Let’s get this out of the way right now. The Soundtrack of our Lives is not a garage band. Though hailing from Sweden, this isn’t the Hives, Hellacopters, (International) Noise Conspiracy, Sahara Hotnights, or any of the seemingly dozens of similarly minded Scandinavian groups that have popped up recently in stateside pop radar like dollar signs in the eyes of label execs. Lead singer Ebbot Lundberg wants to make sure that’s clear.
“The whole industry is kind of changing and [creating] the opportunity for some Swedish groups that obviously have an energy. But it could be Guatemala,” he says via phone from a soundcheck in Mulnar, a rural, redneck area he calls the Texas of Sweden.
“I feel like — OK, here’s the sound from Seattle and then after a year, Seattle sucks. I don’t like that, ‘Oh, they’re a band from the new Swedish invasion,’ you know? What the fuck, we’re from Mars.”
It’s an important distinction. Soundtrack’s sound is far more supple than the aforementioned groups, reaching back to rock’s high point in the late ’60s, when it was an emotionally powerful, relevant cultural force. Their eclectic tastes include warm, spacey, Meddle-era Pink Floyd, the gentle, lilting psych rock of Love or the Moody Blues, bubbling Mod-inspired rock anthems, and expansive British Invasion numbers that recall songs from the Kinks up to post-Rubber Soul Beatles.
“It’s pretty much pre-symphony rock. Before music got screwed up by art rock,” says Lundberg, at the risk of sounding gauche. “We’re taking what we think have been the best things in recorded history and taking them a little bit further on. Which is a hard thing, but somebody has to do it.”
Lundberg got his start in the late ’80s with Union Carbide Productions, playing thundering Detroit-styled rawk (insert inevitable Stooges/MC5 comparison). The roaring, riff-heavy assault of their debut, In The Air Tonight, is considered by many the best exemplar of said style since Rob Tyner’s admonition to kick out the jams, motherfuckers.
“I was very much into the hardcore scene when I was 15 or so. That was my kick at that time, and [’80s American hardcore] is still the best groups. Nowadays what is called punk today is not punk. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a joke. I get more scared listening to the Backstreet Boys,” says Lundberg.
“It was amazing that it lasted seven years. Unbelievable when I think of it,” recalls Lundberg of his old band. “I was pretty much exhausted with that format, with that whole thing. I wanted to make something bigger, something that was more monumental. You can’t be free within the frames of music so you have to come up with something else, which was the Soundtrack of our Lives.”
After UCP broke up, Lundberg and UCP guitarists Björn Olsson and Ian Person re-formed into Soundtrack in 1996. The six-piece features several songwriters, and has not been without its conflicts. Even as we discuss the band’s music, Lundberg is interrupted by what could politely be described as a “passionate” talk.
“We’re discussing what songs we’re going to do, and we can’t agree,” he reveals, in a Scandinavian drawl that is both lively and energetic.
Olsson left the band in 1998, just after they released their first two full-lengths, Welcome to the Infant Freebase and Extended Revelation for the Psychic Weaklings of Western Civilization, one after another. The band was a huge critical success, but they didn’t receive a lot of help from their label until Sire picked them up a year later. It wasn’t until their third album, the universally lauded Behind The Music (Republic/Universal), that they had their first American release.
“It took a while, but it’s kind of cool, I’m quite content with that. And I think as a group, I think we’re more prepared for any kind of so-called success. It’s kind of like it doesn’t really affect us anymore. We’re too much above that. We have kind of passed the test already, so it feels cool,” says Lundberg.
But don’t suggest he’s a pro. “I would have to shoot myself,” he says.
Lundberg looks forward to their return to Sweden after nearly two years of straight touring. But work on their fourth album presents yet another disconcerting quandary: “We have 70 songs to choose from. That’s the only problem. It’s a big problem we have. We didn’t have time to rehearse but everybody is creating constantly. I don’t know,” Lundberg sighs. “Why us?”
Yet despite all the complications, Lundberg sounds happy and welcomes the challenges to come. He hopes it will turn out as well as a recent visit to the American South.
“We were stuck in Bristol, Tenn. It was a really white-trash area. People were going around the tour bus with shotguns. So we went out there with Stetson hats and tried to blend in. We went into this pub where there were just rednecks and they were doing karaoke, and they were really bad. The sense of the bar was ‘Now we’re going to get killed.’ And I go up and do “I Walk the Line.” I was an instant success in this little shithole, but I was fucking scared. I haven’t had that feeling since the first time I went up on stage with a hardcore band. I loved it,” Lundberg recalls. “These people were yelling out, ‘Where are you from?’ I’m actually from Sweden. ‘Where’s that? Is that far from here?’”
Sweden may be quite a distance geographically, but not spiritually.
Soundtrack of our Lives will perform an all-ages show Monday, March 31, at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward, Detroit). For information, call 313-833-9700.Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]