Now that the doors of The Swedish Invasion have been fully kicked in by The Hives here in The States, a wave of other hard rocking Swedish bands such as The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, The Hellacopters and The (International) Noise Conspiracy are making a huge impact on the music world as well. While not necessarily falling into the same retro garage sounds of their Swedish brethren, there is no other more immediate, more volatile and more honest to their own art than the explosive quartet Division Of Laura Lee.
Livewire's Tony Bonyata recently talked with D.O.L.L.'s vocalist and guitarist Per Stalberg about their part in this hot new musical revolution.
Livewire: First of all congratulations on Black City. It's an awesome album.
Per: Thank you.
Livewire: You've been receiving a lot of press lately with everyone from Rolling Stone and MTV touting you as the next big thing. Are you ready for the fame?
Per: Yeah, I guess we are. If that's how it's gonna be, we're ready. If it happens, we're totally ready for it.
Livewire: Division Of Laura Lee has been referred to as garage rock and retro punk, among other things. How would you properly define your music?
Per: Well, it's definitely not garage rock and it's definitely not retro punk. We're not trying to be a retro band. We hate looking backwards. I guess people are just saying that because it seems like a couple of other bands from Sweden are doing that retro thing, but the only thing we have in common with them is that we're from Sweden. There's so much that is stuck into our music. We're playing rock music for the future. Of course, we like old stuff and we like new stuff. There are a couple of reasons why we're a band today. Bands like Fugazi and Sonic Youth are one of the reasons. And '60s soul music was our common thing when we started the band. We talked a lot about it and everybody liked it. But also a lot of British bands - Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and The Mary Chain. The list is very long, because we're music lovers. But we're not trying to be anything or anybody. Our goal is to try and be as truthful as possible to our own band, Division Of Laura Lee.
Livewire: When you're referring to the other bands, are you referring to The Hives?
Per: Yeah, and International Noise Conspiracy. They're good bands but they're garage rock or whatever.
Livewire: Does it bother you that, in the media, you're often lumped in with all of these other Swedish bands?
Per: Sometimes, but I know why its happening. Sweden hasn't offered that many bands for a long time, so of course people are going to connect us. I guess we are connected to a lot of bands from Sweden. I'm not really bothered by it though.
Livewire: It probably helps from a media aspect, to get all of your names out there.
Per: Yes, of course. The Hives helped open the doors. The people of the U.S. have their eyes open for music, which is good.
Livewire: Do you think that later, in retrospect, that the, so-called, Swedish Invasion will have as much historical importance as say the British Invasion of the early '60s or even grunge rock out of Seattle in the early '90s?
Per: I think people will talk about it, yeah, but that's what I'm afraid of. We don't want to be a part of some Invasion. We've been a band for a long time and we're here to stay. We're not just some passing thing here. We're trying not to be, anyway. Of course, we never expected to go this far with our music, but that's not really the point of our band. We think that we're an awesome band. What we've seen through the years, people in the world right now don't really appreciate good music. There's a lot of shit out there. For some reason it changed and people want to hear us and they're buying our records and we're getting more mainstream, which is totally okay with us because we want to make a living at this. We love to play for people and we love to get the response from people. But if its not going to be like this in two years, you know, fuck it, we don't care. We're going to keep doing it.
Livewire: Has this type of edgy rock always been around in Sweden or is something that just sort blossomed over the last few years?
Per: There's always been bands in Sweden for a long time - good bands. But they didn't get any attention outside of Sweden really...maybe Europe. I guess there's more bands than ever right now, because people know about the explosion and you can feel it even in Sweden. The bands that are really good have been around for a long time.
Livewire: Such as?
Per: Well a band you should know that I love is Soundtrack Of Our Lives, which is very connected with us. The bass player produced our record. They're like our older, bigger brothers.
Livewire: I just saw them in Chicago about a month ago and I was floored.
Per: Yeah, they're awesome. Did you see the other band that played with them called Citizen Bird? They had like synthesizers and shit?
Livewire: Yeah, but they really didn't do anything for me.
Per: That band is my favorite band of all-time.
Livewire: You've got to be kidding?
Per: They're not always the best band live, but on record they're fucking amazing. I like a lot of indie stuff. It's very touching. Their record is bleeding. If you listen to it you're gonna fucking cry. I think they're the best band in Sweden - them and Soundtrack. There are some other good bands, like Sparks Of Seven, although I don't think you'd know them.
Livewire: No, I've never heard of them.
Per: There coming out here soon. They're awesome. The other bands from Sweden, that you already know, we're friends with, but I'm not really that excited about them. But they're good bands.
Livewire: What do you feel are some of the biggest cultural differences between the U.S. and Sweden?
Per: Well, Sweden is very close to the U.S. It's very Americanized in a lot of ways. I guess music-wise, the musicians in Sweden are not as connected with money as here. All the rock band from here are very, very easy going and help out the media to control the music business. Media and power and money go hand in hand. It feels like rock music in the U.S. is not as dangerous as it should be. It can be punk bands, hardcore bands, rock 'n' roll bands, but they're always fucking so scared of being...they're trying to look tough but they're not acting it, you know what I mean? And I definitely feel that rock music should be dangerous. I mean The Rolling Stones are tougher than all the hardcore bands in this country.
