By Sean Tollefson
There are many reasons we're excited about the Faintest Ideas. This Swedish band, who's recently signed to Portland, OR's Magic Marker Records, has gotten the attention of the smart folks at KEXP, and deservedly so, as the FI's have an acute vision of retro punk with a present day pop that gleems on their recent release What Goes Up Must Calm Down.
Three Imaginary Girls is especially excited about this interview because The Faintest Ideas will play our SXSW showcase at Lovejoy's in Austin, TX on March 15, 2007.
To celebrate this alignment of the indie stars, we had one of their fellow bands on the SXSW Party bill interview them — and we must say, that Sean Tollefson of Tullycraft is quite the interviewer…
Would you call The Faintest Ideas a twee band?
Martin: Well, no I wouldn't say that today as the term twee has kind of taken the same bizarre twist as the genre hardcore; it means nothing or everything today, depending who you ask. Today, metal is called hardcore and stupid major label pop is called twee. Besides that, we're not pretty enough…
Christoffer: I personally would not call TFI a twee band. When we started out as a band we often played at twee-clubs/festivals, but I think the reason for this probably was that the twee-kids in Gothenburg at that time were the only ones that had an open mind for new indie-music, plus that the twee-kids easily drank more alcohol and had better clubs than anyone else. One of the first gigs we did outside of Gothenburg was in Malmö at a twee-club and after we'd preformed the guy running the club came up to us and complained saying that he thought he'd booked a twee band, and instead he got a hard-rock band (we were somewhat insulted that he considered us a hard-rock band). Actually I doubt that we have ever been a twee band.
Joel: We are not a twee band, though we may have some influences from some twee bands but there's so much more: punk, britpop, indie, lo-fi, and C86.
Daniel: In our early days (as javelins) we didn't mind if we were called a twee band, actually I was kind of appeased if anyone were kind enough to call us band. Even now I know that our new name "The Faintest Ideas" might sound a bit twee, but I guess we will fool a lot of people. Or as a certain Flagstaff citizen said, "The Faintest Ideas sound like a crappy girl twee band that would be on shitty label like Shelflife." No, we are not a twee band.
Are Ace of Base the most famous group from Gothenburg? Do you ever see them around town?
Martin: I had to google them to see if they really were from Gothenburg, which they were. I've always thought that Soundtrack Of Our Lives or Hammerfall was the most famous band from Gothenburg. I don't really know what the members in Ace of Base look like, but I know my wife once helped one of the members buy sunglasses. I do know that Ace of Base was Sweden's answer to St Etienne though.
Christoffer: Er, no, I don't think so, at least not in Sweden. And I wouldn't recognize them. They were never that big in Sweden, not as big as they seem to be in the rest of the world at least.
Joel: Probably the most selling Gothenburg band at least. I have never seen them.
Daniel: Oh my god. I never even thought of it, but they probably are. I haven't seen the members in a long time.
If you could go on tour with one of these bands (past or present) which one would you choose?
a. The Minutemen
b. Bikini Kill
c. Guided By Voices
Martin: I have to say Bikini Kill, as I really love that band. They were the perfect band and one of the bands that made a huge impact on me in the early 90's.
Tough question though… The Minutemen in '81 or so would've been brilliant as well, and I'm really interested in their story and the way they (and the other SST bands) toured in the heydays of hardcore. Those bands made up a whole new map over America and Europe, which I think Bikini Kill did as well in the 90's.
Christoffer: Bikini Kill, easily! I've always admired the riot grrrl scene, and they're a great band.
Joel: Either one that would bring me on their tour.
Daniel: I would personally choose Guided by Voices. It would be nice to hang out with Bob & Tobin, even though my ulcer would grow to the size of Alaska.
The true Mod-Revival happened in 1979. Do you think the kids claiming The Who weren't good past '68, who wear parkas and pretend that they're at early 80's Scooter Rallies, are somewhat pathetic? How different do you think they are from those who followed The Grateful Dead and Phish around and pretended that it was the 1960's?
