on vocals released in the United States?

MH: I think “Hey Trouble” was more of the old Concretes, both in songs and production. We also used the same producer (Jari Hapalainen) as on our first album. With “WYWH” we really wanted to do something different. We recorded and produced “WYWH” ourselves in our own rehearsal space. It has more of an electronic, groovy touch, based on drums and bass.

IP: How is touring in Europe different from the States?

MH: If you don’t have any days off  there is not a big difference. Tour buses, hotels and rock clubs look the same all over the world.  But if I have some free time I’d rather sit in a nice restaurant on Manhattan, in LA, or hopefully Philadelphia (where we’d never been before) than eating fish and chips in Leeds or German sausages.  I think it’s the food that does it. We used to say that you have to visit America to get the best sushi, dumplings, or Vietnamese food. You Americans really know how to bring the best out of all kinds of food.

IP: Maria Eriksson is a former art student. Does any of her artwork appear on any of the album covers or illustrations? What artist most influences your musical career?

MH: No, none of Maria’s artworks appear on any of our sleeves. Lisa [Millberg] does all the art direction for the band and her best friend Liselotte Watkins has done illustrations featured on many of our sleeves.

IP: “The Concretes” start their USA tour January 2011 beginning in Minneapolis, MN. Which city are you most looking forward to visiting?

MH: We have some spare time in New York which will be great. I will visit my favourite Vietnamese restaurant  and eat fresh spring rolls until I throw up. But I’m also kind of curious about places like Philadelphia and Detroit which I don’t know that much about – ice hockey and cars and that’s it. One of the most amazing places I’ve been to was a restaurant in Minneapolis next to the venue where we played. It was like stepping in to a completely different world and time. It’s hard to describe but it’s just fantastic when that kind of unexpectable things happen. If anyone knows such a place in Philadelphia, please come to the show and tell us.

IP: To date, what has been your favorite album to work on and produced as a band?

MH: For me personally I think “WYWH” is the best album. It might sound very typical that you mention your latest work but I believe it has wholeness and a maturity that the earlier records don’t have and I like the sound and the songs a lot. It also went really smooth when we recorded it and we had a good spirit within the band.

IP: With an unusual amount of members and instruments in the band, have you ever been compared to “Arcade Fire”, who shares almost the same amount of members and instruments?

MH: That might have happened, but I think it’s irrelevant to compare bands from how many members they have.

IP: What is your favorite song on your latest album, “WYWH” and what musical and artistic influences helped create it?

Per Nyström: It changes from day to day, the first song on the album “Good Evening” is one of them. I would say it has been influenced by a quite dark and moody version of disco.

IP: What are you most looking forward to, both musically and culturally, when visiting Philadelphia?

PN: To be honest, I don’t know so much about Philadelphia but I’m a great fan of old Philly soul from the sixties and seventies. That’s one of the great things about touring in the States, there are so many cities with such a rich musical background.

IP: Who have you enjoyed touring with the most and who would you most like to tour or collaborate with in the future?

PN: Probably Magic Numbers from London. We have been friends with them since 2004 or something and they tend to spread so much good energy, both music-wise and socially.

IP: What songs are in constant shuffle on your iPod right now?

PN: That is also a thing that changes from day to day, but during this tour I have listened a lot to Amon Düül II before going to sleep in our bandwagon.

IP: What can our readers expect from “The Concretes” live show?

PN: Well I would say a perfect combination of songs from our new albums and songs from the past. And flags, lots of flags.

IP: Tell us something that would surprise or even shock our readers…

PN: One of our members has unintentionally offended Halle Berry.

Independent Philly will be covering “The Concretes” show on Monday night (9PM) at Johnny Brendas and we think you’d be silly to miss your chance to see them play their first show ever in the City of Independence. Who knows…you might suggest a great restaurant to them after the show and find yourself drinking saki and eating sushi with the band. There’s a first time for everything. We hope to see you there!
Independent Philly is giving away a pair of tickets for Monday night’s show to one lucky winner! To enter, head over to our CONTESTS PAGE
If you’d like to check them out in advance, you can head over to their official web-site:
You can also download one of their hits off of “WYWH” by heading over to our Musical Treats Section
[Credits to: Bridgette Bonner and Jacob Miller]
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