Livewire: At least at one point in their career.
Per: In all points.
Livewire: You even think they are today?
Per: Well, yeah, music business in the U.S. is all about making money. If you make money you're tough. But that's not what it's about. It's about art. It's about expressing yourself, and it's about being true to your art and music. That's not common in the U.S. It's not even common in Sweden, but there are some bands. Even in the U.S. there are a couple of bands that are very good and I love them. Bands like ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. I think they are brilliant. They are really trying to do something different. The music is getting better. The last few years have been good for music. There's a lot of shit out there, but I guess it's always gonna be like that. I'm a little bit pissed about the punk thing now, because when I grew up punk meant so much to me. It meant everything - my attitude towards other people. Now it's just fucking baggy clothes and skateboards. I mean, who fucking cares. There should be something in there. They should say something instead of having good looking women in their fucking videos.
Livewire: Much is heard of your dark winters - where the sun may only come out for a couple hours a day. Do you think this has any affect on your music or your own psyches?
Per: I think it does. I think the weather has something to do with a lot of bands from Sweden, because it's a bit dark. Division Of Laura Lee is a very dark band in a way, but we've been through other stuff than just the weather. We didn't have anything growing up. With the weather, you really can't do much more than fucking rehearse with a band. There's nothing more to do in the winters.
Livewire: I've heard that your live shows can get pretty wild. What's a Division Of Laura Lee concert like?
Per: That's the thing, you never know, because it might be everything. We try to give ourselves to the music totally. Sometimes it's just nuts, because we can't handle the situation. It's fucking just pure emotion. I guess that's what people think is crazy about us, because sometimes we just fucking do whatever. Nothing can stop us. It's pure energy. Sometimes its the opposite, though, with good delivered, honest music. You never know, but I can promise you it's always good.
Livewire: Do fans over here react any different to your shows than your Swedish or European fans?
Per: Yeah, I think they understand us more here actually. I mean we're big in Europe and Sweden, but it seems like people in the U.S. understand the record in a different way. They understand the lyrics better. And they can feel it. I just like how the U.S. people react to our music. I'm very happy with it.
Livewire: Is it true that you've also been known to perform in the raw onstage?
Per: No we never did, but I've heard that before.
Livewire: So it was a bunch of bullshit?
Per: We could've said it. I mean, we're talking a lot of bullshit. If we're bored when we're doing an interview we might say anything. But we never did, no. We did a lot of shit, but we never went naked. We could, but we can't really see why. We like to be naked. Maybe that's why you heard it, I guess. We do a lot of pictures when serious photographers come in, and we're just taking all of our fucking clothes off, because we like it when people react to us. We don't want to piss people off, but we want people to feel us.
Livewire: To shock?
Per: Yeah, that's the best feeling ever. But that's not really what we're about either. We are here to play our music and deliver our message. What we say in interviews on a more personal level is not as meaningful as what we do on record or on stage.
Livewire: And the fans reading an interview don't get the same thing from seeing a live performance.
Livewire: What's the best thing about being in a popular rock band?
Per: Well, it's been my goal for a long time. I'm having a blast right now. It's perfect. I can live off my music and pay my rent. Its awesome. I have a son at home and he's probably proud of me.
Livewire: How old is he?
Per: He's a bit over two years old. He's with my girlfriend and family. It's just a blast. I've been working towards this since I was ten years old. This is my education and now finally its getting paid off. We don't really care about the fame. We all have our feet on the ground, you know. We know that this is the time. It might not happen next year, because you never know about this business. It's all about trends and shit. But that's okay, 'cause the bands we grew up listening to were never big. They were known, bands like Fugazi who delivered the music. Music for the people, not for the media or the labels.
Livewire: Have you guys been working on any new material?
Per: Yeah, we have a lot of new songs.
Livewire: What can we expect it to sound like?
Per: Well, it's not going to be a Black City II, but its still Division. The songs are about ten times better than Black City and that says a lot. Its a bit of everything. We still have our energy songs with a lot of feeling.
Livewire: You haven't toned the guitars down, I hope?
Per: No. The guitars are the motive. Those will always be there, but there's a bit more melodies on a lot of the music, but not on the guitars. The guitars are just fucking crushing everything. I love guitars destroying things.
Livewire: Do you have any long range plans for the band?
Per: Yeah, we have new goals all the time, but we keep reaching them all the time. So it's kind of boring, because its so easy to fucking break them. We're going to do another record. Now we have to prove that we're a really good band. Every band can do one good record. You can be lucky. But now its time for us to prove it, so we're going into the studio late this summer and we'll record the follow-up to Black City. Its gonna be awesome!
Division Of Laura Lee will be performing in Chicago at the Double Door on Friday, January 24th.
More Division of Laura Lee
Black City - CD Review