Martin: Uhm… why would anyone pretend to be at a early 80's scooter rally today? In my opinion the mod revival was pretty boring compared to the real thing in the 60's. The "new" bands sucked, their clothes looked dull and they had mullets! I wouldn't call it pathetic though, it's up to them, but why anyone should care about The Who after 1968 (except for "Pinball Wizard") is more than I can understand. Deadheads are hippies, so why should I care about them?
Christoffer: Well, it's the easiest way to create a sub-culture, isn't it? Just take one that already exists but that's old enough so that you can claim it your own. I think it happens with any sub-culture/genre. I don't see any great differences between the Mod-revivalists and people that like Grateful Dead and pretend that it's the 1960's, except that The Who were a better band than Grateful Dead. Pathetic, well, you could probably say that, but hey: if it makes them happy, I don't bother really. Besides, The Who after '68 were crap.
Joel: The Who were better before 68!
Daniel: I never been interested in the mod-movement. There might have been some social differences between the two movements — the mods had more money than the hippies.
Who is more Punk Rock to you?
a. Henry Rollins
b. Calvin Johnson
c. Jonathan Richman
Martin: Calvin Johnson, he's a punk rock Casanova who's still doing what he once set out to do without showing up in Hollywood movies or on TV. On the other hand, if Henry gave me his Misfits 7" I would pick him…
Christoffer: Difficult question, but I think it would have to be Calvin Johnson. Although Black Flag was a fantastic band. I've never quite liked Richman to be honest (are you allowed to say that? I will probably get flogged alive by the indie-community…). My reason for choosing Johnson, well, I just think he has been extremely important for independent music.
Joel: I must say Jonathan R. I think Rollins has too many tatoos for my taste. Calvin is nice but I like Jonathan better.
Daniel: A tough question. I don't know if I could answer it. I would like to have Henry Rollins as my father, Calvin Jonhson as my brother, and Jonathan Richman as my husband. And the truth is I haven't had that much contact with my brother and father.
Since World War II, when British Prime Minister Winst
on Churchill famously referred to Sweden as "that small, coward country" because of their lack of military support for Norway (when Norway was being invaded by Germany), some have said there has been an underlining tension between the two nations. Do you believe this to be true? And why?
Daniel: It might be true. I been physically assaulted five times in my life, two of those by Norwegian boys. A pretty high percentage, that is.
Martin: Of course there's a tension! That's why we make fun of them. Norway is the baby brother who found oil and got so filthy rich that they didn't have to join the EU. Lucky bastards! And the way they speak sounds really funny as well, so incredibly jolly.
Christoffer: Well, yeah I guess there is some animosity between Sweden and Norway, whether this is because of Sweden's (lack of) engagement in WWII, I'm not so sure. The discussion of the cowardice in Sweden not joining the war is something that you could discuss forever, I suppose. I'm not even sure that I have an opinion about it either, except that I'm grateful that Sweden didn't have to enter the war and that I think that Sweden suffers from a slight feeling of collective guilt about not taking a stand against the Nazis in WWII. To be honest, I think that the tensions between Sweden and Norway has more to do with that they more or less were a part of Sweden until 1906 and that this fact leads Norwegians to feel that they have to distance themselves from Sweden. And also we make fun of them for speaking in a funny way (at least it sounds funny to Swedes).
Joel: Sweden supported the Nazis until Sweden discovered that the Nazis would lose, so than I guess we changed our minds.
What are your feelings on Håkan Hellström? Is he Sweden's answer to Robbie Williams?
Martin: No, he's Sweden's answer to Happy Tom!
Christoffer: I suppose he is, yeah! Except that he emerged from the Swedish indie-scene rather than being a completely manufactured ready-made product from the great Anglo-American boyband factories. It should be said that I like Håkan, he writes good songs and he looks funny when playing the drums.
Joel: I love Håkan, he is a very nice and talented man and has made three very good records and yes, his energy is a bit like Robbie's. I think both of them are typical pop idols for young girls a'la The Beatles, but I think Robbie is more of a macho man. Well maybe that's the difference between Swedish and Engish men in general.
Daniel: Yep he is. The only difference is that Håkan Hellström has the voice of a badger with tonsillitis.
I've noticed your songs are very short. Are you taking a page from the Boyracer school of record making? Just curious.
Martin: I could give Stew credits for lots of stuff, but he didn't invent short songs. Our songs are short because so are our attention spans and after two minutes or so every drummer deserves a break.
Christoffer: Well, it's really boring to keep playing and playing the same song forever. I guess we all get restless from long instrumental parts, and I mean, aren't there enough bands that think a six-minute guitar solo is the height of musical expression? Also, when we started Martin would play so fast that he couldn't keep up the speed for more than a minute or so. Nowdays he probably could but there's no reason whatsoever to write a song over three minutes, or two minutes. I guess that all we want to say in a song can be said really fast. I wouldn't say we owe this to Boyracer, but I guess that maybe we have the same ideas of how to make songs.
Joel: For me it has nothing to do with Boyracer, as I have hardly listend to that band. I think that there's something beautiful in saying things as short as possible but still understandable. Most of our songs have at least two verses and a chorus and sometimes even a bridge. But we cut long intros, outros, and solos beacuse we think they are not so important.
Daniel: Boyracer has always been a great source for me. The absence of nagging choruses and guitar riffs that could slice bread leaves me smiling with admiration. Life is short so you need short songs, and when life feels long and tedious you need short songs.
Do you own more indie-pop records or punk records? Do you buy vinyl or cds?
Martin: I've got way more punk records than any other genre, and way more vinyl than cds. There are very few records I buy on cd as they in general tend to be to long, and my attention span is, as said, pretty short. When I buy cds I prefer compilations and if I like what's on it, I try to find the original vinyl copies of the stuff I want. Or to put it in the words of one of Sweden's finest punk bands of today, The Pricks. "I just want first press only/ no reissue shit/ no digitally remastered cds/ no high technology" (from the song "First Press Only"). I guess you could say that I buy indie-pop records, but I rabidly collect punk records.
Christoffer: I definitely have more indie-pop than punk, although I have some punk stuff too. I probably have a record collection that would make the rest of the band cringe, as I don't collect vinyl or spend all my money on rare punk 7" singles. I have more cds than vinyl, I don't consider it a statement except that I think the music itself is more important than the packing or edition or if it's a limited release.
Joel: I own absolutly more indie-pop than punk records, but I think the soul/disco section is the biggest part of my record collection. If it's possible I prefer vinyl, as it's more to hold onto and the sound is warmer bla bla you've heard it before from vinyl nerds.
Daniel: I own mostly indie-pop records, but the punk section is increasing rapidly. I mostly buy vinyl nowadays. It's more sexy.
If it were 1989, would you rather be a Sarah band or a Dischord band?
Martin: If it was 1989 (and I was 13 years young) I would've said Dischord as that was the year I fell deeply in love with Black Flag, and as I'm still at the same place when it comes to my love for them, I would pick Dischord because of the Black Flag connection via Rollins and S.O.A. I've never been that into Sarah anyway.
Christoffer: Er, I seriously think neither would have had released any of our stuff, but I guess this is a question about preferences so I'd go for Sarah. I guess because we could have been a riotous band at Sarah while we would easily have been the meekest band at Dischord, and I'd prefer being riotous.
Joel: Sarah, but only because I don't know anything about Dischord. Sarah has nice covers and they had a good idea about what they wanted to do. We don't sound so much as anything from Sarah besides Boyracer, and maybe a little of the attitude from the Orchids.
Daniel: I would rather be a Sarah band. There were too few noisy bands on that label. If we were Dischord band, they would almost certainly call our music twee.